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ECWA Super 8 LOOK-BACK Reviews: 2001, 2002 and 2003!

by on April 28, 2011

I’ll reveal why I decided to lump in 2003 at the end of the review…enjoy this look back at the ECWA Super 8 as we gear up for this weekend’s big event on iPPV!

2001:

A little bit of back-story before I start. A wee-bit twelve-year-old Tom got a computer on Christmas of 2000. Before this, he had heard of this mythical internet and how all this gossip and news about professional wrestling (which he cherished very much) could be found there. He had heard about sites like Scoops and 1Wrestling through local newspaper hotlines and ECW TV, but that Christmas morning, he got to lay his eyes on this vast amount of information for the VERY FIRST TIME! It excited Tom almost as much, if not more, than the vast amounts of disgusting pornography he would devour and titillate himself with on that same computer throughout his teenage years. It was an interesting time to be first having internet access, as WCW and ECW were both on the verge of death. Tom kept up with the news, as both companies hit their graves. However, even in the dying days, Tom was supportive of WCW through their internet radio show, WCW Live. Tom also was an avid fan of an internet radio show called Wrestling Observer Live, hosted by a fellow he’d come to love and lust after, David Meltzer.

On these shows, occasionally discussion of wrestlers Tom had never heard of would come up. Names like Reckless Youth, AJ Styles, Air Paris, and others would be spoken of, but Tom had no venue in which to see these gentlemen apply their craft. Fast forward to the summer of 2001. The young boy was bored with wrestling; the internet had told him that the WCW invasion angle that WWE was putting on was a flop, and so he believed it also. He recalled back to these names in which he had heard, mythical men who were very good at performing their art. Tom was familiar with Styles and Paris from their brief national television run with WCW and had seen one hour of NWA Wildside television at his grandmother’s house in December of ’00. However, some of the Northeastern-based competitors, like Reckless Youth and a new, emerging star named Low Ki were off of his radar…until he used a lovely search engine called Yahoo to track down that they had competed on this show called the East Coast Wrestling Association’s Super 8 tournament. Tom saw all these names he had heard of, but never seen, and went ecstatic! He found a page to buy the videotape of the event, then saved two weeks’ worth of lunch money to pay the $25.00 (including shipping) to obtain the tape.

My friends…this is the first time I’ve seen my first independent show on tape since I was in middle school.

(For the record, I might’ve seen NWA Wildside’s Freedom Fight 2001 on tape before this, but they were right around the same time and I honestly forget which tape came in first.)

(More after the cut…)

**************

First off, we have this video from the ECWA, thanking fans for being plentiful at this show they ran at a HYOOOOOGE arena in Delaware with Michael Cole as the ring announcer. The road has owned Mr. Cole.

The footage they got for Spanky in the opening video must have come directly from WWE, as it includes the timecode at the bottom.Also, poor Billy Fives. The dude can’t catch a break…between being the worst mystery opponent ever at CZW once to having a botched frog splash as his one big highspot in the opening video for the biggest show he’d worked in his life to this point. The video is REALLY fuzzy, but I think Tony Kozina’s wrestling Jack Evans in his clip.

Isn’t there a story that Low Ki had a band or something that he recorded his own entrance music for? Either way, I miss his old Mortal Kombat mess of a song.

Low Ki immediately tries to cement himself as the biggest lunatic in the tournament by busting out a nutso TAKA spaceman dive after doing a really awkward 619 fakeout. Billy Fives would be the most ineffective boxer ever if this was a shoot; the guy’s thrown about 400 punches and throwing them so fast that Ki can’t bump to sell them. It’s weird, because most guys’ execution, even if they simplify their moveset, improves as they gain experience. Ki’s is just as pinpoint and crisp as it is today and for the most part, he’s doing the same stuff. With Ki not changing as much as most guys, it led to a moment where they were doing a fish-out-of-water deal and I was disappointed that Ki didn’t counter a sunset flip with the double stomp. The match went a little too long (mostly because it seemed like they were told to go out there and showcase Ki’s offense and then Fives decided he needed to get shit in before Ki could finish), but as it was, a really awesome way to introduce people to Low Ki. The only thing I would’ve changed is bringing in someone else from the Doghouse to job to Ki in round one, as they would’ve known Ki’s stuff better and hopefully would’ve been more willing to just let Ki show off.

Next up is “Tornado” Tony Kozina (back when he was able to grow hair) against Jayson Reign. Kettner seemed to recruit from the same regions that had worked for him before, as we have Reign from Chicago (where he found Chris Daniels and Vic Capri) and both Fives and Mike Sullivan from Florida (where he got Scoot Andrews). Meltzer would’ve loved Reign; his nickname was “State of the Art”. The ladies LOVE them some Jayson Reign; the squeals during his entrance were ridiculous. After some back-and-forth at the beginning (including Kozina becoming this year’s recipient of the “Takes a Really Good Buckle” award since Jeff Peterson isn’t there to be nominated), Reign tries to out-crazy Ki by landing on his face doing the Undertaker dive. The Tony Kozina in this match is a million times better than the Tony Kozina that worked as a job guy on ROH TV last year, as he’s probably 15-20 pounds lighter, a lot more mobile, and he’s got his basics down better than 90% of all the guys on any of these discs. Plus, I’m happy to announce that his rana from the top that sends the opponent over the top and to the floor looked gorgeous, which I was scared of since he botched it majorly the few times I’ve seen him try it in recent years and it was the one highspot in the entire tournament that stayed in my head for years afterwards. It made SUCH an impact on me that, years later, even though I’d only seen him on this one show, I tried championing pleas to get him into promotions that flew guys in just so I could see it again. I loved me 2001 Tony Kozina. Reign won, and they lost the crowd by going too dramatic with the nearfalls, but yet I don’t think they worked too hard for their spot on the card. Weird conundrum; I guess you’d have to see it.

