Posted on 01/06/23 by luke
2022 Belmont Classic Night One Recap
2022 BELMONT CLASSIC
NIGHT ONE RECAP
By: Tanner Quest
The holidays are finally here, and there’s no bigger holiday on the independent wrestling calendar than the Belmont Classic. Over the next three nights, we’re going to see the future of professional wrestling on display, from established stars like FLAMBERGE, to legacies like Eddie Cross, to raw hopefuls like Antonio Prince.
The leadup to this year’s tournament was almost as dramatic as the event itself, with major fallout over the inclusion of the Bayou Butcher, Paxton Ray. The controversial Ray is best known for a brutal attack on his friend and–up until that moment–tag team partner, “The New Life” Jonathan Rhine, leaving Rhine paralyzed and ending his career. When Paxton Ray’s involvement was announced, there was a massive outcry against it, leading to multiple trainers pulling their students from the tournament. Organizers managed to fill those spots, and prevent any more departures, but it looked like this was going to be a black eye for the Classic, as well as the Belmont Foundation.
This proved not to be the case, with tickets selling out in record time, and online streaming sales being higher than ever. This, combined with the appearance of other superstars from major promotions, should prove the biggest Belmont Classic ever.
I can’t wait, and I’m sure you can’t either. So let me just drop a few links for the always-awesome RingDispatch.com team. Peter Rahal did a great ranking of each tournament (even though I think he’s sleeping on ‘09), Maeva Chastain and Karelma Gutierrez put together some pretty spicy predictions, and Savannah Scandal comes through again with all the Hot Goss(™) about celebrity appearances, as well as this interview with last year’s winner, “Hot Buttered” Leroy Scrumptious. Plus, Part One of a group project where we rank the careers of all 1024 participants in the event’s history! (Number 12 will surprise you! Number 1024 will not!)
At last, the wait is over! Let’s get to the action!
The fans were already rocking the Chaifetz Arena by the time the feed began. The first night doesn’t always sell out, and is usually a lot more subdued, so to see this much excitement already is eye-opening.
Announcers are Patty duPont and “Catfish” Hank Wheeler, representing Tennessee Wrestling Authority. Ring announcer is Dustin Callais. We also get a quick introduction to the officials for the event: Andy Chase (Destruction Productions), Danny Barlow (BRAZEN), Billy Hawkins (MVW), and Jimmy Turnbull (PRIME.)
Dustin enthusiastically welcomed us to the event, and introduced the opening video package. Thanks to permission from the Belmont Foundation, we have a link here:
The Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode” starts up, and is soon accompanied by grainy footage and still photos of Jonathan Belmont. From his childhood as a scrawny boy from St. Louis, to his days with the ring crew for a local promotion, and then to his debut match in 1960. WIth all of the heart but none of the polish, he was impressive, even in defeat.
Right as the song begins its first chorus, we see his entrance at a 1963 show in St. Louis, when he made his first true appearance. The black-and-white footage explodes with color, as if there had been none in the world until Johnny stepped through the curtain that night.
The dancing. The preening. The outfits. The St. Louis Swing, his swinging neckbreaker that won hundreds of matches. The change of styles to match the changing times. Out of the ring, never far from beautiful ladies, flashy clothes and jewelry, or the life of the party. In the ring, never far from championship gold.
Next, shots of his appearances as a celebrity. Sitting on the couch next to Johnny Carson, then leading the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then surrounded by the Muppets. Even a few clips from his time as an actor, his performances reviled by critics but still enjoyed by fans.
Finally, highlights from his role as an elder statesman of the sport, specifically in the early years of the Belmont Classic. There were many times in his career where his trademark smile was simply a performance, but in those last few years you could see it was genuine. Johnny took a particular delight in presenting the tournament winners to the adoring crowd, and announcing them as the future of the sport.
The video ends with a still photo of his final Belmont Classic in 1995. Once again wearing an array of bright colors, bringing life to the party even as it was leaving his body. His song may have ended…but in the heart of everyone who came after him, the beat goes on.
“ROCK ‘N ROLL” JOHNNY BELMONT
After a break for applause, Dustin announced the participants of the opening match.
