By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Such was the task this past weekend as I set out on the World Tour Nobody Asked For, as I referred to it in one of my live reports. As it goes, the universe aligned and MLW decided to run its Kings of Colosseum TV tapings out of the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia on Friday. Then, on Saturday, New Japan Pro Wrestling ran the second of its most recent American pay-per-views in Washington D.C. as it brought Capital Collision to the nation’s most powerful city. That was followed up Sunday with an early bell time back at the 2300 Arena for a batch of NJPW Strong tapings.
Philadelphia. Washington, D.C. Philadelphia. I live close (enough) to those cities, so this was an opportunity; not a burden. Therefore, I made some contacts and away I went. Through it all, I kept a notepad with me as I chronicled the weekend, so in addition to the live reports I filed over the last three days, I thought I’d share a tiny diary with everyone, complete with time of day at each stop, along with some video I took here and there.
Why? Because who wants a big, old chunk of copy to gnaw through while you’re trying to figure out the best way to start your week? That’s what McGuire’s Mondays are for, damn it.
So, here goes nothing.
1:56 p.m. I set out for Philadelphia from the Maryland suburbs. The map on my phone says I should be at the 2300 Arena by 4:12 p.m. That’s good, I think, because I have yet to hear back from the MLW staff on directions for where to go and what to do upon my arrival. With doors at 6 p.m. and bell time at 7 p.m., I’ll have plenty of time to figure it out, right? Cool.
2:49 p.m. My map adjusts. There’s a wreck on I-95. My phone now tells me arrival is 4:56 p.m. I sweat just a tiny bit more.
5:56 p.m. I pull into the 2300 Arena parking lot. This is after being sidetracked by a police escort (clearly, this was Richard Holiday and Alicia Atout), and being rerouted through what felt like the entirety of Delaware and perhaps half of New Jersey to boot. I head to the box office to find out the press contact has fallen ill, which is why I had not heard anything in recent days. That said, a man named Mike was super kind to help figure things out and explain the situation at hand. I find a seat. I camp out.
6:45 p.m. As the stoic sounds of Stone Temple Pilots and literally every band you see on MTV Classic these days rings through the smokey air, I see a man that looks so much like Paul Heyman I have to do a double, triple, and quadruple take. Reports of Roman Reigns in the crowd were left to be unproven.
7:30 p.m. Gangrel is the first guy out of the curtain with his New New New New New How New Can This Get Brood. He faces Budd Heavy and Buddy (see what I did there?), Budd Heavy continues to get crazy reactions in the old ECW Arena. There’s the Road Warrior pop and then there’s the Budd Heavy at 2300 pop. Sadly, my man loses in less than a minute.
7:46 p.m. Alex Kane and Davey Richards are in the midst of my favorite match of the night. The crowd isn’t as loud here as it will be for other spots to come, but it’s rare these days to see a 20-minute time limit draw that holds all the dramatics like this one did. Kane is going to be around for a very long time and Richards is still Davey Frickin’ Richards. It’s useless comparing any matches on an MLW card and a NJPW and that’s no disrespect to anybody – it’s just different. That in mind, if I have to go with one match that exceeds the others for Friday, this is it.
8:21 p.m. Rivera (a/k/a Danny Limelight) comes out and eviscerates the crowd, Philadelphia and everything in between. The heat is nuclear and the language is abhorrent. Perfect for the ECW Arena.
8:42 p.m. Enter Sandman. Here’s proof.
9:11 p.m. Alexander Hammerstone and Richard Holliday square up for the MLW Heavyweight Championship and this was the most important thing to happen Friday night. Congrats to the MLW team for figuring out that if they want the best crowd they can get for their biggest match, put that match on in the middle of the card, and that’s what they did. Unfortunately, said match is filled with shenanigans, tomfoolery and nonsense, so these two don’t get to reach the level I’m hoping for on this night. With Hammerstone retaining, I continue to wonder who will be the one to someday dethrone him.
9:49 p.m. Taya Valkyrie wins the first MLW Featherweight Championship. Good for her. Her type of WWE run can kill people’s souls if they let it, but she’s come back, fighting as hard as ever. Plus, she looks so happy while doing it. I don’t care what anyone says – she still looks like a star. Maybe now, it can shine.
