Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Royal Rumble: React!

It has been little more than 36 hours since the conclusion of the 25th edition of The Royal Rumble.  Jim and I are here to each give our takes, including highlights and lowlights.

Tom’s Take:
CM Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler was the best match on this event.  They had a great in-ring contest, had the Johnny Ace elements mixed in well from the storyline perspective and had a finish that had to be satisfying to fans.  As much as I believe Dolph Ziggler could have won the title here without doing any damage to Punk, WWE still is not ready to ride the “Zig-Zag” and get behind him yet.

The 30 man Rumble Match was a mixed bag.  Good surprises like Kharma and the nostalgia of Road Dogg made it entertaining.  The final 2 being Jericho and Sheamus also gave some good action and a sense of unknown over who would win.  Considering Jericho’s history, I imagine most people felt he was destined to win (myself included) and Sheamus getting it instead could be the sign of bigger things for him and WWE choosing to get him back to the main event level.

My biggest complaint on the Rumble match was the lack of drama.  Where were the stories?  When WWE takes the time to put together the video packages they do, highlighting the statistical and historical nature of the Rumble, why not draw those things in and tie them to the Rumble Match itself?  I cannot recall the announcers alluding to the fact that The Miz could be challenging for the overall Rumble endurance record.  Things like that get fans more invested in what is going on.  Do they not want fans to have an emotional attachment to the “sports entertainers” and the product overall?

Other notes: Daniel Bryan’s win was a good one and it was impressive seeing Big Show virtually deadlift him with one arm while perched atop the cage.  Seeing “The Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay allowed me to understand what the hype is all about.  He is entertaining, figuratively and literally larger than life and will probably sell good amounts of merchandise.  The only missing element was not seeing him as part of the Rumble bout.  If you would have told me when I saw him in Florida Championship Wrestling in August 2010 that he’d be where he is now, I would likely have not believed you. 

Jim’s Take:
The Royal Rumble PPV has come and gone.  And from the online reaction to it, it seems that it was not a finer attempt from WWE this time around.  To me, it was a mixed bag of results. 

Daniel Bryan retaining actually has me holding out hope that he’ll hold the title all the way to Wrestlemania, allowing him a featured bout on “the biggest stage of them all” which is just awesome for guys like Tom and I who have been following his career for years.  Mark Henry also deserves major kudos for working injured yet again.  He has been an MVP for WWE over the last year or so.  Show being all the way on the top of the cage was very cool, and I agree with Tom, the visual of him holding Bryan in the air was also great. 

A complaint I have on the show was the inclusion of the total filler Divas match as well as the Brodus Clay/Drew McIntyre match.  Those were both segments that belonged on Raw or Smackdown, not a PPV that people have paid good money to see.  Clay could have gotten just as over by being in the Rumble (maybe even set it up so he could somehow still do his entrance), eliminating a few people and then have either the rest of the guys gang up on him, or have a heel low blow him and eliminate him, thus setting up a program for him so he can move past these introductory squashes he’s working now. 

Cena/Kane can’t end soon enough.  I just hate the whole storyline, it plays out like a really bad horror movie.  I like horror movies when done well, this one is not being done well, not at all.

Punk/Ziggler furthered the storyline with Punk and Ace, however, did they really have to have Ziggler lose like 4 times in one match?  Why not have a really tough match that Punk “barely” wins, thus keeping Ziggler strong in the process?  Ziggler needs to get moved up, he’s more than ready, but they just seem to love cutting the legs out from under heels in this company right now.  Right now I have no idea where Ziggler fits into the Wrestlemania card, and for a guy with his talent level, that is not a good thing at all.  WWE needs to get behind this guy, and do it now before they have to totally rebuild him all over yet again. 

I actually love Sheamus winning the Royal Rumble as I think it was a surprise and it’s another guy that they needed to get out of a pointless feud with a lower mid-card guy in Jinder Mahal and back to the top of the card.  Jericho being there at the end was great too, as it seems they are heading towards him and Punk at Wrestlemania, so I was surprised to not see him get the win.  Good thing they went back to 30 Superstars in the Royal Rumble Match this year though, because they struggled to fill 30 spots it seemed, wasting time with 3 announcers.  40 could have been downright painful.  I’m sorry but I’m not willing to watch Derek Bateman and Titus O’Neil in the Royal Rumble yet, and that’s what it would have been.  Also, if you’re Mason Ryan or Michael McGuillicutty, how bad are you feeling right now?  Outside of the guys that are on NXT each week, those were about the only two “main roster” guys that weren’t used, and heck, actually Jey Uso got in, and he’s basically an NXT guy now as well.  I’d say they should be in a “rent, don’t buy” mode right now.  

Head 2 Head Update

We would be remiss if we didn’t update you on the outcome of our first “Head 2 Head” as well.  Neither of us had a stellar night by any means, but, I came out with a 4-4 record, while Tom fell just shy of that with a 3-5 record, so after one event, I’ve got a slight lead towards making Tom wear that Chicago Bears jersey! 

