I Was There: AIW’s Girls Night Out 6 (4/15/12)
Of course I was there after having posted about it several times, and in official capacity no less, but AIW’s Girls Night Out 6 is the sort of pro-wrestling event worth writing about. On a night when TNA drew 2,000 (mostly disinterested) people (in a 9,000 seat venue) for their version of a wrestling revolution—an overblown, all-cage-match show—AIW put on an all-women show in a community athletic club, and, while I might be biased, I’d be willing to bet that AIW put out the better card. Small venues and tight-knit, passionate fans make for a sense of urgency, a need to perform (and perform well) that hasn’t been felt in any of the major promotions for quite some time. I’m very proud to have been a part of last night’s show, and can think of few better shows to have made a debut on. Unfortunately, the nature of being behind the commentary table prevents me from giving a straight recollection of the evening’s events, so you’ll have to bear with me while I ramble about myself and my feelings as the night went on.
I made it to Cleveland’s Turners Hall at 2:00, a whole two hours before bell time, and promptly stood around looking like an idiot until the show started. I quickly learned how easy fans have it at shows, at concerts, at any live engagement—they show up expecting to be entertained, and that’s it. The performers, on the other hand, show up with plenty of time to spare. Wrestlers, being physical performers, stretch before the show, run the ropes, mill around and talk with the promoters and people they haven’t seen since the last time they were on the same card. Me? I had nobody, and nothing to stretch out, so I mostly stood there, worrying. There’s a big difference in announcing one match, not really expecting anything out of the experience but a bit of fun, and announcing ten matches knowing that the people buying the DVD are going to be spending a considerable amount of time (three hours or so) with your voice. When calling Sara Del Rey vs. Mickie Knuckles at Girls Night Out 5, I just didn’t want to screw up. No pressure, no sweat. At Girls Night Out 6, I was The Voice, and I didn’t want The Voice to sound like it belonged to an absolute idiot.
In talking with Aaron Bauer—AIW’s regular color commentator and my broadcast partner last night—I found out that I was added to the show as something of a “women’s wrestling expert,” which probably isn’t fair to guys who regularly cover it on their wrestling-specific websites, but is nevertheless something I am very passionate about and have at least a passable level of knowledge on. If you watched wrestling in the 1990s and remember when WCW would bring “Professor” Mike Tenay out specifically for Japanese and Mexican wrestling matches, that’s what I was doing—the nerd, as it were. Apparently there’d been complaints about the commentary on previous Girls Night Out events (Aaron Bauer being quite the ladies man), so I’m the guy who knows it and loves it and can express the significance of it like no other. All of which is awesome. Less awesome: Finding out that you’re expected to make an entrance like, well, a wrestler.
I’ve been watching wrestling for a long time, but again, the expectations are tremendously different for fan and entertainer, and even if I was only in the role of “entertainer” for the live crowd for thirty seconds, I really sucked at that aspect of the job. No idea what to do, whatsoever, and I had a lot of time to think about it, too. So when Pedro DeLuca called me out (“Making his AIW debut!”) and my fingers finally found the edge of the tarp separating real-me (nervous as hell) and wrestling-me (uhh, also nervous?) to fling that sucker back and make my grand entrance, I did what any proud man in a suit would do: Grinned, clapped for myself like an idiot, and walked to the announcer’s table in complete silence. One guy stuck out his hand for a high five as I passed by. I went for it. He moved the hand. Oh God, I fell for that? I thought. “You’re gonna want to shake my hand later,” I said, because I have wit for miles.
Miss Heidi looked much different than the picture above has her, sporting new, white gear and a haircut that’s more obviously vintage, which is probably for the best considering that her nom-de-plume is “The Vintage Vixen.” Her AIW debut at Girls Night Out 5 against Crazy Mary Dobson wasn’t the most awe-inspiring contest, but I chalk that up to a huge clash in styles. Against K.C., a woman who wrestles with more finesse, she did just fine. K.C., who I believe is a graduate of the House of Truth wrestling school in Detroit, won me over at Girls Night Out 5 and continued to be impressive here, picking up the win in around five minutes. All of Miss Heidi’s moves are “vintage,” by the way, except the ones that weren’t.
