GCW Prelude to Survival ("In Too Deep" & "Life Goes On") Review
That's right ladies and gents and nonbinary friends, it's time for another weekend of amazing action from Game Changer Wrestling. I've made no secret about what a huge mark I've become for GCW and here we are again with two more stacked shows full of some of the best wrestling you're likely to see anywhere, including several qualifying matches for the big annual Tournament of Survival--an entire tournament of deathmatches! So without further ado, let's get right to marking out for all the amazing action...
GRINGO LOCO DEF. ASF, DANTE LEON, SHANE MERCER, JIMMY LLOYD, DRAGO KID, & AXTON RAY
It's scramble time! Honestly, this wasn't one of their best. Very typical, insane GCW scramble match stuff for the most part--not necessarily a bad thing that these matches pretty consistently give you what you expect--but there were a few moments that missed the mark. For one thing, as much as I love ASF and as amazing as he is to watch for all the big, crazy risks he takes, there are definitely times where those risks don't pay off and there were a couple of those in this match. Still, the shoulder-standing destroyer was wild as hell and he's super fun to watch. I really liked that everyone attacked Shane Mercer at the opening bell because he has a tendency to dominate these matches and he definitely got his time to shine. Another guy who was very impressive here--and all weekend--was Axton Ray, especially his one cool sequence with Gringo Loco. Definitely would love to see more of him in GCW and I know I'm not alone in that. Also, even though I've been informed that it's not the same guy who was Drago in Lucha Underground, I still love to see Drago Kid continuing the lineage of the world's last living dragon and he got some great spots to shine as well. Unfortunately, the finish of Gringo (seemingly) powerbombing Shane off the top rope was botched pretty badly and Mercer basically Mysterio'd Gringo but Gringo got the pin. I have to say, as much hype as I've seen around Gringo Loco, I've seen him wrestle a few times and he doesn't do much for me at all. I love his size for a high-flyer but a lot of things he does don't seem particularly crisp and much like ASF I think there are times when he writes checks his butt can't cash with some of the crazy moves he tries. I'm open to changing my mind, though!
JORDAN OLIVER DEF. MASHA SLAMOVICH -- ★★★★½
This was a hell of a match, as expected from two of the top talents in wrestling. It starts with a lot of methodical mat wrestling, no wasted motion. Very smart opening in my opinion, two very explosive wrestlers with a lot of mat skills trying to feel each other out. Oliver gets the upper hand early by targeting Masha's left knee, also very smart when facing an explosive opponent. Masha's first fire-up is EXCELLENT, incredibly efficient and her fluidity maneuvering through all of those moves was super impressive. Jordan attacked the right leg to cut it short but she fought through for a plancha and took control, leading to a forearm battle that got away from Masha and allowed Oliver to take control with a flurry of moves. Masha fought back with some very well-placed kicks but an incredible series of reversals led into a crab by Oliver. The finish was a delight, a back-and-forth sequence of both throwing BOMBS which ultimately led to Oliver hitting Orange Crush for the win. Really phenomenal stuff.
ALEX ZAYNE DEF. ACH
I was very excited for this one and it started out nicely with a fun exchange followed by a lot of ground game early on with some NASTY chops. I have to say, ACH is so goddamn smooth and so versatile, he really is all of the money and I hope he gets all the flowers he deserves. Unfortunately this one gradually started to go off the rails with some really not great botches by everyone including the ref and ended up being kind of a huge clusterfuck which is very disappointing from two guys who are on such a high level right now. I hope ACH gets a chance to redeem himself very soon--Alex Zayne would get that chance the next night...