Next up is, from how I remember it going, will end up as probably my favorite first-round bout in tournament history, between the American Dragon and Spanky. Spanky gets mad props for coming out to “Quality Control” by Jurassic 5, one of the few rap songs in history that I like. It took these two literally no time to start beating the living dogshit out of each other. Like, the stories about Shawn Michaels laughing at these two goofs, hitting each other for real during practice, have to be true, because these two seem to be having WAY too much fun hurting each other. Spanky slips trying for a quebrada early, so Dragon stomps him for it. More guys should do the spot where you do the wristlock, roll onto your back, and then snap the elbow with the ankle grapevine; Dragon just did it and it reminded me of how painful that looks. In fact, that one move started the whole story of the match, which is Dragon targetting the arm so that Spanky can’t do his springboards that he’d be winning the match with so far. Kendrick does 90% of his comeback arm-free (he did go back to the second-rope springboard bodypress that he had tried earlier); lots of dropkicks and such. They’re closing up on the big, dramatic end and I’m so happy Danielson doesn’t do his Super Crazy-style top rope moonsault to the floor anymore. He landed it in such a way that it looked like he blew out both ankles. Danielson reversed a Sliced Bread #2 into a Dragon Suplex transitioned right into Cattle Mutilation for the win. The crowd didn’t react to the first half of that chain since the SB#2 wasn’t an over finish to the crowd, but the Cattle Mutilation got a reaction for being so different for the time. One HELL of a match; edging the Reckless/Kidman match as my favorite Super 8 match yet. They had a couple of things to work on (mostly consistent selling of limbs and making it look like they’re trying to win during near-falls), but man ALIVE were Danielson and Spanky ahead of the game for their experience level.

Mike Sullivan against Reckless Youth is up next and I remember, even as a middle-schooler with no clue, absolutely hating this match and Sullivan for being boring. Hopefully I can appreciate it more now, especially since I appreciate Reckless more now. It’s immediately noticable that Mike Sullivan is a great athlete on his feet, but his up-down speed from the mat to his feet is horrendous and Reckless seemed to really struggle trying to perform La Magistral to him. Sullivan seems to not have very good cardio; he’ll be able to do a move or two, but need to go RIGHT into a hold. Sullivan is, by far, the biggest callback to the earlier shows, where most of the crew was big and into getting discovered by WWF on their terms, because he’s VERY much like a shorter version of a modern developmental guy, with shitty, bland offense and horrible body selling. This match is the equivalent to the stereotypical jock in speech class who has to give a long speech and has nothing to say, so he fills up the time with lots of generics and vague wordings. These two have NOTHING to do, but lots of time to do it in. And of course, to make the match worse, they cut to an audioless, EVEN BLURRIER hardcam about twenty miles away from the ring. Reckless wins by trying that fireman’s carry roll into a bridge pin that Skayde does, but Sullivan somehow spiked himself on his head landing. I really don’t like myself for sitting through that match.
We’re still on this awful camera with no audio, as Jayson Reign faces Low Ki next. Ki puts over Reign huge at the beginning by having Reign mirror his strikes and block them all. Of course, after a nutty tope con hilo with crazy air by Reign, Ki sinks the hooks in and starts eating Reign alive, tearing him apart with kicks and suplexes. Of course, they then prove my statement stupid, as Reign does a cool looking reversal of a Low Ki monkey flip that somehow ends in a top rope sunset flip bomb. OH CRAP LOW KI JUST DID THE AR FOX 450 DIVE! SHOOOOOOOOT! That looked awesome. Of course, since it’s 2001, they had to throw in a brief reminder that they aren’t as good as I think they are by doing the Eddy/Rey Splash Mountain rana as a transition. Hot end to the match, as Ki rolls through what’s now known as Shellshock/Mike Knox’s finish to hit the Ki Krusher. It’s weird, as they did things that would DRIVE ME NUTS if guys did them today, but the whole “guys seemed hungrier” back then thing is almost shining through, as these dudes were intense without being all Chris Dickenson Poopy Face Monster-like. I dunno. I’m rambling…

HERE WE GO! The match I’ve been waiting for on this disc…Reckless Youth against American Dragon. Dragon did a badical move early on where he had Reckless on his stomach in a surfboard, but kept kicking Reckless’s head to taunt him. This match, more than any in the tournament’s history so far, seems like a BATTLE. The grimacing, the struggling for holds, the strikes…it’s beautiful. I wish Danielson would break out his Gargoyle bridging suplex now and again because, while it looked slightly dumb chained together with a Northern Lights suplex, it looks awesome stand-alone. Reckless definitely seems a step off from his prime, but the dude’s inventive in a way that isn’t all stupid and Chris Kanyon-in-1998-esque. The crowd is about as up for this as the Inferno/Diamond match, but in a completely different way, if that makes sense. That crowd REALLY wanted Inferno Kid to come back and win, whereas this crowd’s just going nuts for the crowd being intense and awesome. In terms of holding up, this match was put together in a way that was VERY ahead of its time, but still better than 80% of all matches like that these days. For instance, it ended at the PERFECT time. There was no use for going on beyond Danielson’s top rope armbreaker into the Cattle Mutilation. The match got a standing ovation. Just a lovely, lovely match and Dragon’s made this the best Super 8 yet.

