What’s So Different About Impact?

Back around November, I started watching Impact. I was never a TNA fan and never saw a single TNA pay-per-view or Impact show until the fall of 2018. Never had any interest! Then Impact signed Su Yung. Then they signed oVe. Then they changed ownership. Then they signed the Rascalz. Then they signed Jordynne Grace. Then they signed Ace Austin.

That was when I decided to give Impact a try. For several months I have watched the show (Friday nights at 10 pm on Twitch) every chance I got. If I missed the Friday show, I’d catch the replay on what is now Impact+, a great subscription value at only $7.99. Not only can you watch past episodes of their show, you now get monthly live shows, shows from other promotions, and classic wrestling in the form of The Best of Wrestling at the Chase from St. Louis hosted by Larry Matysik. (RIP, good sir!)

I’ve enjoyed watching Impact. I’ve become a fan of more of their stars including Tessa Blanchard, Moose, Rich Swann, and Brian Cage, and I’ve always liked Johnny Impact. But lately, something has struck me as odd about the show. Something feels off. I couldn’t put a finger on it for a while, but it has to do with the week to week programming. The way the show is constructed seems a bit old school. The rivalries and story lines play out the way they used to on Raw and Smackdown. And the gimmick matches! One week there’s a street fight. One week there’s a deathmatch. They keep mixing things up. It’s not always one singles match after another. But it IS one match after another. Yes, you get an in-ring promo here and there, and the same back stage interviews every promotion does. But they don’t take 52 minutes to get to the action. They open with a match. Then here comes another. And another.

I don’t know how Impact was before the new owners took over, but it plays like an old school wrestling show. Not even Raw or Smackdown, mind you, but even further back in time, back when I used to watch World Class on ESPN after school every afternoon. It feels odd, really odd, because it’s not what I’m used to. I watched Raw and Smackdown for decades, and while those shows have become much more script driven, Impact is purely wrestling driven.

In all honesty this is not a tongue in cheek way of promoting Impact. If I sound sarcastic and like I’m taking sideways shots at WWE, I’m not. This essay began with me reading a Tweet about this week’s street fight between Eddie Edwards and Killer Cross and trying to puzzle out, why does this feel so strange? Why is it strange that once again, Impact has built to a special stipulation match between two wrestlers with a grudge? What is it about Impact that just feels odd?

Impact is formatted as an old school wrestling show. It only feels off because it’s been so darn long since I’ve watched such a show week after week. I’ve become a fan of the promotion and the wrestlers, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something different in their weekly wrestling shows.

Joshi Girls Hit Harder – MUCH Harder

I know there were people at the MGM Grand Saturday night for AEW’s Double or Nothing who mistakenly thought the Joshi match was a bathroom break match. They saw it was a 3 on 3 contest between six women they’d never heard of and assumed this, like the WWE women’s matches of yesteryear, would be a snooze fest.

I’m sure some of them are lying about it now. “Yes, I stayed for the match. I knew it was going to be the hardest hitting match of the night.” Deep down they’re kicking themselves for underestimating the women of Japan, but hey… can you blame them?

The Joshi ladies made a powerful statement. They proved that as far as the WWE women’s revolution has come, they are still light years ahead. And for those who think that match was a fluke, head to YouTube and search for some Stardom matches. Matter of fact, look up Io Shirai vs Shayna Baszler. Not only will you see this was no fluke, you’ll see just how much WWE has pulled the reigns on Io and Baszler.

For fans who enjoyed that match, and for those who want to see more, I have good news. Stardom, one of the top women’s wrestling promotions in Japan, has a subscription service. It’s Internet based, like New Japan’s, and it’s a tad harder to navigate than the New Japan site. It’s worth the trouble and well worth the price of 920 yen, which works out to roughly $8-9 per month.

Don’t wait for AEW to give you more Joshi in the fall. Visit Stardom World’s website to sign up.

Pain Torture Agony – The Story of a Legacy of Greatness

When you attend a wrestling fan convention as a vendor, it’s always a crap shoot. Sometimes you do well. Sometimes you spend more than you make. By all accounts this year’s Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion was a success for all the wrestling authors in attendance, but especially for Ron Hutchison, who released his autobiography Pain Torture Agony at the Reunion. I sold nearly 100 books in three days. Ron sold out of his 75 by lunch time on day one.

I had never met Ron and did not know his story before I attended CAC. I knew he was involved with CAC, and I had read a few emails from him regarding Dr. D’s seminar at the Reunion, but it wasn’t until I picked up a copy of the book for myself through Crowbar Press that I learned the rest of the story.

Ron Hutchison was a kid who lived his dream and became a professional wrestler. Hailing from Ontario, he trained not in the Hart dungeon but with Sweet Daddy Siki and Johnny Powers at Sully’s Gym in Toronto. Although small in stature, he earned the respect of many promoters, including Jack Tunney, and worked as an enhancement wrestlers a number of times for the WWF in the early days of the Wrestlemania era.

