Less than one week removed from an epic journey to New Orleans for Wrestlemania XXX, I was on hand Saturday night in Meadville, PA for the International Wrestling Cartel’s (IWC) “Night of the Superstars 3.”
Comparing Meadville to New Orleans isn’t fair. Comparing IWC to WWE isn’t fair. However, comparing the overall festive atmospheres and crowd appreciation is fair.
Shortly after 3:00 p.m. Saturday I began the 90 minute journey north from Pittsburgh to Meadville on interstate 79. Riding shotgun and joining me for the evening was my wife, Dayna, who had never been to an IWC show. She also joined me in New Orleans, along with the Chair Shot Reality team, for our Wrestlemania weekend of events that included a Q&A with Matt Striker, a ‘Mania Sunday crawfish boil with Matt Hardy, and one hell of a weekend of fun!
I wasn’t sure how Dayna would take in her first IWC event, explaining to her that it would be much different than Wrestlemania or Raw, with its smaller crowds and lesser known wrestlers. She asked many questions during our commute to Meadville Middle School including ‘what cutting a promo was’ when I explained to her that Chair Shot Reality’s Justin LaBar (also an IWC manager) would be cutting a promo tonight, along with his client RJ City. She also was curious about the Steiner Brothers, AJ Styles, and Bret “Hitman” Hart – all who would be on the card that evening.
Most of my answers were simple for me to explain, but to someone just getting in to this thing known as ‘sports entertainment’, it was not as easy for her to understand. It’s hard to ever find something Dayna can’t understand, as she is definitely the brains of this marriage, earning her master’s degree from the prestigious Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
We arrived in Meadville just after 5:00 p.m. and the venue was already jammed packed for the VIP meet and greet. We entered through the back to join LaBar, along with IWC guests for the weekend, Trevor and Amber Ellison. The Ellison’s were in town from Riverton, Wyoming for a weekend of wrestling in Pittsburgh. Both Trevor and Amber are fans of CSR, and Trevor is now and forever WINNING his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Shortly after learning about Trevor’s diagnosis, we reached out to Amber about surprising Trevor with a trip to Pittsburgh to be on CSR and take in Night of the Superstars.
IWC owner Chuck Roberts gave us his blessing to invite the Ellison’s to the event that evening, with VIP access to several of the superstars, as well as preferred seating. Chuck also made Trevor a special guest ring announcer for the evening! Recently, Chuck’s mom lost her courageous battle with cancer, and her memory will forever live on with Chuck’s dedicated and tireless work to put on some of the best entertainment you will find on the independent wrestling scene.
On to the event itself, top to bottom, there was not a single lull in the evening! The sold out crowd of more than 2,000 was enthusiastic from the moment the doors opened to the gymnasium. The wrestling card for the evening was stacked, and kicked off with Chuck welcoming everyone to Night of the Superstars, thanking everyone for their support and what the evening meant to the Meadville Middle School, which the show benefited. He also apologized for the 45 minute delay to the start of the event, as there were still nearly 100 people waiting to meet Bret Hart at the VIP meet and greet.
“I would like to apologize to you for the delay in tonight’s action however, it is only fair to give those who paid to meet Bret Hart their opportunity to do so. Each and every one of you tonight deserve the best, and I will make sure the best is what you get!” (PARAPHRASED)
Then, the night kicked off with a three way dance which saw the “Neon Ninja” Facade come out victorious while overcoming all odds. The opening match was followed by one of the wildest 8-man tag matches I have ever seen that was not on a Survivor Series card. The overly-entertaining team of Keith Haught, Bronco McBride, Jay Flash and Gregory Iron defeated the Sexy Talented Dudes (STD’s) with various high-risk moves, greatly thought-out double, triple, and even quadruple-team moves, and comedy that had everyone from 5 years old to 75 years old laughing with tears!
The first appearance for LaBar on the evening was with his “new client” Matt Taven. I’ve seen Taven on several occasion’s over the past year and he is one of the great young talent’s in ALL of professional wrestling. The longest reigning Ring of Honor Television Champion was set for battle against the IWC World Heavyweight Champion, Dalton Castle. While this match was third on the card, it was WWE pay-per-view worthy.
With a crowd that was on fire, The Founding Fathers were out next for a match against Asylum and Rocky Reynolds. Again, another match and not a single disappointing moment in the action.
