STATELINE PRO WRESTLING "Fight the Fear Festival"

October 31, 2014

Fusion Sports Center, Loves Park, IL

By Dr. Abner Mality

Welcome back, wrestling fans! The few, the proud. Been quite a while since the Good Doctor has written about the Sport of Kings, but when a pro rasslin' card pops up 2 miles from my lair, I'm going to go! I wish others did, too!

Rockford and the surrounding area needs a good independent wrestling league. The wrestling tradition here is very long and storied. Old timers will remember when Boylan High School rocked and rolled to the stars of the AWA almost every month for over 25 years. Many WWE and WCW events were taped at the old Metro Centre downtown (I refuse to call it the BMO). And my late Grand-Dad told me about the days even before the AWA, when forgotten stars like Walter Palmer used to pack the armory.

I think an indy league headquartered here makes a lot of sense. WWE comes around once a year and is usually pretty worthless when it does. Nope, the true soul of pro wrestling can be found in the smaller promotions. Those are the ones made up of wrestlers who are doing it for the love of the sport, not just to pick up a paycheck.

So you'd think that a very good indy card like the "Fight The Fear Festival" held on Halloween night in Loves Park would be a hit. Of course, nobody expects thousands to show up for a promotion that has no TV. But you would like such a card to reach a crowd of three digits at least. Alas, that was not to be this night and I fear what may come of it.

I made up my mind to see the show a long time ago and I was super lucky to be accompanied to the matches by the bouncy, bubbly and completely unpredictable Mistress Hydra! The Mistress is always a hoot and never more so than at an event like this. With her constant wise-cracks and wild reactions to the action in the ring, she was a dream companion for the card.

The promoters had a good mix of known veterans, regional stars and home grown talent for the event. The genocidal, homicidal, suicidal survivor of the original ECW wars, Sabu, put in a table-smashing appearance. The NWA World Champion and former WWE star Rob Conway was scheduled to defend the title against local boy Justice Jones but pulled out at the last minute. It is to the great credit of the promoters that they came up with a substitution that was better than the original. They pulled the "Man-Beast' Rhino, another well-known veteran, to face off against Jones. Not only that, but they knocked five dollars off the adult admission price for it. That's a class act and financially, I'm sure they took a hit. They made another great substitution when local wrestler Davey Addict dropped out of his match with Marcello Spade. The SPW group dug deep and got maverick Ring of Honor star Tommaso Ciampa to fill the void. That resulted in the best match of the night.

The matches took place in the Fusion Sports Center in Loves Park on Halloween night. It was freezing and unseasonably cold when Hydra and I arrived at the venue. I'm sure the weather may have deterred some sissy casual fans, but come on, it wasn't that bad! The Fusion Center is basically a hollow industrial building like an empty airline hangar that hosts multiple sports events. The wrestling matches were just one event going on that evening. It was pretty weird to see kids playing soccer and a group doing what looked like a wedding dinner rehearsal at the same time guys were bashing each other silly. But it's sure a step up from the first SPW match I saw at the UAW Union Hall in Belvidere...that one didn't even have a proper ring!

They actually had bleachers around the ring, which is a great touch. Hydra and me got a good seat to check out the mayhem, which started about 45 minutes later than it should have in the hope that more trick or treaters would arrive to bolster the crowd. They never did, as far as I could tell. This event was for the diehards.

We got a "dark match" to start things off...2 extremely young and extremely small competitors probably having their first official match in front of a live crowd. Honestly, I think Mom must have driven these guys to the venue. At any rate, we saw Chris Ames grab a victory over Mason Chops. Some awkward moments in this one, but you have to get your feet wet sometime and it's not like TV cameras and the eyes of thousands were upon them.

Things really kicked into high gear for the next match. "The Sicilian Psychopath" Tommaso Ciampa came to the ring looking uncharacteristically friendly and laid back. Those who know this guy from his excellent ROH matches know him as a violently unpredictable headcase. Tonight, he grabbed a mike and explained how he was honored to be in Loves Park for Halloween. He had a little contest in mind to give the kid's something to remember...the one that screamed the loudest would get a Tommaso Ciampa T-shirt directly from him right in the ring! The kids there started screaming like steam shovels and one red-headed little guy came into the ring to get his prize. Then Ciampa dropped the bomb and told the kid, who couldn't have been much more than 8, to get the hell out of the ring unless he had money to buy it! That was the Ciampa I was more familiar with. This was a surefire heat machine and the kid's Dad aimed a stream of abuse at the nasty Italian, who fired back in kind. Hydra told me, "I was gonna cheer for him but he's kind of a dick!"