CURTIS ALEXANDER BROWN vs. EL CICLÓN MORADO
This high-energy affair got things off to a hot start, as Ciclón’s speed matched up against CAB’s showmanship in really exciting ways. Ciclón took control early with strikes, but Brown shifted momentum by countering a lariat with a beautiful hip toss. CAB slowed the match down by working the arm, but Ciclón worked his way out of an armbar with a series of flips, ending with a very nice arm drag. The game of oneupsmanship continued from there, but it quickly became apparent that Ciclón was offering more openings than Curtis was. Brown was able to capitalize more often as well, which made Ciclón more desperate. He started going to more high-risk offense, and while his top rope hurricanrana connected, the following moonsault met with empty canvas. As soon as El Ciclón Morado got back to his feet, Brown hit the Magnum Fang, and referee Andy Chase counted the pinfall. (5:51)
WINNER: Curtis Alexander Brown; Rating: **
Curtis is a lot more polished than many Belmont entrants, and he showed it in this opening match. Whenever Ciclón gained momentum in the match or with the crowd, CAB was ready to shift momentum back in his favor. It’s no wonder he’s considered the “Ace” of this year’s Gates of Avalon students.
El Ciclón Morado shows a lot of potential, but needs a lot more refinement. This is typical with many rookies from lucha libre; mistakes are more common because of the pace, but less dangerous because it can be difficult to capitalize. I think he’s got the makings of a solid hand for Association de Lucha Libre, but stardom in America might not be in his future.
Kellie Burkowski (MVW) was out in the crowd, talking with various wrestlers and trainers who were watching from the audience. She spoke briefly with the Anglo Luchador, Bradley Reardon, “The Sauce Boss” Johnny Slather (who was rumored to be skipping the event, but must have changed his mind), Justine Calvin, and Amanda Wallenquist-Robinson. She attempted to speak with Jared Sykes, but he would not respond to questions.
JESSICA BLAYLOCK vs. BULLETHEAD II
The match started off strong in Bullethead’s favor, as he was able to push Blaylock around the ring however he wanted. No surprise either; since BH2 is about double the weight of his opponent (though about the same height.) Blaylock was able to stay in the game with some timely counters and smart use of leverage. She was able to wear Bullethead II down, but couldn’t put him away, as nothing she was able to physically do was enough to get a three count from Danny Barlow. That allowed a comeback, and Jessica couldn’t stand up against the punishing blows. Bullethead II hammered Blaylock into the corner, then charged in for his Bullet Head finisher. But at the last moment, Jessica swung her body over the top rope, causing the big man to ram his head right into the second turnbuckle! As he staggered backwards, Jessica dove off the top into a sunset flip for the victory. (7:12)
WINNER: Jessica Blaylock; Rating: * ½
Jessica struggled at times with BH2’s size advantage, but much like Brown in the opening match, she did a great job of recognizing opportunities and capitalizing on mistakes. Some might call that finish a lucky break, but Jessica can go a long way if she keeps making luck like this.
Bullethead II had a size (well, weight) and strength advantage over most of the field, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Blaylock’s ring smarts and, yes, good fortune. Most fully trained wrestlers will be able to handle a strong opponent; he’ll need something more if he wants to make the jump to the next level.
Simon Tillier (PRIME) got a word with Justicio II, trainer of El Ciclón Morado. He was disappointed with the result, but still proud of his student’s performance, and was complimentary to Curtis Alexander Brown. “He is a talented young man with a bright future,” Justicio II said through a translator. He also said that El Ciclón Morado has already signed with Justicio’s home promotion, Asociación de Lucha Libre.
SCURVY JONES vs. JONAH KE’ELA
Jonah came to the ring first, then paced back and forth impatiently as Scurvy Jones took his time, offering oranges to fans, security, and even referee Billy Hawkins. As the bell rang, Scurvy again shouted his cautionary tale to the audience, reminding them to eat their oranges…then immediately ate the Ide Ahi, scattering oranges in every direction and sending Scurvy Jones right down to the mat. Ke’ela howled for the crowd and rolled on top of Jones for the pin. (0:20)
WINNER: Jonah Ke’ela; Rating: ½*
I wish we could have seen more out of Jonah, but this was about all he needed. There hasn’t been a match this fast since Samson Dynamite’s twelve-second victory over Eric “Epic” McPhail in 2016.
Scurvy Jones is a fun character and the fans love him, but this isn’t his element.
