Up until the Fall of 2009 I was in charge of Missouri Wrestling Revival, a modest website with the goal of adding value to Midwest independent pro wrestling. The mission has been a great success, and since my departure I have worked hard to keep up-to-date on MWR goings on.
Recently, under the watchful eye of fellow pro wrestling enthusiast Brian Kelley, MWR released the 2009 Awards. 2009’s version has been trimmed down from what I initially released for 2008, but I feel the changes were warranted. With no award for “Personality of the Year”, Brian effectively eliminated any ambiguity that the award had. I have heard rumors that a “Lifetime Achievement” award will be put in its place in the future, which I feel is a great move for the awards and the website.
For this piece, I will break down the MWR Awards from my perspective to add some insight into our little corner of the wrestling world.
MWR 2009 Female Wrestler of the Year
Winner – MsChif
Runners Up (in order) – Amy Hennig, TIE: Mickie Knuckles and Stacey O’Brien
Last year, it was Stacey O’Brien that commanded attention with the Female Wrestler of the Year honors. In 2009, however, her disappearance from the area’s wrestling scene created a vacuüm that seemed like it was never really filled. Malia Hosaka had some success very early in the year, but really the entire year came down to two women: MsChif and Amy Hennig.
MsChif really is a perennial contender simply because of who she is and what she is doing on the national scene. As NWA Womens and SHIMMER Champion, MsChif is quite literally the hottest female prospect that has not been snatched up by Total Nonstop Action (TNA) or World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Unfortunately, her winning this award for 2009 is very telling, as it was a down year for female wrestlers in the area.
Amy Hennig, the first runner-up for this year’s award, could also find herself in a larger company sooner than later. She was the woman to finally dethrone Stacey O’Brien and capture the World League Wrestling Ladies Championship. She also wrestling MsChif in Iowa for Central Empire Wrestling. In all honesty, Hennig was my choice for MWR’s 2009 Female Wrestler of the Year. If what I am hearing is true and Harley Race’s WLW is back in the full swing of things this Spring with her in the rotation, then Ms. Hennig has 2010’s award all but locked up.
Santana G didn’t make the cut this year even in a down year for female wrestlers in the area, but I felt she deserved an honorable mention. It is well-known that I am one of Santana’s biggest proponents, as she is hard-working, humble, and easy for wrestling fans to love. If some of the more solidly planted promotions in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, or Kansas give her a shot in 2010, I see her as the first runner up for 2010.
MWR 2009 Promotion of the Year
Winner – MMWA-SICW (South Broadway)
Runners Up (in order) 3XWrestling, All American Pro Wrestling, High Voltage Wrestling Midwest
The longest running promotion in the area, with ties to the legendary Wrestling at the Chase, is South Broadway (MMWA-SICW). 2009 was their year, with the promotion maintaining its large fanbase and making greats strides at growth in the future. I could be wrong, but I believe they draw 300 pro wrestling fans on a regular basis! The promotion’s initiative to give outside talent a chance to perform in front of their larger crowds is a great boost for Midwest indy wrestling.
As first runner up, 3XWrestling very nearly repeated as Promotion of the Year for the MWR coverage area. Truth be told, they were every bit as strong in 2009 as in 2008. Probably more so. 3XW’s venue, production values, roster, and staff are top-notch, and the crew from Des Moines has strong business sense, as well. If ever there were a category in 2009 that could be argued this one is it, as 3XW and MMWA-SICW could be interchanged at the top without a doubt.
All American Pro Wrestling turned in a solid year in 2009, utilizing all talent the way a promoter should – by emphasizing strengths and downplaying weaknesses. If the Jeremy Wyatt vs Shane Rich feud could have been put together better (an availability issue, not booking), then I have no doubt that AAPW would be right up there in contention with 3XW and MMWA-SICW. As it stands, 2010 could be AAPW’s year. Mississippi Madman is in the singles mix as AAPW Heavyweight Champion, Shane Rich has turned on AAPW’s most popular wrestler in Edmund McGuire, and another former AAPW Heavyweight Champion in Shawn Shultz is always lurking in the shadows. One more thing to point out with AAPW is the fact that their tag team division has been firmly reestablished with Ax Allwardt and Brandon Walker and other challengers to the AAPW Tag Team Titles could be more notable in 2010.
High Voltage Wrestling Midwest garnered some support, but even with my involvement I felt that 2009 had it’s fair share of ups and downs for the promotion. I thought that March’s show was a solid show from top to bottom, with then HVW Midwest Heavyweight Champion “The Future” Donovan Ruddick looking great against veteran “Big” Rick Fuller and Kahagas. I missed the May show due to illness, but heard nothing good about that show. The best was yet to come, however, as the August show (even with a promoter fight/argument outside the building) was a great build and the October Anniversary Show was HVW’s best show since forming in 2008, hands down. At the risk of patting myself on the back, I would point out that Brian Kelley, Kari Williams, and myself had our most hands-on involvement in the August and October shows. HVW ended on a bit of a sour note with low attendance and a weak card for December 5th, but things could look up in 2010… as current HVW Midwest Heavyweight Champion Kahagas squares off against Mike Sydal in February.
