When We Were Marks
Après le déluge, Dan
Thoughts and results from NCW ChallengeMania 17
I help promote wrestling in Montreal. My relationship with IWS promoter PCP Crazy F’N Manny (and to a lesser extent with ISW promoter Mikhail Q. Rotch, Esquire) is more complicated, Manny is my boss (who never pays me), my friend, my burden, my editor, my enemy. I am sometimes his friend, his writer, his publicist, his indentured servitude, his sounding board, his SHILL~, but to over-simplify greatly I help Manny promote wrestling in Montreal.
With that responsibility comes terror: nightmares. For me there are three.
The first night terror is that no one will show up. This might be why I am so aggressive pre-selling tickets in a city notorious for having big walk-up crowds and for people showing up late or at the last minute. I know a promoter in Montreal who cancelled a show “due to a blizzard” of a measly three inches because only one paying customer showed up. I know promoters who put on shows with twelve people in the audience, seven of them comps; the locker room quite literally double the size of the audience. I have never been involved in a show quite that poorly attended thank God. But until I see the line at the door, I still worry.
The second fear that brings on flop-sweat is the no-show. A wrestler in Quebec famous for no-shows once promoted his own show and disguised a no-show by announcing that the third man in a Triple-Threat was “The Invisible Man” and booked T.I.M. to win the match. Quebec wrestling being the mutant that it is, T.I.M. immediately starting popping up at shows all over Quebec, usually in the audience. (According to experts, T.I.M. made his debut in a tag-team match against Cheech and Chong.) Like many itinerant wrestlers, T.I.M. eventually tired of Quebec and moved on, eventually landing in Japan.
I have had to deal with my fair share of no-shows. Manny and I were helping book the (now-defunct) CWA promotion for owner Andy Rosetti, when he decided against our advice to book ECW veteran Sandman. Fullingon made it as far as getting off the plane at Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Montreal before Customs took one look at his checkered legal past and marched him back on to the next plane heading back to the States. Similarly, I have a friend in Winnipeg who lost half his US stars when they started a food-fight on their plane and got thrown off in Minneapolis.
In Quebec, no-shows are such an epidemic that when Marc le Grizzly was running his seasonal Madness shows from 2004-2005 and brought in Samoa Joe for the first time for Mid-Summer Madness in 2004, he drove Samoa Joe from the airport directly to the NDR Centre and shot a video of Samoa Joe in the venue that he uploaded directly to YouTube to kill rumours Samoa Joe wasn’t coming.
Something I honestly should have thought of doing last Saturday May 30th, during the IWS Xth Anniversary, when we brought in Kevin Nash to fight PCO. I had people in line for the show spreading rumours that Kevin Nash wasn’t there. Even after I told them that I had seen Nash, spoken to him and shaken his hand; even after other people in line who don’t work for the promotion told them that they had seen him walk into the building, they still insisted that Nash wasn’t coming.
That said, Nash made it, but our former champion Viking, a man that we had put the IWS title longer than any man in the promotion’s history no-showed his appearance in the fatal four-way for the IWS title, turning it into a Triple-Threat match. That is normally what happens with no-shows. Steam pours out of your ears for a minute, then you shrug and re-book the card.
Like when we put on Un F’N Sanctioned 2007 with Necro Butcher against Viking and Azriel against EXesS. Necro slept in and missed his flight (to this day he still owes us a booking); Azriel made it to the border by car and was turned back by customs for legal reasons. We announced it at the door, but no one cared because Christian Cage DID make it. With both Viking and EXesS lacking opponents, we made them face each other which made sense story-wise since Viking had beaten EXesS for the IWS title six months before. And naturally, the match that happened by accident turned out to be the best match of the night and one of the best matches that we have ever done.
I have coping mechanisms for the first two nightmares, but the final one is the one that scares me the most, perhaps because it is one that I have never had to face. The fear is that you book a star for your main event of the biggest show of the year. Someone who will get you some publicity, maybe even some free TV. You incorporate him into your story-lines, you get the fans excited about the match, everything is going perfectly and then two minutes into the match the star gets hurt.
As I say, that is a nightmare that I have never had to face, but my friends at NCW have just recently during their annual ChallengeMania show.
