Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Year End Awards!

Jim and I are excited to give our votes to the categories below.  We hope you enjoy them and appreciate your readership in 2011.  We hope to grow Two Spot Monkeys in 2012!!!

(For clarification sake, Jim put his choices in after Tom, and has intentionally not chosen the same, so as not to bore you with two people talking about the same thing.)

Wrestler of the Year

TOM: In 2011, there were so many wrestlers that had great years.  I think there are a number of ways that that one could look at this award: a wrestler draws money, a wrestler has consistently good to great matches, a wrestler is entertaining both in the ring and out of the ring and more.  For my purposes of this, and for all of the awards, I will use a combination of all of those factors and more.

My wrestler of the year for 2011 is CM Punk.

CM Punk had a great year, was a focal point in WWE, despite many things being somewhat against him.  Punk is a true WWE success story; he’s remained true to who he is as a person and made his roads doing things his way.  That way is a way that fans could connect to, both going back to his ROH and Indy days and multiplied that en masse as a part of the WWE Universe.  Punk’s run from mid-June through the end of the year, despite WWE and creative inspired head scratching, was a great run, highlighted by 2 World Title runs, good to great matches and some of the most captivating WWE TV of the year.

JIM:  Punk probably is the best choice here, but since I want to be sure to highlight someone different from Tom, I will go with a complete dark horse here, and in the vein of Pro Wrestling Illustrated once picking Dean Malenko #1 in the PWI 500... 

My wrestler of the year for 2011 is Dolph Ziggler.

Ziggler has not been put in a position to draw money yet, and for that reason, if someone said I was crazy to pick him, I could totally understand it.  But week in, and week out, he has the best matches on WWE television shows.  He’s got great presence, is a strong promo, and frankly, I don’t think he needs Vickie Guerrero anymore.  His “show off” character who keeps challenging people to “top that” is just awesome.  In a post back in February, I looked at who could have a breakout year in 2011, and Ziggler was one of those guys.  Now, in that article (still available here in the archives), I said that I figured he’d be World Champion by summer, well, I was wrong, but at this point, if he doesn’t get a more meaningful run as champion in 2012, WWE will have lost their mind.  This guy is money, and I think can be a huge star for them for years to come.  He’s already one of the best in the ring, and has been all year, now just strap the rocket to him.

Tag Team of the Year

TOM: My tag team of the year for 2011 is Jay & Mark Briscoe.

At the beginning of 2011, The Briscoes were pretty stale and surprisingly bland.  This was a duo who was 6 time ROH World Tag Team Champions, had toured Pro Wrestling NOAH and been staples in ROH from Day 1, but were in desperate need for re-invention.  That re-invention occurred in March, when they finally turned full heel and #DemBoys truly were re-ignited.

Jay & Mark were arguably when of the more fresh acts of 2011, which is a credit to them, just simply being them and it being real, raw and genuine.  Even as heels, they were entertaining and captivated all fans, without losing any of the edge they needed to maintain and be unlikable against their opposing teams.  Their year was highlighted by a brutal feud with The All Night Express of Kenny King and Rhett Titus and Wrestling’s Greatest Tag Team of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas.

JIM:  I mean, the Briscoes likely win this thing hands down, but as I sat and thought about other Tag Teams for this award, I was saddened that I really couldn’t come up with a lot of other worthy teams.  There are a couple of up and coming teams on the indies, and then when you look at the “big two”, there are very few teams that stay together for any length of time. 

With all that being said, my Tag Team of the Year for 2011 is no longer together right now, yes, my award goes to the Kings of Wrestling.

While they left Ring of Honor after the August TV Tapings, for the first 8 months of the year, you knew if you saw the Kings on a card, there was going to be a hell of a good tag match on that card, no matter their opponents.  They had great matches this year with World’s Greatest Tag Team, The Briscoes, Future Shock, and my personal favorite, the American Wolves.  Will the Kings re-form in Florida Championship Wrestling, and then later in WWE?  Time will tell, but for now, with Claudio’s new career as Antonio Cesaro in FCW, and Hero’s unknown future, we may have seen the last of the Kings for some time…I hope that isn’t true though, they are just too darn good together.

Match of the Year

TOM: 2011 for me, felt like I watched a lot less wrestling than I had ever seen before.  I still consider myself a huge fan, one who follows many promotions and talents.  Choosing something in this category, without feeling like I have seen “enough” is something that I do struggle with.

I’ll try to see more in 2012, but my choice for Match of the Year, 2011 is: CM Punk vs. John Cena, WWE Money in the Bank PPV, July 2011.

This was a match that I made sure I went out of my way to watch live and on PPV.  I’ve been invested in CM Punk since his ROH days and I am a John Cena fan.  The build for this match and the atmosphere that was sure to result with the event being held in Punk’s backyard of Chicago, was something that to me, was just doing to deliver.

And it did.

This was lightning in a bottle and the WWE captured it, as they so often tend to do, just for one night.  Of course, Punk came out on top and delivered a career making performance, along with John Cena, being just about the perfect foil to play off of Punk.

JIM:  Lots of great action this year.  I am going to go with the match that when I was done watching it, and having seen 3 other good to great shows that weekend, I said to friends that it was by far the best match I’d seen that weekend, PAC & Masato Yoshino vs. CIMA & Naruki Doi from Dragon Gate USA: Mercury Rising in April 2011. 

This match was just a beautiful ride with some crazy high flying and great mat work and everything in between.  I was disappointed after Ricochet got hurt the night before because I wouldn’t get to see PAC and Ricochet go at it, but Doi is one of the absolute best in the world and just meshed in this match perfectly.  This match may not be for everyone (if you don’t like the Dragon Gate style), but for me, it was a match that just blew my mind, even though I have seen tons of Dragon Gate matches.

Feud of the Year

TOM: Other than Match of the Year, this is my toughest category to choose.

I choose Kevin Steen vs. Ring of Honor/Steve Corino.

This was storytelling at it’s best, to me.  This feud had one match, right at the end of the year and it lived up to the hype.  Kevin Steen, all year long for the most part, terrorized Ring of Honor in an attempt to get back in.  He first returned, physically, in June at Best in The World and it was a roller coaster ride from that point on, incorporating Steve Corino, Jimmy Jacobs, Jim Cornette and more. 

Not just that snippet above, but there were layers to this story with Corino’s history with Steen, his redemption from not being “evil”, his battle with needing to face Steen, the Monster he created and more.  Whether on ROH DVDs or through the SBG TV show, I recommend strongly seeking this storyline out if you have not seen it.

JIM:  Hard to argue with Steen vs. Ring of Honor.  Honestly, this one should have been CM Punk vs. John Cena.  It absolutely had the legs to run the rest of the year once it really kicked into gear at Money in the Bank.  However, WWE was insanely short sighted and killed it off after Summerslam, costing it the win here. 

I’m choosing PAC vs. Ricochet as my feud of the year. 

These two went at it on two continents, but here in DGUSA, and over in Dragon Gate in Japan as well.  PAC may be one of the best, most well rounded wrestlers on the planet right now, and I can only hope that DGUSA gets hotter next year so that more people can see it.  Ricochet on the other hand went from a guy who had some cool flippy moves to a guy who has also become very well rounded, and has been reborn as a cocky heel.  This one was great to watch in 2011, and I see them meeting up again in 2012, and I, for one, will be very interested in seeing it. 

Promotion of the Year

TOM: My promotion of the year is UFC.

The Ultimate Fighting Championships continued to grow in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012.  They have such a great array of world-class MMA talent and have successfully had both strong pay per view and television events.  Towards the end of the year, they announced their multi-platform deal with FOX and they will finally be on non-cable, National Broadcast TV, highlighted with a strong card coming up with UFC on FOX 2, with Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis as the headliner.  I don’t see any of the momentum already captured coming to a halt and I do see UFC just continuing to grow in 2012 and beyond.

