SHOW THAT DELIVERS MANY HITS BUT NO HOMERUNS
BALLPARK BRAWL IV: FRIDAY NIGHT SMASH
Review by Mike Rickard II
The Ballpark Brawl has established a reputation for delivering a top-rate wrestling show combining some of the stars of yesterday along with today’s hottest wrestlers from the independent circuit, Ring of Honor (ROH), and Total Nonstop Action (TNA). Last year the show made its mark by combining top flight camera work, video packages backstage to sell the matches, and a good mix of various wrestling styles. Now in its third year, the Ballpark Brawl returned to Buffalo, New York’s Dunn Tire Field on July 15, 2005 for its fourth show.
This summer has been a terrific season for wrestling fans in the Western New York region. Between ROH’s recent appearance in June, a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) pay-per-view in July, and three Ballpark Brawls, fans have a wide selection of live action to choose from. This is in addition to the independent promotions like Empire State Wrestling (ESW) and Neo Spirit Pro Wrestling (NSPW) gives fans a chance to sample quite the selection of professional wrestling.
After last summer’s two events, I was pretty pumped to attend the Brawl. This year, I brought my wrestling sidekick Mighty Mel along with three of my nephews Connor, Anthony and Jerry. All have watched wrestling but only Mighty Mel continues to watch it. It would be interesting to see what they would think of the show and what they thought of an alternative product to the WWE.
Like most of the United States, the weather has been ridiculously hot. Fortunately the show wasn’t scheduled to begin until 7:00P.M. so at least the sun wouldn’t be a factor. After packing a mini-van I’d borrowed full of kids, we headed to Taco Bell for their affordably priced imitation Tex-Mex cuisine. The kids dispatched of the food in short order and we stopped at the nearby gas station for snacks to prevent the kids from wasting away before their next meal. As they raided the snack aisles, I looked at the time and realized we had half an hour to get to the show.
After I made sure the little bastards were buckled up, I gunned the engine and threw the mini-van into warp drive, determined to get to the show before the opening bell. Anthony popped in a John Lennon CD (these kids and their crazy music) but after three depressing ditties from the former Beatle, we opted for Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume One Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting blared through the factory option stereo speakers as I made the jump to hyperspace on the Kensington Expressway. Mighty Mel admonished my reckless driving and I slowed down as we reached downtown Buffalo.
With ten minutes to go before 7:00, I saw the usual contingent of scalpers selling tickets. Too lazy to walk up to the box office, I paid face value for the seats and we rushed in to the show. Dunn Tire Field was originally built as a major league park during the early 1980’s when Buffalo tried to lure major league baseball to town. As we walked to our seats, I was shocked by the low turnout. Compared to last year’s shows, the place looked like a ghost town with attendance in the range of five hundred people at best.
Surveying the field, I noticed that the ring was set up in right field (last year’s show was set up near the pitcher’s mound) with reserved seats on the field and general admission in the stands. Being a cheap bastard, I opted for the general admission seats and we were able to find some seats very close to the ring. Everyone settled into their seats and I began sampling some of the snacks that everyone had brought. I was eager to check out the
T.G.I.Friday’s Mozzarella Stick Snacks which sadly were glorified Cheese Puffs.
As we waited for the show to start, we all noticed a small group of fans in the reserved section who seemed determined to make asses of themselves. Between their ROH Fans= Pussies sign and Triple H is God sign, they seemed like the Bizarro version of Front Row Section D, taunting “smart” fans rather than marks. In any event, they quickly earned the wrath of the fans around them and it seemed like only a matter of time before an extra match would be added to the Brawl.
As with last year’s shows, a pre-game show appeared on the Jumbotron in which two announcers previewed the show. The two top matches were A.J. Styles defense of the Natural Championship (a belt created just for the Ballpark Brawl) and a #1 contender match for the champion’s defense at the next show. Unlike last year, the pre-game show was pretty short and you really didn’t get a detailed preview of the matches like you did last year.