Ki vs Danielson in what, I believe, was their first meeting ever, is the finals. Outside of the very top end guys at the style, no one even these days is working lock-ups like these two are. AND JEEZ, these guys are kicking the holy hell out of each other. I’m glad to see it’s in really safe places where lots of fat is stored up, but they are hitting each other like they’re fat kids and the other one is a pinata. Between the brightness of the lights and the red of both Dragon’s pants and the ropes, the camera’s kind of going nuts. Danielson just did a front chancery where Ki’s leg was wrapped up in Danielson’s in such a way that Ki was touching his head with his own heel. RIDICULOUS. The one thing I like about this match is how they’re working to make both the tournament look that much tougher and the trophy that much more important. They’re going out full-boar with their strikes and moves, but they’re also going down for much lesser moves and strikes than normal and taking longer to get up, selling the exhaustion of the night. Ki just impressed the hell out of me by climbing to the top rope with one leg to sell Danielson’s legwork, which takes a crapload of balance…and he just blew away the 450 dive with a PHOENIX SPLASH DIVE TO THE FLOOR. WOW.

If I were Scott Keith, I’d be going on about bonzo-gonzo or Canadian Violence or something. Danielson’s reversal of the Tidal Crush into the Dragon Suplex looked INSANE. Ki got the ropes on the Cattle Mutilation…for a match that happened nine years ago, I’m REALLY into this stuff. Danielson’s roaring elbow might be my favorite version of that move ever; he looks like he PLOWS through the dude. He goes for it again, Ki hits the Ki Krusher and rolls it into a SICK DRAGON CLUTCH where he lays back with it and GETS THE WIN! That ending was like a REALLY awesome TKO in MMA where the guy gets the first big strike, the crowd comes up realizing it might end, then he gets a couple more strikes in and it ends for the crowd to go BERSERK for it. THAT WAS AWESOME. Seriously, such a freakin’ great match. That was a level above any other Super 8 match before it and you really could feel that the style of top-level independent wrestling nationwide was being changed. If you’ve never seen that match, watch it NOW. No freakin’ excuses.
Random thought: it sucks that Danielson got cut when he did, because when they did the Nexus battle royal on NXT that one week, they probably would’ve had Danielson work Ki in a singles and given it time and done some other tag to close out the show.
Yeah, that’s the best of these shows I’ve seen yet and the most important-feeling, in that you could really feel the guard changing and the style going from guys that were big (but small for WWF/WCW) doing ECW-type cruiserweight stuff at best to guys working the hybrid of Japanese juniors and Mexican flyers’ style of wrestling that groups like ROH were founded on. If you’re a fan of modern indy wrestling and aren’t up on the history of the style, you really need to see this show.

2002:

It looks like the video quality finally picks up (as I’m guessing they’re using the cameras RF bought for ROH), and we have a package of promos with the tournament wrestlers straight out of Pro Wrestling Elite, including wacky color effects for each promo (Red having a headache-inducing infared filter, a brutal TV effect straight out of Sony Vegas for Matt Stryker, etc.). Xavier just quoted RAMSES, “the great Egyptian”, as he called him. Pepper Parks cutting a promo like his cheerleading camp was Greg Jackson’s MMA camp or something, completely without ironic tone, was amazing. Bobby Roode with a flat-top looks bizarre. Donovan Morgan alludes to never working an American independent again, so the end result is even weirder.

THIS IS AWESOME. They’re literally showing commercials on the big screen before the show. Like, (I’m guessing) Doug Gentry is shooting the big screen from the floor, as they show commercials (legitimate-looking ones, not just local used car salesmen in front of a green screen). Also, I know Quack’s talked about having the Law & Order voiceover guy help do a ripoff deal for Chikara, but it looks like ECWA beat him to it by eight years. Obviously not with the same guy, but after the commercial, we get a “Previously in the ECWA” package. I’m semi-offended that Billy Fives somehow scored a regular gig, let alone got the ECWA belt, off of the lame performance he had in 2001. He wasn’t AWFUL, but he was probably bottom fourth of the guys last year.

They bring out Low Ki in a shockingly-stylish suit, as he’s this year’s Super 8 host. It almost makes me wish they had done the Guest Host Battle Royal for NXT season 2, like Otunga won on season 1, and Ki would’ve won. Charlie Haas is the co-host in a not-so-stylish workout pants get-up. The dude is GIGANTIC. Ki and Haas side-by-side look like a Make-a-Wish kid had really low expectations in who he met. Charlie gets to do a short speech about his brother and how much he and Russ loved working in ECWA. Note to anyone who cuts a promo ever: follow Charlie’s lead and HOLD THE MICROPHONE AWAY FROM YOUR MOUTH. Don’t eat the damn thing; it’s not made of chocolate. The guys come out to get their medals and do the photo-op. It might be lame to say after the London & Kendrick shoot pointed it out so clearly, but Jamie Knoble’s Benoit worship is absurd. He stole the man’s damned eyeballs. YES! AJ was still coming out to VAST’s “Touched” then. A FAR superior song than the song about respecting the other guy. AJ’s praying during the national anthem and it seems a bit uncomfortable.

Roode/Red is first up. Bobby Roode being called “The Natural” with his body then had to be a rib. It’s a good thing that Kettner had no rival promoters, because I seriously think a rival promoter could’ve believably told the cops this was child abuse. Roode just KILLED Red while throwing him across the ring on a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Red’s bumping for Roode is AWESOME; Bobby looks like a killer. I give Kettner HUGE amounts of credit; this was the perfect first round match for both guys. Roode, who at this point was a completely bland, generic guy who’s too small to be a heavyweight but far too big to be an independent junior heavyweight, gets to do a ton of death-kill offense that he normally wouldn’t do to get himself over, and Red gets to be the incredible sympathetic babyface that, even moreso than his moves, is what he’s best at in wrestling. The crowd’s REALLY hot for this too; they’re chanting Red’s name as Roode beats on him, cheering his hope spots like it’s their last hope…it’s great. Red knocks Roode off the top before a superplex, then hits the Infared and Red Star Press, without any real false finishes, for the win. This was a lovely, lovely match. Kind of a smoke-and-mirrors job for Roode, who probably would’ve been Mike Sullivan-level without Red there to eat his stuff, but a VERY enjoyable match.