…was canceled, as Vanderpool was not in attendance. Leva Bates came out anyway, dressed as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and carrying a stuffed Tribble. She thanked the two fans responsible for getting her booked on the show and proposed that, to make up for her lack of a match, she M.C. a bit of Star Trek trivia. A not-unsurprising number of fans knew what a Tribble looked like, though one guy called it a Furby, to Bates’ dismay. Before she could ask a second question, Hailey Hatred came out from the back and asked, in the interest of competition, to have a match with Bates, who quickly accepted on the condition that Hatred pet Bates’ Tribble. Instead, the fury little thing went flying across the gymnasium, and the match was made official.
Hailey Hatred vs. Leva Bates
Hailey Hatred hits people hard. I mean really hard. Hard enough that the sound of her forearm connecting with somebody’s chest is enough to interrupt you in the middle of a really good point. I said “OHHH!” and “Oh my God!” and “GOD!” more than a few times during Girls Night Out 6, and a lot of it was in response to Hatred’s basic offense. Towards the end of the match, I asked Aaron to imagine that Hatred was a dude in a giant rubber suit, beating on Bates’ poor Star Trek ensign with an oversized rock. Right as I finished that point, Hatred hit Bates with a nasty running powerbomb, and that was it.
Just a good match between two opponents who knew each other quite well. Cruise has been one of my favorites on the SHIMMER roster for awhile now—she has a different look about her, and her every move is devastating. She dwarf’s Taylor Made, but the large woman vs. small woman contest is one that doesn’t get old very quickly. I got to drop a lot of early 90s WCW references during this match (anybody who remembers the Red Rooster’s days as the Taylor Made Man will understand), and, if there’s something I love, it’s early 90s WCW, where the big boys play. Cruise won, which would have made Alexandria York very angry, indeed.
The family resemblance is striking!
Mad Man Pondo, who trained Crazy Mary Dobson, was in the house to plug the upcoming J.T. Lightning Invitational tournament (in May, tickets at shop.aiwrestling.com) and also to let the fans know that there was a slight alteration to the Girls Night Out 6 card—not only would Crazy Mary Dobson not be wrestling Venus that evening, but she was to take on replacement opponent Trash Cassidy in a death match. As soon as he said the words, ring attendants brought out a bunch of fluorescent light tubes, artfully put together to resemble a log cabin. As a quick aside, Pondo’s a hilarious and cool guy, in and out of the ring. During his promo, he asked if anybody in the crowd had been at Turners Hall some unknown number of years ago to see his tag team death matches with the likes of the Basket Nazi. When only a few people raised their hands politely, he said “Not a damn one of you,” laughed, and carried on, unfazed. What a pro.
The match itself was short and—I assume—brutal. I only assume because most of the match happened around the ring, with the crowd standing up. Even if I were standing, it’d be tough to see past the wall of old wrestling shirts and neckbeards. As I’ve not yet become desensitized to the violence inherent to death matches (thank God), what I did see had me cringing. There were staple guns, light tubes, and a big piece of wood with a water-jug attached to the end of it (the huge bong! noise it makes when caroming off the human anatomy would be hilarious if not for the way the victim recoils) were all used, and the match was befitting of two people choosing to call themselves “Crazy” and “Trash,” respectively. Bonus cool points: Trash Cassidy’s nickname is “The Peacock of Destruction,” which has to be the best thing any wrestler has ever called themselves. Dobson won, using, of all things, a small package.
During intermission, a dude swept the glass shards from the ring, which is as horrible a job as it is necessary. At my second indie wrestling show, El Generico and Roderick Strong had a No DQ match that resulted in plenty of shattered tables. A dude swept the ring after that, too, which resulted in a rousing chant of “THIS IS SWEEPING!” I’ve been waiting for a crowd to chant something sweeping-related ever since, but woe, it has yet to happen. My usual awkward milling about the gimmick tables was replaced by my awkwardly standing around in a suit. Boy, was I lonely.
Girls Night Out 6 opened with the much anticipated AIW return of Cherry Bomb, who couldn’t make Girls Night Out 5 due to issues at the Canadian border that may (or may not) have been a set-up on the part of Chest Flexor and Flexor Industries, who were in force here as Sassy Stephie’s back-up. Flexor’s great—exactly the kind of dude you love to hate. The week before, at AIW’s Straight Outta Compton, he wore a white, lamb-looking singlet to a street fight. That it wound up a bloody mess had the fans gleeful. Here, he was back to his more customary robe.
“You’ve got to have money to mess up a perfectly good bathrobe like that,” I remarked.