I like NCW because they have the best wrestling in the province that I am not personally involved in. The NCW has its roots back in 1985 and this year had its 500th show, making it one of the longest lasting promotions in the history of Quebec wrestling. I also like NCW because in all the time that I have watched them they have had a very clear mission statement. Their booking philosophy is built around emulating the WWF from the day after Yokozuna pinned Hulk Hogan for the title (June 13th, 1993) until the moment that Bret Hart turned heel (March 23, 1997).
This was a period in the WWF where goofy gimmicks and serious characters walked hand-in-hand; where WWF wrestlers could be fat, muscled or skinny; and when the WWF was patient enough to burn off their feuds and stories slowly. It is a good period to emulate especially if you are a family wrestling outfit keen to avoid the excesses of the Attitude Era.
The best part of the gimmicks in the WWF of the period and of NCW now is that wrestlers lived their gimmicks; they inhabited their characters, knowing that the goofiest of gimmicks can be redeemed if the wrestler believed in his gimmick strongly enough.
Case in point, the first match from ChallengeMania 17 on May 16th, 2009.
NCW Tag Team Title Match: NCW Champions Project 13 (Jimmy Kraven and Guil Reno) vs. Anarchy Rulz (TNT and Adrian O’Ryan) with Anna Minoushka
For those who know nothing about Quebec wrestling, Project 13 is the goth team while Anarchy Rulz is the punk team whose manager is a former Russian Communist who looks like Obelisk’s twin sister.
Anna is a great manager who would make a great joshi if she didn’t punch like, well, a girl. When she originally debuted she screamed at the fans in French distorted by a thick and incomprehensible Russian accent. Someone foolishly decided that you should be able to hear Anna’s rantings and told her to drop the Russian accent.
Adrian O’Ryan has been doing a punk anarchist gimmick in the NCW since he started. He’s got a great look and he’s a smart wrestler despite being a semi-suicidal high-flyer who tends to crowd dive expecting scattering fans to turn into a crowded mosh pit. Adding TNT to the mix gives both guys a delightful edge. TNT has the look of a Dead Kennedys’ fan who got fat and got old; who has a 9 to 5 weekday job, but on Friday cranks the stereo with Frankenchrist and tells war stories about knife fights with Jello Biafra while sucking down a “Maudite” beer and having his first cigarette of the week. And he’s turned Adrian O’Ryan from a guy who always seemed like that the last guy at the party into a shameless brown-noser whose only real punk experience is listening to the nostalgic bullshit from TNT.
I was at the first NCW show when Project 13 debuted. It was the perfect idea for James Kraven whose only un-Goth-like trait is the intensity of his Gothness. On the first teaming, Guil Reno seemed uncertain about the idea of abandoning his gimmick as a Shawinigan street-fighting hick transplanted to Montreal, but this initial hesitation has worked in the team’s favour. Guil is still a Shawinigan street-fighting hick who has moved to Montreal and Jimmy is his Goth best friend who has slowly been introducing his friend to the urban Goth culture, some elements of which he has adopted with almost terrifying glee.
Project 13 are taking a page from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s match against Bad News Brown at WrestleMania VI when Roddy painted his whole body half-white and half-black to piss off Bad News Brown enough to give Roddy an advantage. Roddy always had a moral flexibility; not a racist, but willing to become one for a night if it gave him an advantage. The joke, of course, was on Roddy since he used water-soluble body paint, couldn’t wash the paint off and had to fly home still painted like a freak.
Or maybe Project 13 are swiping the Star Trek episode Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, as James Kraven has painted his face half-white and half-red, while Guil Reno has painted his face half-green and half-white in mirror opposite to his partner.
The match is a good brisk opener to get the crowd pumped up. There is one fantastic sequence where Guil Reno is acting the idiot - a useless face being herded back to his corner while his partner is getting double-teamed. Adrian O’Ryan pins James Kraven and realizing that the referee has his back turned, reaches over and rolls up the referee to force him to count the pin on James Kraven who kicks out at two because Adrian can’t hook the leg with the referee in the way.
Anna Minoushka gets involved in the match but before she has to try and break toilet paper with one of her crappy punches, Mary Lollipop, James Kraven’s perky goth cheerleader girlfriend, comes charging from the back at a full run and needs every bit of her momentum to spear Anna’s fat ass to the canvas and save her man. Project 13 win at 7:17 with a double pin on TNT.
NCW is really good at telling nice long slow-burn story-lines. The only downside is that every once in a while, things get a tad bit too predictable. Like the second match on the card.
