On May 14th, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, held what I do believe is their second ever event outside of the U.K., the Canadian Qualifier for their inaugural Pro Wrestling World Cup. I was thankfully front row and in person for this special collaboration between the newest juggernaut of the Brit-Wres scene and the stalwart locals Smash Wrestling. The Phoenix Concert Theatre was packed, and everyone was in a state of mind to see some good wrestling. I think it was one of the most vocal, excited crowds I have ever sat amongst. They had specifically requested that those in attendance not spoil the show’s results online before it aired, so I’ve been sitting on this since then.
Match 0: Kevin Blackwood vs. Buck Gunderson (c) – Hogtown Pro Ontario Openweight Championship Match
It’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t record this match. Buck Gunderson has a very old fashioned look to him, reminiscent of Jerry “The King” Lawler in his attire, and there was a lot of love for him, even when he heeled it, from those in attendance. It was my first time watching him and while his attire set me back a step, he was quite adept.
The two men start with a back-and-forth series of technical lock ups, both men looking equally good in the exchange. They run the ropes and exchange tosses and Blackwood comes down hard on a seated buck with a Missile Dropkick. Buck comes back with some innovative rope use and gets distinctly heelish in his performance. They do some more back-and-forth moves. Blackwood rocking that really current indie style, while Buck has some really great moves of his own but stands out more as a character, with a style that physically expresses his gimmick.
Blackwood wrecks Buck Gunderson with a flurry of kicks, but it isn’t enough to stop the champ. Gunderson looks good as he goes for the nouveau retro-cool finisher de jour, The Crossface Chickenwing, but Blackwood escapes eventually. Not afraid to get dirty, Gunderson finally secures the 3 count with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes.
After that nice bonus match, the filming commenced and the announcer hyped the crowd up for some tournament action!
Match 1: Michael Elgin vs. Rene Dupree – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1
Big Mike gets a huge pop on his way to the ring, one that put the reaction Dupree gets to shame. I remember Rene Dupree very well from his time in the E and he looks just as fit as ever, chiseled as fuck, and he has ten years of new tattoos and a hilarious ponytail.
The match starts with a stare-down and the two big mean lock up, the audience takes this as an opportunity to hate on Dupree. They stare down again and go back and forth, with Elgin maintaining control over the fight. He hits a big outside-to-inside slingshot splash on the former WWE Tag Tem champion. Elgin lifts Dupree up in his stalling vertical suplex and hits gets a full thirty seconds of air time. Keeping track of that number was devilishly difficult because of that damned “Ten” chant that has infected the local shows whenever there is a count of any kind. It was cute at TakeOver: Toronto when we created it, but that was for Dillinger, because of his unique gimmick. It belongs nowhere else than in his matches. Please stop.
Dupree kicks out of the power move and tries to take control with a series of strikes, getting in some big kicks but Elgin just shrugs it off when the Maritimer chops him. They exchange chops and when Dupree gets in a big knee, Big Mike wrests control away from him by tossing him with a huge suplex, and lariats him like a boss. Elgin gets two on Dupree with a German, but Dupree comes back with another big knee and a huge suplex of his own. A corner dropkick gets Dupree two on Big Mike. Dupree gets frustrated, goes and gets a chair, and winds up crushing the ref in the corner and getting himself disqualified from competition. Big Mike wins in a match that cries out for a blow off at a later date where chairs aren’t illegal.
Match 2: Frankie the Mobster vs. harry Smith – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1
Frankie, announced as FTM, comes to the ring in a badass two-piece giant horned helmet, like something out of Frazetta art, makes a striking impression. Smith comes down to the ring and runs around it, hi-fiving pretty much the entire front row. There isn’t the same disparity in crowd support between these two as the last two. There is, however, quite the size difference between the two. Harry Smith is an imposing figure and moves strikingly fast for a man his size.