Thanks for reading our Royal Rumble React here at Two Spot Monkeys!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Head to Head: Royal Rumble!

Welcome to our newest feature here at Two Spot Monkeys, Head to Head!  Each month Tom and I will do a combined column previewing the WWE pay per view that month.  We will also provide our picks for the matches on the show.  Now, why is it called Head to Head you ask?  Well, because we decided to have some fun with this and turn it into a competition.  So, we will track our record of picks throughout the year.  At the end of the year, whoever picks most successfully will be declared the winner.  To make it even more interesting, we’ve gone ahead and made a wager on this.  The terms are as follows: as those who know us personally know, Tom is a huge Detroit Lions fan, while I am a huge Chicago Bears fan.  Whichever of us has a worse picking percentage at the end of the year will have to purchase a shirt of the other guy’s team, and wear it to the first live wrestling show that we both attend together in 2013.  Of course, we will document that painful experience right here at Two Spot Monkeys!

Without any further adieu, we present Head to Head: Royal Rumble Edition!  Since there are only four matches announced, we have also added who we believe the “Final Four” in the Royal Rumble will be, bringing us up to 8 picks made for this show!

John Cena vs. Kane

JIM:  Cena is being kept out of the World Title situation until after Wrestlemania due to his match with The Rock coming up at Mania.  This is the first match in the feud between them (which should keep Cena busy through the Elimination Chamber, and then after that, The Rock will be around more for the Mania build), so there is no way Super Cena should win this match.  Do I fear they’ll have him win?  You better believe I do.  But, to keep the story moving, I expect that we’ll probably see a non-finish or DQ of some kind with Kane “destroying” Cena at the end, throwing him off something or something of that matter.   So, my official prediction is “No Contest”.

TOM:  I really like the story with Cena and Kane, pushing the idea that Cena needs to embrace his “darker” side in an effort to bring the fight to The Rock at WrestleMania.  This should be a brawl style of the match, where Kane brings the fight to Cena and attempts to test him to expose those “heel” tendencies that might be buried inside.  I think Kane is successful in doing just that and as a result, Cena will get DQed because of his actions and Kane takes the win.  My official prediction is Kane wins, via DQ.

World Heavyweight Title Triple Threat Steel Cage Match
Daniel Bryan (C) vs. The Big Show vs. Mark Henry

JIM:  I’ve gone back and forth on this match a bunch of times.  Part of me thinks Henry gets the title back, but at this point, I’m seeing Orton/Bryan at Mania.  So, I think Daniel Bryan finds yet another backwards way of retaining the title, perhaps slipping out the door while the two monsters are battling it out.  Bryan has been really good in this “smarter than you” heel character so far, and I really hope they stay with it a while longer and let him hang on to the title until Wrestlemania, when the good guy can give Bryan what he has coming to him (but hopefully along the way, they let Bryan put on a hell of a show at Wrestlemania).  So, I’m going with Daniel Bryan. 

TOM: This is the hardest bout to pick, to me. Knowing and following Daniel Bryan from his Ring of Honor days, I am excited to see him in such a big match at this event.  I think Henry and Show neutralize and cancel each other out, but not before each seeking to demolish Bryan along the way.  This is the only outcome I agree with Jim on, Daniel Bryan retains his title here and moves on to Elimination Chamber in February.

WWE Title Match – John Lauranitis is the Special Ref
CM Punk (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler

JIM:  As much as I want Ziggler to get a title run this year, this is not the time to take the belt off of Punk.  The Punk/Johnny Ace story is still going strong, and this match will be all about how Ace tries to screw Punk out of the title.  Though with the news of his impending job review coming on Monday, perhaps he’s going to try to play it straight and only find ways to subtly screw with Punk.  Nah, after the GTS on Monday night, he’ll try his best, but won’t be able to.  I wonder if maybe Triple H shows up to get a first hand look at how Ace does his job on Sunday?  I really enjoy Ziggler, but it’s just not his turn yet.  It will be though, this year for sure.  The prediction here is CM Punk.

TOM:  This is the non-Rumble match I am most interested in.  Not following what has transpired on TV as closely as I would have liked, I still see Lauranitis  screwing Punk, in spite of his pending job review.   Dolph Ziggler wins his first World Title because of politics and rejuvenates Punk to go on a quest for revenge on “Johnny Ace” and regain his belt.

30 Man Royal Rumble Match

JIM:  This year’s Rumble seems to be hurting for star power, especially without Cena in it.  They have said that those who compete in other matches on the card can compete in the Rumble though, so I would expect that barring injury (or storyline injury) to anyone, we should see the losers from the top title matches show up here.  Ziggler will almost surely work twice, and I’d expect the two losers from the Cage match here too, unless they are “too injured to compete”.  I also expect we’ll see Kane, since this is kind of “his match” though he’s never won it.  To me, there are a couple of ways you could go here.  Chris Jericho would seem a really good option, as it would set up Punk/Jericho for Mania which seems to be where the rumors are saying things will go (and is absolutely a Mania worthy match).  I could also see Randy Orton coming back here and winning, as it is in his hometown, and if he’s healthy enough, I like that idea a lot.  Other outside possibilities are Wade Barrett, Sheamus or The Miz (though he’s a long shot now entering at #1), but while I’d love to see any of those three positioned in a main event slot for Mania, I just don’t see it happening.  I think it comes down to Ziggler, Orton, Jericho and Barrett.  For me, I’m going with the hometown boy, my pick for the Royal Rumble winner is Randy Orton!

