What can you do in two hours and fifty-four minutes? If you’re a normal human being, you could watch a movie or two with your buddies, maybe go to a concert, eat Christmas dinner, or maybe even all three. If you’re a pro wrestling fan, you’re either watching a pay-per-view, an episode of RAW, or watching KirbyMania, the self-titled show for the general manager of WCPW, Martin Kirby.
I had reasonably high expectations going into KirbyMania, but from the beginning, something just felt… off. As soon as Kirby came out, the crowd popped just a little bit, but then died down almost immediately. Bully Ray came out, had a moment in the ring with Galloway to continue building up their feud, and the crowd died again. The Swords of Essex came out, Moss and Slater came out, but the crowd wasn’t really responsive for any of it. They were like this for the whole show, with the crowd being mostly flat with a few moments of noise when something big happened. Not even Kirby’s usual antics could keep them engaged for longer than a minute at a time, if that.
The first match of the night was Joe Hendry vs Drake, but I don’t know if it could be called as much of a match as it was just two minutes worth of building for a really cool spot. Hendry’s promo before the “match” where he basically said that he wanted a match with Drew Galloway for the title, but was begrudgingly willing to climb his way back up the ladder to get that shot, was well executed. It was a real emotion that wrestling needs more of. The spot of the match was Hendry catching Drake’s cross body and countering it into his Freak of Nature finish, which is a fallaway slam. As Hendry was about to go for the pin, Joseph Connors came out of nowhere and attacked Hendry from behind, setting up their last match for the foreseeable future as the main event of the evening. Connors gave a good promo, and looked good going into their match.
The first match that wasn’t barely longer than Goldberg vs Lesnar at Survivor Series was Marty Scurll, current ROH TV champion, vs Gabriel Kidd, the underdog hero kid of WCPW. Yes, I’m proud of that pun. Deal with it. Anyways, Kidd and Scurll had a good match that showcased not only Kidd’s ability to hang with top talent from an in-ring perspective, but Scurll’s ability to make a crowd as flat as this one somewhat come to life. Scurll is a magnificent personality who is capable of interacting with even the flattest of crowds in a way that not only seems engaging, but also fun. The pure emotion he has on display is impressive, and Kidd can sell well enough to keep up with some of the best in the world, as this and other matches show. The match ended when Scurll locked in the crossface chicken wing after reversing a moonsault attempt from Kidd, causing the protégé of Prince Ameen to tap. It was a good match overall, and the two men worked incredibly hard to keep the crowd engaged.
The match that followed, however, was nowhere near as good. Unfortunately, it was the women’s match. I’ve been spoiled by Sasha Banks and Charlotte, who consistently had matches with a legitimate case for the 2016 Match of the Year, but the match between Lana Austin and Ivelisse was, for lack of a better term, bad. I like the look of Ivelisse, as her torn tights look unlike anything any other female wrestler that I know of wears, but that’s the only good thing I can say about the match. The mat wrestling was decent at best, the spot setup was poorly executed for both women, the selling was mediocre, and the finish was less than memorable. The best part of this match was the ref, who is an incredibly honourable man. That makes sense if you watch the match, trust me.
Around this time, there were some minor problems related to the live YouTube stream. There were audio issues, and some slight camera problems. There’s nothing that can really be controlled about this, but I give the tech crew credit for working through these problems as quickly as they did.
The next match of the night was Travis Banks, the Kiwi Buzzsaw, vs the Iron Man, Joe Coffey. It started with good back and forth early on, had good selling by both men, made the crowd pop for some spots, and had a really impressive spot where Coffey lifted Banks from the apron to deliver a superplex. Coffey looked strong by winning the match with his finish, the Black Coffee, which is an elbow maneuver similar to Wade Barrett’s Bullhammer. The thing that keeps this match down for me isn’t the lack of talent in the ring, these two guys are good workers, but it’s Doug Williams randomly coming out, unannounced, and for no obvious purpose other than to say: “Hey guys, I’m here, and I look pissed.” There is legitimately no reason for him to have come out during this match, and it distracted more than it added.
