Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2019/04/07/bennos-review-wrestlemania-week-day-1-2-highlights/
By: Richard “Benno” Benson
This year has been the most stacked WrestleMania weekend yet with an incredible line-up of independent shows streaming live as they happen across services like FITE.tv, IndependentWrestling.tv and Club WWN. Richard Benson of POST Wrestling’s British Wrestling Experience looks at some highlights from the 2nd day of the weekend.
WrestleMania Weekend Live Streaming Highlights (Day One)
IndependentWrestling.TV Family Reunion
Day one of WrestleMania weekend kicked off with IndependentWrestling.TV’s Family Reunion card from White Eagle Hall. Running head to head with EVOLVE, the event was an easy watch, with the show being a largely light-hearted showcase for various promotions under the GCW Collective banner. The show began strongly with a fun European Rules 2 out of 3 falls Orange Cassidy vs. Jonathan Gresham match that blended the comedy stylings of the former with the technical skill of the latter, making for a memorable opener.
Other highlights of the card included an ACTION Wrestling showcase match between Fred Yehi and company champion AC Mack and the latest entry to the series between Gary Jay and Jake Parnell that saw creative use of chairs, doors and the turnbuckle hook, for a brutal and memorable Last Man Standing main event, adding to their collection of matches that has spanned promotions like Freelance Wrestling and Black Label Pro.
GCW Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport
Arguably one of the most anticipated card’s of the weekend, the Matt Riddle version of Bloodsport set the tone last year for the weekend and it once again delivered here, this time curated by Josh Barnett. Taking place in front of a hot crowd, with matches under UWFI style rules, highlights included another fantastic technical encounter for Jonathan Gresham this time going up against Big Japan Death Match wrestler Masashi Takeda. Takeda, impressed with his own grappling skills before the match escalated to some brutal strike exchanges in its closing stages. Other notable matches on the undercard included Andy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson, with “Every Time I Die” guitarist Williams particularly impressing in his secondary vocation, as the two exchanged big bombs reminiscent of a heavyweight MMA fight, before eventually going to ground for a less impressive, but still heated grappling exchange, also reminiscent of a heavyweight MMA fight.
The big highlights of the show, came in its last two matches with Timothy Thatcher and Hideki Suzuki demonstrating sweet science with the purest example of the shoot style form on the show in the semi-main event. Also delivering was Minoru Suzuki and Josh Barnett in the main event with a heated battle that escalated both in violence and tempo throughout, both in it’s allotted time and the additional 5 minutes added when the match went to a no contest. This was the first truly must-see match of the weekend that blended both the pure “shoot” style with more dramatic traditional pro wrestling elements to great effect.
Less impressive was Frank Mir’s short one-sided mat based encounter with Dan Severn, that was more notable for it’s post-match, with Bellator fighter Mir challenging WWE’s Brock Lesnar (in the presence of a balcony dwelling William Regal) a match as unlikely to happen at WWE’s Summerslam as it is to appear on next year’s Bloodsport card.
WxW America Ist Wunderbar
wXw’s foray into the American market boasted a very wXw-looking card with many regulars of the German promotion, as well as referee Tassilo Jung, Ring Announcer Thomas Giesen and Commentators Jeremy Graves and Sebastian Hollmichael adding to the authentic feel of the show.
In-ring highlights included a hard-hitting main event between Shigehiro Irie and company champion Bobby Gunns. This was Gunns’ first defense of the title he won from Absolute Andy at wXw’s 16 Carat Gold tournament and was a solid match to begin the champions first reign. Also impressive on the card were tag team champions Aussie Open of Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis against The Work Horsemen team of Anthony Henry and JD Drake in a heated tag team semi-main event and recent 16 Carat Gold tournament winner Lucky Kid against David Starr on the undercard.
Starr was particularly good, using the frustration of his character’s multiple losses to WALTER both in the match and in a must-see fiery promo afterward to cement a heel turn as he quit the promotion referencing both WALTER’s match with Pete Dunne at NXT Takeover and WWE’s recent controversies highlighted by HBO’s John Oliver.