TOM:  The Royal Rumble Match has always been one of my favorites and I love when the match tells a great story and has drama.  To Jim’s point, star power might be lacking on paper, but I also see that as an opportunity for new talent to break out.  One big selling point that I would be pushing to the moon is Randy Orton’s involvement and the event being held in St. Louis, Orton’s hometown.  Now, due to his injury it just might not have been possible, but it gives fans a great reason to invest and order this show, among other reason.  I agree with Jim too that many of the previous players from matches earlier on the card could find their way into this match and that, based on what happens earlier in the night, could have huge ramifications.  As you see from my picks above, I am going a different direction as Jim in the WWE Title Match.  I see the Rumble coming down to Jericho, Wade Barrett, Randy Orton and CM Punk as the final four, in what could be a foreshadowing of what we end up as two main events for WrestleMania.  I think Barrett eliminates Orton to add storyline reason for Orton to seek revenge and lead to Mania.  I think Barrett and Jericho double team Punk, only to see their co-existing backfire and Barrett go out on miscommunication between the two.  Now, Punk and Jericho as the final two is a pick’em, especially if they will eventually meet at Mania.  I am going to go with Chris Jericho to win and be as devious as ever as he seeks to go to WrestleMania and recapture a World Title.

We will be back early next week with our "Royal Rumble React"!  If you haven't "liked" us on Facebook yet, please do, as it's a great way to stay up to date on when we post new articles here!  Just click HERE and then click "Like"!  Thanks for joining us for the debut of "Head to Head"!

Monday, January 23, 2012

13 Questions with Mike Quackenbush!

Mike Quackenbush has had one of the more distinguished careers in professional wrestling, but has also expanded beyond the squared circle and is also an author and podcaster as well. Plying his trade in CHIKARA for the most part, Quack shared his time with Two Spot Monkeys to answer 13 questions. Enjoy!

1. CHIKARA celebrated 10 years as a part of the pro wrestling landscape in November. What did that accomplishment mean to you specifically?

Quackenbush: I think it validates the overall CHIKARA concept in a big way. There is room for a more progressive-minded brand out there.

2. Do you take added pride in that CHIKARA has had the level of success that it has without the TV exposure the likes that ROH has had or being heavily involved in Internet Pay Per Views to date like other companies and almost defying the issues of what some call an “oversatured” DVD market to utilize that avenue successfully?

Quackenbush: Sure. I think an overlooked part of our story is that we've accomplished all that we have without ever being cut checks by a millionaire backer or limitless resources from a hemorrhaging corporation. We've boot-strapped this crazy thing together in a fairly grass-rootsy way.

3. Aside from your Main Event bout for the CHIKARA Grand Championship against Eddie Kingston, what were your thoughts on the High Noon show as a whole and what does the iPPV future look like for CHIKARA?

Quackenbush: I would imagine it is a medium we will visit again this year. The numbers were a real pleasant surprise for us, and seem to indicate our global fanbase wants us to try this again.

4. What are the goals of 2012 for Mike Quackenbush, in ring and out of the ring?

Quackenbush: In the ring, there really isn't a lot left that I'd like to accomplish, truth be told. I was very goal-oriented for maybe 12 - 14 years of my career, and I crossed off pretty much everything on my To-Do list. Having said that, I would love the chance to team with Jushin Liger, I always enjoy wrestling against my students to test them and see them in action first-hand, and I would love to hold the CHIKARA Grand Championship, even if just once.

5. What can fans expect or look forward to from CHIKARA as Season 11 gets ready to kick off on January 28, 2012 in Easton, PA with “The Thirteenth Hat” and beyond?

Quackenbush: The numbers really tell the story, to an extent. It's Season 11, not Season 2. We've matured as a company, as a group of performers, as a family. We were haunted by some dark specters in Season 10, and I hope in Season 11 you'll get to see the sun shine on us a little more. We've chased the dark clouds away.

6. How does the closing of The Asylum Arena impact CHIKARA running in the Philadelphia area? What are some of your favorite memories of that building, either as a fan or from the shows you’ve been a part of there?

Quackenbush: In short, if the renovations of the Arena do take place as announced to the public, and the new building proves too pricey or too pretentious to house wrestling, than Philadelphia will cease to be the center of the alt-wrestling universe. It was rewarding to deliver some of our own history in a building that has such immense history behind it. And you can't forget history, lest you be doomed to repeat your past mistakes. At the same time, you've got to keep an eye on the future.