Hutchison’s legend really began when he stepped up and took Johnny Powers’ place as a trainer at Sully’s. Just as Stu Hart had once been the go-to trainer for Canadian dreamers, Ron became the man in the East. It started with Adam Copeland, who won free tuition to train with Ron thanks to a handwritten essay reprinted in Ron’s book. Adam’s life long friend Jay Reso followed, and when the two broke out as Edge and Christian for WWF, more students followed, including Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Sinn Bodhi, and Traci Brooks.

Pain Torture Agony is a wonderful account of Ron’s career in professional wrestling. It is at times painfully honest and hilariously funny as Ron opens up about everything from his falling out with Siki to his devotion to the Cauliflower Alley Club to his involvement with Carmen Electra’s Naked Women’s Wrestling League. (Yep, that was a real thing.) Ron’s love for the business and even more for his students shines through, and Ron is equally proud of those who didn’t “make it big” as he is for the Hall of Fame and CAC Award winners. There are personal testimonials sprinkled throughout the book from Edge, Christian, Trish, Gail, Beth, Sinn, and many more wrestling personalities from Ron’s past.

Throughout the book, Ron hints often at how tough and demanding he could be with his trainees, including the “Pain Torture Agony” training regimen that gives the book its name. If there’s one thing I came away wanting, it was the chance to sit down with one of Ron’s old pupils to hear more about Ron’s “dark side” as a trainer. This isn’t a criticism of the book, mind you, but a genuine curiosity to hear more. Pain Torture Agony made me a fan, and I suspect there are more great stories yet untold. Whether Ron has a second book in him, or whether his students will do the talking, I look forward to hearing more about one of the greatest trainers of his generation!

Pain Torture Agony is available from Crowbar Press. Click here to order in the US or Canada.

AEW’S MVP Upstages WWE Legend

Jon Moxley’s appearance at the end of last night’s Double Or Nothing show was an absolutely amazing way to end the show. He laid out Chris Jericho and then destroyed Kenny Omega as the show went off the air. It was a moment many wrestling fans were hoping would happen, and AEW showed they could deliver on such a big moment.

I am not here to write about Moxley, however.

AEW’s MVP, their most important signee, is not Jon Moxley. It is not Chris Jericho, not any members of the Elite. The most important guy on the roster is the reason the Buy In show opened not with an “A-E-Dub” chant, but a torrent of boos. Go back and watch the tape; the video package fades out, and the crowd is booing like they just saw Brock Lesnar win the Money in the Bank.

It caught me off guard, until I saw who was in the ring, his tartan scarf still wrapped around his neck, telling the fans they should be grateful to be in his presence.

Then I understood the boos.

It was MJF.

MJF is the guy who nearly beat Hangman Page in the Casino Battle Royale. He’s the guy who interrupted Bret Hart during the presentation of the new championship belt and dumped on Bret’s signature catch phrase. He’s the guy who tucked tail and ran when Jungle Boy, Jimmy Havoc, and Hangman Page ganged up on him.

He’s also the best barometer for how this company will fare in the coming years.

I had the “misfortune” of having a gimmick table next to his back in the fall at a Terry Harper show in Jeffersonville. I had to sit and listen to him at intermission berating fans, telling them they were fat and stupid and not allowed to buy anything from him. This is not a product of some creative team. MJF arrives in AEW a full-realized jerk and a half who doesn’t understand why you boo him because he truly believes he is doing YOU a favor by letting you see him wrestle.

In a world where AEW did not exist, MJF would have been signed by WWE. They would have given him a new name and persona. They would have forced scripts into his hands written by non-wrestling people. Despite these hindrances, they would have made a lot of money with him. MJF is a personality on the level of a Kevin Owens or The Miz who will not be ignored. I have no doubt he could have taken whatever WWE Creative threw at him and turned it into gold.

He doesn’t have to do that in AEW. He can continue being his smug, repugnant self. He can continue pushing buttons, unscripted and unfiltered. AEW has promised wrestlers control over their own characters and promised fans no script writers. If they deliver on both promises, MJF will have the leeway to become their top heel in no time. He will be the man fans love to hate more than any other. He will sell tickets and pay–per-views.

He will be the embodiment of what AEW promised to deliver.

Time will tell if AEW truly has staying power and if they are willing to give wrestlers the freedom they promised. I’m pulling for them, and even though he’s a stuck up, self-absorbed head case in the ring – I am pulling for MJF. I cannot wait to see him fight Page, Cody, Jericho, Omega, Moxley, and anyone else who gets in his way of becoming the AEW Champion.

I love to hate this guy. I look forward to hating his guts for years to come.

