LSC Arena - Middletown, OH
Adam: After a long hiatus, the ever popular NHO Road Report is back! Brian and I ventured out to HWA in Middletown, Ohio on a cold, snowy night to see Ricky Morton, Necro Butcher, and 2 Tuff Tony. Our main focus of this report will be the three main event matches, but we’ll also elaborate a little on the undercard stuff.
You can see us (L to R: Adam, & Brian) here reveling in a highspot
Brian: Yes, the last show I attended live was a TNA iMPACT! television taping and I was sick as a dog. I was looking forward to getting out for some live pro wres. Nothing like seeing it up-close and hearing the slams, thuds, chops, grunts, and groans. I've been going to HWA shows in its various incarnations through several owners since '98. Their highpoint was around 2001 when WCW had folded and been bought out by WWE a lot of the talent Vince wasn't using on-screen had to go somewhere so we got stars like Meng, Kaz Hayashi, David Taylor, etc. every week.
Adam: We rolled up to the building, in a dilapidated area of Middletown, found a dimly lit and completely unplowed parking lot, and pretty much had to make up our own parking spot. The building itself used to be a Ponderosa restaurant way back in the day and the front looked exactly the same as it probably did about 20 years. The majority of people would just drive right by it as it’s a small, unoticeable building on a busy thoroughfare right in the heart of downtown Middletown. At the front counter we found a guy who could pass for Santa Claus taking admissions and a makeshift wrestling “store” filled with old figures, including some $5 WCW figures from the mid 90, random VHS tapes, WWF Attitude era t-shirts (more on that later), and other assorted wrestling goodies. The ring was setup towards the back of the building with about 50 chairs around three sides of it. The ring area itself was dark and cold, felt like we were part of some underground illegal fight club. We shelled out for ringside, grabbed some seats, and sat back and got ready to enjoy some low-level independent wrestling.
Brian: Yes it was freezing out and snowing and good thing Adam knows Middletown because I would have passed right by this inconspicuous building. I've seen crack dens with better mood lighting. I've seen skid row homeless shelters that were warmer and more inviting. So it was $15 for front row and $10 for general admission. Adam asked if there were any ringside seats left which now seems rather funny considering the low turnout. We may of well paid for GA though because at some point I noticed nobody even working the door and people just wandering into the dark building mid-show and sitting down. HWA "We Are Here"? More like "No We're Not". The swag and merch looked like a tornado whipped through a Highspots table at a con. No copies of Werckmeister Harmonies sadly. I did eye an Alex Wright figure that was so ridiculous I almost plunked down my two bits and brought him home. I DID buy something. More on that later.
1. Four Way Lucha Libre Rules Match: Chrisjen Hayme vs. Chase Owens vs. Jaimy Cox vs. Kid Hybrid - A: 4 B: 3
2. "Hebrew Hammer" Joseph Schwartz vs. Michael Hayes - A: 2 B: 2
3. Gideon Malice vs. Great Akuma - A: 2 B: 4
4. B.J. Whitmer vs. Jamin Olivencia - A: 4 B: 4
5. Movado vs. Sid Fabulous - A: 1 B: 1
A: To start with, there was no heat in the building and the temperature outside was a balmy 15 degrees. I figure there must be some kind of heating in the building. A shit ton of space heaters plugged up around the building would’ve worked just as good. When the first match was announced as a four-way, we knew the card had been messed with as there were supposed to be nine matches. Hayme was in the match simply to help guide the others, most of who I had never heard of before. What exactly is Kid Hybrid supposed to be a hybrid of? Cox by far had the most character of anyone in the match, he had a discernable look and was very vocal in the ring. The highspot segment was nice but felt somewhat forced, like they have to do one of those every match. For your basic indy opener, it was acceptable and unoffensive. This was the first time I’d see Schwartz live and I really enjoyed his schitck, even though it was probably the most bizarre and surreal match of the night. He was supposed to face American Kickboxer II, but instead ended up fighting Michael Hayes from OVW … not the Freebird, but the one with the prosthetic leg. The comedy from Schwartz was good, playing up his Jewish character, but otherwise the match was a drag. Malice is a large being who strangely looks a bit like the character “The Hound” from Game of Thrones (or Peter Stormare if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones) and came out with not one, but THREE heel managers. I’m not sure what made Akuma so great but I didn’t see much except him getting his ass beaten from one side of the ring to the other. His selling was nice and I liked the mysterious Asian character he played. I wouldn’t mind seeing him again, perhaps this time against a better opponent. Whitmer and Olivenica has the most technically sound match of the night. The mat work was good and I enjoyed Whitmer playing to the crowd. I remember seeing Olivencia from OVW TV circa 2006 and he was OK then but he’s gotten drastically better. Olivencia getting the win with the DDT came from nowhere. A solid, fine match to close out the first half of the show.