7. CHIKARA has been known for the diverse array of talent that has had the chance to participate and wrestle in many capacities. What do you attribute to creating and fostering those various relationships, especially for Japanese promotions where there often seems to be a “them or us” mentality? Are there any other promotions you would still like to see CHIKARA work with, be talent in for a weekend or a greater partnership?

Quackenbush: We've been very fortunate in that the vast majority of the organizations we've wanted to work with have been receptive, and professional, and rewarding to partner with. Generally speaking, we want to keep the overall tone and aesthetic of CHIKARA in place, and so to a degree that dictates who we are willing to do business with. You have to be selective in that regard. There are companies out there that just don't abide by simple obvious guidelines of business, and there are those that don't really even grasp the pro-wrestling business. There are organizations out there that are anything but organized, or others run by people that "play" wrestling with their friends and mistakenly think that makes them professionals. You have to be able to discern between the real players and the goofs. Treat professionals with respect - like professionals. And realize the goofs are what they are.

8. On the flipside of the various International Talents that have made stops in CHIKARA, many of the regular wrestlers are “home grown” from the Chikara Wrestle Factory and have seen very good success. Is that another point of pride for you and do you think that it is a very good selling point for someone who would consider getting into pro wrestling as a profession? What is your role still with the Wrestle Factory?

Quackenbush: I am still the head trainer at the Wrestle Factory, and have been for just over ten years now. I take immense pride in seeing the Wrestle Factory grads evolve into the performers they are. The ones that evince dedication and real heart, become our stars. The ones that don't evince these qualities just fall by the wayside it seems. Our stars are the ones we built from the ground up. Even those that started in wrestling before coming to CHIKARA - Sara Del Rey is a great example - end up at the Wrestle Factory for periods of time. I think the few years Sara was able to spend training with us has helped mold her into the best all-around female wrestler of 2012.

9. A question many fans are eager to know the answer to: Will there be a Trios Tournament in 2012 and has there been any conversation as to where those shows will be held?

Quackenbush: If there's been a conversation on that topic, I have not been part of it. Wink's not exactly an open-door kinda boss.

10. Jushin “Thunder” Liger is a wrestler that you looked up to and was part of the reason you became a pro wrestler. What was it about Liger that created those feelings for you and put you on the path you took? Were there other wrestlers that you looked up to as well?

Quackenbush: Liger was basically the opposite of guys like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. I'm not saying that I don't get excited to hear "Real American" or see the Warrior run to the ring like a crazed maniac and shake the ropes, but the actual wrestling style of guys like that, guys that were dominant in the American scene for years, did not appeal to me whatsoever. They were great showmen. And lousy wrestlers. Liger, on the other hand, was fresh, and elegant, and innovative and artful. That really captured my imagination. The same is true of guys like Owen Hart, the 1-2-3 Kid, Manami Toyota, original Tiger Mask, and others as well.

11. Considering the regard you hold for him, what did it mean to face off, one-on-one against Jushin Liger on December 11, 2010? Is that a situation where you are comfortable with the memory and legacy that was left in that one bout or would you want to have another opportunity in the ring with him?

Quackenbush: I am content with that match, in that I wanted to wrestle a Liger match, that showed the influences of the people that inspired me and shaped my style. As surreal as that whole day was, it really ended perfectly, in that as we parted ways, Liger said to me: "I would love to wrestle you again in Japan." That may never really happen, but it was, for someone like me that always thought Japanese wrestling represented the pinnacle of our artform, the most wonderful thing my idol could have said to me.

12. How much longer do you see yourself wrestling? When the chapter closes on the career of Mike Quackenbush, Pro Wrestler what does the next chapter look like? When you call in a career, what do you believe your career will be defined by?

Quackenbush: I've been asked this a lot lately, which I infer to mean people are getting tired of seeing my weary face. There was a time when I thought that perhaps any legacy I left behind would be encapsulated by the moves I've invented, or the blending of styles I tried to pioneer and champion. But I think that stuff has a real shelf-life and perhaps is ultimately irrelevant. My trainees will probably all go on to be bigger stars and make a greater impact than I ever did. I've dedicated my entire adult life, and years prior to that as well, to the pro-wrestling industry, and it will be a sad day when pro-wrestling doesn't let me sit with it for lunch in the cafeteria any more. A sad day indeed.

13. How can fans best follow you and support CHIKARA? If a new fan discovers CHIKARA what is the best way that they can get acclimated to all of the CHIKARA backstories and history?

Quackenbush: Well, our YouTube channel is a great place to start. We release 4 or 5 new videos there for you to watch every single week. It's a great jumping on point, and of course it's totally free. Nothing beats seeing us live though, as our fans will tell you. If you are bored with pro-wrestling right now, CHIKARA is the cure you've been waiting for. Come see us when our never-ending tour comes to your area!