Following this was a tag match between Prospect, a team made up of Alex Gracie and Lucas Archer, and the team of Martin Kirby and El Ligero. The story going into this match is that Prospect want to go to Orlando in April when WCPW invades the US, but their manager, James R. Kennedy, is trying to forget that they exist. So, he gets them a match, but there’s nobody who isn’t already booked who can go against them, so Kirby gets his gear on, and tells Jack the Jobber to find him a partner. Jack, being the silly scrap that he is, gets one of Kirby’s many rivals as his partner, El Ligero. During the match, Jack kept coming out with things for Kirby to sign, mail for him to have, or even a fake one-sided phone call with Jennifer Aniston. This match was meant to be a comedy act more than it was an actual match, so I can’t be that hard on it, but it still leaves a lot to be desired from an in-ring perspective.
After the slapstick match preceding it, I had just about given up hope that KirbyMania would be anything resembling a special show. After all, the crowd was unresponsive, the matches were good at best, the backstage segments were more painful than they were entertaining, and I was getting hungry, and therefore more irritated. As I was about to go and grab a sandwich, Zack Sabre Jr came out, and I was immediately put back in my seat.
Can I be the first to call Zack Sabre Jr the best technical wrestler who isn’t named Kurt Angle? From a pure mat wrestling perspective, few others have the sheer knowledge and grappling prowess of ZSJ. These attributes are given an exclamation mark due to his arrogance in ring. He comes across as a rude individual, which is the attitude I think they were going for. Add to this the fact that his opponent was Cody Rhodes, one of my favorite wrestlers in the world today, and you get pure magic. These two men had such good chemistry in the ring with one another, and the story they told and left in the ring was unrivaled by anything else on the card. The commentary team hyped this to seem like a dream match, and it felt like I was watching Tetsuya Naito vs Kenny Omega again. Not since then have I felt as engaged in a match as I did here, and not since Benoit vs Angle have I seen two men put on as good of a pure wrestling match as this. It brought the crowd to life from start to finish, and it ended in the perfect way; it ended with Cody Rhodes drinking a beer the same way Steve Austin would.
After that incredible match, I actually did go make myself a sandwich. The match was Bully Ray and the Swords of Essex vs Drew Galloway and the team of Moss and Slater. The crowd could not have been less interested in Bully Ray’ attempts at getting cheap heat by not wanting to get in the ring with Galloway, and it made the rest of the match suffer because of it. It felt like the sole purpose of this match was to make Galloway vs Ray feel more like a legitimate rivalry, but the in-ring work was decent, with the spot of the match being William Slater hurling himself at both members of the Swords from the top rope, but there didn’t feel like there was a real reason for this match to happen. It just sort of was a thing that existed, and that was it.
Thus, we were left with the main event, which after months of storytelling and build up, was Joe Hendry vs Joseph Connors. This match was set to be no holds barred, and I was thoroughly excited for a street fight between these two men. What did I get? A legit wrestling match. To be clear, it wasn’t a bad match, not at all. Hendry and Connors work well in the ring with one another, and they put on an above average match once again. The problem, however, was in the stipulation. If you’re billing a match as “no disqualification,” fans expect you to have more than just one chair shot. In addition, the finish with Hendry applying the Angle Lock on Connors wasn’t expected by the crowd, and when he tapped, the audience sort of perked up and were like: “Oh, that’s the end! Well, we’d better clap now!” Then twelve people clapped, and the rest of them sat on their hands for the next minute and a half before the camera faded. The match isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, it was actually enjoyable. Hendry is one of the best sellers in the company, and the three consecutive superplexes he delivered was phenomenal, but this wasn’t helped by its failure to live up to the stipulation it set for itself, the flat crowd, and the unexpected and unprecedented finish.
The biggest problem with KirbyMania was the crowd. Not only were they flat, but they seemed disinterested. It was up to the commentary team to keep trying to add hype to the matches. There are some things that are irreplaceable, and a crowd’s hype and investment is one of those things. Overall, there were some memorable spots, some good matches, a few terrible matches, and an incredible match. Cody Rhodes vs Zack Sabre Jr should’ve been the main event, as it was not only the match that received the most hype going into KirbyMania, but it was also the best match from a technical and objective standpoint. From a storytelling perspective, it makes sense for Hendry vs Connors to go on last, but sometimes, the in-ring action overpowers the story. It was a good show in terms of match quality, but the crowd’s apathy for the men and women in the ring was clear, and it isn’t the type of reaction the WCPW crew wanted going into 2017. Hopefully they can recover and have a phenomenal year, but this start isn’t what the new upstart promotion needed.
Until next time.