Third Anniversary Show
Full Impact Pro
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
I’ve always enjoyed Full Impact Pro, but the stack of DVD’s for this promotion got pushed to the back, and it seems like there’s always one more DVD from one more new company, one more thing that became relevant at the time, and now it’s been a while since I’ve talked FIP.
But once the video started, I started realizing why this is one of the promotions that just rolls along, doing a minimalistic version of professional wrestling, one that most long time fans can recognize as reflective of their own nostalgic region.
The Emcee at the podium, the announcers – here, we’re going back to the time when Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard were paired up and showing the world what great announcing can be like –, the guest wrestlers and the promotion’s veterans, and always that sense of introducing new guys, establishing the foundation of the sport and providing a consistent, traditional approach.
Looking back at the Third Anniversary Show, there are a lot of interesting faces.
Dragon Gate has a presence, with both BxB Hulk and Yamato. Prazak & Leonard spar over the pronunciation of BxB Hulk – for the uninformed, it’s simply ‘beebee hulk’. They don’t push the typical speed and intensity of the Japanese wrestlers, but there is a definitive uniqueness to their work that cannot be denied, even in a promotion where the work is slowed down a few notches.
What’s also interesting is that YAMATO (using the now typical all caps spelling) is rather softer looking version of himself some four years ago, with a rather plain haircut and a goatee that doesn’t look so menacing. And BxB Hulk isn’t exactly stripper-esque here, and why are the two teaming together!
But let’s get back to this a little later.
The big factions of FIP at this time were the Dave Prazak run heels, as in DP Associates, and the up-and-coming heel faction in the YRR, Young, Rich & Ready for Action.
Prazak plays classic heel manager with a revolving door of heels – often guys in ROH or elsewhere in the indy scene trying out heel characters— and his sidekick, by the name of Mr. Milo Beasley, a guy in a wheelchair who obviously (to the fans & viewers) does not need to be in a wheelchair.
Oh, the joy of worked shoot comedy, which is mostly misdirected these days!
The YRR are an interesting blend of mostly new talent, and Sal Rinauro, who can’t exactly be called a newcomer even though he’s not readily showing his age. The most promising of the bunch is Kenny King, who is now climbing the card in ROH. I’m not quite sure what his story is since the second season of Tough Enough.
Considering the guys who did Tough Enough and are on the WWE roster these days, there must be something going on . King definitely has potential, and his years in the indy scene show his dedication.
But as a new age sort of heel faction in the otherwise traditional FIP, and yet doing the tried-and-true run-in and interference game, the YRR at this time was building itself up as a faction far bigger than the sum of its parts.
Thus we start the DVD off with the YRR in the ring, with their girls, their gold and their grandstand challenges. Wow, I forgot how good Lacey looks! Kenny King is up front with a challenge, which brings out Seth Delay – of the high spots and crazy bumps, and who is the prototypical undercard babyface.
It’s all about the YRR in action at this point.
That match flows into Jason Blade of the YRR and Jigsaw coming out from the current to answer the challenge. CHIKARA in the house! Is it more of the YRR in action? You betcha!!
Next the YRR ladies, and Lacey in particular, stir up trouble with the women scene, and both Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze are calling themselves the best woman wrestler in the promotion. Or world.
It’s an interesting three-way, and a bit abbreviated, but I’m used to the indy style sidebar that women’s wrestling can be, even if Dave Prazak doesn’t run SHIMMER that way. This is one of those times, however, where you need a scorecard to figure out who’s the face and who’s the heel, because The Haze and the Rey Gun and Lacey have been all that and more in various promotions.
An undercard tag team match follows, with the Irish Airborne outside of Ohio and Hallowicked outside of CHIKARA and Scott Commodity playing to his home state. Fast little match, and the Airborne are always overachieving, and always bringing the double-team creativity that got them to fan favorite status in ROH.
And now we continue to turn up the heat.
It’s a “No-DQ” match between DP Associate’s henchman Necro Butcher, accompanied to the ring by Dave Prazak & Mr. Milo Beasley, taking on Gran Akuma.
