Impact Zone Wrestling: Assault, March 2003

The Bash on Ash, Tempe, Arizona
March 12th, 2003

This card was the second part of a double-header, following the previous day’s event at Rodeo Nights. We were unable to attend that, due to a prior engagement with a pineapple and a bottle of 151-proof rum, but we probably prefer The Bash on Ash as a venue anyway. This is not least because Tempe recently barred smoking in all clubs, pubs and restaurants; the libertarian part of me objects to this on principle, but it gets firmly over-ruled by the part which has to come home and take a shower because of the stale smoke in my hair and clothes. No such problems at the Bash.

First up was a tag-bout between J-Rod (who berated announcer Justin Roberts for calling him that – an excellent reason to continue doing it) with Shooting Star against Tony Stradlin and James Lukash. After J-Rod’s lukewarm performance last time, it came as a surprise to find that the bout was not awful. Indeed, it didn’t even make a stopover at Suck Airport, being fast-paced, well-executed and hard-hitting; Stradlin was a particular standout, but all four participants deserve credit.

A welcome couple of insights into last night’s action followed. Frankie Kazarian of Team Elite came out and mouthed off (brief summary: “wee-ooo-wee-ooo-wee-ooo”) a series of excuses about why he was pinned by Jimmy Snuka Jr. A rematch was scheduled. More interestingly, Ghostwalker announced the dissolution of Native Blood, his long-time tag partnership with Navajo Warrior; the latter getting a shot at the IZW title seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Ghostwalker stayed around for the next bout, a solid, if not perhaps especially memorable bout against Lawrence Tyler. Think we were perhaps distracted, still mulling the ramifications of Ghostwalker’s declaration. He got the win, then continued his heel turn by declaring that henceforth, he would be known as GQ, provoking snickers from the audience, and indeed, the ring announcer. One wonders what Navajo Warrior was thinking, Ghostw…er, GQ having vowed to be in the corner for the title bout; it was unlikely to have been secure and comforting.

Bull shows Horshu the ropes…Horshu shows Bull his intentions

There were another score to be settled from yesterday, Jack Bull having done a number on Hollywood. Horshu was back (after some time away, apparently including a role in Daredevil as one of Michael Clarke Duncan’s bodyguards) to deliver retaliation, in what was always likely to be a nasty brawl. Not one for fans of technical wrestling, yet undeniably intense, this ended with Bull being DQ’d for refusing to stop using the ropes to choke Horshu. It took almost everyone in the building to separate the two participants afterward.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine
a boot stamping on a human face…forever”
George Orwell, 1984
Jimmy Snuka Jr. gets a glimpse of ‘The Future’

Ending the first half was the singles bout between Frankie ‘The Future’ Kazarian and Jimmy Snuka, Jr.. Anyone who pauses during a match to announce himself as ‘the coolest person in the world’ deserves to get punked. Hard. Every time he says it. Yet, we can’t argue with one fact: Kazarian can wrestle. As can Snuka, who is clearly his father’s son, yet with his own style and moves. This was probably our favourite contest of the evening, with a great mix of speed and athleticism – even Kazarian winning (albeit only by using the ropes) couldn’t spoil it.

After the intermission, it was Erica Porter vs. Lexie Fyfe for the women’s title. Porter – another silver-screen comic-book here, as one of Randy Savage’s entourage in Spiderman – got some cheap heat by revealing her Arizona State University connection (Tempe is the home of ASU), but also managed to wrest the crown from Fyfe, somewhat to our surprise. And that of IZW too, going by the lack of an actual belt with which to present her.

Recycled caption from last month:
“IZW champion Mike Nox. Scary. Fact.”

A very-subdued looking (and mullet-less!) commissioner C.C.Starr then led a ten-count tribute for the late Curt Henning, who passed away recently. Then it was back to happier business in the shape of the IZW Heavyweight title, between the Navajo Warrior and reigning holder, Mike Nox – for some reason, every photo we take of Nox seems to make him look more demonic (see right). Expect horns and a tail next time. GQ/Ghostwalker did turn up at ringside, mid-way through, but didn’t get a chance to interfere; Nox lost on his own, his attempt to use a chair backfiring in his own face (literally) and letting the Warrior get the pin. Regardless, GQ attacked the new #1 , ripping off his top to reveal a Team Elite shirt, aligning himself with Nox’s faction before almost falling off the ring in his fury.

Here at TC, we hate reality programs (except Jerry Springer) – a curse on Fox for replacing 24 with American Idol last Tuesday! We’ve never watched The Real World or Tough Enough, so the prospect of a battle between a player from each show was of little or no interest, smacking of a stunt. However, both Kenny King (Tough Enough 2) and, more surprisingly, The Miz (The Real World – New York) were competent enough. The latter provoked one fan into trying to hit him with a chair, though his attempted use of a marker pen (snigger!) as a weapon left a little to be desired. King got the win, which is probably just as it should be.

Shannon Ballard, not getting a date.

The final bout brought out the Ballard Brothers along with their manager, The Sheik, to defend their tag belts, at first, against an unannounced pair of ladies, before Starr turned up and insisted they face “proper” opponents. This seemed harsh on the women, who were giving a more than decent account of themselves, and we would have loved to have seen the Ballards lose this one. Enter Team Elite’s Derek Neikirk and, fighting his second bout, Mike Nox. Nox was in trouble from the start, his knee bothering him – showing any sign of weakness to the Ballards is like blood in a piranha tank. Most of the bout consisted of them pounding Nox’s leg, while he tried to tag his partner. However, the end was somewhat confusing; it looked like another member of Team Elite got involved outside the ring, leading to their disqualification. The final result was the Ballards retained their title, and they’ll be happy enough with that.

Curiously, we felt the first half was perhaps stronger than the main events, but regardless – ten bucks to see eight bouts, all of them entertaining, is quite remarkable value for money. It’s a shame the audience wasn’t bigger, as the wrestlers certainly deserve more appreciation. Publicity is an area IZW seriously needs to work on – you had to burrow around their own website to find details, and even if they can’t afford much advertising, there are plenty of publications that will list your event for free. The end of the show has absolutely no mention of any more scheduled events which is, frankly, worrying. We’ll keep our fingers crossed this isn’t the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning.

Impact Zone Wrestling: Invasion, February 2003

IZW champion Mike Nox. Scary. Fact.

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.

Punk vs. Red

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…

The barely controlled chaos which is a Battle Royale

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.

A Killer Klo..Ballard Brother
But is that make-up or cake frosting?

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 Nox 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.

Jim, a living legend, and Chris

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.