I attended the debut show of the International Wrestling Federation in Phoenix at the Celebrity Theatre on 3/29 and overall it was a really great show featuring a lot of top name indy talent from across the country and mexico.
There was a bit of disorganization with the seating and things were thrown out of the window. I had bought a couple of the $20 tickets for my wife and I and they ended up moving whole sections from the back of the venue up to the front which was pretty cool for us as we were now sitting in the area normally reserved for the $35-$55 group which I had a feeling was going to happen due to lack of ticket sales in the more expensive up close areas around the ring. The whole first row(people who paid $95) in my section had to be relocated during the first match that I'm not sure if they were given their seats back after that match as people were sitting in them later on. They also pulled a WCW and let a lot of people in for free and they ended up filling about half of the venue(about 1,000 people). For future shows they should just stick to a $20 General Admission first come first serve method for these events so people who paid $95 for a ticket don't get screwed over while someone who got in for free takes their spot and fills up all the seats up front.
The Venue is pretty nice with a central stage that rotates for concerts, but seemed a bit too dangerous when it came to brawling around the ring as there was another 4 foot drop into the pit area, which prevented a lot of the high fliers from really being able to do dives carefully as there was very limited room on the round stage as well as a 12 foot drop from the top rope if they over shot a dive.
They announced the event was being taped for Television. I'm curious to see how the matches will turn out as matches live can be really good, but with proper camera, sound and lighting work and great commentary, they can be great matches.
I wanted to write everything down as it was happening but the celebrity theatre has a strict No Pens/pencils rule which is pretty ridiculous but apparently people have been tagging up the venue, so I'm going from memory.
1st match: Fatal Four Way: AR Fox vs. Anthony Nese vs. Rich Swann vs. JT Dunn. Great match to start the show off. AR Fox was getting decent heel heat and having fun with the crowd. Rich Swann was the super baby face. Really fun match with everyone getting in their spots. Rich Swann got the victory.
2nd match. I didn't get the names of the guys involved, but it was a tag team match. 1 of the guys didn't have a tag team partner and right on cue The Hurricane comes out and saves the day. They had a decent match, nothing too special. RedRum(formally known as Rellik) came out and destroyed everyone while Hurricane was on the outside. The match was ruled a No Contest. Hurricane got back in the ring after the dust settled and challenged Redrum to a match but was blown off.
3rd match. Tyshaun Prince vs. Alexander Hammerstone. I don't even remember who won the match, the crowd wasn't very interested in a match between 2 people they didn't know.
4th match. The original lineup for this match was supposed to be a Lucha Libre tag match between Psicosis(now known as Reaper)Valiente vs Ultimo Guerrero/Mascara Dorada, but it was turned into a 6 man tag with each team having another member. I didn't catch who they were. I've never really watched much lucha libre, but all the wrestlers looked familiar and the sections of the crowd that were Latino popped pretty big for it. There was one spot in the match that looked pretty dangerous when a suicide dive to the outside almost broke the neck of the guy doing the catching due to the stage the ring was positioned on not being big enough. It looked like his head snapped back off the edge of the stage, but he appeared to be fine after the spot. Team Ultimo Guerrero picked up the win.
5th Match. Shad Gaspard(formerly of Cryme Tyme) vs. Brian Cage w/ Stu Stone. Gaspard had some fun in his entrance and twerked with a young female member in the audience which was hilarious and then proceeded to do the same with an older, much bigger male member of the audience which really drove the nail in. Stu Stone interrupted him and was pretty entertaining in their back and forth banter. Cage got the win after Stone interfered, but Gaspard got the last laugh.
6th Match. Carlito came out to a pretty nice pop and was entertaining on the mic. He was supposed to face Mr Wrestling Kevin Steen, but Steen couldn't make it tonight due to the birth of his child. (Best wishes to him, btw). Carlito said he would never miss a show regardless of how many illegitimate children he had. He said the audience would rather see a fat man with a high work ethic than a man with a great body and a low work ethic. Carlito was a lot funnier than I remembered him being. So since he didn't have an opponent so out came Willie Mack (they didn't announce his name) and Carlito called him Black Kevin Steen. They had a fairly good short back and forth match with Carlito getting the win. After the match Carlito went to get his apple but he couldn't find it(I think a camerman grabbed it) so naturally thinking on his feet, he blamed a fat guy in the audience for eating it. Well played sir.
7th Match. Chris Masters vs. Chris Hero. A really good match with a lot of stiff strikes that you would expect from Chris Hero. Masters really surprised me with how well he could wrestle against someone with the caliber as Hero. Hero had some fun in the crowd running up the aisle. Since the venue was only half full, he ran past the first section and looked out into a sea of open seats and yelled "Where is every body!". I lost count how many big boots and roaring elbows Hero had to give Masters to win the match, but it was a lot. I'd be interested to see how this match looks on TV when they polish this one up, really great match! Hero shook Masters hand after the match after a hard fought battle.
