|Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish|
By Nathan G. O'Brien
To stave off boredom brought on by some unfortunate and unexpected downtime (explained here) I have decided to do a little writing about one my favorite things in the world: pro-wrestling. I’m a lifelong fan of the “spandex ballet.” Like many people my age who grew up in Minnesota, my earliest memories are of the AWA’s (American Wrestling Association) Saturday morning TV show called All-Star Wrestling. The High Flyers – “Jumpin’” Jim Brunzell & Greg Gagne, Jerry Blackwell, Nick Bockwinkel, “Sheik” Adnan Al-Kaissie, Bobby Heenan, The Fabulous Ones – Steve Keirn & Stan Lane, The Road Warriors – Hawk & Animal, Rick Martel, Medusa Miceli, “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan, Bruiser Brody, Curt Hennig, The Midnight Rockers – Sean Michaels & Marty Jannetty, Mr. Saito, Badd Company – Paul Diamond & Pat Tanaka, and the list goes on. This of course led to NWA, UWF, World Class, CWA,WWF and countless other territorial federations and alliances, many of whom I was only able to follow through Bill Apter mags like Pro-Wrestling Illustrated. I eventually moved on to reading newsletters in the ‘90s, when some coworkers suggest we split the subscription cost. And then of course there was the Internet wrestling explosion of the early ‘00s. What started as typical childhood fandom eventually grew into full-fledged passion. Today I’m what you would call a smart mark (or a smark); meaning I have as strong an interest in the backstage and non-scripted aspects of wrestling as I do the storylines and the in-ring/on-mic product.
I’ve written some essays and some show reviews in the past but it’s not often that I write much more than 140 characters on the subject of pro-wrestling, so this is kind of an experiment. Whether this turns into a regular thing or not remains to be seen. I do have an idea for another piece, but for now I’ll hold off on giving this thing an official name. We'll just call it HDD on Wrestling for the time being.
For this particular exercise I picked three wrestlers that I wanted to watch an old match of—Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Dean Ambrose—and plugged their names into YouTube.
Bobby Fish vs. Ricky Reyes
NWA New York: Indytational 2010Rochester, NY – 10/23/10
This is one of my current favorites in “Big in Japan” Bobby Fish versus one of my older favorites in Ricky Reyes. In early to mid-‘00s I was a big fan of The Havana Pitbulls—or the Rottweilers as they were known in Ring of Honor when they were in a stable with Homicide and Low Ki—the tag team that Reyes was part of with Rocky Romero. I’ve seen Romero a few times recently on ROH teaming with Alex Koslov as Forever Hooligans but I haven’t seen Reyes in quite some time. Even as of 2010 when this match took place, I wasn’t really aware that he was still around. And this was probably about the time that Bobby Fish started entering my peripheral. I don’t watch a lot of Japan though, so it’s likely I’d be more of both of these guys back then if I did.
In my opinion a Bobby Fish match that isn’t preceded by a Bobby Fish in-ring promo has significantly less heat than one that is. Half of Fish’s appeal is his on-mic work. But alas we don’t get that here. But we do get the old guys in the audience trying to act tough and front like they’d fight the wrestlers. Usually it’s Fish that would engage with these guys and turn into a comical thing but here Reyes and his big masked buddy, whose name I don’t recall (Star Rider maybe,) that have to deal with the idiots.
I’m all for fan participation—it’s one of the best parts of going to live wrestling shows—but I hate the individual guys that try to be a part of the show. This whole crowd going into business for themselves thing is a debate I don’t care to get into now. But I do think there’s a level of respect towards the performers that needs to be maintained as an audience member. I don’t give a flying fuck if the live crowd shits all over a WWE show. That’s an expensive as hell ticket and it’s a company that treats both their talent and their customers with unmatched vindictiveness and disdain. So if a John Cena promo is boring, by all means, go fucking nuts. But at an indie level event, show some fucking respect. Keep it fun and value the line between performer and fan.
Anyway, the match! Nothing too spectacular, but not the drizzling shits (shoutout to Lance Storm, who I have blocked from following me on Twitter) by any means. Fairly typical indie under 15 minutes match. Nice mix of Japanese-influenced US indie strong style and power moves like suplex and back breaker variations.
Cool spot late in the match where they trade hard kicks to the chest. Then both men hit the ropes, meeting in the middle with double shoulder tackles that leaves them both on their backs.
