Flyin Ryan vs Drew Haskins
The opening match features two highly watchable NewPro talents: Drew Haskins, all-American roughneck, versus skinny but mean Flyin Ryan. (I might be mistaken--I don't think I am--but I am fairly certain I saw Ryan at a Ring of Honor show in Asheville last spring. If I were more an extrovert, I might have walked up and chatted with the kid to find out for sure.) Ryan starts off pretty good (or awfully bad, I should say), cheap shots and hair pulling giving him full control of Drew. Then Drew fights back with all he's got and turns the tide ... until, that is, Ryan snags him in a figure-four choke. It looks like all is lost for true Drew, but the bad business between these guys is not over.
CB Gibson vs Shawn Banks
Shawn Banks is another NewPro favorite of mine, from way back, from back when he wasn't so flashy and still on the shy side, before he was "Shawn Banks," in fact. He takes on good guy CB Gibson, a near perfect physical match for Shawn. CB looks like he'd like to beat the golden tassels off Shawn's outlandish gear. These guys give each other tit for tat for most of the match, with Shawn staying on top more often than not. Halfway through the match, the battle becomes a question of "Who's prettier?" I find myself asking the same question. Shawn's nastier, and that has its charms, of course, but CB's fresher, more buoyant. It's a hard call to make. Still, any match whose outcome turns on finger-biting is right up my alley.
Jonny Firestorm vs Dick Rick
You know I love me some Jonny Firestorm. I count myself as one of the thousands knocked out by his new look and physique, too. He's in crewcut mode for this fight, in white/babyblue trunks and black boots, a babyface look that's so right for him it may be the way I think about him from now on. Jonny takes on big Dick Rick, whose recent BG East match against Jobe Zander won him a few points in my book. Jonny starts out strong, but Dick's size and strength are too much for him. Dick then goes beyond what is strictly necessary to win, just to punish Jonny--and Jonny, for a change, gets a good long taste of what it's like to be on the receiving end of a good long bruising.
Lane Hartley and Ronny Pearl vs Brute Baynard and Ivan Chekov
It's an uphill battle for Lane Hartley and Ronny Pearl against a couple of bad guys whose arms are as big as the good guys' legs. The villains, swaggering, smirking wrecking balls called Brute Baynard and Ivan Chekov, give the babyfaces h-e-l-l. I have gotten used to Lane as an unbeatable heel, but I will take him any way I can get him. Here he's one of the good guys, squaring off against a couple of wrecking balls: Brute Baynard and Ivan Chekov. It should be an even match. Interestingly, each team is unevenly paired, with one strong, aggressive member and one who's obviously the lesser half. My favorite part of this fight (perhaps of the whole show) is when, after helplessly standing by while the heels eviscerate Ronny, Lane at last leaps in to beat down Baynard and then delivers him back to Ronny to do with as he pleases. Meanies being what they are, Ivan sneak-attacks Ronny from behind, which precipitates a four-men-in-the-ring brawl. Further complicating the match is our growing realization that Brute and Ivan are liable to turn on each other at any moment. This match has a terrific story, told entirely through the visual cues and histrionics of old-school wrestling.
Bulldozer vs Mister E
Here's another big guy versus little guy battle with the well-named Bulldozer going up against the mysterious Mister E. Bulldozer opens the bout with a hefty drop kick to E's midsection. The blow slams E to the turnbuckle, and I half expect to see his stomach fly out his lower back. The crippling continues, and it all gets pretty gruesome pretty fast. E's capacity for punishment--taking it and selling the hell out of every lick--is nothing short of astounding. Squash lovers will want to see more of both these guys, but this matchup, as ludicrously lopsided as it is, is as spellbinding as it is stomach-churning (like a tractor-trailer/moped pileup) .