Pepper Parks/Donovan Morgan is number two for the night. Parks had gotten some hype in the magazines and online for being really good at the gay cheerleader gimmick, but he’s noticeably trying to play it down, which is weird since he still came out with his megaphone and has his hair in pigtails. They’re trying to do the same general story as Red/Roode, only Morgan is being more aggressive with his mat wrestling instead of tossing around Parks. However, Parks SUCKS at selling and there’s no real reason to get behind a guy who takes six minutes of Donovan Morgan’s offense and then walks around like nothing happened. Morgan wins with a killer double-underhook piledriver, but it was a pretty dull match.

Up next is Matt Stryker against Jamie Knoble, which should be good since they were working each other a TON in the HWA at the time. Knoble seems insanely motivated to do shit to prove he’s not going to half-ass, or something. For instance, a dude under a WWF contract should not really be taking suplexes over the top, to the floor, and faceplanting off of them. He also did this really awesome spot where he had Stryker up in a surfboard, then popped him off and turned it into a waistlock bridge. The intensity of Knoble’s work and how hard and fast he’s moving is almost overshadowing the match; this dude is a machine. He’s moving very, very much like a pre-neck surgery Benoit, for known reasons. This match, if worked a little slower, wouldn’t have been a whole lot of fun to watch since the actual work was a lot better than the story, but they worked INSANELY hard and rough, which gave it a boost for those of us like me with short attention spans. Like I keep gushing about, Knoble was shockingly great (not that he isn’t a great wrestler, but WWE guys on indy shows usually don’t put in efforts like this on independent shows). Knoble over.

If there’s one thing TNA helped AJ Styles out with, it’s presence. The dude just kind of popped out of the curtain and hurkey-jerkied his way to the ring. Anyway, it’s AJ against Xavier. Out of all the matches on the show so far, this is the closest to the style that Spanky/Reckless/Ki/Danielson tried to employ last year. This was EXACTLY how you’d imagine a 2002 Xavier/AJ match to go, minus the advantage they had in ROH of Xavier’s great heel run. My favorite thing about this whole match was a strike flurry Xavier had towards the finish, with some awesome Muay Thai clinch knees into a running forearm that AJ sold like a knockout. AJ won with the Styles Clash…I mean, they worked hard, but I didn’t see a whole lot special about this match that you wouldn’t have gotten from a bunch of other AJ matches that year (AJ/Ki in Philly, the AJ/David Young series at Wildside, AJ/Xavier at Night of the Butcher, even the AJ/Daniels touring indy match from TPI ’02).

And now we hit a milestone…the first non-tournament match included on any of the discs. Unfortunately, it includes Billy Fives, but you can only win so many. I guess he’s not the champion, he just stole the belt or something. He also looks a LOT more ethnic and less Johnny Swinger than he did on the VHS-rip of ’01. You know what’s not interesting? Scoot Andrews and Billy Fives brawling. You know what this match had chalk-loads of? Scoot Andrews and Billy Fives brawling! It’s like they sent out two FCW guys and told them “Do what you think ECW is!”. Fives’ shinguards totally look like catcher’s shinpads. They head into the locker room and I’m assuming it’s pre-taped since there’s only one camera at ringside and it’s filming the shot of Scoot and Fives brawling on the big screen. Okay, this match might not be the biggest waste, because it led to this AWESOME comedy spot where Mr. Ooh La La slipped on a puddle of water that Scoot and Fives left in their wake and the crowd WENT INSANE with laughter. I love it. Now, they’re back in the ring and doing all of their favorite Shawn and Razor spots. Is this more or less masturbatory than HHH cosplaying Flair matches? Now, they’re just meandering. They probably thought they were just leaving time in-between spots to digest things, but they’re really doing nothing and getting lots of time to do it. Oh hey look, a series of unprotected chairshots to the head! It’s like they were able to figure out time travel, speed to this moment now, and figure out the one thing that could make me hate this match more. Scoot grabs the belt and wins after KO’ing Fives with a chair and almost kills himself on the wire they have set up to hang the belt on. Thank goodness it ended.

AJ Styles against Red in a semi-final match is up…I can certainly say, a minute in, that this is the most impressively-acrobatic match in tournament history so far. There’s not a ton of substance so far, but I wasn’t expecting much. They kind of screwed up a Code Red early, but AJ showed surprising arm strength by hooking Red’s arms in between his armpits, hurking Red up behind his back, and somehow giving himself a Code Red that didn’t look nearly as phony as described. Red showed shocking veteran instincts by jumping AJ in the ring when AJ was having trouble pulling off a dive. A fan just yelled out something that sounded like “AJ gave me a teste once!” AJ responded by giving Red a second rope Styles Clash immediately after. That was freakishly SHORT. Like, it’s almost infuriating that Fives/Scoot got over twenty minutes and this got four. I mean, it wasn’t going to be a storybook, dramatic classic, but another 5-6 minutes to build up to that Styles Clash and the reaction and buzz off of the match would’ve been crazy, probably.
Now, there’s a random cut and, for some reason, Stephen DeAngellis, Simon Diamond, Mike Modest, Gary Michael Cappetta, Dawn Marie, and (I think) Jeff Peterson are in the ring, just hanging out. The ring announcer says, “Let’s hear it for our special guests!” and then they cut to the next match. It was all of twenty seconds long. I’m almost positive they just found everyone with half of a name hanging out and made them go into the ring.