Again, another good match. I know I’m biased, but it’s hard to emphasize how good the roster for Girls Night Out 6 was, especially considering a few last-minute shufflings. Bomb vs. Stephie was announced and carried out and was a good continuation of Cherry Bomb’s rapid ascent to the top of AIW. She was immediately popular upon her debut last year, but that popularity grew exponentially due to her match against Veda Scott at Girls Night Out 4, which saw Bomb kick Scott into the metal turnbuckle. No spots like that against Stephie, but Cherry Bomb has some really good kicks. If there’s something indie fans love, it’s kicks. If there’s something AIW fans love, it’s seeing Sassy Stephie get beat up. Bomb won, after thwarting interference from Flexor.
Annie Social’s presence in AIW has been requested for as long as there’ve been Girls Night Out events, but this was her first. Hendrix—the self-proclaimed “Temptress of Seduction”—is a sleeper; big things likely coming her way. Social was escorted to the ring by Sammy Geodonolo (if I misspelled the name, I apologize, but it’s hard and un-Googlable), whose job as manager included waving around a towel and drinking chocolate milk. At the end of the match, Sammy started waiving a chair around, trying to get Social to use it on her opponent. Aaron Bauer noticed this and said it looked like she was having a seizure, “the first seizure AIW’s had in awhile!” This distraction was enough for Hendrix to roll Social up for the win. Match was much quicker than expected, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of either woman, in the future.
I was joined by AIW acting president Matt Wadsworth for this one, and he waxed nostalgic for Blake’s appearances on the first two Girls Night Out shows while noting that she’s had a change of attitude of late, refusing to pander to the fans as she once did. I got to nerd out and mention that Blake had been wrestling for AAA in Mexico, where she teamed with Sexy Star as a member of a rudo faction. “Rudo” isn’t merely a tag, baby; it’s a way of life.
Blake’s AIW return was one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the evening, and a lot of that fell on Kimber Lee, who made her AIW debut at Girls Night Out 5 in a losing effort to Veda Scott. That match was great, though, a real eye-opener when it came to the talents and abilities of both women, and Lee continued to establish herself here against the more experienced Blake. There was a nice old school vs. new school (first wave vs. second wave?) dynamic to this match that carried over to the next, relative newcomers testing their skills and pushing themselves against much more established talent. The established talent proved their worth. The newbies look like the future. All’s well in independent female wrestling.
Veda Scott vs. Sara Del Rey was probably the match I was most prepared to call, though since the match started with the more straight-laced Matt Wadsworth, I didn’t get to start with a hilarious and clever joke about it being “Veda Time.”
Instead, I got to sound like an incredibly intelligent individual while analyzing why Sara Del Rey, the best women’s wrestler in the world, has been unable to capture the AIW Women’s Title in three attempts and what, exactly, a win over Del Rey would mean to the career of Veda Scott. Regular readers probably know too much when it comes to my opinion of Sara Del Rey, so I’ll talk about Scott instead: I can’t imagine too many law school students embarking on their first year of pro wrestling during their last year of school—it’s only something I thought to start when it appeared that I’d be taking a year off from my pursuit of a PhD. Scott has consistently improved since the first time I saw her at Girls Night Out 4, and her match against Del Rey is the best I’ve seen her in. Despite being a burgeoning indie superstar, she helped take down the ring after the show. She quotes the first line of Mrs. Dalloway in her Facebook profile. Del Rey may be my favorite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott were angling to take her crown in the next few years. For what it’s worth—which is probably a lot, since I want you to buy the DVD—Del Rey won with a crossface, sparing me the trouble of distinguishing an armbar from an armbreaker. Post-match, Veda blew off Del Rey’s attempt at a handshake. Good stuff.
In my first post about Girls Night Out 6, I earmarked this one as the potential match of the night. Lo and behold, it was. Intense from the start, Hatred and Rose exchanged hard forearms, brutal kicks, and dangerous-looking suplexes, bringing the style and pace of a Japanese joshi championship bout to Cleveland. Hatred, back after a period in Japan, reestablished herself as the woman in AIW. Rose, who reinvented herself in Japan and was making her AIW debut, became a star almost instantaneously by not backing down from Hatred. Plenty of “THAT WAS AWESOME” and “HOLY SHIT” chants from a crowd that usually reserves that kind of thing for light tubes and broken tables. At the end, Rose even got a “PLEASE COME BACK” chant, which is probably the highest praise a humble indie wrestling crowd can offer. I don’t want to give away any of the moves, suffice to reiterate that Hatred may be one of the hardest hitting wrestlers in America, and to say that, if the AR Fox/ACH Iron Man match from Straight Out of Compton ends up as AIW’s match of the year, then this was a very, very close second. If I were, say, 100 matches into an announcing career, Rose vs. Hatred would be the sort of match I’d need to say something like “athletes like these are why I’m proud and honored to be sitting at this table,” or something of equal sappiness and significance.
