In 2009, Anarchy Championship Wrestling based out of Austin, Texas started an annual tradition when they promoted the first “American Joshi Queen of Queens” tournament (won by Daizee Haze). I got it and enjoyed it, and really didn’t think much of anything about ACW until the next show came along. This is therefore the first ACW DVD I’ve picked up since then, and the lineup looks stellar – so let’s see if the action delivers.
We start with some sort of skit with a group calling themselves The Submission Squad. I recognise Athena, but I have no idea who the others are. Whoever they are, they are completely annoying. One of them is wearing a belt of some kind, and I assume they’re wrestlers. You wouldn’t necessarily know that to see them. The skit involves someone called Davy Vega who may or may not have had a plane crash and who may or may not have crawled four miles from the wreckage of the plane to get here. One of the guys says “What the hell is going on?”. I agree with this.
Next up is Jessica James backstage. She is apparently a last minute addition to the tourney, and it becomes clear that she’s up against Sara Del Rey. “Crap”, she says. Again, I agree with this comment.
We’re now inside the building, and there are more men that I’ve never seen before talking about things I know nothing about. I hit FF. After three consecutive skits, we get… a skit. This again features Athena and some of the annoying guys from the first skit. All things told, that’s ten minutes of the DVD and I haven’t seen a wrestling ring yet. Oh dear.
Quarter Final Match
Athena vs MsChif
We finally get to the ring, and The Submission Squad are there, introducing Athena. They’re still annoying. A word, by the way, about the production here. It’s a multiple camera shoot, but every camera seems to have a different white balance, so every time we get a switch from one to the other, it has a vastly different video quality. One will be washed out, while the other will be dark. In addition, as the commentators start to talk, their audio is mixed badly, as it seems mixed too loud, and their audio breaks up and distorts. So far, so disappointing – but I’m here for the wrestling, and I’m interested in this match. I’m a fan of ‘Chif, and Athena impressed at her SHIMMER debut, so I’m keen to see what she’s got to offer. MsChif dominates early with several luchariffic submission attempts, but Athena comes back. For her experience level, Athena looks fairly comfortable in there with the well travelled MsChif. Athena actually comes desperately close to picking up a three count with her swank variation on the Back Cracker, as does MsChif with a Rydeen Bomb. From then it’s 2.9 city, until Athena comes off the top for what appeared to be an attempt at a flying Stunner, only to get caught by ‘Chif’s Desecrator for the three count. A pretty fine match, and a creditable performance by Athena. The commentators, by the way, were obnoxious throughout.
Quarter Final Match
Portia Perez vs Daizee Haze
Speaking of commentators, what I’d give to have Portia back behind the mic on this release. Not that she’s not pretty damn good in the ring too. Perez walks out with her SHIMMER Tag Team title like she’s ten feet tall and gets a ton of heat from the crowd. Daizee, by comparison, is beloved. Perez tries to get the jump on Haze, but Haze fires back quickly, going for Perez’ arm. One of the commentators reminds us several times about how turned on he is. Yeah, because that’s what I need to hear, thanks. Guy even goes so far as to make a Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky reference. Yes, in 2010. Match is fairly short and perfunctory. Perez is great as a heel in that she knows her job isn’t to be cheered, so keeps her offence simple and effective. Stomps a plenty. Interestingly, given that Portia’s ¾ length tights are reminiscent of TAKA Michikoku, Portia actually locks on TAKA’s submission finisher, the Just Facelock. Daizee, the defending Queen of Queens champion from 2009, wilts and loses via submission. Given the short length of the bout, I can’t really say much other than it was an effective way to get Portia over.
Quarter Final Match
Jessica James vs Sara Del Rey
James is a tiny ball of energy, and thoroughly likeable. She got into the tournament that morning when Nicole Matthews hit some problems crossing the border. Her opponent is Death Rey herself – arguably the best female wrestler in America today. Hair tied up, Del Rey means business. However, James dropkicks her as she tries to get into the ring and follows up with a cross body. From there it’s a desperate fight for Jessica to overcome the physically far more dominant SDR. Sara makes Jessica pay for her insolence by launching her into ringsiders and proceeding to lay down a beating which includes one of the most vicious looking variations on the Gory Stretch I’ve ever seen. James was never beaten though, and eventually transitions into a rear naked choke… and after an extended struggle, DEL REY TAPS. Wow. Just wow. Cool little bully vs underdog match, and Del Rey tapping out was a pretty incredible upset.