Quickly the match spills outside of the ring, as Harry knocks Frankie to the floor. Smith pursues him and slams him against both the concrete and ring apron, and just dominates him. He grinds on Frankie and keeps him down. Harry has a really nice snap suplex, it gets him a one on FTM. The crowd gets behind Frankie as Smith grinds on him, wearing him down, and maintains total control. The son of the British Bulldog hits Frankie with a nice neckbreaker and slaps on lots of headlocks, preventing the Montrealer from making the comeback that the crowd so desperately wants him to make,
Harry goes for a powerbomb but Frankie reverses it and gets his comeback, nailing a good lariat and t-bone suplex, following it with a dropkick to turn the tide. Sadly for the fans he only gets a two count here. Frankie no sells a big lariat but can’t get the upper hand. They exchange big moves, and just as Frankie looks to secure the win with a chokeslam Harry grabs the ref and crotches FTM then gives him a piledriver for the three count. I was really surprised at how good they let Frankie look, all things considered,
Match 3: Mike Bailey vs. Brent Banks – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1
This match starts off with the most chanting I have ever been a part off, as the audience showered “Speedball” Mike Bailey and Brent “Money” Banks with adulation, even giving the ref his moment of praise. One of the most passionate wrestling fans I know turned me on to how awesome Bailey is, and Banks has really grown on me since his lacklustre match against Tarik at F8ful Eight. This match solidified both of them as near-future super stars in my mind.
They start with some great lucha libre inspired grabs and escapes, trading position back and forth, displaying charm and charisma aplenty. They follow it with super fast spots while running the ropes, eliciting huge pops from the crowd. Banks hits a huge tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on bailey, pressing the advantage it gives him by chopping, stomping, and slapping Speedball. Banks looks great in the sequence and goes for a cocky Jericho-esque pin, to no avail.
Enraged, Banks stomps the piss out of Bailey, heeling it up to highlight how good Speedball is as an underdog. Bailey makes a comeback with huge kicks and dodges, nailing a particularly thudding kick to Banks head to take control. Banks counters Speedball’s flurry of offense when he catches him out of a springboard handstand into a Blue Thunder Bomb, getting only two out of a spot that could have ended the match.
They turn up the intensity with an amazing sequence where the run the ropes, ending with Bailey hitting a moonsault onto Banks outside of the ring. There’s a bit of a botch when bailey does a rope jump, and some unpleasant corner work that doesn’t meet the crispness of the rest of this match, This moves the match into its final moments, as there is a back-and-forth sequence of huge moves that sees Banks absolutely kill Bailey with everything in his arsenal for two count after two count. Speedball gets a flip piledriver, whirlwind kick, and huge shooting star knees for the final three count on Banks, advancing him to the next round.
Match 4: Tyson Dux vs. Kyle O’Reilly – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 1
The two technicians start the match off grappling for control, wrenching each other’s arms. The opening portions of the match are very technique heavy, with each man exchanging control with the other many times. They set up a narrative where O’Reilly has the edge in technique and Dux the advantage in terms of raw power. They have a great early sequence demonstrating their crisp techniques as they run the ropes.
Dux can’t keep control and O’Reilly cranks his neck, headlock fucking him, and maintains his grip through a nasty suplex. Frustrated, Dux goes outside but O’Reilly gets him with a running headlock. He walks the Smash Champion around the ring, hi-fiving fans as he embarrasses Dux. Finally Dux starts to make a comeback when he targets O’Reilly’s knee. He works the knee all over the ring, and abuses it particularly hard on the apron and post, getting really brutal. O’Reilly tries to come back with a surprise arm bar and rocks Dux with a big knee. Unfortunately he can’t take the advantage because his worked-over knee gives out on him.
Once back on his feet there is a flurry of strikes from O’Reilly and he is back in control. He targets Dux legs with a knee bar but Dux fights back by yanking on O’Reilly’s wounded knee, they go back-and-forth like this a while. The Dux gets O’Reilly in a Figure 4 after a strike flurry, but there is no submission, and they mutually lariat each other. After they recover O’Reilly really sells his hurt knee. Dux targets the knee but O’Reilly powers through, wrecks Dux with knees, and goes for the brainbuster but Dux escapes. O’Reilly keeps up the pressure, but can’t get a victory out of any moves, and they wind up exchanging strikes and grapples. Finally O’Reilly gets his brainbuster transitioned into an armbar spot and wins.