Chris Trutt (DEFIANCE) caught up with a variety of colorful characters in the audience–all of whom were managers, looking for the next hot new talent for them to represent. Notable names include Dominic Fortune, James “Viking Jimmy” Lombard, “Mad” Hattie Robicheaux, and The Barker (making his first public appearance in years.) Most were on the lookout for fresh new talent to add to their stables.
JENNIFER COLTON vs. MIDNIGHT KID
Some solid (if basic) chain wrestling to start, though Midnight did land a pretty sweet backflip to get out of an arm wringer. The moment he was out of the hold, Jenny rocked him silly with an elbow strike, and then started picking him apart. She focused her attack on the arm and shoulder, but MK escaped and started to turn up the speed. Colton dodged a few attacks but got caught with a crossbody, allowing Midnight Kid to take advantage for a while…but after only getting two on a backslide, MK got up and was immediately rocked by a knee to the jaw. The back-and-forth continued like that for a while…neither held control for very long, but they made the most of it. The key moment occurred when Jenny got behind Midnight and tried for a German suplex, but Midnight Kid flipped over again and landed on his feet, then backed into the corner. As soon as Colton stood up, MK laid her out with a Shining Wizard, then headed back to the corner to set up the Midnight Special. Jennifer ducked at the last second, causing Midnight Kid to land hard on his back. As he staggered to his feet, Colton brought him down again with a forward Russian leg sweep, which she quickly transitioned into the Colton Clutch 2. Midnight Kid couldn’t reach the ropes, and Jimmy Turnbull called for the submission. (8:19)
WINNER: Jennifer Colton; Rating: ***
Midnight Kid had a strong showing in a tough draw, even if it was someone he’d already defeated this year. But events like this can reveal weakness, and we saw that Midnight is a bit of a glass cannon. If he can hit you with the Midnight Special, it’s over…but if you can counter or evade, he’s easy pickings. He’s got a lot of potential though, and should be able to make a decent name for himself on the indy scene.
MK got the better of Colton a few months ago, handing Jennifer her first loss, but this one looked a lot different. Jennifer came out focused and confident, and showed everyone why the family has always done very well in this tournament. She’ll have a hard road to bring the trophy home for a third time, but she was definitely in the right mindset tonight.
Kellie Burkowski gave an update on incoming reports about an alarming number of oranges that had started popping up.
ANTHONY “Momento Mori” MANCINI vs. WALLY WALLACE
Mancini took advantage right from the opening bell and didn’t let up for a moment. Anthony opened up with some fierce strikes, then holds focusing on the head and neck. Wallace managed to escape a few times, but before he could fully turn the tide, Mancini managed a quick reversal, followed by a high impact move. A snap DDT knocked Wally for a loop, and has he staggered back to his feet, Mancini tagged him in the face with his Cement Shoes. Wally Wallace went to sleep with the fishes, and Andy Chase counted to three. (3:56)
WINNER: Anthony Mancini; Rating: *
Another one-sided affair, with Wally Wallace getting barely any offense in. You’d think for a guy who loves walls so much, he’d be better at defense. Or standing up. He’s going to need a lot of seasoning.
Anthony Mancini showed a lot of skill in a short time. His technical prowess might be on par with anyone else in the field, and that’s pretty damn good company. He wasn’t particularly tested in this match, but he’ll be fresh for tomorrow night and that will be a huge advantage.
Up in Section 214, Simon Tillier spoke to Lindsay Troy. She said she was on hand to enjoy the event and scope out possible new talent for PRIME. “And to keep an eye on Paxton Ray,” she added. “If he thinks about crossing the line, he should remember that it’s not that far from here to the ring.”
VAHID JAFARNEJAD vs. RENOWNED GABRIEL
Jafarnejad came out to more booing than was probably necessary; the Iranian flag probably didn’t help. The crowd was solidly behind Gabriel from the start, and I wish it was entirely because of his showmanship.