The promotion that didn’t make the cut, although I voted it as the top dog in 2009, was IWA Productions. Say what you will about IWAP, but they have solid attendance at their free shows as well as the monthly shows that have paid attendance. With guys like Steven Davis, Shane Rich, Mississippi Madman, and Curly among others, there is some depth to an IWAP card that some may overlook.
Regardless, I thought that the field this year for Promotion of the Year showed that although most of us in the Midwest know that there are some weak promotions out there, there are many solid companies to put your support behind. Think of this: Harley Race’s World League Wrestling had its tenth year anniversary show and had guests throughout the year that included Vader, Bret Hart, and Roddy Piper among others, and inexplicably did not make the list. WLW is one of the best promotions in the Midwest, bar none… but there are promotions out there that have really tried to up their game!
MWR 2009 Wrestler of the Year
Winner – Mark Sterling
Runners Up (in order) – Jeremy Wyatt, Kahagas, Mike Sydal
I was very surprised when I saw the final voting for this award. No, it had nothing to do with the fact that Mark Sterling won 2009 Wrestler of the Year honors. There isn’t a guy in the area that works as hard as him on a consistent basis, so in my opinion 2009 was his year. What surprised me was that three of the four top vote getters are really part of the same traveling crew, and now are known as the Kansas City Killers (Mark Sterling, Mike Sydal, Jeremy Wyatt)… and they are feuding with the second runner-up, current HVW Midwest Heavyweight Champion Kahagas.
There is so much talent in those four individuals that you’d be hard pressed to find another four people that could combine to compare. There is talent out there that is good, but these four are absolute workhorses.
First of all, you have Mark Sterling. The man didn’t have a weekend off for all of 2009 to my knowledge… and it wasn’t all in the Midwest. Sterling takes a very old school approach to professional wrestling, studies it, and makes it work. Ask any person involved in pro wrestling in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, or Kansas about Mark Sterling and they’ll speak of him with respect. He’s earned that respect, and he definitely earned MWR’s 2009 Wrestler of the Year Award.
Jeremy Wyatt is no stranger to the Wrestler of the Year Award. He was the first ever recipient of the honor in 2008 and for most of 2009 was the favorite to win it again. Wyatt knows how to get the crowd involved, and what may be his claim to fame is something that Shawn Michaels is known for on a global level: he puts together match of the year candidates. Wyatt won 2008 Match of the Year honors for his brutal no rope barbed wire match for now defunct NWA Central States Wrestling… this year repeats for his awe-inspiring ladder match in 3XW against Tyler Cook, and also snagged two of the three runners-up spots, too. Michael Strider, Tyler Cook, Jimmy Rockwell, Donovan Ruddick, Shane Rich, and Arya Daivari are all about as diverse as a guy can get as far as opponents are concerned, but Wyatt managed to have Match of the Year candidates or winners with each one.
Kahagas is another well-traveled wrestler with a work ethic like none other. Although his base of operations is for Coastal Championship Wrestling in Florida, Kahagas traveled internationally in 2009 and also branched out in the Midwest from the promotion that he holds championship gold in (HVW Midwest). Earning a spot in IWA Mid South’s prestigious Ted Petty Invitational Tournament and wrestling for New Breed Wrestling Alliance (eastern Illinois) and Lethal Wrestling Alliance added a few more notches of experience to the veterans belt.
Mike Sydal really came into his own in 2009 under the tutelage of Mark Sterling. Sydal won the 3XWrestling Tag Team Titles with Zach Thompson, defeated Brandon Aarons in the finals of HVW Midwest’s Survival of the Fittest match for the HVW Midwest Livewire Title, and the crowning achievement happened away from the ring, as Sydal was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s 2009 Rookie of the Year. The sky is the limit for this young wrestler, and 2009 very well might have been his breakout year!
What does 2010 hold? In my humble opinion, Edmund McGuire will make a statement this year and stake his claim as one of the Midwest’s Best. I also see Jimmy Rockwell, Brandon Aarons, Rory Fox, and Shane Hollister becoming more notable one the Midwest indy scene. As WLW begins its Spring warmup, “Superstar” Steve Fender and “King of 450” Steve Anthony will edge further up on the list as well.
MWR 2009 Tag Team of the Year
Winner – The Hooligans [Devin & Mason Cutter]
Runners Up (in order) – Northstar Express [Darin Corbin & Ryan Cruz], Gentlemen’s Club [Gage Octane & Mark Sterling], Old School Thunder [Ax Allwardt & Brandon Walker]
There was no doubt that Devin and Mason Cutter, collectively known to the Midwest as The Hooligans, were the area’s Tag Team of the Year. They tore a path through the area with their wild brand of wrestling and drew comparisons to some great tag teams of the past. Currently entrenched in a feud with three of the top four vote getters for MWR 2009 Wrestler of the Year in the St. Louis area (Sterling/Sydal/Wyatt) and loosely allied to a fourth (Kahagas), these two men have proven themselves tough enough to hang with any singles wrestler in the area. What about tag teams, though?
A feud with then Lethal Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Champions Pierre Abernathy and Evan Gelistico in Pro Wrestling Next, LWA, and HVW Midwest left them with the upper hand and the respect of their rivals.