Special Challenge Match: Black Eagle vs. Electrico
Black Eagle is long-time NCW veteran who used to wrestle hardcore matches waving a crowbar. For this match, he has decided to mock Electrico’s masked gimmick by dressing like a Sumo, emphasizing his gut and threatening Electrico with the power of his Fat Cobra Kung-Fu. And I know that that sounds AWESOME, but there is theory and then there is practice.
In practice, Black Eagle is a hardcore wrestler in name only, who comes from a wrestling family not one of whom could punch their way out of a wet paper bag, which wouldn’t be so bad if Black Eagle could do anything other than punch or kick.
If you had asked me before the match what the result was going to be, I would have said, “Electrico wins with a flippy move off the top in 7 and 1/2 minutes.” As it turned out the match lasted two whole seconds longer with Electrico getting the pin at 7:32. And that’s two seconds that I am NEVER getting back.
The benefit on the other side of being predictable is that sometimes you can give people exactly what they want and surprise them in the process. Cue third match.
If Pretty in Pink Loses They Must Split Up: Pretty in Pink (Gorgeous Mike & Kid Rock) vs. Handsome JF and Mystery Partner.
The Mystery Partner turns out to be Marvelous Jeff and I wonder if Kid Rock feels left out of the adjective war. So this is basically Face Ambiguously Gay Duo vs. Heel Ambiguously Gay Duo and there is a nice symmetry in the match with Handsome JF and Marvelous Jeff just coming together in heelish collusion as Gorgeous Mike and Kid Rock seem doomed to fracture in baby-face impotence. Especially when Gorgeous Mike gets injured and carried out after 3:30, leaving his partner Kid Rock to battle alone.
Kid Rock takes the mother of all beatings before making a miracle rally and diving for his corner just as Gorgeous Mike hobbles out - just in time to make the hot tag. Everyone performs their part perfectly up to and including Gorgeous Mike selling his injury while just barely being able to help Kid Rock perform their patented double teams to get the double pin on Handsome JF at 9:19.
A tremendously well-booked match that sucked the entire crowd of just over 500 people into believing that Pretty in Pink’s loss was inevitable, and then surprising the crowd with the ending that they really, really, really wanted.
I should probably mention NCW’s ring. Quebec wrestling veteran Sunny War Cloud considers it the best ring in the province and he is not wrong with one caveat. It has both the benefits and disadvantages of its size of 16 feet by 16 feet. Smaller wrestling rings have the benefit that they make the wrestlers look bigger and because the spring is so large compared to the surface of the ring, bumping is much easier as a result. (Not easy just easier.) The WWF 20 feet by 20 feet RAW ring is like bumping on a pallet of bricks by comparison. (Or so I am told.)
The downside to a ring that small is that it is hard to make submission wrestling believable because it seems like a wrestler should be able to reach the ropes from virtually anywhere in the ring. And of course, you have to be careful how many people you put in the ring. Any more than four people at a time and you run the same danger as organizing an orgy in an elevator. If everyone involved aren’t Olympic level gymnasts, who know EXACTLY what they are doing at all times, the whole thing quickly turns into a cluster-fuck.
Which brings us neatly to our fourth match.
4 Way Sudden Death - Winner is Number One Contender for the NCW Tag Team Titles: The Mansour Brothers vs. Los Elementos vs. Those Guys vs. Diablero and the winner of the Dark Match Battle Royal
For the record, doing a Battle Royal in the NCW ring is a phenomenally bad idea. Doing a 4 team tag match is not automatically a bad idea. Unfortunately, the number of Olympic level gymnasts in this match number exactly one: Heavy Maxx Fury, the survivor of the Dark Match debacle. In other words, the best man in the match is trying to herd cats in a closet for the second time in one night.
I can best illustrate Maxx’ night by pointing out something that only PCP Crazy F”N Manny initially noticed (out of a crowd that included me, Pat Laprade, Pat Lono and a number of other Quebec wrestling experts.) Maxx was going for a swanton, realized in mid-move that he was never going to be able to pull it off, made a course correction in mid-air for a splash, which while it was by no means the smooth as silk splash that Maxx would normally pull off was still within spitting distance of: that’s what I planned to do all along. And that sadly was the best move of the match, a saved botch.
