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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

3/8 United Wrestling League Internet PPV - Live Report

Courtesy of Larry Goodman:

The United Wrestling League ran their debut internet pay-per-view taping in Piedmont, Alabama Saturday night. The following report is based on the live presentation. The PPV can be downloaded for $11.95 at www.unitedwrestling.net.

UWL is a project of the West family: Ron and sons Brent and Rodney. Its southern roots run deep. Ron West started refereeing for Nick Gulas at the age of 13 and ended up being best referee Georgia Championship Wrestling ever had. He’s booked and promoted countless shows through the years working in an office capacity for GCW and Continental among others. Brent had a major part in the start up of Wrestle Birmingham before parting ways with Linda Marx due to a difference in philosophies.

This is the second coming of UWL. The original ran shows in and around the Chattanooga. This was 1996, and Ron’s concept was old school wrestling with an overtly ECW backlash, where the rules were strictly enforced.

The updated version is also old school with a pronounced emphasis on inring wrestling and much less talking than the major league products. The crew is mostly young southern workers along with a few solid veterans – Bull Buchanan, Jack Lord and Bulldog Raines - all part of the original UWL.

This show was built around the Ultimate Wrestling Challenge, a fourteen man tournament with match ups to be determined by a blindfold gimmick match. As promised it was two + hours of wrestling with no frills and no backstage skits. Everyone worked hard. The wrestling was very much old school – precious little flying, no killing big moves with needless near falls, a surprising amount of matwork, and the few times weapons came into play it was for good reason. The most spectacular move was Stan Lee’s running Shooting Star Press, which he used to secure three victories in route to winning the tournament.

I like the way this show was booked. Logic prevailed. The tournament was used effectively to set up multiple storylines for future development. And the pushed babyface heart throb got over with the live crowd.

How any of this translates into a successful financial venture is an entirely different question. My fear is that the fans most likely to enjoy this product are not the ones most likely to access wrestling online. And there’s so much free content already available for Internet savvy fans.

Over 400 were in attendance at the Clyde Pike Civic Center, which only holds 500. It’s a lot like the building Wrestle Birmingham runs in Graysville, with a U shaped catwalk. Crowd had decent heat, but never reached the crazed intensity of the acid test - an NWA Anarchy show.

The announce team of Michael St. John and Bill Dundee were stationed on the catwalk with cameras on all three sides. I’m really curious about how this looks on PPV. The catwalk is a cool camera angle but it’s shocking that they didn’t use a handheld. The ceiling fixtures were supplemented with four light stands on the catwalk. Live, it looked fine.

You have to hand it to the Wests for a running a tight ship. They got 14 matches done in less than 2:20. The PPV is set to 2 hours, so there will be editing. They did backstage promos that will air exclusively on the PPV.

(A) Aaron Idol beat Don “The Machine” Buchanan. The first of two dark matches to check out the technical aspects.

(B) Johnny Slaughter (with Jack Lord) beat Viper in 4:15. Slaughter pinned him after interference by Lord. Viper cut a promo after the match. It sounded like he had marbles in his mouth and the crowd hated it.

Ring announcer Jeff Styles informed the crowd they were about to going worldwide on PPV. The Wests switched to airing this show on a 24 hour delay, due to concerns with reliability of their Internet connection. Going live is the thing what would make me want to buy it. The idea of anything from Piedmont, Alabama going worldwide blows my mind.

(1) Bull Buchanan won a 14 man Blind Fold Battle Royal in 14:30. Buchanan and Johnny Slaughter earned first round byes in the tournament.This would be a place for some editing. The comedy value in 14 guys groping around the ring blind wore thin quickly. Crowd seemed to like it OK though. The story was Slaughter lifting up his hood to get sneak peaks throughout the match. Guys started getting dumped out at 3 minutes in. Damon Taz pulled the ropes down to eliminate Jack Lord. Orion Bishop came back from the dressing room to dump Taz out, and it was down to Bull and Slaughter. Bulldog Raines came out barking instructions to Bull to counter Slaughter’s cheating ways. Raines guided Buchanan to victory. After Slaughter got dumped, Lord hit the ring on Raines and Buchanan and got hammered.

