BALLPARK BRAWL III: CANADIAN CARNAGE
Review by Mike Rickard II
Independent wrestling shows can offer fans an affordable alternative to products such as NWA-TNA and the WWE. At their worst, independent shows are little more than a hodgepodge of wrestling camp trainees and has-beens who no-show. At their best however, independent shows offer fans a look at up and coming stars, current stars, and a bit of nostalgia. The Ballpark Brawl has proved itself to be the epitome of a good independent show, combining quality wrestling with the right mix of nostalgia as well.
The Ballpark Brawl III was held at Dunn Tire Field in Buffalo, NY on August 14, 2004. This was the second Ballpark Brawl held this year and the second half of an eight man tournament to crown “The Natural” Champion. The show featured a combination of various independent workers such as Amazing Red and Sabu along with former superstars from the WWF including Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart. Like the previous Ballpark Brawl, this show was accompanied by a well-done video presentation on the ballpark's Jumbotron which included backstage segments to set up the storylines and titles listing the wrestlers’ hometown, weight, and finishing moves.
Joining me was my friend Chris, who hates the WWE product but who was a big fan back during the Rock-N-Wrestling years of Hulkamania. While I enjoy the WWE for the most part, I was hoping to see some independent stars such as Amazing Red who I’ve heard great things about but who I’ve never seen.
The weather was perfect. It was sunny all day but not too hot. We wandered around the stadium and noticed several local promotions such as Empire State Wrestling and Neo Spirit Pro Wrestling had set up tables promoting their shows and offering fans a chance to get autographs. We grabbed some seats behind home plate and watched the last three innings of the local Triple A baseball club, the Buffalo Bisons. Throughout the game, Chris commented on how pathetic Buffalo is and how the only baseball game worth watching is a New York Yankee game. Having just come from a Yankees game a few days ago, he laughed at the efforts of the Triple A teams playing. The home team came through again and we waited anxiously for the real show to begin.
The weather was beautiful but there was one atmospheric difficulty we encountered as soon as we sat down. From time to time we were overcome by the powerful odor of shit. At first I suspected that one of the senior citizens sitting in the row ahead of us had an unfortunate bowel evacuation in their pants but the odor was noticed by people several rows to the back of us. The odor would then disappear only to show back up later on during the show. We never found the source of the problem and could only speculate that it might be a sewage backup or nearby Lake Erie.
As we watched the ring crew go to work, we also noticed an attractive girl with low riding jeans helping to set up the ring. What was really interesting about this was that when she bent over, it looked like her jeans were about to fall down and her ass would be displayed for everyone. However our hopes were crushed as her curvaceous cheeks would not be revealed today.
One of the things that really makes the Ballpark Brawl stand out from other indy shows is their video production. While the ring crew set up the stage, two commentators went over the show’s lineup and discussed the various matches including the second half of the tournament for “the Natural” championship. This video package shown on the stadium’s Jumbotron gave people a chance to familiarize themselves with the feuds and storylines and to help make each match seem important. The announcers discussed how wrestler Petey Williams had successfully made a legal challenge to his elimination from “The Natural” tournament and that he would be competing in a match to determine if he would be allowed to re-enter the tournament. This pre-game show was very good and the only drawback was that the sound wasn’t loud enough at times
After the pre-game show, Bret Hart appeared on the Jumbotron and welcomed everyone to the show. AC-DC’s “Hell’s Bells” played as the announcer came out and told the fans that they were in for an amazing show and that there were no no-shows. The announcer then directed the fans’ attention back to the Jumbotron where a video featuring Jimmy Hart's career in the WWF was shown.
Jimmy Hart came to the ring and got the crowd warmed up. Hart was used at Ballpark Brawl II and it was good to see him again. By using an established name like Bret Hart to start the show, the promoters gave the show strong credibility by showing that it had a true superstar on its roster. By having Jimmy Hart start the show off, the promoters properly utilized a great talker who could get the crowd pumped up. Jimmy told the fans that he was going to give Johnny Puma (a local wrestler from the Empire State Wrestling promotion) a second chance to work for him. This was a
follow-up from the last Ballpark Brawl where Puma teamed with Jimmy Hart only to suffer a post-match beating at the hands of Abyss after losing the match. Hart quickly changed his tune though when Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart came to ringside. Jimmy then told Puma he had no deal. Puma sneak attacked Neidhart but Neidhart quickly came back and dominated the match, finishing off Puma with a clothesline and getting the pinfall win. Neidhart looked to be in pretty good physical shape and while his in ring work was nothing spectacular, he kept the match at just the right length so fans didn’t get bored but at the same time, they felt like they saw a real match and not a squash.
