Last night (20th February), I saw the first of three live wrestling that I’m seeing over the next six weeks. Before I begin this review, I can tell you without hesitation that the next two shows will be better than last night’s.
So last night I saw All Star Superslam Wrestling at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea. Celebrating their 43rd year, Brian Dixon’s company are primarily a family friendly organisation and have several troupes out in various holiday locations during the half-term break. This same night, the troupe in Skegness had names such as El Ligero, Dean Allmark and Robbie Dynamite. Southend…..didn’t. I had heard rumblings through various folks that Doug Williams was on the bill, and the vagueness of the All Star website made it seem that way. Sadly this was not the case, but not to worry, I thought. The last time All Star came to Southend, I saw a young rookie on, I believe, his first tour of the UK and he was very impressive. Maybe he’ll do well. It turned out that the kid in question was none other than Adam Cole. So maybe I’ll see one of the next bright stars of wrestling tonight. I should point out that I went along with a friend from the area that hadn’t been to a wrestling show since 1998 at least, when he went to see Kendo Nagasaki top the bill. So I was interested to see his reaction to everything.
After our pleasant and happy host for the evening got everything under way, I noticed the referee. His name escapes me, but I remembered him from the last time. Has to be the slowest ref in the world. Every pinfall attempt is met with a count that Earl Hebner would only ever use if he was selling a massive bump at the end of a huge title match. Very little drama when people are shouting at him to count faster. I’m surprised the matches actually ended.
The first wrestler comes out and the music that’s played made me almost jump out of my chair. “I Will Be Heard” by Hate Breed will be known to a lot of fans as the entrance for Rampage Brown, who I knew was joining the tour at the weekend. So I naturally thought he must’ve had an extra date free. Sadly, out came a guy waving a Canadian flag. Disappointment aside, I’m not about to judge him on entrance music. The dude looked like a good athlete, certainly had a look you wouldn’t find odd to see on TV, while his valet (Lara Cruz was her name, as she was dressed as Lara Croft) looked the part and did her job in helping rile the crowd up. His name….The Canadian Stomper. Really? Is that the best you can come up with? His opponent was PCW regular T-Bone. That’s T-Bone Tyson, for this tour. Not sure why they needed to add the second name, but it’s the same guy so this should be pretty good, right? Being such a family orientated audience, the faces all pretty much have to be quite generic in their actions. A lot of asking the crowd if they should hit them, kick them, drop a leg on their arm, that sort of thing. It was very jarring to watch T-Bone do all this, having seen him in such different surroundings before, and he didn’t look incredibly comfortable in this role. It didn’t help matters that Canadian Stomper was pretty bloody awful. Bumped well enough but hit light strikes that did not look strong enough to knock a child over, let alone T-Bone. He badly botched a clothesline that silenced the crowd and was visibly calling spots. I know that sounds like a really markish thing to call him out on, but we were watching from the balcony – if I can see him talking from there, then it’s pretty bad! The match was average at best, with constant interference from Lara, with T-Bone falling victim to an admittedly good running powerslam, with Stomper getting his hand raised. But this was not a good start to the night.
Things picked up significantly in the second match. I was very happy to see 14 year veteran Andy Boy Simmonz make his way to the ring, carrying a skull & bones pirate flag. This was not a new gimmick for him, by the way. In order to make it clear who the faces and heels are, All Star have their heels carry either pirate flags or the flag of their country. Because obviously, foreigners are heels and we need to teach young kids to hate people from other countries. His opponent was newcomer Jamie Farrell. Dubbed “The Natural Athlete”, he’s only been wrestling for a year through the IPW:UK Academy, having formerly been a track & field star for Team GB. Although they did some spots that were identical to the previous match, they did everything so much crisper. Simmonz showed just why he has been in the business as long as he has, as he did everything with precision and got the crowd hating him the minute he step through the curtain. Farrell was impressive too. Although he was clearly being guided through the match by Simmonz, he was quick, nimble and, aside from bumping on a shoulder block that HE was delivering, didn’t really do anything wrong nor look out of place. I see good things for his future. Farrell got the win with a top rope dropkick that didn’t look very pretty, but was made up for in it’s impact. This ended up being match of the night.
Match three got under way as some indistinguishable music began. To my shock and happiness, out came Dave Mastiff. As a PROGRESS regular, I was very happy to see him come out. Having looked back at some photos from the last time All Star were in Southend, I saw that Mastiff was actually at that show too, as the Motor City Marauder or something to that effect. Tonight, he is not The Bastard. Nope, he is Dave “Bull” Mastiff. Well that one at least makes sense. His opponent was a homecoming wrestler from Southend. Sadly it was not Paul Robinson. Even more sadly, I couldn’t make out what his name was. I want to say Joel Masters, so I’ll go with that for now. Anyway , he was a big lad. I’d guess about 6’6” and had muscle growing where I didn’t know there were muscles. He also seemed green as grass. Much like the previous match, the veteran heel guided the face through a basic match. Mastiff was fantastic here. Having been so used to him being so deadly serious in is Progress encounters, here he was a cocky loudmouth doing some very funny stuff. Twice, he fooled Masters into chasing him from the outside into the ring, only for Mastiff to casually walk back outside again. On the third attempt, Masters double-bluffed him and impressively slammed Mastiff to the mat. Mastiff took a breather for a while, pulling kids out of their seat so he could relax. At one point, he even got cosy with some kid’s mum. His offense was as good as you would expect, but the All Star setting meant he couldn’t do a lot of what many who’ve seen him are used to. His biggest move was a running back senton. Masters finally came back with some awkward looking punches, sadly resembling Sycho Sid in many ways. He surprisingly got Mastiff up for a suplex, though he botched the landing of the move and dropped Dave to his left side. It was still a flat back landing, but Dave was holding his head during the pinfall attempt. The next move was a chokeslam that had been teased all match, with got the win for the Southend native. Scarily Mastiff wasn’t moving after the pinfall, apart from twiddling his hands and gazing round, which made me worried he’d been hurt badly from that suplex. Gladly he rolled out of the ring after the winning announcement was made, though he stormed to the back looking very annoyed. I hope he was just in character.