Marcello Spade is a young wrestler I've heard good things about. He proved worthy of the hype here. He and Ciampa had the best and most intense match of the night, and a perfect way to kick things off. These guys are both superb athletes who take a lot of chances and fly high. There were some suicidal dives right into the crowd which brought everbody to their feet. The real shocker came when Mr. Spade got a clean pin on "The Sicilian Psychopath". That was a huge upset in my book. Great match, as good as anything you'd see on TV. Spade has got a future and Ciampa is a tremendous heel wrestler.

Local product Justice Jones came out next to address the crowd. I've seen this guy plenty around here and he also could go far in the wrestling business. Much like Ciampa, he put the crowd off guard by saying he was from Machesney Park, Illinois. But then he ripped into the hometown, saying he was embarassed to be from such a dump and claiming he now wanted to be introduced as coming from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Such cheap heat is probably the only way he could get people here to boo him. He also threatened to wipe the mat with the over the hill Rhino.

Next up was a tag match featuring "Seduce and Destroy" matching might against Jack Carpenter and the 380 pound Beast. "Seduce and Destroy" is a classic heel team of arrogant punks, Bucky Collins and Aaron Xavier, managed by a little twerp in sunglasses and a leisure suit. Coming out wearing fur coats and other outrageous regalia, these guys are a real throwback to grapplers like Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin and Playboy Buddy Rose. As for their opponents, Carpenter is a local "working man's hero" who wears a hard hat to the ring and carries a tool belt. He's a mainstay in many Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin promotions. He always gives 100% in every match, but his partner tonight let him down. The Beast is visually a bad knockoff of Abdullah The Butcher, with The Butcher's girth but none of his bloodlust. He's just a big black guy with little mobility. Carpenter could have used some bloodlust tonight. I would have liked to see The Beast pull a fork out of his tent-like trunks and bust open Aaron or Bucky. Alas, it was not to be and Seduce & Destroy got a victory  by double-teaming the overmatched Carpenter as The Beast stood stiffly in the corner. Seduce & Destroy and their manager are great fun and should have some kind of tag team gold before too long.

I thought for sure that the match between Rhino and Justice Jones would have been at the end of the card, but it came as the third match in. I wonder if Rhino needed to get out of there quick and head to his next booking? At any rate, I was really glad to see him here. He's a real blue collar brawler, kind of the modern version of The Crusher, and he delivers a surefire beating everytime. He matches up extremely well with Jones, who is a big, powerful guy himself. Although no title was on the line as was the original plan when Rob Conway was on the card, this managed to be a very hard-hitting and physical bout. The veteran Rhino knows how to get the crowd going right away...he has the aura of a seasoned bad-ass. He more than met his match with the rugged Justice Jones and at the end of the bout, it was Jones who picked up a clean win. Chalk that up as another upset, maybe even bigger than Marcello Spade beating Tommaso Ciampa. However, Rhino did get to unleash his patented 'GORE" on Jones and he literally turned Justice inside out! That was a heavy blow to witness!

The next match featured the African Nightmare, Kongo Kong against the "High Priest" William Jacobs. Jacobs was substituting for the originally announced Machine. Talk about a drastic change in opponents! Whereas Machine is a big, scary looking guy with zombie eyes, Jacobs is a fresh-faced young "man of the cloth" who claims to be from "Vatican City" and who brings a Bible to the ring with him. Even God couldn't have helped him against Kongo Kong. This man is a real monster! Think of a more mobile and muscular version of Kamala, with an Afro and different facepaint. Kong has wreslted for Juggalo Championship Wrestling and many other indy wrestling feds and has gotten quite a reputation for himself.

That reputation is definitely earned. Kong destroyed the smaller man with a brutal sequence of power moves that also showed some good agility. Jacobs tried trickery and superior speed to try and wear the monster down, but it was like a chipmunk trying to chew down a mountain. One of the most amazing sights I've seen in wrestling in a while came when Jacobs clotheslined Kong over the top rope...and Kong landed perfectly on his feet without even the slightest extra motion. Kong finally put his man away with a big splash and contemptuously tossed the Bible on Jacobs' prone form. Kong is a real force! A match against Rhino or Justice Jones would be a classic and all either of those two big men could handle!

Next we got an appearance from Mikey Wild. I don't know whether this guy dressed up especially for Halloween, but he spreads it on pretty thick with his image, which includes a full head monster mask and an outfit that looks like the dark side of something from Sgt. Pepper's. He addressed the crowd grimly and said tonight he was going to send opponent Vic "The Icepick" Capri not only to his retirement but an early grave. Bold words. We shall see...

