Monday, December 6, 2010

Smarkass Reviews -- Full Impact Pro: The Usual Suspects

I got this at Zellers for five bucks along with the first Shimmer show for the same price. They even had a Glow DVD, a hardcore reunion special, and the first two seasons of XPW, all for five bucks each, but none of them seem like something I'd want for free, so they get left in the store. Last night, Michelle and I watched Full Impact Pro's The Usual Suspects and it was an interesting experience. There's the fun of seeing some people you recognise back when they were younger. Full Impact Pro is a smaller indie promotion, partnered with Ring of Honor until 2009 when it switched to Dragon Gate USA. I've seen a few FIP matches on the 'bonus' discs of Dragon Gate USA DVDs. When people talk about companies that run shows in gyms, this is a perfect example.

This show is from April 22, 2005 and is the introduction of tag team titles to FIP. Instead of having a tournament, the whole thing is set up with no rules. Somehow, we're told, a team will win the belts before the show is over. No idea how, but it will happen. In this respect, one of the announcers, Dave Prazak (who is also a manager) is amusing throughout the show, especially in the beginning, by just trashing the lack of a plan. At first, he seemed like the model for the Cole/Matthews team on NXT...

Match #1: The Heartbreak Express vs. The Carnage Crew
No idea who any of these guys are, but one of them is a fat guy whose character, as far as I can tell, is 'gay Dusty Rhodes.' I swear to god. He rips off Rhodes so much, but throws in extra camp behaviour that I can only surmise that, when coming up with what a big white fat guy could do, someone said "Just rip off Dusty Rhodes!" and someone else laughed and said, "Nah, that would be too blatant. Better play it safe and make it gay Dusty!" The match itself was very sloppy. The Heartbreak Express cheated a lot and there was a bit surrounding Gay Dusty Rhodes hurting his ass -- and one of his opponents smacking him on the ass, oddly. In the end, the Carnage Crew won, so... they won?
Winners: The Carnage Crew [*]

Match #2: The Carnage Crew vs. The Ring Crew Express
Almost immediately, Dunn & Marcos, the Ring Crew Express were out to challenge the Carnage Crew. This match was short and incredibly spotty. Spotty in that way where Dunn & Marcos would go for a tandem move and their target would stand there, waiting for them to execute it. They're a fun, cruiserweight tag team with a 'rock n roll' attitude, but you can see why they haven't really gone anywhere, not even a big run in ROH (though, they were there for a period).
Winners: The Ring Crew Express [1/2*]

Match #3: The Ring Crew Express vs. DP Associates
Prazak introduced the tag team he manages, DP Associates (Jimmy Rave and "Fast" Eddie Vegas) as if they would fight the Ring Crew Express. But, Prazak backed out of the match, saying he wanted to find the right opponents for his boys that night.

Match #3: Roderick Strong & Jerrelle Clark vs. Homicide & Vordell Walker
The first match of the night to really feature anyone I know with Roderick Strong and Homicide. This match was actually the best of the night. Strong and Homicide began things, and had some nice back and forth until things broke out into this frantic brawl/grappling section that reminded me of amateur wrestling quite a bit. After they broke it, Homicide staggered around, blaming 'too much weed' for why he couldn't keep it up too long. Walker wrestled a power game well, while Clark played on the agility and speed. Eventually, it broke into a free-for-all where terms like 'legal man' meant jackshit and Strong and Clark won only when Homicide was kept to the outside. No, I was impressed with the work in this match. Definitely the stand-out of the show -- and, oddly, like many tournaments, it had you wishing that this first-round (if you could say there are rounds in this show) match was the finals.
Winners: Roderick Strong & Jerrelle Clark [***1/2]

Match #4: Spanky & Sal Rinauro vs. Steve Madison & James Gibson
Michelle is infinitely amused that Brian Kendrick began his career as 'Spanky' (apparently named after his means of staying awake on long road trips... ew). I think that's the only reason she wanted to watch this one before the Shimmer DVD (she basically said as much). This match was a little disappointing. I don't think things ever really cohered. Gibson and Madison were decent, while Rinauro was unimpressive. Kendrick was somewhere between. Madison was the biggest of the group and he stuck out for that reason, never getting into a groove with the other three. I know others are high on Gibson (Jamie Noble), but he's never really impressed me. Maybe I haven't seen the right matches. His work in the WWE was fine and, here, he was a little better than the average FIP guy, but not by much. After the match, Madison turned on Gibson, blaming him for the loss (despite him being the one that was pinned).
Winners: Spanky & Sal Rinauro [**]

Interlude #1: CM Punk!
CM Punk finally arrived, FIP World Heavyweight Championship belt in his possession. He'd apparently stolen the belt from Homicide, the true champ. Punk was good on the mic. He put over his faction, the New Dawn, and his wanting all of the rejects, because he can turn them into the best. His example was Don Juan, a guy who thinks he's king shit, and is just kind of a joke. This continued until Homicide chased Punk around the ring and to the back. Punk was good on the mic, basically doing a less developed version of what he does now. I was happy.