2008 Tag Team of the Year, The Northstar Express had a lot of momentum going into 2009. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t nearly as active in the area and their chances of taking the top award were slim. That being said, I was surprised by how high up in the voting they were. They are a great tag team, but just were not active enough to contend. In my opinion, The Gentlemen’s Club, High Flyers, Submission Squad, and Old School Thunder all deserved to be a little higher… especially The High Flyers (Mike Sydal and Zach Thompson), the 3XW Tag Team Champions.
All in all the competition was weaker this year in tag teams than in the year before. Signs point to a better field in 2010, especially if the Kansas City Killers really get rolling.
MWR 2009 Match of the Year
Winner – Tyler Cook (C) vs Jeremy Wyatt in a ladder match for the 3XW Pure Title
Runners Up (in order) – Shane Rich (C) vs Jeremy Wyatt for the AAPW Heavyweight Title, Phoenix Twins [Tweek & Dash] (C) vs Northstar Express [Darin Corbin & Ryan Cruz] for the SCW Tag Team Titles, Jeremy Wyatt (C) vs Jimmy Rockwell/Arya Daivari/Donovan Ruddick in a four-man elimination match for the Wrestling Revival Cup
As mentioned earlier, the first thing I pulled from this category is that Jeremy Wyatt vs a can of Pepsi would be a top contender for match of the year. I compared his achievements in the Midwest to Shawn Michaels’ globally, and I feel the comparison is fair. Anyone as widely recognized as one of the best things about wrestling in the area should have a spot on larger rosters nationwide.
Wyatt’s match with Tyler Cook really is the standard-bearer in 2009 as far as leaving everything in the arena at the end of a match. The match was built around a hot year-long feud that also eventually centered around the 3XW Pure Championship. Both men suffered concussions, were totally and utterly exhausted at the end of the match, and were cheered by all in attendance when all was said and done. This match, held at 3XW’s 4th Anniversary Show, was in front of a large amount of pro wrestling fans both old and new, and emerged as the hands down favorite of the night… earning 3XW many new diehard fans in the process.
His match with Shane Rich, the first runner-up, had no conclusive winner. Yes, arguably the highest rated wrestler in AAPW (Shane Rich) got the pinfall on that night, but Wyatt’s foot was on the ropes and left a question about who was truly the better man. Rich dug deep and held his ground with the 2008 Wrestler of the Year, determined to prove himself equal. Wyatt escaped with his dignity intact.
While I rated the match lower, Wyatt’s defense of the Wrestling Revival Cup in a four-way elimination match in November garnered enough votes to be listed a third runner-up for 2009 Match of the Year. What is most notable from this match, was how “Rockstar” Jimmy Rockwell, unscheduled for the match until the night of the event, nearly outlasted the champ and emerged the holder of the Wrestling Revival Cup.
Three matches. Two wins. One loss. Five different opponents. “The Rebel” Jeremy Wyatt proved that while he didn’t repeat as MWR’s Wrestler of the Year in 2009, he is still important, relevant, and a front-runner for the both Wrestler and Match honors in 2010!
This has been my analysis of the Missouri Wrestling Revival’s 2009 End of the Year Awards. I hope you’ve enjoyed!
Views from Progressive Mountain
You’re the guy you hate…
First of all, if this offends you as a pro wrestling fan, I don’t care. The truth hurts. You are the reason some of us have to work hard to get anywhere in the pro wrestling business when outside of this “industry”, people know what we’re capable of and value our work (see About the Author, sucka MC). You’re amazing ability to point out every flaw, combined with your total and utter lack of talent in implementing real solutions defines a line in professional wrestling. You should feel accomplished. Other than your continued viewing of products you profess to hate and your continued spending on your pro wrestling habit, this is the only contribution you’ve made.
You see, this line is the line between a “smart mark” and someone who is legitimately part of professional wrestling. Smart mark: a term that once should have conjured up images of a true wrestling enthusiast, but has now devolved in the mind of anybody in the business as a synonym for “douchebag”. You know the word douchebag (or a word like it) very well. It’s what you call all of those guys that used to beat you up in school.
That’s it in a nutshell, guys and gals. You are the professional wrestling equivalent of the guy that used to slap you around… or whatever it is that the girl bullies did in school…
You are professional wrestling’s version of the guy that was on top of the world, getting laughs and acting like a total tool in his circle of friends, all while the outside world sees you for what you really are. In the world of pro wrestling, much like the real outside world of employment opportunities and social groups for the aforementioned bully, you are not wanted.
There should come a time in a person’s life when they ask themselves why they spend all of their time devoted to an activity/group that they feel they are better than. I would never join a racial supremacy group because it is wrong, immoral, closed-minded, and all of the members of such groups are less than a flavorless old piece of Juicy Fruit on the bottom of my shoe.
Although that is an extreme example, it proves a point. Do something with your life that you feel is worth it. Do something that – and I know this is hard for you to comprehend – you actual can be positive about.
