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ITR VIDEO REVIEW    
IndieMania Runs Wild~! 

February 23, 2005

by the Canadian Bulldog    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

So I spent a few days recently south of the Canadian border, not in a tropical paradise or anything, but in the number-one location for bargain-seeking Torontonians. That's right -- Buffalo, New York.
 
While the city itself isn't anything to write home about (though I will HAPPILY endorse a restaurant called Duff's as having the best, well, Buffalo Wings in the universe!), I did manage to pick up some good deals on clothes, electronics and - of course - wrestling DVD's.

For the most part, all you can find here in Toronto are discs that

feature the ubiquitous WWE logo and the requisite "Don't Try This At Home" commercial beforehand. So whenever I come across one that doesn't, I try to snap it up. Down Buffalo way, I picked up four that feature the work of various indy leagues.

Rather than review each one separately and in great detail, I thought it might be better (and also less time-consuming) to give a brief review of each one and whether it was worth the roughly $8 U.S. ($3,912 Canadian) I dropped on each. Here we go:
 


3PW Broadcast From Hell

3PW is somehow an acronym for Pro Pain Pro Wrestling (oh, wait, I get it now), one of the many indy groups to emerge from the ruins of ECW in the Philadelphia era. This particular one is run by Jasmin St. Claire and The Blue Meanie and has been around since 2002, according to its website. Most of the matches here emanate from a nightclub called The Electric Factory, although I doubt this was all filmed at the same event.

Production Values: Not bad. The DVD opens with a five-minute long music video featuring well-known wrestlers (X-Pac, Sabu, Kid Kash), legendary wrestlers (Jerry Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah the Butcher), currently deceased wrestlers (Curt Hennig, Flyboy Rocko Rock) and a whole lot of gore, such as wrestlers stapling dollar bills to their opponents heads.

Overall, the arena/nightclub is well lit and the camera doesn't miss much of the action… The match introductions, however, are cut ridiculously short, to the point where the ring announcer only gets a few words out before the edit sweeps out to the next introduction… As well, the ends of each match are chopped to black without a gradual fade or anything, which is kind of irritating and minor-league.

Commentary: It's certainly passable for being non-WWE or TNA fare, although it would be nice to know who the commentators actually are. I mean, isn't it just common courtesy to introduce yourself at the starting?… But more disturbing than that, one of the announcers sounds like he hasn't hit puberty yet. Don't get me wrong -- the kid knows what he's talking about and sticks to the action, but his cracking voice makes almost every word sound like he's being sarcastic rather than serious… The other commentator (his dad?) is fine, although the younger guy seems to handle most of the play-by-play.

The Action: I was expecting something more -- how do I put this -- hardcore, and aside from a few brawls, it really wasn't. In fact, the only match to show blood (apart from the bonus match) was the main event between Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk… The wrestling itself ranged from passable to quite good, with nothing really at either extreme (pun not intended) of the good or bad spectrum…

Kid Kash was great in two different encounters, one with Ron "The Truth" Killings and another with A.J. Styles (who pulled off an incredible top-rope Styles Clash)… The requisite comedy match featured ECW alumnae Blue Meanie and Roadkill against a beefy duo known as Da Hit Squad… "Pitbull" Gary Wolfe, who could almost be a stand-in for Rhyno in WWE, had a decent squash against Joey Matthews… Homicide and Xavier, neither of whom I'd seen before, put on a very good effort… The Lawler-Funk match was watchable, but almost like a streetfight in slow motion. Still, both guys pulled out all the stops, including piledrivers on tables, chair shots and everything. Impressive for a pair of near-senior citizens.

The Extras: Another music video, this one by the band Zeromancer, closes the show in a nice, professional touch… A "Miss 3PW Contest" hosted by Jasmin St. Claire and former ECW owner Tod Gordon, parades around some half-dressed mildly-attractive looking women making fools of themselves in the ring. Thank GOODNESS the WWE would never do anything dumb like that… There's a bonus match between Balls Mahoney and Nosawa, a hardcore Tajiri wannabe. It's actually far more violent and bloody than anything else on the DVD, although not necessarily in a good way (rolling a pizza cutter across someone's forehead does not a hardcore match make)… I'm still trying to find the hidden easter egg, which is a ten-bell salute for the late Ted Petty (Rocco Rock).

Overall: Using the question "would I buy another DVD from this promotion?" as a measuring stick, I probably would. The performers are talented enough, and the group seems professional enough (a few minor quibbles aside) to put on a decent show. I would have liked to see some more hardcore-type matches, given the opening music video and the obvious ECW tie-ins, although that may be attributed to the fact that guys like Raven, Sandman and Sabu weren't in attendance here. Overall rating: 3/5.


