Imperial Pro April 22 Preview

Imperial Pro April 22 Preview

Every spring, approximately 1.5 million Peeps get eaten.

Tomorrow night, in Bristol, it’s payback time. At least, that’s the inspiration for the show name for the next Imperial Pro Wrestling event, “Attack of the Peeps”. It happens Saturday, April 23, as Imperial Pro returns to its “home” venue, the community center of Realife Church, located at 1317 Weaver Pike in Bristol, TN.

Front row tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets remain available for $12 apiece. Kids 12 and under get in free.

Here is the current announced lineup:

Axton Ray defends the Imperial Championship against Hunter Drake. Axton is a local favorite who just returned from his first tour of the United Kingdom.

Kenzie Paige Henry defends the Imperial Women’s Title against Alice Crowley. Kenzie recently announced she had signed a contract with the National Wrestling Alliance.

Greg Rocker defends the Hickory Tree Hardcore Title against CJ Knight, Big Al and Toby Farley.

Jason Kincaid vs. AJ Cazana

Judi-Rae Hendrix vs. Michelle Green

The Golden Egg Battle Royal

Follow Imperial Pro on your social media platform of choice: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

365 Wrestling, Day 38: Ben Carter vs. B-Boy (ACTION Wrestling, 2/7/20)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Pro wrestling is just another storytelling medium. Like any established art form, you see the same themes play out, in different variations. One of my favorites is the young rising star facing the wily veteran, and we’ve got a fine example of that here: Ben Carter against B-Boy from ACTION Wrestling’s February 7, 2020 event.

You can check out the entire catalog of ACTION events, over at IWTV. However, you can watch this match for free on Youtube:

The Match

You may know Carter as Nathan Frazer, the name he adopted after joining WWE and NXT UK.

Before any of that happened, this import from the United Kingdom was turning heads on the independent circuit in the United States, including this quasi-galaxy of Southeastern promotions — which includes ACTION, Southern Underground Pro, TWE and the Scenic City Invitational — that shares the same booking continuity.

Carter set up this match with a brief challenge:

B-Boy, meanwhile, has been a fixture for the highly influential Pro Wrestling Guerrilla promotion in southern California since PWG began. He made a few prior appearances in the ACTION sphere previously, but you also might recognize him from Seasons 1 and 2 of Lucha Underground as Bael.

The Match

What begins with a handshake of respect quickly devolves into violence, in a good way. An early taunt by Carter, though it responds to one of B-Boy’s own, upsets the veteran and triggers a nasty forearm that Carter sells like a knockout blow. That’s just the start of what’s to come.

B-Boy chains a La Magistral into an ankle submission, then starts flinging his foe around the ring. The most stirring is either a death valley driver into the corner or a flat faceplant by Carter when he’s chucked to the floor. B-Boy’s vaunted strikes also do damage, and Carter sells the punches — which are delivered sparingly — like possible knockout blows. B-Boy’s more the grizzled veteran than the outright villain but he heels it up in one of my favorite moments: positioning Carter in a chair out on the floor, doing a full lap around the ring to gain momentum and … poking Carter in the eye.

Carter plays the young upstart who takes a beating but keeps coming back time and time again. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan like me you’ve seen this story told countless times, but here it works well because Carter does an excellent job fighting from underneath regardless of what B-Boy does to him. At one point, the New Age Punisher screams for Carter to stay down. Carter does not, and that brief snapshot encapsulates this entire story.

Early on, Dylan Hales mentions Carter’s pace advantage and Carter makes use of pace in his comeback. Carter hits that next gear very quickly, unleashing bursts of explosive offense in an attempt to narrow the gap and overwhelm B-Boy.

The action builds to a compelling and believable series of false finishes. We see powerslams. Tiger Drivers. A Canadian Destroyer. A midair cutter. A DDT on the floor. A brainbuster. After all that, Carter’s pin comes out of nowhere but after all that’s happened, it satisfies. The action is something that would be standard business in a PWG ring, but in this environment — a rec center in a small Georgia town on the periphery of Atlanta — it stands out, and it’s outstanding.

This match intended to propel Carter into a major push but this was ACTION’s last event before the pandemic. By the time shows resumed, Carter had signed with WWE.

Final Rating: 7.8

This is an excellent match and, according to ACTION CEO Matt Griffin, one of the best matches in ACTION history — although I think the IWTV Title Match from Southeast First surpasses it. It’s definitely worth seeking out and watching. Even if you’re seeing both wrestlers for the first time, the story is easy to grasp, well-told, and executed with barely a hitch.

Up Next

A snob turned wrestling champion and a zombie funeral director walk into Penn Station. Hijinks ensue.

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365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Alex Shelley vs. AC Mack (Southeast First, 1/21/22)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I recently described this site as the pro wrestling equivalent of “Quantum Leap” — jumping around to different points in history to watch and review a noteworthy match, then move on to something else. I’ve been supporting the work being done at ACTION Wrestling for a while, so I decided to shake things up and do the first live review of a match for the project.

I certainly picked a good one… the main event of Southeast First, which saw Alex Shelley defend the IWTV World Title against AC Mack.