Rejects vs. Baka Gaijin – Let’s Make This Dream Match Happen!

Fans have dream matches. So do wrestlers. At a recent show in the Jeffersonville Arena, Reed Bentley of the Rejects confided in me that he and John Wayne Murdoch had an ultimate dream match they really wanted to make happen.

The Rejects vs. Baka Gaijin

For those who don’t know, Baka Gaijin (which translates to “Stupid Foreigners”) is the tag team of Mad Man Pondo and 2 Tuff Tony. They were the forerunners, the originators if you will, of the smash mouth, over the top fighting style that has become the signature of the Rejects. When you see a Rejects match, you’re going to get very little scientific wrestling. You’re going to see hard punches, steel chairs, tables, mayhem, weapons. The phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” would apply, except for the fact that if Reed and John could get at the kitchen sink, they’d gladly use it too.

Tony and Pondo are cut from the same mold. They light to fight. They like to bleed. They’re not afraid to get crazy. They’re also deceptively athletic for two big guys who have been going hard for a couple of decades now. If you’ve never seen that backflip 2 Tuff Tony does off the ropes, it’ll make your jaw drop.

The Rejects have told Tony and Pondo they will fight any time, anywhere, and even put their GCW Tag Team Championship on the line. Pondo, for his part is all for it. But Tony, who also happens to own the Arena where Reed and I discussed this match, is holding out.

Reed and I discussed this situation and we agreed something needs to be done to make this much happen. So here’s what you, as fans can do.

  1. Copy and paste the letter printed below into an email and fill the blank at the bottom with your name.
  2. Address the email to Reed Bentley, thereedbentley@gmail.com
  3. Click send.

Reed will collect your emails, print them out, and present them in the ring some time in the near future to demonstrate to Tony just how badly the fans want this match. If enough fans respond, how can he say no?

Copy, paste, and email, fans. Let your voice be heard. Let’s make The Rejects vs. Baka Gaijin a reality!

 

Dear 2 Tuff Tony,

I am writing to request that you accept the challenge issued by The Rejects, John Wayne Murdoch and Reed Bentley, to a tag team match with your tag partner Mad Man Pondo. This colossal match is a must-see for me and all your legions of fans, and if you choose to accept it, I hereby vow to:

a. Share the advertising for this epic, Godzilla vs. King Kong like match up all over my social media;

b. Be in attendance for the show, wherever and whenever it takes place, and/or watch it on the Internet wherever and whenever it is made available to view;

c. Grab my s**t and get out of the way when I see the action coming my way;

d. Stream live or share afterwards my reaction to what promises to be the most brutal, over the top, mind blowing, head smashing, table shredding, chair mangling, knockdown, drag out wrestling affair of all time.

Thank you in advancing for responding and accepting my challenge to come and get your whipping at the hands of John Wayne Murdoch and Reed Bentley.
Sincerely yours,

____________________

The People You Most Want to See at Starrcast II

Who are you looking forward to meeting at Starrcast II? Whose autograph do you want most? Whose Q&A are you most excited to hear?

Let me clue you in on the people you most want to see this weekend. They were the superstars of the first Starrcast, and they’re some of the greatest people in the wrestling business. They are:

Bill Apter

RD and Blade from Wrestlecrap

Honestly, if all you did at Starrcast was see and here these fine people, you would be guaranteed to get your money’s worth.

Bill Apter was the undisputed rockstar of Starrcast in Chicago. He rocked every Q&A session he had, and when he settled in after one session to sell books, he was sold out in minutes. He’s funny, he’s friendly, and he loves wrestling passionately. You will come away wanting to read his book and listen to every interview he’s ever given.

And then, there’s Wrestlecrap.

I got to know these guys after they reached out to me to schedule Dr. D David Schultz in one of their talks at Starrcast Chicago, and I love them to death. Their podcast is always a must hear (when they get around to releasing them), and their booth was a must-see in Chicago. I mean, they had the Gooker. The actual Gobbledy Gooker! Fans could pay to pose with the Gooker or post in the Gooker costume themselves.

The Gooker wasn’t even the number one highlight of their booth. The highlight was the photo up with Katie Vick. KATIE VICK, ladies and gentlemen! This was the photo op the wrestlers wanted most. Not just the fans, but the men and women who make professional wrestling great.

I wish everyone safe travels to Vegas and hope you all get to meet our favorite stars. But trust me on this one. Go see Bill, and go see Wrestlecrap. They will make your weekend great.

Missed CAC? Watch Night 2 of the Awards Here

My first trip to Cauliflower Alley Club was as memorable as it could possibly be. Not only did I get to introduce Dr. D David Schultz and present him with his award, the legendary Jim Ross introduced me.

Thanks to Hannibal TV, you can watch the full awards banquet on YouTube and see Andrew Anderson, Bambi, Kamala, Nick Kozak, Haku, the Barbarian, Dory Funk, Jr., and Mark Henry receive their awards as well.