WrestleCon’s annual Supershow began in delayed fashion due to issues with the local athletic commission meaning the show started thirty minutes late. The late start, some technical difficulties, and a long intermission created a mixed bag of a show, with some longer multi-person matches on the card being particular lowlights.
When it hit, however, it hit big, with the much-hyped main event of Bandido vs. Will Ospreay delivering in spades in a blistering high flying encounter that saw both wrestlers bring their A-game and delivering a match worthy of its billing. Other matches worth a repeat viewing included a fast-paced Pentagon vs. Fenix match, Dragon Lee vs. El Barbaro Cavernio and likely one of Shane Strickland’s last matches for the foreseeable future on the independent scene against Zack Sabre Jnr.
Also of note was the performance of highflyer Arez in a strong three-way match against Robbie Eagles and Flamita, and Jushin Thunder Liger’s surprise appearance teaming with X-Pac and Hurricane Helms against heel faction Revolt! of Caleb Konley, Jake Manning and Zane Riley, in an entertaining, but long match.
Best Of The Rest
Elsewhere on Day One, Japanese promotion DDT delivered a unique, authentic Coming To America show highlighted by a fantastic Weapons Rumble match between Sanshiro Takagi and MAO, featuring a slew of weapons from storage boxes and a bicycle, to a Toilet and appearances from “Hulk Hogan” and “Chinsuke Nakamura”. AIW’s Slumber Party Massacre featured a brutal Submit Or Surrender match between John Bishop and Dominic Garrini that has received worthy praise, with ISW’s Boner Jam IV also delivering in the violence stakes with a stellar main event “Fans Bring The Lightly Covered Toy Blocks” match (named thus due to threatened legal action by Lego Group) between Matt Tremont, Nick Gage, Jeff Cannonball and Andy Starr. Also under the radar was Impact Wrestling’s United We Stand show that included a strong X-Divison match between Rich Swann and Flamita and an Ultimate X match where Ace Austin stood out from the crowd with some death-defying big spots.
WrestleMania Weekend Live Streaming Highlights (Day Two)
Rev Pro UK: Live In New York
Rev Pro UK’s offering was the latest in a line of shows from the WrestleCon contingent where any noise generated by the crowd seemed to dissipate into the walls of the Hilton Midtown Ballroom. A tougher watch on VOD as a consequence, this was another long feeling show by Mania weekend standards, unusually stacked in the first half, with the Aussie Open v.s Roppongi 3K main event, while good, seemingly existing mainly to give live fans the option to leave early for that night’s NXT Takeover.
The show’s highlight therefore came early, with the star-studded tag of Will Ospreay and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre Jnr being the strongest match of the night, even if very much feeling a “New Japan Road To” main event as setup for the G1 Supercard’s Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jnr British title match. Other highlights on the show included a solid David Starr vs. Tomohiro Ishii match, a surprisingly competitive matchup of Chris Brookes and Jonathan Gresham vs. the New Japan USA Dojo’s Clark Connor and Karl Fredericks and a fun four-way match with Carlos Romo, A-Kid, Flamita and Kid Lykos, where the Team Whitewolf duo of A-Kid and Romo particularly shined.
Though good enough as a standalone card, unlike other foreign promotions efforts this weekend this did not feel a particularly genuine Rev Pro experience, or a show of much significance for the promotion, with many of its regulars, either left at home, or bizarrely in the case of Rev Pro Women’s Champion Zoe Lucas – in New York, but not booked here.
GCW Joey Janela’s Spring Break Three: Part One
Without a doubt, Game Changer Wrestling has been the clear success story of WrestleMania weekend these last three years. After a blow-away Bloodsport show on Friday, it was now over to its flagship Spring Break show – a product of the warped mind of its curator Joey Janela, to repeat the success of previous years. While there are now pretenders on the scene, this card showed that there’s nothing quite like the real thing with highlights including Joey Janela’s own frenetic comeback match against the also returning from injury Marco Stunt opening the show.
