Independent Wrestling Is Truly All In

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11 days away … #AllIn

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On September 1st, Cody and The Young Bucks turned an offhanded comment from Wrestling Observers own and star rating commandant Dave Meltzer into one the most historic nights in wrestling. After Meltzer inferred that Cody and his ragtag group of Indy superstars couldn’t sell 10,000 seats they set out to prove the journalist wrong. Well the 11, 263 in attendance at the Sears Centre Arena on the 1st were a pretty clear statement to the world. Things were changing.  “All In” harkened back to wrestling of old, tapping into slapstick antics and celebrity appearances while still looking forward, working in excellent technical wrestling and references to social media based shows and feuds. It was a perfect storm for wrestling fans.

The Bullet Club was smart in their approach to the card, spreading it’s members out wide throughout the night with four of them in singles matches and the groups resident tag team experts, The Young Bucks, fighting in a six-man bout in the main event. That match alone, the Young Bucks coming together with Kota Ibushi to be The Golden Elite, was a monster bout. It played into their strengths as performers and our overbearing sense of nostalgia by facing legend Rey Mysterio. Each BC match before this one told a different story to build one hell of a show.

Hangman Page found himself in a solid Chicago Street Fight that had comedic overtones throughout. It served as service to the fans of the Being The Elite YouTube series as it ended with a group of “Penis Druids” (go watch the match and see…) coming out to show that Joey Ryan, who Page had “murdered” in BTE, had come back to life and intended to get his revenge. After Page was incapacitated by Ryan, Page was carried off by the Penis Druids like he was Jesus Christ (no seriously, you need to go watch this match…)

Both Marty Scurll and Kenny Omega found themselves in dream matches. Scurll took on former IWGP Heavyweight Champion and NJPW superstar Kazuchika Okada in classic David vs. Goliath story. While Omega was pit against Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground mega star Pentagon Junior. While Scurll was unsucessful in his bout, one in which he already has an announced rematch at the sold out MSG show in April, Omega ended up with a win. But it was the events after the stellar match between Pentagon and Omega that proved why All In was the hit of an event it was…

Post Omega vs. Pentagon, the power went out in arena. When the lights came back on, Pentagon was standing again, but at this point began attacking Omega, when he stopped he began to pull off his mask… revealing it had been Chris Jericho in Pentagon’s place when the lights came back on! This was the shining example of why this show was such a sucess. It wasn’t just the fans who wanted to make a statement to the wrestling overlords, the wrestlers themselves were excited and eager to contribute. The list of moments was bountiful. Jericho showing up to his first North American appearance since venturing away from the WWE even though he immediately had to leave the arena, hop on a private jet, and fly to Kansas to play a Fozzy show THAT NIGHT. Jay Lethal reviving “Black Machismo. Stephen Amell wrestling Christopher Daniels and going through a table. THE F#$KING PENIS DRUIDS. These are just some of the stops that the line-up of wresters were willing to pull out. And I must say again, it made for one hell of a show.

The landsacpe of wrestling has truly changed. Yes, WWE is still the “Big Dog” (wink wink) but the entire wrestling community let one thing be emphatically known. They are not the only option, and a lot of people know it now. All In showed that wrestling belongs to the fans and the people who are passionate about it. On September 1st it didn’t matter if you were Bullet Club, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or unaffliated… fans and performers came together to create what we all love. A great show and a great night of wrestling. Thank you, Cody and Bucks, for spear heading this, all the wrestlers for helping make this happen, and the world for taking a chance on it. The future is bright for wrestling fans.

For more thoughts tune in to the next episode of Heel, Face, Shoot on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Spotify!

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September 1st 2018 will live forever!

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Adam “Hangman” Page Deserves A Singles Title

The Bullet Club is a juggernaut of the wrestling world. It started as a scrappy stable lead by Finn Balor. It then evolved into a major force in New Japan Pro Wrestling under the guidance of AJ Styles. Finally, it reached its zenith when Kenny Omega took control. Now it bolsters an insane line-up of wrestling talent. It has the Tag Team stalwarts in the form of The Young Bucks. They have the WWE expatriate turned king of the wrestling world with The American Nightmare Cody. And they have one of the best characters in the business with “The Villian” Marty Scurll. Though when you watch an episode of being The Elite there is one more man that people overlook. Adam “Hangman” Page. And he deserves more respect.