If there are aspects of pro wrestling that you don’t like, cut them out. If you feel that all WWE or TNA does is hold back talent and push old people, stop watching. If you feel that ROH, CHIKARA, or DGUSA are bush league, say no to those indies! If every independent wrestler makes you want to point and laugh in your local area, perhaps the ten bucks spent at that show would be better spent on that cardiac-arrestinator burger you like to scarf down while playing World of Warcraft.
Now I know that this all can come across as a little harsh… but seriously, people! I’m not some big shot wrestling insider with all of the answers, but if I have something negative to say it is followed by something I plan to do to remedy the situation. My solution is to build something from the bottom up in my area that I have the passion to do correctly and with enthusiasm. That means cutting out what doesn’t work, and going with what does… and it also means that it isn’t going to happen overnight.
You don’t have to be a wrestling promoter or talent to have a positive impact. You also don’t have to like everything that is served to you by any individual or pro wrestling company. If you truly love your rasslin’, then you support the things you do like! Complaining is okay, as long as it doesn’t become who you are.
In short, find what makes you happy. Life is too short to become the Internet version of that butthole from high school, fool!
The Intensity of Mark Sterling:
A look at the most relentless man in the Midwest
[This post is from my private vault of articles on Missouri Wrestling Revival. I have edited it and made it a much better product for readers of the Progressive Wrestling Fan!]
A few years back, I had the opportunity to do a sit down interview with Mark Sterling when I was just starting to establish myself on the Midwest pro wrestling scene. Looking back, it’s clear to me that the assignment was given as an initiation of sorts. Those in charge of Central States Wrestling at the time knew I was fresh into the business, but they also knew that Sterling was slowly beginning to descend into madness. It would be the perfect way to make sure I was serious about doing what I said I was going to do. If I survived my interview with Sterling, people would know I was serious about my pursuit of a dream and not just blowing smoke.
Fast forward a few years into the future and Sterling has channeled this “madness” that I discovered in that interview into a very violent form of professional wrestling… not hardcore, but every bit as dangerous. It’s a safe bet that in the ring he is as punishing as any man in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Total Nonstop Action (TNA), or Ring of Honor (ROH). Even this new Dragon Gate USA promotion should take notice.
Not only is the man intense, but he is a notorious workhorse on the Midwest independent wrestling scene. Since the beginning of 2009 Sterling has wrestled in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Oklahoma, encompassing promotions such as Lethal Wrestling Alliance (LWA), High Voltage Wrestling (HVW), NWA Dynamo Pro, Scott County Wrestling (now known as Pro Wrestling Next [PWN]), Central Empire Wrestling (CEW), All American Pro Wrestling (AAPW), 3XWrestling (3XW), Pro Wrestling Phoenix (PWP), NWA Showcase , Wrestling Past Present & Future (WPPF), Maximum Wrestling Alliance (MWA), Pro Wrestling Entertainment (PWE), Metro East Championship Wrestling (MECW), and IWA Mid South (IWAMS). Sterling also recently wrestled to great reviews for Coastal Championship Wrestling in Florida, and I have heard rumors that he may make it back there sooner rather than later.
Sterling takes professional wrestling very seriously. He trains hard and he wrestles even harder. Many promoters know Sterling as a go to guy who doesn’t mind putting in the driving time to inflict some punishment on whoever his scheduled opponent happens to be. Win or lose, Sterling is always welcomed back to do it all over again.
Always outspoken “TNT” Keny G of High Voltage Wrestling agrees. “No doubt about it. Sterling is the real deal. He brings a hard-hitting, grounded style to any show he is a part of. Champions should worry when a guy like me brings a guy like Mark Sterling in for a show. It’s a sign that the champ’s days could be numbered,” he said.
One of Sterling’s rivals, 3XW President Skylar Pierce, begrudgingly relented when asked to comment on Sterling’s worth. “He’s good… and he gives the fans somebody to hate, which is always nice,” Pierce confessed.
Wrestlers might not fear him, but they certainly respect him. I was witness last year at a World League Wrestling/Pro Wrestling NOAH Camp show in September to a Dustin Lane beating at the hands of Mark Sterling the likes of which hasn’t been seen in some time. It’s not something I will soon forget, so I can imagine Lane has it engraved in his mind, too.
More so than singles competition, Sterling seems to enjoy tag team battles. When asked why he is involved in so many tag team matches in so many promotions, Sterling replied, “Why do you think? One-on-one I only have one guy to beat up, but in tag teams there are at least two morons that I can destroy. Now why don’t you type that up on your little Internet site.” Sterling is a member of the Gentlemen’s Club with Gage Octane and manager Todd Countryman, the 3XW tag team champions. He has teamed with “#1” Brett Young and Rebelucha in AAPW in efforts to defend AAPW tag team gold, but won those belts by defeating the Phoenix Twins with his long time tag team partner, Darrien Sanders, as the tag team known as the Leaders of the New Revolution (LONRs). The LONRs were front-runners for MWR’s 2008 Tag Team of the Year and 2008 Match of the Year (versus the Northstar Express for PWP ), having been the PWP and AAPW Tag Team Champions. Sanders has since retired and Sterling has been forced to look elsewhere for a reliable, week in and week out tag team partner. In addition to the previously mentioned tag team partners, Sterling has teamed with a handful of others within the past year. John Saxon and Eric Fantabulous are two of them, although there have been more.