JIM:  Good looking out Tom, our MMA coverage here on Two Spot Monkeys has been pretty non existent lately, and that is something we will be addressing in 2012 for sure. 

My promotion of the year though goes back to the wrestling theme we’ve mostly covered here at 2SM this year, and I have selected Ring of Honor as my promotion of the year. 

They have graduated to a national TV deal, albeit a national TV deal through one distributor, and one that desperately needs to get ownership of stations in major markets like NYC and Chicago.  They seem to have also learned from the HDNet shows that really had matches with no meaning so much of the time and have tried to make the show have meaning each week, whether it’s building towards the iPPV’s, building towards big shows, or matches with title ramifications with the “Proving Ground” matches, they have a show that has meaning, and that’s really refreshing.  Also, the in ring action is usually far and away better than anything WWE or TNA puts out each week.

Two Spot Monkeys Interview of the Year

TOM:  The best idea hatched by Jim and other than the beginning of Two Spot Monkeys was our “13 Questions” Interviews.  We greatly appreciate all of those involved with professional wrestling who have given their time and energy to share what they have in helping to get more publicity for their efforts and work.

My favorite interview of the year was with Rhett Titus.  Ahead of arguably the biggest match of his career, Rhett was very candid and open interview before Death Before Dishonor IX and “Ladder War 3.”

JIM:  I love that we’ve gotten a chance to get some great interviews here on the site this year, and can’t wait to see who we’ll be able to land in 2012.  Agreed with Tom that we appreciate all who have taken the time to answer our questions, and to help us set up those interviews as well. 

My favorite interview this year was our interview with Johnny Gargano.  He comes across down to earth and like a guy that would be a lot of fun to sit and have a beer with.  You can tell that he truly appreciates the opportunities he’s been given in DGUSA, and is going to keep working hard to keep showing everyone he is worthy of those opportunities.  Going into 2012 as the Open the Freedom Gate Champion, we will certainly see him live up to those opportunities!

Come back next week as we take a look at our top 3 wishes for 2012!  Also be sure to check us out on Facebook by clicking here

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Final Battle 2011 Preview

Tom and I wanted to take a look at Final Battle in a team method, where we each offer up our views in one post.  Look for more of these to come in the future, including our 2011 Year End Awards, and our Wish List for 2012!

Final Battle is Ring of Honor’s biggest card of the year, it is their “Wrestlemania”.  We have seen dream matches, big title matches, major grudges ended, and so much more in the history of Final Battle.  2011 is the 10th edition of Final Battle, and is set to be a big, big show!  On to the matches and thoughts/predictions! 

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jimmy Rave

JIM:  I absolutely love this matchup!  And, I LOVE that Jimmy Rave is coming back to ROH.  I hope it’s for more than just one night, and that he’ll be back in full time.  Rave looked very good last spring working the Wrestlemania weekend for DGUSA, so it’s great to see him back in ROH.  I also love the play they’ll get out of Rave knowing all of Nana’s tricks.  This should be a lot of fun, but in the end, Rave is not the guy to end Ciampa’s run, Tommaso Ciampa keeps on racking up wins here.

TOM:  Bringing Jimmy Rave back for this match is such a good move by ROH.  Rave is the most identifiable wrestler in the history of The Embassy, even if many fans of ROH now were not around when he had his run.  This will be a storyline test for Ciampa and I think, in addition to being a really entertaining match, he will get the win (albeit in underhanded means).  I could see the way watch plays out set up for a re-match at ROH’s 10th Anniversary in 2012.

Michael Elgin vs. TJ Perkins

JIM:  I was super excited when this match got announced as I think it’s a great matchup of two guys that if ROH gets behind them, could be big stars for them in 2012.  Elgin is just a beast as he plows through the competition.  Perkins has some great high flying, and is a submission and ground specialist too.  The story here should be, can Perkins ground the uber powerful Elgin.  I don’t think he can, and with Elgin winning Survival of the Fittest, and having a guaranteed title match coming in early 2012, I see no way Perkins gets the win here, but I do hope he looks good in defeat and proves he can hang.

TOM:  TJ Perkins is one of my favorite wrestlers in ROH.  He brings something unique with his style, both in the ring and out.  Even with that, ROH has not gotten behind him in any capacity other than to have good matches and get other talents over.  He’s been effective with that, but I still have hope for more.  Elgin’s rise has been well documented in 2011 and he’s done much more since he joined Jim and I for an interview earlier this year.  He certainly seems to figure as a staple of ROH in 2012, so he should win a very competitive match here.

Tag Team Gauntlet Match
The Young Bucks vs. All Night Express vs. Future Shock vs. Caprice Coleman & Cedric Alexander vs. The Bravados

JIM:  This should be a spectacular move fest with some great tag teams getting to show off that ROH has the best tag division in American wrestling right now.  This is being billed as a “Contenders Cup” match, meaning the winning team gets a tag title shot in 2012.  At this point I can’t see ANX or Future Shock winning it, as much as I like those guys as they have had recent title shots.  So, I will go with The Young Bucks, but I really do hope that Caprice/Coleman and Future Shock both come out of this looking like stars as well.  To be honest, a Bucks/Future Shock feud over the tag belts would work for me! 

TOM:  I expect this to be the undercard match with the most excitement, as I just see this as a non-stop sprint loaded with action.  While I agree with Jim that ROH has the best tag division, I also feel like it is at the point of some rehab in terms of contenders at this point.  The only team in this match that is viable in the minds of fans and has not had a shot at the ROH World Tag Team Titles is The Young Bucks, so while I would think they go ahead and pick up the win to secure that, I believe ROH go in that direction.  My choice is Future Shock of Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly and they will use this win to build to them eventually taking the titles in early 2012 from either WGTT or The Briscoes.

Roderick Strong Invitational Challenge
Roderick Strong vs. ???

JIM:  This all depends on who the mystery opponent is.  I’ve seen speculation from fans for everyone from Nigel McGuinness to John Morrison to Chris Hero.  Whoever it is, I hope that it’s worth the “surprise” factor, and I actually like that at this point, we don’t know for sure who it will be.  In the end, whoever it is, I expect Roderick Strong to get the win, even if it’s by less than legal means.  Strong seems primed for another run in the main event against whoever comes out of the Richards/Edwards match as the champ, so I think Strong gets the win here.  If the person who is in this slot is sticking around for more than one night, perhaps we’ll see a screw job leading to a short feud. 

TOM:  Strong is one of the veteran stars of ROH and to long time fans, one of the most identifiable names and faces.  I appreciate that ROH has taken the approach they have to give added meaning to his match and role at their biggest show of the year.  The build on the TV show to this is that Strong is so cocky and confident in his ability that he doesn’t need to train ahead of whoever his opponent might be.  In addition to the names that Jim mentioned, Low Ki would also seem to be a worthy candidate.  I am going to give my vote to Chris Hero, because he is a name and talent that fans would quickly get behind, has not been in the role of babyface in ROH before and could have a really good match with Roddy.  I see Roddy winning here as well, but a loss could be the beginning of signs of breakage in the foundation of The House of Truth.

Special Ref – Jimmy Jacobs: If Steen wins, he is reinstated
Kevin Steen vs. Steve Corino

JIM:  This could be one of the matches I am most looking forward to.  This entire story, through all it’s twists and turns has been going on for 2 years now.  That is unheard of in pro wrestling these days.  The best part is, they’ve kept it interesting all the way through!  No chance Steen loses this match, but what happens to get there is the story.  Does someone turn?  Have Corino and/or Jacobs been playing us all?  What will happen with Jim Cornette at ringside?  This is going to be a spectacle to see, no doubt!  Steen back in ROH next year will be a very, very good thing!