Stevie Woltz, better known by his in-ring name Adam “Hangman” Page is a good old boy from Virginia. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech who was a high school teacher full-time while wrestling on the weekends. He rose to prominence in Ring of Honor and truly began to gain steam when he was added to The Bullet Club. He spent a few years as a solo performer before joining the prolific club. When interviewed on Colt Cabana’s podcast he states how different he is from the Hangman character. He talks about how he is an overly nice guy, who happens to get to hang out with the cool kids. Isn’t Page just living the wrestling version of what we all wanted? But to say any success he has is attributed to being paired with the “cool kids” of independent wrestling would be a disservice to The Hangman.

The Bullet Club has transcended wrestling. With deals with Hot Topic and multiple cease and desist orders being levied against them, the BC has become a brand all their own. Anyone who becomes attached to them has an easy set-up for his career right? That could be said but Page has gone above and beyond. He cut his teeth as one-third of the ROH six-man tag team championship titles he held with The Young Bucks. Their team was lovingly known as The Hung Bucks. Since this time he has proved himself over and over again in countless combinations. Often tagging with the likes of Marty Scurll and Cody, he has racked up a bevy of wins and moments. He has proved he can perform with his standing flips and hard hits. I was personally present when he flipped off the balcony at Manhattan Mayhem this year and it was insane.  But when is teaming with members of BC going to get old?

Page often finds himself as the one-off partner of another member of BC. It’s time to let Page fly. The man is athletically up to the challenge and has grown leaps and bounds on the mic. He has found a great story feuding with Joey Ryan over their…packages. He may not be at the point where he can carry a promotion but the man deserves either the TV Title with ROH or the US Title with NJPW.  He is more than apt to hold the TV Title with ROH and has put in the time. I know he has had a shot at the NJPW US Title but lost to Jay White, now going by Switchblade, but he should have another shot. NJPW introduced the US Title at their American based event and it was won by Canadian Kenny Omega. It was then won by New Zealander Jay White. Nationality should play no part in your ability to win a title, but how great would the story be if this Virginia good old boy is the first actual American to win the US Title? And it helps that despite being a Virginia boy, he is an incredibly accepting person in a time of great turmoil in the country.

I am a proud supporter of Page and I know that he can excel past what he has already done. It is refreshing to have someone who is just a nice guy making a name for himself with the biggest stable in the world right now. Bullet Club may have a lot of members who deserve respect, but I will gladly be sitting in the crowd in the shirt with the noose around the skull. Hell yeah Hangman!

Is Bullet Club Fine? 5 Things to Keep an Eye On

The flagship youtube channel of the Bullet Club, Being The Elite, has been an absolute juggernaut the past year. A channel that merely started as the Young Bucks vlogging about the road and what all the travel of the busiest duo in professional wrestling entails blossomed into an entertainment outlet all on its own. Since then it has lead to Bullet Club shirts selling like crazy on ProWrestlingTees.com, a lucrative deal with Hot Topic, and most recently the BTE YouTube page hitting 200k followers. It’s golden right? Recent videos and matches would say otherwise…

Recently we have seen infighting on the channel and at live events. The spearhead of it all has been between current BC leader Kenny Omega and want to be leader Cody Rhodes. The incumbent is most likely the most popular wrestler outside of WWE. The argument could be made that he is, in fact, THE most popular wrestler in the world. Kenny Omega is the perfect mix of in-ring ability and on mic magic. Cody Rhodes (or as he legally has to be referred to on the indies, just “Cody”) is an amazing example of drive and talent. Not content resting on family laurels, being the son of the son of a plumber (I swear that makes sense), he asked for his release from the WWE to spread his wings on the indies. Since then he has flourished and has been absolutely killing it. Now these superpowers are facing off. But they aren’t the only ones to be involved in this. Bullet Club is a faction that is stacked with talent, so here are five storylines to keep an eye on going forward…

Kenny Omega vs. The American Nightmare Cody

Leader vs. Leader (?). We all saw this coming. The ruthlessness of Cody had to lead to this. Kenny Omega, the one time betrayer to the leader in the form of AJ Styles, has become the betrayed. Cody has worked hard to poison the minds of the rest of the BC and has caused a fissure in the stable. They have to fight it out to figure out who’s in charge. They have to fight for the future of Bullet Club…

On a non-story, more technical note these are two insanely talented wrestlers so this fight is going to be great. Both are amazing storytellers in the ring and can take a beating as much as they can give one. If you need proof and don’t get woozy at the sight of blood go look at Cody’s Instagram–the aftermath from their fight in NJPW is pretty grisly. These guys aren’t going to hold back at Super Card of Honor.

