April 13th was an incredible night in Edmonton, and not simply because of the talent on the card for the inaugural Pro Wrestling YEG.
Of course, any event affiliated with the Prairie Wrestling Alliance is sure to feature the high-quality wrestling we’ve come to know from Alberta’s longest-running promotion; however, even more important than the wrestling itself was the fundraising for the Kids with Cancer Society. With a $30,000 fundraising goal set for the event within reach at the onset of the event, Pro Wrestling YEG had already proven to be a success prior to any wrestling even taken place.
“The support from the community has been nothing short of amazing,” commented founder, organizer and main-event star of the evening Michael Avery Cook in an earlier interview. “There were a lot of times where it felt like this arbitrary goal we set out for ourselves wasn’t going to even come close, but we’ve received outstanding support and it feels pretty real now. Edmonton and the YEG community in general really come together to support great organizations like Kids With Cancer Society, and we’re beyond grateful to have the opportunity to perform in front of these people for such a good cause.”
That’s not to say the in-ring action didn’t deliver; in fact, it did so in spades on Saturday night at the NAIT gymnasium. With a majority of the current PWA roster joined by a number of returning stars of the past, Pro Wrestling YEG was sure to feature a number of unique matchups and big moments for any long-time or first-time Edmonton wrestling fan.
Saturday night, Pro Wrestling YEG was a showcase of not only the talent of Alberta’s independent wrestlers but the indie wrestling community as a whole. How can it be described any differently?
From the first-ever Pro Wrestling YEG, we recap!
Many Happy Returns
A number of Alberta wrestling veterans made their returns to the ring on Saturday evening; however, none were more high-profile than the return of former PWA and Stampede Wrestling Tag Team Champion Michael Avery Cook to the ring after a decade-plus absence to take on one of the top wrestlers in the independent scene today, Michael Richard Blais.
While excellence can be expected during nearly any main event Blais is involved in, many were curious as to how someone like Cook, who hadn’t wrestled in over ten years, would handle himself in a main-event slot against arguably the best wrestler in Western Canada.
The answer, it turned out, was pretty damn well.
While initially toyed with by God’s Gift to Wrestling, Cook was impressive in his return to action. While eventually defeated by a patented MRB 450 splash, the Pro Wrestling YEG organizer looked to have the former PWA Champion defeated on a number of occasions including a sharpshooter that looked poised to have Blais tap out. It speaks volumes that someone as competitive as Blais would immediately offer his hand in respect to Cook following the match, not only on a successful event but a hell of a return to the squared circle.
However, while Cook’s return to the ring was one of the most notable, he was far from the only veteran to make their comeback at Pro Wrestling YEG. The PWA Invitational Battle Royal gave the opportunity to Sgt. Hazard, Punishment, Lucas Drago and Azrael to make hugely anticipated returns to the ring. Richie Rage joined with former Rage&Fury partner Kenneth Anthony among others in the evening’s opening match. Even Phoenix Taylor made an appearance, accompanying the PWA Original to the ring and getting involved during his match with Brandon Van Danielson.
Tag Team Cacophany
Tag team wrestling is seeing a resurgence worldwide, and the same statement can hold true about Alberta independent wrestling.
That’s not to say it’s ever been in a poor state of affairs, at least province-wide; however, when looking at the talent involved in Pro Wrestling YEG’s tag matches, it’s hard to argue the scene isn’t more talented than it’s ever been.
In the evening’s opener, long-time foes faced off new rivalries developed and former partners reunited in an eight-man tag match pitting The Titan, “The Thickness” Reid Matthews, Aiden Adams & “Spaceman” Beri Grayson against Colton Kelly, Kenneth Anthony, Ritchie Rage, & Bobby Sharp. For those attending their first independent wrestling event - of which there seemed to be many on Saturday night - it was an excellent example of what makes the scene in the province great. It was a match that had something for everyone; between the excellent chain wrestling to open the match between Adams and Kelly, the highly-anticipated return of Richie Rage, the conniving strategy of Sharp and Anthony - as well as the Thickness’ attempts to stop it - or the aerial acrobatics of the Titan (!!!), everyone could find something to be entertained by in this match. A massive Sidewalk Slam from the Titan to former stablemate Kenneth Anthony allowed the good guys to pick up the victory, but each should be proud of the high-quality match to kick off the card.