After an interval, it was “International Tag Team action”, which meant it was time for us to blindly boo the foreigners. With that, my second favourite entrance music of all time hit and out came Gangrel. This is his first tour in four years and he was at the last All Star show Southend saw, so it was nice to see him again. His partner was the 400 pound American Avalanche, who has some decent mic skills. Their opponents were Austrian wrestler Max Moran (hey, a foreigner we can cheer for, how novel!) and 21-year veteran James Mason. Remember how I described the generic All Star babyface offense earlier
That they have to ask the crowd if they want them to do a move or hit someone? Well James Mason is the biggest offender of that. Just about every move early in the match was preceded by the following –
Mason: “SHALL I?”
Mason: “SHALL I??”
Mason: “SHALL I??????”
Me: “Get the fuck on with it!!!”
Anyway, besides all of that, the match was actually pretty entertaining. Moran looked competent in the ring, although he didn’t get to do all that much. Mason still moves around the ring like he’s in his 20’s. Gangrel looks in good shape for someone that doesn’t wrestle anywhere near as much as he did and he hit some nice suplexes and slams (no bloodbaths, sadly, sorry Attitude Era nostalgists). And Avalanche was ok, I wasn’t expecting much from him, but he was a lot more capable than I’d imagined. Spot of the night was a double slam to Avalanche on top of Gangrel! It was actually hilarious as Gangrel just laid there watching them set up this slam, all the while shaking his head and begging the faces not to do it. Such a pantomime moment, when he could easily have just rolled out of the way. The heels win with Gangrel pinning Moran after Avalanche tripped while attempting a suplex. Mason got on the mic to accost the cheating heels, referring to them as “dirty, American pigs.” I actually spat my gum out at that. While I’ve heard a lot worse at other shows, the xenophobic nature of the face/heel dynamic at these shows is really quite annoying.
Main event time. Well, it was the last match anyway, but by no means was this a main event. The announcer says the heel was so confident he could beat whoever they put in front of him, he said to give him two opponents. So I imagined this was going to be a huge, overly charismatic heel. Out came as man dressed in a jester costume. But not just any jester, oh no – an evil jester! Just imagine if Sting appeared with his Crow-era face paint, dressed in a black and white chess-patterned outfit with a stupid hat and soft Iron Sheik style boots. Now shrink him in the wash. Then you can imagine Jinx. Hardly what I pictured as the announcer was describing the over confident competitor wanting two opponents. Those two in question were Essex native Phil Powers, a comic personality and a very very loud man, and his “big brother”….Little Legs. Yep, Southend’s main event was a handicap match with a jester fighting a loud comedian and a midget. Skegness got El Ligero. If you’ve seen a match involving a midget, you’ll have seen most of this match. Pinfall attempt with Little Legs being pushed up into the arms of the ref? Check. Heel threatening to throw Little Legs into the crowd? Check. Comical test of strength spot? Check. This was all a bit of a shame as a straight up match between Jinx and Powers would actually have been a good match. Powers is a competent wrestler and knows what he’s doing, he just has an immensely irritation persona. Jinx bumped incredibly well for both of them, even doing a 360 flip off of a lariat. Inevitably Jinx was pinned by Little Legs after a top rope dropkick from Powers (where’ve I seen that finish before? Oh yes – three matches ago). The apathy I felt for this match was shared by the majority of the crowd who, aside from a few laughs, mainly sat on their hands for this match and immediately left their seats when the bell rang to either go home or use the backstage passes they’d bought in the interval to see the wrestlers.
So all in all, not a great night. I knew what to expect having seen All Stars before, but even for them this was quite poor. There were good points throughout the night. All the matches received a lot of time and nothing really dragged. Mastiff, Simmonz and Farrell were all on great form. The tag match was entertaining for the most part. But the lack of imagination was clear as day. The singles matches had too similar a structure, with the faces working the arm and the heels slowly working through their arsenal of moves, before the faces came back. I know that is essentially the structure of most wrestling matches, but these were too similar. And considering who was on other tours this week for All Star, Southend certainly drew the short straw for the names.
My mate though – he enjoyed it. Maybe I should take him along to the next two I’m seeing, show him how Revolution Pro and Progress go about their business……
You can find me on twitter @dagreeno