The Young Bucks vs. The Golden Lovers

If you saw Strong Style Evolved in Long Beach you’ll know that these four can go. Former (and still? Not clear yet…) close friends The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson, and Kenny Omega find themselves at odds. Currently, Omega is back with former tag partner Kota Ibushi. They have run together in the past as the Golden Lovers. When Cody turned on Omega, Ibushi was there to pick him back up. The Bucks, on the other hand, have found themselves at odds with both sides. Matt Jackson seemingly has more of an issue with Omega (we’ll talk about Nick next) and it was Matt who took the pin in Long Beach. There seems to be a strain but the Bucks refuse to give up on Omega

Outside of the story, you’re not going to get a more exciting tag match up. The Youngs Bucks super-kicks, Omega’s devastating knee, and Ibushi’s athleticism all mean that any time they would face off you could be watching a five-star match. Omega is a master storyteller in the ring. The Bucks, on the other hand, have often been criticized for lack of story in their matches, opting for more of a spot monkey approach. Flips and finishers abound, not much story. Recently though Matt Jackson has been working a story about his back being injured and how it’s affecting his matches. Add the fact that The Bucks are growing as storytellers (I never thought they were that bad at it to begin with) means these matches can only get better.

The Young Bucks vs. Cody

At the beginning of this rift it seemed that the Bucks were in Cody’s corner. But with him berating them at Strong Style Evolved, his antics trying to pit people against each other, and the recent attempt to “change the Bullet Club logo” to a much more Cody related image, one that the Bucks personally rejected on social media, has put that loyalty is in question. Asking us to believe that the Bucks would continue to feud with longtime friend Omega and stay with Cody was a long shot but by splitting the Bucks opinions on each of them, bought a little time for us to accept it. As much as it seems that Matt has been angry at Omega, Nick seems to not trust Cody at all and has got Matt’s ear after the last episode of BTE.

When the time comes that Cody will face off with them you’ll have to hope Cody can keep Hangman Page as loyal as he has been so far. Omega already has a tag partner with Ibushi but Cody doesn’t have a Tag partner historically speaking on the Indy scene. It seems as Adam “Hangman” Page is pretty firmly in the American Nightmare’s corner. But will the Hangman split from his friends and their six-man tag team the Hung Bucks? It would be fun to watch…

Hangman Page and Marty Scurll

Two of the newer members of Bullet Club have been a huge run the past year. Since joining BC Scurll has been one of the top-selling shops on Pro-Wrestling Tees and has a shot at the Ring of Honor World Championship against Dalton Castle at the very same event that is pitting Omega vs. Cody. Hangman Page enjoyed a long run as one part of the ROH six-man tag team champs with the Young Bucks. A team they lovingly called The Hung Bucks. While Scurll has been going the direction of being more frustrated through this fissure, Page has taken the stance of staunchly supporting Cody. If things come to a boil, where these two men fall will play a huge part.

The Rest of Bullet Club…

So for casual fans there are six faces you see a lot. The main cast of Being the Elite is Kenny Omega, Cody, The Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page. But there are five other major members of BC based out of New Japan Pro Wrestling. All five members actually have longer tenures then both Scurll and Page with one, Bad Luck Fale, being the only original member of the BC left. The other five are Fale, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro, and Chase Owens. All of these wrestlers are talented. Tonga and Loa make up the monster tag team known as The Guerillas of Destiny and Yujiro is the first non-gaijin member of BC. These members have expressed displeasure with the focus on BTE and could be a major player in the outcome of how this ends. That would be great because more exposure for these guys in North America would be awesome.

Regardless of how this ends, Being the Elite and Bullet Club have put together some of the most entertaining moments in wrestling over the past year or so. So love them or hate them they make for great reviews, especially for the independent circuit.