Knoble against Morgan is next. A really awkward moment early where they chopped each other, then stared VERY intensely into each other’s eyes. I’m surprised no kissing happened. Then, the wrestling got really awesome. I can’t believe Jamie Knoble, as good as he is, got this type of match out of Morgan. This is just as much, if not more, of a smoke and mirrors job than Red/Roode. Knoble seemed to wrestle his template Chris Benoit match, and whenever he needed him to, he’d have Morgan grab him and tell him “suplex’. The ending was REALLY badass; a really slick version of the Artful Dodger that Morgan reversed into a cradle for the win. I think maybe Chris Hero was the only other guy doing that spot at the time, but I don’t think he got into the British stuff until towards the end of ’02. Either way, a really ahead-of-its-time spot in how retro it was. It REALLY sucks that Knoble didn’t make the finals, because him against AJ at this point in their careers would have been off the charts.

Speaking of off the charts, we have THE SUMMIT! But first, random fans make hand signals at the camera. MR. OOH LA LA! He’s wearing the most wrinkled pants EVER! He is, in fact, the MOST SEXIEST MAN IN THE WORLD! He is stripping and I am WAY TOO EXCITED! But wait…we just saw bare butt with “LA LA” on the buttcheeks. I thought the ECWA was a family show. But wait, Ooh La La is informed that he forgot his tights! He looks down his pants, sees nothing but penis, and he’s GONE! I LOVE THIS!

(Real quick, I’m going to eat crow, as I do see a second cameraman at ringside who could’ve filmed the Fives/Scoot backstage brawl)

But now, we have Prince Nana with some manager dude. April Hunter’s boobs come in #2. April is really over in a non-“we wanna see your boobz!” way. Nana Zbyszko’s it out for forty-five seconds before grabbing April’s hair. Of course, #3 is Slyk Wagner Brown to save his lady’s day. But, she wants it to be fair all around, so Slyk Wagner Brown KILLS her with a takedown. I tried hard to think of a joke, but all I have is…if you’re ready…

Slyk Wagner Brown hitting April Hunter is funny because he would later go on to do so in real life. *rimshot*

Matt Striker and his Jaimy Coxxx pants are out next, followed by Mr. Ooh La La, who warms my heart by hitting his dong on the ring apron and laying at ringside in pain. MR. DELICIOUS! Jacey North is out next! BEST RUMBLE EVER! Who the fuck is next? Rocky Reynolds? “Dangerous Bull” Don Basher? Seriously! OH SHIT! Mr. D just faceplanted on the apron taking the clothesline over the top from April. Some Ray Gordy-looking dude in a lime green singlet just ran in and got spiked on a Sky High from Slyk Wagner Brown. JAPANESE POOL BOY! AND HE’S IN A WEDDING DRESS! THIS IS AWESOME! GAY BASHING! The entire ring just attacked the Pool Boy! Some dude who looks like Vader meets Justice Pain, named Zero, just came in. Striker took the single safest over-the-top bump to eliminate himself. Low Ki’s out, and FUCK Zero for pussing out of Low Ki’s shitty punches that he probably doesn’t even connect on. Mike Kruel is out in his Horshu Halloween costume. Did ECWA ever run Japanese Pool Boy against Low Ki? That match would have been phenomenal!

MOZART FONTAINE! We barely get to see him because the camera is focused on Pool Boy against Ki, as it should be. Mr. Ooh La La comes in AGAIN and gets tossed immediately! There’s a close-up of Pool Boy’s chest and it’s disgustingly red. The next two guys out, one bald and one with long hair, I have NO clue who they are, but Low Ki’s now chopping Mozart Fontaine like he owes him money. Ki goes to Pool Boy, as Nana tosses Fontaine. AND HERE’S THE CHEETAH MASTER! HYOOOOOOOOGE POP! WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, BOYS! But WAIT! Some dude in a mask just jumped Cheetah…and he unmasks as Bobby Roode! WHAT THE FLIP? EFF YOU BOBBY ROODE! I hate you, you poopstain!

Some guy in a bootleg Avatar (Al Snow, not James Cameron) costume snuck in during the Cheetah/Roode thing. Joel Maximo is out, and he has gear! I didn’t think they got the tights so early. Two non-descript men just tossed each other. JR Ryder comes out, but Low Ki chops the shit out of him since he isn’t just some tackling dummy on MTV, man! Inferno Kid is coming out to Tommy Dreamer’s music, and I kind of wish he blows out his knee again for doing that. Where the frick did the fat dude in the Slash costume at ringside come from? I’M SO CONFUSED! Jose Maximo is out, as Fake Avatar and Low Ki dangle on the ropes. Here comes JJ the Ring Crew Guy! The J-Team (JJ and JR) seem to have been Lance Hoyt’s biggest influences in pro wrestling. Buck Wilde is the final participant, and he is not NEARLY wacky enough for that punny of a name.

Avatar Guy has a Sultan-esque ponytail, and JUST GOT KILLED ON A J-TEAM CHOKESLAM! JEEEEEEZ! HOLY LIL’ JEEZY! Avatar Fake just got LAUNCHED over the top by the J-Team and landed on his nose! JR Ryder with the laziest Sharpshooter ever (did it in the ropes so he could just sit down). JR Ryder probably sucked, but homeboy leaned in on Low Ki’s rolling Koppo kick like a champ. After about a minute of nothing, Prince Nana randomly snaps and beats the crap out of everyone! I LOVE THIS! It comes down to Ki and Nana after the SAT and J-Team more or less pair off to jump off the Titanic. Nana’s manager distracts Low Ki, who takes an INSANE bump when Nana tosses him! NANA WINS! NANA WENT THE WHOLE WAY!

THAT MATCH WAS AWESOME! Nana is celebrating like he just went two hours against Ric Flair. This is TREMENDOUS!
Too bad it’s not the main event. But before the main event, I guess we get bonus promos from both finalists. There’s an old man with a mustache who is no Dean Hill moderating, as both finalists cut REALLY bland promos on each other (though AJ’s rambling about blowing horns and going to Heaven).

