Wrestling On Fire is a nationally syndicated professional wrestling program that combines footage of “current” wrestling shows promoted by independent wrestling federations across the Northeast and classic matches from the various wrestling territories of yesteryear. Each weekend, I take a semi-comical and critical look at the half hour version of their program.
Happy Monday to everybody! This week was a big one for Wrestling On Fire. Longtime readers (or well, anybody who’s read this for a few weeks) will ask, “Hey! Connor, you pud! Wasn’t this show called NWA On Fire?” They are correct (and not very nice). For the past six years, this promotion has been affiliated with the somewhat troubled National Wrestling Alliance but that affiliation ended earlier this week for reasons not quite explained. Could this have anything to do with Wrestling On Fire’s recent alliance with Pro Wrestling Syndicate (one of the biggest indies in the New York/New Jersey/Tri-State Area)? Who knows. And I’m not sure if we’ll everget a good answer on why this happened but if I hear anything, I promise to share it with the three of you who care!
One thing that is for sure is that nothing is for sure. That’s evidenced by the fact that when I clicked on the roster page on the Wrestling On Fire Website this morning, I was greeted with this image…
Which is troubling since I was planning on doing a rundown of some of the current “stars” of Wrestling on Fire. This is a blessing in disguise, for brevity’s sake so I’ll just run down the current champions.
Brian Fury has been Wrestling On Fire’s Champ since December of ’11. He’s a longtime staple of the New England independent wrestling scene. He is the owner and head trainer of the New England Pro Wrestling Academy, which was formerly the Chaotic Training Center where numerous current WWE roster members got their start. That aspect is what makes him the best choice available for Wrestling on Fire Champ. He’s a smart, solid, meat and potatoes type worker. He’s not gonna win you over with flash but he’s a good face of the franchise. He’s older by indie wrestling standards (and seems committed to his career as a trainer) so there’s not as much of a risk of a bigger promotion signing him away as they have with previous Wrestling on Fire stars. His character is somewhere halfway between a poor man’s current CM Punk and a poor man’s Evolution era Triple H. But since the half hour version of the show reviewed here doesn’t include much promos, the focus is more on his wrestling and he’s probably the best worker in the company.
Scotty Slade is the Wrestling on Fire Television Champion. He won the title from “Jivin” Jimmy Capone in September of last year. The Wrestling on Fire Television Champion is a fairly recent creation (Slade is just the second champ) and I’m not entirely sold that a secondary title is a good idea in the promotion. For a promotion that runs as infrequently as Wrestling On Fire does and with as thin of a roster, I’m not sure the Television Title is necessary. Right now, it just seems like something for the comedy wrestlers (which Slade, a stereotypical snidely pipsqueak heel and dancing fat guy Jimmy Capone are) and rookies to compete for. Do we really need to give those types of wrestlers a title? Those matches do fine by their own (low) standards without them. Slade is good in his role of being a cowardly, dopey heel mid-carder so I guess if there needs to be another singles title in the promotion (which again, I question), he’s as good an option as any.
Now the tag team division is where, in my opinion, Wrestling on Fire gets really stupid. For the past year, they’ve been building up a rivalry between Da M1nutemen and Da Hoodz. Now these matches were mediocre, sloppy spotfests but the fans really seemed to be into them and NWA On Fire devoted a lot of time to the storyline. A month or two ago, former champs, The Samoan Warriors (who dominated the tag division in ’09/’10) returned and the three teams seemed like they were heading for a three way feud and even I was mildly curious to see how it would turn out. Then a new team called Da Hou$e Party (and what is with this promotion and tag teams that’s names start with “Da”?) , who have the inexplicable gimmick of ’80s hip hoppers, won the titles in one of if not their very first appearance in the company. Now these guys haven’t even made it onto the half hour version of the show so there’s a small chance they could be the next Road Warriors (or at least, Men on a Mission) and I’ll have egg on my face. But I seriously have to wonder why you would set up a big Samoan Warriors-M1nutemen-Hoodz feud for the titles, only to just say “F it!” and hotshot the titles onto a team that’s only showed up in your promotion once or twice. Then again, maybe peoples checks just bounced!
Anyway, with that informative rundown finished, let’s start today’s show, shall we?
We open with this show is endorsed by the National Wrestling Alliance screen card and the credits still say NWA On Fire. So that’s why I’m going to be lazy and use the NWA On Fire graphic for this. They’ve half-assedly added a few new people to the credits including former ROH Tag Team Champ Ricky Reyes and a few other people I can’t decipher.
Big John Studd Vs John Tatum
This is from the early ’90s after Studd’s last comeback in WWF as a babyface. The indy promotion here is named North American Wrestling Association. The production is so terrible that I don’t catch the name of Studd’s opponent for the first two or three minutes of the match. Tatum makes the mistake of trying to slam Studd and gets pummeled. Tatum bails and takes a breather but it doesn’t help much and Studd works him over very, very slowly. This is basically an extended squash. A young KAMA/Godfather/Papa Shango lurks outside of the ring snarling at Studd. Studd finally puts the viewers out of their misery and finishes Tatum with a double underhook suplex. Remember how bad Studd was during his ’89 run in WWF? Well this was slightly worse!