The Theatricality of Wrestling

Theatre comes in many forms. From the big musical spectacle, to the small off-off Broadway start up; from improv comedy, to dramatic experimental projects; from Shakespeare to ground breaking contemporary pieces challenging things like politics, gender roles, and society in general. Yet there is often a forgotten form of theatre, wrestling. Yes, I am talking about the art of seeing two men or women, throwing insults and then throwing fists. We all know, or at least have heard of, the major mogul that is the World Wrestling Entertainment. Large characters, high priced pyrotechnics, and reality TV tie in shows. You can’t go five minutes in a WWE broadcast without being reminded that the WWE Network is now live and to “start your free 30 day trial today!” and how it’s only “9.99 a month!” While I love the WWE and everything it is there is something that I think countless people are missing out on, and the passive fan wouldn’t give a second thought to… They are missing out on really great live theatre…

 

Generally speaking we associate WWE and other major promotions by their weekly shows and more importantly their extravagant pay-per-view events. The WWE has succeeded in creating major television spectacles. High technical feats paired with creative camera angles to make all the anger and fights seem as real as possible. Even smaller major promotions like Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling have found success with major events and social media. Super group Bullet Club, that yours truly is a super fan of, has turned simple YouTube videos into fan devoured juggernauts. In an age where attention spans have hit an all time low, social media has become the best friend to the modern wrestler. A few years ago Zack Ryder put himself over through his own videos. The Jericho and Omega angle that ended with the Alpha vs Omega super fight “started” over a twitter fued. Things move fast. But what are we missing?

 

Last year former guest host Chris Dlando invited me to Manhattan Mayhem, a late winter/early spring pay-per-view held by the second largest wrestling promotion in North America, Ring of Honor. Of course I said “yes”. I was a big fan of the WWE and it would be fun to watch some live wrestling with my best friend right? I would learn later this was a major understatement. I knew somewhat of the ROH scene at that point. Chris had shown me Young Bucks matches and I heard about the growing popularity of Cody Rhodes, a former WWE superstar that requested his release to try and make it on the indie scene. That night I saw some of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. I saw Cody Rhodes tag with Adam “Hangman” Page. I saw the aerial assassin Will Ospreay take flight. Soon after all three would become some of my favorite wrestlers. I saw my boyhood idols the Hardy’s appear to take on the Young Bucks for the tag team titles and, admittedly a few adult beverages in, screamed my head off as I watched them win those titles. I  unknowingly snuck past security and accidentally tricked them into letting me get a free photo with them before telling them that my brother and I used to pretend to be them before I ran away before they realized I wasn’t actually a crew member (When all this happened I thought everyone was just being nice, turns out with the way I was dressed they thought I was crew. I learned this after the fact…) I felt alive and engaged. More than with most shows I was required to watch while getting my theatre degree. I became a super fan.

 

Fast forward to Monday January 22nd. Raw 25. The longest running weekly TV show. It promised to be a cavalcade of stars both past and present. Though it felt much of the time that the event was underprepared and rushed there was still one amazing thing about it. The crowd. Thousands and thousands of people chanting, sometimes completely unprovoked. It was like being part of one organism. Working towards the greater good, and trying to force out the things we felt didn’t belong. The characters were more vibrant. They weren’t performing for cameras, they were performing for us. If the playwright Brecht tried to alienate the audience then wrestling is the exact opposite. We are part of the show. We are a character. Superstars look to us for a give and take. We can hijack the show at any minute. And it’s absolutely beautiful. We feel the words of each combatant while also getting the visceral and cathartic expulsion of an “actual” fight culminating.

 

Many can say the last few years of the WWE point to a bright future. More and more superstars are beginning to represent different body types, ethnicities, and abilities. We all have someone we can look at in the ring and say “hey they’re just like me!” In January we had the fist ever women’s Royal Rumble match (which in my opinion far out weighed the men’s). In February we had the first women’s Elimination Chamber match which ended in one of my favorite post match promos by Alexa Bliss. Baiting us into feeling for her while she cried and spoke of what it meant to women and little girls everywhere. Just to turn on a heel and remind us why she’s an amazing heel herself and tell us none of us will every do what she did. Yanking us in and then cutting us down, because we’re part of the story. Wrestling is becoming for everyone. As much as I loved the Attitude Era, there was a sense of us against them from wrestling fans. Now the us against them feeling is based on who your favorite wrestler is, there’s one for everyone. These characters we love are created LIVE. And you get to see all the working parts live, you get to see the character unfold, you get to grow with the character.

 

I am clearly not a writer by trade. This has essentially been one long love letter to wrestling. That being said I truly believe that it is underrated as a form of theatre. I go to theatre to feel something. I go to theatre to enjoy myself. I go to theatre to take a journey. The same reason I keep coming back to wrestling. Go see wrestling live, you won’t regret it. As for me I recently went back to Manhattan Mayhem one year after the original event that caused me to go from a casual fan, to all in. Also remember… Bullet Club is f-f-for life….. except for AJ Styles.