Los Elementos are masked and sloppy while the Mansour brothers are Arab and Sidi the masked brother (who normally would be the second most talented guy in the ring) is having an even worse off-night than Maxx. Diablero (Maxx’ partner) is probably the least talented guy in the ring in terms of wrestling ability, but as usual is the most entertaining through sheer enthusiasm. He and Maxx have been partners only since Maxx won the Dark Match Battle Royal, so barely an hour, but when Maxx is double-teamed, Diablero throws a hissy fit that can be heard three metro stops away, putting to shame all of the other wrestlers whispering their objections when their long-time partners get bush-whacked.
And then there are Those Guys who are basically playing Jimmy Fallon and Will Farrell from A Night at the Roxbury. The midget Santino Italiano aka That Guy plays the midget Jimmy Fallon while some fat guy I don’t know aka This Guy plays Will Farrell. Their opening is bloody amazing, making them more stereotypically Italian in about thirty seconds than the IWS Italian team The Untouchables have managed in a year. The crowd loves their entrance; loves their team; and are delighted when they win the match with a double pin of Sidi Mansour at 10:28. I am just pleased that the sloppy cluster-fuck is over and that no one got hurt.
NCW emulates family-friendly WWF because the promotion attracts families including an inordinately high proportion of twelve-year old girls. Their squealing sometimes has its odd distortions on the NCW booking - NCW booker are nothing if not attentive to the desires of their fans.
Triple Crown Championship: NCW Triple Crown Champion Mark Andrews vs. Busty Love vs. Mr. Cobra vs. Urban Miles.
The Triple Crown Championship combines three defunct NCW belts: the (cable access) TV title, the hardcore title and the cruiser-weight title. Sadly the criteria for the title has nothing to do with being a cruiser, hardcore or telegenic.
Mark Andrews has been a favourite of mine since the time that I got Hannibal an NCW booking when he was home over the holidays from Calgary Stampede. Mark Andrews was the sacrificial lamb offered up for Hannibal to carve up like a holiday turkey with his bare hands. At the time, Mark was playing a cowardly, narcissistic pretty-boy “The Pokemon of Style”. A gimmick that died after the NCW crowd watched Mark Andrews take slaps to the chest so stiff that you could read Hannibal’s fingerprints from off Mark’s chest with the naked eye. Mark Andrews’ reputation as a cowardly heel died as he kept grimly picking himself off the mat, no matter how hard Hannibal was knocking him down.
His character has now turned full circle and he is a bad-ass narcissistic heel and a member of the Forsaken Four led by Cobra. Urban Miles and Busty Lover are midget heart-throbs with Busty being the taller and more talented midget, while Urban and his New Kids on the Block hat gets the lion-share of the squeals.
Cobra tries to cheat to give Mark an advantage, but runs afoul of fellow heel manager Phil Belanger, who hates Cobra no matter whether he wears white, black or gray boxers. Phil convinces the referee to toss Cobra before the match is a minute old. The match quickly turns into who is the bigger idiot as Urban and Busty send Mark to the outside rather than teaming to eliminate the Champion and with Mark out of the ring the two heart-throbs turn on one another.
At this point, Mark loses major points from me for not simply grabbing a chair from the crowd and sitting down to wait for Busty Love and Urban Miles to eliminate each other. Getting re-involved from choice is pointless, silly, out-of-character and in this case not even relevant as Urban Miles eliminates Busty Love at 4:11. I was convinced that this meant that Mark Andrews was going to retain the belt, because if they were going to pull the trigger on a title switch, Busty Love makes a much better choice as Champion in terms of talent. Then Urban Miles gets the flash pin at 8:45, the girls start squealing and I remembered who the true bookers of NCW are: the ones who buy the tickets.
NCW’s tertiary title is the Triple Crown Championship, but their secondary title is the Inter-Cities Title. (Speaking of emulating the WWF!) Going into ChallengeMania 17, the IC Champion was James Stone, feuding with the Forsaken Four all by himself.
Inter-Cities Title: NCW IC Champion James Stone vs. Jay Phenomenon
James Stone is your plucky hero despite having the name of a cranky arrogant misanthrope: James Stone. Jimmy Stone, on the other hand, would be a plucky underdog baby-face. Oddly and conversely, James Kraven is the name of an authentic goth hero, but Jimmy Kraven would be the name of a whiny goth poser. I am not certain why this is, might have something to do with the number of vowels in their names.