A leg only Dr. Frankenstein could love
Brian: It was criminally cold in there. With windshield outside the temp. was likely in the negatives. My feet went numb at one point. I'd wager the crowd was 35 or so. Strange to watch man grapple right where an all you can eat buffet bar once sat. Opener was your lightweight showcase that was okay under the circumstances. The ceiling was so low that standing on the buckles you could put your hand right through the ceiling tile. This and the limited space made flying challenging. I shouted "No staples tonight!" at Hayme given the last time I saw him live he cracked his skull open on a dark match at a Dragon Gate USA show in Indianapolis on a sick spot off the top buckle to the floor. Some stuff looked clearly cooperative but this was fine for an opener. Not sure how interesting it'd be on DVD but live Schwartz was a pretty fun act really playing up the Hebrew and Jewish stuff to comic effect. The one-legged guy was kind of an odd watch. Not sure how to feel when Joseph was stomping his prosthetic leg (can he feel that?) and Hayes no-sold my loud request for a "leg drop" with the prothesis. Malice looked like an older Adam Bomb or more accurately I guess Wrath. Akuma reminded me of a young, thinner Pat Tanaka and I thought did really well especially in the selling dept. in the largely thankless role of putting lumbering Malice over. Even post-match Akuma was selling the effects of the bout and had a really awesome kabuki-inspired look. Next match was a bit weird as Jamin was apparently booked face but got a tepid reaction then BJ who must have been booked heel got a huge pop due to being local and we overheard Olivencia muttering, "Oh, I guess they like you here. Ok then". On one hand this was one of the best matches of the night but it did have its own flaws. On the plus side, Whitmer was solid, his timing is on a whole other level compared to most of these guys, and Olivencia, while I hate his marble-mouthed name he was the most vocal and animated performer of the night. It almost came off as over-selling in such a small, intimate setting, but on the big stage, and by that I mean WWE, I think his style is a near perfect fit. So it almost came off over the top here but in the right context his style would be better suited. Maybe embrace his inner-douchebag a little more too. The finish was ungodly flat as a jumping DDT just ended it out of the blue. If you were aware of Whitmer's recent neck injury in ROH you could buy it as a quick match-ender but otherwise it was head-scratching.
Adam: Intermission came next and I browsed the selection of old wrestling tapes and figures but didn’t see much I liked. I chatted with Ricky Morton for a bit and he came across as nice and humble but remarked about the building “they should rent this place out to Oscar Meyer because it’s a fucking meat locker”. He told stories of the run with Ric Flair in ’86 and seemed like a very genuine person. Back from intermission and we start with Movado. Who or what exactly he is, I’m not sure. He’s a short, very bolbous human dressed in black and red, with a star shaped mask, who made sounds like Kamala but can’t work a lick. Post-match was really strange with Movado picking up the win and a giant man in pink floral tights with a pink thong on running in and standing behind Movado for a good two minutes before engaging in battle with Movado and no-selling his offense. As you can tell, the undercard wasn’t good at all, except for Whitmer and Olivencia and nothing went over 12 minutes as it was pretty cold in the building and nobody in the crowd was reacting to much. Brian, your thoughts?