TOM:  This bout is one year in the making since the incredible fight between Steen and El Generico last year at Final Battle, that sent Steen out of ROH for good.  The build to this match has so many facets and layers, it has really been very effective in getting fans to care, possibly just as much, if not more than the World Title Match.  With Corino’s history at the Hammerstein Ballroom from his ECW and Steen’s penchant to violently raise the bar, I expect this to be an unreal contest from a violent, brutal but also storyline perspective.  The outcome could go a number of different directions and with the players involved (Steen, Corino, Jacobs, Cornette) it should be interesting.  To me, Steen must win as his reign of evil will be a main storyline in ROH in 2012!

ROH World TV Title Elimination Match
Jay Lethal (C) vs. El Generico vs. Mike Bennett

JIM:  Well, Jay Lethal has had draws against both Generico and Bennett, so we’ve got this match.  Anyone who has talked to me about ROH knows that I am not a Mike Bennett fan, not in the least.  However, he did promise last year that he would hold ROH gold in the year 2011.  And while there will only be a week or so left in the year come this Friday, I do expect him to walk away with the gold.  Generico should then slowly be moved into the main event picture, eventually building to a rematch with Steen when Steen wins the World Title (which I expect to happen in 2012). 

TOM:  I must be honest that this match is the one I am least connected to.  I just am not a big fan of Lethal and Bennett still has not won me over.  I am a huge fan of Generico and know he will be the glue that holds this bout together, while he is a part of it.  Following up on Jim’s point about Bennett’s title win guarantee, he makes good on that and takes the title here with Maria Kanellis on his arm!

ROH World Tag Team Title Match
World’s Greatest Tag Team (C) vs. The Briscoe Brothers

JIM:  The World’s Greatest Tag Team has cooled off significantly for me in recent months.  Hopefully after the attack Benjamin suffered on TV a couple of weeks back with have them coming into this match like a ball of fire looking for revenge.  Hopefully there will be lots of emotion in this one.  The Briscoes have just been on fire since they became heels again in the spring, and actually may be more popular now than they have been in quite some time.  I hope ROH doesn’t decide they need to be babyfaces again…just keep them as crazy rednecks, and if the crowd cheers, that’s ok, don’t change a thing!  I think it’s time for the Briscoes to win back the ROH Tag Team Titles this weekend!

TOM:  The build for this bout has been going for a good 10 months and while not embroiled in a feud that entire time, since they met at the 9th Anniversary Show I believe the plan was for these two teams to match-up at Final Battle with the titles on the line.  I am in complete agreement with Jim; Jay & Mark are hot, they are fresh again as #DemBoys from Sandy Ford, DE and just want to fight!  I will be very interested to see the next steps for WGTT as well, coming out of this bout.

ROH World Title Match
Davey Richards (C) vs. Eddie Edwards

JIM:  This is the third one on one meeting between the two, with Edwards winning the TV Title in a tournament final by defeating Richards on 3/5/10, and Richards won the World Title from Edwards on 6/26/11.  Both matches were absolutely outstanding, and I expect nothing less from this match.  There isn’t a bigger match in ROH right now outside of Kevin Steen vs. Davey Richards, and that has only just begun to simmer, and Steen has to get back into ROH first anyways, so there was no chance for that this year at Final Battle.  This absolutely had to be the main event here, and I personally can’t wait to see it.  Will Davey Richards be able to hang on to the title?  Will Eddie Edwards become only the second man ever to hold the ROH World Title for a second time?  I have to admit, I’ve really struggled with my pick on this one, but for now, since I think Steen vs. Davey has legs, I’m going to go with Davey Richards winning this one.  Edwards will hold the title again someday, but I don’t see it right now.

TOM:  While I agree with Jim that the “money match” in ROH has got to be Davey Richards vs. Kevin Steen, I think recent history has shown that no matter what and even if the fans want it, ROH has a plan and will see that though to the end.  I have no doubts that Richards vs. Steen goes down in 2012, but the ROH World Title might not be the bargaining chip on the line.  I digress, as there will be more time and another place to re-visit that match.  I expect Richards-Edwards III to be epic, to have a “major” fight atmosphere and the added element of Dan Severn will make the MMA context of this battle that much more meaningful.  Will it come down to a battle of Richards’ BJJ prowess versus the Octagon experience and prep that Severn, along with the wrestling background which he’s been coaching and working with Edwards on for months?  Needless to say, I cannot wait and my pick is Eddie Edwards to re-capture the ROH World Title in what will no doubt be an instant ROH classic!

NOTE:  Check out our interview with Eddie Edwards by clicking here!

We'll be back next week with our Year End Awards and our wishes for pro wrestling in 2012!  

To keep up to date on when we are posting things, you can "Like" us on Facebook, check us out here!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

13 Questions with "Die Hard" Eddie Edwards!

"Die Hard Eddie Edwards is one of the top wrestlers in the world today.  A former ROH World Champion, ROH TV Champion, and ROH Tag Champion, Edwards is the only Triple Crown winner in Ring of Honor history.  Friday night at Final Battle, Edwards will try to regain the ROH World Title from the man who won it from him this past June, his partner in the American Wolves, Davey Richards.  Edwards sat down with Two Spot Monkeys to talk about his upcoming World Title Match, the American Wolves tag team, and so much more!

1. When did you begin and what led to you training under Killer Kowalski?
I began training in September of 2001 at Killer Kowalski's. Kowalski's had such a rich history and a great quality of guys who had gone through there that it was a no brainer for me.

2. What kind of athletic background did you have prior to your training beginning?
Growing up I played baseball and basketball but once I really got into wrestling that was my main interest.

3. What was your draw to pro wrestling and any early or favorite memories that you have?
Ya know it's hard to really pin point the one thing that hooked me. I think it was a mix of everything. the larger than life characters and the athletic competition. It was completely addicting to me, I'll always remember growing up and watching wrestling with my brothers and then of course doing my best to imitate what we saw.

4. You were very well established in the New England area, facing the likes of ROH alums Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and John Walters to name a few.  How did those matches and opponents prep you for your ROH debut in 2006?
At that time, facing those guys was a great opportunity for me to see if I could hang with them. they are some of the best around so for me to get a chance to wrestle them was really  the best way for me to get a taste of what it was like to be a part of Ring of Honor.

5. In ROH, from 2006 to 2008, you really had to earn your spot and eventually did do with Sweet and Sour Inc. What memories do you have of that time and working with the late Larry Sweeney?
Larry was such an amazing talent. He was a classic larger than life type character who really demanded everybody's attention. Working with him and being a part of Sweet and Sour really gave me my first true direction in the company and gave me a chance to be involved in some bigger things. I'll always remember the time with Sweet and Sour and will forever be grateful that I got the chance to work with Larry.

6. The next chapter of your ROH career was the birth of The American Wolves with Davey Richards. How did that pairing come about?
At the time me and Davey were on a tour of Pro Wrestling NOAH when we first started talking about it. Davey had approached me about it and of course I loved the idea. He really pushed for it to happen in ROH. We got our first chance to tag together on a show in England and that's when the Wolves were born.

7. What made your team with Davey so good?  It is arguably the best team in ROH history and with the the legacy left by other teams like Jay & Mark Briscoe, Kevin Steen & El Generico, Roderick Strong & Austin Aries, that is high praise.  How does that make you feel?  Also, any "dream matchups" that you've yet to have as the Wolves, that you hope to take part in some day?
It was our chemistry together. Every time we got in the ring together it was like we grew as a team. We knew what the other was thinking. It was awesome to be a part of something like that. Being compared to those teams is an amazing compliment. Those are some of the best tag teams there have ever been. For us to be mentioned in the same breath is a great accomplishment. I think me and Davey want to face every team around. Doesn't matter from where, we just want the best matchups possible

8. What did it mean to be the first ROH World Television Champion for ROH and be a "standard bearer" for the company on HDNet?
It was a huge step in my career. It really helped solidify me as a singles wrestler. Being the first TV champion is a huge honor, no matter what happens nobody will ever be able to erase my name from the history books. With the talent that has been a part of ROH its a huge accomplishment

9. 2011 has seen a year highlighted by three main rivals: Christopher Daniels, Roderick Strong and of course, Davey Richards.  How did and have these opponents prepared you to be the best and have a run as ROH World Champion during that time?  Are there any memories that stand out from those feuds?
All 3 of those guys are 3 of the absolute best in wrestling today. Every time I get in the ring with any one of them I know that I have to step my game up. They push me to make myself better. I have memories from all of them. I won the title from Roddy in the biggest win of my career. I had my first World Ttitle defense against Daniels. And at Best in the World I lost the World Title to my partner and best friend Davey. They were all very significant in my career.

