Saturday, December 2, 2017

Wrestlecade 2017 Recap – The Showcase of Champions (Part 1 of 3)


My wife and I spent this past weekend in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, home of Wrestlecade. This was my third year in a row attending the annual event and as usual I got to meet some great wrestlers and watch some fantastic in-ring action. Not everything about the trip was positive, but for the most part I had a blast and am really glad I spent my weekend around my fellow wrestling fans.

Wrestlecade runs the Friday after Thanksgiving through Sunday evening each and every November. This year, some additional shows and events were added to Sunday’s lineup to keep fans in town for the day. I had intentions on being there all weekend, but some issues came up and I went home early Sunday morning, but more on that later. Let’s start off where it all began, Friday afternoon.


I purchased the Superstar Pass for Wrestlecade weekend which entitled me early access to the shows on both Saturday and Sunday, but did not include Friday night’s Showcase of Champions. I had to purchase a separate general admission ticket for that, but it was only thirteen dollars. We arrived around 4:15 PM to stand in line for will call and then lined up for the event that began at 7:00 PM.


It took thirty minutes or so to make it to the front and we were given a ziplock bag containing our two Superstar Pass lanyards and our regular tickets for the Sunday events (The Smokey Mountain Wrestling panel, Queens of Combat event, and AML: The Day After). We were told that we’d be let in at 5:30 PM (which was early admission) because of our Superstar Pass.

The next forty-five minutes went by fast. We grabbed a couple drinks at the concession stand and found a seat at one of the large tables filled with wrestling fans. Seemingly out of nowhere a line began snaking along the wall, so we decided to hop in line since we figured it was for the early admission people.

One of the Wrestlecade attendees was WOW (Women of Wrestling Superheroes). Founded by the creator of GLOW, David McLane. WOW operated from 2000-2002 but went on a long hiatus until 2014. Thanks to the growing popularity of women’s wrestling, and the GLOW Netflix series, earlier this year MGM partnered with WOW to create new unscripted content to be released across a variety of platforms. WOW was in attendance at Wrestlecade to get the word out and shoot footage for the upcoming season.

While standing in line, David McLane helped pump up the crowd to create the opening shot for the TV show, and host Gabby Loren made her way through the crowd interviewing fans and creating scenes for the new show.

Everyone was really nice from WOW and it was nice to see an all-female staff. All the camera people were females and the only males I saw in attendance were David McLane and a few handlers, which was funny since a few of the wrestlers were bigger than the guys handling them.

The WOW production helped the time go by and as 5:45 PM rolled around (fifteen minutes past our time to enter the convention), they started separating the line. One person yelled down the line of hundreds that only rows 1-3 should be in the line that we were in and the rest needed to move to the other side. Fans became upset, because like us, all the SuperStar Passes were told we’d get in early at 5:30 PM, but that was not happening. Fans were yelling back up the line trying to figure out what was going on, but the lack of staff really made things difficult. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to get inside and watch some wrestling, so I happily moved across the lobby and got in line.

We all made it inside and I was delighted to see that some of the talent had already set up tables and were selling merch and honoring photo ops passes. We made a bee line for Caleb Konley since he’s my wife’s favorite wrestler and she was hell bent on buying a shirt. We ended up buying two shirts for her, and she got a picture from the very nice Caleb Konley. I mentioned to him how much I enjoyed the Highspots documentary Caleb Konley vs. Everybody, which I recommend everybody check out. Caleb’s day job is working at Highspots making turnbuckles and ring gear. He told he me actually made all the turnbuckles we’d see this weekend at Wrestlecade, which I thought was some fun trivia. I feel like Caleb channels the work ethic and ability of AJ Styles and just needs a better platform to showcase those skills on. Three minute matches on IMPACT is not where he should be.


From there we went to check out the barber shop set for the Brutus the Barber Beefcake photo ops. I was on the fence about getting a photo with Brutus, because I’m not his biggest fan. But the idea of having a barber shop set fascinated me and I was thrilled to see a high quality display that was perfect for photos. I knew on Saturday I’d be lining up to meet the Beefcake.

WOW had a fantastic set up with all of their wrestlers standing by to take photos with fans. I was only familiar with two of WOW’s roster that was on site for Wrestlecade, Amber O’Neal and Katarina Waters. Sure the WOW ladies were nice, but I wanted to take a picture with David McLane. He was very accommodating and happily put down some stuff he was holding to take a few photos with me.