You can skip to the 1:30:20 mark to see Dr. D and me, or watch from the beginning.

If it looks like you missed a fun evening, it’s because you did. CAC is worth your time and money not only for the great experience, but the great cause.

And if you think Jim Ross was great on WWE, wait til you hear him unscripted.

You Can’t Call Have a Deathmatch Hall of Fame Without Pondo

Mad Man Pondo is one of the innovators of deathmatch wrestling in the United States. He’s a man who never took his career for granted and gave the business far more than he ever received. It’s always a thrill seeing people recognize him for his efforts, and on May 31, Game Changer Wrestling will give him an honor that truly fits him.

Pondo will be inducted into the GCW Deathmatch Hall of Fame at 9 pm Friday, May 31 at the Diamond Club at the Showboat in Atlantic City. This is the first ever induction ceremony for the Deathmatch Hall of Fame, and they could not pick a better man, in or out of the ring, for their first class than Pondo. Fans can buy tickets for this event by clicking here.

Excuse me while I head over to my publishing website to make sure the fans in New Jersey have plenty of books to purchase!

Fans who can’t get to Jersey can buy his book on Amazon or email me to get a signed copy!

Wrestling 4 Life – A Mother’s Crusade to Save Sons and Daughters

I spent three days greeting fans and wrestlers in the Nostalgia Room at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Vegas last week, and in those three days, I got to know Carol Castle and the crew from the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. Carol had come not only to promote the Hall, which is a wonderful thing in and of itself, but to promote a new program called Wrestling 4 Life.

Wrestling for Life is a program within the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame created to bring public awareness to the double and triple suicide rates amongst our first responders and dedicated to the reduction of the suicide rates of our law enforcement officers, fire fighter, EMS and corrections officers: public servants put their lives on the line every day for us!

This mission of Wrestling 4 Life is personal for Carol Castle. Her son, Maury, committed suicide two years ago. He was a firefighter. having suffered such a terrible, personal loss, Carol wanted to do something to fight the epidemic suicide rates amongst first responders. I invited Carol to write about the program personally, and here’s what she asked me to share:

Wrestling 4 Life was an idea that took place in Minnesota yet was born in Las Vegas. On April 28th, 2019, we had a seminar at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. It was geared providing information to Police, Fire, EMS and Corrections. We also invited Casino Security. The keynote speaker was Randy Sutton, a Las Vegas PD Veteran and a spokesman for Blue Lives Matter. Other speakers included Joe Mauriello, a retired Cook County Sheriffs Police who talked of the 7 suicides in 6 months of officers; Brent Brooks, wrestler and MMA fighter, who spoke about the issues wrestlers and fighters have; and Chelsea Davenport, who was there to represent Safe Call Now. Chelsea stressed how they provide resources and services to the individuals, and their families across the US and Canada.

“It was in Las Vegas we rolled out the Life Coin, a heavyweight coin that is striking in its appearance with a phone number to call when help is needed. This Life Coins should be in every pocket of every police officer, fire fighter, EMS, and corrections officer as a reminder that help is always nearby.

“We told those in attendance that we planned to use wrestlers to help open up the dialog and get the message out to the public that this suicide epidemic must stop.

“The very next day was the beginning of Cauliflower Alley Club and the roll out of our wrestling life coin. We had donated one for each member of CAC. The doors opened at 10am. It was gratifying to see that within the first hour, two lives were impacted and saved using the wrestling life coin and calling Safe Call Now. This was two years after my son, the fire fighter, had taken his life.

“The first step is to get Life Coin in the pockets of those who need them! Coins can be purchased through the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame website, and proceeds from the sales of the coins will be donated to the Safe Call Now organization. They are a 501c3 dedicated to prevention and crisis control for our public servants across the US and Canada.

I believe we need to get a Life Coin in every ones pocket. These are a lifeline. It is so true: We are all wrestling for life, just some more than others.”

I’m happy to say Carol found the warmest of receptions from the Cauliflower Alley Club. Everyone in attendance was given a coin and encouraged to spread the word to others. If you know someone working in Police, Fire, EMS, or Corrections, I urge you to purchase a coin for them now. Even if you don’t know someone who could use a coin please consider donating to support their cause.

Life coins are available on the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame website. Orders are shipped daily. www.minnesotawrestlinghalloffame.com

See Elvira Snodgrass in Action!!

Search the Internet long enough, you can find about anything.

Today, I finally found footage of Elvira Snodgrass wrestling.

It’s in the newsreel video below, as posted on Youtube.

Skip ahead to the 6:14 mark and enjoy.

Elvira was quite the brawler. Love the moment when she shoots her opponent off the apron into the crowd.

Also… she was a redhead. Learning something more about her every day!