Empire Wrestling ran their major show for the fall season, "Chasing the
Grail", Saturday night in Rossville, GA.
For a professional quality presentation of an independent wrestling product, Empire is the best thing going in the state of Georgia. The venue is a warehouse space similar to what NWA Charlotte used except smaller and presumably without the code violations. The sound, lighting and video screen are top notch.
One of things that makes Empire unique is their talent roster. Being in close proximity to Chattanooga allows them to attract talent from a tri-state region. It's a far cry from Anarchy for overall depth but serviceable enough because the presentation, concept and stories have such power.
An Empire show plays like a movie. It paints a compelling picture as well as any show around. For me, one of the critical factors in judging a pro wrestling event is how it impacts me the next day. Does it grow or diminish in my mind? In this case, the answer was clear.
Empire starts on time and religiously limit their shows to 2 hours in length with no intermissions and no dead time matches. The show moves seamlessly between matches, video segments and in-ring talk. The pace and flow keep the crowd involved and limits chances to lose momentum.
For last night at least, the talk and videos were stronger than the matches. Not that there's anything wrong with that, so long as the wrestling is good enough to suspend disbelief. Based on fan reaction, the stories are working, and the talk segments are key.
Attendance was around 13. That number was somewhat of a disappointment. Empire drew 400 in August for their War Games show, equivalent to their Wrestlemania. Grail was more like their SummerSlam.
The show opened with a stellar hype video (produced by Empire owner Dru Delight).
(1) Banks defeated Chris Ganz in 6:35. Banks no longer has a first name. But he's still "Yummy" according to his tights. Ganz has added bulk since I saw him last. His O'Connor roll was well done as was the springboard crossbody, but a gingerly executed tope could have been disasterous. For Ganz, it was live by the sword, die by the sword with high risk manuevers. Banks clubbed him good on a second springboard crossbody and ended it with ropes-assisted reverse suplex.
(2) Johnny Viper (with Se7en) defeated Ryan Vega to retain the Empire Junior Championship in 7:00. Viper is an Empire trainee. Vega is billed as "punk rock's last hope" and does play in bands in the local area. Loads of flying moves in this match. Viper has great spring on his aerial stuff and hits it crisply. If only he had a semblance of a physique. Vega with a springboard codebreaker into Alex Shelley's Border City Stretch but Viper hooked the ropes with his foot. Se7en jumped up to distract and got off by Vega’s springboard kick, but Viper capitalized with a flatliner for the pin.
Ace Rockwell entered the ring to make his big announcement. Rockwell said he recently turned 30. He had enjoyed his 13 years in the ring. Pro wrestling was the one thing that had never turned it's back on him, and that's why this was such a difficult moment. Rockwell said the injuries and concussions had taken a toll. He had watched the video of his head hitting the chair (german suplex through a chair courtesy of Matt Fortune resulting in a ref stoppage). Rockwell said when pro wrestlers are in the ring, they are giving all the fans all the can, and it was giving all he could that brought him to this position.
Fortune interrupted with a sickening smile on his face. Fortune said he had to be there for this -- Rockwell was wasted because of "The Freakin' Star" Matt Fortune. Fortune told Rockwell to admit his career was over. The fans chanted "no". Rockwell said 13 years of wrestling would be the cause of his retirement not Fortune. Rockwell said he knew Fortune's ego would prevent him from staying away because he had to make himself more important than he really was. Rockwell said he had to make Fortune believe he was retiring. With that, Rockwell wasted Fortune with Aces High. A "Yes" chant erupted. Rockwell said he wasn't retiring any time soon, and Fortune had a problem. "A dangerous man with more motivation than you could ever imagine is coming to kick your ass." Rockwell and Fortune absolutely hit it out the park with this segment.
(3) Joey Lynch defeated Jason Hampton (with Banks) in 9:10. Lynch is Fortune's brother and a solid talent in the ring. If Viper had Lynch's physique he could go places. Hampton was described to me as North Georgia's Shane Marx. Hampton isn't on the elite level that Marx occupies, but his pudgy physique belies a talented wrestler. Hampton clipped Lynch's knee and worked the body part. Lynch's leg was giving out on him. Lynch hit a leg lariat out of nowhere to spark a series of pinning combinations, then nailed Hampton with a rabbit leg lariat. Lynch was positioned for a moonsault when Banks blatantly interfered to crotch him on the turnbuckle. The ref ejected Banks from ringside. Lynch fought off Hampton's super backdrop suplex and connected with a moonsault block for the win. This was good match that would not have been the least bit out of place on an Anarchy show. Lynch sold the leg bigtime after it was over.
On the video screen, Empire owner Dru Delight was on the phone asking someone where he was and what about his interview? (Empire regulars knew that someone was Corey Coxx, the host of the "Gettin' Wyld" interview segments)
Shaun Tempers and his utterly obnoxious manager Steve Dave appeared on the big screen. Tempers gloated about taking out Tank's fellow Reject member Andrew Alexander, and said it didn't matter that Tank was bigger, stronger and more psycho than he was. The video cut off due to technical problems.
(4) Se7en defeated Chrisjen Hayme in 7:47. THE surreal moment of the night was watching two guys with Down's Syndrome spotlighte by strobe lights as they danced to Hayme's entrance music. It was also a prime example of a match up that can't be seen anywhere else in Georgia. Hayme tried to use his speed to bamboozle the monster. That tactic worked until it didn't. Se7en caught Hayme's moonsault and turned into a nasty Snake Eyes. Se7en destroyed Hayme with power moves until Hayme rolled out from under Se7en's leaping elbow drop. Hayme made a valiant high-flying comeback but in the end, Se7en smoked him with the choke bomb. That's how monsters are built. Se7en was never taken off his feet.
