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By Mike Johnson on 2015-01-19 07:45:00
Great American Wrestling debuted Saturday night with a marathon of a television taping at the Knoxville National Guard Armory. Six hours’ worth of television was taped for a grand total of 22 matches culminating with the crowning of Crimson as the first GAW Champion.

Under the ownership of Chris Lash and Troy Lowe, GAW succeeds Southeastern Championship Wrestling promotion spearheaded by David Marquez in the Saturday noon time slot on Knoxville’s FOX 43.

Marquez put SECW on hiatus after the November 15 taping due to his dissatisfaction with the quality of the production. The announced plan was to relaunch a new and improved SECW with a TV taping at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium Ballroom on February 8. In the meantime, Marquez was sending episodes of Championship Wrestling from Hollywood to air in the time slot on FOX.

Lash is a radio industry veteran and been associated with pro wrestling for years, most recently as part owner of Vintage Wrestling in Florida. Lash agreed to come on board with SECW prior to the November taping and was responsible for bringing Jim Cornette in for that show, but his partnership with Marquez only lasted a few days. Lash made it known to the management of FOX 43 that he was interested in the SECW time slot if the situation with Marquez changed. The station got back to Lash, at least in part because they wanted a local product to air. Lash and Lowe presented their plan for the first 13 weeks of television and the deal was made with a start date of January 24.

While GAW retains some elements of SECW, in most ways it is a distinctly different promotion. Dr. Tom Prichard, who helped out at the first two SECW tapings is back with an expanded role directing the tapings. Cornette will be featured in a weekly taped segment. Former pro wrestler Brian Logan is heading up the production department. Marquez was adding commentary by Todd Kenely in post-production. GAW has opted for live commentary by Southern All-Star announcer Jack Johnson and Matt McCormick (former pro wrestler Shane Matthews). GAW is closer to old style TV studio wrestling with an announce desk and an interview area with a GAW banner as part of the set. Several of the top wrestlers from the Chattanooga area have been added to the talent roster along with Nashville veteran Hammerjack. The key holdovers are Shane Williams, Crimson, Lance Erikson, The Washington Bullets and ring announcer Scott Hensley.

Taping at the national guard armory was a one shot, and the venue didn’t look nearly as bad for TV as I feared. With the TV studio style setup, it didn’t look like an armory building at all. A smaller space was curtained off with seating on two sides, and the interview and technical equipment including four cameras on the other sides. The separation between the locker room and the gorilla position was a problem as was the lack of locker room monitor. Future tapings are scheduled for the Knoxville Harley Davidson (west) dealership. Judging from the online photo, the space has potential for good looking TV.

A lively full house of 150 was a real plus. They hung in strong for over 3 hours and only gave up the ghost for the final episode. That 6th episode was shot as a back up and hopefully won’t be needed because the seats were mostly empty.

GAW was more of a pure TV taping than SECW. As such, it was not a fan friendly experience. The show ran 3 hours and 40 minutes. Much of the story and character development is being done via pretaped segments, making them less accessible to the live audience.

The matches had a vanilla quality that was less than ideal. I get that they were introducing characters, setting the stage, etc., but watching many short squashes with little substance was mind numbing after a certain point. The matches that were given time (Erikson vs. Crimson, Williams vs. Hammerjack, Williams vs. Crimson) were fine. Jack Johnson and Matt McCormick did a live opening segment for each of the six shows.

(1)Bam Bam Erikson (with Mason Dixon) defeated Keith Michaels in 35 seconds with a clothesline from hell.

Erickson promo. Said he was set the bar high and would become the first GAW champion.

Tracy Smothers came out with a bandage covering most of his face. Smother regretted that he could not compete in the title tournament because he had not been medically cleared. Smothers explained that Shane Williams had burned him in a match.

(2) Washington Bullets (Jon & Trey Williams) defeated Street Dreams (Shawn Streets & J-Mac) in 6:56. Street Dreams had the Bullets in trouble. The brothers were screwing up. Jon had to save Trey from being pinned after a Street Dreams double uranage. In the end, the Bullets hit the Marion Barry and J-Mac was pinned by Jon.