If you want to see more of Mark Sterling, you probably do not have to go far. He wrestles throughout the Midwest and is truly one of the best. Fortunately, Sterling has another way for you to see what he is capable of. The Best of Mark Sterling Volume 1: “Descent Into Madness” is available on DVD and features some of his best work from the early years of his pro wrestling career. You can buy it online by going to Mark Sterling’s MySpace page at www.myspace.com/marksterling123 or by visiting SEP Video’s MySpace page at www.myspace.com/sepvideo. I will be doing a full review of this DVD in the future, but what I’ve watched so far has made it one of the best compilation DVDs a wrestler in the Midwest has put together!
Mark Sterling can be contacted via his previously mentioned MySpace page for booking information. His available dates are snatched up fast by other promotions, so book him now!
Sterling’s star is rising in yet another promotion, with the assistance of newly formed Kansas City Killers partners Mike Sydal and Jeremy Wyatt. Another lesser published fact is that he is the NWA Central States Heavyweight Champion, defeating Midwest wrestling legend Michael Strider for the title at Strider’s retirement match this year!
Don’t miss your chance to see the intense Mark Sterling in action!
Two more videos for your enjoyment:
Going to a wrestling show as a wrestling fan?
WLW 3/21/2009 Recap and Commentary
[This post is from my private vault of articles on Missouri Wrestling Revival. I have edited it and made it a much better product for readers of the Progressive Wrestling Fan!]
I have been in the United States for three weeks now and I’d be lying if I said things weren’t just a little hectic. My good friend Brian Kelley has been kind enough to help me run the site in my absence, and the transition back to taking day-to-day control of Missouri Wrestling Revival has left me playing catch up. I am almost to the point where I can stop and take a breath. Of course, there are some growing pains as Kari, Brian, and I figure out how to best communicate and get the job done. We’re getting to where we need to be, though. We have ironed out most things and I for one am genuinely excited about 2009! For the past few weeks, I’ve needed little reminders of why I do what I do. I’m sure that it happens to the best of us in pro wrestling. Promoters, wrestlers, fans… we all need those reminders of why pro wrestling is as important to us as it is. Coming back from a war zone, I figured that I’d be immune to some of the petty things that seem to eat at those in the Midwest wrestling scene, but three weeks of hardcore work in many of the area’s professional wrestling activities have taken their toll.
My remedy? Well, I decided to go to a pro wrestling show as a pro wrestling fan. Ridiculous thought, right?
I took my wife and two-year old son to a World League Wrestling’s show in Eldon, MO, not as a representative of Missouri Wrestling Revival (although I’m always an ambassador for my business and website), but as a wrestling fan. I’ve wanted to take my son, Jalen, to a pro wrestling show to share my love of wrestling for some time. He watches it with me here and there when I have it on TV, but my wife has been a firm believer that a live show would be too much for our son to handle. Seeing as both of us value the well-being of our son and take his raising and our duties as parents very seriously, we made a decision to take Jalen to a show that was:
a) close to MWR headquarters in Lebanon, MO
b) family friendly
Our choice was pretty obvious. One hour away was a World League Wrestling event in Eldon, MO. On March 21, 2009 we set out for the show with one goal in mind: to enjoy it as a family.
We took full advantage of the concessions and merchandise tables. We visited the wrestlers that were available. We cheered and booed when appropriate. In other words, we had a great time. My son loved every minute of it, even asking if we could get in the ring continuously throughout the night. He wanted a Harley Race action figure, which Mr. Race gladly signed. He talked to me about meeting “Roddy Piper” and “Superstar Steve” with matter-of-fact enthusiasm. Even my wife, who doesn’t enjoy much about pro wrestling, admitted that it was a great time and that we’d have to come back.
Today, I sat back and reflected while the NWA’s new television show was on TV and my son had a broken toy wrestling ring and some wrestling figures in the living room floor. Did I just get a jolt of renewed motivation? I’ve heard that seeing things through a child’s eyes can have benefits, but never did I give that idea a second thought until now.
Curious about the show’s results? A very strange Tommaso Ciampa wrestled Darin Waid to a no contest when Ciampa’s partner (Marc Godeker) and Waid’s fellow tag champ (Dustin Lane) joined into the fray. Brian Breaker finally crushed the fight in “Vietnam Phenom” Bao Nguyen, who was pinned in a little over 10 minutes after a valiant effort. Breaker did not, however, crush Bao’s warrior spirit. Amy Hennig was able to dethrone the top female wrestler in the Midwest, capturing Stacey O’Brien’s WLW Ladies Championship in the process to the roaring approval of the crowd. Darin Waid and Dustin Lane made a statement when they defeated the impressive tag team of Marc Godeker & Tommaso Ciampa to retain their WLW Tag Team Titles. Ciampa was enamored with his tag partner’s muscles, although my family was unable to determine whether that was the tag team’s downfall. The match of the evening for me was a rematch of sorts between two guys that welcomed me back from Iraq a week ago for High Voltage Wrestling in Granite City, IL. “Superstar” Steve Fender avenged his loss in Granite City and went on to capture the WLW Heavyweight Title from “King of 450” Steve Anthony. Trevor Murdoch was the special guest referee, but had been taken out by Anthony’s corner man Johnny Gold. Gold was about to cost Fender the match without ref supervision, when Roddy Piper showed up and took him out. This freed Fender up to finish Anthony while Piper revived Murdoch so that he could make the three count.