International relations aside, this match was a blast to watch. Jafarnejad took control early, but Gabriel slipped out of a headlock that wasn’t fully cinched and took Vahid down with a dropkick to the knee. This would set the tone for the whole affair: while the Iranian Olympian usually held the advantage, but if he even left the slightest opening, the Renowned Gabriel could escape through it and turn the tide. On offense, Gabriel kept Vahid off-balance with attacks that were disorienting, if maybe not devastating. At one point, he pulled off so many flash pin attempts that, when Jafarnejad rolled out of the ring to get his bearings, referee Danny Barlow had to do the same. That moment actually proved to be Gabriel’s undoing; Vahid returned to the ring with a renewed focus and used his strength to counter the Renowned One’s trickery. A crucifix attempt was countered with a Samoan Drop; a sudden cross-body was met with a powerslam. Finally, Vahid made sure he had a tight grip on Gabriel as he went for a German Suplex. He executed the bridge perfectly, and Barlow declared him the winner. (8:04)
WINNER: Vahid Jafarnejad; Rating: ***
The Renowned Gabriel had a good showing, but ended up with a really tough draw here. Jafarnejad’s training and considerable size advantage were too much for Gabriel to overcome. Still, he pulled off some impressive counters and pinning combinations, and helped keep the match fun. Right now he’s all style, no substance…but if he can build up his base skills and use the trickery to supplement them, he’s got the makings of a star.
Jafarnejad cemented himself as an early favorite here, showing off all the tools that led him to a bronze medal at the Olympics. Even when Gabriel’s dazzling offense got him into trouble, Vahid was able to come back with his power and excellent technique. The crowd reaction was disheartening but expected, given our political climate.
Afterwards, Dustin Callais reminded the crowd to treat all of the wrestlers with respect, and that fans who made inappropriate comments would be asked to leave.
THE BIG BLUE BUG vs. PIPER O’HAIRE
Piper started off with quick strikes and lots of dodging, since she was matched up with one of the tournament’s biggest entrants. She finally knocked the Bug down with a shotgun dropkick to the chest, and started working on the knees. Piper couldn’t keep the Bug down for very long, but once he was back up, she went right back to her stick-and-move tactics. This worked well for a while, until she charged right into a NASTY spinning backhand (looks like Uncle Giuseppe has passed down his secret.) O’Haire went down hard, allowing the Big Blue One to punish her further with stomps and slams. The Big Blue Bug was fully in control, until someone in the crowd started chanting “Tick! Tick! Tick!” Many others joined in, because that show was awesome, but Triple B was having none of it. He started yelling at them to stop–even demanding referee Billy Hawkins to disqualify the audience–which allowed O’Haire to recover and climb to the top rope. The moment Blue turned around, Piper connected with a vicious diving knee strike, called Pay the Piper, which was enough to score the victory. (6:21)
WINNER: Piper O’Haire; Rating: **
The Big Blue Bug, much like Bullethead II, has size and power, but is very deficient in the mental aspects–in Triple B’s case, ignoring distractions. He’ll need to put a lot of work into the mental aspect…and honestly, if he’s going to dress like that, he should just lean into the Tick thing.
It’s clear to see the influence Piper’s trainer, Bradley Reardon, has on her. She’s got a similar fighting style and the same fighting spirit and fearlessness. She might not be as polished as a lot of the others in this tournament, but the intangibles are there.
Kellie Burkowski talked to fans at the merchandise table, and talked about the hottest selling items. The attendants talked about the official Belmont Classic 2022 t-shirt, the event poster, and of course all the retro items featuring “Rock ‘n Roll” Johnny Belmont himself.
PAXTON RAY vs. JUSTIN WHEELWRIGHT
The disparity in crowd reactions between Jafarnejad and Gabriel was NOTHING compared to this. The pop for Wheelwright might have surprised some; on the one hand, he’s almost completely unknown here in the States…on the other, he’s a tall, tan, handsome Australian boy in tight shorts. On the other hand, the boos directed towards Paxton were so loud that nobody could hear his introduction.
The bell rang, and Justin went for a collar-and-elbow. Paxton punched him in the face. Justin backed off, then tried to work Ray’s arm. Paxton punched him in the face. Justin attempted an elbow strike. Paxton…well, you get the idea.
