Samoa Joe practices the patented NXT headlock on Michael Richard Blais.

Samoa Joe practices the patented NXT headlock on Michael Richard Blais.

PWA Night of Champions XIII
July 4th, 2015
Edmonton, AB
Northgate Lions Centre
Announced Attendance: 545

For the first time in forever, I’m writing a recap of a live wrestling show that I attended. I don’t remember the last time I went to a PWA show, so I was excited to see what was up in the largest local promotion. In an interesting parallel that I didn’t realize until after I got home, my motivation for attending this show was exactly the same as it was the first time I went to a PWA show: Samoa Joe was there! This time, I was seizing the opportunity to see Samoa Joe live for what will probably be the last time, unless he jumps to the WWE main roster.

Since the last time I saw the PWA, there have been some changes. The most noticeable of which is the giant video screen in their new venue, which means that each wrestler gets their own entrance video. That’s pretty cool, especially by indy wrestling standards. It was also super helpful in learning the names of the wrestlers I hadn’t seen before.

Number One Contendership Ladder Match
Tiger Raj Singh vs. Frenetico vs. Reed Matthews vs. Colten Kelly vs. Rex Morgan

Tiger Raj Singh is former WWE wrestler Jinder Mahal, returning to the promotion where he started his career. He wasn’t advertised for the show, so his surprise return got a great reaction from the crowd. The crowd, by the way, would later be announced as 545 people, which actually seemed about right given the size the building and the scarcity of empty seats. Really, I could have written this match as Tiger Raj Singh vs. The Midcard, because that’s pretty much what’s happening here.

I’m kind of bored by WWE ladder matches nowadays, particularly given their frequency. Live? Different story. Love ’em. There’s nothing quite like seeing a human being fall on a ladder 30 feet away from you to remind you that wrestling is goddamn insane. I’ll hit the highlights:

– In the opening sequence, Colten Kelly sat on the turnbuckle while Tiger hit everyone else with clotheslines and back elbows. He loudly proclaimed his intelligence, then jumped at Tiger, who definitely noticed that he was there. This segment established Kelly’s role as “guy Tiger Raj Singh kills with ladders.”

– Reed Matthews did a suicide dive onto… I want to say Frenetico. He caught his foot on the rope and just about found out what it feels like to have a concrete floor touch your brain.

– Speaking of the ropes getting in the way, Frenetico set up a tall ladder (the first ladder used was much shorter), then did a plancha to the floor off the top of it when he couldn’t reach the contract. This was the first example of in this match of wrestlers having terrible spatial awareness in regards to the contract. Frenetico caught his foot on the rope on his way down, but was saved by the sea of dudes there who didn’t want to have to explain to his mother why they didn’t catch him.

– Rex Morgan swung the smaller ladder overhead like it was a steel chair. I’m sure his opponents appreciated the extra oomph he put into his swings after the first one got caught on the ropes and looked Hogan-esque in its power.

– Rex Morgan powerbombed Colten Kelly onto a ladder. EEESH. That is a gruesome-looking spot live. Earlier, Frenetico was buckle-bombed onto the ladder, which was equally cringe-inducing.

Now, the finish. Tiger Raj Singh knocks Rex Morgan off the ladder (who got there via fucking rad springboard), and grabs the contract, which looks hilarious because he accidentally unclips the paper from the clipboard while trying to get it down. Cool, he wins. Wait, no, Rex Morgan is being a dick, and has taken it away after beating up Tiger. Wait, what? Why is the ring announcer saying he won? The fuck?

My friend Dan would explain to me that this was, in fact, a pretty clever finish, that I must admit went totally over my head. When Morgan fell off of the ladder, he bumped the referee. I did not notice that. Therefore, when Tiger grabbed the contract, the referee didn’t see it. What the referee DID see, when he got up, was Rex Morgan holding the contract while standing over Tiger’s prone body.

Winner: Rex Morgan via Shenanigans

After the match, Tiger thanked the PWA fans and called back to the first PWA Night of Champions show, 13 years ago. On that show, Tiger and Gama Singh Jr., the New Karachi Vice, wrestled the Funky Bunch in a cage. Tiger asserted that this ladder match topped it. I didn’t see that match, so I don’t have an opinion on that comparison. Tiger challenged Rex Morgan to a match for the contract, suggesting that he may return to PWA as a regular.

This match was a blast to watch live, but featured too many spots that were worse versions of what WWE does in ladder matches to be considered a noteworthy ladder match. It served its purpose, though, as it set the crowd on fire.