(2) Yaki beat Derrick King in 5:30. This was the perfect match up to represent the style they are shooting for. Getting to see King live was one of the main reasons I did this show. His “Mr. Personalities” gimmick in Memphis Power Pro has a special place in my heart. The masked Yaki (who also wrestles as El Mexicano) is an athletic high flyer. He’s learned to tone it down to where he does less and everything looks good. Crisp offensive flurry by Yaki to start. Yaki sprung to the top rope for twisting flying bodypress but there was nobody home. King said it was over and went for a DDT, but Yaki hooked the ropes and pinned him.

Postmatch, King laid Yaki out with the DDT and counted “uno, dos, tres.”

(3) Chris Baddstreet beat Viper via submission in 6:13. Since it was already established that the crowd was cold on Viper as a face, and Badstreet did little to incite them, this match had no heat. Badstreet has an MMA/Austin Aries vibe. He’s even shorter than Aries. Badstreet’s submission starts like La Magistral cradle to hammerlock the victim’s arm and he combos it with a crossface putting extreme pressure on the shoulder. I believe it’s called the Gladiator Grip.

(4) “Nature Boy” Kevin White (with Jack Lord) beat Don “The Machine” Buchanan in 3:22. White is 1/3 of “Lords of the Ring” along with Lord and Slaughter. Last time I saw White, he was still white meat babyface, nowhere near ready to do a Nature Boy knock off. I guess it’s been awhile. Machine was billed from Bull’s hometown of Bowden, Ga. Their kinship was not made explicit. White heeled. Machine capped off a short but stiff burst with a flying legdrop. Machine had to cut off Lord’s interference. White pinned Machine with his feet on the ropes.

(5) Stan Lee pinned Aaron Idol with a running Shooting Star Press in 3 minutes flat. Lee was moderately over based solely on his look, which has a Van Dam flavor to it. Idol bears a resemblance to a young Michael Hayes. Lee looked tentative. Maybe some nervousness. His wrestling got better as the evening wore on. The finish did not look good at all.

(6) Orion Bishop pinned Bulldog Raines in 5:10. Raines’ intro got a good pop. He no sold Bishop’s initial sneak attack. Bishop planted him with spinebuster slam and pounded away. That dude is a legit powerhouse. He got a couple of more near falls before Raines answered with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Bishop bailed. Bishop clocked Raines with a chain and pinned him with his feet on the ropes.

Raines threatened to beat up referee Bristol Romine. Ron West came out and said there would be none of that. West told Romine to DQ anybody that touched him.

(7) Damon Taz beat Jack Lord in 1:10. Taz was over. He’s an Alabama indie version of Dusty. Not exactly the picture of mobility in there. Lord told Taz they both knew he was winning and invited him to step out of the ring. Taz appeared to take Lord up on the offer. He then did the old deal of tapping Lord on the shoulder and blasting him with a punch. Don Buchanan came to ringside and tripped up Lord. Taz pinned Lord with a kick in the face.

They went right into the quarterfinals. There were no intermissions.

(8) Chris Baddstreet (with Derrick King) beat Yaki via submission with the Gladiator Grip in 5:18. King said, “I beat you uno, dos, tres. Why are you here?” Baddstreet then jumped Yaki. Story of the match was Badstreet working the shoulder, and King distracting every time Yaki got the advantage. Yaki ran up the ropes for a flying move and King grabbed a leg to crotch him. Beautifully timed. Baddstreet locked in the submission.

King said I told you so. He called Yaki a loser. Yaki was trying to scrape himself off the mat, so King kicked him. King announced himself as the winner and made the ref raise his hand. Good heat for this.

(9) Stan Lee beat Kevin White (with Jack Lord) in 6:20. A good sign for Lee in the role of top babyface was the way his pop for grew progressively louder each time he came out. Figuring he couldn’t outwrestle him, White resorted to all sorts of heel chicanery. The crowd got behind Lee. Finish saw White bounce his noggin off the top turnbuckle on a failed Stinger Splash and Lee capitalized with the running SSP, hitting much better than the first time.