10. What did winning the ROH World Title mean to you in March, where you also became the first and thus far, only Triple Crown Winner in ROH history?  Can describe the approach you took to that day and compare it to what you are doing now ahead of your World Title re-match against Davey?
Once again like winning the TV title, being the first in ROH  to become a triple crown champ is amazing. The talent that is currently on the roster and guys that have come and gone, being able to say I am the one and only is a great honor.  The day I won the title, I went in knowing that I had to be willing to do anything and everything to beat Roddy and I did. Leading up to Final Battle I am now in the same state of mind. At Best in the World maybe I wasn't ready to do absolutely anything, today I am!

11. What has been different about your preparation and training for the World Title Match at Final Battle? What has training with Dan Severn added to you?
It's been as much about my mental training as it has been the physical training, Dan has taught me that when I'm in that ring, there are no friends, there are no partners and there are no brothers. After the match, sure there can be, but while in the match, I have to do anything I can to win. I am ready and willing to do whatever I need to at Final Battle

12. 2011 saw you earn so many opportunities, both in ROH and abroad.  What goals still exist for Eddie Edwards as 2011 comes to an end, in 2012 and beyond?
I just hope I can keep this momentum going. I plan on winning the World Title this Friday and from there? Who knows what's in store but I'm ready for whatever it is

13. Where can fans follow you beyond ROH and the weekly television show on Sinclair Broadcast Group Networks?  Can they connect with you on Twitter or Facebook?
They can check out my website and follow me on Twitter @theeddieedwards.  Thanks to all the fans out there!!

Two Spot Monkeys would like to thank Ring of Honor and especially Eddie Edwards for taking time to talk with us!  You can order Final Battle at, this Friday night!

Be sure to check back with Two Spot Monkeys on Thursday as we'll be posting our Final Battle preview as well!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

13 Questions with Headlocked creator, Mike Kingston!

Wrestling fans and comic book fans both get the same kind of stigma from the world at large.  And for those who are fans of both, the meshing of the two worlds has not been easy.  There have been wrestling comic books before, but they were frankly, usually pretty bad.  That all changed with the debut of Headlocked, from creator Mike Kingston.  We had a chance to talk with Kingston about his passions involving both pro wrestling and comics, and how they came together in his mind to create Headlocked!  Enjoy!

1. What are your first memories of pro wrestling and how long have you been a fan?

I hate to date myself here, but I've been a fan for roughly 29 years. The first wrestling match I ever saw was a Saturday Night's Main Event that I had stumbled on while flipping channels. The match that hooked me was a 6-man tag with Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Mike Rotundo vs. Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff, and George "The Animal" Steele. At 8 years old, I thought George Steele was just about the craziest thing I had ever seen. He was creating all of this chaos and did his turnbuckle eating thing....I couldn't stop watching. And I've been following wrestling in some form or another, ever since. 

2. What are your favorite pro wrestling memories and why?

That's a tough question, there are definitely so many. I think my all-time favorite pro wrestling memories all stem around going to live shows with my family. My experience with wrestling as a kid tends to be almost the exact opposite of everyone else's. You always hear these stories about kids growing up watching wrestling with their grandmother's.....well, I actually got my grandmother into wrestling! When I was in high school and the WWF would come around to do a three day swing of TV Tapings for the old Superstars and Wrestling Challenge shows, me and my friends would bag out of school and go to all of them. That was always a lot of fun. 

3. What wrestling do you still actively follow today? Who are some of your favorite wrestlers?

I watch anything and everything. WWE, TNA, ROH, Independents. I've been to a bunch of Wrestlemanias and I've been to even more shows in high school gyms and VFW Halls. You know how you always hear about those tiny indy shows with 25 fans? If its within driving distance, chances are, I'm one of the 25. As for my favorite wrestlers, I definitely appreciate a wide variety of talents. Some of my favorite wrestlers growing up were Shawn Michaels, Tito Santana, Randy Savage, Undertaker, Jamie Noble, Barry Windham, Hurricane Helms, Jerry Lawler, Raven, William Regal, and Terry Funk. Its harder to talk about my favorite wrestlers now because my understanding of the business has changed so much. There are a ton of guys with a lot of talent that I respect but its a matter of them being given the chance to showcase their talents. With that being said Kevin Steen, Christopher Daniels, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, Beer Money, Samoa Joe, and CM Punk are some of guys that I make a point never to miss.

4. When, Where and How was the idea for Headlocked born?

You'd think that with all of the similarities between the two mediums that an entertaining wrestling comic book would be a natural. But for whatever reason, that really hasn't been the case. With the exception of Raven's Spider-Man story and Jamie Hernandezs' Whoa Nellie, wrestling comics have been just awful. So when I decided I wanted to write comic books, my first thought was to write a wrestling comic book that I would want to read. So I wrote a wrestling comic book about wrestling....not about wrestlers fighting demons, solving crimes, or beating up Santa Claus. 

5. Describe the process of getting from the idea stage to actually having a comic book published? What was the biggest challenge in the process? What surprised you in terms of how smooth something went versus how you expected it to be?

When it comes to breaking in, I don't think the process is the same for any two people. One thing I can tell you about this process is that its been anything but smooth. I think any time you're an independent, just about everything is a struggle. I've really had to fight for everything I've gotten. And to be honest, the comic book industry can be a little backwards at times....kind of like the wrestling business. In a lot of ways I feel like Zack Ryder a few months back...I know there's an audience for the book, its sold out anywhere its been carried, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive but its hard to get the "powers that be" in the comic book industry to look outside of their tiny little bubble.

6. How did the relationship and opportunity with Jerry Lawler come about to provide cover art?

Its the craziest thing....I literally e-mailed him through his website. Simple as that. It was such a long shot that I completely forgot that I did it. A few days later, he e-mailed me back and asked me to send him some books. So I sent him some books in the mail. A few days after that he called me up and told me he liked what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it. It was such a surreal experience. 

7. Through doing Headlocked you’ve been able to meet a fair number of wrestlers and personalities, and have pictures of many of them holding Headlocked up on your Facebook page. Which of the stars you’ve got on there was the biggest thrill for you to get to give Headlocked an endorsement? Have there been any wrestlers that have refused to do the picture for you?

As far as refusing to do the picture, I generally don't have to ask for the pictures. So far everyone has been super supportive of what I'm trying to do, so they've been willing to help me out however they can. There were a couple of super carny old school guys that approached me about taking a picture but wanted money for it....I politely declined. 

Without a doubt the biggest thrills for me were initially meeting Lawler and then meeting Steve Austin. I was huge fans of both growing up. Dennis Miller was also a really cool guy...he was probably the last person that I would've expected would be into a wrestling comic. 

8. Who would be your top three wrestlers that you’ve yet to get a picture of holding Headlocked, but would like to in the future? 
My ultimate picture...which I realize will never happen, which is probably why its my ultimate....would be a picture of Vince McMahon holding Headlocked. Although one time I did a convention that was next door to a big political convention and for the whole weekend I was somewhat obsessed with the idea of getting a picture of Newt Gingrich holding my book. But thats more because of my oddball sense of humor...

9. There are plenty of wrestlers you’ve created for the stories, are any of them based a bit off of wrestlers you grew up watching?
One of my goals with Headlocked is for it to be accessible to anyone. For a lot of people, wrestling still means 80's WWF. So a lot of the gimmicks are created with that flavor initially b/c thats what most people associate with wrestling. Of course, the gimmicks aren't really that integral to the story...its more of the idea of the people behind the characters. 