Brian: I mostly talked to BJ Whitmer during intermission. He was real cool and nice and easy to chat with. Sometimes if you talk too "inside" with the guys they put up that old kayfabe wall but he was open and respectful to my nerdy oratory. We talked about AJ Styles' ROH return and how stiff he works, Chris Hero's running dropkick through the ropes to BJ's face on ROH TV last week, his underrated barbwire match w/ Necro Butcher (he thanked me for praising it), how Chad Collyer never got his due, local wrestling, etc. I went to talk to Ricky but after a min. the house lights went down and he had to get going quickly.I did tell him that I respected his work a great deal and how I grew up with the Midnight Express feud via NWA/WCW but now that footage is more readily available I'm discovering his Watts' Mid-South stuff and its phenomenal. He was incredibly kind and sweet and very polite. I saw a bunch of shirts on an old rack all crumpled and piled together and started thumbing through them when I saw a ridiculous "24/7 Ass" Mr. Ass shirt from WWE. I laughed and kept digging until I found an even more ludicrous Godfather "Roll A Fatty for this Pimp Daddy" t-shirt with a goofy illustrated image of Godfather on the front that I felt I had to own as an ironic shirt to wear at parties. I guess I could have pilfered it as nobody was around. I eventually went up to two girls at the snack stand and offered to buy it. They didn't even know what to charge me and I said a sticker over there said WWE shirts were $10 and they gladly and greedily said that'd be just fine and took my cash. Damn, I should have bargained for $5! Movado match was limpid shit. Movado played a blubbering, chittering, noisy fat freak in an inexplicable mask that had no bearing on his "character". The post-match hijinks Adam mentioned were a real curiosity as Fabulous' partner who looked like a smaller, older Ryback in a real bad hot pink and purple get-up and Movado had the world's most awkward staredown/exchange which saw some stuff weirdly no-sold and felt uncooperative and shoot-y. I mean, no selling a punch, sure, adrenaline, maybe you didn't feel the blow, but how the hell do you no sell an eye rake?
6. Tarek the Great vs. Ricky Morton - B: 5 A: 5
Brian: This was pretty cool and I had a lot of fun cheering Morton on. Ricky would do something small but get great crowd reactions for it, they'd slow it down like putting Morton in a hold, he'd use the crowd to rally him back into it, rinse and repeat. Morton was very vocal talking here and there and actually had some damn good one-liners sprinkled in inc. one about doing something before the "real rigor mortis" kicking in. Ricky was still as graceful as an Ozu film. Tarek who I've seen work pretty snug (like beating the piss out of American Kickboxer II at that HWA show Daniel Bryan v. Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) headlined) but he was respectful and did his role well. Ricky actually took a few legit bumps on the cold, hard canvas too. Post-match Ricky gave us a heartfelt thanks and told us he loved every one of us. It was very touching and he's a real class act. I felt slightly bad later that night when I saw him shifting out the front door quietly during a match in a tattered jacket with his luggage en route to California as he'd told Adam he had a date to work on the other side of the country the next day. What a crazy lifestyle but I wish him well. He entertained the 30 of us tremendously.
Adam: Agreed with Brian on this one. This match right here is the reason we made the trip up to the shady city of Middletown. Ricky was great playing to the crowd and got them to actually liven up for pretty much the first time all night. I’ve enjoyed Tarek’s on-and-off runs in HWA and as Brian mentioned, he can work stiff, but here he toned it down and worked within Morton’s pace. Match itself was nothing spectacular. Ricky would get a few moves in, Tarek would lock in a hold, and this continued on for about ten minutes until Ricky scored the pin. Probably the most fun I’ve had cheering someone on at an independent show in years. Post match stuff was a really nice gesture as he geniunely thanked all the fans for coming out and supporting him. The whole 45 or so of us in attendance were all chanting “thank you Rick-y” over and over and when Tarek issued a challenge for a rematch, we all chanted “one more match”. It was certainly a pleasure seeing him live.
7. HWA Heavyweight Title: Chance Prophet vs. "Big" Kris Carnage - B: 2 A: 2
"Botch here much?"
