The Rust Belt Report: Prime Wrestling in Cleveland, Ohio (April 19, 2013)

This is the first report of what will hopefully be a series on live events in the Northern Ohio and Central Pennsylvania region. Prime Wrestling used to be known as Pro Wrestling Ohio and is televised on Sportstime Ohio. This was a television taping for several (three?) episodes of their hour-long program. They advertise themselves as family friendly wrestling and there were a lot of children in the audience. The show was at the historic Agora Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

A word on match ratings, I’m a really easy grader. I rate matches on a B average curve. If it entertains me enough to not regret going to the show it gets a B, if I really like it, it gets an A. If I give it a grade lower than a C, it was actively terrible. I don’t do star rating because my expectations are lower for this level of indie wrestling, although I have seen some really good matches. I just want to be entertained, nothing more, nothing less.

I have to say a few words about the venue. The show was held in the small part of the theater and extremely cramped and seemed kind of jury-rigged together. The law student in me saw about a million potential tort cases from the idiotic set-up.

This was my first time at a Prime Wrestling show since they transitioned from the Pro Wrestling Ohio name. I normally only attend Absolute Intense Wrestling shows which run on the west side of Cleveland and feature a lot of the same workers and production staff. That said, the two companies run in parallel universes with different face/ heel alignments and gimmicks. AIW is booked like a Ring of Honor show, while Prime Wrestling is over-the-top Sports Entertainment.

The show began with Marion Fontaine, an extremely talented worker that has been wrestling in this area for quite a while (and wrestled Kevin Nash in this promotion a couple years ago), calling out Zach Gowen. Yes, the one-legged Zach Gowen that was once assaulted by Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar. Fontaine came out with Gowen’s cane and told him to come take it from him. The two are apparently scheduled to wrestle in a tag team match later to tonight for the Prime Wrestling tag belts. So Gowen hopped out and an impromptu match began. If that sounds like an entertaining segment, it wasn’t.

Match 1: Zach Gowen defeated “The Megastar” Marion Fontaine in a match I forgot to record the time for.

This was probably the second-best match of the night, although the ring was so bouncy that it was distracting. Fontaine looks like he weighs 140 pounds soaking wet, so Gowen’s offense was credible against him.  After the match the stable that Fontaine is in, the Megalomaniacs, including the heel commissioner, ran out and beat down Gowen and had him removed by the least threatening looking security guards in history.

Grade: B

Match 2: “The Master of the Thrust” Bobby Beverly defeated “Amazing” N8 Mattson in approximately six minutes.

Beverly has wrestled in RoH and CZW before and is pretty decent. Mattson is part of team called the “Sons of Michigan” and really there’s no better way to get heel heat in Ohio than to be from Michigan. Cheap but effective. Mattson seemed to be the better worker of the two, but neither looked outstanding. The match really highlighted the limits of the show’s stage set-up as when the two brawled at ringside it seemed a lot like they were fighting in a phone booth.

Grade: C

At this point, heel Prime Wrestling Commissioner Vic came back out. Vic is decent in the role but really appears to be no older than twelve. He brought out Matthew Justice, who apparently turned heel at the last show by joining Vic’s stable. Justice than cut a really god awful promo about wrestling for the Television Championship. Vic then implied that there was a reward backstage for Justice in way that really seemed to imply that the twelve year-old had purchased a hooker. Ahh family friendliness.

Vic then called out Prime Wrestling champion Krimson. Krimson looks like later-career Raven, and is dressed like he just robbed a Hot Topic. The guy sitting behind me informed me that Krimson is a heel, although he got a face pop upon coming out. Krimson is not the Crimson that worked in TNA, he’s the one that got a bit of notoriety for claiming that Sting was ripping off his ripping off of Heath Ledger in the “Dark Knight.”

Vic asks Krimson to join his stable, Krimson refuses and a brawl takes place. Krimon is apparently also the leader of a stable, the Dead Wrestling Society, who then ran in for the save apparently turning face in the process.

The end result of this extremely long segment is that a main event is made between Krimson and Ricky Shane Page in a No Holds Barred match for the Prime Wrestling Championship. This segment was longer than any of the night’s matches and it really killed the flow of the show by having it so early.

Match 3:  “Straight off the Stage” Aiden Veil defeated “True Talent” Bobby Shields in five minutes.

Shields is best known for jobbing to Ryback in 34 seconds last year on Smackdown. Veil comes out with drum sticks and plays the really lame face. He’s like a tiny, low-rent version of Van Hammer. But somehow, less talented. Actually that’s a lie as he actually pulls off some cool spots like a standing shooting star press and a 450 leg drop. But his gimmick is so lame that it makes me physically ill.

Grade: C+

Match 4“The One Man Militia” Matthew Justice defeated “The Neon Ninja” Facade to win the Prime TV Title in around ten minutes.

Justice did a few matches in Florida Championship Wrestling, and a couple of dark matches for the WWE. Facade did a few matches with Shane Douglas’ Extreme Rising promotion and gained some notoriety from that.

Facade is a white guy with dreadlocks, which makes him a heel in my book. He comes out with spray paint and paints a couple of signs for fans. So now I get to smell paint fumes while I watch shitty wrestling. Oh well, maybe it’ll get me high enough to enjoy this show.