10. What opportunities that you have received by being the creator of Headlocked do you value most?
The most gratifying thing for me is having people that I have admired creatively...both in wrestling and comics... tell me that they've enjoyed my work. Having a legend like Joe Landsdale tell me that he was impressed with Headlocked damn near blew my mind. 

But there have been some pretty cool perks as well. I've been backstage at a lot of different wrestling shows, I was referenced on a segment on a TNA PPV, I've been to Hollywood parties, and I've met a ton of wrestlers that I grew up idolizing. All in all, not too shabby, for some guy with an independent comic book! 

11. I know that Headlocked was, at least for a time, also available via electronic means. Can you talk a bit about how that came to be, and whether you prefer people to view your work electronically, or in the hard copy version?

One of the real challenges we've had as an independent comic book is getting wider distribution in comic books stores...I think that challenge holds true for any independent artist or creator. When our first issues came through comic book stores I got a ton of emails from fans who had a lot of difficulty in getting the books from their local shops. So once digital comics started taking off, I thought it would be a good fit for my book to be involved with that. Also it gives wrestling fans who might be interested in our story but aren't traditional comic book fans a way to check it out. So its been a definite win for us! 

As for what delivery system I prefer? Quite honestly, I'm just happy that people are checking it long as they're checking out legally! Folks can download the books digitally at are only a buck! You can beat that! We also have a preview issue that folks can check out for free. 

12. What is next for Headlocked?
I've been working on new stories and we have a new art team moving forward. We're delighted to have JC Grande on art and Chuck Sellner on colors. Our first story together was just released in our Comic Con exclusive Headlocked Chronicles book. So Mike Hartmann's journey will definitely continue! I've been in negotiations with a few publishers who are interested in what we've got going on and will hopefully get us some wider distribution in the direct market. Unfortunately nothing moves quickly in the comic book industry so technically I'm kind of on radio silence until I get that stuff sorted out. In the meantime, I'm just trying to grow our readership so when our next books do hit the stands, we can blow people away! 

13. Plug time, if someone reading this interview wants to check out more about Headlocked and pick up the issues that you’ve got available, how should they go about doing that?

First and foremost, if you want to see what we're all about, you can check out our website at You can order the books both in print or digitally at our online store. We also have news, bios, artwork, pictures, etc. You can also follow us on Twitter @headlockedcomic or hit up our facebook fan page at

Two Spot Monkeys would like to thank Mike for chatting with us about his work!  Go check out Headlocked!  You won't be sorry!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

13 Questions with Dragon Gate USA Star Jon Davis iPPV

Jon Davis is an 8 year veteran who has made an impact in both Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE this year and fans likely also remember him from his dominant team with Kory Chavis, The Dark City Fight Club. Dragon Gate USA wraps up their live event schedule this week for the year, with 3 big events on the East Coast in Revere, MA, Philadelphia, PA and Manhattan, NYC. You can order those events right here: Davis will look to end a feud with The D.U.F. that has carried on over 7 months! We cover that with him and more - Enjoy!

1. You were trained by the legendary Dory Funk Jr. and Chris Turner. How did you get into pro wrestling and connected with those trainers?

I was doing a bunch of things in my life trying to decide on what path I would eventually travel down as a career. I'd grown up watching pro wrestling but had no idea how I would ever get into it. I was given a card for a school run by Chris Turner and decided to call. 2 weeks later, I was in the ring and was officially bitten by the bug. I worked for him for almost 2 years and then met Dory at a show in North Florida. No sooner had I introduced myself did the promoter come up and say that we were working in the Semi-Main Event. I was a bit nervous going into as I felt like "Hey, here's this legend who won his first WORLD title 10 years before I was born, what did I do to deserve this?" I didn't have the size I have now, but I was a solid 225 and I was kind of worried about seriously hurting Dory.

My bad.

That man beat my ass for 15 minutes straight. There was a point in the match after he hit me with a European uppercut where I forgot what I was doing until I hit the ropes. I learned a lot from him that night and was given the chance to learn even more over the next year and a half. I owe a lot of my toughness to Dory Funk Jr., who is easily the toughest man I've ever met in my life.

2. What are your favorite memories of pro wrestling as you were growing up? What promotions did you follow? What wrestlers were your favorites and why?

I loved anytime wrestling was on. My fondest memory was Summer Slam '92, which made me decide that I would become a wrestler one day. I was a big NWA fan young and didn't really get into the then WWF until I moved up North. My favorites were Arn Anderson and Bret Hart. Mainly because of their precision, but Arn's spine buster always got my attention. I always bit when he hit it and never expected anyone to kick out of it. Bret was more of the reason I decided on wrestling though. He was a "little" guy in a then land of giants who not only thrived, but became the champ and carried the company on his back for quite a while.

3. Fans that have only recently become familiar with you might not know about your tag team history and role as one half of The Dark City Fight Club with Kory Chavis. Do you have a preference in a singles or a tag team role? Is success in one avenue versus the other any more rewarding or meaningful?

The Dark City Fight Club is something that is very near to my heart. Kory and I went from "Rain man and that big light skinned dude, what’s his name?" to the NWA World Tag Team Champions (reigning and defending) in the span of two and half years. I would never trade my time learning from Kory for anything. We work as a singular unit so there is no real difference when I'm tagging opposed to singles except I get to rest more. The NWA World Tag Titles are rich in heritage and history and it is an honor to have our names etched into the history books along side the best of all time.

My singles career is really just getting started too, so we will see where that goes. But notice to whoever sits atop the mountain when I get there, move over or get off as I tend to take up a little space!

4. Do you feel tag team wrestling in general gets the attention/time/promotion it deserves? Does that impact your feelings one way or the other in terms of being a tag wrestler?

I don't feel that tag wrestling gets nearly the amount attention it deserves. Very few companies take it seriously and put any time into even having a tag division. It is usually just two guys they throw together and have the audacity to call a team. Tag team wrestling is responsible for some of the biggest moments in wrestling, and it is a shame that we seem to be losing it day by day.

5. You suffered a pretty severe injury to your wrist in April 2009. You were already back in the ring about 5 months later. How did you overcome that injury and what was your motivation to get back so quickly?

I was never supposed to wrestle again according to my doctor. However, I don't do well with being told what I can and can’t do, and through diet and an insane amount of exercise I somehow managed to change his mind.

My motivation was simple, no one was going to pull me away from success. A few dislocated bones and shredded ligaments and tendons is pretty small compared to other injuries I've seen in this business.

6. You debuted with DG USA in April 2011 and your feud with (what would become) The D.U.F. of Sami Callihan, Arik Cannon and Pinkie Sanchez started almost immediately. This weekend you look to end that feud. What are your thoughts on the feud coming to an end once and for all?

Pinkie, Arik and Sami are all legit bad asses. The things I've seen them do and the beatings I've seen them walk away from are astounding. I respect them all, but my issue is the way they are going about doing what they are doing. They feel they are different from everyone else, fine. They think that they are outcasts, cool. MY issue is the new found, cocky attitude that they have found with the formation of their little group. It started in Atlanta. I have no problem losing as it’s a part of our sport. Learn from it and move on. But when a group of "outcasts" form a gang and start attacking everyone who is not like them, then I have a problem.

At first, it was whatever. But then I started thinking, had they lost the first match as a team (against Dark City Fight Club) then maybe the little group doesn't happen. Maybe they wouldn't be attacking a young talent like A.R Fox. Maybe they don't decide to go after the legend that is Sabu. So I feel somewhat responsible for the D.U.F starting as I had the chance to stomp it out from jump and didn't. So I was more that happy to throw my name in the hat to be there to make it end.

7. Your singles match on Friday against Sami Callihan is not only important in the context of your feud, but also a battle between two of DG USA’s homegrown stars. What would a win over Callihan mean, not only short term but also for the future of you in DG USA?