The main event. The picture doesn’t allude to it, but this was a “Fans Bring the Weapons” match, and the crowd—who had brought cutesy weapons like a light-up Santa and a game of Battleship to a previous match featuring death match wrestlers Masada and Mad Man Pondo—were particularly cruel this time around. In the ring, among other stuff, was a rusted ironing board, a tire iron, a garden hose, and two different baseball bats, one aluminum and one wooden. Despite that, the match started with a fair amount of wrestling (!), though the wrestling (!) was tinged with the sort of hatred that one expects when one party feels deeply disrespected by her opponent and the other has had their nose broken. The weapons were, until the match broke down, purely metaphorical—symbols the fans had invested much meaning in, but that couldn’t add more to the atmosphere of the contest were Allysin Kay and Mia Yim two baseball fans debating the superiority of the bat they’d chosen to potentially bash each other’s brains out with.
As soon as the match went to the outside, the entire arena stood up in unison, again cutting off my sight line. If anything, this made the match more exciting, the distinctly horrible sounds coming from the ringside area coupling with the “OHHHHS” of the crowd making it clear that something big was happening. At one point, Aaron Bauer went out to get the scoop on what was happening, reporting that Allysin Kay had a machete in her possession. “A MACHETE?!” I asked, my disbelief genuine. Kay won, as her manager Chest Flexor came out and, as he is want to do, threw baby powder in Yim’s eyes, leading to the easy victory. That’s not what Kay wanted, however, so she immediately divorced herself from Flexor Industries and demanded that the match be restarted. Rather than do that, Matt Wadsworth announced that AIW would soon see Yim vs. Kay III, ominously noting that he’d make sure nobody could interfere. Were I a paying customer—if I have to be a paying customer—you bet my ass will be in a seat at Turners Hall when that match takes place.
The nerves? The uncertainty? All of that was over with around the time Leva Bates came out for a round of Star Trek trivia. Professional wrestling is fun, and it’s a whole new level of fun when you’re along for the ride as something more than a hot dog munching, shirt buying fan in the stands. Adrenaline’s a big part of that—the crowd, it seems, is perpetually saving itself for the show’s big moments, the well-placed “YOU’RE GONNA GET YOUR FUCKING HEAD KICKED IN” chants or dangerously unfunny “KISS AND MAKE UP” call-outs. Though I’m as taken with a match like Hailey Hatred vs. Jenny Rose as they are, it’s my job to be excited by every match on the card, to get caught in its ebb and flow, to tell stories and relay information that make the match pop when the crowd won’t. There was much hand-wringing by the crowd during the show’s opening half, but every match on Girls Night Out 6 felt important to me; it was just as exciting calling a match at the beginning of Miss Heidi and K.C.’s career as it was to be part of something like Veda Scott vs. Sara Del Rey, there’s just as much to talk about during Crazy Mary Dobson vs. Trash Cassidy as Hailey Hatred vs. Jenny Rose.
Ultimately, I hope that’s what comes across on the DVDs. I already have an idea of what I could stand to do better, next time around (recognize finishing moves, call pinfall attempts), but I think those of you who buy the DVD or VOD from Smart Mark Video will leave Girls Night Out 6 with a strong impression of who all the women on the card were, and with how much of a fan I am of what they do. I hope you’ll be impressed with the chemistry Aaron Bauer and I had almost right off the bat. I couldn’t ask for a better guy to lead me through an entire show, and I’d obviously love to work with him again. Mostly, here’s hoping you pick up this DVD and are impressed both with the talent in the ring and with the fact that AIW is willing and able to bring that talent to the type of show that is often a financial question mark. They really pulled out all the stops on this one, and it shows: Girls Night Out 6 is the best women’s card the company has yet produced. With any luck, they’ll top it with Girls Night Out 7.
Girls Night Out 6 will be available on DVD and Video On Demand “within two weeks,” according to Smart Mark Video. To order the DVD from AIW, or to purchase tickets to their upcoming shows—The J.T. Lightning Invitational Tournament and Absolution VII—go to shop.aiwrestling.com. DVDs and tickets are $15. To buy an AIW event On Demand, visit Smart Mark Video’s streaming video site, visit smvod.com. Events are $9.99. For more information on AIW, visit their Facebook page.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.