Want to know what I remember most, though? Leaving the show with my wife and son as a wrestling fan.
Special thanks to Dan Gier for putting me on the spot at the show. I’m not much for getting up in front of crowds, but Dan is a great guy and I know he was putting Missouri Wrestling Revival over for the wrestling fans. Since I was at the event with my family as a fan, I chose not to try and present Harley Race with his MWR 2008 Personality of the Year Award, but plan to schedule a private presentation at the Harley Race Wrestling Academy in the near future, with pictures posted at www.MissouriWrestlingRevival.com shortly thereafter, Thank you to all of the wrestlers for an entertaining evening and, through my son, motivating me to keep plugging away in my attempt to “Give back to Midwest pro wrestling”!
Respect the Legends:
[This post is from my private vault of articles on Missouri Wrestling Revival. I have edited it and made it a much better product for readers of the Progressive Wrestling Fan!]
Most pro wrestling fans rarely go back more than twenty-five years in history to name “legends”. Anything earlier than that is some how off a fan’s radar. Going back twenty-five years from press time would make the year 1983. Harley Race was nearing the end of his run in the National Wrestling Alliance and would soon be headed to the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). But, who trained Harley Race? Who was a wrestling legend to a young Harley Race as he was making his way into professional wrestling?
That man’s name is Stanislaus Zbyszko. He also trained a long time tag team partner of Race, Johnny Valentine. Zbyszko was born on April Fool’s Day, April 1, 1879 in Krakow, Poland and was one of the top European wrestlers in wrestling history. He’s a former world heavyweight champion (twice) and a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2003), the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (1996), and The National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame (1983).
His real name was Stanislaus Cyganiewicz, but his childhood friends gave him the nickname “Zbyszko”, which was a fictional medieval Polish knight from the novel “Krzyzacy” by Henryk Sienkiewicz, due to his bravery. Although he was born in Poland, he grew up in Vienna, Austria.
He was always naturally strong, but he developed more strength as well as an imposing muscular appearance in the Vindobona Athletic Club while in college, standing 5’8″ and weighing in at a massive 260 pounds. Where most wrestlers in early American professional wrestling made names for themselves by defeating the citizens in various towns for the circus, Stanislaus Zbyszko actually made his name by defeating an experienced grappler at a circus in Poland.
At this time Zbyszko followed in the established footsteps of Europe’s top wrestler, Georg Hackenschmidt, and made his way into the world of professional wrestling with Polish wrestler Ladislaus Pytlasinsky as his mentor. He gradually made himself known as Europe’s fastest-rising Greco-Roman wrestler. He competed in many tournaments and was ranked at the top of European rankings, eventually taking on the name “Stanislaus Zbyszko” as his official wrestling name.
He continued gaining steam in Europe but was surrounded by controversy in the early 1900s when a man he defeated in a series of matches was revealed to have been employed by Zbyszko. He was involved in one of pro wrestling’s earliest revelations of “sports entertainment”.
Zbyszko began competing more and more in both England and the United States, making the transition to the catch-as-catch-can freestyle wrestling over that period of time. He was billed as the top European wrestler, but was established as a top talent in the entire world when he wrestled the already legendary Frank Gotch to a one-hour draw in 1909 in Buffalo, NY. In a rematch, Gotch suckered Zbyszko in the opening handshake, pinning him in 6.4 seconds. The two never wrestled again, possibly due to Zbyszko’s anger over the entire incident.
His next big challenge came in the form of India’s Great Gama. Great Gama was an undefeated champion and had tried many times to get Frank Gotch to wrestle him to no avail. He was a feared man, but Zbyszko took the challenge. In the first match between them, Gama took Stanislaus down with ease but was unable to pin him. The two wrestled to a tremendously long 3-hour draw. Zbyszko became the first man to be able to escape a match with Great Gama without a loss. The second two meetings were less impressive for Zbyszko, losing one match by forfeit and the second one in only 42 seconds.
Zbyszko left another legacy in 1925 at the ripe age of 47. After defeating Ed “Strangler” Lewis for the World Heavyweight Title in 1921 and losing it to him nearly a year later, he was supposed to lose a match for the heavyweight title to an ex-football player with little or no wrestling experience by the name of Wayne Munn. A rival promoter paid Zbyszko to pin Munn repeatedly until the referee had no other choice but award him the belt. He then dropped the belt to the rival promoter one month later to complete the scheme. While the ploy worked, it set a precedent for pro wrestling booking. From that point until decades later, wrestling promoters were reluctant to have a champion that couldn’t hold his own if a match turned into a legitimate fight.