The convention room was filling up fast, so we decided to go find ourselves a couple of seats.


Wrestlecade rents out the entire bottom level of the Benton Convention Center, which is over 46,000 square feet. Rooms 1-3 where the convention takes place and all of the matches (other than the SuperShow on Saturday night) is 18,300 square feet. The SuperShow takes place in room four which is 27,708 sq feet. Needless to say this is a lot of room for wrestling. However, when you take 18,300 square feet and stick a wrestling ring in the middle of it and then put six rows of chairs on two sides and three rows of chairs on one side, you don’t have much room for anything else. You also don’t have room for a lot of fans, so the chairs were small and packed as tight as possible which made for a very uncomfortable night of wrestling. Luckily, when the lady sat down next me, she apologized for being wide. I told her that was alright because I was wide too, and we sat with our shoulders and knees touching for the next three and a half hours.

Of course, right as I got as comfortable as I could get, I noticed Rosemary was at her table and I decided I wanted to cash in my pre-paid photo op tonight because I knew it would be a madhouse on Saturday. I found my way out of seating and made it over to her table where she was casually chatting with Andrew Everett. I said hi and she signed a photo for me and took a photo op with me as well. She was very nice and it was a joy to meet one of my favorite wrestlers. 



As I made my way back to my seat I noticed The Gymnasty Boyz (White Mike and Timmy Lou Retton) chatting with Willie Mack. I’m a huge White Mike fan, so I made my way over to their circle and politely asked if I could get a photo with White Mike. He was happy to oblige and we took a few selfies and I told him how much I appreciated his in-ring work and how all year long I’d been trying to get a photo with him but things just never worked out right. After the photo, I made my way back to my uncomfortable seat and got ready for some in-ring action. 


The Showcase of Champions is an event where every match is a title match. Independents from across the country send their wrestlers to the Showcase of Champions to battle for the various titles. This year’s participants included: Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling (Texas), West Coast Wrestling Connection (Oregon), House of Glory (New York), AML Wrestling (North Carolina), Modern Vintage Wrestling (North Carolina), Resistance Pro (Illinois), and Wildkat Wrestling (Louisana).

Before the matches began, the commentating team was announced and it included New Japan’s own Kevin Kelly, a late addition to Wrestlecade, but a very exciting addition.

Gino (C) defeated Rex Andrews
 Reality of Wrestling Championship Match


Our opening bout featured two Reality of Wrestling competitors going at it. I was unfamiliar with both participants and found the match to be sufficient, but there was nothing memorable about it. Gino showcased small flashes of lucha, while Rex is an old school down on the mat grappler. I felt like a fourth of this match took place on the mat with Rex attempting to win with an armbar and well… it wasn’t all that exciting.



The Heatseekers (C) with George South defeated The Masons 
AML Tag Team Championship Match


I’ve seen The Heatseekers wrestle a ton in AML, but I’ve never heard of The Masons before. They came out in flashy robes, some royal music. They were such babyfaces it came off corny. Before the match started, George South cut a promo offering to let The Masons leave the ring before they were embarrassed. Too late!

Okay, so a quick sidebar. Since this is my first post here on The Wrestling Insomniac, I feel like I need to explain who George South is and his connection to AML Wrestling/Wrestlecade (which is owned by the same person). George South is a journeyman wrestler who spent most of his career as enhancement talent in the NWA/WWF. He’s a very good worker, even at the age of fifty-five, and from what I’ve heard an amazing trainer. He’s the guy that Ric Flair brought his son Reid to train to. Tessa Blanchard, Cedric Alexander, Caleb Konley, etc. were all trained by George South. He helps with ring set up and runs AML’s wrestling school. George South is no doubt a vital part of AML and Wrestlecade’s success.

With that being said… it’s time George South to get off the mic. His promos are fantastic for first time fans, but once you’ve heard it once, you don’t need to hear it again. They are old school heel promos where anyone in the crowd may be subject to insults. Of course, he’s doing this while wearing an I Love Jesus shirt and trunks, which sends mixed messages. I’ve heard George South cut the same promo half a dozen times this year and it’s really gotten old. He’s got go away heat with my wife and myself and after dropping some borderline racist comments at the Wrestlecade Supershow I think it’s time for Mr. South to stick to training, working backstage, and helping the younger wrestlers develop promo skills. Alright, back to the matches.