Jay Phenomenon is a wigger who used to team with Diablero. The Forsaken Four are Jay, Cobra and Mark Andrews plus Jeff Johnson who replaced Karl Briscoe in the Forsaken 4 when Briscoe got injured. During the match, Karl Briscoe dhows up to lend a hand, so the Forsaken Four become Five making it Five on One for James Stone No one can win against those odds and Jay Phenomenon becomes the new IC Champion after 9:40 with a bunch of help. An incensed James Stone grabs a chair and hands out five chair shots to fell the Forsaken Four Plus One.
In case, you were wondering what the Forsaken Four are like, imagine a French Quebecois version of the Four Horsemen started by the children of Paul Roma and Mongo McMichael.
One of the best parts about going to see NCW is that I get to see fat guys wrestle something that I don’t get to see much of in the IWS. With the possible exception of Dru Onyx, the IWS has never had much success with fat guys. (I say possible not because Dru Onyx wasn’t a success with us, he certainly was a success - a popular IWS Champion. No, I say possible to give myself an out for when Dru Onyx calls to yell at me for calling him fat.)
One of the guys who sadly didn’t resonate with the IWS fans, despite a fantastic introduction, was Tank. (He was introduced during Season’s Beatings 2003 when Dru Onyx gave the Green Phantom a Christmas present. The IWS Hardcore Hero opened the package and found to his surprise a toy tank which cued Tank’s surprise attack.)
Grudge Match: Tank vs. Samson (with Lufisto)
Tank is a fat Greek strong man who was “trained” by Jacques Rougeau Jr., which in practice meant that Eric Mastrocola and Kevin Steen did most of the heavy lifting. He has always had a great look and great charisma, but he is one of the wrestlers who are always trying to improve and get better and every year he does.
Samson is another Greek strong man although he is more of a rugged muscleman compared to Tank’s who channels the strength of the fat. If Tank is Volstagg the Valiant, the Lion of Asgard, than Samson is Hogun the Grim. Samson is accompanied by his beard Lufisto, who has become bat-shit crazy since joining SHIMMER. Her presence intensifies rather than eliminates the fan taunts of Samson being gay.
Samson carries a hangman’s noose to the ring and uses it to hang his opponents from time to time. He has the look, the intensity and the gimmick to succeed beyond Quebec. He has shown flashes of being able to make that leap, but what he really needs is experience with world-class talent and to become more consistent..
Tank wins after 11:41. Both this and the James Stone matches were good matches, but at ChallengeMania, wrestlers are expected to deliver great matches, something in short supply tonight.
The down-side to going to see NCW is that NCW is very protective of his veterans. This sometimes leads to ridiculous situations where veterans are being protected beyond all bounds of good sense. The NCW saga of Vanessa Kraven is the perfect example of this.
Vanessa had been partially trained by Ron Hutchinson in Toronto. When she came to NCW to finish her training, we started hearing stories of a 6 foot tall beautiful woman, built like a football player and strong enough to chop men so hard that they cried. When she made her debut at NCW, an extra 50 wrestling fans in the know showed to see if all that they had heard was true. And we are bitterly disappointed - not in Vanessa - but in NCW who promptly jobbed out the rookie to NCW veteran Julie the Red Fuxx who is almost literally half of Vanessa’s size.
Now respecting your elders and your veterans can be a fine thing, but there comes a point where you need to throw out the idea of making rookies pay their dues and recognize that there are things more important. Like say the principle of holding a ChallengeMania with the best matches possible as the card progresses rather than putting two of the most God-awful boring wrestlers in the world in your semi-main, just because they are NCW veterans.
Franky the Mobster and “Paranoid” Jake Matthews vs. Les Titans (Chakal and Bishop)
I suppose it is unfair of me to call Chakal boring. He is very talented technical wrestler. The problem is that he is so protective of his place and his position in NCW that he is completely unwilling to look ridiculous and you can’t really be a great heel unless you are willing to be humiliated. He is like a well-prepared meal that uses no spices.
Bishop, on the other hand, is completely and utterly God-awful. He is nowhere near as good as Chakal technically, being more a bland brawler, His complete inability to sell isn’t a huge detriment to a heroic unstoppable baby-face, but in a heel it is a huge handicap. I sometimes wonder if Bishop’s no-selling is through ego, through inability or because like other dinosaurs it takes him so long to process that he has been hurt, that it is difficult for him to properly express pain.
Jake Matthews is a shovel-wielding psychopath. While I wish he were more nuanced, Jake is capable of being in great matches and rising to the level of great wrestler even if he seems incapable of lifting others to that level.