Match 5: Martin Kirby vs. Tarik
This match starts off slow, slow enough for me to worry about it just long enough that I had to make a note of it, but kicks into a higher gear quick enough. Kirby shows some good flair and looks to take the advantage but eats a wallop of a straight punch from the angry Calgarian. There’s a bit of bother with a corner spot that distracted from the quality of the action, but they work it out. Tarik takes control of the match with a big springboard elbow to the back of Kirby’s head, netting him a two count. Tarik keeps up his full control with a series of big strikes, even knocking Kirby to the outside.
Kirby takes control back with a big kick and transitions into a sequence that nets him a slingblade. He dodges everything that Tarik has for him and knocks his opponent down. He goes for the Zoidberg Elbow but instead eats a G2S and Disaster Kick from Tarik, kicking out at two. Tarik sets up Kirby for his Backpack Stunner out of the corner but can’t connect, and Kirby secures the three count with a superkick and fameasser. Solid fun.
Match 6: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Gabriel Kidd (c) – WCPW Internet Championship Match
This match starts with both men grappling to feel each other out, with ZSJ taking control of Kidd’s arm. Both men showing striking levels of technique. They exchange position and go back and forth with technical cranks, bending each other in painful ways. They put on a respectable show of grappling right from the onset and I love it. Each man looks like money as they trade position back-and-forth and put on a veritable wrestling clinic.
ZSJ takes brief control but is overwhelmed by both the speed and power of Gabriel Kidd. The Internet Champ is great with the escapes, back-and-forth they go just looking like absolute genius athletes in the ring. Neither man has a clear advantage over the other until Sabre Jr. turns on his vicious streak and brutalizes Kidd with a kick and choke. He starts picking on Kidd and runs through a chain of submissions until Kidd gets the ropes. Even after that Kidd taunts ZSJ, getting himself all tangled up as a reward.
Kidd levels the playing field with a big European uppercut and slam. A tremendous missile dropkick gets him a two count on Sabre Jr. ZSJ ties Kidd up as tight as can be but the Champ gets the rope break, then they move into a strike exchange, throwing wild European uppercuts at each other. They trade pinning predicaments. Sabre Jr. antagonizes Kidd with a slap to the face and Kidd comes at ZSJ hard, fuelled by anger. Zack controls the flow of the action for a while, tying up Kidd to counter everything, even moonsaults. Nevertheless, ZSJ can’t make Kidd tap or keep him down for three, even after he wrecks him with a German and Penalty Kick. An infuriated ZSJ is caught off guard with a surprise small package and Kidd retains his championship. This match wowed me.
Match 7: Harry Smith vs. Michael Elgin – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 2
Smith rushes Elgin right out of the gate, targeting his leg, and very quickly the two big men spill out of the ring and brawl all over the venue, slamming each other against all sorts of things. They go so far into the wilds of the venue that I lose sight of them from my position, and can only track their movement by the huge pops from different sections of the audience.
Back in the ring, Smith targets Big Mike’s leg again, using the ropes and the post to brutalize Elgin. Smith locks in a sloppy, but very welcome, Figure 4 around the ring post. He grinds on Elgin’s legs with multiple submissions and attacks. Every time Elgin tries for a comeback, Harry Smith goes after his leg again. Routinely locking on nice submissions, using the ropes for leverage, and looking like a technical master with beautiful bridges.
Smith misses with a knee and finally Elgin catches a break, lands some strikes, and dumps him with a German. He then gets a Falcon Arrow on Smith for a two count. They tussle and Big Mike dumps him with another German, but Harry counters and gets a huge kick for two. Smith gets a sharpshooter, but Elgin escapes. Harry goes for a driver on the apron but Elgin reverses and there’s a cannonball to the outside, which nets him a two count when he gets Smith back in the ring. Harry gets a low blow and piledriver on Elgin for two and tries to secure the victory with a sharpshooter again. Elgin reverses it into a small package for two and then finally secures the three count with a powerbomb.
Match 8: Mike Bailey vs. Kyle O’Reilly – Pro Wrestling World Cup Canadian Qualifier Round 2
O’Reilly comes down to the ring still selling the work done to his leg by Dux in his previous match. This puts me in a good mood from the very beginning of the match, as it helps build continuity and drama. The two dance around each other with kicks. They spar fast and furious. Kyle O’Reilly tries to take the advantage with grapples, but Bailey escapes and starts in on O’Reilly’s injured leg. It really gets to O’Reilly and he takes a short walk to recoup, Bailey playing pure babyface doesn’t chase him down, he just stretches and waits.