In the first of Saturday’s two championship matches, the defending PWA Tag Team Champions the League faced off against the first-time-ever team of Mo Jabari and PWA Commonwealth Champion Shaun Moore. After nearly a year of opposing each other, Jabari and Moore looked absolutely excellent together as a team. The two had an undeniable chemistry in-ring; whether that comes from practice or simply knowing each other so well after battling for so long over the Commonwealth Championship is beyond me, but the two seemed completely in-sync throughout the match.
However, where Moore and Jabari have natural chemistry, the League have years of experience teaming together to build on. There’s a reason the duo of Brayden Parsons and Davey O’Doyle were able to capture the tag team championships after chasing them for so long, and while the addition of Kylie Morgan certainly helped in that pursuit, their manager-turned-wrestling compatriot wasn’t the deciding factor.
While Morgan may not have been the reason for the team’s inaugural title win, however, she was a major factor in Saturday’s title defence. Through the entirety of the match, she was involved; combined with O’Doyle and Parsons ruthless efficiency in the ring, the team of Moore and Jabari had the deck stacked against them from the onset of the match. At points, the League seemed to toy with the lesser-experienced team, and while Jabari and Moore are too talented to be held down completely, the League was able to neutralize them often both due to their tenure together as a team and the numbers advantage provided by Morgan.
Unfortunately, the League almost lost that advantage - and their championships - late in the match due to a miscommunication by O’Doyle and Morgan, as the manager was accidentally hit with a spear by the larger O’Doyle. In the distraction, Jabari and Moore were able to hit a number of devastating combination moves that looked to have the brute pinned. However, Parsons was able to cleverly reverse a roll-up attempt on O’Doyle into a pinfall on Jabari, and after a three-count from the referee, the League was able to retain their championships.
While the ending was disappointing to many in attendance due to their love of Jabari and Moore, in an interesting post-match development Moore went out of his way to shake the hand of his erstwhile tag team partner. It was a show of respect not seen before between the two rivals, and (selfishly) hopefully bodes well for their future as a tag team.
When talking about a charitable event, it’s rare that you’d bring up bad blood; however, in the case of the five individuals split between these two singles matches, the phrase certainly holds true.
Not even a month ago, the PWA Original Marky and Brandon Van Danielson were at war in the very NAIT gymnasium that Pro Wrestling YEG took place in. Now, less than a month later, the two battled in singles action that didn’t feature the brutality of their earlier Tables, Ladders and Chairs encounter but was no less emotional. Interestingly, for the first time in what seems like forever, Van Danielson was at a numbers disadvantage. Phoenix Taylor, Marky’s former tag team partner in the Funky Bunch, was on hand for the occasion to accompany the PWA Original to the ring, and with his Western Lions stablemate MRB not accompanying his partner to ringside, it left BVD in unfamiliar territory.
As two veterans of the Albertan scene, both Marky and BVD are incredibly familiar with each other, which led to an incredibly even matchup on Saturday night. The long-time rivals looked inspired to not only match but one-up each other; Van Danielson was ruthless through the evening, with a Three-Amigos type move utilizing butterfly suplexes one of many statements made by the Western Lion. A number of new submission moves were thrown into BVD’s arsenal for the evening, too, showcasing that while power may be his strong suit, it’s not the only weapon in his toolbox.
However, for every move that BVD threw out, Marky had an answer. Throughout his career, the PWA Original has literally seen it all, and a number of unique reversals seemed to confound the larger Van Danielson. When power got the best of him, Marky got an assist from Taylor, providing a beautiful piece of poetic justice against a man who has won so many matches due to his Western Lions compatriot. In the end, it was the Original who stood victorious and was also the recipient of a post-match show of respect from his long-time rival in Van Danielson.
