Rodeo Nights, Phoenix, Arizona
February 5th, 2003
Pro wrestling federations can break your heart. I’ve only been living in Arizona for 2 1/2 years, and we’re already on the fourth promotion in that time. Our first love was Western States, but they lost their venue. We had a one-night stand with Mountain Strength, down in Tucson, but they never called us back. Then, there was South Western Wrestling, but they’ve done nothing since October (though apparently, they’re not dead…just sleeping).
We went into all three looking for storylines we could follow from month to month, characters we could grow to love or hate, T-shirts we could wear with pride – something we could give our love to. All three let us down, but like innocent puppies, we still keep looking. Which brings us to Impact Zone Wrestling, the latest suitor for our affections. This wasn’t the first show of theirs which we’d attended, but we held off writing about them, for fear of bringing down the TC curse. However, after Invasion at Rodeo Nights – curiously, the same venue I first saw Rage in the Cage – we feel they deserve a token of appreciation and encouragement.
It may seem curious to have started up a new federation when the wrestling fad has clearly passed its peak. For me, the end of the WWE (we’re not allowed to use the F any more, for fear of a lawsuit from a bunch of pandas) came when Hulk Hogan was brought back. Never has a man with so little actual skill been so heavily hyped. But IZW consciously avoids the sub-soap nonsense into which the WWE has sunk (gay weddings?!?), prefering to concentrate on actual wrestling. For that alone, it deserves support.
This night’s action started with J-Rod versus The Hawaiian Lion – the former was touted as having 2% body fat, but guess that must have been entirely concentrated around his middle. The Lion had come up from South Western Wrestling. This one wasn’t quite terrible, but there were way too many air blows – as one audience wag shouted, “It’s supposed to be a contact sport!” Having seen the Lion before, we know he’s competent: we’ll leave you to decide where the blame for this one should lie.
Next up was a bout between The Little Red Machine and The Shaolin Punk – the former’s Mexican, all-red gear led to some merciless ribbing from the audience, including comparisons with a tampon. This one was also a little sloppy, but very energetic. Although it didn’t look like they’d worked often together, they worked with each other and adapted well, even when things didn’t perhaps quite go as planned.
The womens’ bout is always a highlight, and is another way in which IZW kicks WWE’s ass; their women can actually wrestle, and aren’t just a glorified T&A show. Morgan (formerly Jungle Girl – a wise move) was facing Erica D’Erico for the position of #1 contender and a shot at Lexie Fyfe’s belt. Morgan had a significant size advantage, and we initially thought Erico would get punted all over the ring. Wrong. With some impressively athletic moves, including a huracanrana for the final pin, Erico got the win, and we look forward to see her take on Fyfe at a future event.
Next up was the interval, but before then was the little matter of the tag-title. Currently held by Hollywood and the Hardcore Kid, however, the Hardcore Kid was nowhere to be seen. His partner agreed to defend the title against the Killer Klowns, but this (understandably) peeved the Ballard Brothers – a Canadian duo, who’ve been favourites of ours since we first saw them, thanks to their Slapshot hockey shirts! [And hey, it’s a Commonwealth thing!] They had fought for a title shot at the last show, and won, but commissioner C.C.Starr over-ruled them, giving their slot to the Klowns, which did not go down well.
Wandered around the venue for a bit. Very Country and Western – could tell because the male toilet was labelled “Cowboys”. Seemed to be problems with the PA system, which kept cutting out and switching on at inopportune moments. Also not quite sure why we paid $5 more for ringside seats, since all the tables there seemed to have “reserved” signs on them and no-one seemed to be checking anyway. We ended up sitting a few rows back, but the view was fine. Ceiling could do with being a little higher too; these are tall men, doing acrobatic stunts off the top rope of a ring that’s perhaps eight feet off the ground…
First up post-break was a Battle Royale – elimination required a wrestler to be thrown over the ropes. $5000 was supposedly at stake, but simple arithmetic makes that about double the door receipts for the evening. It seemed like every minor IZW wrestler was in the ring and, as is almost inevitable with this kind of bout, there was way too much going on. When things calmed down, and you could focus, it improved, but without much idea of who was who, or why, it remained cold. The winner was Rage, notable for his ability to clean and jerk his opponents clear above his head.
Before the next bout, we got the most amusing part of the evening, as Team Elite (Frankie Kazarian and Derek Neikirk) insulted their opponents, the audience, and the venue with equal venom, setting themselves up beautifully as the villains for their contest against Native Blood (The Navajo Warrior and Ghostwalker). This was classic tag-team action with the bad guys teaming up for all manner of foul deeds while the referee’s back was turned. Of course, they couldn’t win cleanly, relying on intervention in the shape of a chair-wielding Mike Nox – interestingly, this was about the only instance of “hardcore” wrestling in the entire night. No-one was driven through a table, nobody bled or was set on fire. And it was no less entertaining for that, WWE please note.
The tag-team title was on the line as the Killer Klowns got their shot at Hollywood and, er, Hollywood, in a handicap match. The clown gimmick has never appealed and these ones were neither funny nor scary, though did manage “creepy” on a couple of occasions. I kinda tuned out during this one, but the ending was superb. Jack Bull turned up half-way through to pinch-hit as partner for Hollywood, then stiffed him and let the Klowns take the win.
While we were still gobsmacked by that, the real Klowns – hogtied – hobbled their way out to the ring, and the impersonators in the ring revealed themselves as…The Ballard Brothers. They’d got their title shot, and won the belts; maybe not quite fair and square, but left as champions regardless. However, I think it’s safe to say that this one will run and run…
The final match pitted current IZW champion Mike Knox against wrestling icon, Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka – the latter has been in the business since 1969, and was one of the pioneers in aerial moves, hence his nickname. He was ECW Heavyweight champion, WCW tag champion, fought in two Wrestlemanias for the WWF, and his leap from the top of a steel cage at Madison Square Garden in 1983 is a landmark moment, which directly inspired the likes of Mick Foley. Oh, and he’s also from the same Samoan family which gave us The Rock.
The guy may be in his late fifties now, and is obviously not quite at his peak, though I hope to be capable of half the physical stuff he did when I reach his age – he still wrestles barefoot! Nox treated Snuka with the huge respect he deserves, and in the end gained victory only through feigning injury (very convincingly – well, it fooled me totally, Chris wasn’t duped!). But in the post-match melee, Snuka still got to do his trademark Superfly Splash: see previous comments about “when I reach his age”…
The next bouts are at the start of March, and we’ll be there, though the prospect, touted by C.C.Starr, of a battle between MTV’s The Real World and Tough Enough leaves us totally stone-cold – or perhaps, Stone Cold 3:16. Still, we’ll be there regardless: having been hurt before, we’re now somewhat wary of opening up our hearts (and wallets!). But perhaps, this time, it will be true love.