Author's Note: This interview was conducted before this past weekend's angle with Ring of Honor, so we didn't have a chance to ask about that!
Thanks to Chikara and Mike Quackenbush for taking the time to join us here at Two Spot Monkeys!  Chikara kicks off their 11th season this Saturday night with "The Thirteenth Hat" in Easton, PA!  For more info, check out chikarapro.com!  

Have you "Liked" us on Facebook yet?  If not, head HERE and click the Like link to stay up to date on when new articles are posted here at Two Spot Monkeys! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breakout Stars of 2012!

Last year I took a look at wrestlers that I thought were ready to break out in 2011.  On some, I was right, and on some…well, yeah, that didn’t work out so well.  I want to take a look at stars for 2012 that I see breaking out in this post…however, in fairness, let’s take a very quick look back at who I predicted in 2011, and see how I did…


John Morrison – Oops, wasn’t re-signed when his contract expired and was never really a title threat.
Dolph Ziggler – I said I’d be surprised if Ziggler wasn’t World Heavyweight Champion by the end of the summer.  He’s been a featured guy, but not at that level.  Count me as surprised.

Chris Hero – Well, never broke out as a singles guy, but dominated in the tag ranks with Claudio Castagnoli until they left ROH in August.  He’s back at least for a short while now, we shall see.
Kyle O’Reilly – I was a bit early on this prediction, but I think the future is still very bright for him.
Mike Bennett – Not at the top of the card, but still a featured guy.

Ronin – Taylor and Swann are a top tag team, and Gargano won the Open the Freedom Gate Title, think I nailed that one.
Akira Tozawa – Featured star on many shows, having awesome matches, I think he broke out in 2011 for sure.

With a quick look at 2011 out of the way, here are my predictions for Break Out Stars of 2012!


Dolph Ziggler If I keep putting him on here, it will happen right?  To me, he’s the most likely Money in the Bank winner this summer.  He simply has to be elevated to the top of the card this year, and soon.  He has so much of the “it” factor, it just isn’t funny.  The guy is money. 

Dean Ambrose I don’t know if he’ll even make the main roster for sure in 2012, but again, this guy just has “it”.  He reminds me so much of Roddy Piper in his work, and his way of making you believe everything he says.  Easily one of the best mic guys in the business today, and he’s not even on the main roster of a major company just yet.  I think that will change quickly, and I could see him being a major player within the year. 

Cody Rhodes – Time for Cody to move from IC Title to top of the card as well.  I always thought Ted DiBiase would be the breakout star of Legacy, but I was clearly wrong on that.  Rhodes will be a top guy for many years to come. 


I don’t have any specific guys to name here, since I don’t follow TNA as much as other organizations.  However, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Crimson get a push towards the top of the card in the latter part of the year, as they seem to be behind him in a major way since Day 1 with him.  I do like that they have elevated Bobby Roode and James Storm to the top of the card as singles guys this year.  From the little bit I’ve seen, they are both flourishing in their new roles. 


Adam Cole – Cole can be a really effective heel as well, and I would expect that at some point this year, we’ll see him turn on O’Reilly and kick off a really good feud there, and also probably get some Cole/Richards matches out of that too, which could be a lot of fun.  Could be a big year for Cole, who I’ve read WWE has major interest in too, once his contract comes up with ROH, whenever that is. 

Michael Elgin – Elgin is freaky strong, and a damn good powerhouse in the vein of Dr. Death Steve Williams.  You can already see the seeds of a break from the House of Truth coming, and Elgin/Strong should be a good feud to see play out later this year.  I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Elgin in the World Title mix at the end of the year, or certainly climbing towards that for 2013.  He will certainly be a more featured player I believe after winning Survival of the Fittest late last year. 


Uhaa Nation – He basically broke out in 2011, however, I see this being the year where he climbs the card and ends up in a great feud or two.  Nation has that “it” factor that I keep talking about, and it will be interesting to see how 2012 continues for him.  A big man who can move like him is bound to catch some eyes in bigger companies in a quick way.  I know he’s under contract, but we’ve also seen Gabe willing to let guys out of their deals to go to WWE if they come calling too. 

The Scene – They will definitely be players in Evolve as they climb towards the top of the Tag Leaders Board.  However, will they also become players in DGUSA, perhaps even making a run towards the Open the United Gate Tag Titles?  The sky is the limit for this duo, and their loud mouth agent, Larry Dallas.  Could be a big year to be affiliated with the “A-Listers”!

So, who do you think will break out in 2012?  Think I’m way off base with any of these picks?  Did I miss an obvious one?  Let us know in the comments, or be sure to check us out on Facebook too, and feel free to comment there as well!  You can find our Facebook page by clicking here! 

Thanks for reading!  Next week is shaping up to be a big one here at Two Spot Monkeys, so be sure to check back!