Next, after a commercial break, we go to Apter’s Alley… which has a new intro that’s straight out of 1983. Bill Apter starts out wearing a Mr. Wrestling II mask and does a Mr. Wrestling II impression for the geriatrics in the audience. I swear Apter adds more knick knacks to his set each time he does this segment. Apter finally references NWA On Fire by talking about how Brian Fury is upset he’s not in a Hall of Fame then Apter raspberries the thought of that. Apter muses about how Mr. Wrestling II should be in WWE Hall of Fame. Apter literally pulls out a notepad to look over his topics for the day.
This sounds a lot more fun on paper than it is in practice. Apter thanks the Savoldis for letting him on TV. Apter mentions that NWA On Fire is in negotiations with several independent wrestling federations to bring their content to the NWA On Fire Television Network. Hmm… so yeah, this show is a few weeks behind! Apter randomly segue ways into an interview he did recently with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Apter rambles about how DiBiase never won a World Title and then starts yakking about the St. Louis territory of the ’70s and ’80s because the interview took place at a wrestling convention there. Then he throws it to a commercial break. WTF?
Bill Apter talks to a soft spoken Ted DiBiase. This is from that disastrous wrestling convention that Gary Cubeta, from those 57Talk podcasts from a few years back, promoted. DiBiase talks about his sons being signed to WWE. Brett had a career ending injury while in development and is now retired and Ted Jr. might as well be released. DiBiase talks about Teddy Jr getting trained by Harley Race. Million Dollar Man puts over his son. Million Dollar Man talks about how Brett had knee surgery and is hoping to make a comeback in six months. Million Dollar Man says John Cena thinks so much of Brett that he’s helped him train. Man, I guess people are right when they say Cena’s proteges are cursed!
Apter and DiBiase suddenly go into kayfabe and talk about Million Dollar Man buying the WWF World Title back in the day. DiBiase gleefully cackles about how he swindled the World Wrestling Federation. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pay Bill Apter to get on all fours and bark like a dog. Sadly, he doesn’t do the “Everybody’s Got A Price!” catchphrase or the evil cackle… perhaps because they’re copyrighted by WWE.
Back to the present, Apter mentions Brett’s retirement and how he’s preaching the gospel now with Papa Ted and then throws it back to the rest of the show.
The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael P.S. Hayes and Terry Gordy) (with Sunshine) Vs Ted DiBiase and Steve Williams
I guess it’s another Classics show. This is from UWF (wait, WWE definitely owns this) from “The Cowtown Coliseum” according to Good, Not Quite Old Yet JR, who is on commentary. DiBiase and Williams send The Freebirds reeling. The other Freebirds are banned from ringside. JR plugs an upcoming UWF Tag Team Titles tournament! Hayes stalls but gets his butt kicked by DiBiase. Hayes tags in Gordy and Bam Bam and DiBiase trade blows until DiBiase tags in Williams. JR salivates at the sight of the two hosses brawling. Williams manhandles The Freebirds and hits them with a double noggin knocker. Gordy finally gets momentum for the Birds. Dr. Death, for some reason, plays the face in peril. Gordy whacks Williams with his cowboy boot but Dr. Death kicks out. Dr. Death does a blade job. The Freebirds continuing beating Dr. Death with a cowboy boot cause I guess this is a street fight. And the show goes to commercial and just kind of ends… OK.
Well, shit. This show really just emphasized that the promotion is in a state of transition and is trying to figure out what the hell direction they’re going to take. This was definitely the weakest of the classic shows. Half of it was taken up by Bill Apter’s segment, which my patience is wearing thin on. In theory, it’s not a bad idea to give one of the most famous pro wrestling journalists of all time a segment to share his thoughts on the wild and wacky world of sports entertainment but this segment is just him rambling for 10 to 12 minutes with no point. There’s definitely a good idea buried in there but it doesn’t really add anything to the show to have Bill Apter just rant endlessly about wrestling angles of yesteryear.
As for the wrestling, that John Studd match just plain sucked and had terrible audio production. There wasn’t even much nostalgia value to it outside of the cameo by a young Charles Wright (and again, I couldn’t make out what they were even calling him at the time). What we saw of the second match was a damn decent old school tag grudge match but WE DIDN’T SEE ALL OF IT! It’s blatantly obvious to me, now, that the 30 minute shows are just hacked off the hour long shows but before this each show, they all had a somewhat logical ending and didn’t just end in the middle of the match… MAYBE they’ll air the end next week but who knows? You think somebody in the chain of command would have recognized this but it’s obvious to me that there’s just widespread apathy throughout the company. Like I said last week, the people who write for their own website are complaining about the company’s lack of direction. As bad as this promotion has been sometimes over the past few years, it’s always had some direction. Now they’re just twiddling their thumbs and waiting to be able to use footage from better promotions. I really, really hope the wait is worth it!
Next Week… Well, who knows what we’re going to see next week but I’ll tell you when I see it! Good day!