The Delco Elbow Drop

Friday, February 28, 2014

The WWE Network – The first week

 On Monday, February 24, the WWE Network went live and changed the way that many wrestling fans will watch wrestling from now on. The WWE Network offers a staggering amount of content – both in terms of archived Pay-Per-View events from the WWE, WCW and ECW as well as live streaming events and original, scheduled programming. However, with the high demand that has been seen for the service so far, the early days of the WWE Network have not been without issue.

I signed up for the Network the first day it was available and though I was able to access a few ECW PPVs eventually, the service was pretty spotty. When the video would work, it would often become choppy to the point of freezing altogether – and that was if the video even loaded up in the first place.

The following days the service got better and better and I was able to watch whatever shows I wanted, whenever I wanted – I’m guessing peak hours around noon and the evening would cause the Network to become bogged down in the first few days. A really nice feature of the archived PPV events on the WWE Network are the markers on each video track which denote where matches begin and end, allowing you to easily skip to preferred matches. You can also search for shows by names of wrestlers, if watching a whole event is too much for you. You won’t be able to search for Chris Benoit, though the shows he appeared on are still available and uncut.

It was easy enough to sync my account with my PlayStation 4 but I am still (as of writing on Friday, 2/28) not able to access the WWE Network through my Xbox 360. When I put my info in, it insists that it’s incorrect. I’m hoping this gets fixed soon, but it’s less of a pressing issue for me than someone without a device that can access the Network.

Thursday, Feb. 27 held the first event that WWE tried to stream live on the Network – NXT Arrival. The live, two-hour show promised a Women’s title match between Emma and Paige, a grudge match between Sami Zayn and Cesaro and a ladder match for the NXT Title between champion Bo Dallas and challenger Adrian Neville. I planned on watching the event live, as interested to see the matches as I was to see how the Network would hold up while streaming its first live event.

The show started at 8 and I hooked up my PS4 in the living room to watch some ECW before the show started. Around 7:30, the PPV I was watching slowed down until it froze entirely. I decided to play some Battlefield until 8. When I switched back to the show, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only would Zayn/Cesaro open the show, but the feed was actually holding up pretty well. It wasn’t until the second half of the show that things took a turn.

After a short match between CJ Parker and Mojo Rawley, with the always-hyped Mojo Rawley picking up the win, the NXT tag champs The Ascension put their titles on the line (with new theme music) against Too Cool. The Attitude Era vets put up a good fight but were no match for The Ascension. It was during this match I saw a few hiccups but nothing major.

The Women’s championship match followed and was an outstanding contest – one that put almost any main roster Divas match to shame. Paige picked up with win with a crazy looking submission, the Scorpion Cross Lock but as this match wore on, I started seeing more and more hiccups and freezing in the stream and started to get worried.

The next match was Xavier Woods against Tyler Breeze but I couldn’t watch any of it. By this point, the stream had fallen apart entirely and I (along with a lot of other people it seems) were subjected to a really weird glitch, which is shown in the above YouTube video. Accessing Arrival from the main menu of the WWE Network, the show would boot up and for a few moments, show you what was actually happening. But before long, it would cut to pretty boy Tyler Breeze doing a “duck face” for the camera and then get booted back to the main Network screen. This persisted, making the rest of the show unwatchable, and I’ll have to check out the archived show to see the finishes of Woods/Breeze and the main event ladder match.

Overall, I’ve been very happy with the service of the WWE Network. It certainly hasn’t been perfect but so early in its lifespan, some growing pains are to be expected. NXT Arrival worked a little better than I thought it would and it’s unfortunate I couldn’t see a couple matches live, but knowing I can watch the event whenever I want takes a bit of the sting out. Hopefully the issues with the live streaming of events over the Network will be straightened out by the time Wrestlemania 30 rolls around on April 6.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PWG's Mount Rushmore - The most important stable in wrestling

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, based out of southern California, is one of the top independent wrestling companies in the country. The promotion routinely books some of the best talent not only from America but from all over the world. Its fans have seen an amazing amount of talent come and go from PWG but right now, its top stable – Mount Rushmore – is one of the most impressive groups of independent wrestlers in the world. 