Ring announcer Gabe Walters welcomed "Butcher" Bobby Hayes to the ring. Walters wanted to know why Hayes attacked Logan Alvey. Hayes said he gave Alvey some pointers when he asked for help, and Alvey repaid him by costing him his number one contendership. Hayes said he had wrestled all over the country for 22 years and Empire should have been begging him to wrestle for the title instead of forcing him to go through a tournament. This got huge heat and a chant of "stop your whining". Debuting ref John Davis came out and gave Hayes the "wrap it up' signal. Hayes stomped his ass and left Davis laying with a classic piledriver. The fans chanted for Alvey but he wasn't there. Delight came to ringside with his security crew, but they didn't make a move on Hayes, who made good on his promise not to leave until he was damn well ready to. This segment worked like a charm.
(5) Best of the Best (Dyron Flynn & Lamar Phillips) defeated Double Dragons (Keith & KT Hamill) and Wyld Stallyns (Chris Ganz & Corey Coxx) and Hot Commodity (CB Suave & Tommy Penirelli) in a gauntlet match to win the Empire Wrestling Tag Team Championship (total time 30:13). Stallyns weren't on the advertised card. Their addition wasn't spelled out. I assume it was based on their status as former champions. Lots of action, ragged in spots but it didn't lack for wild intensity and the fans were entertained. I'm sketchy on the details as I was too busy being entertained by David Pierce and Scott Hensley.. Hot Commodity started against Stallyns. Suave was impressive as HC got heat on Coxx. Ganz pinned Suave at 10:34 and Stallions moved on to face Best of the Best. It must be said that Flynn has improved tremendously from his awful NWA Main Event days. Ganz took most of the punishment this time.Coxx finally got the tag and had the match won, but Flynn nailed him coming off the ropes and he was pinned at 5:15. Dragons entered to great fanfare. Keith is known as the "Chunky Dragon" and with the face paint, he looks like Muta after too many trips to the buffet. Looks can be deceiving, as Keith's tope on Phillips was balls to the wall. Flynn's dive nailed his partner for a trouble in paradise moment. KT was laying in the blows like B of B owed him money. Down the stretch, it was a sequence of big moves and saves. The finish saw Flynn reverse Chunky's O'Connor roll to win the titles.
The remainder of Tempers promo played. Tempers said he was groomed to be a champion from day one. He was faster, better prepared and had a much better manager. He was going to break Tank's neck and walk out as champ.
Two more video clips followed -- an ominous techno deal announcing the coming of The Cabal and a quick clip of Best of The Best gloating and celebrating that was quite amusing.
The Rev and Tank appeared on screen. Rev cut an inspired promo, as good as anything I've heard him do in quite a while. I can't do his imagery justice in this recap. Rev said he wasn't surprised about Tempers turn against the Rejects because he had always been treacherous, and he had his "cannon fodder" to take the blows he wasn't willing to take. Rev said Dave's day would come for spraying him in the face, but tonight was about the championship. The spirit of Bacchus was usually invoked at The Compound at Halloween. This year was different. Visitors were barred. To get in the proper state for the match, Tank asked Rev to bury him alive for solitude. Two hours later, the hole was empty and Tank was nowhere to be found. Rev came upon the carcass of a mountain lion torn asunder. Tank was knee deep in its blood, and that's what was in store for Tempers.
Steve Dave (I don't trust anybody with two first names and no last name) said standing before them were two of the best looking men they had ever seen. Dave said Rev might be in league with Satan, but Tempers was the one true living God and the longest reigning NWA North American Champion in history. Empire was entering a new era -- The Era of the Temptation. I love this guy.
(6) Shaun Tempers (with Steve Dave) defeated Tank (with The Rev) to win the Empire Wrestling Heavyweight Championship in 14:30. Tempers was getting nowhere fast. He took TO's and while swith chants of "Tank is gonna kill you" ringing in his ears. Dave ran distraction to set up the sneak attempt by the challenger. A dropkick to the knee put Tank down and Tempers tried to keep him there. Tempers countered Tank's first Chokebreaker, but not the second. Dave stopped the ref's count. How is that not a DQ? Rev slugged Dave for a big pop. Tank went to the spinning backfist but Tempers ducked. Tank inadvertently splashed the ref (Delight's son) in the corner. Tank's backfist was on the money. Wouldn't you know it? No ref to count. Fortune hit the ring. Tank sent him flying out the opposite side, then cut Johnny Viper off at the pass. Meanwhile, Se7en was posting Rev. Tank succumbed to the odds, speared out of his boots by 7. Tempers gave Tank two chairshots to the back, a chair edge to the throat and a hangman neckbreaker driving the edge into Tank's windpipe. Sonny boy was brought to life to make the count.
Dave tried to put the belt around the waist of the new champion but couldn't get the job done due to his CP. The show ended with Tempers, Se7en, Viper and Fortune celebrating while standing over Tank's motionless carcass.
NOTES: Empire runs shows the 1st, 3rd and 5th Saturdays of the month at 22 Austin Ave. in Rossville, GA…WDEF-TV, the CBS affiliate in Chattanooga ran an outstanding feature on Empire that can be viewed at http://chattanooga.tennesseenewstv.com/2013/10/10/through-irish-eyes-pro-wrestling