Finally, Wheelwright attempted to shoot Ray’s leg. Paxton clubbed him in the back of the head, knocked him down, and punched him in the face. Many, many times. Jimmy Turnbull tried to break it up, but Paxton wouldn’t stop until Turnbull had almost finished with a five-count. By that time, Justin Wheelwright was already bleeding, and may have lost a tooth. That didn’t stop Ray from more face-punching, though. Justin was quickly losing the ability to defend himself. The referee asked if Justin wanted to continue, but before he could answer, Paxton gave a different answer. He picked Wheelwright up and then dropped him with the Lafayette Lullaby. One hand on the chest for the cover, which was academic. (3:31)
WINNER: Paxton Ray; Rating: –
Medics came to the ring to check on Justin Wheelwright, while security also came in to keep Paxton Ray away. This drew a big smile from the Bayou Butcher, but he left the ring without incident.
This was brutal to watch, even without all the baggage that comes with Paxton. We will report on Wheelwright’s condition as soon as the information is available.
Paxton’s performance wasn’t a surprise; in fact, I expect a big round of “I told you so” from the people who wanted to keep him out. He didn’t fully cross the line into unacceptable territory, but it sure felt like he was trying to find out where that line was.
Dustin Callais announced the intermission, allowing fans to take a break (and allowing medics to help Justin Wheelwright from the ring.
Just before the end of intermission, Kellie Burkowski reported that Justin Wheelwright was in stable condition, but the extent of his injuries was still unknown.
GARRY “RAY-RAY” NELSON VS. TURK FEBRUARY
This was a contrast in…well…everything. At 6’9”, Garry “Ray-Ray” Nelson has a distinct height advantage over his opponents, but not a full four feet. I know we talk a lot about how the brackets are random here at the Belmont Classic, but I started to have some serious questions when they matched up the tallest competitor in the tournament with the shortest: 2’9” British wrestling detective Turk February.
At first, the Nelson County slap-fighting aficionado had absolutely no idea how to properly slap box a man of Turk’s height. His first few attempts actually struck the air almost four feet over Turk’s head – take that, air! Turk was able to take advantage by investigating the best way to go about fighting his much taller opponent, then decided to run at him, battering him with a windmill of blows to Nelson’s thighs. Brilliant detective work, all-around. Eventually, Nelson pushed Turk away and happened upon the great idea of getting on his knees to fight Turk at Turk’s own level. However, Turk was able to stay out of Nelson’s reach and land a powerful dropkick for a man of his size, which got two when Nelson yeeted Turk into the air on the kickout. Turk landed on his feet, and went back on the attack. Only for Nelson to slap him from his knees so hard that he just about flew across the ring in a moment which had Lindsay Troy jabbing “Never thought yeeting could happen via slapping but here we are”. You could’ve heard the sound that thing made from space!
Understandably, Turk was very dazed after that, and it left him vulnerable to Nelson picking him up and setting him on the top rope. Turk tried to fight back, but a single slap nearly knocked Turk off his perch. Nelson stepped back, and then delivered the Blood on the Plow elbow that knocked Turk off of the top rope and down to the floor in a nasty spot. Referee Andy Chase made the ten count, and Garry “Ray-Ray” Nelson had advanced. (4:01)
WINNER: Garry Nelson; Rating: *
A decent enough comedy match, and the size difference provided an interesting challenge to both men…but come on, this isn’t what we’re here for. Turk February will not be joining the ranks of minis who have done very well in the Belmont Classic.
Garry Nelson’s slap-fighting style is wildly different than we’re used to seeing. Less variety than most strikers, but the way he swings looks like a rope with a manhole cover at the end. People in the back of the crowd felt some of those slaps. It’ll be interesting to see how he matches up with his next opponent.
Simon Tillier filled us in on the latest updates, mostly about the now out-of-control orange infestation. As he was talking to a representative of the Chaifetz Arena, Simon found an orange in his coat pocket.
EDDIE CROSS VS. MADDIE KYLE
We kicked things off with Cross quickly trying to wear Maddie down with his technical prowess, but was stopped with a drop toe hold out of nowhere by Maddie…a move accentuated by Kyle shouting “OUTTA NOWHERE” for some strange reason, before following up with a leg drop on Cross…also accentuated by the shout of “OUTTA NOWHERE” despite being much less spontaneous. Another leg drop attempt was stopped when Cross rolled out of the way, taking control of the match as he went to work on Maddie’s leg, transitioning toward the neck to try and lock in the surfboard dragon sleeper he calls the GG. Maddie was able to get out of a sticky situation at first, but even with the rooting on by Chad she fell victim to the Strafe, a heel hook that gave Cross the opening to lock the GG in firmly this time, resulting in a submission win as Maddie had no choice but to give up! (5:25)
WINNER: Eddie Cross; Rating: * ½
As utterly delightful as Maddie Kyle is, success in the ring is going to take more than that. We love her personality, but she’ll need to get that head on straight eventually.