You need to know about them – and I’m going to tell you.

PWG Champ Adam Cole with ref Rick Knox, looking not impressed
The leader of the group is PWG World Champion, Adam Cole. In addition to becoming the longest reigning PWG champion in January of this year, Cole is also the current Ring of Honor World Champion. Cole defeated Kevin Steen at Mystery Vortex in December 2012 to win the title – a point to remember for later. Since winning the belt, Cole has been nearly unbeatable. I say nearly because he and Kyle O’Reilly, as Future Shock, lost a second round DDT4 matchup to El Generico and Kevin Steen in January, 2013.

Cole’s personality is vulgar, cocky, and arrogant, but his moveset is reminiscent of an old school heel, pulling whatever dirty, underhanded trick needs to win. But even being the scumbag that he is, Cole is a point of pride for Philadelphia wrestling fans, as he was trained at the CZW Wrestling Academy and made his debut for the company in 2008. He is the longest reigning CZW Junior Heavyweight Champion, defeating Sabian for the belt in 2010 and holding it for 553 days before losing it to Sami Callihan, who is now working as Solomon Crowe in NXT.

The Young Bucks showing off their PWG and IWGP tag belts
Joining Cole are the Young Bucks – brothers Matt and Nick Jackson, the current PWG World Tag Team Champions. The Bucks are three time tag team champions and also the longest reigning PWG tag team champions. Their three reigns as the tag champs now stand at over 1,200 days meaning that for nearly three and a half years of PWG’s 10-year existence, the Young Bucks have been its tag team champions. And they only debuted for the company in 2007, making their combined reigns all the more impressive.

They are not only one of the premier teams in the states, but also in Japan, where they are the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and members of Bullet Club, the NJPW all-gaijin stable lead by Prince Devitt and also featuring Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson, Luke Gallows, Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga. The Bucks’ high-flying, precision offense has won them fans all over the world, despite their arrogant attitudes. And in the past year, the Bucks have adopted Degeneration-X crotch chop taunts and routinely tag in and out using nWo “Too Sweet” taunts. In video game terms, the Bucks are absorbing traits from classic heel stables, Mega Man style, and using them to become stronger.

The final member of the group was a huge surprise to long-time PWG fans – none other than “Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen. Making his debut for the company all the way back in 2004, Steen has done it all in PWG. He’s held the PWG World title, the tag team titles (with El Generico and also with Super Dragon), and competed in annual tournaments like the Battle of Los Angeles and the DDT4. Though Steen is the veteran of the group and also the bruising enforcer, he is almost the most charismatic member of the group – which is saying something considering his partners.

Leading up to their sudden alignment, Steen had been odds with Cole and the Bucks. He lost the World title to Cole at Mystery Vortex in December 2012 and the following month, with partner El Generico (in his final PWG appearance), lost in the finals of the DDT4 tournament to the Young Bucks – which was also a tag title opportunity. 

The heel faction was officially formed at the 2013 Battle of Los Angeles when Adam Cole turned on his former Future Shock partner Kyle O’Reilly, after O’Reilly had defeated Michael Elgin in the tournament finals to earn a World title shot. The Young Bucks then appeared before the exhausted O’Reilly had a chance to fight back, prompting several other members of the roster to hit the ring to help the tournament winner. Eventually, Kevin Steen left the commentary-booth-shaped-like-a-table where he had been calling the action with Excalibur to seemingly help run off Cole and the Bucks, before delivering a Package Piledriver to anyone he could get his hands on and obliterating the BOLA trophy.

Being that the three men hold all the gold in PWG and have similar personas, the partnering of Cole and the Bucks wasn’t a stretch for anyone to imagine. Their alliance was even teased on the DVD cover of TEN, PWG’s 10th anniversary show – the show just prior to BOLA 2013 – which prominently featured Adam Cole and the Young Bucks. But Kevin Steen joining those three was a shock beyond words. For months, Steen seethed over the fact that he had lost the World title to Adam Cole. The following month, in the finals of DDT4, Steen not only lost a shot at the tag team titles but also lost his close friend El Generico (who went back to Tijuana to run an orphanage/went to NXT). With no one left for Kevin Steen to turn to in PWG, he decided, “If you can’t beat them – join them” and did the unthinkable by siding with Cole and the Bucks.