After seeing an array of big men earlier, the next match definitely belonged to cruiserweights. Sunny Ago is a happy go lucky Caribbean guy wih a big Afro like a more jovial Carlito Colon while Martyr is a skinny guy with a dark beard coming out in a black hoody and looking pretty downbeat. I also think he was the guy we bought our tickets from when we came in. The duo started with some good chain wrestling, which brought a chant of "boring" from some of the ignorant fans in attendance. Whenever you hear that chant, you can almost guarantee there is REAL wrestling going on. As the match continued, the pace picked up and the two unleashed some high flying moves, but they were never able to really grab the crowd. In the end, Martyr picked up a clean submission victory over Sunny but when Sunny held out his hand for a shake afterwards, Martyr demonstrated his lack of sportsmanship and slapped his opponent. That started a furious brawl that went to the back.

Mikey Wild returned to the ring next, still dressed up like a monster, but he removed his gear to reveal a pretty average looking guy with a bushy beard who looks like he might be working at Grease Monkey's. Do not judge by appearances, though...this guy is very hard-hitting and has good flexibility and striking ability. As for Vic Capri, this long time Midwest veteran is all business and didn't let Wild's image or brash words phase him one bit.

This match was what the boys call extra stiff. Tons of vicious chops to the chest and brutal kicks, along with high impact suplexes and forearm uppercuts. Capri is a machine. He plays the part of the silent, ice-cold hitman to the hilt...all action, no words. And in the end, after a match that was probably better than anything on cable TV wrestling that week, he got the win and made Mikey Wild's boasts sound hollow. Mikey had a chance to bury the hatchet with Vic, but much like Martyr in the previous contest, he took the low road. This was a contest both men would certainly be feeling the next morning.

The next match was supposed to be a straight up tag team match, but without warning it got switched to a handicap bout. "Furious" Shane Foster, a big beefy African American guy, took on a couple of jokers from the hood known as The Troublemakers. Foster's partner was supposed to be Joey Britton. Joey is actually one of the prime movers behind Stateline Pro Wrestling and I saw him earlier in the evening so I know he was there. I'm sure something must have come up but it must have been kind of disappointing for Mr. Foster.

Didn't catch the individual names of the Troublemakers, but neither of them could match up sizewise with the large Foster. They pulled a lot of dirty tricks on their lone opponent, but Foster's raw power saw him through. No matter what the Troublemakers came up with (and they came up with a lot), they couldn't get the best of Furious Shane. The end came when Foster crushed and pinned the smaller of his two opponents. I got the feeling he might have hurt himself legit during the match...either that or he did a fantastic job of selling on the way out. As for the Troublemakers, well, I think we've seen the last of them. They had an argument in the ring and the smaller Troublemaker laid out and attacked his "comrade" viciously.

That left the final match of the evening, a 3 way hardcore bout. First to the ring was Ruff Crossing, an ornery hombre from Sweetgrass, Montana, who comes to the ring with the music of Ennio Morricone blazing. This Western outlaw heaped plenty of scorn on the fans and on his opponent, Nick Cutler, who came out dancing and looking like one of the Backstreet Boys. Ruff challenged Cutler to show his best dance moves for the crowd and sure enough, when Cutler bumped and grinded for some chick in the crowd (not Hydra, unfortunately), he attacked him from behind. He then wondered on microphone just who would be crazy enough to face him in a hardcore match. Enter Sabu...

This hardcore icon has about a million miles of broken tables, barbed wire and chair shots etched on his body. At the height of his popularity in the 90's, Sabu was the only wrestler outside of WCW or WWF who had a huge following. Times have changed, but Sabu has resisted those changes pretty well. He looks a lot like he did in his glory days and he tore after Ruff Crossing and Nick Cutler with a lot of intensity. I don't know who Sabu's handler with the red fez is but he took a pretty active hand in the match and at the end, he helped bring out a table from under the ring. Long time fans knew this meant curtains for Sabu's opponent. I told Hydra to watch this...she had no idea what was coming.

Sabu did what he does best....smashed Ruff Crossing through the table and got the win. This last match felt pretty rushed and I doubt if it exceeded the 10 minute mark, but if you came to see Sabu put someone through a table, you got what you came for. I actually have a chunk of the table. Although Sabu was friendly with the fans after the bout, I couldn't get him to autograph the table fragment. Oh well...

So that was the Fight the Fear Festival. I sure had a good time and so did Mistress Hydra. But I sure wish this event could have drawn the same type of crowd that used to show up at Boylan High School every month. That was the kind of crowd that would draw the best out of a wrestler and push him to another level...the kind of crowd that lived and died with what was going on in the ring. I hope Stateline Pro Wrestling sticks with the program and continues to promote in the area. But people have got to invest in it and find out that there is more to wrestling than Monday Night Raw or TNA...

Do your part, wrestling fans!