(3) Ace Rockwell defeated “The Cadillac Cowboy” Steven Burns in 3:08. Rockwell won it with a downward spiral. Not good. Burns is lacking in the athletic ability department.

(4) Crimson defeated Shaun Tempers (with Mason Dixon) in 6:28. Solid, competitive match with Tempers Tempers (voted Georgia’s Wrestler of the Year for 2014) establishing his underhanded, opportunistic tendencies. Crimson appears to be 100% recovered from his injuries. Tempers clipped the knee and worked the body part. Crimson used a pumphandle exploder before winning it with Red Sky.

Hour number 2 –

(5) Shane Williams (with Queen Taylor) defeated Ace Rockwell in 5:21. Good while it lasted. Rockwell escaped from the piledriver and was on the comeback trail had Williams up for the airplane spin. Williams raked Rockwell’s eyes and hit the piledriver.

(6) Nitro (Mason Dixon) defeated Tim Smiley in 30 seconds with a running powerslam. Nitro is a monster, biker looking dude.

Dixon cut a generic bent on destruction and nobody can stop us promo. Dixon is a portly businessman type in a suit. A lawyer I’m guessing but it wasn’t specifically stated. He added nothing. From a Georgia frame of reference, Dixon isn’t in the same league as Kevin Pierce and I should be shot at sunrise for mentioning Jeff G. Bailey in the same sentence.

(7) Trey Williams defeated J-Mac in 3:52. Trey blocked a tornado DDT and dropped J-Mac in his track with a superkick.

(8) Hammerjack defeated “Cadillac Cowboy” Steven Burns in 4:27. Hammerjack busted out the Michinoku driver ala Nashville. Burn used a leg DDT to work the knee. Too much working the knee to the exclusion of other body parts on this show. A monitor in the locker room would have helped. Hammerjack’s finisher is an elbow drop from inverted DDT position and Burns made it a laborious process.

(9) Gunner Miller defeated Matt Fortune in 5:16. Another heel (Fortune) working the knee. Former UT Chattanooga football star Miller made an impression with his power moves like the flying shoulder block and the press slam and won it with a spear.

Hensley passed out some free stuff to the fans.

Hour #3

Tempers interrupted Johnson and McCormick during the opening and introduced the “Temptation” character stating that he was the best looking, best smelling wrestler in GAW.

(10) Shaun Tempers (with Mason Dixon) defeated Tim Smiley in 2:51. Dixon adds nothing. From a Georgia frame of reference, Dixon isn’t in the same league as Kevin Pierce and I should be shot for putting Jeff G. Bailey in the same sentence. Smiley is a very small. Temper pinned him with the hangman’s neckbreaker.

(11) Gunner Miller & Ace Rockwell defeated Washington Bullets (Trey & Jon Williams) via DQ in 6:17. Jon whacked Miller’s back with a chair Miller as he was setting up to spear Trey. The chair shot was too close to the head for comfort.

(12) Shawn Streets defeated “Cadillac Cowboy’ Burns in 2:41. Burns back jumped Streets, who was still playing to crowd after the bell rang. Served him right for being a dumb babyface. Street won jobber’s bracket match with a flying shoulder block off the top.

(13) Crimson defeated Bam Bam Erikson in 8:38. Crimson dominated the early going. Erikson bailed after yet another flying shoulder tackle. Erikson got untracked with a swinging neckbreaker and a stalling vertical suplex. Both down men down on double clothesline. Erikson landed badly on Crimson’s exploder suplex and an audible was called for the finish. Crimson rolled Erikson up. Good match until the messed up spot. Erikson suffered a shoulder injury and is probably hurting today but was able to come back later in the show.

Hour 4 – Tempers interrupted again stating he would add some class to the color commentary.

Tim Smiley vs. Keith Michaels never happened. Nitro demolished both of them. Dixon said he and his stable were in GAW to cause chaos and destruction and nothing would stand in their way.