It would solidify my place in DG USA. I've been busting my behind for years in this sport and am finally starting to get my due. I have no problem working hard and proving myself, and honestly who better to do that against than Sami. Dude has been up and down the road, FIGHTING anyone who steps between the ropes to oppose him. Though his attitude has sucked with his little buddies recently, he has earned his spot. Friday in Boston, I do the same.

8. Finally, on Sunday, you partner with the legendary Sabu and A.R. Fox in “Extreme Warfare” against The D.U.F. You made the declaration to be included in this match, which is the culmination of multiple feuds intersecting in one bout. What do you add to this match and to your teammates?

I'm a juggernaut. I add raw power and intensity. I can throw anyone out of any move at any time, plus I have a chip on my shoulder. Mix that with the "I have no idea what to call that move" style of innovation that A.R Fox has and the sheer insanity of Sabu, that adds to a big mess being made of the D.U.F.

9. What are your thoughts on joining forces to team with Sabu and in a match he helped make famous?

I'm honored to even be in the same building. He has accomplished so much and was on the front lines on defining "extreme" wrestling. I think it is going to be interesting what will happen when the both of us have tables and chairs at our disposal at the same time.

10. Other than Akira Tozawa, you have yet to be matched up with other Japanese Dragon Gate talents. Who is at the top of your list to be in the ring with and why?

Though he isnt exactly Japanese, Pac. He is a staple of the roster and has a match of the year candidate every time out. He is a very hard worker in the ring and I think he still hasn't reached his full potential. The chance to square off with him would be something I'd be beyond excited about.

11. Many of the American DG USA stars have seen success with tours of Japan. What would a tour of Japan with Dragon Gate mean to you?

That I would have a chance to learn and compete with the best. These guys go night in and night out with very little to no rest and I want to show that I can do the same. Every wrestler who goes comes back better and that's something I strive to be.

12. 2011 has also seen you experience success in EVOLVE. Many people were impressed with your match with Johnny Gargano and felt it was a breakout performance and it was a springboard for more opportunity. Did you get that feeling and what goals do you have when EVOLVE resumes events?

I went into the match with Gargano with one intention. To make people remember my name. I feel I did just that. Did I think that it would garner me the attention that it did? No. Am I mad about that? No. Do I plan on riding my current momentum and taking my seat at the top of the wins board here soon? ABSOLUTELY.

13. A little over 8 years into your wrestling career, what is your most memorable accomplishment?

My most memorable? I'd say there are a couple. In October 2008 I did a match on ECW. On the surface it was nothing special, but it was the last time my Grandfather saw me before he passed away and that meant a lot to me. EVOLVE when I wrestled Gargano. Towards the end there were dueling chants and I had a lot of support. If you watch the match you'll see me look to the crowd confused. That was huge for me! And of course when I killed Stalker Ichikawa in April and the crowd chanted "you hate fun!" Turns out I love to have fun, I just dislike losing!

Two Spot Monkeys thanks Jon Davis for his time and appreciates the opportunity to provide you more information on this rising talent.

Do not forget to catch Jon's matches this weekend along with all of the other great wrestlers on these Dragon Gate USA shows, whether live (tickets available at or by calling 267-519-9744) or ordering and watching live via

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Paul Kurtzman

October 1st, 2011, almost 2pm EST. Scott calls and asks if I have heard the horrible news. Knowing Scott and his penchant for goofing around, I knew that was not the case here because of the cold tone in his voice. "Bro, RVT is dead" were the words he spoke and as I lay in my bed that afternoon taking in some college football, the stunned silence that existed between the two of us was numbing.

I met Paul Kurtzman or RVT (Robin Von Trapp) of the message boards we frequented together over the last 7 or so years, in the Summer of 2006. He opened his home to me in Quincy, MA when I traveled to be a part of the ROH swing of final Bryan Danielson shows on the East Coast (see photo above; Paul has the dark beard). He was a good, genuine guy. His moral compass was set right. He was selfless. And on October 1st, 2011, his heart stopped functioning the way it should have and he went to a better place.

It has taken me a while to put words to this reflection because of a number of reasons. Why did this happen? Why am I so angry? Why do we have to suffer loss? How can I lose a second close person to me in just 7 months, my Dad having passed away in March?

I grieve the most for his wife Julie, his kids and his friends. Paul would not want me to. He is fulfilling a higher purpose that God wants him to elsewhere. I am greatful for the times I shared with him, for his friendship and his blessing on my life. I only hope that I was able to return that in some way to him. Paul's passing has shined greater perspective on both my immediate life and the way I view many relationships. I will always cherish the memories that we shared earlier this year in Atlanta during WrestleMania weekend. My trip to the airport on my way home was shared with Paul. He was as gracious as always and I struggle now with the vision that will remain of him heading to an opposite terminal with his luggage rolling behind him.

For the many friends, including Jim, that Paul shared with me, we will honor him and his memory when we gather. I will remember him because of ingrained memories from great times. I will honor him with silence and a glass raised often.

RIP Paul Kurtzman

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A tribute to my friend, Paul Kurtzman

Tom and I were both deeply saddened this weekend to learn of the sudden death of our dear friend, Paul Kurtzman (Paul is on the left in the picture above, which was taken as he and our friend Larry joined me at a Cubs spring training game in the spring of 2010).  Paul was a great wrestling fan (and for a short time, even a worker), but more than that, to both Tom and I, Paul was a great friend. Tom will be here later with his own thoughts on Paul, but I wanted to write up my feelings as well as we both process this loss.

Paul was one of those guys who when I was going to an event, and I heard Paul would be there as well, I genuinely got more excited for the event, because the chance to hang out with him was that important to me.  A number of us just spent a week together in Las Vegas a month ago, and Paul was a late addition to that group, but I remember when I saw he was coming, I had a feeling of such happiness that I would get to see my friend, and get to introduce my fiancé to him as well, who was on the trip as well.  As my fiancé Katie and I spent time with him in Las Vegas, she became quickly fond of him as well, and we were so looking forward to having him here when we get married next fall.  We are so sad that he won’t physically be with us, but know he’ll be looking down with that great big smile of his. 

If you are one of the lucky ones who knew Paul, you know how much this loss hurts.  If you didn’t know Paul, think of the kindest, most genuine person you know.  That was Paul, and then some.  I can’t say enough good things about him, and as I try to type them, it all seems too cliché for how much I cared for him, and I know he did for me as well, so, I will leave it with these thoughts.

Paul leaves behind a loving wife, 3 sons, 1 daughter, a grandchild, and a host of friends and family who will miss his laughter, his smile, and his wisdom. 

Paul, selfishly, I want you back here with us.  There isn’t much in this world right now that I want more.  But I know you are in a better place, and I know I will see you again.  Rest in peace my friend, you will be deeply missed.  You already are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Preview & Picks of ROH “Death Before Dishonor IX”

Ring of Honor returns to iPPV on this Saturday night (You can order here: for their 10th iPPV with a loaded card. Here is my quick preview and predictions.

Ladder War III - #1 Contendership for the ROH World Tag Team Titles on the line!: Jay & Mark Briscoe vs. The All Night Express of Kenny King & Rhett Titus

One word here: Violence. I expect this to be a great, violent thrill ride. This has been a feud that has continually raised the bar over the last 6 months and it will come to an end in NYC. The Briscoes are flat out crazy and both Titus and King have raised their game continually throughout the year. My pick is The All Night Express to get the win and the feud, setting them up for their ROH World Tag Title shot in Chicago Ridge in November at “Glory By Honor X.”