10:20 p.m. Lince Dorado mocks nZo by doing the nZo dance and to hell with 205 Live.
11 p.m. Jacob Fatu takes a nasty bump in the main event against Mads Krugger and I’m still wondering if he’s OK. In what has to be a metaphor for something, Krugger goes to lay on a table for the finishing spot, but the second he as much as touches it, the table breaks in half and Fatu has to jump from a ladder onto Krugger without really making it special. The show then ends.
11:16 p.m. I send off my report for the night, hop in the car and head back to Maryland, where I’ll find sleep around 4:45 a.m.
6:28 p.m. Meet Lamar Diggs. He’s a professional wrestler, he currently holds some championships, he’s appeared on an episode of AEW Dark, and … he’s rushing me through the outrageously long line to get me into the creatively named Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. for the opening bout of NJPW’s Capital Collision. D.C. traffic is bad. Lamar Diggs is good, and as it turns out, he’s helping the New Japan staff this weekend at both events. He’s been hustling at this wrestling thing for a few years now and if you head to his Twitter page (@lamardiggs_pro), you’ll even see him staring down Lance Archer. If not for him, I would miss the entirety of the dark match between Nick Comoroto and Kevin Knight.
7 p.m. The weird (but fantastic) New Japan “Hey, we’re here!” theme plays over the public address system and here we go. Karl Fredericks and Ran Narita set the tone of the night with a hot opener and it’s quickly clear that the crowd is going to be with this show all night. Also of note: I’m growing more and more in love with Fredericks’s theme and I’m pretty sure he wrote it himself.
8:13 p.m. In an eight-man tag match, Jonah and Jeff Cobb find themselves alone in the ring and this crowd loses its absolute mind for the first time tonight. They interact for only a few fleeting moments, but those moments are electric. It makes me wonder: Do we get Cobb vs. Jonah on Strong? Or do we save this for overseas?
8:27 p.m. Brody King and Minoru Suzuki slap the shit out of each other. No, for real. Check it out.
8:48 p.m. Eddie Kingston and Tomohiro Ishii light up the joint. Wrestling fans will walk through the fire for Eddie Kingston and that’s rarefied air anymore. It’s one thing to see that energy on television; it’s another to experience it live and in person. And while I have before, the New Japan crowd is just different. They’re a little more impassioned, a little more attentive, a little less robotic. These people need Eddie Kingston to win. When he doesn’t, they don’t quite know what to do … until they remind themselves the loss was to Ishii, so all is well. Oh, and these guys slapped each other around, too. Have a look.
9 p.m. We get a Lio Rush sighting. It completely slipped my mind that Rush was from D.C., so this makes sense. I was under the impression he signed a record deal and wrestling was in his past, but perhaps I … well … was under the wrong impression.
9:04 p.m. Lio Rush walks right in front of me and while he has all the swag (I hate that word) in the world, he’s also smaller than I assumed. That’s not disrespect; just an observation.
9:11 p.m. The crowd gets what it paid for: Kazuchika Okada. Once the sound of the coin drops, the place goes mad and it truly is a special feeling. So many of those fans, presumably, have never seen the man in the flesh, and it’s not like New Japan runs shows with frequency across the U.S. He’s taller than I expect him to be and there’s no way his team loses right?
9:24 p.m. Okada’s team loses.
9:28 p.m. Hikuleo is a star.
9:42 p.m. Here we go. The main event. Everyone loves Jon Moxley. Everyone loves Hiroshi Tanahashi. Everyone loves Will Ospreay. Everyone loves Juice Robinson. And everyone loves the match. It’s spot after spot, almost to the point where it feels tad rushed at times. With a 10 p.m. cut-off (maybe?), perhaps they have to get as much as they can in, as quick as they can. Ultimately, the match delivers and Robinson scores the upset (or, at least some might say upset) to win the IWGP U.S. Title. After the match, Juice cuts a promo yelling over and over that he’s rock hard. And it’s kind of funny at first, in a very Juice way, but then, also in a very Juice way, it grows to be a little much before he knows when to stop.
10:05 p.m. Jon Moxley grabs a mic to cut a promo and I’m not sure if this makes air. He thanks the fans and says how much he loves wrestling.
