Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
May 10, 2003
Note -- If you're not a fan of pro wrestling, odds are you won't understand/care about some of the things in this column. Feel free to skip it if you want; I'll recap the high points from the night in my
regular May 10, 2003 commentary.
The May 9, 2003 Major League Wrestling event at Tabu in Orlando, FL was an excellent event that combined inspired ring work, smart booking and pure athleticism in a three hour production that was well worth the $20 cover charge I paid.
My friend Gary Graham and I arrived at about 6:30 and got in a line that had formed along the sidewalk. Not one minute later, we saw Steve Corino hop into a limo, which sped away. Then, right behind him wandered Terry Funk, who was bleeding from his forehead. It was quite a sight seeing Funk stumbling around on Orange Avenue, as people driving in traffic literally had to avoid hitting him.
Once inside, they had a gimmick table set up in the front, with Raven and Steve Williams available to pose for polaroids (for a price). They also had miscellaneous MLW merchandise on sale.
Tabu normally functions as a nightclub, but it was configured with a ring next to a stage area, where they had the hard camera set up. Staircases flanked either side of the main room, connecting up to a balcony area that served as the backstage area for the wrestlers. From floor level, you could look up and see the wrestlers watching the action in the ring, which was pretty interesting (especially in the main event, when practically everyone was crowded around to watch Funk vs. Corino).
The club was full, but not overcrowded. In a spot of good luck, I secured a position next to the bar area, which was maybe eight rows of people back from the ring. To order a beer, I literally just had to lean over to talk with the bartender, slide over my cash and get my Coors Light (in a cup Ė no bottles were allowed, and rightfully so). Good times.
It was a strictly standing room only setup, which actually worked out quite nicely for me, since Iím 6í2". There are many times when being tall is advantageous, particularly events where people are crowded around watching something (wet t-shirt contests, pro wrestling shows, etc.) I felt bad for some of the shorter people around me who had an obstructed view, but thatís the breaks. They did have two big screens showing the action up on the stage (though it wasnít the clearest image in the world).
One of the staircases connecting to the top was blocked off as an entranceway. It connected to a rather small entrance area, which consisted of a metal frame with the MLW logo sign chained to the top (and as it turned out later, itís a very good thing the logo sign was secured so well to the frame).
Before I go over the results, I want to praise whomever it was that booked this show. It was very intelligently put together, with very few moments where it was difficult to suspend disbelief. There were plenty of unexpected finishes, and every match ended with either a pinfall or a knockout. For all the grief that bookers can get, the person or people who laid out this show deserve a great deal of credit.
Also, if this show is any indication, then forget Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, The Rock, etc.; the most influential wrestlers of the past five years are Matt and Jeff Hardy. There were several workers on the show who emulated various elements of the Hardyís repertoire.
1. Paul London pinned Jerry Lynn (w/ Christopher Daniels). The two put on a strong mat wrestling performance. Lynn was as good as youíd expect. London was an unknown commodity to me, but he impressed me with his athleticism and agility. At one point London hit a shooting star press, which is the first time I can ever remember seeing that move performed in the first match of a show. After the match, Lynn and Daniels attacked London and left him laying.
2. Masada beat Fast Eddie and Don Juan in a three-way match. Much like London, I was unfamiliar with these three (save for their Texas Wrestling Academy background). They attempted many high risk moves in this match (planchas, tope con hilos, etc.), but given their inexperience they blew a few of the spots. Nonetheless, all three gave it their all, and Iíll take that any day over a match where the wrestlers are going through the motions. The only downer was that it was a WWE-style one fall finish (as opposed to the more logical ECW elimination-style).
3. Homicide pinned Christopher Daniels (w/ Jerry Lynn). Vampiro (who was billed as Danielsí opponent in advertisements) was a no-show, with no explanation given. Homicide resembles New Jack, but Iíve never seen New Jack work a match this well. Daniels looked like a million dollars in the ring, bumping like a pinball and hitting spots to perfection. Homicide carried up his end of the deal, and the result was an entertaining match. The finish surprised me, but itís brilliant to establish the likes of Homicide and London as legitimate contenders to build up for rematches down the line. Much like what happened after the show opener, Daniels and Lynn attacked Homicide after the match and left him laying. Daniels and Lynn then posed and taunted the crowd. Itís hard to draw heel heat being such good workers, but Daniels and Lynn did their best at getting the crowd mad at them.
