#SXSWrestleCircus doesn’t need three rings to put on a show

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Ringmaster Champion Brian Cage poses on the far ring post prior to his title match with Matt Riddle. Cage would retain. (Photo: Thomas Joseph)

WrestleCircus did the most Austin thing possible Friday night: they hosted a SXSW event.

Titled #SXSWrestleCircus, the free show took place at Emo’s. The venerable East Austin venue provided a change of pace for the promotion, which typically holds cards at 800 Congress Ave.

As has come to be expected with WrestleCircus, the night featured a stacked card. The usual mix of indie wrestling favorites and up-and-coming talent filled 10 scheduled matches.

The Talent

It’s impossible to deny the influence of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla on WrestleCircus.

PWG was founded in 2003 by six California-based wrestlers who went into the business for themselves. In the intervening years it found a consistent home, American Legion Post #308, and has become one of the most revered promotions in the world.

Like PWG, WrestleCircus does not run an academy or have regular TV tapings (WrestleCircus has run iPPV events, including #SXSWrestleCircus; pre-show dark matches feature local talent from AAPW).

The talent WrestleCircus books appears impressive. When you consider that their first card was in October of last year, it’s downright mindblowing.

Performers have included NJPW stars like “Hangman” Adam Page and Richochet. TNA stalwart ECIII was the inaugural Ringmaster Champion. WWE alumni Matt Hardy and Colt Cabana faced off for the second time ever at Friday’s show.

PWG co-founder (and YouPorn sponsored athlete) Joey Ryan makes regular appearances and is a former Sideshow Champion.

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Joey Ryan (left), Jervis Cottonbelly (middle, represting /r/squaredcircle), and Scorpio Sky (right) await the bell for their Sideshow Championship match. (Photo: Thomas Joseph)

The Schmozz

Ryan’s career has spanned the globe, from PWG to stints with Japanese promotion DDT.

DDT features a title, the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, that takes the 24/7 rules pioneered by the WWE Hardcore Championship to their wildest conclusions. It has been held by a blow-up doll and was at one point auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Ryan has won the title 25 times.

He brought the over-the-top stipulations to WrestleCircus, where the Sideshow Championship has been won via classic chicanery, a bet on the arcade game Centipede, and during a couple’s therapy session.

Most recently the title changed hands when champion Jervis Cottonbelly submitted a post to the  /r/SquaredCircle subreddit.

That is to say, an internet forum is currently one of the WrestleCircus champions. It was defended on Friday by Cottonbelly, a CHIKARA veteran and all-around nice guy. His victory prompted some heartwarming moments.

Not all the crazy events hit their mark.

A six-man tag match that determined the #1 contenders for both the Sideshow and Tag Team Titles ended as confusingly as the attached stipulations (and this sentence).

The evening’s big draw, the second career meeting between Hardy and Cabana, drew a mixed reaction.

Midway through the match, Hardy, Cabana, and the referee became temporarily incapacitated. Leva Bates – dressed as “Sister Nero” in full Hardy regalia – ran in to drop Swanton Bombs and a Twist of Fate on Cabana, with Hardy landing his finishing move in turn.

Although some unfamiliar with her or the promotion groused, regular WrestleCircus viewers and Bates fans familiar with her cosplay antics should enjoy it.

The rough finishes might turn some wrestling fans off, but the company succeeds more often than not. There’s enough reverence here for those who take this seriously, but enough revelry to have fun too.

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Lady of the Ring title holder Rachael Ellering defends her championship against Tessa Blanchard. Ellering would retain. (Photo: Thomas Joseph)

The Results (and stray observations)

  • Barrett Brown def. Terrale Tempo via roll-up pinfall
    • Tempo, the ROW TV Champion, has an enganging natural charisma.
    • Brown played the psychology of the match perfectly, with his win ellicitng “bullshit” chants from the crowd.
  • Triple Threat: Fred Yehi def. Gregory James and Curt Stallion
  • Extra Talented (Ricky Starks and Aaron Solow) and “Dirty” Andy Dalton def. The Boys and Jordan Len-X
    • An okay match broken up by multiple run-ins, including George Gratton hitting Len-X over the head with a trashcan, setting up Dirty Andy to pin him.
  • Davey Boy Smith, Jr. loses by DQ to Houston Carson
    • Carson attempted to powder Smith, who turned the bottle around on his opponent, but was DQed as a result.
    • Smith grabbed the mic post-match and challenged Carson to a future no-DQ showdown.
  • Lady of the Ring Championship: Rachael Ellering (C) def. Tessa Blanchard to retain
    • Solid all-out battle that was in the running for match of the night.
    • Ellering and Blanchard took their fight up the entrance ramp and into the crowd for several minutes.
  • Jax Dane def. Jeff Cobb
    • A hoss fight with engaging early build that ultimately fell flat.
  • Sideshow Title Match: Jervis Cottonbelly (representing /r/SquaredCircle (C)) def. Scorpio Sky and Joey Ryan in an elimination match to retain.
    • Ryan and Sky had some great interplay before the match. Ryan tried to goad the crowd into electing a representative to take the pin so he can have his title back.
    • An idiot (who I hope was a plant) rolled into the ring to volunteer. It goes without saying, but even when the audience is technically a champ, spectators aren’t part of the event.
  • Ringmaster #1 Contender: John Morrison def. Sammy Guevara
    • The other match of the night candidate.
    • Morrison, the savvy, cocky veteran who constantly flips people off against Guevera, the athletic, cocky young buck who constantly flips people off was exactly what I expected.
    • Sammy Guevara is the future.
  • Broken Matt Hardy def. Colt Cabana via pinfall
    • Cabana’s answer to Matt Hardy’s “DELETE!” chants? “RESTORE!”
  • Ringmaster Title match: Brian Cage (C) def. Matt Riddle by pinfall to retain
    • Cage is something to behold in person. We’re talking a Steineresque physique.
    • Riddle’s MMA background is no joke, and the pair executed a series of mat-based spots to start the match.
  • The next WrestleCircus event, Battle at the Big Top, takes place April 30 and features Morrison challenging Cage for his Ringmaster Title.
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