The crowd and other wrestlers, even PWG commentator/liaison to the board of directors Excalibur, are still having trouble coming to grips with Steen’s turn. Though he wasn’t a PWG original, Steen has been working for PWG for so long that he is a massive fan favorite – so much so that many still can’t bring themselves to boo Steen for his decision to join Mount Rushmore. But while many are still split on whether to boo or cheer the group (most are going with boos), no one can deny their dominance over PWG.

Kevin Steen (center) and the Young Bucks (left, right) showed up to All Star Weekend 10 in matching outfits

At All Star Weekend 10, a two-day show, Steen teamed with the Bucks to take on Drake Younger, Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae on Night 1 and AR Fox, Ricochet, and Rich Swann (The Inner City Machine Guns) on Night 2 – emerging victorious on both nights. Cole has been nearly unstoppable since winning the World title, only losing in tag team action since becoming the champion. The Bucks and Cole were nigh unstoppable before and with a monster like Kevin Steen watching their backs, PWG and the entire independent scene needs to take notice as they are not just a stable of wrestlers but essentially an independent wrestling super group.

PWG’s Mount Rushmore, the four most important guys on the indies right now, are going to continue to run roughshod through PWG until, well…I don’t know how Mount Rushmore is going to be stopped. Far as I can tell, they can’t be stopped. Cole is one of the most vile yet impressive heels on the scene today and the Young Bucks are the most over tag team since the Dudley Boys or the Hardys. Put the experience, charisma and ring presence of Kevin Steen alongside them and there isn’t a person or group in wrestling who can stop them. Kyle O’Reilly, Johnny Gargano, Chris Hero, Drake Younger, Joey Ryan, Candice LeRae and more have fallen trying to stand against the power of Mount Rushmore and many more will follow.

Shows to check out featuring Mount Rushmore are the 2013 Battle of Los Angeles, Matt Rushmore, All Star Weekend 10 or the upcoming release of DDT4. But really, you could check out any PWG show from the last year or two and be completely impressed by every single match on any given card.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ring of Honor returns to Philadelphia this Friday for 12th Anniversary Show

Ring of Honor returns to Philadelphia this weekend with a huge event. On Friday, Feb. 21, ROH is hosting its 12th Anniversary show with an outstanding card. Take a look at what’s on tap for fans at the National Guard Armory this Friday.

Already announced are:
Adam Cole vs. Chris Hero for the Ring of Honor World Championship

“The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles vs. Jay Lethal

Matt Hardy vs. “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin

reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) vs. Adrenaline RUSH (ACH and Tadarius Thomas) for the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship

“Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa vs. Hanson for the Ring of Honor TV Championship

Jay Briscoe vs. Michael Bennett for Jay’s “Real” World title

Just announced are:
“Last Real Man” Silas Young vs Matt Taven

Kevin Steen vs. Cliff Compton

Unsanctioned Philly Street Fight

The Decade (BJ Whitmer, Roderick Strong and Jimmy Jacobs) vs. Mark Briscoe, Adam Page and Cedric Alexander

An absolutely stacked card to say the least – as it should be to celebrate the 12th year in the history of one of the most popular independent wrestling companies in the world.

The World title match alone has huge implications. Chris Hero has only recently returned to Ring of Honor but already he has Adam Cole and the ROH World title in his sights. Having previously dominated the tag team division with Claudio Castagnoli in the Kings of Wrestling, Hero now wants to claim the World title for his own – a feat he has yet to accomplish in ROH. Current champ Adam Cole is definitely feeling the pressure these days. With Michael Elgin still breathing down his neck for another shot at the World title and Jay Briscoe claiming that he is the “Real” World champion of ROH, Cole thankfully has back up in the form of “The Icon” Matt Hardy. Cole defeated Hero at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s All Star Weekend 10 in December for the PWG World championship – will he be able to score another victory over Hero when the ROH title is on the line?

