“All I see in this ring [himself, Rik Luxury, Judah Matthew, & The Ballard Bros.], ARE WINNERS! All I see outside this ring, ARE LOSERS!” — NWA Vendetta Pro Commissioner Joseph Duncan at the end of “Reflexion 2017”
“Bow down to The Queens!” — Queen’s Quest, led by Io Shirai
The 2 Versions of PWG’s Mt. Rushmore
K.O. & Y2J
And now, The Conglomerate
When I made the 3 1/2 hour drive up to the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria for Vendetta Pro Wrestling “Reflexion 2017”, I was hoping to see a sort of homecoming for The Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa & Holidead), after they toured Japan with Stardom, holding what is now the NWA International Tag Team titles. Then the swerve came, and Vendetta Pro Commissioner Joe Duncan–together with titleholders Judah Matthew & Rik Luxury, screwed the fans, handing the titles to Shane & Shannon Ballard. As he essentially formed his new stable of champions, The Conglomerate, many of the fans in attendance crumpled up the flyers for the next Cen Cal Pro show, and tossed it into the ring; while I just sat in the front row, speechless. As I made the drive back home, while the winter storm that rolled through So Cal over that weekend began to drop rain over Santa Barbara County, it made me think back to the last year or so.
Wrestling fans that follow the indies regularly are very familiar with The Bullet Club in NJPW, a stable of wrestling villains that feature The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, & now Cody Rhodes. A.J. Styles & Karl Anderson were also part of the stable, before they moved up to WWE. PWG fans are well aware of the two versions of Mt. Rushmore that featured The Young Bucks & Kevin Owens, as well as Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, & Super Dragon. These group of guys fall under the “respected heels” category in my books. That is, some boo them, some cheer for them, but all of them have some sense of respect for them. Adam Pearce was kinda like that in the last years of his in-ring competition, before he moved on to the WWE Performance Center. Then you have the “monster heels”–wrestling characters that everyone want to boo out of the arena. There aren’t many of those these days, but when I saw the fans’ reaction to the formation of The Conglomerate at Vendetta Pro, it really made for that “monster heel” moment, although I’m not sure if those guys had to wait it out for a few hours after the 2016 Vendetty’s (their year-end awards) were handed out.
Speaking of Vendetty’s, a group of ladies from Japan got Vendetty’s for the top guests or fly-overs for 2016. Yeah, I’m taking about Stardom’s “Original Threedom” or “Original Three Daughters of Stardom“, where Io Shirai, Mayu Iwatani, & Kairi Hojo made an impression on the fans that attended the Vendetta show as part of the Cauliflower Alley Club. But lately, Io has turned dark, not only breaking apart Threedom, but also Thunder Rock. Now as the leader of Queen’s Quest with HZK & Momo Watanabe, it appears as if Io wants a repeat of what “The Original Threedom” did in the early part of 2016, and that is sweep the Stardom titles. After winning the Artists of Stardom (Trios) titles from Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, the retiring Kyoko Kimura, & Viper–who subbed for an injured Hana Kimura) last weekend, QQ appears to have all the momentum they need for Momo to really go for Mayu’s High Speed title (a title she goes for on Saturday Night–Sunday afternoon in Tokyo), and HZK to eventually wrest the Wonder of Stardom title from Kairi. If that happens, where does QQ go from there? What storylines will Stardom create? Does Io look beyond Stardom, and go for other top joshi puroresu titles, much like her older sister, Mio, did? Will she issue a challenge to Toni Storm for the Stardom World Alliance Undisputed title? Will she threaten to take the titles she holds to WWE, if she takes up the invites from her fellow Japanese wrestlers that are already in the “E”? There’s alot of possibilities there, and it wouldn’t be a surprise for QQ to do what Oedo Tai wanted to do last year, and that is sweep the Stardom titles.
What about H.A.T.E.? They’re obviously a force to be reckoned with in UEW, and they hold titles in EWF, SBWA, & AWS, despite Ray Rosas coming up short in his bid Last November for Andy Brown’s EWF Heavyweight title. Tyler Bateman will continue to be a major player as he waits for his next challengers for the SBWA & AWS Heavyweight titles, and The Bad Dudes (Rico Dynamite & Tito Escondido) will always remain major players, along with Che Cabrera & Damien Arsenik. The core duo of Vermin: Yuma & Kevin Martenson, will remain major players, especially in CWFH. Trifecta is going global, with Shayna Baszler touring with Stardom, Mercedes Martinez scheduled for the RISE/AWS Weekend, and Nicole Savoy working to recover from her injuries. When all 3 are healthy, the whole SHIMMER roster will be on high alert, and I’m sure Mercedes hasn’t forgotten about what Kellie Skater did recently, which is beat her for the big SHIMMER title.
All of these observances of wrestling heels taking control all over the wrestling world has me wondering if there are any major wrestling heroes–or babyfaces–that they can empower? There aren’t many that can make 5-Star Matches in WWE right now with the heel champions, outside of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, & Sami Zayn. The quality of the talents at Stardom drops drastically, once you look past the big babyfaces of Kairi, Mayu, & Yoko Bito. Jungle Kyona isn’t quite up at regular main event levels in my books, and everyone else on that roster, other than Kris Wolf, are either not that talented, or are still teenagers, learning and honing their skills. If any or all of the big talents gets injured, or decide to either take time off, or leave the promotion, then what? Locally, there are a few up-and-coming talents that can be further empowered by feuding with big-time heels, especially Douglas James. Andy Brown & Adrian Quest have room for improvement, and could soon find themselves feuding with H.A.T.E. again. That takes me back to Vendetta Pro. Once The Conglomerate soldifies, & stamp their mark on the Central & Northern California circuits, will there be anyone that can stand up to them? In terms of the pool of big-time babyfaces, the Vendetta Pro fans will need more than SoCal Crazy. Perhaps Zicky Dice can rise to the occasion. Maybe later in the year, Jeckles The Jester, Will Roberts, Ricky Ruffin, & Midnight Delight (Billy Blade & Richie Slade) can step forward.
But what happens when there are no more babyfaces of main-event caliber to tango with their heel counterparts? Will promotions still be able to draw fans to the show, even if they have to write out a “No More Heroes” or a “Dark Utopia” storyline? Results will obviously vary, but maybe a promotion out there will try it, and see how far they can go without at least one major hero character on the roster. Maybe Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, & A.J. Styles will continue to run roughshod over the entire main WWE rosters until there’s noone left in the active rosters to seriously challenge them, weeding out the aging veterans in exchange for the talents from NXT, especially Shinsuke Nakamura. Maybe Io stomps all of her title challengers this year so hard, that she can readily “drive them into exile”, especially Mayu. Maybe H.A.T.E. “conquers all of Southern California”, while The Conglomerate do the same with Central & Northern California, then both stables collide for in a “battle for the entire state”. Whatever the case may be, it will be a steep, uphill climb for all the wrestling babyfaces that want to challenge all of the heel champions this year, especially when all the wrestling villains want to do, is run things their way, without any sanctity for the fans’ sentiment. It will be interesting to see who can “reach their respective summit”, win those big titles, and give the wrestling fans something to cheer for…again.
(“The Chaos Column” wrestling show recaps will return after the Pacific Coast Wrestling “Fantasm” show on “Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Night”…aka 1/20)