SGC (Matthew Justice, Mance Warner, & AJ Gray) DEF. BUSSY 4:20 (Effy, Allie Katch, & Grim Reefer)
Oh man. Okay. So. This was supposed to be Bussy vs. SGC vs. Briscoes for the tag titles but Mark Briscoe's wife unexpectedly had to be rushed to the hospital with complications with her pregnancy so Mark and his wife and their families are definitely in our prayers. But as for the match, as GCW always does so well, they had to come up with a replacement on the fly and boy did they ever. It seemed like it was going to just be Bussy vs. SGC but since I assume the plan for this match was to continue the SGC/Briscoes beef by having them cost each other the titles, they decided to do something a little different and a little more special. AJ Gray came out unannounced and informed Bussy that this match was now a 3-on-3 and told them they needed to find a partner. So Allie takes the mic and says "you think we don't have friends? Have you ever heard of BUSSY 4:20???" HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! Bussy joined forced with GRIM FUCKING REEFER to form BUSSY 4:20!!! I dunno if they've done this before but it was my first time and I was already pretty baked and in the middle of another bong load so I popped my goddamn tits off and filled my room with weed smoke for this absolute treat. Of course Grim Reefer passed the joint to Allie and Effy and did all his super fun spots, keeping the joint in his mouth for an incredibly impressive amount of time. As for the rest of the match, SGC controlled things most of the match (with the exception of one crazy ass tower of doom suplex) and ultimately was too much for Bussy 4:20 but let's be honest, Bussy 4:20 were the real winners here. So yeah, this was absolutely undeniably my motherfucking jam and I am definitely BUSSY 4:20 4 LYFE!!!
BLAKE CHRISTIAN DEF. BIFF BUSICK -- ★★★★¾
Another match that had to be changed last minute for very different, much darker reasons as Chris Dickinson pulled himself from the event after accusations of domestic violence and abuse surfaced against him. But hey, silver lining, we get this amazing matchup between two of the best independent wrestlers around and it most certainly did not fail to live up to the hype. This absolutely ruled from the opening bell with some really fun back and forth leading to Blake eating a chair which took the match all around the Showboat, leading to Biff eating a backdrop onto two audience chairs and a SICK dropkick by Blake Christian with Biff seated in a chair. Eventually Biff took control but Blake absorbed his strikes and brought his own flurry. I don't know what else to say about this match other than these two guys are just so ridiculously good at their jobs. The finish was straight up brutal with Blake Christian hitting a sort of step-up curb stomp push-kick to the back of Biff's head which both gave Blake the win and blasted open the back of Biff's head the hard way. Fucking gnarly. After the match, Blake Christian grabbed the mic yet again but this time he called out Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA, and Jon Moxley (for the GCW title) before his now-customary call-out to Johnny Gargano.
"SPEEDBALL" MIKE BAILEY DEF. JOEY JANELA -- ★★★★★
I tell you what, there may be no more compelling shoot storyline in wrestling right now than the insane two-man race between "Speedball" Mike Bailey and Blake Christian for Breakout Star of the Year. It seems like almost every week both of these guys are making pure magic happen in the ring and tonight was no different as they went back-to-back and this match was truly special. Speedball tried to shake hands to start but Joey flipped him off so Speedball just went HAM on him. The two traded STIFF forearms with Speedball scoring a knockdown on Joey and after some back and forth Speedball suplexed Joey to the outside which looked wild and amazing. Bailey hit a ton of amazing kicks on the outside but Joey ultimately took control. Bailey had some really phenomenal hope spots throughout though and MAN this guy is exciting to watch and just as you're thinking that, next thing you know Speedball hits a MOONSAULT DOUBLE KNEE THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE. Yes, the MIDDLE of the table, as in the frame of the table held up and there was just a big hole in the middle of the table. Legit one of the coolest fucking things I've ever seen. Eventually, though, Janela took control again when Speedball took too long setting up his next move. Joey hit a "smile and tongue driver" on the apron and an elbow drop but Speedball kicked out. After some back-and-forth Janela dropped Speedball on his head multiple times with a german and a piledriver and Speedball kicked out AGAIN. Speedball just would not die! Joey tried to put Speedball away with a resounding package piledriver but SPEEDBALL KICKED OUT AT ONE AND HIT RAPID-FIRE KICKS. Holy fucking SHIT this dude is so exciting to watch. Ultimately, Speedball won with shooting star double knees and Flamingo. Unbelievable match, just brilliant pro wrestling on all fronts.