The match is in the ring. They REALLY lowered the lights, so it kind of looks like they’re wrestling in the cupboard from Indian in the Cupboard. I’ve never seen AJ Styles as much of a chain wrestler; he usually seems like he does headlocks and front facelock-type moves at the beginning of a match just because that’s what goes there. But, his chain wrestling and how crisp and quick it was, was a real eye-opener. OH SHIT…AJ just stun-gunned himself on the guardrail after missing the Shooting Styles Press dive! JEEZ! Morgan starts working over AJ’s leg.

At the core, it’s a very similar match to Danielson/Ki from 2001, but it’s completely not the same match at all. Ki/Dragon, even watching it in 2010, seemed very different and revolutionary. This match reeks of status quo. The guys are trying hard and AJ’s really killing himself, but there’s absolutely no momentum behind this match at all. I have a feeling if it was AJ/Red with an extended match time or AJ/Knoble, it’d feel a lot more like a big main event with the momentum all three guys built in the tournament. As it is, it felt very much like what it was: AJ Styles exchanging moves with the guy NOAH demanded win the tournament. I also really don’t see how they were afraid of jobbing out the NOAH guy, yet the WWE guy was willing and able to lay down in the semis. I bet Jim Kettner reeeeeeally kicks himself on this one, looking back.

Oh, and Morgan went over with a second double-underhook piledriver, if you hadn’t figured it out. An insanely anticlimatic end to what had been, minus that ladder match, a pretty damn good show.

Weighing things with interest and comparing how good they are for their era (since, quite frankly, 2001-2002 is drastically different from even 1999 or 2000), this and 2000 have are probably neck-and-neck for my favorites underneath 2001, which was a head above the rest. The majority show is good-to-great, but the low marks are REALLY low. But, for sure, if you want some of these tournaments on DVD and can only pick and choose, include this one.

2003:

No video package to open up. Oh no, instead Jim Kettner comes out with his delicious red cumber bun, followed by Charlie Haas (wearing the Team Angle jumpsuit and a WWE tag belt) to a hero’s welcome. The old man who did the interview between AJ Styles and Donovan Morgan is randomly in the ring and tries to give Haas a hug while Charlie tries climbing to the second rope to pose. Awkward. Between ’02 and ’03, I’ve noticed Charlie Haas is really good at giving emotion-filled speeches in under ninety seconds to make way for Super 8 introductions.

Now we have the photo-op…Alex Arion looks like Layla El’s son. Chance Beckett wanted to BREAK STUFF, based on the Fred Durst-fueled anthem of choice. Chris Cage (Caylen Croft of the Dudebusters) comes out, looking like his own kid brother. Sedrick Strong is up next. SEDRICK. Kettner obviously got the right Strong brother. Frankie Kazarian’s ponytail is disturbingly skinny. Chris Sabin’s little girl haircut of old is really hard to get used to after five years of the anime character hair. I forget: was Brian Kendrick under a WWE deal when he worked this Super 8? I know Chris Cage was. Paul London…looks well. Bill Apter is insanely creepy, trying to corral all of these young boys without pants into huddling close together for a pretty picture. I bet he told a number of them they could be a model in Los Angeles if they just came to his apartment after the show to take some test photos.

Kazarian against Sabin is up first; I think this is months before TNA ran the feud. I like the new, pretty blue canvas. It’s really nice to see guys out of their element, as up to this point in their careers, Kazarian and Sabin were known for cutesy offense and lots of flying. This match is a LOT slower-paced than you’d expect. Lots of tight matwork (especially for these two) and Kazarian especially is working a lot snugger than normal. I already hate this crowd; they were chanting “THAT’S AN ARMBAR!” at a Sabin wristlock and “LET’S GO FUTURE!” since, ya know, they’re BOTH named “The Future”. At least the prior one died out quickly, as it should’ve. I appreciated them turning the generic fish-out-of-water spot into a total comedy deal by reversing the same cradle over ten times, but the crowd didn’t quite get it and applauded them for it like they were watching an epic. Sabin had a neat backslide reversal for Kazarian’s Wave of the Future move. It’s devolving into 90% of all independent pro wrestling matches, with the big near-falls and such that might be inappropriate for the opener, but at least they’re selling the moves. Kazarian wins by reversing an Irish whip into the Wave of the Future. The exact definition of a solid match; it’s not something I was wow’d by and feel the need to recommend ASAP, but I enjoyed it the entire way through. Sidenote: Remember when every other guy on the indies came out to “The Best Around”? That song used to be funny.

Spanky versus Chris Cage is up next. Spanky’s entrance attire screams “teenage girl from 1996 whose feelings for MTV VJ Kennedy are just a bit too strong and confuse her”. You can tell Cage is an OVW-trained guy from that era; his offense is incredibly basic, but he isn’t doing anything wrong and knows how to tell a basic story. I think they were planning on having Kendrick get the heat on Cage, but changed it up after the crowd was into Spanky like no one’s business, as Cage did his armdraggy, babyface offense at the beginning, then after a brief transition period, he went on the heat. For a guy who got a LOT of movement in, I’ve never seen someone throw a lower top rope bodypress than Cage. Kendrick wins by popping out of a powerbomb and hitting the Sliced Bread #2 out of nowhere (climbing the middle of the ropes and not the corner, which I think looks a lot cooler when guys do it). Really solid match and Spanky’s selling was lovely. Did Trent Barreta work any of the later Super 8’s, even as Plazma? He seems like the Dudebuster more likely to succeed in the Super 8 environment.