The Ringmaster’s Challenge (2/3 Falls): Eddie Edwards vs. Roderick Strong

There two men are responsible for some of the most memorable athletic bouts in ROH over the last year, which includes both having reigns as ROH World Champion. Edwards defeated Roddy for the belt in March and Strong has not yet had the chance to exact his revenge. I expect Fall 1 to be won by Strong (pinfall only), Fall 2 to go to Edwards (submission only) and with Fall 3 being a 15 minute Iron Man bout, I can see it going down to the wire. With that said and the idea that the winner here is next in line for a shot at Davey Richards’ World Title, I feel that Fall 3 will go to a 15 minute stalemate, either setting up a bigger stipulation for these 2 fighters or a 3-Way World Title Match.

El Generico vs. Jimmy Jacobs

This bout gets bumped up in the preview for a very significant reason: Kevin Steen. Steen returned to ROH in June and gave the most physical and verbal middle finger to ROH possible. Steen was previously banned forever from ROH following his feud of the year loss to El Generico at “Final Battle 2010.” At the behest of Steve Corino, Steen was given permission to return by ROH, with great hesitation. Steen has launched viral (see here: and cross promotional attacks against ROH and states he plans to bring it to it’s death. Generico’s tie in is obvious and Jacobs enters the picture as Steve Corino’s sponsor in his battle to overcome the addiction of being an evil wrestler. Jacobs is going so far to support Corino that he is taking his spot in this match, to protect him from Steen and from falling off the wagon in facing Generico. Needless to say, there is a lot going on here. I expect Steen to again shock us all and do something crazy here. I will say Generico gets the win, but it really could go either way and have numerous layers of psychology wrapped around the outcome.

3-Way Elimination Tag: Future Shock of Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly vs. The Young Bucks vs. The Bravado Brothers

This bout as well is set up based on events from the last ROH show in NYC. In a first ever meeting, The Bravados interference marred what was becoming a great bout between Future Shock and The Bucks. I expect this to fast-paced and to bookend the feud between Future Shock and The Bravados, while opening the doors for an extended feud between Future Shock and The Bucks. I see the Bucks getting the win here.

Charlie Haas vs. Michael Elgin

On paper this battle of the two hosses looks to be a slugfest and a battle. Haas is a great vet, with only 1 ROH singles match (against Davey Richards, in a loss) under his belt. Elgin has been mixing both singles and tags throughout the year and has certainly approached the title of “Breakout Wrestler of The Year” honors with his performances. This bout could tip the bucket over and get him that label, without question. I see Elgin getting the win here, boosting him individually and possible allowing he and Roderick Strong as The House of Truth a future tag team title shot.

Shelton Benjamin vs. Mike Bennett

Much like the match above, this is a skilled vet against a rising star. Much of the ROH fanbase, however, has rejected Bennett’s push. Bennett seems like a talent that ROH will build around with the new TV show, but I just don’t know if it begins here. Shelton, like Haas, has only had 1 ROH singles bout (against new WWE signee Claudio Castagnoli) but was known for his singles runs in WWE. I do think this match is the sleeper of the card and it is a pick’em. Due to the fact that ROH is behind Bennett (seemingly without question), he will get a dirty win here.

ROH World TV Champion Jay Lethal & Homicide vs. The Embassy of Tommaso Ciampa & Rhino

This bout was a later addition to this line-up and again carries over the events of the previous iPPV to this one. At ROH “Best In The World 2011” Homicide defeated Rhino, but was gored post-match and taken out of ROH. Ciampa has been on a rise in ROH during 2011 and remains undefeated in singles matches. Lethal, the most recent return to ROH, capture the TV Title at the debut TV tapings just over one month ago. I see Ciampa winning here, either over Homicide (who he’s defeated twice already) or Lethal and staking his claim for a shot at the TV Title.

There you have it. I have high expectations for this show, despite ROH World Champion Davey Richards not being involved and the quiet departure from ROH of Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli, The Kings of Wrestling. ROH is competing (at least in some small segment of their audience) against the Mayweather-Ortiz boxing match and free, live UFC bouts on Spike TV and college football pitting #1 Oklahoma @ #5 Florida State, but I still think this is the best value out there and will be watching live, as it transpires on Saturday night!

WWE: Night of the Champions Preview

First of all, thanks to everyone who has checked out our "13 Questions with Rhett Titus" and turned it into our most viewed article to date here at Two Spot Monkeys!  We were thrilled with how it turned out, and look forward to continuing our "13 Questions" series!  Feel free to contact us if you have people you'd like to see featured in the series!

This weekend WWE presents it's next pay-per-view, Night of Champions.  Every title (other than the IC Title) is scheduled to be defended, and maybe the IC Title match will get added yet.  Given the stories of late, I'd expect Rhodes vs. DiBiase perhaps.  Anyways, let's look at the six matches announced and what I think might happen!

WWE Title Match
Alberto Del Rio (C) vs. John Cena

They can't have Del Rio lose the title in his first PPV defense can they?  Let's hope not.  If they want to make Del Rio as a top guy for years to come, he has to retain here.  If they REALLY want to make him, he should go over clean.  But, he's a heel, and WWE just will not allow heels to win cleanly.  So, I'd expect some sort of screwjob here, leading to Hell in a Cell next month for Del Rio and Cena "to keep the interference out".  Maybe Ricardo Rodriguez will throw his goat milk in Cena's face to interfere.  I can't believe I just wrote that sentence, and even worse, I can't believe that it's entirely likely it could happen...

World Heavyweight Title Match
Randy Orton (C) vs. Mark Henry

Again, I'd love to see them give the title to Mark Henry here, but I just don't see it, as it seems that Orton/Christian "one last time" in Hell in a Cell makes more sense.  I hate that I look at title matches and my first thought is "how will they put Cena and Orton over here", since that seems to be the only focus of the creative team.  Henry's "Hall of Pain" run has been awesome, and he definitely deserves a run with the title, to be the monster champion, with someone coming in to be the one who finally "slays the dragon".  But, instead, I expect an RKO here to show that Orton is the only one who can control Henry.  Ugh, same old same old.

Grudge Match
Triple H vs. CM Punk

Triple H has to resign as COO if he loses this match.  I figure Kevin Nash and John Lauranitis will be involved in this matchup, and likely will cost Triple H the win.  Now, the question then turns to, are they aligned with CM Punk, or are they acting on their own and just want Triple H out of power so that Johnny Ace can take over?  I hope that Punk looks strong here, because they didn't position him that way in the promo last week.  If he hangs with and defeats Triple H clean, he'd be a made man as well (though I think he's close anyways).  But, there's no way that happens here.  I do think Punk wins, but it's screwjob city for sure. 

WWE Divas Title Match
Kelly Kelly (c) vs. Beth Phoenix

One has to believe that Phoenix wins here.  If not, it kind of spells the end of the current storyline.  Phoenix MUST win the title here....MUST.

WWE Tag Team Title Match
Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne (c) vs. The Miz & R-Truth

Air Boom have just gotten going, but with the way the tag titles get moved around, I wouldn't be shocked at all to see The Miz and R-Truth win the titles.  If they lose, it will be because of something they can continue their "conspiracy theory" stuff with.  Maybe the fireworks go off again and distract them or something.  But...I really think Miz and Truth walk away with the gold.

United States Title Match
Dolph Ziggler (C) vs. John Morrison vs. Alex Riley vs. Jack Swagger

This one is thrown together.  The storyline seems to play out best if Swagger does something that causes Ziggler to lose, so on a flyer, I'll go with Alex Riley getting the pin after Swagger drops Ziggler on the top rope or something.

What do you think...who wins the matchups this weekend?

Monday, September 12, 2011

13 Questions With: Rhett Titus

I had the opportunity to interview Rhett Titus, best known for his run in Ring of Honor, first in his "Addicted to Love" character, and more recently as a member of the All Night Express with Kenny King.  We had the chance to talk about his training at the ROH Wrestling Academy, his early work with Delirious, and of course, the current blood feud with The Briscoe Brothers that culminates with Ladder War III this Saturday night, as Ring of Honor presents Death Before Dishonor IX live on iPPV through!  (You can order by clicking here!)  Thanks to Rhett Titus and Ring of Honor for this opportunity! 

