Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
September 9, 2016
It was a huge weekend for the city of Cleveland. The town had been abuzz for weeks in preparation for the UFC 203 event. On September 10th, local hero Stipe Miocic would be defending his UFC Heavyweight championship for the first time at the Quickens Loans Arena. It was sizing up to be one of the biggest sporting events to take place in the city in decades. (My full report on UFC 203 can be found here.)
Playing off of the theme of the weekend, Absolute Intense Wrestling co-owners John Thorne and Chandler Biggins opted to run an event the night before on September 9th. They stacked the show with professional wrestlers who had backgrounds in MMA. Going in, it felt to be a bit of a “B” show. By the end of the evening, it was proven to be anything but.
Pedro DeLuca was the ring announcer for the evening.
Shawn Shultz v. Tim Donst v. Eric Ryan v. Facade opened the show. It was a hot match with all the spots one would expect from the four. Readers might get tired of it but I’m going to champion Eric Ryan every time he appears on a show because the dude is that good. He is a workhorse with balls to spare. The match ended when Ryan attempted a package piledriver on Facade. Before he could execute the maneuver, Donst rolled up Ryan for a two-count. Donst then powerbombed Ryan on top of Facade and scored a pinfall. I question if whether maybe Facade should actually have been the winner of this one. He just turned heel two weeks ago at the last show and a victory here would have been good momentum. Regardless, it was an entertaining opener.
Up next, BJ Whitmer (w/ The Duke) v. Dominic Garrini. This match surprised me a bit. Whitmer, traditionally a brawler, went down to the mat with the young Garrini, who had an extensive history of involvement with MMA. As the two exchanged holds, The Duke verbally broke down some jabroni hecklers at ringside as only the Duke can do. Eventually, The “Bone Collector” caught Whitmer in an armbar. Duke distracted the ref. Garrini locked on a second armbar but Whitmer leveraged him for the pin. Garrini is making nice progress. I used to be nervous watching him wrestle because I felt he would get hurt but he has clearly been training.
Student v. Teacher: Britt Baker v. Candice LeRae. This match was a banger. Usually, both women fight a cleaner style but this one had some heat and stiffness to it. LeRae hit a swinging neckbreaker off the second rope. She trapped Baker’s torso with a leg across the chest for the pin. This was the best match of the first half of the show.
“The Beast” Dan Severn v. Eddie Kingston. The crowd chants “Beast!” in unison as Severn makes his way to the ring. Severn scored early with multiple takedowns. Severn dove toward Kingston only to eat a knee. Severn with a HUGE hip toss followed by a gut wrench suplex. He rattles Kingston with a belly-to-back suplex. And then another. The Beast locks in a rear-naked choke for the submission. It was a quick match but exactly what I wanted.
Photographer: Wayne Palmer
Grado v. Colt Cabana. Grado’s entrance to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” is always money. Once in the ring he chugged water and sprayed it out of his mouth a la Triple H. He yelled to the crowd, “I want that as a GIF.” Cabana steals the camera from legendary wrestling photographer, Wayne Palmer, and begins shooting pics of Grado and DeLuca who happily mug. Finally, the Grado and Cabana settle down to business. After eating one chop too many, Grado leaves the ring demanding that Chandler Biggins book him a flight home. Cabana soon lured him back in the ring by offering him a beer. Grado casually sips the beer while he has Cabana in a headlock. Finally, Cabana catches Grado in a “Go to Sleep” knee strike to the head and scores the pinfall. This was the first meeting of the two in the United States and it was a ton of fun.
Near the end of the match, my friend Chris nudged me. He motioned to the left.
“That blonde. Is that…Noelle Foley??”
We shot over like a rocket to meet here but she was rushed to the locker room because it was time for the intermission. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to.
As we connived to meet “Mr. Foley’s baby girl,” another surprise walked in the door. Famed MMA reporter Ariel Helwani along with wrestling/MMA podcasters John Pollock and Wai Ting of the Fight Network and the Live Audio Wrestling family of shows. I chatted briefly with each. Turns out they were in town to cover UFC 203 and decided to catch some local wrestling since they had the evening free.