(14) Jon Williams defeated J-Mac in 3:31. Jon missed a kneedrop off the top. J-Mac was making his comeback when Jon stunned him with a high knee and scored the pin with a ropes-mounted backcracker.

(15) Matt Fortune (with Shaun Tempers) defeated Shawn Streets in 3:40. Tempers distracted Streets from the matter at hand and Fortune rolled him up. Street Dreams may have set a Tennessee record from most losses in one night.

(16) “Cadillac Cowboy” Steven Burns defeated Tim Smiley in 2:55. Another jobber’s bracket match and it was pretty horrible. At one point, Burns almost fell out of the ring. Burns did the worst black hole slam ever to set up a Killswitch.

(17) Shane Williams (with Queen Taylor) defeated Hammerjack via submission in 9 minutes. Rockwell and Miller were out on commentary. Good match. Hammerjack can have a good match with a strong worker like Williams, but isn’t the guy to pull a good match out of subpar worker. Williams snapped When Williams missed an elbow drop, Hammer seized on the opening. But Queen whacked Hammer’s leg with the GAW title belt, and Williams capitalized with the figure four.

Hour 5

(18) Shaun Tempers & Matt Fortune (with Mason Dixon) defeated Street Dreams in 3:30. Bullets were at the desk for color commentary. Tempers hit J-Mac with a gimmick.

(19) Crimson defeated Shane Williams with (Queen Taylor) to become the first GAW Champion in 15-20 minutes. Queen got involved again. Williams worked the knee to set up the figure four and got it, but Crimson refused to tap. Williams missed the Lawler fist drop. Crimson roared back with a series of corner clotheslines, but ate a boot charging in. Williams has perfect timing on that move, which look so lame the way a lot of indie guys do it. Williams connected with the fist drop but Crimson kicked out. Williams tried for the neckbreaker and Crimson reversed with a backslide. Crimson countered the piledriver with an insider cradle. Queen complained to the ref. Smothers hit the ring and clocked Williams. Crimson pinned Williams with the Red Sky.

Hour 6 – Crowd dwindled badly after the title match

Johnson and McCormick opened talking about Crimson winning the title and the upcoming GAW tag team championship.

(20) Nitro & Bam Bam Erikson (with Mason Dixon) defeated Street Dreams (J-Mac & Shawn Streets) in 6 minutes. Street appeared to take an unintentional spin bump on a wicked clothesline from Erikson.

(21) Keith Michaels defeated Shane Williams in 2 minutes. Williams was way too preoccupied with the presence of Smothers at the desk. Michaels shocked Williams with an inside cradle. Smothers raised Michaels’ hand.

Interview segment with Tempers and Fortune. Tempers griped about that smelly, burned out metal head Hammerjack getting a title shot. Hammerjack took exception to those comments. Tempers and Fortune double teamed Hammer and smashed his knee with a chair to leave him laying. Referees Doug Markham and Brandon Morton had to help Hammer get to the back.

(22) Crimson vs. Hammerjack for the GAW Championship was ruled a no contest at 6:45. Dixon was at the desk. Hammer limped out to the ring. He could barely stand and was in agony throughout the match. Crimson reluctantly worked on the injured body part. Crimson had a Texas Cloverleaf applied when Dixon’s stable (Erikson, Nitro, Tempers and Fortune) attacked both of them and ran off.

Postmatch - Crimson challenged Dixon’s guys to a fight. Erikson and Nitro came back out and they had a schmazz to end the show.

NOTES: Great American Wrestling is followed at 1pm Saturdays on FOX 43 by “Tennessee Memories”, a one hour show hosted by Lash and Prichard featuring footage from Continental, Southeastern and Angelo Poffo’s ICW…February 21 is the date for the television taping at Knoxville Harley Davidson – West…Notables in attendance included legendary Tennessee referee Mac McMurray and indy manager and TNA’s one man merchandise department Tony Lucassio.

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