Quarter Final Match
Daffney vs Rachel Summerlyn © For the ACW American Joshi Championship
Daffney had a hand in training Summerlyn and their feud has extended to SHIMMER as well. Rachel is also your ACW American Joshi champion, having ended Athena’s one week reign a mere two weeks ago. Unfortunately for her, the belt is up for grabs at all times during this tournament, so to successfully defend the title, she is going to have to make three defences in one night and win the tournament. The initial phase of this match was a mess, including a kneedrop from Summerlyn that looked like it hit, but given that Daffney didn’t sell and Rachel did, it apparently missed. They appeared to be on two different pages throughout, actually – especially during an outside the ring exchange. Back inside, a close 2.9 count resulted in the bell being rang and the fans booing an apparent botch by the timekeeper – before Daffney hits the Daff Knee from nowhere for the three count. A brutal match. Daffney wins the title and advances into the semi-final, and the assembled fans chant her name. I don’t doubt that both girls tried, but it just wasn’t any good at all.
Next up is a guys match with Mat Fitchett vs Robert Evans. I skipped.
Semi Final Match
Portia Perez vs MsChif
Portia bringing out a Canadian flag to get heat seems almost superfluous, as everything about Perez screams heel. Honestly, her demeanour and character is so good now, that even though she doesn’t have the physicality of a Sara Del Rey, I’d be hard pressed to give you a more effective female heel in North America. Daizee Haze joins the commentary booth (thankfully). This gets the tournament back on track well, with a bout that starts with a brawl around ringside before relocating to the ring. ‘Chif tries everything, from a Rydeen Bomb to a DVD off the top, but Perez would not stay down. Eventually, MsChif tried a standing moonsault, but crashed and burned when Portia moved… and within seconds of hitting, Perez struck by clamping in the Just Facelock. Oh shit. And yes, MsChif taps~! This is how you get a submission hold over. Again, good match. Post match, Robert Evans comes out to the ring and offers to accompany Portia to the finals.
Semi Final Match
Jessica James vs Daffney © For the ACW American Joshi Championship
This is for the American Joshi championship too, as Daffney will be defending. Jessica enters first, and… dammit, there’s Portia Perez. Perez attacks her while she’s standing on the middle ropes, delivers a knee to the back of the head, then knocks her down into the Tree of Woe and dropkicks her right in the face. “She has no more face!!” yells Sara Del Rey from the commentary booth. Ouch. Jessica is knocked into the middle of next week. Surprisingly, Daffney doesn’t take advantage immediately, and waits for the in-ring introductions. Nevertheless, Daff immediately capitalises on Jessica still being discombobulated, and as a result, the match is all Daffney, bar some minor comeback attempts by James. A couple of rollups, and even the Rear Naked Choke (Daff reached the ropes) before a rolling cradle ends with Jessica on top and a three count. “OH MY GOD!” screams Del Rey. Match told a good story though, with Jessica fighting from underneath and pulling out a miracle win… which also gets her the American Joshi title. With all due respect to the Zombie Hot Daffney, Jessica trudges away looking zombified, before being waylaid by Perez and her goons. They beat up James outside the ring, them bring her in where Portia hits her with a superkick and Robert Evans DESTROYS her with a whirlybird. Rachel Summerlyn makes the save before anything else can happen. That was pretty heavy heat.
We then had two guys matches. Scot Summers vs JT Lamotta, then a three-way with C.O.P vs The Takeover vs Team Vexx.