Eddie Cross impressed in a short time. Between his pedigree and his trainer, he really showed why he already has a PRIME contract. We could very well see a deep run from Eddie in this tournament.
Chris Trutt tried to get a word with the Big Blue Bug. But the big man only yelled “I’M NOT THE TICK, DAMMIT!” as he left the arena.
NIKKI REESE vs. IVORY STYLES
The match started with a striking contest; Styles held her own early thanks to her slight reach advantage, but once Reese got inside, she used her power to take control. Nikki capped off a run with a spinebuster which she transitioned into a single-leg crab, but Ivory’s long limbs allowed her an easy escape. From there, Styles was able to keep Reese off-balance with her command of joint locks, plus a few powerful kicks. Reese would battle her way back, but Styles always found a way to reestablish control. That was until the end, when Ivory went for her ocean cyclone suplex, the Ivory Tower, but found herself unable to lift the heavier Reese. This put her in a very bad position, as Nikki was able to quickly turn around, lift Styles up, and Bomb a Bitch. Ivory was able to kick out, but just a moment too late, as Billy Hawkins had just counted to three a moment before. (9:06)
WINNER: Nikki Reese; Rating: ** ½
This was a fun match that showed an interesting contrast: while both women were about the same height (and taller than most of the men in the tournament) Reese has much more muscle, while Styles has more focus on technique. That skill allowed Styles to control most of the match, but she got overconfident in going for the Ivory Tower. Styles still showed the same precision as most students from the Wallenquist School, and will look to build on that in the next year.
Nikki Reese showed no fear in this match, especially considering the pedigree of her opponent. Reese rolled with the punches (and kicks, and wristlocks), quickly took advantage of openings, and wasn’t phased by anything–not even the “STEP ON ME” chant directed at both wrestlers. (You all need Jesus, btw.)
Simon Tillier reported on an EAS alert that went to everyone’s devices. It would seem that Charles Beckett (former tag team wrestler and content creator for the “BeckettWreckIt” channel on YouTube) gained access to the extra strength Puerto Rican coffee. We might all be doomed.
MILAGRO DC vs. QUINN FLEETWOOD
Fleetwood opened with a hammerlock, and seemed very proud of himself for that…until Milagro twisted around, rolled through, cartwheeled on one hand, and reversed into an arm drag. He then opted for a test of strength, and had a clear advantage, until he started taunting the crowd. At that moment, Milagro planted her feet in Quinn’s chest, rolled backward, and flipped over into a pin attempt that nearly got three. This continued for a while, until Fleetwood reached deep into his arsenal and found “cheating.” He thumbed Milagro in the eye, stopping her momentum, then actually hooked his finger through the eyeholes of her mask! Fleetwood then spun around, taking Milagro along for the right, letting go only when Jimmy Turnbull reached the count of four. After letting go, he went to do it again–drawing a sharp rebuke from both Turnbull as well as the Anglo Luchador, who was sitting ringside–but that piece of the mask broke almost instantly! While TAL (and the other luchadors in attendance) were all but howling for Fleetwood’s blood, Milagro took advantage of the distraction by tripping up Quinn Fleetwood and pinning him down with the Embrague de Viernes de Mierda Plana for the win! (6:46)
WINNER: Milagro DC; Rating: **
Quinn Fleetwood has some skills, and it’s obvious he didn’t learn all of them from Jonathan Rhine. He’s got way too much attitude, and doesn’t have the savvy to compensate. That’s going to cause him more problems in the future, but no doubt Foster Nackedy and his cronies will be helping him with that.
Milagro DC impressed in her performance; she’s one of the best luchadors we’ve seen in the Belmont in the last few years. Hopefully the damage to her mask won’t hinder her in future rounds, but nobody wins the Belmont without overcoming adversity.
Chris Trutt asked a medical professional for an update on Justin Wheelwright’s condition. The doctor said nothing (as far as we could tell; those masks probably muffle voices pretty bad) but continued to carry several drinks up to Section 214.