(10) Orion Bishop beat Damon Taz via countout at 3:30. Taz wasted Bishop with a hangman neckbreaker. Out came Lord. Taz went after him and they battled through the curtain. Slaughter whacked Taz with a chair while Bishop distracted kept the ref occupied. The count reached 10 with Taz making a vain attempt to crawl towards the ring. Good pop for Taz as he was helped to the back.

(11) Bull Buchanan pinned Johnny Slaughter (with Jack Lord) with the claw slam at 9:17. Best match of the night. Bull brought his Japanese style A game. Bull launched a one-against-two assault and the ref called for the bell. Bull scored a series falls with high impact moves including a discus forearm. Bull telegraphed a backdrop and got caught with a swinging neckbreaker. Lord interfered. Slaughter went for a choke out. Bull rallied with a high angle back suplex. Both men down for an eight count. Bull’s comeback was wicked stiff. He nailed Slaughter with a vicious rabbit lariat, a high boot and a snap power slam before putting him away.

Postmatch, Lords of the Ring jumped Bull. He was more than holding his own, but eventually the number got to him. Lords left Bull laying with a three-man stuff piledriver. Raines and Machine came out to minister to Bull, who sold it like he had lost all feeling in his left arm. The crowd took it seriously.

(12) Stan Lee pinned Chris Baddstreet at 14:34. The crowd was really feeling it for Lee now. It erupted into a shoot style brawl, the most intense moments of action on the show. A second ref had to come out to help. It looked like a double DQ when Ron West, Mr. “Law and Order” himself, said he wanted a winner. It was all Baddstreet. The crowd started to boo and Badstreet egged them on. Single arm DDT to set up the Gladiator. Badstreet locked it in. Lee made the ropes. Great babyface fire from Lee. The action moved outside. Lee’s stinging chop got one of the best pops all night. The ref had to start the count over. Baddstreet missed with a top rope legdrop. Badstreet landed badly on a backdrop, taking it on his hip. Lee hit a full nelson side slam. Great false finish where there is serious disappointment. Lee missed with the running SSP. Baddstreet went for the Gladiator, but Lee was able to counter with a roll up. Finish was no work of art, but for bringing the crowd to an emotional peak, I can’t knock it.

An entire section of teenagers – like 100 people – marched towards the exit. West ran over to tell them there were two more matches but it didn’t make a wit of difference. They must have had a 10 pm curfew. (St. John later speculated that it was because of church. He explained that this was serious bible belt country, so Friday is the big night out in here.)

(13) Orion Bishop won over Bull Buchanan when Ron West ruled Buchanan was not fit to continue (1:07). Bull’s left arm was useless. He tried to the claw slam but couldn’t pull it off. Bishop dropped him on the bad suplexed Buchanan on his bad shoulder. Bishop started to pull the chain out of his boot, but before he could use it, West ran down and stopped the match. Buchanan went out on a stretcher.

(14) Stan Lee beat Orion Bishop in 6:03 to win the Ultimate Wrestling Challenge. Lee had wrestled three tough matches to make the finals, while Bishop had a much easier road. Lee busted out the Van Dam spinkick early and wrestling with a lot more confidence. Lee jumped on Bishop’s back with a rear naked choke. Bishop came back with pumphandle snap suplex and a hotshot. Bishop applied a sharpshooter, but no quit in Lee. Bishop ran through Lee and decked referee Daniel Brooks. Bishop speared Lee bigtime. Out came Bishop’s chain, but Raines ran down and swiped it away. Bishop revived the ref and covered. Too little too late. Lee pinned Bishop with the running SSP. Anticlimactic after Baddstreet. The kids that were cheering Lee the hardest were long gone. But it also leaves Lee/Badstreet II as the match I want to see. Lee received a medal for winning.

Raines turned on Lee. Clocked his ass with a chain and stole the medal. Raines said he never got beat. He only got cheated.

NOTES: No return date was announced. The website indicated they would be running every two weeks, but that may have changed…Bull Buchanan next tour of Japan will be for a full month starting March 28. Buchanan will be teaming with D-Lo Brown this year’s version of All Japan Wrestling’s Real World tag tournament.