Friday, January 13, 2012

My ECW Arena Memory

Tomorrow one of the most newsworthy, buzzworthy and (quite possibly) meaningful wrestling arenas/venues in the United States will hold the final wrestling events within the historic walls as they stand now. The building (seen above) will continue to reside at the corner of Swanson & Ritner in South Philadelphia, but the blood, sweat and tears that are embedded within the walls will be removed as part of a re-model and re-direction project as the venue changes into a 3,000 or so seat concert hall of sorts. Now, if you are a wrestling fan, then this news is not news to you. This building will always be the "ECW Arena" to so many people, even with the myriad of name changes and pro wrestling promotions that ran there after the original ECW ended over 10 years ago.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend one of the "famed" ECW Arena shows, seeing ECW live in the confines of this building. For me, as a 19 year old kid at the time, who traveled with my future wife and mother-in-law to celebrate Thanksgiving with my future family, in all honesty my heart and my passion was knowing that on Saturday, November 27, 1999 I was going to get be part of an experience that I had always hoped for. One that I read Pro Wrestling Torch newsletters cover to cover seeking out "Arena Reports." One that I had seen so many times before, thanks to trading tapes and expanding my pro wrestling horizons. One that I made damn sure I would not miss when ECW broke the pay-per-view barrier and held "Barely Legal" in 1997. Those are just a few examples of many I could offer.

Here is the card I was able to see and take in from my 2nd row seat:

November 27, 1999 in Philadelphia , PA ECW Arena drawing 1,700
1. Nova & Kid Kash beat Bo & Jack Dupp when Nova pinned Jack
2. Jerry Lynn pinned Little Guido
3. Super Crazy pinned Ikuto Hidaka
4. Simon Diamond pinned Jazz
5. Chris Candido & Rhino beat Danny Doring & Amish Roadkill when Rhino pinned Roadkill
6. Spike Dudley pinned Mikey Whipwreck
7. Axl Rotten & Balls Mahoney beat CW Anderson & Bill Wiles when Rotten pinned Wiles
8. ECW TV Champ Rob Van Dam pinned Uganda
9. Sandman pinned Raven; Tommy Dreamer was the guest referee.
10. ECW Champ Mike Awesome pinned Justin Credible

Now, for the way I positioned my feelings about this venue, you'd likely think that there is a sole, singular memory, especially about the wrestling that I would carry with me, right? Not so. The card, the crowd, driving into South Philly by myself for the first time ever, the lining up outside, the atmosphere, the fear of not wanting to leave my seat and explore the Arena and more all unfolded in the experience I had.

But for me, wrestling shows and wrestling trips have always been about more than just what I go to and will see in the ring. When I ventured to Ring of Honor's debut show in February 2002, I made sure that the day of that event, before the ROH show that I took my Dad (who passed away last year) to the venue, even if only to see the outside (which we did) as it looks above, so he would know where ECW grew and became what it was to me and so many other fans. So many other groups have run this venue over the last 10 years, again, some to great success and some not so much. While I would have liked to go to some those shows (ROH, Dragon Gate USA), there was always something that prevented it and deep inside, I didn't want to change the way I experienced it back in 1999.

As the doors open to let fans in tomorrow for a wrestling doubleheader (CZW in the afternoon and EVOLVE 10 at night, which you can attend live or can be purchased on iPPV (right here: http://www.wwnlive.com/signup.php?id=219), many will be seeking that one final great moment that the Arena will give them. There have many before, but the final moments and memories will occur for many tomorrow. I will be watching EVOLVE 10 live and think they are set to deliver a great show. I will be excited to have one final memory that they help create, but also remain thankful for that venue, my opportunity to be there at least once live and the memories that I will hold onto forever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

13 Questions With Gabe Sapolsky; EVOLVE 10 Preview!

EVOLVE 10 will occur live from South Philadelphia, PA at the "World Famous" Arena on the corner of Swanson and Ritner (Tickets still available by calling 267-519-9744 or you can watch live on iPPV, by ordering here: http://www.wwnlive.com/signup.php?id=219). Rather unbelievably, this event will mark the final pro wrestling event scheduled for the venue were Sabu made his name as a "Homicidal, Suicidal Maniac," Tommy Dreamer was the "Innovator of Violence," Public Enemy danced around the ring to Ini Kamoze's "Here Comes The Hotstepper," Terry Funk cemented his legacy as a "Hardcore Icon" and so much more!

Gabe Sapolsky shared his time with us to talk EVOLVE 10, why this show is important for him on many levels and much more!

1. It has been just about 6 weeks since the announcement of the union of Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. Describe your feelings as EVOLVE 10 approaches, being the first show since that announcement?

Gabe: I am very excited because EVOLVE 10 on January 14th will showcase all the benefits of the union between Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE. Enough of talking about it. Now it is time to show everyone what this means and blow everyone away.

2. EVOLVE 10 will be the final event at former ECW Arena on January 14th and broadcast live, world-wide on iPPV at WWNLive.com. For DGUSA/EVOLVE fans who don’t know, what was your role with ECW from 1994-2001 and why “A Tribute to The Arena” is important to you?