The show opened with a backstage segment featuring “the American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Unfortunately, Terry Funk was a no-show and Dusty was able to take his place (One of the things I really like about the Brawl is that when someone no shows, they usually get a good replacement). Dusty launched into his usual monologue “The tower of power, the man of the hour”. I amazed my nephews when I joined in Dusty’s rhyme and finished it with “too sweet to be sour”. The funniest part of Dusty’s speech was my nephews scratching their heads at Dusty’s “tower of power” speech.
After a nice performance of the Star Spangled Banner, the ring announcer came out and told fans the Brawl was going to start things off with a tag team match. However, ROH champion C.M. Punk (who was rumored to be wrestling longtime personal and professional rival Teddy Hart) came out and began running down Teddy Hart. Punk told the fans that Hart wasn’t going to be there and that he wasn’t surprised since Hart has a permanent yellow streak down his back. He told the fans that the three excuses Hart gave were all lies. Now I’m not familiar with the specifics of the real-life bad blood between Hart and Punk (other than the fact that when they did get into a brawl that Hart reportedly handed Punk’s ass to him) but I was a bit taken back by Punk’s comments. Teddy Hart appeared at both of last year’s Ballpark Brawls and besides putting on some outright spectacular matches at Ballpark Brawl II and
Ballpark Brawl III, he was incredibly gracious to the fans at a post-game autograph party after Ballpark Brawl II. C.M. Punk seemed unprofessional going into business for himself and his rant didn’t do anything for the show. Thankfully, Homicide showed up and challenged Punk to a match later that night.
As promised, the show opened up with a tag team match between the Backseat Men (Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere) defeated the Outkast Killaz. The Backseat Men (formerly known as the Backseat Boys) did a Billy & Chuck type gimmick throughout the match that was funny at times but frankly a bit risqué for an event that is supposed to be for the whole family. My guests laughed at the homoerotic antics during the match but I could imagine some parents of younger fans getting upset with the Backseat Men’s in-ring shenanigans. Both teams looked good and the Outkast Killaz had some excellent tag team moves. In the end, the Backseat Men stole the win from the Outkast Killaz.
Next up was a special challenge match between John McChesney and Johnny Divine. Before the match, Divine was cutting a promo and he ran down McChesney. Divine bet that he could beat McChesney in 5 minutes. Divine dominated most of the match and put McChesney in a submission hold. However McChesney was able to hold out until after the bell rang and won the match. After the match, the Ultimate Warrior’s music played and “The Ultimate Striker” showed up to battle Divine. The Ultimate Striker cut a hilarious promo on Divine in true warrior fashion (occasionally gasping for air) and then did a Warrioresque match, complete with shaking the ropes and a body splash. This match was definitely one of the highlights of the night (© Chris Jericho) with Striker providing a delightful comedy match. The whole crew I was with enjoyed Striker’s antics even though nearly all of them had no clue who the Ultimate Warrior is. I wonder what their reaction would be if they saw the Ultimate Warrior in action.
Independent sensation “Slyck” Wagner Brown came out with April Hunter (who received a fair amount of “chicks with dicks” comments) and started what turned out to be the theme of the night- running down the city of Buffalo (which in all honesty is a fairly easy target). In a piece of excellent booking, Brown challenged local wrestlers to face him with April Hunter doing the biased referee bit to frustrate the wrestlers’ bid to win. After Brown dispatched of four wrestlers (including Empire State Wrestling’s heavyweight champ Damien Alexander), Abyss came out and battled him. A referee appeared for this match and it didn’t take long for Abyss to dish out some serious punishment to Brown. After a ref bump, Brown grabbed a steel chair, blasted Abyss with it, and then whipped Abyss with his belt. The ref called for the bell and ruled the match a no contest. A rematch was then signed for Ballpark Brawl V with Abyss putting his mask up against Brown in a strap match. I’ve heard some good things about Brown and he put on a good show. April Hunter did a good job as the heel valet/bodyguard and she definitely added to the suspense over whether one of the local heroes could upset Brown. Abyss has been a regular at the Ballpark Brawl and he always puts on a good performance.