Other big hits included a fantastic innovative six-way scramble with Jungle Boy, A-Kid, Australian Suicide, Jake Atlas, Slim J, and Shane Mercer, where Mercer, the “Iron Demon” stood out with some impressive spots including a rope-walk Death Valley Driver that has to be seen to be believed. The show also featured a “match” that pitted the Invisible Man against Invisible Stan in an incredible piece of performance art by referee Bryce Remsburg – assisted by both the crowd, and the excellent commentary of Dave Prazak. The show also featured a superb open challenge match where Tony Deppen in a strong heel performance, plucked “audience member” Dustin Thomas from the crowd, with the double amputee nicknamed “No Legs”, wowing the crowd with incredible spots including both a 619 and 450 splash from the top rope.
Whilst the matches elsewhere on the card such as Orange Cassidy vs. Taka Michinoku and Nick Gage vs. Shinjiro Otani didn’t quite hit those highs, it was a show that, depending on your own tastes, had no clear duds and even the blood, guts, light tubes and scissor boards of the Masashi Takeda and Jimmy Lloyd deathmatch main event, couldn’t hurt the undeniable feelgood mood coming out of the show.
NXT Takeover: New York
WWE’s first offering of the weekend was a strong addition to Takeover canon, continuing the record of there quite genuinely, never having been a bad NXT Takeover. The show featured a little of everything from the big spots and genuine emotion in post-match of War Machine vs. Ricochet and Aleister Black, to a strong second match of Matt Riddle vs. Velveteen Dream where the charisma of the competitors helped tell a quite different story altogether, without being dwarfed following such a strong opener.
Elsewhere on the show, Pete Dunne’s record NXT UK title reign ended in another strong match that was more 50/50 that may have been reasonably expected in WALTER’s NXT-proper debut, but that was still effective in establishing NXT UK’s new big bad. Shayna Baszler’s successful defense of the NXT Women’s Title was the show’s only weak spot, with a skippable match against Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Kairi Sane being the only thing on the show that could reasonably be described as a low point – that being dependant on where you stand on what felt a polarising, but clearly crowd-pleasing main event.
A decisive match that took a long while to get going with two of the three total falls being considerably forgettable, it rallied big time in the third fall as Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano whipped the live crowd into a frenzy with drama and near falls aplenty, that even biggest distracters of the “epic” NXT Takeover main event style could not reasonably deny.
Best Of The Rest
Elsewhere, Joey Ryan’s Penis Party paid tribute to Joey Janela’s Spring Break in tone, if not in quality, with a hodgepodge of a card that still featured a satisfying Tim Thatcher vs David Arquette squash match, with the former WCW champion and Scream actor being a willing victim to being stretched by the wXw academy Coach. STARDOM’s latest US show, on the other hand, featured a card hampered by both production woes (at time of writing the main event is still yet to be uploaded to FITE) and some truly abysmal commentary that dragged down even the anticipated Wonder Of Stardom Title Match between Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita. Elsewhere CHIKARA’s Once Upon A Beginning show featured plenty to satiate it’s hardcore fans and was highlighted by a very good ladder match pitching Dasher Hatfield vs. Mr. Touchdown Mark Angelosetti.
Black Label Pro’s Adventures In Wrestling featured a fun Orange Cassidy vs. Bryan Alvarez match (fun, dependant on the number of times you’ve seen Orange Cassidy’s match this weekend) and WWN’s usually highly regarded Supershow was a low key affair, with it’s two big 6 Man Tag Team matches of Shane Strickland, Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. Jurn Simmons, Marius Al Ani & Alexander James and Tetsuya Endo, Soma Takao & Daisuke Sasaki vs. AR Fox, Leon Ruff & Adrian Alanis being strong matches that did not quite hit the high bar of previous Mania weekend 6 man tags.
Richard Benson co-hosts the British Wrestling Experience here on POST Wrestling. You can find his other podcast GRAPPL Spotlight at Grappl.podbean.com where he is providing daily podcasts covering all of the shows streaming this WrestleMania Weekend.