by Billy Carpenter
This past weekend was, for professional wrestling fans, the biggest (and in the case of 4CR, the busiest) of the entire calendar year. There was a plethora of things to take in, not only for those in the NY/NJ area, but even for those of us who stayed home and watched the festivities at home! Just from those of us who comprise the 4CR staff, we watched events from Combat Zone, Shimmer, Dragon Gate USA, Ring of Honor, New Japan and of course, WWE. For fans of this thing that we love, there were so many options that were given to us to not only sit back and enjoy the product we normally watch but to also go out and discover promotions that we’ve never seen before—a chance to expand our horizons, so to speak. There was literally NO reason to not find something to watch and enjoy this weekend. But instead of focusing on just the in-ring product, I wanted to talk about all of the things that I enjoyed this weekend, from Thursday night all the way to the end of Monday night’s RAW telecast.
Independent Wrestling is Alive and Well
There have been some concerns in recent years about the state of independent wrestling here in North America. I think much of this was focused on the rather poor state that Ring of Honor, the most prolific of the indies, found itself in during the reign of Jim Cornette. But WrestleCon, which made its debut during this year’s WrestleMania weekend, quelled any doubts about independent wrestling and its thriving state. If you’ve been keeping up with the staff of 4 Corners Radio since last week, you’ve seen Sam rave about Shimmer as he called it the best show of the weekend—and then he & I covered DGUSA’s ‘Open the Ultimate Gate’ on Saturday as the epic that was Shingo vs Johnny Gargano blew us away and capped off the best in-ring card of the weekend (at least, here in the US). Ant & I once again gave you guys live coverage during and post-show of one of our favorites, ROH’s ‘Supercard of Honor VII’. Michael Elgin vs Jay Lethal needs to be seen by everyone, as well as reDRagon vs The American Wolves. Jay Briscoe finally winning Ring of Honor’s top prize was a moment to be remembered, as well. Chikara had record-breaking attendance during a much raved about show, and we haven’t even touched on the Sunday offering from Dragon Gate USA. But for them, and many other independent promotions, this was the time and the opportunity for them to show the wrestling world who weren’t familiar with their particular product just what it was that they could bring to the table. New fans were created and hopefully the positive momentum will carry forward for these companies.
New Japan Pro Wrestling Truly is ‘King’
Much as their logo states, NJPW is right now the undisputed ‘King of Sport’ as far as professional wrestling is concerned. They have been on an unbelievable and unprecedented hot streak for the better part of 2 years and show no signs of slowing down. You’ve seen us at 4CR rave about the quality of the product and their ‘Invasion Attack’ show was, for me, the best show of the weekend HANDS DOWN. Not a single bad match to be had and the main event was a thing of beauty between 2 of the world’s greatest in Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. The storytelling was damn near flawless, as was the psychology and in the end, Okada wins his second IWGP Heavyweight title in what was my favorite match of the weekend-and quite possibly the year so far. And if you, by this point, have not yet seen Shinsuke Nakamura perform then you are doing yourself a great injustice. Possibly the most charismatic performer in all the world right now, and maybe my absolute favorite in the world. New Japan shows do tend to run long—this one clocked in at 4+ hours—but when the shows are this good, they fly right by. If you’re not following this company right now, you’re missing something truly special right now.
WWE Can Still Get it Right (Sometimes)
While opinions are split on the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania XXIX, one thing that can’t be argued is that what we were given on Monday Night RAW this week was something truly special. Fun—the one word that describes this past week’s RAW telecast—is a word that we haven’t really been able to use to describe the show in quite some time, and certainly not since the shift to 3 hours each Monday. But this week was that proverbial ‘lightning in a bottle’—every single thing clicked, and much of this was enhanced by the crowd in the Izod Center. But that is to take nothing away from the performers, who seemed to thrive off of the super-energized crowd. Every aspect of the show seemed to hit their points—from Cena’s opening promo, to Dolph Ziggler FINALLY cashing in and becoming World Champion, to Ryback’s turn (?) at the end of the show and of course, the Fandango Phenomenon-this show encapsulated everything it is to be a fan of professional wrestling. For me personally, I was transported back to a time where I could suspend all disbelief and just have FUN with wrestling. I think when people clamor for the ‘Attitude Era’ this is what they want—it seemed that, for at least one night, the WWE brass decided to give us what we wanted and we responded accordingly. Truly a great night to be a fan and one that will not be forgotten (and the sole reason that Fandango’s theme is charting so high on iTunes).
Passing the Torch
I am a very proud father of three beautiful, precious daughters. They are my entire world and have completed me, even though I didn’t think I was incomplete before I was blessed with them. But when I came to the realization a few years back that having a son just wasn’t in the cards for me, I never thought that I’d have child that would share in my delight and enjoyment of professional wrestling. I’m glad to say that I was wrong and my 5 year old, Emma, has taken up watching wrestling with her old man over the last year or so. This past weekend, we got to watch Ring of Honor, WrestleMania and RAW together and just to watch her react to things, and cheer and boo or sing the wrestler’s theme songs—it was a great feeling. Watching her reminded me of why I fell in love with wrestling to begin with. She was having so much fun, and in turn, I was having just as much fun. She’s been watching wrestling with me now for a while, but it seems that the “bug” has bitten her and sharing all of this with her this past weekend will maybe be my most enduring memory of all of this.
4CR Isn’t Just the Name of Our Show
I wasn’t on Twitter last year during WrestleMania weekend, and there certainly was no #4CR, a podcast, radio show or a website. One of my favorite parts of this whole experience this weekend was the interaction with all of you out there. Starting with Sam & I interviewing Rickey Shane Page on Thursday’s ‘The Indy Project’, 4CR kicked off a most ambitious weekend of coverage on BlogTalk Radio that saw a live show for 4 straight days. In addition to the ‘Indy Project’, Ant & I brought you a post-Ring of Honor show on Friday, then Sam & I came back Saturday night to talk ‘Open the Ultimate Gate’ and ‘Invasion Attack’ and of course, Ant & I came back together on Sunday following WrestleMania for 2 full hours to break down the show. We got to record a special podcast Saturday with almost the entire 4CR crew and Ant & Martin wrapped it all up yesterday with a great post-RAW live show. But none of what we do is possible if all of you out there didn’t support this and interact with us. The best part of being a fan is the opportunity and ability to interact and share experiences with other fans. Social media brought us together and made the greatest weekend in pro wrestling that much better. Thank you to all of you who have used #4CR in your tweets, joined us during radio shows, clicked on the website, followed along as we live tweet shows and have offered kind words and told your friends about us. I say it on every show, and I say it because it’s true—we do all of this for the fans of pro wrestling and for all of you out there. A sincere ‘thank you’ for making this weekend that much better for me. Now we look ahead to #4CRWM30….who’s joining us in New Orleans?
I sincerely hope every fan of wrestling found something—even if it was just one thing—that they enjoyed and loved this weekend. Like I said at the beginning there was so much to celebrate and take in this past weekend, and I’d find it hard to believe that someone couldn’t find something to like. Here’s hoping that this euphoric feeling carries over this year for you and that you continue to just have fun with wrestling, because that is really and truly what it’s all about.