Reyes gets the win with a neck breaker variation after capitalizing on a missed top rope moonsault out of the corner by Fish. Fun match for what it is.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Sami Callihan
IPW: Showdown in Naptown
Indianapolis, IN – 1/1/11
Here we have Bobby Fish’s Red Dragon (stylistically written as reDRagon) tag team partner Kyle O’Reilly putting on a great match with Sami Callihan for Insanity Pro Wrestling. This is from a dope card that also featured AR Fox vs. Ricochet, Jon Moxley (currently known as Dean Ambrose in WWE) vs. Jimmy Jacobs, Irish Airborne vs. American Wolves (current TNA tag team champions, assuming the company is still in business at the time you’re reading this,) and other little big names like Colt Cabana and Chuck Taylor.
Even though he’s got a lot of smark hype behind him and has been around for a long time now, I’ve somehow managed to only see a few Sami Callihan matches over the years. I suspect this is because I stopped buying indie DVDs and tapes on a regular basis in 2008. (This happen to coincide with me doing a lot of, ah, dating at the time, which left little room for watching taped pro-wrestling matches that took place in armories, community centers, and junior high gymnasiums.) I believe this is right around the time he started building steam. I’ve always appreciated his crazed eyeliner punk look. He’s currently working in WWE NXT as Solomon Crowe, so hopefully I’ll see more of his current stuff, as I am a WWE Network subscriber (which coincides with me also being married now.)
Kyle O’Reilly on the other hand, I am very familiar with, due mostly to having ROH TV in our market. In my opinion, he’s one of the top ten American wrestlers with upward momentum working today. (More about this in a future piece hopefully.) I’m a huge fan of his offensive MMA/BJJ/grappling/judo skill set and he has a very unique way of selling (similar to Dean Ambrose) that I think works really well alongside his more recent cocky and comical skinny jeans coffee shop hipster gimmick.
Match starts off fast and heavy as Callihan charges into O’Reilly and lays in some hard alternating chops and forearms to the neck. O’Reilly takes advantage of a brief run to ropes from Callihan and meets him in the other corner with some forearms of his own and a series of his signature kicks. They then exchange upper hands once again, which sets the pace for the rest of the match. Typical but really fun strong style exchanges throughout the match. Lots of European upper cuts, chops, knee strikes, and cool spots where they match face slaps Japan style. The guys keep the pace of the match high by hitting the ropes frequently and keeping matwork to a minimum. When they do go to the mat it’s for quick paced and unique submission attempts, rather than long stalling holds like headlocks or chinlocks.
Cool spot outside the ring mid-match when they both take turns missing strikes and slam their hands into the ring posts. Love how Callihan does the little things; like when O’Reilly goes to kick him in the face he puts up his hands to block it and then sells his forearms. You don’t see a lot of guys doing that. Most would still sell that face which makes it less believable than it already is. Also like how Callihan does unique things like headbutts to the chest or making basic collegiate wrestling takedowns look really cool and punishing.
O’Reilly eventually responds with two rolling butterfly suplexs into a butterfly release DDT. Just beautiful wrestling. There’s a sweet MMA spot near the end that might have the anti-MMA pro-wrestling hardcores rolling their eyes, where O’Reilly has Callihan in a triangle and is delivering elbows to the head from his back. I’m not sure but I think I heard someone in the audience yell, “Watch the trajectory of those elbows ref.” At one point O’Reilly ends up with the full mount which I have to admit, doesn’t really work in pro-wrestling. It just looks too goofy throwing fake punches in the position.
Callihan gets the submission win via a Koji Clutch. They shake hands afterwards, ROH style. Great stuff.
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose
Tampa, FL – 9/18/11
Florida Championship Wrestling was the developmental territory started by WWE after they ended their longstanding partnership with Deep South Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. (Coincidently OVW is now the developmental territory for TNA…for the time being anyway.) In the summer of 2012 FCW was rebranded NXT, which was a previously a WWE television show that featured FCW talent.
Of all the original content on the WWE Network right now, NXT is hands down the best. Although in my opinion it’s not enough to make the $11 monthly subscription worth it on its own but with PPVS tossed in and all the old stuff it’s OK. If they take PPVs out of the equation, it’s likely I’ll cancel my sub, which will suck because I really enjoy NXT when I get a chance to watch it. But anyway, that’s all beside the point.
This is actually the first ever FCW match I’ve seen. FCW was never on TV here and if it was available on the Internet at the time, I had no idea, or more likely, had no time to watch it. Like the IPW ring set, I really dig the color scheme; especially the green ropes.