CHARLES MASON PROMO
This asshole. I have to say that I have not even seen Charles Mason wrestle for a single second yet and I already love this guy. The whole gimmick and presentation and his execution of it is phenomenal. He cuts a great promo about how he wants to murder all the poor people and that's the only reason he's even in this place associating with criminals and drug addicts and poors (with Nick Gage sitting on commentary) and almost like magic that was all it took for the crowd to become absolutely FERAL for a potential Charles Mason vs. Nick Gage match and boy oh boy when that match happens it's going to pop off almost as hard as Gage vs. Matt Cardona.
HOODFOOT DEF. AKIRA (Tournament of Survival Qualifier) -- ★★★★½
The first of the T.O.S. qualifying match and it was a fucking doozy. I already loved Hoodfoot but this was my first time seeing Akira and I was VERY impressed with the way he blends wrestling moves and strong style strikes with deathmatch wrestling in a creative and sadistic way. The match starts off in style with a GUSSET PLATE CHOP BATTLE HOLY SHIT plus a whole other sequence with the gusset plates which was insanely sick and creative. It started getting a little messy in the middle but then Hoodfoot headbutted a fucking light tube on Akira's head (that was so fucking cool omg) and sent him into the ladder a few times but Akira fired up a comeback by hitting Hoodfoot with a FOREARM INTO A LIGHT TUBE followed by a KNEE INTO A BUNDLE OF TUBES and then Hoodfoot pulled out a MOTHERFUCKING WEEDWHACKER HOLY FUCK. Ultimately Hoodfoot picked up the win because, well, duh, look at this guy, how are you gonna NOT put him in T.O.S.? But I was very impressed with Akira and can't wait to see him again soon. Overall a really creative, insane, well-orchestrated bloodbath.
SLADE DEF. SAWYER WRECK (Tournament of Survival Qualifier)
This was my first time getting to see the amazing Sawyer Wreck and I definitely was not disappointed. Sawyer does NOT FUCK AROUND--but then again neither does SLADE. This was kind of a short, bloody burst PACKED with violence that ended with SLADE choking Sawyer out but while it lasted it went about as hard as it gets. Maybe one of the best under-ten-minute deathmatches you'll ever see. Definitely wish Sawyer had gotten the win here because I'd love to see her in T.O.S. but SLADE is definitely a good consolation prize, let's be real.
JOHN WAYNE MURDOCH DEF. COLE RADRICK (Ultra Violent Championship)
Going into this match I was a fan of JWM but had never been too impressed by Cole Radrick but Cole definitely turned me around here. At the start it was mostly a pretty by-the-numbers deathmatch, especially when JWM was in control, with Cole looking very sympathetic and getting turned into hamburger but eventually Cole gets a really good fire-up that gets him going and absolutely goes off. Cole was a certifiable madman here and simply would not die...until he did. I don't think I've ever seen so many light tubes in one match, the mat was pure broken glass by the end of the match. JWM picks up the win because of course he does but I would love to see Cole get a run with the Extreme title or something very soon.
ASF DEF. ALEC PRICE
Yet again circumstance gets the best of GCW as the originally-planned Tony Deppen vs. ASF match had to be scrapped due to travel issues for Deppen. I was definitely disappointed as I was really looking forward to seeing what Deppen could have done with ASF but as always GCW threw together an awesome last-minute replacement. This was my first time seeing Alec Price and the thing that really stood out to me was his character work in the ring, especially the parts of the match where he was prone to getting distracted by the crowd which, as Veda Scott pointed out on commentary, is a common occurrence with Price. The match itself was a nice quick burst--ASF got to do his thing, Price got to do his. A very good placeholder match but I still can't help wishing we got to see whatever Deppen and ASF had in mind for this spot.