The ROH tag team champions reDRagon – Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish – will be putting the straps on the line against Adrenaline RUSH – ACH and Tadarius Thomas. reDRagon hasn’t had much competition for the tag belts in ROH lately but the team of ACH and Tadarius Thomas will be a huge obstacle for the champions. Two of the fastest rising stars on the independent scene, ACH and Thomas have an explosive style that the champions will look to negate with their hard-hitting, technical prowess. ACH and O’Reilly had an incredible match in the second round of PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles in August and fans in attendance will no doubt be in for a great contest – and possibly new champions.

The Ring of Honor Television championship will also be on the line at the 12th Anniversary Show as “The Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa puts his title on the line against the winner of the 2014 Top Prospect Tournament, Hanson. Ciampa has been a regular in ROH for some time now but is starting to come into his own and now has his very first taste of ROH gold. I don’t know much about Hanson but the top prospect tournament was filled with many impressive up-and-coming stars and will undoubtedly give Ciampa all he can handle. But with this being Ciampa’s first ROH title, I don’t see him losing it any time soon.

But even the non-title matches on this card are huge. The most hotly-anticipated will no-doubt be AJ Styles taking on Jay Lethal in their first ever Ring of Honor meeting. These former TNA stars may have met in the ring for that company, but this will be the first time these two indy legends will face off in ROH. Kevin Steen taking on Cliff Compton in an unsanctioned street fight should no doubt sate the Philly fans always eager to see matches delve into the hardcore and the six-man tag match between some of ROH’s most established names and fastest rising stars should be exciting as well.

Ring of Honor’s 12th Anniversary Show is this Friday, February 21 at the National Guard Armory in northeast Philadelphia and starts at 8 p.m.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What will you watch when WWE Network goes live?

On February 24, the WWE Network goes live and there is already a huge buzz around the new venture. With scheduled and original programming, live Pay-Per-View events, access to a huge library of archived PPV events from WWE, WCW and ECW and more, the WWE Network is an amazing value for any pro wrestling fan.

I wanted to post a complete list of the PPV events that will be available on the WWE Network when it goes live in two weeks, but it's literally too long for me to post here. I thought that WWE would only make a handful of events available at launch but it seems they've put up almost everything available from the history of WWE, WCW and ECW.

Being from the Philadelphia area, I'm incredibly excited to watch all the older ECW PPVs that I've never seen before moving onto some of the WWE events that I barely remember seeing in my younger days. But I'm really looking forward to rewatching some of the older TLC and MITB matches as well. I'll eventually get around to WCW, but I'm less excited about them because I never really watched any when I was younger. Though I would like to check out some WarGames matches, since the concept always seemed interesting to me - and thanks to WWE Network I finally have the chance!

To see a full list of the PPVs available when WWE Network goes live, click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Best of the Tubes – Mr. Wrestling vs. The Mobster; Gargano vs. Tozawa; Young Bucks vs. Bad Influence

The third installment of “Best of the Tubes” brings matches from CZW, AIW and QPro Wrestling to distract you from the strange happenings that have been going on in WWE lately. CM Punk is gone for who knows how long, the Shield is picking fights with the Wyatt Family and are seemingly on the verge of disbanding and Zack Ryder had two matches on WWE TV in the same week. What?!

“Mr. Wrestling” Kevin Steen vs. Franky the Mobster
CZW Deja Vu 3, Ironman championship match, Aug. 2005

Both Kevin Steen and Franky the Mobster came to CZW from IWS in Canada and immediately made an impact in the company. Steen debuted in CZW in 2004 and a few months before this match against Franky the Mobster for the Ironman championship, he battled his way to the finals of the annual CZW Best of the Best tournament. Steen defeated Kenny the Bastard (another IWS import) and Chris Hero before facing Super Dragon, B-Boy and Mike Quackenbush in the finals.