4. The Samoan Island Tribe pinned Los Maximos. Before the match, Los Maximos demanded to find out who it was who had attacked them a few weeks backÖ and then the SIT came out, revealing that they had been the assailants. Maximos had a good look in the ring. If they were a little taller and had a little more upper body mass, Iíd be worried about McMahon trying to steal them. While not the high spot fests of the first three matches, the two teams put on a good performance. Itís so refreshing to see a show in the United States where everyone is working as hard as they can.
5. Michael Shane pinned Norman Smiley. I saw Shane wrestle on an ECW show in Huntington, WV three years ago, so I was familiar with him. Shane brought out his new manager: Francine, who looked as good as she did in ECW. Smiley drew a large pop from the crowd, who remembered him from his WCW days. Smiley looked totally ripped. He then introduced a valet of his own: Taylor Vaughn. In introducing her, Smiley said that she had more up top (bigger tits) and an "ass like a donkey". Now thatís funny. The crowd got on Francine big-time, calling her a "crack whore". I actually felt bad for her. Smiley picked up on this and then pantomimed loading up a crack pipe and smoking it. Hilarious stuff. They worked a good match (notice a trend here?), and again I was surprised with the finish with Shane getting the win. After the match Francine and Vaughn pleased the crowd with a catfight.
6. Raven pinned C.M. Punk. Punk was another wrestler who I didnít know coming in, but who impressed me with his wrestling ability. Raven, sporting blonde hair, beat Punk with the Even Flow DDT. With all the upsets earlier, I halfway expected Punk to win. It makes it a lot easier to buy the near falls when you really arenít sure whoís going to come out on top. This was a solid, but not spectacular, match.
7. Fuego Guerrero pinned Ikuto Hidaka. These two put on a wrestling clinic, reminding me of when the Michinoku Pro guys were in ECW back in the day performing Japanese style matches and winning the fans over. Guerrero also wrestles as Amazing Red, so some people knew him from that. I didnít take notes, but Iíd estimate that the match went about 10 minutes. Itís too bad; if they had been given 20 more minutes, they couldíve torn the house down. As it was, they had a great match, and I look forward to seeing if it comes across as well on TV as it did in person. The two men shook hands after the match in a showing of mutual respect.
8. Simon Diamond and C.W. Anderson beat Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and P.J. Friedman in the finals of the MLW Global Tag Title Tournament. Diamond and Anderson jumped Williams and Friedman as they came out, hitting Friedman with chair shots (the first time all show that a foreign object had been used). That left Williams alone to fight Diamond and Anderson. Williams looked surprisingly good in the ring, hitting some of his signature power moves (no Doctor Bombs or anything, but power slams and the like). In a strange angle, Friedman finally regained his senses about three minutes after being attacked and wanted in, but Williams wouldnít tag. Finally Friedman slapped Williams on the back to get inÖ only to then be hit with an Extreme Horsemen double superkick and pinned. After the match Williams attacked Friedman, apparently setting up a student vs. pupil feud.
9. Mike Awesome beat Masato Tanaka via knockout to become the #1 contender for the MLW World Title. This match came close to reaching the level of some of their famous ECW World Title matches. Awesome has put on a bit of Too Cold Scorpio style table weight, but it didnít seem to hold him back in this match. Tanaka took a ridiculous amount of chair shots. Awesome had to get a second chair at one point, as the first chair was all bashed in from the numerous shots delivered to Tanakaís cranium. The ref took a bump when Tanaka went to hit Awesome with a chair but Awesome ducked and Tanaka struck the ref. Awesome then Awesome-bombed Tanaka from inside the ring over the top rope and through a table on the floor. Ouch! Awesome was announced as the winner at that point, which seemed a bit strange. It wouldíve been much more effective to have the ref not take a chair shot and instead be there to check on Tanaka outside the ring and then declare the finish. Regardless, Awesome looks like a strong contender for Satoshi Kojimaís MLW World Title.