He retired a few years later in 1928 after a rematch with Great Gama in India in front of a reported 60,000 fans. The match was 18 years after their first match that went to a three-hour draw, and only lasted 30 seconds with Gama winning. He then scouted wrestling talent in South America, discovering another pro wrestling legend, Antonino Rocca, before settling in St. Joseph, MO on a farm. He and his brother discovered and trained Harley Race and Johnny Valentine on that farm.
During his retirement, Zbyszko appeared in two movies. One was “Madison Square Garden” in 1932 and the other was a film called “Night and the City” in 1950. He played a professional wrestler in both, with “Madison Square Garden” being the one that he played himself in.
On September 23, 1967, Stanislaus Zbyszko died of a heart attack at age 88 in St. Joseph, MO.
Stanislaus Zbyszko was a world reknown pro wrestling legend. He settled in the heart of the Missouri Wrestling Revival coverage area, and we here at MWR pay respect.
Respect the legends. Respect Stanislaus Zbyszko.
Progressive DVD Reviews:
Dragon Gate USA’s “Open The Historic Gate”
July 25, 2009 in Philadelphia, PA
To purchase the DVD from Dragon Gate USA, click here.
1) BxB Hulk vs. YAMATO
2) Kenn Doane vs. Too Cold Scorpio
3) Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Fire Ant & Soldier Ant vs. Hallowicked, Amasis, Gran Akuma & Icarus
4) Dragon Kid vs. Masato Yoshino
5) CIMA & Susumu Yokosuka vs. The Young Bucks
6) Naruki Doi vs. Shingo
With bonus disc, show has over 4 hours of action and extras, including a pre-show match, highlight package, a Dragon Gate match from Japan, and a Full Impact Pro match featuring Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne) and Jushin Liger, among other.
When word started to spread that Gabe Saplosky, formerly of Ring of Honor, was hard at work at creating the U.S. branch of Japan’s popular Dragon Gate promotion, I was intrigued. I did not commit myself to unfailing loyalty, but I had hopes that something like this would be positive for professional wrestling. I even chatted with Mr. Sapolsky on behalf of my website at the time, Missouri Wrestling Revival, in hopes of giving some much deserving wrestlers in the Midwest an opportunity. While those talks didn’t pan out, Gabe was professional and offered much appreciated time and guidance. I promised myself then and there that I would give Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA) a chance.
One thing that this DVD has going for it before the seal is even broken on the case is that it is the beginning of something new. Any wrestling fan picking this up has no need of understanding any convoluted storylines or in-depth histories of top talent. There are no champions organic to DGUSA. No top contenders yet. It gives the viewer the ability to form his or her own conclusions and encourages that person to feel like he or she is part of something special. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) did this during the wrestling boom in the 1990’s. Not a bad model to draw influence from.
Dragon Gate USA takes that benefit and uses it as a building block for something much more. Gabe and his crew put together some of the best production values around, top-notch wrestling action, and a innovative marketing machine, combining the three elements together to make Dragon Gate USA the promotion right now for American pro wrestling fans. Sapolsky has made it known that he considers DGUSA a premium wrestling product. After watching Open the Historic Gate, I can’t help but think that this guy might be onto something. He seems to have good booking and business sense, which puts him light years ahead of most promoters out there.
Today I take a look at DGUSA’s first DVD release, Open the Historic Gate, which was originally released on pay-per-view as Enter the Dragon. I will go match by match and thought by thought through the release, and then assign a rating to the overall show based on individuals matches, flow of the show, crowd reaction, and my personal enjoyment. In Progressive DVD Reviews I will not assign star ratings to matches, as I find this practice to be very elitist by many individuals on the Internet.
If there were ever a match in the history of professional wrestling that embodied what I feel is the perfect opening bout, Yamato vs BxB Hulk is it. The DVD already had a feeling of excitement surrounding it when it showed the initial crowd reaction at the start, but this match told the fans in attendance and anybody who would ever watch the DVD at home that there was substance behind that feeling.
“Yes, wrestling fans, this is something special that you should be excited about,” Yamato and BxB Hulk metaphorically confirmed through their match.
The match wasn’t without a certain style of illogical wrestling from time to time which I personally dislike… you know, that whole style of wrestling where a big move or submission looks devastating and yet the receiver of said move hops up and does a couple of flippy moves as if everything prior to it those moves never happened? This style was kept to a very minimal level, however, due to one of my new favorite wrestlers, Yamato. His grappling/submission background translates beautifully in professional wrestling, and seemed to ground this match throughout with a legitimacy that is rarely found in pro wrestling of the last 20 years. I have promised myself that I will not issue out ratings for matches in my reviews, but I will tell you that this was one of the top three matches of 2009 I have witnessed, if not the best. It was far above and beyond even the best match at Wrestlemania 25 (Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels). I recommend that if any fan wants to sample the best that Dragon Gate USA has to offer, he or she look no further than the very first match in the young company’s history.
Toning the pace down after a hot opener without taking the crowd completely out of the show is extremely difficult, too. DGUSA offered up 2 Cold Scorpio vs Ken Doane, and I thought it was a masterful move. 2 Cold Scorpio is probably best known for his stint in the then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as Flash Funk, but I best remember him for his early 90’s tag team work with Marcus (Buff) Bagwell for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Ken Doane, regardless of his solid work as Ken Dykstra in the now World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), is probably better known for his work in that same company as a member of the Spirit Squad named Kenny.