ROH Road To The Title

Here's the one I was most looking forward to. I've heard a lot about Ring of Honor: their made-for-video productions; the technical ability of their wrestlers; the praise from guys like Mick Foley and Rick Steamboat… so I'm finally getting a chance to see what the fuss is all about.

This is a video from June 22, 2002, according to the ROH website. And I may be looking at something that's less than the complete version of the disc, judging by the way the official Road To The Title DVD is touted in their catalog (I have the "Takedown Masters" version of this event). Final note: A handful of times I have referred to ROH in Inside The Ropes as "Ring of Horror". Well, guess what my receipt from FYI said? Yep, that's right -- "Ring Of Horror Road To The Title". HA!

Production Values: For a wrestling group that was started by a video company, the camera work is kind of shoddy at times. There's a hard camera stationed at one end of the ring, which looks fine, but then there's a more mobile, almost Sony-Handicam-with-the-shutter-speed-turned-waaaaaay-the-hell-up view that is very distracting. That said, the opening montage of wrestlers entrances is quite sharp and well done… Each match also has a quick music video to start the bout instead of the actual entrances… The sound quality is blotchy and hard to hear at times.

Commentary: Donnie B (Simon Dean's brother) and Steve Corino -- who don't introduce themselves at the starting, but early on enough for me to forgive them -- are top notch, giving this indy show at a high school gym a big-time feel… Both men enunciate themselves well and help the viewers understand what is going on in the ring... I'm completely serious when I say that hiring the two of these guys for, say, Velocity or Heat, would improve the show's quality almost instantly.

The Action: Here's where ROH stands head and shoulders above the competition. Using a complex "code of honor" to ensure good sportsmanship and prevent outside interference, virtually all of these matches borrow from TNA's X division and WWE's Cruiserweight division at times... Some of these guys don't particularly have the "look" of being main-event caliber wrestlers, but many could probably match WWE's current roster move for move… Worth pointing out that this is part of a mini-tournament to crown an ROH Champion. Actually, it's four tournaments, with the winners of each "block" facing each other to narrow down who will eventually become champ… I especially enjoyed the bouts between Spanky and Paul London, the U.K.'s Jody Fleisch and Jonny Storm, Jerry Lynn and A.J. Styles, Amazing Red and Low Ki… hell, you could select any of the 12 matches on this disc and come up with a winner.

The Extras: Absolutely nothing, at least on my version. As I've since discovered in a review of this disc by PWTorch's Derek Burgan, the more complete version seems to have backstage sketches and some other extras, which would have been a bonus for an ROH novice like myself to better understand the characters.

Overall: Would I buy another ROH DVD? Oh hell yeah! I'd love to find out how the product has evolved since it started more than two years ago and find out if they've (hopefully) upgraded to a more professional-looking arena. Overall rating: 4.5/5.


Future Shock Volume 1: UPW Vs. The World

UPW is Ultimate Pro Wrestling, a Southern California group that has been around since at least 2000, and at one point served as a feeder system of sorts for WWE (its alumnae include John Cena, Heidenreich, Victoria and Luther Reigns), according to its website. The point of this particular DVD is to show how their current talent (as of 2003, anyways) fared against established names such as Juventud Guerrera, Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer.

Production Values: Not the greatest. One of the overhead cameras is far too bright, creating a sense of blurriness, and a lot of the bouts appear to be taped for various Internet webcasts… The sound remix is quiet at times and louder at others… For example, there is an eight-minute (Yes, that's right; EIGHT MINUTE) post-match promo involving Brian "Grandmaster Sexay" Lawler where you can barely hear what he's saying… To its credit, UPW sets up each match beforehand with a brief voiceover. They also have quasi-shoot interviews with some of the competitors afterwards explaining what it was like to work with their opponent.

Commentary: Some guy named Doc Marley hosts most of the bouts with revolving color commentators, including heel manager The Big Schwag ("Welllll, it's The Big Schwag"?) and a young "Prototype" John Cena (in a funny moment, Cena has to put over The Blue Meanie as if he's some sort of tremendous talent). There's nothing overly horrible or insulting in any of the commentary, although not much is memorable, either.

The Action: I was kind of underwhelmed, to be honest. It was like watching your typical indy show, without one real standout match. RVD (this was back when he was still in ECW) and Christopher Daniels put on a good effort but part of the ring was broken when they started, limiting what they could do. Beyond that, guys like Roadkill, Blue Meanie, Keiji Sakoda, and Grandmaster Sexay did very little to impress me.