Simon Diamond’s now randomly coming out to the Velocity theme song, which has to be some sort of inside joke. It’s scary to think, in 2010, he’s been in wrestling for twenty years (he mentioned being in wrestling for 12 years in his promo). I’ve never noticed it, but Simon sounds like a less-educated Matt Striker. He introduced a video package for Jeff Peterson, who had passed away after last year’s tournament. Simon said a few really sweet words about Peterson after the match, and then we’re onto the next match…
Chance Beckett runs the late-90’s TRL rock gauntlet by coming out to “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. I hate myself for remember the name of that song. He’s facing Sedrick Strong, who’s the more awkward and gawkier of the two. We’re maybe a minute in and Chance is bleeding REALLY badly from the chin. Chance Beckett earns my love by busting out a sunset flip bomb, then doing a bionic elbow right to Strong’s taint. Beckett follows that with the chained butterfly suplexes that Kyle O’Reilly made famous in the past year (which makes sense because Chance is a British Columbia guy that Kyle probably saw as a fan). Beckett is really awesome at bringing hurty offense (his camel clutch is that in which dreams are made of). He’s also busted out this crazy dropkick that’s kind of like when you kick a guy in the chest after he whips you off to the ropes and he bends over to telegraph a backdrop, only he took a bump with it, so the speed of the legs connecting looked insane. The close-ups of the cut on Chance’s chin are getting ridiculous. Sedrick MURDERED himself on a tope con hilo during the comeback (which also opened up Chance’s wound even further). Beckett wins the match with a Lionsault that lands like Sliced Bread #2. I fell in absolute love with Chance Beckett in this match; it’s like if Sean Sherk and one of the Diaz brothers had a kid and that kid chose pro wrestling over MMA after doing amateur wrestling his whole life.

Paul London against Alex Arion is the final first-round match to determine who has the most defined facial features of the tournament. This is around the time of Paul getting red-hot in ROH, so the bus trip crowd adores him. Obviously, London’s high-flying was a lot more crisp than his wildman style in PWG these days, but it’s really easy to forget how good Paul used to be at chain-wrestling. However, it’s not as hard to remember how good he was at dying for our amusement, as he took a front-face suplex onto the apron as I typed this. Arion’s La Tapitia into a turnbuckle facebuster was a pretty sweet move, as well. Arion REALLY struggled with a giant swing, which killed the really good momentum that this match had going. You can tell it got to Arion, as he botched a Gory Special right after that and started cussing to himself. London gets the win with a wacky leg grapevine cradle. The match started off really well, then Arion hit a few snags and it went off the hinges, which completely killed the crowd (who were going NUTS for London at the beginning).

Next up, we have the random team of Prince Nana, Mega (who STILL WRESTLES to this day for NYWC), and Ace Darling. This kind of makes sense, as if ECWA had the ROH equivalent Embassy, this would be it. I commented in a previous post that Ace Darling in years’ past looked like what Disco Inferno looks like now, but he’s literally wearing a flowery design on his long tights that I swear Disco wore in WCW. Their opponents are the Maximos and Matt Striker, who are a WAY more random pairing now than they were in 2003. Striker is Bryan Alvarez-esque with how freakin’ LOUD he is from the corner. You’d swear he was Vince Lombardi meets Bobby Heenan with the amount of strategy he was spouting from the corner. The SAT’s are being so Maximoy that the crowd’s chanting “TAG IN STRIKER!”. If there are two things Mega sucks at for being so damn big, it’s chopping and catching guys. I will say, I applaud Ace Darling for realizing his best days are behind him and capitalizing on it. I’ve never seen a man so gleeful to perform a top rope legdrop in my life. Of course, Striker tags in at the end after not touching one heel, does a REALLY overexaggerated babyface fire routine…then DDT’s a Maximo. Should’ve just worn a sign that said, “I’m turning.”. CHEETAH MASTER MAKES THE SAVE! CHEETAH RUNS WILD…until the numbers game becomes too much. This foursome is a bad time if even Cheetah Master can’t handle them. Then the J-Team (who I assume are heels) run out, act like they’re buddies with Nana…then THEY turn babyface and jump Nana’s crew. Literally, it was a mess of a situation, as relying on the Maximos to carry the workload of a match like that is just asking for a wreck, but I got to see Cheetah Master, so I liked it.

London against Kazarian is up now; Kazarian changed tights like any wrestler in a one-night tournament should. Kazarian starts the match off right by taking a nutso Sgt. Slaughter-esque bump off of an Irish whip to the corner. This match is way more X-Divisionesque than the Sabin match, which is weird since London’s the superior overall worker of the two and his thing at the time was selling. I seriously believe the only time either guy’s stayed down for more than five seconds is the double-down. This continues the streak of people REALLY being into Paul London before the match and not caring by the end. GEEZ! Kazarian just fell RIGHT on his head landing on a top rope hurricanrana deal where London held onto the top rope to block it. London won with the SSP in what was my least favorite tournament match of the night. They did a lot of things, but not one thing stuck and, with the hindsight of seeing guys like the PWG opening-match guys and such doing moves a million times crazier, it doesn’t impress much. London did get the crowd back at the end with the finish, as they were chanting “ONE MORE WIN!” during his exit.

Kendrick against Beckett is up next and this should be awesome. Beckett’s jaw looks like he’s wearing someone’s skin as a chinstrap, with the flesh-colored bandage. The amount of interesting things these guys are doing out of a simple Greco-Roman knucklelock without looking completely stupid is awesome (Beckett especially, including a REALLY cool vertical suplex variation). It’s weird how a crowd will root a guy who’s having his breakout night in front of their own eyes over a dude who was on TV and was their hero an hour earlier. Beckett has won the “smart” fans over, though they’re not changing it up like Spanky and Chris Cage did in the first round; Spanky’s still selling his pretty little butt off for Beckett, whose chin is a bloody mess again. In a way, I give them credit for not straying, but when you have a dude who’s gotten organically over in this type of one-night-only environment and has the obvious weakness that the other guy is blatantly taking advantage of (Chance’s bloody chin that Spanky’s kicking every chance he gets), you can take a chance. Chance beats Spanky clean after a Gory Special neckbreaker that he pulls off after fake-selling Spanky’s enziguri. Beckett continues to have one of the best breakout nights in show history of someone not named Low Ki or American Dragon.