IGNACIO EL JAGUAR vs. WES INGRAM
Ingram started out well in control, showing off some solid, if unspectacular, offense. He kept Ignacio locked down in the early stages with armbars, slams, and a solid leglock. But as the match went on, Ignacio started taking things to a higher level…and Wes didn’t. Before long, the speed and innovation of El Jaguar was too much for Ingram to handle. He did his best, but before he could chain more than a few moves together, Ignacio El Jaguar would escape with ever more inventive counters. In desperation, Ingram set up for a fisherman’s buster, but Ignacio wriggled loose and stunned him with a jawbreaker. Ignacio ran off the ropes and sent Ingram tumbling to the mat with a flying headscissor, then jumped to the top rope and twisted through the air, landing on Wes Ingram with the Twin Helix for the victory, with Andy Chase making the count. (5:51)
WINNER: Ignacio El Jaguar; Rating: * ½
Wes Ingram is very meat-and-potatoes at the moment, so the seasoning he’ll get in BRAZEN will do a lot of good. He had an unfortunate draw, but hopefully he can learn from the experience. Could see him being a solid presence in the midcard in a few years.
With that victory, the first question on our minds should be “why was Ignacio an alternate in the first place?” He definitely proved that he belonged in the field, and that the “Ace of the Gates” title might be a closer race than any of us realized.
Kellie Burkowski spoke with El Abogado Volador, a luchador and legal expert who happened to be on hand for the event. El Abogado confirmed that there would be a Lucha Inquiry made into Quinn Fleetwood’s actions in his loss to Milagro DC. “Intentionally damaging a mask is a serious offense,” he said, “and the results of our inquiry will be binding as per international treaty.” This is in reference to the Treaty of Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1986.)
At this point, the lights go out except for a lone spotlight at the top of the stage. Moments later, the curtain parts, the music starts, and Sammy Broadway steps out, wearing enormous platform heels. The only reason I bring it up is that I swear I could hear Maeva Chastain screaming as it happened.
“Song & Dance” SAMMY BROADWAY vs. ALEX ANDERSEN
Andersen took the fight to Broadway early on, using his knowledge of the sport to wear down his opponent with moves that look like they could have been instructional illustrations in a textbook on how to be a pro wrestler. Unfortunately for Andersen, those same books don’t give you the necessary instructions on how to deal with someone with the panache and showmanship of Sammy Broadway.
The crowd immediately got behind Sammy Broadway, with cries of “Encore” rising up from the audience. At one point a “Bravo Sammy” chant began, which seemed to really irritate Andersen. You could say that by this point the crowd was living Rent-free in his head. Broadway was able to capitalize by using the distraction to land a spin-kick, which led to this glorious exchange:
duPont: “He drove his heel right into Andersen’s jaw!”
Wheeler: “Not the heel! That’s where all the sex is!”
duPont: “The…what now?”
Wheeler: “KINKY BOOTS IS A GODDAMN MASTERPIECE OF MODERN MUSICAL THEATER!”
The end came when Andersen made the mistake of trying to knock Broadway out of the ring, only to have his charge dodged. Andersen went flying with all the grace of Javert falling from the Pont au Change. After regaining his whereabouts and sliding into the ring, he was crushed under Broadway’s ‘Sole of a Man’ stomp, with Danny Barlow making the three count. (7:48)
WINNER: SAMMY BROADWAY; Rating: ** 1/2
Even though he struggled with Broadway’s flash, Andersen is highly skilled and his technique is almost flawless. Once he gets a grip on the psychological side of wrestling, he’ll be tough to stop. I could easily see Alex signing on with an indy very soon.
Sammy Broadway has got to be one of the most complete performers in the Belmont this year. They put a lot of emphasis on presentation at the Spotlight, and it shows. His wrestling skills are also top-level; he’s a great striker but he also has a good handle on submissions. All this, AND the ability to dance down the ramp in platform heels? Sammy’s got it all.
Simon Tillier caught up with Coral Avalon at ringside, where he was getting ready to watch the last of his five students in action. Coral was very pleased with how well his students had done so far. “I’m happiest for Iggy (Ignacio el Jaguar) who came on as a last-minute replacement. He’s shown that he deserved to be here all along.”