No DQ Grudge Match
Marky Mark vs. Dylan Knight

These guys have both been on the PWA roster forever. Marky Mark’s character has gone through some transitions, landing at beloved underdog veteran. His entrance gear looks like he’s in an ’80s rap video, which I love. Dylan Knight is a Lance Storm student whose character is “I am from Australia.” Dan and I refer to him as Australian Shitstain, because his old trunks had a crude drawing of Australia on his butt that looked like he shit himself mightily.

This grudge match started off with a nice fiery brawl, punctuated by a Marky Mark moonsault off the top to the floor. Knight controlled most of the match, methodically trying to break Marky. Knight became increasingly frustrated as Marky kicked out of everything the Aussie had to throw at him, and even roused great roars from the crowd with defiant slaps to the big man (which were invariably met with a shitkicking). Suddenly, out of nowhere, Marky pinned Knight with a sunset flip.

Knight demanded the match be restarted, and Marky agreed, not satisfied by scoring a flash pin on his rival. Marky grabbed Knight’s boomerang – oh, Knight had a boomerang. Because Australia – and waffled him with it, then small packaged him for another three count. Now it was Marky’s turn to say “fuck it, let’s do it again.” The match was restarted again, and Marky scored the third and final fall, this time off of a Bo-dog, which I want to call a springboard bulldog, except that’s totally not the right name for it.

Winner: Marky Mark via roll-up. Then again via different roll-up. Then finally via bulldog off the ropes

PWA Esteemed Championship – First Blood Match
Chase Patrick (c) vs. “The Omen” Gabriel Lestat

Gabriel Lestat is a vampire. I wrote about him previously when I was posting FORCE Pro Wrestling recaps (they’re not a thing anymore). Now he’s a babyface, I guess. He came to the ring with an IV stand complete with blood bags, which were sadly not used at all. Chase Patrick is nicknamed “The Assassin” and has an incredibly smug, punchable face. A great heel face.

As for the Esteemed Title… not really sure what the deal is with that. I know Andy Anderson was involved in a stable called Team Esteem, and the title’s name comes from him winning whatever it was before and changing the name to suit himself. Why the Esteemed name remains, and what the point of this belt is, I don’t know. But Chase Patrick has it, and Gabriel Lestat wants it, so they had a pretty boring First Blood match for it.

There didn’t seem to be much chemistry between Lestat and Patrick, and Patrick’s offence during his long control period was dull. He did a Russian Leg Sweep into a “do crunches and then finger guns” taunt which I enjoyed, although it did elicit the comment “I know what’ll make him bleed, a Russian leg sweep!” from me in my best Chase Patrick voice. I have no idea what Chase Patrick sounds like, so I just yelled in my “I’m saying this to get a laugh because that’s a thing I do” voice. I thought more about how to describe the voice I used to yell that than I have about this match.

It ended when Gabriel Lestat finally used his vampire fangs to bite Chase Patrick’s neck, which had been teased throughout the match. Lestat’s teeth were removed prior to the spot for… reasons? It sure didn’t help that they were lying on the mat in plain view during the climactic chomping, though. It was a neat idea, but most of the blood on Patrick’s neck was wiped off very quickly, and the whole execution just screamed “THIS IS SUPER FAKE.” It’s too bad, because the core idea behind it was sound. Of COURSE the vampire would be awesome at first blood matches, and try to use his fangs on his opponent.

Winner and NEW PWA Esteemed Champion: Gabriel Lestat via vampirism.

PWA Mayhem Championship – Tables Match
Fabian Ribeiro (c) vs. Kenny Stryker
Special Guest Referee: Lisa Marie Varon

The Mayhem Championship is one that I CAN explain. It started off as a hardcore title, but has evolved into a title that is always defended in gimmick matches. In this case, it’s a tables match. Kenny Stryker used to be in a tag team with Chase Patrick, and looks kind of like a lazy Mortal Kombat character. Fabian Ribeiro is my new favourite indy wrestler. More on that in a bit.

Why do indie promoters book Lisa Marie Varon? Are people really buying a ticket to see her not wrestle? I don’t get it. She seems like a delightful lady, and I would like to check out her restaurant if I’m ever in Chicago, but did anyone see the advertisements for a Samoa Joe autograph session and think “Well maybe I’d go if Tara from TNA was there too”? Despite me not understanding why, she’s the special guest referee. I feel like being able to see up her referee shirt-dress didn’t hep her come off as an authority figure. Fabian agreed with me.