The Extras: The one reason for getting this DVD: There's an UNINTENIONALLY HILARIOUS interview segment with Rowdy Roddy Piper, where he rambles on incoherently for about 10 minutes; falls over his chair (for real); attempts to get up several times and makes comments and jokes that no one really understands. He then attempts to interview an Afa lookalike named Skulu, with Piper trying to milk the Jimmy Snuka coconut incident yet again… You can see a video of UPW student Jennifer Thomas learning how to wrestle, which is set to music… The advertised bonus match of Road Warrior (Animal?) vs. The Ballard Brothers doesn't appear to be anywhere on the disc, although in its place they have highlights of a three-way match involving Spanky, Frankie Kazarian and B-Boy.

Overall: Would I buy another UPW video? Probably not. Perhaps I just caught them on an off-event, but groups like this can't afford to give to the public anything less than their best effort… Okay, maybe I'd pay to see Piper ramble on again, but just for comedy value. Overall rating: 2/5.


FMW War of Attrition: Egos Collide

I felt like I owed this one to John Watanabe.

You see, in an earlier FMW review I penned, I liberally made fun of Watanabe and his broadcast partner, some goof named Eric Geller. Watanabe, who was also an announcer for the Urban Wrestling Alliance, emailed me to say that in the original series of FMW DVD's, he and Geller were given a script to read from that was concocted by "Hollywood scriptwriters". It certainly makes sense; no one would voluntarily say half the shit these guys came up with in the original series.

That said, FMW (which stands for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling) came out with a second series of DVD's that had Watanabe and Live Audio Wrestling's Dan "The Mouth" Lovranski -- whom I'm a huge fan of -- calling the action straight, without the aid of ridiculous storylines and unnecessary sexual innuendo.

This particular DVD takes place in late-1999 in between two FMW pay-per-view events. It features ECW talent taking on FMW wrestlers in a series of hardcore matches and the birth of something known as "ECW Japan". I should also point that the Japanese promotion touts itself as the innovator of hardcore wrestling, and much like its American counterpart, has since gone belly-up.

Production Values: Very good. The camera doesn't miss much, despite a lot of action taking place outside of the ring... The arenas are well-lit and the video quality is probably on par with something like NWA TNA… The show starts a recap of their previous "Judgment Day" pay-per-view (which does NOT, surprisingly, feature JBL winning any titles) that has ECW guys like Raven, Tommy Dreamer; an electrified steel cage match; and Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. Damn! I wish I could have found THAT event on DVD… There are also video packages to introduce some of the feuds, instant replays and voiceover introductions by the commentators. Very, very professional.

Commentary: By playing it straight, Geller is much, much better than he was in the first series. Lovranski (who actually plays in a Toronto band called "Bruiser Brody"; how cool is that?) makes for a tremendous announcer, mainly because he comes across like a fan enjoying the action, while describing the moves and psychology to viewers at home. The only thing I'm not crazy about is when they argue with each other from time to time, just because it sounds incredibly worked to me.

The Action: It varies. The matches involving ECW talent such as Balls Mahoney and Axel Rotten (spelled "Axel Ratton" on the DVD) aren't anything spectacular. There's one match featuring Rotten, er… Ratton, Mahoney, Tajiri and Super Crazy against four FMW stars, which is brief but fun… The final two matches -- Masato Tanaka & Tetsuhiro Kuroda vs. Mr. Ganusoke and H, and then Tanaka vs. Kuroda -- are fast-paced and mix American-style wrestling with the hardcore flavor FMW is known for.

The Extras: There are several interviews throughout the DVD that do not appear to be scripted. In fact, they are being interviewed by reporters in the locker room about current angles and storylines, which really doesn't happen here in North America… You also have two bonus matches, neither of which are bad at all… Finally, you have to check out the future releases by FMW distributor Tokyo Pop Video, which features movies such as "Street Fury Gold" and "J Idols". I'm not sure what either film is about, per se, beyond featuring half-dressed women set to music.

Overall: Would I buy another FMW video? Possibly. I already have four in my collection (two with the Watanabe-Geller commentary team and two with Watanabe and Lovranski) so I'm not sure how much more Japanese garbage wrestling I need. But at least this particular volume showed me that they can play it straight and make an entertaining video that doesn't have me fuming by the end of it. Overall rating: 3/5.


That about does it from here. If there are any non-WWE DVD's that you'd like to see me review in the future (and provided I don't have to travel outside the country to get my hands on them!), drop me a line at bulldog@onlineonslaught.com.  Thanks for reading.

E-MAIL THE BULLDOG    
BROWSE THE ITR ARCHIVES

CANADIAN BULLDOG  is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.


  
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