8th Match. Reno Scum vs. Young Bucks. I was really looking forward to seeing the super kick party in action. I've never heard of Reno Scum before this so I didn't know what to expect, but they put on a great effort and looked great against the Young Bucks. Both teams got in a lot of great spots. A lot of Holy S*** moments from the super kicks and head drops out of nowhere. It was a great match up until the ending. Something went wrong and looked really botched. It looked like the ref didn't want to slap his hand down on the 3 count and it was supposed to be a close call, but Nick(I believe he was the one in the ring at the time) got his shoulder up too late after the ref made the count. To make it worse the ref didn't call for the bell until Reno Scum was trying to go back on the attack after the fall(when a lot of us were confused as to what happened). It just ruined what was a great match. The Young Bucks looked great out there as usual.
9th Match. Co Main Event. Austin Aries vs. Ricochet. A Double got the biggest pop of the night. A real treat to see Aries wrestle while under a TNA contract on the indy's and he put on an amazing performance with Ricochet. They both hit all of their high spots, played well off of the crowd and improvised well when they had to. Aries made Ricochet look like a million bucks. Aries hit the brainbuster for the win. Aries got on the mic and really put Ricochet over as the future of the business. Definitely worth seeing again when this gets released as Aries put in a PPV quality performance with this one). Best match of the night.
10th match. Main Event. John Morrison vs. Shelton Benjamin. Presented by Aflack car insurance. A pretty good back and forth match with Morrison winning with the Starship pain. Benjamin had some really good spots when he pulled an ankle lock out of a series of pinning combinations. He also hit a really sick super kick on morrison as well. After the match Morrison shook hands and hugged it out with Benjamin. Morrison then put over the IWF proclaiming that Phoenix, Arizona has the next best wrestling company in the country(and I believe its possible), and that the Celebrity Theatre is our new Madison Square Garden. They announced a return date to the Theatre on May 18th and had some IWF chants to close out the show.
Final thoughts. I thought this was a great show and they were out to prove something to the world. I think this show was really just a proof of concept for great things to come. They can use this to springboard themselves into better positions to get more sponsors and bigger sponsors, and use it to get on TV and get themselves out there. They have the talent present to go far and we could easily be saying IWF in the same sentence as great companies like Ring of Honor in the near future.
The fans were of a special variety. I wasn't sure what to expect. Being in Phoenix where there isn't a history of great indy wrestling, there was a lot of WWE fans who had never heard of any of the guys except for Morrison and Benjamin. There was a couple sections that seemed to have the die hard indy fans who popped for everyone like the Young Bucks, Aries, and the men in the opening 4 way bout. Then there was the Latino fan base who ate up the 6 man contest like it was the greatest thing on earth(and it wasn't that far off). And then there was all the people who brought their little toddlers to the show, and if it wasn't for a selection of the crowd trying to hijack parts of the show, it was the little kids hijacking the show screaming "This is Awesome!" during a head lock and asking who won the match when it was still going on. I wish there was an age limit to shows sometimes, especially when the manager is giving his grand kids good seats for free and causing hell to everyone around them. One guy a row up from the kids was trying to record video and these kids were screaming right in his ear. I'm sure the videos turned out just great, lol
I had my doubts as to how they would fare without selling a whole lot of tickets. At one point everyone who had a ticket was already in the building and it was looking pretty sparse. Then they wanted to move us to fill out the front and at the same time they let in a lot of people from outside who got in for free and they were nabbing seats up in the front before all of us who paid were able to get to the good seats. After the second match, one of the managers who I saw walking around prior to the show let all of his grand kids(who about 3-5 years old) take up these 8 seats in front of us and kicked out the people who were already sitting there so they could have the seats because they showed up late. He let those kids sit there without any supervision but kept giving them free drinks. They were making a lot of unnecessary noise and kept pissing themselves every 30 minutes. Just some little annoyances with the Venue and not the promotion who did a great job. I don't think the Celebrity Theatre is an ideal venue for wrestling. It looks really nice on the inside, but the stage dimensions where the ring is are just terrible for wrestling(and wrestling outside of the ring). The venue also doesn't allow much in the way of customizing the show. Its impossible for them to have a proper stage and entrance area so it looks more like a boxing show entrance. They could do well in a venue with a more open floor layout where they will have space like a traditional wrestling show. The seats there don't give much legroom, so if you're taller than 6'2 it starts to get uncomfortable for a 3 hour show.
If there's anyone who lives in Arizona who loves wrestling, I'd strongly recommend attending their next show on May 18th. I'm interested to see who they announce for it. They really struck gold getting Austin Aries in on a rare one off Independent performance. I'm also wondering when they will have some Championship belts on the line and if they will have a set roster in place going forward or if it'll be revolving door of top Indy names.