Monday, January 29, 2024

Ring of Impact #0 - Prelude

Ring of Impact

Welcome to a journey that that’s perhaps one of the crazier ideas I’ve had. I’m going to breakdown the concept here and share that as a aperitif then give a peek behind the curtain to the inner workings of my mind as I sculpted this idea into a workable model. 
Ring of Impact #1 (Season 1) will kick off on the blog this Thursday, February 1st.
What is the Ring of Impact project? In this ongoing series I’ll be pitting Ring of Honor versus TNA/Impact Wrestling, from the year of 2017 toward the unforeseeable future, in a week to week, month to month, year to year battle. No canons will be fired. No trenches dug. This war is going to be waged in the wrestling ring. Untold thousands of hours of footage, innumerable matches, interviews, segments, and the blood, sweat, and sacrifice of the athletes and performers whom I have such a deep respect for, will determine the ultimate victor in this wrestling war. By watching, in chronological order, every episode of weekly TV, live events, streaming exclusive shows, and pay-per-views and comparing and contrasting them against each other, I’ll determine which promotion triumphs. 
Let’s give an example for my analytical heads out there: let’s use 2017. For January, I’ll be granting a winner for each of the four weeks of that month, determined by comparing TNA and ROH’s shows for each given week. Then I’ll be assigning, after having had looked at all of the shows for that month as a whole, a winner for the month in totality.  This will continue on, week by week, month by month, culminating in an winner for the year itself. So that’s 52 weekly winners, 12 monthly winners, all building up to choosing the winning company for that year as a whole.
Whew! Let’s switch gears from logic and data-driven to more personal. What brought me to this project? Why did I want to start it? Why would anyone want to watch this much wrestling? Why ROH and TNA specifically? Why start in 2017 and not earlier/later? Am I okay? Let me try to answer all of this and more.
I’m a lifelong wrestling fan. I consider myself a wrestling omnivore. What I mean by that is I can watch (and largely enjoy) just about any kind of wrestling. Sure, if had my druthers, I can pinpoint particular companies or eras that I’d rank atop others. But I’m usually pretty easygoing when it comes to wrestling. It puts a smile on my face and brings me back to some of my most cherished, happiest childhood memories. Sitting on the floor watching WCW Saturday Night at 6:05P, wrestling magazines and toys scattered across my room, was nirvana. So let’s fast-forward ahead to 2017. Big year of personal upheaval. The ending of an unhappy marriage. Shifts in priorities and budgeting of time. Adapting and evolving as a father, newly single man, and navigating the perils and pitfalls of daily adult life, work, finding a new place to call home, back on the dating scene, etc. A real whirlwind. While I never stopped watching wrestling entirely it definitely fell toward the background.
Jump ahead again to the more recent past – let’s say the last 3 years or so. My free time is limited. Full-time office job. Raising two wonderful children. Happy relationship. And while movies were still my main hobby, I was definitely enjoying escaping back into my first love of wrestling. Often late at night, after the events of the day had expired, I’d unwind with an hour or a few of “pro wres” as I like to call it. I didn’t have cable television so my access to new stuff was limited to Hulu edited versions of WWE TV, unfortunately no AEW as I was without access, still followed UFC with a passion, and at least kept up with the WWE “pay-per-views” or “streaming specials” or whatever they’re calling them now. That was all fine and good, but my thirst wasn’t quenched. I started digging deep into stacks and stacks of hundreds of DVDs, and a couple portable hard drives resplendent with untold hours of my beloved “wres” (I previously posted a piece on a loose ranking of the indie promotions I most enjoyed throughout this process). At first, I cherry picked the stuff that caught my eye, but now years later, these the past few months I’ve whittled my collection down to the drearier asides and discards.
I needed something new to dive into and watch. And at this same time the reoccurring voice in the back of my head kept encouraging me to return to more regular contributions here on Never Hand over my old wrestling blog. So, I started brainstorming. I’d take walks at work pontificating. Should I dive into something on Peacock? Maybe a deep dive some 1980’s territorial wrestling? That’d be something cool. Or maybe scratch the itch with a more familiar beloved program from yesteryear like the aforementioned WCW Saturday Night or even the infamous WCW Thunder? And, like most major ideas do, it sort of dawned on me out of the blue. The realization hit me that a lot of other companies have streaming services now that contain not just new events but huge back catalogues. NJPW World sprung to mind. Wait … what about TNA and ROH? Promotions I knew well and liked, had attended live shows of, and been a fan of in the past. I hopped on as a guest on their services and was floored. There was SO much footage accessible with a simple click of a button. And at a fair price to boot.
The idea then started to take on a life of its own. When I fell out of wrestling during 2017, I never really had gotten the chance to catch up on either Ring of Honor or TNA. This would be a wonderful opportunity to deeply immerse myself in it. And the novel idea of pitting them against each other was what finally cemented this as THE idea. To really make it sing though I realized I couldn’t just focus on the special events/pay-per-views. There’s a ton of those alone. But to better contextualize those events and get the most out of the experience I thought it key to watch all of what’s available chronologically including every single episode of TV. I signed up for both services on the spot and started a spreadsheet where I manually started laying in one event after another, hundreds upon hundreds of rows of data, so many shows, so many main events I plugged into the spreadsheet courtesy of the invaluable resources over at the site cagematch. This was really happening!
I think I’ve answered a lot of the questions I proposed up above – but I want to end by briefly talking about the two companies I’ll be spending in inordinate amount of time with these next few years, and also the general negativity in the wrestling fan culture zeitgeist. I think in the heyday of this blog NHO while it fair to say were strict graders, perhaps too hung up on “work rate” or execution over emotion, and prone to the occasional crossing of the line with a vulgar button-pushing joke or three, we genuinely loved wrestling and that shined through. We were never mean-spirited or cantankerous, nor negative at least without careful consideration. So much of the negativity in wrestling culture, especially in the online realm, has kept me at bay. I find it hard to find podcasts or sites where bellyaching and bitching isn’t the norm. And on Twitter and such the prospects are even dimmer. I often feel like an outlier wanting to just enjoy this crazy hobby that is wrestling. I can tell you, in the hours of study I’ve already endeavored into this project, that these are really fun, entertaining shows, and full of so many talented performers I have heaps of respect for. I’m not here to look down my nose or bash stuff for fun or laughs. I’m looking for the good and really hoping if this project takes off to point people to a lot of stuff they may have previously slept on or ignored outright. So put on your papier-mâché Don West mask and join me on this adventure!