A backstage segment set up a title match between challenger "Dangerboy" Derek Wylde and Neo Spirit Independent Champion "Completely" Cody Steele. This was the first time the title would be defended outside of Canada and the match offered the additional intrigue of who Jennifer Blake was going to side with (At least that’s what I made from the sometimes hard to hear sound). Both wrestlers had some high-flying moves and the match was fairly smooth. However it was still largely a spotfest. The match ended after Jennifer Blake came to ringside and slapped Steele, giving Wylde a chance to pin Steele and win the title. After the match, Wylde thanked the fans and proposed marriage to Blake (who accepted). Several fans tried to talk Wylde out of throwing his life away via marriage but he seemed content with the lovely Blake.
As we grew tired with the romantic display in the ring, Chris and I noticed some HLA going on at ringside. An attractive looking
Goth chick was hugging the girl with the low riding jeans. Chris pointed out that the low rider was a butterface but we both agreed that the
Goth girl had it going on. He then proceeded a dissertation on the love-making possibilities of the
Goth girl as I waited for the next match to begin.
The next match featured Jimmy Hart (accompanied by TNA’s Abyss) wrestling a disc jockey from Toronto, Ontario named Dave Blizard. At Ballpark Brawl II, Jimmy Hart had wrestled a disc jockey from Buffalo and come up short. Hart challenged Blizard, perhaps in the hope that he would be more successful against a disc jockey from Canada, our weaker sister nation (TM John Bradshaw Layfield). Blizard went after Hart and quickly dominated him until Abyss distracted Blizard, allowing Hart to land a low blow. Hart began to whip Blizard with his belt until a revenge seeking Johnny Puma came out and attacked Hart. However before Blizard could capitalize on the distraction, Abyss laid out Blizard and Hart got the pinfall. Puma made the save after the match ended. This novelty match was enjoyable for what it was and demonstrated the solid booking that I’ve come to enjoy from the Ballpark Brawl. This independent promotion maintained continuity from its last show and earlier in the show by having Puma try and get revenge on Jimmy Hart.
Next came the semi-finals for "The Natural" Championship (the quarter-finals were held during the Ballpark Brawl II with Abyss, Ron Killings, Teddy Hart, and Julio Dinero advancing). Ron "The Truth" Killings cut a backstage rap predicting that he would win the title. Killings received a nice pop from the crowd and looked to be in phenomenal shape. As Abyss came out, Chris pointed out that Abyss looked like Kane. The two put on a decent show with Abyss doing power moves and Killings showing off his combination of kicks and acrobatics. The match ended in a double
count out and a wild brawl all the way back to the dressing room.
After seeing Abyss wrestle, Chris came to the conclusion that he too could become a professional wrestler. He told me that he just has to start working out again and he could make some extra money on weekends by stepping into the squared circle. I told him that should his dream come true, that he should enlist me as his manager. He quickly dismissed the idea pointing out that I would probably sell him out to his first opponent. I laughed at the notion that an attorney as distinguished as myself would do such a sinister thing. After hearing about the new Tough Enough, I will have to alert Chris that his chance to wrestle is knocking on his door.
The next match came from the legal challenge by by Petey Williams over his loss at the Ballpark Brawl II. During the last Ballpark Brawl, wrestler Petey Williams was pinned. However Williams challenged the referee's decision, arguing that he had raised his shoulder before the three count. As a result, Williams was allowed to wrestle in the tournament, but he had to wrestle another quarterfinal match in order to advance to the semifinals. One would think that Williams would have had a rematch with Julio Dinero, the wrestler who had pinned him during the last quarter-final match but for some reason, Dinero was not there (If his absence was explained, I didn’t hear it due to the sometimes hard to hear backstage bits). I was happy to hear that Dinero wasn’t there though when I learned who Williams’ opponent was. Harry Smith, son of Davey Boy Smith was making his debut match in the U.S. against Williams. Smith is 6'6" and looked pretty good in the ring. Smith pinned Williams to advance to the finals. After the match, Williams clipped Smith from behind but Teddy Hart made the save. Hart grabbed the microphone and began the first of several messages of love and devotion to his fans. The crowd ate up every word of it and cheered wildly for Bret Hart’s nephew.
Backstage, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart's daughter Nattie was challenged by Traci from TNA. Nattie has an interesting look as she is bulky but neither fat nor muscular. She has an even more interesting promo style that seems like a cross between her father and Victoria. The two women put on a very solid match and in an interesting spot, Neidhart chased Traci into the ring at which point Traci jumped into the referee's arms. This was one of the best matches of the night and ended when Neidhart scored the pin with a fisherman's suplex.