I spent the entirety of this match being entertained by Fabian’s ridiculous strut. Whenever he walked, including when he was selling, he did this thing where he rolled his hips forward with each step, which was just the greatest cocky, suave heel mannerism. I feel like he would have done it while he was running, too, if it wouldn’t result in his legs popping off like a Crash Test Dummy figure. Anyway, a bunch of stuff happened, tables weren’t teased as much as you might expect for this type of match, and Fabian hit on Lisa Marie CONSTANTLY. Eventually he did the best variation of the People’s Elbow EVER, which involved stereotypical latin music playing while he did his rolling hip dance thing. He kept it up while he hit the ropes, and then did a flamenco foot-tapping thing which served as a unique stomp to keep Stryker down while Ribeiro hit the ropes on the other side of the ring, pulled a scarf out of his boot to throw into the air, and hit an elbow drop. Fucking outstanding.

After the elbow, Ribeiro hit on Lisa Marie some more, and she pretended to have been won over. Then she superkicked him. I’m not sure she understands foreplay. Ribeiro ended up on a table, and Kenny Stryker jumped on him with a butt-dive from the top. It didn’t break the table, so Stryker¬† jumped up on the table, did another butt dive from a standing position, and totally fell on his head when the now-broken-enough-to-end-the-match table fell over. Medics, which is what I’m choosing to very generously call the dudes in security shirts who answered Lisa Marie’s request to get Stryker some help, assisted the new champion in getting backstage.

Winner and NEW PWA Mayhem Champion: Kenny Stryker via butt-dive table-break.

Lisa Marie cut a promo thanking the fans and saying that she keeps returning to wrestling because it’s in her blood.

PWA Tag Team Championship Tornado Match
Sheik Akbar Shabazz & Ayatollah Anderson (c) vs. Rage & Fury

Sheik Akbar Shabazz used to be the Nightmare, for those of you who have read my previous show reviews. Now he’s a somewhat generic foreign heel. Ayatollah Anderson, whose name was much longer, but I didn’t catch all of it, is a less generic foreign heel. He’s in the Sgt. Slaughter vein of “white guy sides with the Middle East” heel. Anderson upped the ante on Sarge by adding a hilariously racist Middle Eastern accent to the mix, which was unexpected and absurd. Only in professional wrestling, folks.

Rage & Fury are a former referee who is totally jacked and a pretty good worker (Rage) and the promoter’s kid who hasn’t been wrestling for too long, and took his body sculpting inspiration from Christian Bale in The Machinist (Fury). If Rage and Fury lose, they have to disband as a team, so they’re going to win.

Immediately, this match became a wild brawl. There was a dive to the floor and a lot of wet meat thwack sounds as bodies splatted on the concrete. This portion of the match was some really fun chaos, which led to Anderson and Shabazz taking control of the match. The teams paired off, with one pair brawling on the floor and the other pair fighting in the ring. The babyfaces started off on fire, but after being bounced off of the concrete floor a few times, that fire was extinguished and the evil foreigners took over.

The heat segment took the form of big spots being alternated between the pair in the ring and the pair on the floor. This segment was fairly long, but also quite entertaining. It did, however, create concerns that the finish was going to be a flash pin that ignored the roughly zero damage the heels had taken. The highlight of this segment, for me, was Richie Rage attempting a dive off the stage onto Anderson, only to be caught and Snake Eyes’d onto his launching point. Anderson followed that up by ramming Rage’s head into a water fountain, then turning the fountain on while holding Rage’s head into it. I’ve never seen that before, and it was a really well-done comedy spot that didn’t kill the intensity of the match.

After the water fountain spot, Anderson dragged Rage back to the ring and a wild kendo stick appeared. Anderson used it on Fury. It was super effective. Every time the heels tried to score a pin, however, the other member of Rage & Fury was there to break up the pin. The most convincing near fall was Shabazz hitting Fury with a hybrid Dominator/piledriver, which looked like a murder attempt. The heels became increasingly frustrated, which led to mistakes, which led to the kendo stick being turned against them. Rage took out Shabazz on the floor, and Fury whooped the shit out of Anderson with the kendo stick. Anderson begged off and bent over, holding his head to avoid getting cracked again, but left himself wide open for a DDT onto a chair (oh, right, there was a chair involved briefly) for the win and the tag titles.

Winners and NEW PWA Tag Team Champions: Rage & Fury via DDT on a chair.

This match was awesome, and a serious match of the night challenger. It IS the kind of match that might not hold up as well on tape as it did sitting in the fourth row, but that’s how I saw it, so I enjoyed the hell out of it. In particular, I was pleased that the babyfaces made an actual comeback, and damaged the heels to the point that the fall was believable.