Brian: Prophet the HWA champ seemed fine from what I could tell but man, this Carnage guy was the drizzling shits. First off, he's a deplorable looking specimen. At one point I yelled: "this guy's on the juice.. and I don't mean Kool-Aid!". He has this bizarre physique, like a He-Man toy, with regular legs, but this massively gigantic upper-body, but then He-Man's head fell off so you popped another head onto the frame. He's got this unassuming blonde Dutch Boy cut and hawk nose looking like a guy who works at a golf supplies store, then this hulking upper-body of giant muscles and steroid acne. Such an eyesore to behold. He was shit in-ring too blowing a few spots very visibly and having no concept of ring positioning inc. at one point awkwardly back-rolling to get to his feet but getting caught in the ropes like a first day amateur. Then there was his entourage a chick that looked like Sandra Bernhard's little sister in a witch get-up, and two dwarfs, a guy and a girl, playing the roles of rave midgets? Seriously what the fuck? Is this a David Lynch soma nightmare? Just an uncanny and surreal spectacle I don't wish to relive.
Adam: Well, this was quite the opposite of the previous match. Nobody cared one damn bit about the roided up Carnage, nor did they really seem to care about Prophet. The last time I saw Carnage live was on an HWA show back in 2010 or 2011 and he jobbed to Jimmy Yang in about five minutes. Now he’s the number one contender for the HWA title? Who thought that was a good idea? His entourage was the stuff of nightmares, a wicked witch and two scantily clad midgets. Prophet looked good in the ring but I’m sure he’d be better served to be working with someone who is actually competent in the ring besides this slob. Not a good match at all.
8. No DQ, No Count Out Match: The Soul Shooters (Apollo Starr & Dru Skillz) vs. Necro Butcher & 2 Tuff Tony - A: 5 B: 5
Adam: This was the other reason we made the trip up. I’ve seen Necro Butcher live a few times at Ring of Honor shows but I’ve never seen 2 Tuff Tony live. The Soul Shooters looked good and played a great heel team, running away from the crazed death match mad men who were just tearing up chairs, floor mats, and anything else that got in their way around ringside. This was your typical indy hardcore match and given the context of the show, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. Everybody gave and received some hard shots, Necro dropped a Cactus Jack style elbow on the floor right in front of me, and poor Apollo Starr nearly broke his back snapping a painting ladder that was obviously purchased at Lowe’s right before the show, in half. Crowd seemed disappointed that Necro and Tony didn’t get the win but this was still a fun display and behind the Morton match, the most enjoyable thing of the night.
Brian: This was a lot of fun as expected. Didn't know of the Soul Shooters prior but Dru did some good apron work and interacted well with the crowd. I yelled during the intros "Necro Butcher was robbed at the Oscar's" and you hear him sort of chuckle and respond in a heavy hillbilly accent "Oh my gawd, are you kidding me?". I forgot to mention during the entrances Necro ripped up all the floor protective mats and tossed him angrily into the crowd right into fans' faces. You've got to love that. My "We want concussions!" chant later was perhaps a bit too on the nose. As Necro withered on the concrete after a particularly brutal bump I yelled right at him "Hit him with your bong!" and he wearily responded, "I've got to get up first." Tony, looking dapper (LOL) in a JCW hockey jersey, didn't work above his pay rate (couldn't have been more than $45 and a few White Castle sliders), I was hoping to see him take a rib-breaking slam onto a guardrail or something equally stupid but alas mostly slow-motion brawling. I think on DVD this wouldn't score as high but in-person it was fun to heckle and interact with the ongoing mayhem. There were a few sensational bumps but overall this was too laid back to be a really good, recommendable brawl.
Brian: After the show we headed out into the ungodly cold, in the minuses' by that point, and shot over to an IHOP in Forest Park about 30 min. south. I got the Colorado Omelette filled to the brim with bacon, pork sausage, shredded beef, ham, fresh onions, green peppers and Cheddar cheese and a short stack of pancakes. We ate, laughed, talked about our favorite Dick Slater singles bouts, the evolution of the Jun Kasai & Jaki Numazawa tag team. Another road report in the books. We'll be back on the road again in March for ROH in Dayton feat. the return of AJ Styles.