Next up was a special appearance by Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Bret made a brief speech and told the fans how much he appreciates them and how much it means to him that they remember him. He said that he could be at Summerslam but that his appearance here was just as good. He then welcomed Jimmy Hart into the ring. Jimmy told the fans that he managed many top teams but that he had the most fun with the Hart Foundation. Jim Neidhart then came out and said that Sports Illustrated, (then corrected himself) Wrestling Illustrated voted the Hart Foundation as the best tag team in the last forty years. Neidhart appeared to be lost but the appearance by the Hart Foundation reunion was a lot of fun to see (although all too brief).
Bret Hart then sat at ringside as "The Natural" Title tournament began with Harry Smith facing Teddy Hart. This match degenerated into a brawl after Smith threw Hart out of the ring twice and then
clotheslined Hart after he did a backflip off of the top rope into the ring. Despite some strong power moves by Smith, Hart rallied back for the pinfall win. Teddy Hart is an incredible performer and Harry Smith appears to have a bright future ahead of him. The crowd went nuts when Bret Hart brought "The Natural" trophy into the ring and presented it to his nephew. Harry Smith congratulated Teddy Hart on his win as well and while I waited for Smith to destroy the trophy, sportsmanship prevailed.
After the match, Teddy Hart told the fans that he would defend the championship anytime, anywhere. Teddy Hart then proceeded to spread love and sunshine to the fans telling them that he wouldn't be shit without them. Overwhelmed by the magnificence of Buffalo, Teddy also revealed that he is moving to Buffalo soon and he plans on defending the belt against all comers. He then grabbed a sign from a fan that read "Bret is God". He then took a sign that read "Flair Sucks" and told the fans that they knew how he felt about Flair. At first a few people cheered him but then the fans began booing him and several "Whooooooos" were heard throughout the stadium. Teddy wisely abandoned the attacks on Flair and made his way back to the dressing room with his newly won championship trophy.
Christopher "Fallen Angel" Daniels next cut a promo running down Buffalo and the four-time losers the Buffalo Bills. Chris had no idea who Daniels the wrestler was but Daniels the anti-Buffalo spokesman won his favor. Daniels faced the Amazing Red in a solid match that ended with Daniels executing what looked like a reverse powerbomb on Red and getting the pin. This match featured a lot of highposts but the match was very fluid and realistic looking. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Amazing Red and he lived up to all of them. Daniels was impressive too. One of the nice things about the independent shows is that there are a lot of great workers out there who are available to work. The promoters of the Ballpark Brawl really had a top lineup of talent at this show.
The Main Event was originally scheduled to be a TLC Match between A.J. Styles and Sabu. However Styles called out Teddy Hart and challenged him to a TLC match for "The Natural" championship. Hart lived up to his promise that he would defend the title anyplace, anytime, and anywhere despite the fact that he already wrestled a grueling match against Harry Smith. Hart’s match against Smith looked like a Sunday drive compared to the brutal three way match he found himself in. Sabu, Styles, and Hart spend the next twenty minutes or so breaking tables, diving through the ropes, and blasting each other with steel chairs. In the end, Styles managed to execute the Styles Clash and became the new “Natural” champion.
On our way out of the show we saw Bret Hart leaving the stadium in a limousine. Several fans waved to him and he stopped to wave back. Unfortunately he was too far away for my friend Chris to jump in front of his limo and begin a big lawsuit. Maybe next time.
I estimated that there were around 2,000-2,300 people at the event. The last Ballpark Brawl had around 1,500 people so the promoters had to be pleased with the larger turnout. A ticket cost $12.00 and included a Triple A baseball game (Floor seats were $24.00), a real bargain since the wrestling was first class.
As I mentioned in my review of Ballpark Brawl II, the show may be an independent show but it is major league with its production values and quality of wrestling. The positives included the video segments, the star power, the storylines wound throughout the show, the wrestlers’ interaction with the fans (wrestlers were giving out autographs before the show and gave autographs at ringside) and the quality of the wrestling. The only negative was the sound system which was too low at times during the backstage segments. However the sound crew did a good job of fixing the problem from the last show which produced echoes
every time someone used the house microphone. I hope that the promoters will produce another Ballpark Brawl because the two shows I’ve attended have been a lot fun and judging from the buzz I’ve heard on the Internet, I’m not the only person who feels that way.
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.