Jessica James (c) vs Portia Perez For the ACW American Joshi Championship
Pre-match, Portia suggests that since Jessica has been taken out, she’ll walk in and be crowned champion by default. She comes out, sans goons, and Jessica James’ music plays. No Jessica. The music changes… and we have the appearance of… Lady Poison. The commentators put two and two together and realise that the two have always been one in the same… possibly…
Lady Poison © vs Portia Perez For the ACW American Joshi Championship
This is a war. Lady Poison starts destroying Perez. The fans chant “You Fucked Up”, but as the commentator points out, this is a chant directed at Portia, who made the mistake of awakening the character of Lady Poison inside Jessica James. They end up going out into the parking lot, then back in to the building. You know when I said earlier that Jessica was a likeable ball of energy? Not so for Poison, who is slow, deliberate and violent… if not a little kinky too, as she tenderly strokes the face of Portia while simultaneously choking her out. The change in demeanour is brilliant. Very Keiji Mutoh/Great Muta, which certainly appears to be the heavy inspiration here. Robert Evans interference allows Perez to take control, leading to a moment where Portia delivers the same combination of neckbreaker/tree of woe/dropkick that she did before Jessica’s semi-final… only this time, Lady Poison gets straight up to her feet, “like a modern day horror movie” (to steal a line from the commentator.) Brilliant. They go back and forward again, and Portia even gets the Just Facelock on, but Poison gets to the ropes. Further interference by Portia’s goons lead to Perez superkicking Poison for the… two count? The referee holds the count up momentarily, then counts 1,2,3. Portia Perez is your 2010 American Joshi Queen of Queens tournament winner, and new ACW American Joshi champion. She and Evans celebrate by re-creating Leo & Kate in Titanic. Bless.
There’s another ten minutes of skits at the end, but in amongst that there’s a brief victory speech by Perez “I’m goin’ to Six Flags, baby!” and a skit with Rachel & Jessica. Jessica feigns complete ignorance of even being *in* the tournament at all… having no knowledge of even her QF or SF matches. This unsettles Rachel, who wants her to admit that that she and Lady Poison are one in the same. Jessica refuses. Even when Rachel asks Jessica about the green paint on her arm (a clear leftover from the Lady Poison costume), Jessica laughs it off. Rachel makes Jessica promise not to screw her in their upcoming tag title match. By all rights I should probably hate the skit as it makes so little sense (it would be one thing if Lady Poison wore a mask, for example), but it was played so nicely between the two girls that really, I couldn’t hate it. Jessica seemed so sweet, and Rachel seemed so earnest that I give that skit a pass.
The bottom line
There are positives and negatives here. I’ll get the negatives first, as overall I enjoyed the DVD and overall it gets a thumbs up – but the negatives shouldn’t be ignored. By far the biggest problem was the production. Having been involved in aspects of producing a home DVD of indy wrestling, I know that even with the best will in the world, there can be major production issues that you just don’t realise until you end up looking at the footage the next day – and I believe that’s probably what happened here, with every camera giving a different shade and the commentary mix being distorted. Thankfully I was able to ignore that as best I could and enjoy the show, but it’s still a pretty disappointing first impression. Also, starting and ending with ten straight minutes of skits? That’s a personal thing, I suppose, but it didn’t work for me – especially at the beginning. A lot of it – especially for a non regular ACW viewer – is just confusing, and this disc more than most would seem to me to be the sort of disc that will pick up more first time or casual viewers than a regular release.
But we’re here for the wrestling, aren’t we? And thankfully that was for the most part really good. Again, I will reiterate my disappointment with the Daffney vs Rachel Summerlyn match, but that was the only match that I actively disliked. Everything else worked for me. Portia Perez was put over huge by defeating last year’s tournament winner Daizee Haze and longtime SHIMMER champion MsChif with her Just Facelock, as well as picking up the American Joshi title. A dominant performance. If Portia Perez radiates “heel”, then Jessica James radiates “babyface” to an equal degree, and her desperate fights against Del Rey and Daffney were both a lot of fun – and the twist with Lady Poison was very well executed. The distinct change in character, movement and moves between Jessica and Lady Poison is marked. Decent performance by Athena in the opening round too, to further the positive impression she left me at SHIMMER last October.
A recommendation. If you can make it through the bewildering skits and the initial uneasy impression you get from the production, and you get into the meat and potatoes of the wrestling, you’ll be carried along nicely with the tournament-long stories and smart work. There aren’t really any blowaway “you must buy the DVD for this match!” encounters (probably the Perez/MsChif match comes closest for me), but it is a strong release full of interest, intrigue and fun. Pick it up.
– Stew Allen