Gabe: I did some of everything behind the scenes in ECW, including running the ticket office upstairs at Tod Gordon's office and then at my apartment, yes my apartment, for those years for all the ECW Arena shows. It is very important that we send the building out the right way because now it will become a legend. Everyone who went there will talk about the time they went there 25 years from now. Those who never got to go there will forever regret it. So much has happened in that building including a great deal of personal history. I can literally look in every corner of the building and think of a memory like a friend I met or a match I saw among other things. Now we have a chance to write the final chapter and it has to be special.

3. EVOLVE 10’s Main Event is Johnny Gargano’s first Open The Freedom Gate title defense and is against Ricochet. You’ve released an excellent video to highlight this match and it can be said for both guys, but with Gargano specifically, there has been so much growth by both talents the last two years from when they debuted in EVOLVE. Do you find that to be extremely rewarding and a great return on investment, professionally and personally or both?

Gabe: Yes, it is definitely very rewarding. It's also the most fun thing to watch as a booker. There is nothing like watching a talent work hard, have that drive and motivation and improve. Gargano and Ricochet both have those qualities. It is inspiring to watch.

4. DG USA and EVOLVE has really made a mark with their on-line, “viral” videos, like the one mentioned before, along with Sami Callihan and Bobby Fish as well. How important do you consider those videos are in terms of creating a buzz and generating interest for the shows? Is that something you urge or encourage wrestlers to do or do guys like Callihan etc. take charge on their own?

Gabe: Yes, I urge everyone to do it. It's all free advertising. It's a great way to get your name and character out there. It's great promotion. There are no negatives about it.

5. Sami Callihan vs. Bobby Fish will also meet for the 2nd time on 1/14. Callihan earned “Wrestler of the Year” talk in various placed for his 2011 efforts. Fish has arguably been the “best” story in EVOLVE since the beginning and is truly an example of the “homegrown star” efforts for wrestlers in these companies. What should fans expect to see or look for in this match?

Gabe: Both Callihan and Fish are great talents who have done a tremendous job and have that drive to get better. I think this could be the show stealing match. Both are really fired up for it.

6. Speaking to the approach of building “homegrown stars/talent,” which we talked about just about 6 months ago, has that process met your expectations?

Gabe: Yes, it has surpassed my expectations actually. I am very excited about our talent roster now. I feel we have a very diverse roster where everyone brings something different to the table. It has given us a very fresh and exciting product. This talent roster is also a lot of fun to book. I think the EVOLVE show this Saturday will really show how good these guys are. I've been calling them today's new stars and I firmly believe that. The next wave of talent aren't coming tomorrow, they are here today, and it has given us a tremendous homegrown roster. Please know when I say that I'm not taking credit for developing them or saying they were unknowns before they came to us, when I say homegrown talent roster I mean we have been able to brand a roster as our own when they are in DGUSA and EVOLVE. It takes nothing away from any other promotion they are currently in or where they cut their teeth.

7. On the flipside of that, do you ever have to resist or fight the urge to book wrestlers that could be an additional draw or provide an additional boost to DG USA or EVOLVE?

Gabe: No, if the right talent is available who can add something to the show and we can come to a business agreement we will book them. Our goal is to give the fans the product possible. If there is someone who can add to that we will book them. It is all about giving the fans more than their money's worth.

8. You have been sharing very important and personal ECW Arena reflections via Facebook over the last month. What type of emotion has that stirred up for you and have you used it to motivate you in planning and prepping for EVOLVE 10?

Gabe: Thank you for reading. For people out there you can read it at www.Facebook.com/BookItGabe. It's funny you put it that way because it definitely has stirred up a lot of emotion for me. It got me thinking about all the stuff that I will never forget that happened in that building whether it was during ECW or booking ROH or DGUSA or any of the other shows I have seen like CHIKARA and CZW. All of that has just got me really hyped up to make sure the building goes out the right way, that we have a proper farewell and that we have a killer show.

9. How are wrestlers approaching being a part of the final event at such an important building? I know some wrestlers have shared some thoughts in the most recent WWNLive.com Magazine, but is it something organic where they’ve come to you because they know they are about to be part of history?

Gabe: It is very organic. Everyone grew up watching something in that building, whether it was live, on TV, on videotape, on DVD. Everyone who got into wrestling was influenced by something that happened there. It is a goal of everyone to wrestle in that world famous building one day. I'm not just talking about American indy wrestlers, but wrestlers all over the world. It is a very special place and now we have a special opportunity to have the last show there on January 14th.

10. What is the “sleeper” match of EVOLVE 10 and which wrestler has the best opportunity to really break out?

Gabe: That's a tough question to answer because I feel we have put together a really strong card from the opening bell to the Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet main event before the final Tribute To The Arena segment. I think if everything goes well that everyone has a chance to get over. I'm looking to have a statement show here.

11. EVOLVE 11 is scheduled for April 13 and a Canada debut. Is a goal for 2012 to have EVOLVE run bi-monthly at a minimum as part of the plan with mixing the DG USA events? Are there any other markets drawing strong consideration to host a show?