10. La Parka pinned Sabu (w/ Cuban Assassin) in an "Mexican Massacre" match. La Parka brought out his own chair, which had some La Parka lWo stickers affixed on the back (I suppose the Latino World Order lives). Sabu looked a bit juiced up (and he had the HHH-style back acne to match). They had an ECW style match with chair shots, dives into the crowd and bumps through tables. Cuban Assassin didnít do a great deal at ringside. Toward the end I turned to my friend Gary and asked why he was out there (and about a minute later Assassin took a bump from Parka). Sabu ended up "accidentally" putting Cuban Assassin through a table (when Parka slid off and pushed Assassin up on the table). After the match Sabu and La Parka teased a handshake. In a funny moment, someone from the crowd shouted something to Sabu, who looked at him and said "Shut up!" I thought Sabuís gimmick was that he couldnít speak English. La Parka ended up spitting at Sabu rather than accept a handshake, and he then received a beatdown from Sabu and Assassin.
11. Terry Funk pinned Steve Corino in the main event. Before the match, Funk told the crowd that they were going to see a wrestling match the way Florida knows wrestling, not people "flip-flopping off the top rope." Funk bled early (apparently re-opening his cut from before the show). Corino juiced heavy, more than Iíve ever seen in person. Corino was literally wearing a crimson mask of blood, and his blonde hair was saturated with blood. The match was vicious, with chairs and tables coming into play. They brawled outside the ring, then over by the entrance. They bumped into the metal frame entrance and actually managed to knock it over (which made me chuckle). It appeared that the finish was supposed to be Funk superplexing Corino through a table, but Funk couldnít suplex him off the top rope (as in he tried, but physically couldnít do it). They then improvised a couple of spots before Funk finally ended up slamming Corino onto the table (but it didnít break). Anderson and Diamond did a run-in, but Funk managed to fight them off. Funk ended up pinning Corino with a rollup. After the match the Extreme Horsemen beat on Funk, but then Steve Williams ran in and cleared the Horsemen from the ring.
Over on the staging area, Corino cut a strong interview, criticizing Funk for having made so many retirements and promising to take him out once and for all. Funk then got on the mic, but in a production snafu it was hard to hear him. That got the crowd yelling, which only made it all the more difficult to tell what Funk was saying. Finally they got the microphone level at least somewhat audible, and Funk challenged Corino to a barbed-wire match, which he said was going to be the first barbed wire match in America since he and Sabu had one in ECW. Corino accepted the challenge. Finally the Horsemen left, leaving Funk and Williams to hear the cheers of the crowd. We cheered Funk as he went up the staircase, and he stopped and acknowledged our cheers and waved to us. Heís a total pro, if ever there was one.
The ring announcer then got on the mic and told the crowd that the Funk/Corino match would actually be an EXPLODING barbed wire match. Whereís that All Japan announcer who used to shout "dangerous" when you need him? Iím not sure that Tabu would allow an exploding barbed wire match (and frankly, when I think explosions and nightclubs, I want no part of it). Luckily next monthís card is taking place at the War Memorial in Fort Lauderdale, which (hopefully) will be equipped to handle such a match.
After the show Gary and I grabbed some dinner at a nearby bar. We then walked back past Tabu, and witnessed what was by far the funniest incident of the night. Norman Smiley was leaving Tabu (complete with his portable luggage), and some marks spotted him and were talking with him. Then the following exchange took place:
Idiot Fan- "Norman, congratulations on your win tonight."
Smiley- "Well, actually I lost, but thatís okay."
Priceless stuff. Raven was also waiting outside the club with his suitcases. Later my friend Gary spotted Francine and a cute blonde chick walking down the sidewalk. Francine was wearing sunglasses (at 11 at night, which was pretty funny). But the sunglasses didn't work as a disguise, and a couple of fans went up to her to try and get an autograph.
Overall, the show was very entertaining and well worth my time and effort. There was more innovation in three hours of that show than Iíve seen in the past six months of WWE programming. Fans of good wrestling should enjoy the next few weeks of television. Fans of ECW should enjoy the "extreme" style matches. And if they can keep this up, theyíll have a product that can be a viable alternative to the WWE's brand of sports entertainment. Running monthly should allow them to book some cohesive angles and build to some long-term money feuds. I plan on returning for the next MLW show in Orlando in July.