They grapple-scramble for position, playing fair with each other, and go back-and-forth with a series of strikes and grapples. Kyle keeps selling the leg as Bailey targets it to make it worse. They both show how talented they are as the sequence develops. Bailey gets in a Dragon Screw and works over O’Reilly’s knee like a boss. bailey stays in control until O’Reilly turns it around with a capture suplex.
O’Reilly gets control but he sells that his knee is bothering him as he uses it, creating great uncertainty in his ability to win. He goes to his strengths and works on submitting Speedball, working his knee hard in revenge for the abuse taken. They give room to sell the action, to breathe and feel tense and real. The longer O’Reilly works on submitting Mike Bailey the more Bailey slides into his preferred position as underdog in the match. Bailey nails a nice standing moonsault knees but there’s no pinfall attempt. Both men are tired. They have a nice sequence that is capped off with Bailey hitting a huge Tae Kwon Do kick. O’Reilly comes back with a buzzsaw kick and tries to submit Bailey and then they go back-and-forth looking really good. O’Reilly then dumps Speedball with a big suplex for a two count. They exchange kicks and O’Reilly then sweeps the leg, and then they trade strikes in a flurry of action.
Bailey tries to finish off O’Reilly with a huge kick, but gets caught mid flip in a submission. There’s a big exchange and O’Reilly gets a brainbuster for two. Immediately he goes into a series of submissions, but Speedball gets to the ropes and the crowd is in love with this match. Speedball cranks up the acrobatics with an inside-to-outside moonsault but misses and Kyle O’Reilly takes control and puts him up top on the turnbuckle. Bailey escapes and O’Reilly pursues and Bailey escapes again and gets the flipping knees of death on O’Reilly for the three count, advancing him to the finals in the UK. Overall this match went a little too long, with me making certain to note as much, which kept it from being better.
Match 9: El Ligero vs. Joe Hendry
Hendry cuts an overlong heel promo to set the tone of the match to come. He attacks Ligero before the match with the belt and knocks him loopy. Hendry wails on Ligero in a rough manner. Ligero gets in a flurry of chops and the action spills outside of the ring. They brawl into the crowd and all over the place, they disappear amidst the people and the next I see of them Ligero is getting a running splash on a seated Hendry. At this point in the match I had to note that it felt like they were spending too much time in the crowd. Before the move back into the ring Ligero gets a huge dive onto Hendry off of an elevated bar counter.
Back in the ring the ref takes a bump and Ligero gets a cutter on Hendry for a five count, but the ref is still down. Hendry gets a low blow on Ligero and grabs a chair. Ligero counters by getting a lowblow of his own hits him with the chair, and then creams Hendry with a splash. El Ligero gets so many counts, but still the ref is down. A new ref rushes the ring but its too late and Ligero can only keep Hendry down for a fresh two count. Ligero at this point has won the match two times with no ref to count. The second referee then takes a bump and Hendry clobbers Ligero with the belt and the ref is suddenly back and gives a two count.
They go outside again and Hendry wrecks Ligero, tossing him into stuff. They have spent at this point altogether too much time outside of the ring. Hendry heads back and Ligero starts getting counted out, makes it back in at nine. There is a flurry of action as the men go back-and-forth. Hendry applies the anklelock, Ligero escapes, but Hendry just grabs on with another anklelock and Ligero taps out for the win. The crowd boos. Definitely not the best match to close out such an awesome show. Over booked and too much time outside, but both men are great performers.
Post match Martin Kirby saves Ligero from a beatdown by Hendry.
This show had a lot of really great matches on it, and I hope that the audience love comes across on the recorded product. I haven’t been to an indie show yet in Toronto that has offered this many quality matches, that were so different from each other, in one evening. Clearly WCPW wanted to pull precisely zero punches here. It wasn’t perfect, and some of the great matches could have been better with little tweaks. This show could have had at least three A+ matches with just a bit of fine-tuning. Nevertheless, it was one for the record books.
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