I can’t say that I watch a lot of Anarchy Championship Wrestling – though I keep up with storylines and results, as it does well at producing episodic shows – but after watching last year’s American Joshi Queen of Queens tournament, I made a promise to myself that I would buy this year’s event and give it a watch. After all, last year – in its second annual outing – it firmly established itself as being one of the best tournaments in the western world. Even though I covered the results as they happened back in June, I wanted to see how it all went down, so I put my money down at Smart Mark Video and waited in anticipation of its arrival. Last Saturday, it arrived – while I was at a wedding in Italy, no less, so I had to wait until I got back two days later to slap it into the DVD player.
The first thing that you notice is the cover, which is clean and simple, featuring Amanda Fox and Serena Deeb. Last year’s edition featured a full-on Alice In Wonderland spoof featuring the participants taking up the different roles, so it was a nice change to present something different this year around. The discs – while DVD-Rs – also have a professional look to them, with the DVD cover image replicated on them. Thumbs up for first impressions.
There are more compliments to be extended, too. The opening montage introducing the show was very ACW – gritty, raw and emotional – and the official photos in the ring before the tournament was used to produce a nice angle. Portia Perez – looking and acting very different to how she does in places like SHIMMER and Squared Circle Wrestling – attacked fellow participant Lillie Mae with the wrench that she carries around with her, breaking her nose and putting her out of the tourney. Here in ACW, Perez is cold, calculating, devious and dangerous. She is easily the most intimidating woman on the roster.
Perez starts the tournament off with her aide Super Electro by her side by taking on QOQ debutante Mia Yim, who sends Perez to the outside with some well placed kicks, but Portia responded with forearms and chokes to take over, before getting a bigger advantage with a bulldog, DDT and dropkick in quick succession. Yim fought back with a guillotine choke to wear Portia down, but suffered when she made a leap from the top, as Perez nailed her in the guts with the wrench while the referee was out of position, then applied the Just Facelock for the tap out.
By now, you can tell that the commentary and camerawork is a massive improvement on last year. 12 months ago, the audio was impossible to follow as it was peaking off the scale, and every camera had a different white balance, so the lightings varied inbetween cuts. This time, the commentary is interesting and an addition to the action rather than detracting from it, and the visual is sorted out too. Progress is always great.
QOQ debutante number two takes to the ring with Christina Von Eerie meeting former American Joshi Champion Rachel Summerlyn in a building-wide brawl, vastly different to the opening contest, which mostly took place inside the ring. At one point, Von Eerie and Summerlyn sat face to face on chairs in the ring and took turns hitting and headbutting each other. It could have looked really silly, but their intensity helped to make it come alive. Christina then kicked out of Rachel’s Best Of Both Worlds (moss-covered, three-handled, family gredunza) but fell to the subsequent Gory Bomb in a great match. Von Eerie has a habit of making a great first impression – she did the same at SHIMMER two months previous, and it was more of the same in ACW.
Lillie Mae was replaced in the next first round match with Angel Blue (whose theme music is Eiffel 65′s Blue, which makes her awesome) who fought Athena in a heel on heel contest. Despite this, Athena gets the support of the ACW faithful, and takes the win in rapid order with a double knee attack from the top, known as Chocolate Rain. Then came the match of the night.
Five Star Amanda Fox had already defeated Serena Deeb once in ACW with an O’Connor Roll, and this point was hammered home by the commentary team. That’s a good thing, as we now know that this snotty 19-year old with half a shaved head pinned the well-travelled, more experienced Deeb with a roll-up. Not only was Serena out to win Queen Of Queens, she was looking to avenge that loss in the process.
Now, Fox is nothing much to look at. Pretty standard gear, pretty plain looking and a hairstyle that looks like it’s only half-finished. But holy crap, she is one hell of a prodigy, and she needs to be booked everywhere next year, as she is a fantastic wrestler and carries herself in a way that you don’t see out of some ten year veterans. She starts the match by spitting in Deeb’s face and running to the outside, but suffers from Serena looking to teach her a wrestling lesson by going for her arm for a good few minutes while talking trash to her for the bulk of the time. However, she came unstuck when she went for the spear, only for Fox to get out of the way, and her second, High Roller Hayze pulled Deeb to the floor.
Back inside, Fox hits the most original senton that I’ve ever seen – so much so that I’m not even going to attempt to explain it, and you just have to see it for yourself – and then proceeds to repeatedly kick Serena in the head. An attempt at an O’Connor Roll only garners a two, much to Fox’s disbelief, but comes unstuck while attacking her opponent in the corner. Rallying back, Deeb runs along the apron to nail Fox with a massive spear, sending both to the floor of Hooligan’s in Live Oak, Texas, but only gets a near-fall when the pair get back into the ring. Another O’Connor Roll attempt by Five Star fails, as does a repeat of that wacky senton. Serena’s third spear attempt is reversed into a third O’Connor Roll, which she reverses so Fox’s shoulders are down, but Hayze shoves Deeb so Fox rolls back on top for the upset pinfall in one of the best matches I’ve seen this year.
An emotional return to ACW for Daffney followed in what was her first appearance in the promotion since the 2010 QOQ where she won and lost the American Joshi title as part of her journey in the tournament. She called out JT LaMotta, who was making a point of wrestling the women and beating/embarrassing them. To counteract his misogynistic ways, she put him against then-American Joshi Champion Lady Poison, and the two engaged in a fine match which suffered from being too long.