Gabe: I'm not going to say we have a goal or set number of shows in mind. We are going to hold shows when we have a good opportunity and it makes sense. It will be more regular than 2011 and easier to follow, especially with the union.

12. What is your biggest challenge in 2012?

Gabe: Good question! There's a lot of challenges ahead. I'd have to think about it.

13. How can fans best support EVOLVE, DG USA, WWNLive.com and also connect with you?

Gabe: It's simple- come to a show, buy a DVD, buy an iPPV, buy a shirt, if you feel we are worth supporting please support us. Every sale counts on this level. I can be reached on Twitter @BookItGabe and Facebook.com/BookItGabe. Also make sure to check www.DGUSA.tv for all the news and info on upcoming shows. You can also sign up for our Email News Express and WWNLive.com Email Magazine which are great ways to get the news delivered right to you. Thank you for the interview.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

There Goes The Pain: Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar stormed the Ultimate Fighting Championship to cheers and jeers in 2007. An incredible athlete, who excelled as an All-American Wrestler, a WWE "Sports Entertainer" and darn near became a Minnesota Vikings football player, decided to tackle this next challenge within The Octagon of UFC. MMA purists hated the idea; how could a "fake" pro wrestler even think to compete against some of the best of the UFC? Why would Dana White risk the integrity of his rapidly growing sport by "tainting" it with the connotation that a former pro wrestler would bring with him? Was there anyway Brock could succeed or this could work to begin with?

I don't intend for this entry to recap Lesnar's UFC career. It was successful and unfortunately it was hampered by two bouts of diverticulitis (October 2009 and May 2011). Brock Lesnar, if nothing other than in name alone, gave another nudge to the growth boom that UFC has and still is experiencing. I am sure he brought new fans to the sport. Much like Floyd Mayweather Jr. (seemingly the last hope for boxing), Lesnar knew how to get fans to love him or hate him. This was no doubt a mixture of his natural attitude mixed with his WWE history.

I know that was Brock Lesnar was scheduled to fight, I made it a point to watch...and many others did too. People paid money to buy pay-per-views. People showed up in big numbers, in arena and in sports bars alike to see his fights. I'll not make any claims to being a "die hard" UFC or MMA fan, but Lesnar's involvement allowed me the chance to get more invested in this incredible sport and become a much more passionate UFC fan than I was before his tenure. And I plan on sticking around.

No matter what the footnotes to his UFC career are (in no particular order): incredible athlete; brash and cocky; not interested in developing a well-rounded game; can't take a punch or body blow; Heavyweight Champion; villian - Brock Lesnar will have a legacy in the UFC. Dana White was not an "idiot" to bring him in. Lesnar was at the forefront of a boom of athletic heavyweight fighters and should always be remembered for that as well.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our Wishes for 2012

We wanted to take a moment and look at 3 wishes we each have for pro wrestling in 2012, without any further adieu, here is what we are wishing for!

Tom’s 3 Wishes for 2012:

~A Dolph Ziggler World Title Reign – Ziggler has become one of my favorite wrestlers to follow and watch towards the end of 2011. I cannot wait to see what is in store for 2012.

~To Attend One Wrestling Event Per Month – This is a lofty goal for me, because I have a young family and a busy schedule. I think it is achievable in the Midwest area, with WWE, ROH, DG USA, CHIKARA, EVOLVE, AAW, Resistance Pro and more running shows in that area. If I attend live, expect a write-up here at Two Spot Monkeys,

~Take Two Spot Monkeys from “Blogcast” to Podcast – Jim and I had first hoped to record an audio podcast on a regular or semi-regular basis, but came to a decision that a blog was the way to begin. In 2012, it may be time to take the next step.

Jim’s 3 Wishes for 2012:

First and foremost, let me just say, I love Tom’s wishes, especially the idea of debuting some audio content here on Two Spot Monkeys…stay tuned!!!

~A Future Shock ROH World Tag Title Reign – I love the team of Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, and while I think they are both destined for big things as singles (and hope that we get to see Cole’s work as a heel as well later this year), I want to see them get a reign as tag champs before all that happens. A feud with the Young Bucks over the tag titles would be just fine with me as I’ve said before here.

~Dean Ambrose to not only debut for WWE, but make an impact – I truly believe that if given the opportunity, Dean Ambrose can be a big star for WWE. His work as Jon Moxley in DGUSA turned me into a big, big fan of his. He can talk people into the arena, making you feel that you really need to see what’s about to happen. He’s got a ton of Roddy Piper like qualities, and WWE could really use that. Here’s hoping 2012 is his year.

~To increase the MMA coverage here on Two Spot Monkeys – When you look at the description of this site under the title, we say that we are going to take a look at the worlds of both pro wrestling and MMA. To be honest, we have lacked in the MMA coverage for some time. We hope to change that this year. I can’t promise that we’ll post something about every UFC show (Because they have a TON of them coming in 2012), but at least for major events, you can expect coverage here at Two Spot Monkeys.