The final match of the first half of the show brought LaBar to the ring once more, this time with the ever so eloquent on the microphone – IWC Super Indy Champion, who prefers to be called the Super Entertainment Champion, RJ City. However, City’s super entertainment on the mic was cut short by the “Excellence of Execution” Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart! This was one of the highlights of my night, not seeing Bret this close, and live, since a house show at the old Civic Arena in Pittsburgh back in the early 90’s. Then, I sat ringside and got a high five from Hart at the end of his match. This time, I sat 7 rows up in the bleachers and took in the sight, the moment, and all the energy of the Hitman’s appearance!
After a great speech to the crowd, in which he thanked the fans for coming out and supporting not only the IWC, but also the Meadville Middle School, Hart then sat in the corner of his nephew Davey Boy Smith Jr. The bout between City and Smith was great, the finesse of City against the power and experience of Smith. When it was all said and done, Smith had scored the pinfall, but in a display of wisdom and creative genius, City was able to ‘plant’ brass knuckles in Smith’s trunks, leaving the ref no choice but to call for a reverse decision and disqualification of Smith, giving City the win.
Next up was intermission, which included the chance to get in to the ring and snap a photo with the Steiner Brothers! I for one have been a fan of the Dog Faced Gremlin and Big Poppa Pump since the late 1980’s! Seeing them live for the first time was awesome. It was also awesome seeing nearly a quarter of the audience take the opportunity for pictures with Rick and Scott. While it did drag on, it also raised money for a great cause!
Following intermission was a one-on-one bout between Bobby Fish and Matt Striker. This match was especially meaningful to me on several levels. For one, I have been privileged over the past 5 months to get to know Striker outside the ring. His knowledge of the business and advice has been priceless. The way he interacts during an appearance, a match, and in person is always professional and with great respect. Not only has he been a guest on CSR, he was also part of our CSR meet and greet in New Orleans at Spirits on Bourbon. Aside from the great insight he shared to the crowd on Bourbon, he takes the time to truly appreciate the fans.
Not only did Striker call up a young fan who attended our event in New Orleans, thanking his father for getting his son in to wrestling, he also met and talked with both Trevor and Amber on Saturday prior to the show. In New Orleans, we gave Matt the background on Trevor and without hesitation he said “please let me know if there is anything I can do.” Sure enough on Saturday afternoon, Matt took significant time to sit with Trevor and learned first hand what Trevor’s story was. From my point of view, there aren’t many in the business I have more respect for than Matt Striker.
Fish and Striker went on to amaze the crowd, even including the referee for several entertaining spots! While Striker took the loss, he will forever be a winner in and out of that 20 by 20 foot squared circle.
Next up was The Steiner Brothers, who joined Jimmy Nuts, to take on Team Big League. Again, seeing the Steiner Brothers for the first time was something I won’t soon forget. All the signature moves, aside from a frankensteiner, were brought out for this one. The classic Rick Steiner “woof woof woof” was heard loud by all. The flexing of the Big Bad Booty Daddy, culminating with an elbow drop, pull up pin, and push-ups made the fans thunderous with applause! Ending this bout was Rick coming off the top rope for a classic Steinerizer!
And then, it was main event time. Making his return to the IWC was “The Sensational” AJ Styles. The two-time IWC Super Indy Champ sqaured off against Anthony Nese in a bout billed “First Time Ever!” Hopefully, it won’t be the last. From bell to bell the action was phenomenal, with moves precisely executed and sold with authority. This was also the first time I saw Styles live and he was everything I thought he would be, and more. The ending to this match was something fit for a Wrestlemania card.
Nese missed a 450 splash from the top rope, to which styles began a vicious comeback with a series of chops and kicks, culminating with a Styles Clash! For 35 seconds, the crowd didn’t know whether to cheer in excitement or stay silent in appreciation. Once Styles secured the one-two-three, the entire venue erupted with cheers. I was fortunate enough to record the finish on my phone and immediately watched it over and over again. Dayna was also very impressed, and perhaps left wanting more of this thing called sports entertainment.
On this night, entertainment was abound with non-stop action, which no doubt “totally” could stand toe-to-toe with a few of the more televised and advertised wrestling companies. After my first and second IWC shows, I was able to appreciate what went in to the events from a behind-the-scenes perspective. Saturday night, I was able to take in the crowd, the action, and the EXCELLENT ENTERTAINMENT! Once again, I would strongly suggest visiting IWCWrestling.com to learn more about the promotion, it’s extremely talented stars, and when you can next see these great young stars in action.