10:18 p.m. I send off my report for the night and head home to catch up with this week’s episode of NJPW Strong to review for this website. I find sleep around 2 a.m.
1 p.m. It’s back in the Party Prius and off to Philadelphia for an early bell time of 5 p.m. This time, the traffic isn’t as obnoxious, but boy, it sure is annoying. Plus, I forgot how much I love Derek Grant’s drumming on Alkaline Trio’s “Good Mourning.” Man, that was a pleasant reminder. Thank you, iPod shuffle function. I felt like I was 19 again.
4:49 p.m. Hey, look. It’s Lamar Diggs again! As soon as I step foot into the 2300 Arena, there he is, yelling at the top of his lungs, asking people to check out the New Japan video game. I head over to say hello and ask him what’s next after this. Turns out, he has to defend two titles next weekend and is working an Atlanta-Georgia-Florida loop. He wasn’t expecting to be at the New Japan shows over the weekend, but as he said, “When they call, you gotta go, man.”
5:09 p.m. The most impressive spot of the weekend happens when Alex Coughlin catches JR Kratos and throws him. Don’t believe me? Take a look.
5:51 p.m. We get our first surprise of the night (excluding Alex Coughlin’s new Vader-esque entrance gear) when Christopher Daniels comes out to make the save for Karl Fredericks as Fredericks is getting beat up by QT Marshall and his boys. The crowd enjoys it very, very much.
5:58 p.m. Danny Limelight attempts to repeat his heat by trying for another scathing promo on the crowd, but … well, this crowd wasn’t really having it. As in, they didn’t care as much as they did Friday. Limelight’s match with David Finlay goes on to be one of the quietest of the night.
6:35 p.m. Willie Mack and Jeff Cobb wake the crowd back up with a very good match that sees Mack shine like a thousand suns on a cloudless day. The crowd is fully behind him, too, as he impresses with an array of showmanship and power. From here, the show never looks back.
7:11 p.m. Homicide bites Will Ospreay and the crowd is here for it. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
7:25 p.m. During intermission, I decide to get up and walk around. Maybe look at the shirts. Perhaps run into Lamar again. But no more than 30 seconds after I start walking, they come right back from intermission. Killer Kross is up first, but everyone is out of their seats doing things, sadly. He pushes through and wins his match via ref stoppage, sans Scarlett.
7:50 p.m. Brody King and Jake Something re-grab everyone’s attention by doing things like this:
8:03 p.m. Minoru Suzuki and Tony Deppen keep everyone’s attention by doing things like this:
8:44 p.m. Fred Rosser becomes the new NJPW Strong Openweight Champion and I’ll tell you what. It’s awfully common for people to mock the notion of long-form storytelling in wrestling these days, but this is the actual definition of it. Rosser defeats “Filthy” Tom Lawlor to become only the second-ever Strong Openweight Champion after nearly a year of a feud that saw Rosser have his hair cut twice and nearly bleed to death during this match. He’s very emotional afterward as he cuts a promo talking about his trials and tribulations in the WWE and if I’m honest, I start to get a tiny tear in my eyes, too. It’s the match of the night and it’s not close.
9:18 p.m. Hiroshi Tanahashi appears for the final match of the night/day against Chris Dickinson. The match is fairly standard, but the questions, as I’ll learn later from Twitter, remain about Dickinson and the recent allegations made against him. It makes for an awkward setting – while I’ve long been a fan of Dickinson’s work, it’s hard to watch him and not have those accusations go through my head. Even so, this match is Tanahashi’s greatest hits, which is all the crowd wants. After the match, he even sticks around to play with some crowd members as they throw an air guitar back and forth.
9:43 p.m. I send off my report for the night and arrive home at about 12:30 a.m.
Postscript: People tend to quantify things like the biggest pop or best match of a show or weekend or whatever, but I’m not really about that. The way you hear and see things may be different from the way I hear and see things. My favorite moments came during Saturday night’s main event, the Rosser win, the Richards match, the Okada appearance, all of Will Ospreay, and the cult leader that is Eddie Kingston. It was a whirlwind, but it was worth it. And if left to my own devices, I’d be happy to start in on three days and 35 more.
But … life.