1.  You are arguably the most successful graduate from the ROH Wrestling Academy.  What did training with Austin Aries and later Bryan Danielson mean to you at the time and now in retrospect at the point you are in your career?  

When I first met Austin he was a cool guy and someone I could be at ease with.  I had a hard time picking up on some things at first and he was very patient with me.  I was sad to see him go when he did because we had formed a good bond but was also excited for Bryan Danielson coming in.  Before I ever got trained I had hoped for Bryan Danielson or Steve Corino to one day train me but neither was accepting new students when I was looking to get trained and I decided on the ROH school in the meantime.  Little did I know about a year later I would get to train with one of them which was a very cool experience. 

2.  One of the earliest highlights in your career was your feud with Delirious over Daizee Haze.  What memories do you have of that feud and were you excited with the buzz that was created, as that was one of the first viral angles to get legs behind it? 

I was super excited about the buzz that angle had created.  I remember former ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky putting a lot of pressure on me at the time.   Honestly I fully welcomed the pressure because I have always been the type to rise to the occasion in high pressure situations.  I have a lot of fond memories of the feud and think it helped me get out on the map but I think that it suffered from the change of bookers mid-way through the feud.  Both Adam Pearce and Gabe had different ideas on the final chapter of that story but I'm not going to complain or anything, things worked out fine for me.

3.  Your team with Kenny King was introduced first in early 2009.  How did your pairing come together?

As odd as it sounds I actually believe Sugarfoot had thrown the idea to Adam at first.  When I was first informed that Kenny King and I would be teaming I wasn't exactly thrilled, neither was Kenny.  At the end of the day business is business and I was happy to to have a spot and figured we would have to make it work.  Obviously it did and Kenny and I are good friends now and always bring out the best in each other.

4.  That teaming morphed into the faction that included Austin Aries.  What was that run like and are you satisfied with how that ended?  Did you feel any added pressure of being paired with one of your teachers/trainers? 

I honestly felt honored that Austin Aries wanted Kenny and I to be his henchmen for his second ROH World Title run.  It also helped adding more validity to our tag team as we were tagging, managing, and featured promos with the top guy in the company.  Of course I would feel pressure wrestling alongside with not only the champ, but my trainer.  Though like I said before high pressure situations bring out the best in me and I looked at teaming with Aries as the 2nd part of my training.   It was great while it lasted but then one day it was just over and he had left the company.  

5.  Austin Aries departure seemed to truly bring The All-Night Express to life, with you and Kenny King both stepping up and getting not only better opportunities, but better in the ring as well.  Are those things connected in any way or was it a matter of all of your hard work paying off?  

Austin Aries named the group and branded us with his stamp of approval and when he left we knew it be time to sink or swim.  Prior to being dubbed All-Night Express we were just Rhett Titus & Kenny King.  We knew we needed a tag name as all great teams had names, but there was just nothing that ever stood out to us but once we were given that title it was the last piece to the puzzle.  Once Aries had left we knew we would have to fill that void in a big way and step up more than ever.

6.  As the All-Night Express has evolved, so have you, from the “Addicted to Love” character to a more hard nosed, tougher character.  Is that something you’ve wanted to do, or was it just something that evolved over time?  Do you prefer one to the other? 

No matter how much I love to shake my hips and strutting my stuff when you’re bleeding night in and night out and have a heated rivalry going on shaking your hips isn't exactly on your mind.  Though it's a lot easier not having to explain to family and friends why the crowd is chanting Hepa-titus, at times I do miss my carefree attitude and handing out hotel room keys.  I fully understand that now is not the time for that though. #BusinessbeforePleasure

7.  Talk about your feud with Jay & Mark Briscoe, where you’ve battled all over the ROH circuit and been in a number of different types of matches.  Is there a highlight match in this feud that stands out to you?  

From what started as a competitive tag team rivalry took a turn for the worst at Manhattan Mayhem 4 when the ANX defeated the Briscoes and the Briscoes realized they were getting surpassed by the younger team.  It all happened really quick to me and over 6 months later it's still going down.  The highlight of the feud for me had to be our match in Atlanta for Honor Takes Center Stage Part 2.  We not only let the Briscoes but the fans know that we weren't to be taken lightly.  And after all this time you have to wonder when the violence and brutality end.  And all roads point to Sept 17th in NYC... #LadderWar3  

8.  With the Ladder War coming up at Death Before Dishonor IX, how do you prepare for that match and what you will not only put your body through, but what pain you plan to inflict on The Briscoes in attempt to win this feud? 

I don't think the average person understands the risk in not only a regular wrestling match but a Ladder War.  Not only is there a big risk of injury in the back of your mind you also have the expectations of the fans as the other 2 Ladder War matches in ROH history have been great.  Don't mean to reiterate myself but I'm pretty good with this pressure stuff.   I called Kenny the other day and let him know that I got my ladder climbing time down to 4 seconds.  Ha ha but honestly, there is no way to train or prepare for this besides what you would normally do.  I know Sunday morning is going to be a long morning but I can assure you that the following weeks will leave the Briscoes in pain and agony.  

9.  You have been in the ring with most of the top stars in ROH over the last few years, whether in singles matches or in tag matches with Kenny King.  Who has been your favorite opponent, and why is that?

I always enjoyed wrestling The Briscoes whether in tags or single because i felt they brought out the best in me.  Now not so much because I feel they bring out the worst in me.  Though if I'm going to show my malicious side there is not two better people to show it on.  I always enjoyed the chemistry Kenny, Austin, and I had in 6 man tag matches.  I was ecstatic when Kenny and I wrestled Grizzly Redwood & Steve Corino has Grizzly was my training partner and Steve was my childhood hero.  It’s always good to mix it up with the new talent ROH has like Cole, O'Reiley, Elgin, Bennett, and Ciampa because it makes you want to step up your game even more and show them why I have been able to keep my spot for so long and see what the newcomers are bringing to the table these days.

10.  On September 24th, ROH will debut on the Sinclair Broadcast Group networks, being the only major national wrestling company with a presence on over the air broadcast television here in the US.  Can you talk a bit about the opportunities this presents, not only for ROH, but also for you and the All Night Express? 

For the first time ever ROH will be able to be seen by almost the whole nation thanks to Sinclair Broadcast Group and the whole rest of the world via  This is not only a huge chance for ROH to present True Pro Wrestling to the world but also THE ANX to show the world true tag team wrestling.  I'm super stoked everybody who will tune in on Sept 24th will leave their TV or computer a fan of Ring of Honor.

11.  Creatively, do you feel pressure to raise the bar of violence, etc. in this match?  

I'm willing to due WHATEVER it takes to get the win and earn the contract for the ROH tag titles in this match. At the end of the day simply put Death Before Dishonor.

12.  A little over 5 years into your wrestling career, what is your most memorable accomplishment?

No matter what accomplishments, achievements, awards, or titles I could achieve I think the one I hold closest to my heart is just the fact that I'm here.  I went to the ROH School in June of 2005 a 17 year old boy who just had a child a month prior and 6 months later 
I made my debut for one of the top wrestling companies in the world.  I worked damn hard to get to where I'm at all while supporting multiple other jobs and being a positive influence in my son's life.  Somehow I've managed to make it all work when everybody told me I couldn't do it.  To me that is personally my greatest accomplishment!!!  

13.  What are your top three goals that you have yet to accomplish, but plan to make come true in the next few years?

#3  Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan
#2 ROH World Tag Titles
#1 Being a guy who helps take ROH into its next era and helping expose real Pro wrestling to the masses across the nation and the world!

Thanks again to Rhett and Ring of Honor for the interview!  Remember to catch Death Before Dishonor IX at this Saturday night, live from New York City!  Then next Saturday night, September 24th, be sure to tune in to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group networks for Ring of Honor Wrestling!  For a list of stations carrying the show, you can click here.  I was at the first tapings in Chicago Ridge, IL, and I can guarantee, you will not be disappointed!