MR OOH LA LA! YES! YES! YES! His manager is tiny! Like, sub 5′! THIS IS SUMMIT TIME! I’m VERY amused by Hat Guy refusing to work blue while heckling at a family show. The manager is FUMING because Mr. Ooh La La was not in the Super 8! I AGREE! Ooh La La is AWESOME at selling the fans’ chants of “HE’S TOO FAT!”. Ooh La La is nice enough to provide us with his striptease act, even though us peons don’t deserve it. This man should’ve made hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not necessarily wrestling, but somewhere, because he’s a GREAT man. You’ve never seen a man celebrate taking off his own pants more in your life than Ooh La La at the end of his dance. Japanese Pool Boy is #2 in the Summit and he is a DANCING QUEEN! A security guardwith a mullet is holding a disco ball on a stick for Pool Boy! THIS IS PRO WRESTLING. There are grown men in the crowd unironically dancing and HIGH FIVING EACH OTHER. Ooh La La has his manager hold up the disco ball so he can boogie, but Ooh La La runs into the disco ball and takes a wacky bump! THIS IS FUCKING PHENOMENAL! The match hasn’t started and already, two years in a row, the Summit has DELIVERED.
Ooh La La is taunting Pool Boy with push-ups! Roughhouse Rivera is out next…or is he? His music played, but no one came out. Oh well, this just means more of the EPIC battle between Ooh La La and Pool Boy! Some skinny Christian York-looking dude runs out and EATS a Ooh La La Yakuza kick! Another dude who looks like the Joey Matthews to that guy’s Christian York comes out and they do two fake pins with Ooh La La that NO one cared about. Then, the generic hairless men and Ooh La La bust out the triple Garvin Stomp! Mozart Fontaine, with the longest hair in pro wrestling, comes out next. The stupid-looking dude in the lime green singlet from last year is out next. They’re doing a Tower of Doom, which makes me sad since part of Ooh La La’s charm is never leaving his feet. A guy who looks like Mike Kruel off the gas is up next, and he’s all about the sad-looking forearms to the back. Mega’s out next…EFF YOU MEGA! He dumped Ooh La La! To quote Yahoo Messenger, “:(“. Zero is in next, so it’s the fat white skinhead against the fat black skinhead, as Mega cleared out the ring of everyone else except for the lime dude. Striker’s next. Trinity’s in, and since she’s all girl power-like, she stands up to Mega, who’s still having a fattie battle with Zero. EPIC moment where Zero throws a punch and Mega’s supposed to catch it, but Mega misses and Zero almost falls down. The generic-looking long-haired tag team’s randomly brawling on the floor with Striker and Ace Darling. Nana’s out now and he’s MAD over Mega not tossing Trinity, vagina or not. Nana slaps Mega and MEGA BECOMES A MAN! He exits the match on his own accord, then catches Trinity when Nana tosses her and throws her back into the ring to a HUGE pop! Trinity tosses Nana and she embraces with Japanese Pool Boy in a moment of estrogen-induced glee! A Maximo is out to attack Striker! Some generic-looking white chick is out, who immediately dumps Trinity and then is dumped by Japanese Pool Boy. Trinity almost just hit a dude in a wheelchair. TWO MAXIMOS! The ring’s cleared, so they can do their MOVE…except some dude on crutches just laid both of them out! The real Mike Kruel is out now, and I think he’s the last guy. I guess not; out comes Red! There’s not nearly enough bullshit by this point. Just lots of goofy, generic dudes doing bad punches. Some guy in leopard print just laid out the lime green dude with a baseball bat. BUT HERE WE GO! CHEETAH MASTER TO SAVE THE MATCH!…unfortunately, not for long. He got some chops in on Mike Kruel before Kruel dumped him. Kruel just Awesome Bombed Red over the top onto nothing! BUT JAPANESE POOL BOY WITH THE DROPKICK! POOL BOY WINS! POOL BOY WINS! POOL BOY WINS!

Now we IMMEDIATELY get Christopher Daniels against Japanese Pool Boy. This is WAY too intriguing.  Daniels/Pool Boy was REALLY disappointing. They did a couple of ha-ha spots, but Daniels worked it like any champion wrestling any underdog. It was a C-level HHH/Spike Dudley Raw match. Nothing much to speak of.

London/Beckett was AWESOME. Like, not nearly as revolutionary, but I thought almost as good as Ki/Danielson, in terms of best Super 8 finals. The crowd was red-hot, as they were divided in half between the ROH fans who wanted London to win and the people who Beckett had won over that night. Beckett worked over the leg to get some semblance of heat, as the bleeding chin was earning him sympathy. London’s leg was worked over to the point where, when he finally got back on offense, he could barely do the Shooting Star Press, and when he got it off, he only got a two count because it took him that long to crawl over for the pin. He ended up getting desperate and targeting the chin with a Mutalock, which Beckett passed out in. A really great match, one of my favorite London matches (even with all the great matches he’s had). It’s worth going out of your way to check out, but you should probably see the whole tournament to watch the story build.

 ********

The reason I decided to throw 2003 into today’s column is this: I found my DVD’s for 2005 and 2006 (2004 is apparently lost in the dust…) and I will be reviewing them for the site tomorrow. Last year, I’d only gotten through 2003, so these will be brand new reviews on shows I have never seen before. FRESH CONTENT! If there’s not a second 1994 WCW BLOGJECT this week, that’s why.

Until tomorrow…

-TOM.

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