ALEX ZAYNE DEF. DANTE LEON
I was very interested to see how Zayne would bounce back after a bit of a rough showing the previous night and he and Dante definitely did not disappoint. After a very fun opening sequence full of all the things you'd expect from these two, Zayne once again slowed down the pace and I think it's so interesting that Zayne (seemingly intentionally) continues to do some of his (kayfabe) best work when he slows down the match and uses a methodical approach even though his natural instinct is to go fast. Once things get kicked up a notch, however, these two go all out as you'd expect. I loved the crazy springboard Spanish Fly in the corner by Dante as well as Dante eating a nasty knee out of the Inside Out Cutter for a very close nearfall. Ultimately Dante takes a risk that doesn't pay off and Zayne hits Taco Driver for the win. Excellent showing by both guys and a great bounce back for Alex Zayne.
BUSSY DEF. AKIRA & JOHN WAYNE MURDOCH (GCW Tag Team Championships)
Another Bussy title match, another amazing, compelling, dramatic underdog tag match--but this time it's a deathmatch. I love how Bussy have been wrestling so many different styles of matches during their title run but always more or less the same type of match--getting the shit beat out of them most of the match and clawing their way back to find a way to win. Really great stuff. Allie in particular took some NASTY shit here including a light tube in her mouth which never fails to gross me out (in a good way). The finish sees Allie accidentally take out Effy and JWM and then piledrive Akira straight to goddamn hell for the win as Effy and JWM continue fighting to the back after the match.
SHANE MERCER DEF. JIMMY LLOYD (Tournament of Survival Qualifier)
This was just so much fucking bloody disgusting fun and continued Shane Mercer's unbroken streak of being the coolest, most badass motherfucker in GCW. The match gets off to fast start as Lloyd doesn't even let Emil finish before light-tubing Mercer but Mercer shrugs it off and immediately takes control with a VENGEANCE. A really brutal, violent, fun match between these two with the highlight of the match definitely being the return of the weedwhacker only to have Shane Mercer NO-SELL THE DAMN WEEDWHACKER AND PULL OUT A FUCKING MACE. God I love wrestling. Admittedly, I thought it was pretty much a slam dunk to put Jimmy Lloyd in T.O.S. but I was pleasantly surprised to see Shane Mercer pick up the win here and I am beyond stoked to see Mercer get a really awesome run in the tournament and I'll be rooting for him to win the whole damn thing because he's long overdue for that level of rub in GCW.
AJ GRAY DEF. GRINGO LOCO, COLE RADRICK, MARCUS MATHERS, DRAGO KID, & AXTON RAY (GCW Extreme Championship)
This I thought was kind of a genius idea. GCW scramble matches are always super fun and crazy spotfests but they're also pretty reliably most of the same stuff every time. Here they mix it up in a couple ways, the chief of which is to add some stakes to the match by making it for the GCW Extreme Championship. I LOVE that. The other thing they did which I think was an extension of that was that the structure of the match was different, at least at the beginning, with Gray and Radrick starting the match as everyone else watched from the outside. A very interesting dynamic (and a great chance for Cole, who got a huge chance to shine the previous night, to get a little more time to shine) that continued for a while with everyone picking their spots and I LOVE the psychology of that, especially when this match is for a title, so of course you're going to be a little more careful and methodical in your approach when the stakes are high. Eventually, of course, it devolves/evolves into a more typical GCW scramble because if it ain't broke don't fix it, and we get some super cool shit like Drago Kid walking from Gringo's shoulders to Axton's, jumping to the ropes and doing a tornillo to the floor. I love Drago Kid, definitely hope we get to see more of him. I was also very impressed by Marcus Mathers, including his comedy spot chopping AJ to no avail and ending with a pat on the shoulder instead before getting chopped out of his boots. AJ Gray fucking destroying everyone to win the match feels like the right call (he is, after all, "The Motherfucking Truth") but, again, after last night, I would have loved to see Cole get a huge title win here. Still a really awesome match and one of the best GCW scramble matches in recent memory.