If you missed the live stream, you can check out the full show on demand at IWTV.

The Match

You can tell by the photo on this entry who won the match and frankly I was shocked by the outcome. Part of my surprise stemmed from the same stigma plaguing Southern wrestling that led Matt Griffin and others to hold this event, as he explained in our preview.

I also think that, unfortunately, wrestling history and especially recent wrestling booking have conditioned fans to anticipate unsatisfying conclusions. A feel-good moment gets replaced for the chance at building heat for another match down the road. Modern WWE booking is an excellent example of this, but think of all the other times a booker waited too long to give a wrestler who had connected with the crowd a run with the main title. By the time the move gets made, the wrestler already has cooled off.

The booking for this card, which was highly entertaining from top to bottom, plays off of these fears and ultimately provides a satisfying conclusion to a story that ACTION had been telling for months. It began when Mack, a former ACTION Champion, won the 2021 Scenic City Invitational. Then, in December, Mack was named the No. 1 contender for the IWTV Title. That championship saw its profile rise last year, with Pro Wrestling Illustrated recognizing it as an official world title.

Mack gets a hero’s welcome from a jam-packed crowd at the Rec Center in Tyrone, GA. Shelley, meanwhile, is the immediate heel. The opening note of his music is enough to turn the crowd against him — not because of anything Shelley has done (not yet), but merely because he’s the guy going against ACTION’s favorite.

This match is also proof that you don’t need a massive building or storied venue to create a great atmosphere. A humble rec center in Georgia feels like a facility 10 times that size when everyone in attendance is shoulder to shoulder, standing and making noise. Mack is in his element here, handling his own ring introduction as has been the custom for ACTION. When ring announcer Scott Hensley finally gets around to introducing the champion, he can barely be heard over the boos. Shelley grabs the microphone and adds some extra heat to the proceedings.

Now for the match itself… What ensues here is a modern twist on the old tale of a traveling champion coming into town to defend against the local favorite. The story centers around the left arm of Mack, which Shelley focuses on with ill intent for the vast majority of the match. The moment that cues the arm offense is a creative one. Mack is standing ringside when Shelley feints, vaults over the top rope with an up and over and brings both feet down across the left forearm of Mack, which was outstretched across the apron.

Credit Mack for selling Shelley’s arm attack like it rendered the limb useless. That also negates Mack from using his signature move, the Mack 10 — a cross-armed version of the Pedigree. It’s been established as a match ender in ACTION and it’s other affiliated promotions, but after the champion’s work, Mack cannot hoist Shelley and deliver the move, though not for lack of trying.

Eventually, ACTION CEO Matt Griffin comes ringside and most of the other wrestlers on the card — an inter-promotional effort featuring talent representing eight different Southeastern companies — join Griffin. Wrestlers, staff and fans surround the ring, banging on the apron and urging on the challenger. This really adds to the atmosphere and makes for a great visual.

You probably have seen Shelley wrestle or at least know of his work, though he’s had more success as a tag wrestler than in singles. A veteran of Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling and a tag champion for both companies, Shelley won the IWTV Title in October. He proves his mettle in the ring by rising to the occasion as the traveling champion facing the local hero and crafting a compelling story in a singles match of a significant length with major stakes. He’s eating up the boos from the crowd and nearly every movement, gesture and expression only raises the collective ire against him. His arm offense looks nasty and his sells and facial expressions add so much.

What’s happening here doesn’t feel like just another match and the champion sells the threat to his title reign by digging deep into his repertoire to break out a Shell Shock, the move better known as Jay White‘s Blade Runner, which White adopted after taking it from Shelley in one of his very first matches. Mack kicks out and Shelley immediately turns Mack into the Border City Stretch, a variation on the crossface he’s already tortured Mack in previously. This time, the challenger rolls Shelley onto his shoulders and… pins him.

Final Rating: 8.2

This was a fantastic match on what should be an early 2022 candidate for the best wrestling show of the year. It won’t make many match of the year lists, partly because it’s still just January and partly because it lacks some of the elements that a vocal part of the fandom believe are needed to be one of “the best” matches. However, I am hard-pressed to find an area where this match falls short.

Shelley does a masterful job as the visiting champion and Mack is in his element as the hometown hero finally getting his big match. The crowd is invested for every second. The work is smooth and compelling. The conclusion is sudden, satisfying… and also historic. With the win, Mack becomes the first openly gay male world champ in wrestling history.

It won’t make many match of the year ballots… but it should.

Up Next

Another ballyhooed but new to me non-Rumble match from a Royal Rumble of yore.

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Imperial Pro Talent Lineup Includes Jimmy Hart, Tatanka, Redbeard, More

Imperial Pro Talent Lineup Includes Jimmy Hart, Tatanka, Redbeard, More

Imperial Pro Wrestling is loading up the card for its next event, “This One’s For Trea”, which takes place Saturday, Feb. 19, from Tennessee Middle School in Bristol. Bell time is 7:30 p.m.

On Monday, Imperial Pro announced Tatanka, Erick Redbeard, Jimmy Hart, Jillian Hall and Glacier for this event.

