By Patrick Brandmeyer
Photos Brian Kelley
Of course, the special guest at WLW was a factor in my decision: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I got started as a regular wrestling viewer after his most famous feuds with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ric Flair, but he was in the opener of the first pay-per-view that I saw via home video(SummerSlam 1991). I heard about the Savage and Flair feuds after the fact and got to see some of his classic bouts through home videos and WCW’s “All-Nighter” marathons. His career essentially ended in 1994 after being injured in his U.S. Title win over some nobody named Stunning Steve Austin, but he had a brief WWE comeback in a feud with Chris Jericho.
His son Richie briefly wrestled for WWE’s developmental system in Florida Championship Wrestling and then NXT, but injuries cut his wrestling career short. Steamboat was an eternal fan favorite for his entire career, despite a handful of temptations to stray to the Dark Side of The Force.
As set up at the April show, Steamboat had already been announced as the special guest but became the special guest referee for the night’s main event bout between Leland Race and Steve Fender. Also, WLW’s first Junior Heavyweight Champion was scheduled to be crowned on this night in a tournament final between Jon Webb and Jayden Fenix. The show had a strong turnout due to Steamboat’s presence…not competing with playoff hockey may have also been a factor. (Go Blues!) I looked after the Missouri Wrestling Revival merchandise table as Brian Kelley took photos at ringside…woo.
Your ring announcer was Brian Thompson; your referee was Richard White.
Roy Lewis vs. Cody Jones: This was my first time seeing Jones in action; I had seen him at previous independent shows but not in the ring. My initial thought was speculation on who Lewis would be losing to, then I immediately noted that he could have been facing Air Raid or something. However, this one was honestly a pick-’em with a rookie fan favorite against a relatively unknown rulebreaker. Lewis is one-third of the Troy Athletic Club with “The Freestyle Phenom” Jay Howard and “The Natural” J.A. Fair, but he usually flies solo when competing in this area. It was a fine underdog effort for Lewis who survived a lot of heavy artillery from Jones; Jones went to the top rope but missed a frog splash. Lewis capitalized with a La Majistral cradle for the flash pin in 8:12…ROY WINS~! He celebrated his first WLW win in grand fashion with Brian Thompson acknowledging it.
Justin D’Air vs. “The King Of Crossfit” Mark Sterling: D’Air has recently been sporting light-up wrestling boots, a la Naomi Night’s footwear in WWE; Sterling was emphatically unamused, so D’Air decided to poke fun at Sterling’s toe shoes. Hey, a feud over footwear would be far from the weirdest reason for an issue between professional wrestlers. At any rate, these guys had a solid competitive matchup; Sterling avoided a 450 Splash and D’Air rolled through for a relatively safe landing, but Sterling got the rollup pin with a handful of tights in 11:50(HEEL~!).
Stacey O’Brien & Lucy Mendez vs. Women’s Champion “Miss Natural” Heather Patera & Paloma Starr: Hey, a women’s division! While the “Divas’ Revolution” has seemingly cooled off to some degree, it’s been good to see women’s wrestling get a higher profile on the national stage. Despite their recent issues, Stacey and Lucy worked well together as a tag team. On the other side, the newer duo of Miss Natural and Paloma Starr had a few glitches in their teamwork, leading to a few shifts in momentum. Stacey had defeated Miss Monica at the April show to re-establish herself as the top contender to Miss Natural’s title. Stacey went old-school with her ring attire, going back to the plaid skirt ensemble. Things broke down near the finish and I felt like more than one person lost track of who was legal, particularly the referee. I could have sworn that Lucy and Natural were legal, but Stacey hit the backcracker on Paloma and got the three-count in 12:16…all righty then. It was a fine match, at any rate.
“Kickin'” Kyle Roberts vs. Karim Brigante(w/ Miss Monica Passeri): This stemmed from Karim physically abusing his valet at the April show, leading to Kyle making the save. In a pre-recorded video, Kyle told Karim that men don’t put their hands on women in America. The video promo prompted a sneak attack by Brigante in the locker room area, as well as a counter-promo. Brigante has struggled to pick up wins in the Midwest, though I think he won a battle royal at a WLW show elsewhere in Missouri. At any rate, Monica interfered on a few occasions and finally slipped a chain into the ring for her man to use; this brought out Stacey O’Brien for a brief Catfiiiiight(tm Joey Styles). The referee turned his attention to the action on the floor and missed Karim KOing Roberts with the chain, getting the tainted pinfall in 11:43. BUT WAIT~! The referee discovered the international object after the fact and ordered a restart to the match…Roberts immediately capitalized with an enzuigiri and rollup for the real victory in 0:12 of the restart (11:55 total).
“The Hybrid Ace” Jon Webb vs. Jayden Fenix, Jr. Heavyweight Title Tournament Final: General Manager Matt Murphy brought out the title belt under a cover; his intention was to unveil the championship before presenting it to the winner. Fenix came out to the usual Black Hand Warriors theme, but loudly proclaimed that he was NO LONGER associated with that group; since the BHWs are fan favorites in WLW, that established him as the heel in this bout. Given the eternal series of bouts between High Level Enterprise(Webb & Jack Gamble) and the Black Hand Warriors, these two know each other very well and had one of my favorite matches of the night. Unfortunately, it was marred by an indecisive finish as Fenix brought a chair into the ring…when the referee tried to stop Fenix from using the weapon, Fenix shoved him to the mat. That triggered a disqualification in 18:23 and Fenix whacked Webb with the chair anyway. Fenix continued his dispute with the referee, so Webb got a hold of the chair and nailed Fenix with it. So Webb is the first WLW Jr. Heavyweight Champion, right?…
…not so fast. Murphy voiced his disapproval of both men’s actions and said that the lineage of the new championship shouldn’t start that way. As a result, he declared that a no-DQ rematch would take place at the show on August 27th and the winner of THAT match would be the first Jr. Heavyweight Champion.
“The Legacy” Leland Race vs. “Superstar” Steve Fender, special guest referee Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat: In April, Heavyweight Champion Trevor Murdoch & Fender defeated Race and The Math Magician(one of these names is not like the others…) when Fender pinned Race; this match was set up to determine a top contender to Murdoch’s title. (Of note, neither Murdoch nor Tag Team Champions Michael Magnuson & Dave DeLorean were in the house on this night.) The match was good but the crowd response was a bit down; they were probably waiting until Steamboat had his “moment” before they got invested.
Several spots were obvious odes to Steamboat: Backflip out of an armwringer, armdrags, inside cradle counter to a bodyslam, etc. All it was missing was a cross-bodyblock off the top rope. Steamboat was bumped down and Fender hit the brainbuster(which was how he won the tag match in April), but Steamboat wasn’t available to make the count. When he did recover to count, Race kicked out at two-and-a-half…leading to the anticipated confrontation between Steamboat and Fender. Fender repeatedly shoved Steamboat until The Dragon finally retaliated with a shove of his own to assert his authority…at that point, the match continued and Fender’s loss of focus may have contributed to his downfall. The two traded near-falls until Race finally finished with the Go 2 Sleep in 19:36…woo-hoo.
I imagine Murdoch vs. Race will be the main event of the show in August…we’ll see how the rest of the card shapes up.