So, naturally The Masons refused to leave, and a match began. This was another decent match that ended when Elliott of The Heatseekers nailed on The Masons with the belt. George South jumped into the ring and got some kicks in, and of course, The Heatseekers retained because of the DQ.

I was not impressed with The Masons at all. They are very green and need a new gimmick. I hate that they spent so much money on nice robes, because it just isn’t working for them.



Rosemary vs. Kacee Carlisle
Modern Vintage Wrestling Women’s Championship Match


This was one of my most anticipated matches and it did not disappoint. Kacee Carlisle is a former NWA Women’s World Champ and Rosemary has held the IMPACT Knockouts Title. Both women came to fight and that is exactly what they did. It was a very hard hitting match that featured some fantastic near falls. My wife hates women wrestling, but this match made her a fan. I’ll be honest, I didn’t take a lot of notes, because I was just enjoying the heck out of this. Rosemary got all her stuff in, but ultimately Kacee Carlisle came out on top becoming the first Modern Vintage Wrestling Women’s Champion.




J. Spade (C) defeated Caleb Konley
Wildkat Wrestling Heavyweight Championship Match


These two guys looked like they were made to wrestle each other. Both were built well and have very similar wrestling style. I wouldn’t call it high flying, but it definitely is fast, somewhat air based, and intense. This match was perfectly placed on this card, because it followed up an amazing match and kept the momentum going.

It was at this point in the card that I realized none of these titles were going to change hands. I considered that beforehand, but I just thought something unpredictable might happen and make for an interesting night, but it wasn’t meant to be. There was no way a wrestler based in North Carolina like Caleb Konley was going to win a title for a company located in Louisiana.




Jeff Boom (C) defeated Dickie Mayer
West Coast Wrestling Connection Championship Match


The fun thing about Showcase of Champions is that you get exposed to all sorts of wrestlers you’d probably never see. West Coast Wrestling Connection is based in Salem, Oregon and I had never heard of either Jeff Boom or Dickie Mayer. Boom has a fantastic look and a very respectable set of skills, while Mayer played a perfect overconfident heel. Both guys worked hard and Mayer got the win after using brass knuckles on Jeff Boom following a ref bump.

Kevin Kelly had a ringside view of the rule violation and helped alert referee Jeff Bunton to the foreign object still sitting in the ring. Once the referee put two and two together, he restarted the match which gave Jeff Boom ample time and energy to recover and retain his championship.



Evander James (C) defeated The Human Tornado
House of Glory Crown Jewel Championship Match


The Human Tornado was announced as being the only black cast member of Nacho Libre. I barely remember that movie, so I did a quick Google search and sure enough, The Human Tornado was in it. He’s tall and lanky and has a comedy based character complete with dancing that had everybody laughing. Evander James came out and announced that he is what a true champion looks like, and he was correct. James has an amazing look that is only tarnished by carrying around one the ugliest belts I’ve ever seen, House of Glory’s Crown Jewel Championship. Despite its hideous appearance, when the ref showed the belt to Tornado, he attempted to grab it and run which gave us all a big chuckle.

The match got underway and it was perfectly placed on the card. There was no intermission, and despite the Boom/Mayer match being good, but not great, I was getting a little sleepy. The comedy and skill set that The Human Tornado brought energized myself along with the rest of the crowd as we rooted for the unlikely contender.


Sadly, this got derailed when it seemed as if The Human Tornado injured his leg. The match was cut short and a rather large wrestler came out and carried him to the back. (The Human Tornado was back in action the following day during FanFest.)



Zane Dawson (C) with George South defeated Bu Ku Dao
AML Wrestling Heavyweight Championship Match


George South came out and did his usual shtick, before the match began.

This was a fun match. Zane Dawson is a huge mountain of a man. Over the weekend I heard him weighed in at 270 lbs. and 350 lbs. Either way, he’s a massive guy who I’d have to guess is probably 6’4” while his competitor Bu Ku Dao is 5’0”. Bu Ku Dao came out in Pokemon tights with an anime style hair-do and displayed a high flying offense against the hard hitting big guy.

This was your typical David vs. Goliath match with the crowd firmly behind Bu Ku Dao, which ultimately could not compete with the size and power of Dawson. At one point Dao managed to get a ten count on Dawson, but George South was interfering and the referee missed it.