Unlike most intergender matches, Poison started on the offensive before falling victim to LaMotta’s power, but fought back with a DDT, enziguri, handstand kick and facebuster before delivering the Poison Kiss for the pin. Had this been a little shorter, it may have been a lot more fun, but it dragged in the middle before Poison’s comeback.
Speaking of going too long, the same can be said about Summerlyn v Perez in the first semi-final of the tournament. Rightly starting at a slower pace due to their fatigue from the first round, their history in the promotion and Portia’s tendency to cheat, the pair started out chain wrestling, with Perez working on Summerlyn’s arm, much like Serena Deeb did with Amanda Fox. A little flurry where both went for their finishers (Summerlyn went for the Texas Cloverleaf while Perez missed a superkick) before returning to a slower pace and more technical wrestling. Rachel’s attempts to speed the contest up resulted in them trading punches before wiping each other out with stereo cross-bodyblocks. Summerlyn got a near-fall with the Best Of Both Worlds but then ate a superkick for a long two count.
Portia’s attempt to go for the wrench is thwarted by Rachel who goes to use it herself but suffers a second superkick.
And at this point, a dish of revenge was served at absolute zero.
Super Electro got into the ring to confront Portia, only to remove his mask and reveal himself to be Robert Evans – the man who expressed his love for Perez, only for him to reject his advances. To the roar of a flagging audience – which was understandable, considering the heat in the building due to the heat of Texas in June – Perez was felled with a Wonderful (a mix between a Tombstone and a Styles Clash) and wrapped up by Summerlyn into a Texas Cloverleaf for the tap out, leaving Portia alone, broken and humiliated. Weighing in at more than 20 minutes, this would have been a great final match. However, it was a semi-final, and there was more to come.
Heel Athena took the babyface role again in her semi-final with Amanda Fox, with Five Star attacking the Wrestling Goddess before the bell. Athena responded with a springboard clothesline but ended up on the back-foot again when Fox hit a Northern Lights suplex and a triangle choke. A missile dropkick by Fox connected but did more harm than good, and Athena went on the attack with an enziguri and handspring back kick into the corner but could only get a two from the Chocolate Rain. Undeterred, Athena locked in a hammerlock-based submission hold to get the tap out and advance to the finals. Makes sense really – Fox’s big bragging rights came from beating Serena, so it’s better to push Athena through to the last two.
Just a quick note on Athena: she needs to become a babyface soon. Her arsenal of great high-flying and gymnastic moves is begging for a crowd to applaud with fever rather than with begrudging respect. She has a body awareness in the air that is unmatched in North America, and deserves to be celebrated.
Two male matches followed with Davey Vega retaining his ACW Heavyweight Championship over Darin Childs and the DGF Army defeating the Takeover before Athena and Summerlyn continued their rivalry, with the winner being crowned the third annual American Joshi Queen Of Queens.
In January, Athena beat Summerlyn in a 10,000 thumbtacks match at Guilty By Association 5, and then cost Rachel a victory over JT LaMotta two weeks before Queen Of Queens. Even if you didn’t know that, it’s explained in the commentary, which once again does exactly what it’s meant to do – flesh out the story for the viewer, especially ones who may only drop into ACW for Queen Of Queens like myself. Weirdly, Athena offers her hand at the start, only for Summerlyn to swat it away and goes on the attack. Despite a flurry of kicks by Athena, Rachel is in control, and hits who Gory Bombs, only for the second of which to cause Athena to fall out of the ring, where the Wrestling Goddess connects with a headscissors. Rallying back, Summerlyn hits a fisherman suplex and a Best Of Both Worlds onto a chair. Back in the ring, a Summerlyn suplex causes the audience to go into fever pitch, with both recovering enough to exchange punches and forearms on their knees before spilling to the outside again, where a third Gory Bomb and Texas Cloverleaf earns Rachel a tap out and gives her the Queen Of Queens title that she has earned over the last three years.
Too exhausted to celebrate, Rachel breaks down in tears while delivering her thanks, with her ACW Tag Team Championship partner Jessica James celebrating by her side.
Presentation-wise, this was a much stronger DVD than last year. As mentioned earlier, the production is better, the visual issues have been resolved and the commentary is good – though guest commentators Mia Yim and Daffney didn’t add a huge amount, while Summerlyn contributed a shedload of drama when she was an orator.
However, my criticism of the show is that it was too long (four hours), and tried too hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tournament and is certainly worth your money. The issue is that it sets out to produce a strong match each time, and it leads to a certain amount of over-saturation by the time Portia v Rachel takes place. I’m not going to say that the event is bad, as it really isn’t – I just get that feeling that ACW set out to make the tournament an epic event, and it falls short, and has to settle for being just great. I understand the mentality, as why not go for 100% and be satisfied with 90%, but if things had been a little more concise and reduced to three hours, this would have surpassed last year’s effort. It is in no way worse, but I think ACW would feel a sense of disappointment if I call it on equal footing with the 2010 tournament, which they should not do. This was great, and should be praised for being so – just that by holding it so tightly, it was slightly tainted.
Still, without a doubt, it’s worth your money to see Summerlyn v Von Eerie, Deeb v Fox, Perez getting her comeuppance, Athena’s amazing athleticism and Rachel’s emotional outpouring after her victory. She was worked hard to get to where she is, and deserves every accolade she has earned. As I discussed with her during the Women Of Wrestling Podcast, she has changed my opinion on her since my first viewing of her in 2008 to the point where she is one of my favourite wrestlers to watch, and I wish her continued success for the future.
- Lee Burton