It was around this time that I caught the whiff of a rumor that there was a surprise in the locker room. A very big surprise.
The Jollyville Fuck-Its v. Gringo Loko/Steve Pain v. To Infinity and Beyond. This match was awesome. Loko and Pain showed up to steal the show. The JFI, as always, had something to say about it. The match started wild and only escalated. At one point, Nasty Russ stood on top of Steve Pain’s shoulders and flipped on to his opponents on the floor. This was insane and breathtaking. T-Money then destroyed Pain with the Pounce. Pain retaliated with a belly-to-back on T-Money. Pain executed a thrilling and reckless Jordan dive to the floor. Loko dropped Russ with a Spanish Fly. Pain hit a cross-armed driver on T-Money. Loko and Pain got the win. This match was great. I love the JFI and Loko and Pain are a helluva duo. This match was so exciting. I highly recommend purchasing the show to check it out.
Louis Lyndon and Matt Riddle had a tough act to follow. Riddle walked out with swagger. It’s evident in the way he moves that Riddle is a top-level athlete. He worked Lyndon’s wrist early. Riddle hit the “Captain of the Ship” with a stooooopid jumping tombstone piledriver. The match ends when Lydon low-blows riddle and scores a pinfall.
AIW Intense Division Championship: Alex Daniels (c) (w/ Greg Iron, Ray Lyn, Veda Scott) v. Michael Elgin. Great promo by Daniels before the bell. I don’t know if he was ready for Elgin but Big Mike came at him full force. He CLUBBED Daniels in the face with elbows before squashing him with a slingshot splash. Elgin held Daniels up for a 30-count delayed suplex. Daniels gets his hands chopped out from under him as he attempts a handstand. Daniels fights back with a reverse rana. Iron and Scott interfere. Daniels crotches Elgin an small packages him for the pinfall. Joey Janella’s music hit. A match was set up between Janella and Daniels for 9/23.
AIW Absolute Championship: Ethan Page v. Josh Prohibition (c). The two brawl early. Matt Riddle is over at his gimmick table cheering and enjoying the match. Donst runs out to the ring with a chair. Probo and Page struggle over the chain. Prohibition crossfaces Page while choking him with the chain. Prohibition retains by submission.
AIW Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler v. Heidi Lovelace. This one has been simmering since a confrontation between the two at Girls Night Out 18 in August. The fighters are nose-to-nose trading slaps. Baszler scored with a nasty powerbomb. She is working over the diminutive Lovelace. Lovelace fires back with palm strikes. A portion of the front row is staunchly in support of the champion so Baszler taunts them as she works over their hero. Lovelace goes for, presumably, a back splash off the top rope, only to be trapped in a rear-naked choke. She manages to get to the ropes to break the hold. Baszler piefaces her opponent and slingshots her into the turnbuckle. She is slinging the champ like a sack of potatoes. Lovelace hits a Canadian Destroyer. Baszler clamps on a rear-naked choke. Lovelace passes out.
New AIW Women’s Champion!
As Baszler celebrates with the belt she makes her way to the dressing room. MMA fighter and friend Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke steps from behind the curtain to congratulate her friend and fellow “Four Horsewomen of MMA.”
And then the unthinkable happens.
A second women steps from behind the curtain to congratulate the new champion. She hoists Baszler up in the air. She has a huge smile on her face.
It was former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. The crowd erupts. She, Baszler, and Duke quickly make their way to the locker room to continue the celebration leaving the fans stunned and buzzing.
Celebrity appearances aside, this was a great show. It was thoughtfully booked and well-paced. The JFI and Gringo Loke and Steve Pain came to impress. They did. Daniels is growing with each and every event. Baker continues to polish her skill set.
Ronda Rousey making an unanounced appearance at an independent wrestling show is the stuff of wrestling fans’ dreams. It was cool and memorable and will hopefully shine some light on a wrestling company that richly deserves the national exposure.
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