THE S.A.T. (Joel Maximo & Jose Maximo) DEF. NICK WAYNE & JORDAN OLIVER
This was really cool. I had never seen or heard of The S.A.T. before and didn't realize until the announce team mentioned that they apparently invented the Spanish Fly? Very fucking cool. I really enjoyed watching them work, especially their move called the "washing machine" which is sort of this double stretch muffler faceplant that looks super cool. And of course it's always a pleasure to watch Jordan Oliver and especially Nick Wayne (who apparently had to sweet talk airline personnel into letting him fly [first class, no less] from Seattle, where he wrestled late the previous night for Defy, to Atlantic City for this match) both of whom were very honored to share the ring with two guys who were such a huge influence on them. In a very cool moment, S.A.T. picked up the win with a crazy DOUBLE Spanish Fly off the top rope. Really fun stuff.
JOEY JANELA DEF. MASHA SLAMOVICH --
God damn this was a phenomenal fucking match. I honestly struggled with whether to give this five stars or not and I'm still debating in my head but for now I'm sticking with 4.75 stars. We start with Masha going RIGHT into a forearm battle and then they trade a running elbow by Joey and a running boot by Masha and then into a slap battle that Masha wins with a spinning back fist and a flurry of strikes but Joey takes control with a headbutt. Masha gets a great hope spot with a spinning heel kick and a brainbuster but it's cut short and Joey hits a rolling palm strike up to the top rope but Masha comes back with a shotgun dropkick and a tope suicida. This whole match was so much amazing back-and-forth and the finish was an absolute masterpiece--Masha instigates another slapfight, hits another backfist and a couple axe kicks followed by a VERY innovative deadlift powerbomb for a nearfall, bodyslams Joey into a chair for a nearfall, Joey powerbombs Masha through the door for a nearfall, Masha hits an ocean cyclone through a door for a nearfall, Joey tries to put her away but takes too much time and Masha catches him out of a suplex into a sleeper but Joey slams her on the apron, lines her up, Masha flips him off and hits a flurry of moves but Joey catches her in the MOTHER OF ALL SUPERKICKS for the win. Unbelievable. Screw it I'm going five stars. After the match, Joey says he learned so much in AEW not just for him but for the GCW locker room and then says AEW didn't know what to do with him--which is fair, I think both sides were better off going their separate ways as so much of what makes Joey great just doesn't necessarily translate to a mass audience or to wrestling on television. More power to him because his past few weeks in GCW he has been putting on non-stop bangers and definitely made a believer out of me.
MATT TREMONT DEF. BRANDON KIRK (Tournament of Survival Qualifier)
I didn't have a whole lot of frame of reference for this one having never really seen either of these guys in action but then Matt Tremont showed up and he apparently has a PERMANENT HOLE IN HIS FOREHEAD from deathmatches and holy moly is that ever a visual. Tremont is completely dominant early on but it doesn't take long before he takes gussets straight to the hole in his head and starts absolutely LEAKING blood, good lord almighty. One spot I really dug was Kirk lodging a light tube in Tremont's mouth before hitting knee to the back of the head. But this match for the most part was all Tremont. He spent a lot of the match just destroying Kirk with light tubes before hitting a ura-nage into the glass but Kirk kicked out at ONE and asked for more! As much as it was all Tremont for most of this one, Kirk took everything Tremont had to give and gave it right back, light tubes upon light tubes, glass sticking out of Tremont's fucking head, but ultimately Tremont put Kirk through the light tube structures with a DVD and hit two more DVDs on the glass for the win. An incredibly violent ending to one of the most violent weekends of GCW in a while.