Weird. Butcher went from heel to face and back again and then some in ROH. Akuma is now a sort of American part of a Dragon Gate heel faction, even though he’s rarely on the mike. And in FIP, the concept of No DQ is a far cry from, let’s say, Combat Zone Wrestling where The Butcher made an indelible mark on the indy/garbage wrestling scene.
But Butcher in FIP has always shown his talents, and it’s a nifty match.
Which segues into the bitter nostalgia of seeing the flamboyant Larry Sweeney, bedecked with the boa, the gaudy singlet and the brilliance of the ICW/ICWA Texarkana Television Championship.
Alex, we all miss you.
It’s two of the indy scene’s admittedly undersized but awesomely talented wrestlers going at it in a promotion that rarely ups the hype level too much, and allows natural talent to shine, and of course, without going over the top, both these guys simply are over the top in how they handle professional wrestling.
From the comedy to the psychology to the involvement of the fans, these two add so much dimension to the concept of professional wrestling, and it’s too, too bad that those concepts are fading away so fast.
The FIP Florida Heritage Title is up next, with the more modern twist of a strongman (Erick Stevens) taking on a high-flying Jack Evans.
This didn’t quite have the dimensions of the last match, but no one can deny that Stevens has a quality to him, and Jack Evans is, like Teddy Hart, someone who should have gotten to the big stage. We all pretty much know why Teddy keeps getting denied, but Jack Evans? There was a time when the skater/snowboarder/daredevil act he brings could have launched him well beyond MTV2, but what happened?
Toned down in FIP, Evans shows that he can do the fundamentals and still be himself. Erick Stevens much of the same, but Stevens never really shone when he got away from FIP, and Evans never lasted long enough on other indy stages to soar.
Melancholy reminders showing that not all talent make it to places where you might expect.
But then there’s the main event multiple man matches.
Dragon Gate’s BxB Hulk & Yamato do battle with Roderick Strong & Jay Briscoe here.
If you’ve not caught Roderick Strong wrestling in Florida, you’re missing out on an aspect of his wrestling that just never seemed to catch on in ROH. Strong seems more comfortable here, more capable. Maybe it’s the toned down aspect of wrestling, and the greater interaction with the fans, but whatever it is, Strong as contender and/or FIP Heavyweight Champion just seemed to click.
Jay Briscoe…. Well, the Briscoes as a team or as singles always bring it with their unique take on psychology.
What’s fascinating here is watching the Dragon Gate crew do it FIP style, especially after watching them do their own style in DG USA. That ability to work different styles has only improved these guys, and it’s just devastating to the industry that the powers that be in certain promotions just don’t seem to care that their talent is never going to be well-rounded enough if they’re not wrestling regularly in front of audiences – like FIP – that want to appreciate the action in the ring.
And I can’t say it enough, that FIP is a style and an atmosphere that is not going to be accessible to the typical internet complainer … unless perhaps the always grumpy Shirley Doe.
Tag team action on display with lots of in-ring talent. That’s a definite rarity.
And then there’s FIP’s taking it to a notch towards garbage wrestling, and hey, when Sean Davis bleeds, Sean Davis can bleed like a certain, recent WWE HOF’er.
The unique teaming of The Heartbreak Express and Black Market during a respite of their eternal feud added intrigue, and this lead to the Cage of Pain II match, which is in and of itself an all time FIP classic that should be tracked down and watched repeatedly.
Here, the YRR of Sal Rinauro, Chasyn Rance, Kenny King & Jason Blade (the latter two doing double-duty) put on a solid display of heelism, taking the violence up a notch, and of course, who better to brawl than Sean Davis, Phil Davis (no, not that one), Joey Machete (aka The Shiek!, answering one question that has been at the back of my mind for a week), and Shawn Murphy.
What’s cool about FIP and having a match like this is that it’s not the ordinary bloodshed, brawl and garbage wrestling, and it’s wrapped up in FIP’s unique style, so it becomes more meaningful. It also extends the slow build to that Cage of Pain II match, setting up the carnage and the awesome plot twist involved at that show.
FIP… it’s a kind of wrestling that takes you back to a time when pro wrestling wasn’t a shameful term.