Franky the Mobster is the Quebec Internet Wrestling Community’s choice for being the local guy who should be on their TV every week - starting right now. He does have the look and the intensity, plus he is one of, if not the best guy on a mike in the province. He has been in great matches and he can elevate others to great matches. Really, and it may seem like minor quibbling, the only problem that I have with Franky are matches like these where Franky is the best wrestler in a bad match.
The problem is that I sometimes think that Franky is content to be the best wrestler in a bad match. He will never be blamed for being in a bad match, but to me the difference between being a very very good wrestler and a great wrestler is the unwillingness to be in a bad match.
I remember watching Pierre-Carl Ouellet in his first match with the IWS at Un F’N Sanctioned 2003. A tag match that started badly and just sort of muddled along, until PCO got this look in his one good eye, a determination that he was simply not going to allow this match to continue sucking. That’s a look that I have seen in the eyes of Kevin Steen or El Generico, but never in Franky’s eyes. Not to say that Franky can’t have great matches, he absolutely can. I just don’t think he has the passionate unwillingness to not have bad matches that I have seen in the eyes of other wrestlers.
Of course, the other problem with this match is that the crowd desperately wanted Franky and Jake to murder the Titans, but the booking barely allowed them to muss Chakal and Bishop’s hair.
The ending comes when Chakal gives Franky a low blow and grabs Jake’s shovel to finish off Franky the Mobster. Jake steals his shovel back and takes Chakal out. He has a sure 3 on Chakal, but the Titans heel manager and pert-time NCW authority figure, Phil Belanger gets involved. Jake backs up Phil Belanger, but Bishop comes from behind for the ambush roll-up counted by Phil Belanger for the win at 10:56..
The one thing that NCW does better than any other Quebec promotion is slow-burn booking. They have shows every two weeks and hold big name shows about six times a year. The downside to this is that they have a tendency to train their fans that the important stuff happens at the shows that have a name.
The up-side is that when they set up a main event they do it with more and better build than just about everyone - take ChallengeMania 17’s main event.
NCW Title Match: NCW Champion Nova Cain vs. Sylvain Grenier vs. Dan Paysan
True to their obsession with that period of WWF, this match was built like an alternate dimension version of WrestleMania X’s main event only instead of Yokozuna, Lex Luger and Bret Hart, the three wrestlers contesting for the title are Yokozuna, Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels. For the purpose of this analogy Nova Cain is playing the part of Yokozuna with his manager Mr. Tolo playing the parts of both Mr. Fuji and James Cornette, Sylvain Grenier is playing the part of Lex Luger, and Dan Paysan is playing the part of Shawn Michaels. And of course rather than WrestleMania’s more complicated structure, they are just doing a Triple Threat match.
NCW built the match perfectly. Dan Paysan and Nova Cain had long standing issues, their confrontation at ChallengeMania a foregone conclusion, but when Dan signed the contract for the match, Sylvain Grenier showed up to sign on as the third competitor. Nova Cain blasted a distracted (by Tolo) Dan Paysan from the back and threw him out of the ring. Grenier waited for Nova Cain to turn to face him, then took the champion out. When Dan got back into the ring, he backed into Grenier and thinking it was Nova Cain or Tolo, spin-kicked the WWE Veteran right in the face.
Right there the roles are properly and perfectly established: Nova Cain is the fat champion with the evil manager who cheats to win; Sylvain Grenier is the arrogant muscle-bound (and not terribly smart) tweener who doesn’t cheat because he confidently believes that he doesn’t need to; and Dan Paysan is the good-looking hero who turns every woman (and some of the men) in the NDR Center into squealing twelve-year old girls and who will kick you in the face faster than a hiccup.
The follow-up is a good old-fashioned arm-wrestling match between Sylvain Grenier and Nova Cain. Grenier is winning until he is distracted first by a Dan Paysan video promo and then by Tolo hitting Grenier with the title belt.
The other benefit of Sylvain Grenier being added to the mix is that it puts the ending in doubt, because if it was just the baby-face Dan against the heel Nova Cain, you know that Dan is winning the belt because baby-faces always win in the main-event at ‘Manias. But Sylvain, as a Quebec TV personality, and mutiple-time WWE Tag-Team champion has the stature to be NCW Champion and as a tweener can go either fully heel or fully face during this match (and has already rescued Dan from Nova Cain and Tolo once before.)