Ring of Honor stars Homicide and C.M. Punk put on a good match as you would expect from these two workers. Lots of brawling and table spots. Homicide is just amazing in how agile and acrobatic he can be for someone with his body type. He’s definitely not the kind of guy you would expect to do a triple somersault through the ropes but he can fly with some of the best. Personally, I have seen C.M. Punk live twice now and I really don’t know what the hype is all about. The guy is a very good wrestler but he hasn’t shown anything to make me believe he is as good as some people claim he is. Nevertheless, both wrestlers turned in a solid effort and C.M. Punk scored the win after using a handful of tights.
After a brief intermission, a six man elimination match was held between Petey Williams, Chris Sabin, Sean Spears, Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, and Empire State Wrestling’s Mastiff. It was a fast paced match with lots of twists and turns but it went on a little bit too long. During the match, I checked out the merchandise tables which had some interesting (and affordably priced) Ballpark Brawl merchandise. I made it back in time to see Chris Sabin get the win over Petey Williams after outside interference by Sean Spears.
One of the highlights of every Ballpark Brawl is seeing some of the stars of yesterday in action. Unfortunately, not every legend has much gas left in their tank and this was definitely the case with the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Dusty’s opponent was the highly talent and controversial Kid Kash who made the most of his match with the former world champion. Despite Kash’s efforts, the match was just awful. Dusty was either on his back or in the corner throughout the match and he just sucked the life out of the audience. Dusty’s range of motion ranged from lifeless to glacial and it was clear that he couldn’t keep up with Kash. In the end, Dusty won with a bionic elbow but no one cared about this mismatch. Dusty definitely doesn’t have much but he might have been better used against a brawler such as Abyss. The only highlight of this match was the interaction between Kid Kash and the Bizarro Front Row Section D clowns. At one point, Kash dressed down one of the fans by threatening to teabag her boyfriend. The crowd instantly got behind Kash despite his being a heel.
Proving that women’s wrestling can be just as good as the matches between men, April Hunter and Ariel put on an exciting match. Before the match, a vignette aired with local wrestling sensation Johnny Puma sticking his foot in his mouth when he tried to pick up Ariel backstage. Despite being outsized by Hunter, Ariel got the win. After the match, “Slyck” Brown attacked Ariel until Abyss ran out to make the save. A solid match which everyone in the group enjoyed.
Another backstage vignette aired in which “Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels challenged “Natural” Champion A.J. Styles to a 2 out of 3 falls match up (with the stipulation that one of the falls must be won with a submission). Styles won the first fall by submission followed by a submission win for Daniels. Styles dominated the third fall until Daniels scored a surprise pin using the ropes for leverage to win the belt. Styles attacked Daniels after the match but that didn’t change the fact that Daniels is the new Natural Champion. Having seen Daniels and Styles in action several times, I was disappointed with their match. Of course a disappointing match between Daniels and Styles is still better than 90% of what you’ll see in the WWE and despite their phoning in their work, the match was still exciting and very enjoyable.
Ballpark Brawl IV was an entertaining show with some good to very good matches, excellent booking, and a professional atmosphere. However it didn’t hold up to the extremely high standards established by Ballpark Brawl II and III. First off, there wasn’t the same feeling of cohesion that you got in previous Brawls. For example, Ballpark Brawl II featured some great work by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper acting as a defacto commissioner and setting up the matches. Last year’s brawls also featured the theme of the tournament to crown a Natural Champion. There was nothing close to that in this year’s Brawl. Second, with the exception of Dusty Rhodes, there weren’t any legends at this Brawl. Ballpark Brawl II had Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (to name a few) and Ballpark Brawl III had appearances by Jimmy Hart, Bret Hart, and Jim Neidhart. From the looks of things, the Ballpark Brawl V will feature several legends including Jimmy Hart and Mick Foley.
Despite these flaws, the people behind the Ballpark Brawl deserve another round of applause for putting on an excellent show. The Brawl has become one of the premier independent shows in North America and it’s well deserved. The show is well booked, features some of the top wrestlers in the world, and is very reasonably priced (with tickets from $12 to $25). In the end, everyone I was with enjoyed the show and I felt that I got my money’s worth with nearly four hours of consistently good wrestling.
At the time of this review Ballpark Brawl IV is not yet available on DVD,
but If you would like purchase Ballpark Brawl III then
Otherwise, keep checking RFVideo.com
for Ballpark Brawl IV to become available on DVD.
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.