This is an early match between the two indie darlings (palm strike to whoever came up with that term, knee strike to me for using it) that are currently embroiled in a major—actually, the most exciting—storyline in WWE. Both Rollins (known as Tyler Black) and Ambrose (known as Jon Moxley) made the rounds amongst the indie circuits—cutting their teeth in places like ROH, PWG, IWA Mid-South, AAW, FIP, CZW, Evolve, JAPW, and Dragon Gate USA—before getting picked up by WWE. I’m actually kind of surprised that Rollins has made it as far as he has with WWE. I’m happy he has but I am surprised, given WWE’s track record of wasting potential based on guys’ size, that he’s in the position he’s in; which is poised to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Ambrose maybe even more so. I mean I knew the very first time I ever saw him—Dragon Gate USA: Enter the Dragon 2010—that he could be a ginormous star if given the chance but I still thought he had a subversive, loose cannon-like quality to him that would never appeal to WWE. So it’s really cool to see these guys in an old match that predates their awesome work on the main WWE roster as The Shield (with Roman Reigns) and their current feud.
This match is billed as “most pinfalls in 30 minutes wins” and is also for something called the FCW 15 Championship. Around 10 minutes into it Rollins scores the first pinfall when Ambrose gets disqualified for a blatant kick to ye olden old nut sack. Within two minutes Ambrose scores two pinfalls on Rollins by capitalizing his inability to recover from shattered scrotum syndrome. It is things like this the make Ambrose so great. And the best part is he didn’t even have to do that old thing where the guy points his finger at his head to show he’s ahead in the mental game; you just know it already. If Trips ever wants to handoff his “Cerebral Assassin” gimmick to someone, Ambrose is the guy.
With just under 14 minutes left Rollins evens up the pinfall count at two a piece with a sunset flip. At this point the match really picks up, and the homoeroticism of pro-wrestling (let’s just be real here guys, it’s not a bad thing) starts to set in as they are perspiring and breathing heavy all over each other. There’s a sweet near fall when Rollins hits Ambrose with a springboard clothesline. Cool spot when both men tumble out of the ring with a vertical suplex by Ambrose. And another when they are on their knees slugging it out in the middle of the ring. Ambrose appears to be yelling, “Harder! Hit me harder!” With around three minutes left, Rollins misses a 540 (or some other unintelligent number) moonsault/swanton type thing that would be the pivotal point in any normal match. But this is not a normal match! The way Ambrose struggles to get to his feet, by flailing around and crawling up the rope is just awesome; very much in the Shawn Michaels vein.
With two minutes remaining Ambrose slaps on a Texas Cloverleaf that will take us up to the final minute of the match, in which the two men exchange each other’s finishing moves. Time runs out tied at two pinfalls a piece. A sudden death overtime is ordered by some women that is apparently “the general manager.” This is honestly a match that could headline Wrestlemania. If we’re lucky maybe someday we’ll see it. But don’t hold your breath on that.
Rollins hits an awesome looking suicide tope through the ropes to the outside. Literally the best tope I’ve seen in a long ass time. Perhaps I’m caught up in the excitement of the match. But that’s the point, right? Back in the ring, Rollins super kick to Ambrose, who rebounds off the ropes with a vicious lariat. One of the announcers says, “Oh my God, did that just happen?!” Those are exactly the right words to describe it. Rollins hits two more super kicks and follows them up with a dangerous-looking package driver for the win. Just. Fucking. Awesome.
Final thoughts on this match:
It’s cool to see WWE developmental doing stuff these days besides taking guys from the independent scene with unique skill sets and turning them into “WWE style” workers. As in actually developing stuff like this feud; this is now one of the main draws at the upcoming SummerSlam.
I’m not a huge fan of multiple super kicks in a match (shoutout to the Young Guns, whose hands I will attempt to shake if ever given the chance.) But I think it worked really well in this case because it was at the end of the match, which really drove home the point that it takes a lot to put a buy like Ambrose down for the count.
Given the near-blood feud status of the current Ambrose / Rollins angle it’s unlikely that they could do a straight wrestling match like this. They’ll probably have to do a Last Man Standing or Street Fight or some other gimmick match that will play to the idea that they absolutely hate each other. It’s safe to assume it will still be good—probably lots of high spots and bumps on announcer tables, stairs, the ramp, etc.—but I’d really like to see them start with a straight match like this one. But they’ve been booked beyond that now, so it doesn’t really make sense anymore. Either way, unless Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena is amazing (which is unlikely,) it is definitely looking to be the highlight of SummerSlam.