The set-up is perfect, and then two minutes into the match, Sylvain Grenier is being helped to the back, grimacing and clutching his right arm. It can’t be an injury angle because they have already done an injury angle earlier in the show during the Pretty in Pink match. And this is the nightmare that I alluded to, Sylvain Grenier, your star who got you free TV to publicize the event, who helped you pack more than 500 people in to the NDR Center (which can only comfortably hold 400) is injured. As it turns out, Grenier has torn the bicep on his right arm. Earlier in the winter, Grenier tore the bicep of his left arm before his match with Abyss, but he was able to grit that one out, partly because the tear happened before the match rather than during it, but mostly because he tore the bicep on his non-working arm. Now with his working arm injured and his other arm still healing, Grenier is done for the night.
So here we are at the crux of the crisis. Your star is injured. Two minutes into it, the match that you planned for is gone. What do you do? Well, if you are Dan Paysan and Nova Cain you go out and have the best match of the night, the great match that ChallengeMania are known for.
Nova Cain improvs smoothly throwing Dan out of the ring, grabbing the mike, announcing that Sylvain Grenier is done for the night and then starts challenging random fans in the audience to take Grenier’s place. Having explained what happened to Sylvain Grenier properly, Dan and Nova Cain settle down to have a great 15 minute completely improvised match.
Dan’s ability to do this doesn’t surprise me, He has been nothing less than a professional wrestler since he broke in with the N.E.W. promotion at 15 years old. I sometimes feel guilty when I advise wanna-bes to wait until they are 18 to start training, but Dan is sui generis, the exception that proves the rule. Like PCO, Steen and Generico he completely refuses to have a bad match. Like Tank, he is always learning, always improving. Like Urban Miles (only better) he drives the women bat-shit insane, He has the brain of a professional wrestler, the moves of an Olympic gymnast, the charisma of a movie star and sadly, perhaps, the body of a cruiser-weight. This may limit his future, but on this night, for this promotion he is everything that they need in a champion and a main-eventer. When Dan dodges a Nova Cain bull-rush that carries the champion into his manager Tolo and through a table, Paysan seizes his chance and shows impressive strength body-slamming Nova Cain who is close to twice his size and then climbing to the top for a flippy pin at 17:44.
Dan’s ability to lead this match did not surprise, but Nova Cain’s ability to follow his lead astonished me. I have a great deal of fondness for Nova Cain as a wrestler, He has been instrumental in the careers of many who pass through NCW. As an example, 2.0 currently touring in Japan for Chikara got their start in a team called Under Construction - Jagged and Nova Cain until Shane Matthews and Jagged betrayed Nova Cain and renamed the team Under Construction 2.0, eventually dropping Under Construction and keeping the 2.0.
Throughout his career, Nova Cain, like Diablero, has made incredibly goofy gimmicks work through sheer enthusiasm. Perhaps the best of these was his GYM (Get Your Muscles) gimmick, where Nova Cain thought he was God’s gift to women and an inspiration to men, because he hung around in gyms and lifted a few weights, despite sporting a 12-pack of donuts body rather than a six-pack.
I have seen Nova Cain as a serious face, as a goofy face and as a goofy heel, all with great success. The one role that I had never seen him pull off successfully was the serious dick heel, until this title run and most importantly until this match.
It was as though Nova Cain decided to make his last match his best match...
And in fact he did.
After the match, Dan Paysan announced that this was Nova Cain’s last match, led the crowd in applause for Nova Cain and played for him a surprise video tribute.
NCW always does these tributes well and this was no exception. My only objection to it (and this may seem odd coming from someone who just spent three months promoting a match that shredded kayfabe) was that I would have preferred having some fig-leaf for kayfabe, a clause in the contract that Nova Cain would retire if he lost.
What I come back to though is the most impressive match that I have seen this year, where the biggest disaster that could happen in a wrestling main event, happened before my eyes and the wrestlers involved absorbed the disaster, and not only met the challenge but surpassed it.
Does it reduce my own fears of something like that happening in the IWS some day? No, not really. I guess that I can only hope that it ever does happen, that there is someone in the main event with veins of ice-water, reflexes of an Olympic athlete, a brain for the business and a passionate refusal to be in a bad match especially in a main event at a big show.
Someone like Dan Paysan.
Louis XIV of France used to say, “Après moi le deluge” After Me the Flood, a great man fearing disaster when he is no longer present.
A lovely thought, but I would rather have a great wrestler like Dan Paysan, whose reaction to a disaster is to seize the reins and save the day,
Après le déluge, Dan