Ring of Impact #1 (Season 1) will kick off on the blog this Thursday, February 1st.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

NXT 3/1/22 S16E9

1. Tommaso Ciampa and Bron Breakker vs. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler - 5

Nice touch with Ciampa wearing '90's style Steiners trunks while teaming with the Dog Faced Gremlin's kid. Match started with a brawl in aisle. Tepid bump into a row of trainee plants in 1st row disguised as moribund fans. Good opener but shy of recommendable status (6 and < on the NHO scale).

2. Wendy Choo and Dakota Kai vs. Persia Pirotta and Indi Hartwell - Quarterfinals of Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic - 3

Choo and Kai odd pairing. Pajamas gimmick would have fit in Wrestling is Fun! promotion. And if you were at their event Don't Eat the Green One in '14 I may have found your wallet. Kinda liked the fin. Wendy did a Vaderbomb off top followed by Dakota doing a Mushroom Stomp. 

3. Amari Miller vs. Lash Legend - 2
4. Gunther vs. Solo Sikoa - 6

Former partners implode. I seek commode. 

Great chops by Gunther ‘natch. Splash off apron by Solo on the floor had me reconsidering junior Uso/Uce. Sikoa's undefeated streak was ended here. 

5. Harland vs. Draco Anthony - 1
6. Cora Jade and Raquel Gonzalez vs. Yulisa Leon and Valentina Feroz - Quarterfinals of Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic - 4

Ugly squash. Draco looks like the younger brother from My Brother and Me grown up. Dee Dee Parker can bump. Who knew?

Cora looks like the goth girl in high school who’d smoke outside the building but appeared awkward like she hadn't developed how to hold a cigarette. Raquel called up to WWE proper when she looked the worst of anyone in this bout. 

7. Andre Chase vs. Von Wagner - 2
8. Carmelo Hayes (c) vs. Pete Dunn - NXT North American Championship match - 5

Wagner has some caveman DNA. Seeing Chase in lame collegiate gimmick makes me miss Bravado Bros. so much.  

Fairly solid outing by both in the closer. Would have liked more grit and back-and-forth to propel it beyond solid yet unremarkable TV main event. Match a week prior that Hayes had with Cameron Grimes was indefatigably better. Chuck Austin was wincing in his motorized scooter watching that finish.