The fans chant “Go Ninja Go Ninja Go” at Facade which is honestly the most entertaining part of the match. There’s a hand full of decent spots such a springboard bulldog but there’s very little flow to the match. The two wrestlers take turns loudly calling their spots before a black female wrestler interferes on behalf of Justice who then wins the match. The woman, Marti Bell, and Justice then make out in an over the top manner reminiscent of Ziggler and AJ.

Grade: B-

Match 5: “The World’s Most Huggable Wrestler” Byron Castle defeated JJ Debell (?) in two minutes.

Castle’s gimmick is that he a big, fat man that enjoys being hugged. Really.

Grade: C+

Match 6: Marion Fontaine & “The Butcher” Jeremy Madrox defeated “The Handicapped Hero” Gregory Iron in six minutes to win the Prime Tag Titles.

As Gowen was kicked out of the building prior to the match, Iron has to defend in a handicap match. Gregory Iron suffers from cerebral palsy and is legitimately handicapped, so of course this company puts him in a handicap match.

Iron is apparently the king of Cleveland tag team wrestling, as he also holds the tag belts in Absolute Intense Wrestling with the adorable Veda Scott. In AIW, he works as a heel and somehow the team of a handicap man and a petite woman are among the biggest heels in the company. But in the Prime Wrestling universe, he’s a face, and a pretty natural one at that.

Iron is a great performer. As he comes down the ramp he’s got a look of dread but acceptance that he has to wrestle alone. But he doesn’t have much to work with, as this match is largely an extended squash. So much so that it kind of killed the crowd. Anyway, he loses the match after getting hit with a tag title belt and then gets carried out by the same non-threatening goofy looking security from before.

Grade: C-

Match 7: “Big Bear” Benjamin Boone defeated Jay Flash in three minutes.

Boone is the other half of the “Sons of Michigan” and is billed as being from Detroit, which is the one city more depressing than Cleveland. He issues an open challenge and it’s answered by a jobber that he apparently squashed last month. He wins with a splash.

Grade: C

Match 8: Aiden Veil defeated Nickie Valentino in five minutes.

At this point, I’m really upset that I have to watch Aiden Veil, again. Valentino’s trunks say “Old School Muscle” on them, so I guess that’s his gimmick. On another note, Valentino should really consider buying some trunks that are a little more flattering. A couple guys behind me Fandangoing was more entertaining than anything in this match.

Grade: D

Match 9: Johnny Gargano & Bobby Beverly defeated “The Dead Wrestling Society” Jason Gory & Eric Ryan in twelve minutes.

Gargano has worked in Chikara, Dragon’s Gate, and Evolve. As mentioned, Beverly has wrestled in RoH and CZW. Interestingly enough the two worked against each other across town last month in AIW.

Ryan has been a tag champion in CZW, and is wrestling as part of the Dead Wrestling Society here by dressing up as a Hot Topic reject. Across town in AIW he wrestles without face paint and is their champion.

Matt Cross of Tough Enough was originally scheduled to be Gargano’s partner but apparently missed the show to film something on MTV. I wish I had his foresight to skip this one. There’s a fan for Gargano that has sign proclaiming him to be the “King of Cleveland” but that’s like being the smartest kid on the short bus. There’s also a bunch of fans that have pictures of his face on a stick. It’s actually kind of cool looking

The storyline leading up to this match was that Gargano may not have a tag team partner, and sure enough, they start the match as a handicap match. Even the guy sitting behind me, who seemed to be the biggest Prime wrestling fan in the universe, was wondering if they were really going to do two handicap matches in one show. Beverly ran out later to join him.

After apparently turning face earlier in the night, The Dead Wrestling Society is working as heels again. This booking is enough to give one heartburn. They’re going for shades of grey style booking but what they’re really doing is shades of incoherence.

I know that Johnny Gargano can work, but this match was not very good. Most of the spots were fairly contrived and called loudly, and there were a few botches. The highlight of the match was a t-bone suplex into the corner.

Grade: C

Match 10: Krimson & Rickey Shane Page in a No Holds Barred Match for the Prime Title went to a No Contest after 16 minutes and run-ins from half the roster.

Rickey Shane Page is a worker that I really enjoy. He’s a pretty big guy but one that looks more like a stoned dishwasher at Applebee’s than a pro wrestler. He’s scarred up pretty bad as well from garbage matches like this one.

Despite my general distaste for garbage wrestling, this was the match of the night, easily. The guys hit hard and there was some cool spots like a superplex onto to upright steel chairs. The match ended when both stables (the Megalomaniacs and the Dead Wrestling Society) as well as Johnny Gargano and Bobby Beverly ran in to somehow make a No Hold Barred match go to a non-finish and gigantic clusterfuck.

Grade: A-

Final Verdict

I like indie wrestling, I really do. I like a lot of the workers on this show from their work in Absolute Intense Wrestling. But somehow in the parallel universe of Prime Wrestling, they’re not as good. The talent just couldn’t overcome the booking. None of the matches really flowed nor did they have time to find a groove. However, it’s not even that any of the matches were awful, it’s that the booking was so bad that it gave me, a recovering alcoholic, a burning desire to get drunk enough to wash the memories of it away. Imagine someone gave Vince Russo some crack, and then cut his budget by 99.9%, the end result would be Prime Wrestling.

That said, I will go to another one of their shows for the car crash appeal and because I apparently like to test my sobriety.

Logo courtesy PRIME Wrestling

When I'm not watching professional wrestling, I'm a second year law student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. I previously studied at the University of Southern Indiana, the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the Heidelberg Center for Latin America in Santiago, Chile.

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