Match #5: DP Associates vs. Evan Starsmore & Aaron Epic
Finally, Dave Prazak found the right team for DP Associates to fight: two jobbers! And, yeah, jobbers by FIP standards... you can imagine what that's like. This match was brief, but oddly longer than you'd expect with two jobbers. Strange.
Winners: DP Associates [1/4*]

Match #6: DP Associates vs. The Ring Crew Express
Quickly, after the match was over, the Ring Crew Express hit the ring to have the match teased earlier. DP Associates got a chance to show what they can do a bit more. There was a funny moment where Vegas turned around and started wailing on Rave, who was being held by Dun (or Marcos) and didn't seem to notice it was his partner that he was hitting. Weird stuff. I liked Rave, but Vegas just rubbed me the wrong way. I don't know why. This match was fine and gave the DP Associates a second win for the night.
Winners: DP Associates [*1/2]

Match #7: CM Punk & Don Juan vs. Spanky & Sal Rinauro
Punk came out again to cut a promo, saying that he had Homicide arrested (but would not be pressing charges) and would fight him at the next night's show, because he's a fighting champion. Spanky and Rinauro then challenged the pair. Punk was a little more jokey here -- both in and out of the ring. There was a funny spot where he had had Juan work over the arm of Spanky (I believe) when the ref was distrated, Juan facing away from the ring and slamming the arm again and again over his shoulder. They did that a couple of times until Spanky stuck Punk's arm over Juan's shoulder and he didn't realise that it was Punk. Oh, dumb heels, will you ever learn? From there, the faces were in charge for much of the match, but the heels still won with a little cheating. Spanky and Rinauro looked better here, while Punk showed some flashes of brilliance. Juan was... there.
Winners: CM Punk & Don Juan [**1/2]

Match #8: Three Way Dance -- Antonio Banks vs. Rainman vs. Jared Steel
You'll know Antonio Banks as the now-former MVP. His opponents were two rather large guys that seemed to hate him more than one another and double-teamed him at first. Matches like this are hard to work, but the added elimination-style set-up should have made that easier since there wouldn't be the breaking up of pinfalls since one of your opponents eliminating the other one benefits you. Well, you'd think that until Banks was pinning Steel, Rainman knocked Banks off, hit a move, and eliminated Steel. Um, why? From there, Banks showed a couple of Benoit-esque moves that made me laugh because of the way Benoit put over MVP for the US Championship. Banks tried for the multiple German suplexes and won the match with the Crossface. There was also an appearance by the Drive-By kick to the head in the corner. You could see the future MVP in Banks here. It was a decent enough match, I guess. It didn't get good, though, until Steel was gone and it was a regular one-on-one match.
Winner: Antonio Banks [*3/4]

Match #9: Three Way Dance for the FIP Tag Team Championship -- DP Associates vs. Roderick Strong & Jerrelle Clark vs. CM Punk & Don Juan
While Prazak said on commentary that it should be DP Associates vs. the winner of the other two teams since they had both only won one match, while DP Associates had won two, he then suggested on the mic that it be a Three Way Dance. What happened? I imagine it was someone looking at the time and realising they needed to wrap things up. The two heel teams worked as one, for the most part, working over Roderick Strong for the first part of the match until Clark finally got in and eliminated Juan (and Punk). That left a fairly standard face/heel pairing with the ending coming in a pretty dominant fashion as Strong was on the outside, allowing Vegas and Rave to hit the Double Penetration (and it resembles one...) to become the FIP Tag Team Champions. Not a bad choice since, out of the established tag teams, they had the best gimmick and could draw some heat with Prazak as their manager.
Winners and NEW FIP Tag Team Champions: DP Associates [**1/4]

Overall, it was a mixed show. Only a few matches really rose above 'mediocre' (and, then, not by much) aside from the Strong & Clark/Homicide & Walker match, which was quite good. A more focused show with a better game plan would have been better. It ultimately became a single-elimination tournament with random pairings, which is fine... if they established it as that. It's not like planning out a tournament is that hard, even if it's a gauntlet-style one like this kind of was. I definitely think it was worth the five dollars I paid, but that's about the most I'd pay for it at the same time. As I said at the top, it was cool seeing some guys I know before I knew them. CM Punk in particular is great to see in his pre-WWE days. He's definitely a guy who found his character early and has perfected it, and seeing some of the early stages of that is interesting.

Show Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)

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