The two had a logical, slower paced match than the opener, but it also had its high impact moments. My favorite was a misstep by 2 Cold Scorpio in which his finishing stomp maneuver out of the corner resulted in a double foot stomp directly on Doane’s face. It busted Doane up and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was really angry with 2 Cold with the look on his face. This added to the match regardless of what was going on in each man’s mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my opinion at that point, DGUSA was two-for-two.
If I were to pick a weak link on the DVD, it would be the eight-man tag team match featuring CHIKARA wrestlers, although with the show being in CHIKARA’s backyard in Philadelphia, the fans were into it. That isn’t to say that the wrestlers aren’t talented. For me, there is just such an illogical mindset to these kind of matches that I stop caring unless there is some high-flying or high impact move… and usually I miss those because I am zoning out. In other words, the entire match stops being about the wrestlers, a storyline, or psychology. Why not watch figure skating or balet when you get to that stage? Seeing this type of match live might be a different experience for me, but I highly doubt it.
After the eight-man tag match there was a great angle involving Mike Quackenbush and Yamato that peaked my interest, but in my humble opinion the match was a bust. That being said, it could be right up your alley.
Next up was Dragon Kid and Masato Yoshino, two men who are no strangers to one another. I expected this one to be good, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hold-for-hold and move-for-move, Kid and Yoshino went at it, with the crowd seemingly most supportive of Dragon Kid. Dragon Kid ended up being my personal favorite by the end of the match, reminding me of both a young Rey Mysterio Jr. and Ultimo Dragon at various points throughout the contest. Although this match wasn’t as good as the match featuring Yamato and BxB Hulk, it was enjoyable and kept the crowd involved.
The end of the Dragon Kid vs Masato Yoshino match left things open for a rematch. That rematch took place at the next DGUSA event that I will be reviewing in a week or two, called Open the Untouchable Gate. Be sure to make your way back to The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan for that review.
The big tag team match of the DVD featured two guys who have received a lot of great press recently in The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson), as they would face CIMA & Susuku Yokosuka. The Young Bucks were just recently signed to a contract with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) after a tryout match against the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin), so there is no denying the talent there, but I have never been a huge supporter of the team. They’ve got some flashy moves and the “More Bang for Your Buck” finisher is one of the best tag team finisher in the history of pro wrestling, so I’m guessing that my lack of excitement for the team is simply superficial – their wrestling gear is hideously atrocious.
With that out of the way and objectivity in full effect, I have to admit that this was an exceptional match. CIMA was very popular with the Philadelphia crowd for good reason, and the Young Bucks were definitely up for the challenge. If I am right about DGUSA’s intentions with this match then the company was very successful in their choices and the two teams executed near-flawlessly. The Young Bucks came away from the match with much more of my respect… as I am sure was their goal all along. I kid, I kid…
My sense of self-worth aside, we arrive at the main event for the night. Naruki Doi and Shingo was a solid feature match with the crowd’s reactions adding to the enjoyment. I was most impressed with Doi, but Shingo was solid for his role in the bout, too. By this point in the DVD, I’ll admit that I was a bit weary and nothing stood out in the match as phenomenal, but this was not a bad match in the least. I’ll need to see more of Shingo to formulate an opinion, and it looks like I’ll have that opportunity in my next review, as he faces the accomplished Davey Richards at Open the Untouchable Gate.
With this main event as one bookend and the opposite being BxB Hulk vs Yamato, DGUSA balanced putting on a great show with introducing many fans to the technical skill of Japanese wrestlers.When I first popped in this DVD, I was excited about the possibilities. After watching the entire show from top to bottom, I came away with an even better understanding of Japanese wrestling and a positive outlook for the future of DGUSA as a viable top independent promotion. With the early outlook for pro wrestling in 2010 looking brighter than any year before it for at least 11 or 12 years, here’s hoping that real pro wrestling fans are treated to events and DVDs the caliber of this one more frequently.
[The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan’s Real Wrestling Rating takes into consideration each individual match, overall flow of the show, and crowd reaction to the event as well as my own personal enjoyment. With criteria varying so much and with a scale that goes from 0 (zero) to 10 (ten), a rating of either extreme is nearly impossible. As such, a “7” is considered an exceptional score.]
The Progressive Pro Wrestling Fan’s Real Wrestling Rating (from 0 to 10):
End of the Decade Award Winners?
On the verge of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s 2009 End of the Year blowout issue, which should hit newsstands on January 19, 2010, the editors of that magazine released their Decade Awards.
- Wrestler of the Decade: Triple H
- Tag Team of the Decade: Team 3D
- Match of the Decade: Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24
- Feud of the Decade: Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho
- Woman of the Decade: Trish Stratus
- Most Popular of the Decade: John Cena
- Most Hated of the Decade: Triple H
- Most Inspirational of the Decade: Shawn Michaels
- Pay-Per-View of the Decade: Wrestlemania X-7
This brings up a great discussion point:
Who would you choose for each of these decade awards, and why?
Post comments below.