Franky the Mobster also made an immediate impact in the Combat Zone. His loud, brash, in-your-face persona as well as his size made him hard to ignore. Even more impressive is that in his first match in CZW, Franky defeated B-Boy to win the Ironman championship and defended it numerous time before meeting Steen at Déjà Vu 3.

I can’t recall the match specifically but I’m sure I was at this show; me and a couple friends pretty much attended every CZW show between 2003 and 2006-07. This contest between Steen and Franky is really hard-hitting, as both these guys are pretty sizable and known for their power offense. But if you follow indy wrestling today, you’ll mainly notice how much bigger Steen has gotten since 2005, that Bryce had a decent head of hair at one point and yes, that was current CZW/Wrestling Is official Nick Papagiorgio at the time keeper’s table.

Johnny Gargano vs. Akira Tozawa
AIW TPI, 2011

Johnny Gargano and Akira Tozawa may not be the most well-known names among casual fans but those who follow the indies, and Japanese promotions, have seen what these two athletic guys can do in the ring. Gargano is actually the AIW Absolution champ at the time, their biggest title, though this match is not for the belt.

Gargano has been working the American independent scene since 2006 but has really come into his own and made a name for himself over the past few years. I originally was introduced to his work through Chikara, where he was a member of the heel stable F.I.S.T. alongside Icarus, Gran Akuma and Chuck Taylor. However more often than not, Gargano works the role of a good guy and is very adept at getting the crowd behind him, thanks to his relentless style and driven attitude. Gargano has also held the Open the Freedom Gate championship in Dragon Gate USA, their biggest title, for over 800 days, defeating several American stars as well as Japanese wrestlers – such as Akira Tozawa.

Tozawa made his debut for Dragon Gate in Japan in 2005 but I only became aware of his work after he made a lengthy trip to the states in 2010-2011 where he competed for several companies such as Dragon Gate USA, Chikara and PWG. Though he has evolved over the years, Tozawa, like Gargano, is lauded for his fast-paced work ethic and his hard-hitting style and always riles up the crowd with his intensity and antics. He’s had incredible matches against guys like Kevin Steen, El Generico, Gargano and has teamed with Steen many times to form the Nightmare Violence Connection.

Though you would think that a match between Gargano and Tozawa (this being their first-ever meeting – though DG USA fans know of their wars for the Open the Freedom Gate title) would be a high-flying extravaganza, this match from the AIW 2011 TPI starts off with back-and-forth technical grappling and eventually transitions into a hard-hitting fight with both guys trading high-impact moves – despite it being the first night of a two-day tournament.

The Young Bucks vs. Bad Influence
QPro Wrestling Show #1, June 2, 2013

The final match I’m showcasing this week is hard to classify as it’s between two teams with a huge amount of starpower but takes place in a newer, relatively unknown promotion. QPro Wrestling, out of southern California, seems almost like an underground version of PWG, if that makes any sense. I’ve only just heard of the promotion very recently but it seems like they regularly book guys like Kevin Steen, B-Boy, Brian Cage and many other PWG mainstays (even referee Rick Knox!) and in this case, even brought in the TNA tag team, Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian).

It’s really cool to see Bad Influence work a smaller crowd like this. It isn’t often these days that the Young Bucks get out-heeled (since they are their usual, arrogant selves in this match) but Bad Influence has a lot more experience riling up the crowd with not only their excellent mic-work but with their underhanded maneuvers as well. At one point, the Young Bucks also worked for TNA as Generation Me but I don’t know if they ever wrestled Bad Influence, mainly because I don’t watch TNA. Fun fact, I called the Young Bucks “Generation Me” at the House of Hardcore show in Philly (also this past June) and they were not impressed. Nick Jackson actually acknowledged my stupid heckle, yelling “Who’s that?” back at me.

It’s odd that this match doesn’t have commentary, but I read in the comments that QPro doesn’t produce DVDs, which is also how they can book a team contracted to TNA, like Bad Influence. I don’t really mind the lack of commentary, since watching a Young Bucks match without Excalibur calling it just seems wrong to me. I’m definitely going to make sure to keep an eye on QPro - they might only a few shows produced so far but with the kind of stars they are already booking, the only direction QPro can go is up.

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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