The semi-main event of the evening saw Sheik Akbar Shabaz defend his PWA Championship against long-time rival “the Omen” Gabriel as well as the imposing Mephisto.
It was a highlight-filled match from all three men, with Mephisto adding a (literally) huge new element to a rivalry that’s spanned years. While effective, it’s still slightly jarring to see Shabaz and Gabriel team up to assist each other, even when against a physically dominating opponent. However, that was exactly the case to open up Saturday’s championship match, with Sheik and the Omen fighting together to incapacitate Mephisto. While the respite was short-lived, it allowed the two to exhibit why their two of the top talents in the industry today; both wrestlers put on an absolute clinic until their larger opponent came-to. While again the Sheik and Gabriel were able to utilize their skills in spurts, Mephisto certainly made his presence known through the match.
Eventually, however, the Omen made his move. Using his speed to his advantage, Gabriel was able to tie Mephisto up in the ropes into a devastating Tarantula-type hold, and nearly looked to have the PWA Championship won via submission. However, at that point, Shabaz truly began to look like the champion he is. A massive spin kick to the Omen allowed Mephisto to escape the hold and the Sheik to subsequently regain his dominance. Cacophany ensued as the triumvirate looked to put each other away and lay claim to the title, with a number of near-falls placing the crowd on the edge of their seats. However, at the end of the evening, Sheik Akbar Shabaz reigned supreme after a Burning Hammer-style move gave him a decisive victory over both of his opponents.
Bits and Pieces:
- Poor, poor Andy Anderson. The former commissioner made his semi-return to the promotion he one ran on Saturday night looking to reassert himself as one of the dominant forces in the PWA. However, it wasn’t to be, on a number of occasions. Initially, Anderson made his return for the Andy Anderson Open Challenge, in which he claimed he would face any wrestler in the arena. However, Anderson was irate when Zoë Sager not only answered the call but quickly rolled him up for a three-count and a quick victory. Following his initial loss, Anderson demanded the match be restarted not once, but twice - both times of which he lost. After going 0-for-3 against Sager - who I’ll say again and again is quickly becoming one of the top females in Alberta - Anderson entered the PWA Invitational Battle Royal after attacking Nightmare #4 as he entered. However, another gaffe led to Anderson’s elimination at the hands of the monstrous Azrael. Simply not his best night.
- The PWA Invitational Battle Royal featured a number of returning Albertan independent legends face off against current stars looking to build momentum heading into April 20th’s PWA Hysteria. Essentially contested under Royal Rumble rules, the match featured a new wrestler entering the ring every (loosely-counted) 60 seconds. I’m a sucker for any battle royal; however, this one was truly special both for the inclusion of personal favourites like Sgt. Hazard and the aforementioned Andy Anderson, but the dominant performances put on by current stars like Maxton Flexwell, Kylie Morgan and Kat Von Heez. It was an excellent example of both the long-term success that Alberta wrestling has experienced and the high-quality state the scene currently is in. Oh, and Azrael won, because how does a 6’9 monster not win? Entry order:
- Maxton Flexwell
- Punishment w/ Aleister Dark
- Nightmare #2
- Lucas Drago
- Kat Von Heez
- Kylie Morgan
- NIghtmare #3
- Sgt. Hazard
- Andy Anderson
- PWA Edmonton commissioner Thaddeus Archer III and owner Kurt Sorochan announced that Teddy Hart would face Michael Richard Blais at PWA Night of Champions in July.
By now, you’re probably wondering: did Pro Wrestling YEG hit its goal of $30,000?
At the end of the night, the announced total raised was over $34,000, smashing their fundraising goal for the Kids With Cancer Society. It was a reason to be proud of being a member of the independent wrestling community here in Alberta; whether it be the wrestlers donating their time to perform, the countless sponsors getting involved in the event itself, or of course Mike Cook himself, it was incredible to see the community support behind an event like this. An excellent match card was just the cherry on top of what should be looked back on as an incredibly successful night.
Will a Pro Wrestling YEG 2 happen? No one knows for sure, but if not, it was one night that everyone involved should be proud to be involved in.
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