Intermission

PWA Championship Match
Brandon Van Danielson (c) vs. Mephisto

When I last saw Brandon Van Danielson, he was a midcarder floating between tag teams and the Mayhem Title scene. He’s certainly rocketed his way up the card in the intervening couple of years! He both looks and wrestles like a cruiserweight Stan Hansen, complete with a bullrope and a desire for people to no longer have heads after he lariats them. Why his name is a hybrid of Rob Van Dam and Bryan Danielson, I don’t know.

Mephisto is new to me, as he is unfortunately not the luchador of the same name. He wears a really shiny Spawn mask with what I can only describe as the ring gear of MVP’s evil twin. Fun fact about his mask: he adjusts it after nearly every spot. I wouldn’t have brought it up if my friend Dan didn’t point it out really early in the match, thus making it impossible not to see. It also seemed like he couldn’t see unless he was looking down his nose, since he even ran with his head cocked at that angle.

As far as a match, this one suffered from being placed in between the standout bouts. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t stand out as a whole. The match finished with a pretty great spot, as BVD attempted something off the top rope and found himself in the powerbomb position. Mephisto bounced him off the ropes, sort of like a slingshot suplex, then bounced him off the ropes on an adjacent side of the ring before hitting the powerbomb for the fall. The first bounce looked like it hurt, as the rope moved and ended up hitting BVD in the face as Mephisto was lifting him back up. It DID lead to a really great “OH SHIT” face from BVD leading into the second slingshot.

Winner and NEW PWA Heavyweight Champion: Mephisto via rope-bounce powerbomb.

Until I wrote this recap, it didn’t occur to me that EVERY championship that was defended changed hands. Weird. It IS PWA’s biggest show of the year, though, so I suppose there’s a certain logic to it, even if changing all of the titles is bizarre.

Samoa Joe goes reverse King Hippo on Michael Richard Blais.

Samoa Joe goes reverse King Hippo on Michael Richard Blais.

Samoa Joe vs. Michael Richard Blais

Samoa Joe is actually a PWA Hall of Famer. Yes, that’s a thing. PWA wants to be WWE really badly. Still, Joe has appeared in PWA many times, and always put on great performances, so he’s earned it.

Michael Richard Blais used to be Chucky Blaze. The name change accompanied his step up into the main event picture, and at this point he’s unquestionably the top guy in the promotion. I’m actually a little surprised that he hasn’t gotten any NXT interest, as Tyler Breeze, Jinder Mahal, DH Smith, and Tyson Kidd were all signed out of PWA, and Blais is a better worker now than any of them bar perhaps Kidd when they were signed. Actually, now I really want to see him get signed to NXT, so he can have some more matches with Samoa Joe.

As the last sentence may have given away, this match was really good. There wasn’t anything ground-breaking about it, it was just two guys who were really, really over building a good, solid story. The crowd wanted to see MRB win this one, which put him in the babyface position (I think he’s a heel normally, but I’m not familiar with current alignments). After a flurry to start, the match settled into something almost resembling the “boo/yay” punch spot, except with move sequences. The story of the match was that the fiery babyface had all of the physical tools to win the match, if only he could overcome the veteran’s smarts. Whenever Blais started to put together a string of offence, Joe was able to counter it. The standout sequences included Blais looking for one of his signature spots (CM Punk’s corner high knee followed by a springboard body press), which Joe countered by seeing him jump, then casually walking out of the way and smirking like an asshole. Later, Blais tried the high knee in the corner again, only for Joe to spike him with an STJoe and bellow “SIT YO’ ASS DOWN.”

The finishing sequence emphasized the fire vs. experience story. MRB got in his most effective chain of offence, escaped the Muscle Buster, and caught Joe in an O’Connor Roll. Joe raised a shoulder at 2 then, in the same motion, pulled Blais’ trunks to drag him into the Coquina Clutch. After about 10 seconds of “tap” and “please don’t tap” chants, the referee determined that Blais had passed out and awarded Joe the victory by submission.

Winner: Samoa Joe via Coquina Clutch.

Top to bottom, this was probably one of the better PWA shows that I’ve seen. Two standout matches, both of which hovered around the 4 star mark, for those of you interested in those sorts of things, and an undercard with only one disappointment? I won’t complain about seeing a card like that from the fourth row.

Spot of the Night: Sheikh Akbar Shabazz’ Dominator/piledriver thing. Holy shit.
Match of the Night: This one was decided by a razor thin margin, but I’m going to go with Shabazz & Anderson vs. Rage & Fury. Samoa Joe vs. Michael Richard Blais was the better match, objectively, but I expected it to be the best match on the card by a huge margin. The fact that the Tag Title match even made me have to think about it was a huge accomplishment.
MVP: Michael Richard Blais. He put in a great match against Samoa Joe, and delivered in a huge main event.