All of the proceeds from this event will go to the family of Trea Leonard, an assistant coach at Tennessee High in Bristol who passed away last fall.

“The Mouth of the South”, Jimmy Hart is in the WWE Hall of Fame. After coming into wrestling in the Memphis territory, where he spent years as the nemesis of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Hart joined the WWF in 1985. The list of wrestlers he’s managed read like a who’s who of the names of the 1980s and 1990s.

Tatanka was a fixture for WWE in the first half of the 1990s, going on a lengthy undefeated run and challenging Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania IX. Later, Tatanka turned heel and joined the Million Dollar Corporation led by Ted DiBiase.

You might know Redbeard better as Rowan, part of the Wyatt Family in WWE and a three-time tag champion with the late Brodie Lee. He also worked with Daniel Bryan before going on a brief singles run.

Glacier was part of WCW during the Monday Night Wars era. These days he spends time taking independent bookings and helping train at the Nightmare Factory, the de facto All Elite Wrestling training facility in Georgia.

Jillian Hall spent nearly five years on the WWE roster after a stint in developmental, then located at Ohio Valley Wrestling. A former Divas Champion, Hall is now a trainer, with her pupils including Judi Hendrix, who also is booked for this event.

The full announced lineup includes the following:

Kenzie Paige Henry (C) vs. Judi Hendrix for the Imperial Pro Women’s Championship

Also Appearing:
-“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart
-Erick Redbeard (fka Rowan)
-Tatanka
-Glacier
-Jillian Hall

For tickets or more information, message Imperial Pro Wrestling on Facebook.

365 Wrestling, Day 10: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Dog Collar Match (Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20)

365 Wrestling, Day 10: Joe Black vs. Will Huckaby, Dog Collar Match (Southern Honor Wrestling, 1/10/20)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

With the free agent market in wrestling flooded in 2022, many promising talents run the risk of remaining relatively unknown or never getting the opportunities on a bigger stage. One goal of this project is, when possible, to spotlight wrestlers who I feel don’t get enough credit for their work. This match involves two of said wrestlers, Joe Black and Will Huckaby. I’ve worked as a commentator or “authority figure” at shows involving both, who put together a memorable feud that culminated in January of 2020 in Southern Honor Wrestling in a Dog Collar Match.

You can watch this match on IWTV.

The Match

An excellent video detailing their six-month rivalry runs right before the match. At one point in the build, Black blasted Huckaby in the head with a glass bottle, leading to a storyline eye injury that had Huckaby wearing an eyepatch, even on shows for other promotions or in different states. That type of storyline continuity is rare on the independent level, where two guys could be embroiled in a hated rivalry one night and then teaming together the next and it all ends up on YouTube by the following Wednesday.

SHW held a special contract signing at a prior event, where Huckaby slices his arm and signs with his own blood. Gruesome, but compelling. Both men are underrated talkers and Black especially shines through. This line stands out: “Your blood that you signed the contract with is gonna be the same blood I coat my hands with and wipe on my chest as war paint.” Yes. Sold.

A big-fight feel adds a lot to a match (as we’ve seen in offerings from New Japan and NOAH), and it’s in full effect here despite the more intimate atmosphere. The entrances add extra sizzle, with Huckaby and Black both dressed as homages to famous Marvel characters (the Incredible Hulk and Wolverine, respectively).

What ensues is nearly 30 minutes of one of the most physically intense matches I have seen. Black and Huckaby start out at a slower pace than I expected given the “blood feud” build, but this allows more time for the violence to escalate.

Huckaby is in full heel mode. He delivers a knockout punch to one of the two assigned referees at the opening bell. After Huckaby powerbombs Black twice through a table at ringside (watch the table explode on the second, and half land on Joe in what could have been nasty), he threatens the referee still standing to get unlocked from the chain linking them. Huckaby goes wild, dismantling the ring to expose the boards underneath the canvas. Then, when a package piledriver fails to produce the three count, Huck starts removing boards, flinging them across the ringside rail in a melee reminiscent of watching Bruiser Brody run amok.

Meanwhile, Black does great work as the gutsy, undersized, fan favorite. He’s got the crowd support and summons the spirit of the character who inspired his gear for the match, taking a serious beating but “regenerating” each time. His offense is just as physically punishing, if not moreso, than Huck’s. Once the boards are removed to reveal the metal substructure of the ring, Black dumps Huckaby on not one but two front suplexes into the abyss.

Both men end up getting released from the chain, which takes away from the hype surrounding the stipulation, but they compensate for any disappointment with–you guessed it–more violence. We see blood. We see weapons. We even see green mist. Things spill out of the ring and into the parking lot, where hostilities are capped by a protracted brawl around and on a car in the parking lot before Black finishes it with a Falcon Arrow onto the front windshield.

Final Rating: 7.0

I’ve always enjoyed the dog collar match as the way to settle a feud for good. This one delivers. The escalation of violence throughout keeps the fans invested. Although the stipulation gets cast aside, it allows for a spectacular final spot in the parking lot.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

Things get Dangerous in 1992 for a six-man tag from a WCW B-show.

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