ANTONIO PRINCE vs. SAM SMART
Prince started off fast, with a flurry of chops and a dropkick to send Smart reeling. Smart tried coming back with a dropkick, but Prince ducked and landed another dropkick that sent Sam spilling to the outside. Prince followed with a dive and a huge tope, to the delight of the crowd. Smart made his move as they both got back in the ring though; catching Prince with a DDT that drew a 2 count from Billy Hawkins. Frustrated, Sam Smart went for a powerbomb, but Prince countered with a hurricanrana. Prince then called for his Hail to the Prince and went to the top rope, but it was Sam’s turn to catch his opponent off guard–he jumped to his feet and caught Prince in midair! He then tried to transition into the Smart Bomb, but Prince flailed around and reversed into a sunset flip roll up for the three count. (7:42)
WINNER: Antonio Prince, Rating: ***
There’s a lot to like about Sam Smart; he’s obviously put the work in and his technique is sound. Catching Prince in the middle of an inverted 450 is definitely going ot make some highlight reels. He reminds me a little of Deacon Dale, before his career was ruined by the dreadful “Judge Mental” gimmick. Experience will help, but his low-key personality will keep a ceiling on his potential.
Prince, on the other hand, is full of flash, which American audiences are going to love. He’s very raw in the ring, and a bit sloppy, but he’s innovative and does a great job of changing plans on the fly. He’ll be doing some very impressive things in that ring, because he doesn’t know that they can’t be done.
While Chris Trutt attempted to get a word with Henry Keyes, several sirens started going off, as well as a message that started with “Will the owner of the airship with license number…” Henry looked alarmed for a brief moment, then shrugged and continued drinking. “It’s probably fine,” he said.
FLAMBERGE vs. KENCHIHIRO YAMAMOTO
The PRIME Five Star Champion took his time to start things off, frustrating Yamamoto. Kenchihiro tried to start fast, but FLAMBERGE managed to cut him off with an eye gouge, then the strikes came fast and furious. Yamamoto found himself bullied by the Frenchman’s striking, with knees to the midsection and elbows to the side of his head. After being knocked down, and a quick one count, Yamamoto was able to get back into the fight with a series of forearms, and a huge exploder suplex that shocked the champion. Yamamoto couldn’t keep control long though, as the savvy beyond his years FLAMBERGE was able to floor Yamamoto again with a striking flurry and a running knee lift. Yamamoto tried to recover from the knee lift, but FLAMBERGE was all over him, even taking a page out of Phil Atken’s book and smashing Yamamoto across the bridge of the nose with a penalty kick. From there it was elementary, FLAMBERGE was able to lock in the choke, and Yamamoto tried to fight it off, but he quickly found himself asleep. (10:14)
WINNER: FLAMBERGE; Rating: **1/2
Give credit to Yamamoto; he took advantage of some key moments and stayed in the match a lot longer than anyone expected. He showed heart and fearlessness in the face of an opponent with a massive advantage in skill and experience. But the technique isn’t there yet, and he was up against one of the favorites of the tournament. This was never going to end well for him. Likely he’ll be heading back to Japan for more seasoning; hopefully he’ll have a better showing next time he’s in the States.
FLAMBERGE took Yamamoto lightly for most of this match, and still came away with a win. He’s been in PRIME for almost an entire year; competing against top-level talent and beating a lot of them. He’s one of the tournament favorites and for good reason; but he showed a bit of lackadaisical attitude that could come back to haunt him if he keeps it up. Still, very impressive win for the young French star.
Dustin Callais thanked everyone for attending, and reminded them to attend Night Two. Oh, and to take some oranges home with them.
That concludes Night One of…probably the weirdest Belmont Classic in recent memory. Tigers, airships, platform heels, a four-foot height difference, and oranges. SO MANY ORANGES.
Match quality was a bit uneven, but that always happens with the Belmont. Still, there’s a lot of potential in this group, even among the losing wrestlers.
Obviously, the biggest story coming out of this is the injury to Justin Wheelwright, at the hands of Paxton Ray. We’ll be passing along updates as soon as they are available, and of course we’re all hoping for a speedy and full recovery.
That’s all I’ve got for tonight. For the whole RingDispatch.com team, thanks for your click, and check back soon for Night 2!
February/Nelson – Renner
Cross/Kyle – Alex
Andersen/Broadway – Matt K
Smart/Prince – Brock
FLAMBERGE/Yamamoto – Brock
All others – me