Brandon Scott (C) defeated Pentagon Jr.
AML Wrestling Prestige Championship Match


Ahhh, the match I was most excited about. Brandon Scott is a real talent. Earlier this year, he had a match on 205 Live and he’s been putting on some fantastic matches against the likes of Axton Ray in AML. The crowd was clearly behind Pentagon and well… he took a beating most of the match.


Of course, he managed to get all of his stuff in, but this wasn’t Pentagon’s night. Brandon Scott kicked Pentagon squarely in the nuts after the ref had taken a bump and Pentagon couldn’t kick out in time, so Brandon Scott retained. Having a bad attitude and all, Brandon Scott decided to kick Pentagon while he was down and this brought Fenix out to defend his brother’s honor. Scott grabbed a mic on his way to the locker room and challenged Fenix to face him for the title at next month’s AML event, which Fenix accepted on the spot.



John Skylar (C) defeated Hurricane Shane Helms
Resistance Pro Championship Match


I haven’t seen Helms wrestle in several years, and wasn’t really sure how this match was going to go. Helms isn’t in fantastic shape, but ring wise he hasn’t missed a beat. Skylar worked a great match against Helms, and the crowd was fully behind The Hurricane. Skylar mentioned beforehand that the last time he was at Wrestlecade he lost to Helms due to interference from his buddies in 3 Count, and despite being aligned with The Extreme Horsemen he would not need their help to beat one man. Of course, he lied, and CW Anderson and Damien Wayne hit the ring just as Helms looked to have it in the bag.




Chet Sterling with J.J. Dillon defeated Rey Fenix, Andrew Everett, and Jason Kincaid (C) Modern Vintage Wrestling Championship Match


This was my first time seeing Fenix and Everett live, and the first time seeing Sterling in a singles match. I figured this might be the second best match of the night, but I was wrong. This match was amazing and by far the best match of the night. These four talented individuals put together a wonderful high flying showcase. I didn’t think Sterling could keep up, but he surprised the hell out of me. Of course, what surprised me the most was him coming out with JJ Dillon, who stood in the entrance way with a smile on his face as these four men redefined what professional wrestling is all about.




This match was building up to be the best match I’ve ever seen live. It was high spot after high spot and the crowd was loving it. Then something happened that cut the match short.

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Earlier in the night, my wife pointed to a lady in the front row across from us who didn’t look like she was happy to be there. She was a little older and looked as if she had been dragged to Wrestlecade by her husband. A couple of times a wrestler hit the barricade in front of her and she looked offended and really upset. Well, as fate would have it, Sterling made a wonderful dive onto Fenix and bounced off him into the front row, where he nailed that lady. The action spilled out into the crowd and away from the front row, but from my vantage point, it looked like that lady became a bit of a drama queen and security and police came over and helped escort her out and you could see officials run to the ring and cut the match short.

Almost in unison, people in our area turned to each other and started saying the same thing, “If you sit in the front row, those are the risks you take.” Hell, the guys in front of us got spit on by Pentagon twice and we were in the fourth row! Of course, it’s up to the wrestlers to keep the fans as safe as possible, but after watching the way this lady overreacted all night long, I don’t believe things were as bad she was making them out to be. She got up and walked out unassisted and well, the fans were pretty pissed off that this amazing match came to an end when it seemed to just start firing on all cylinders. Don’t get me wrong, the match was still great, but another five minutes would have blown the roof off. More than anything, this match made me want to see a Fenix vs. Everett singles match in the upcoming future.


Chet Sterling got the win in the only title change of the night. JJ Dillon cut a promo putting over the amazing show that we had all just witnessed and that was the end of night one of Wrestlecade.




Matches Worth Watching:

1. Jason Kincaid vs Andrew Everett vs Rey Fenix vs Chet Sterling

2. Rosemary vs Kacee Carlisle

3. Brandon Scott vs Pentagon


Final Thoughts:

The first night of Wrestlecade was a huge success. There wasn’t a bad match on the card, although only three really stood out as listed above. All of my interactions with wrestlers were positive and it’s never a bad night sitting four rows back watching wrestling.

Every year Wrestlecade puts on a fantastic convention and several cards of matches that are only tainted by the lack of staff, directions, and organization. This year was no different. There were no signs, no one to manage lines, nor is there anyone around to ask questions. We didn’t get in early with our Superstar Passes despite being told that we would. The inconveniences were only minor on Friday night, but those grew on Saturday which we will get to in the next post.

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