XPW – Cold Day in Hell Review – May 24th, 2008

By Mr. Hill

“I’m going to write a great review for this show,” I said to some friends outside of XPW’s “Cold Day In Hell.” My logic was simple: the show would either be a triumphant return or a downright trainwreck, but no matter what it would entertain. That was the beauty of the XPW of yesteryear: sometimes you went for the wrestling, sometimes you went for the same reason people slow down to look at car accidents.

Either way, the night was supposed to bring back memories. Out in the parking lot, people who hadn’t been around wrestling in half a decade exchanged hugs and handshakes, drank, told jokes, and unearthed memories. The crowd looked the same as always: a congregation of metalheads, punks, juggalos, wrestling nerds and carneys. They were ready for a show, or at very least a great trainwreck. What they got was neither.XPW’s “Cold Day In Hell” turned out to be a depressing testament to the state of professional wrestling. It began with the Battle Royal, which could not have put a group of sloppier wrestlers together. After the 15th missed punch, I had stopped paying attention, instead scanning the crowd for hot chicks. When I realized this was a lost cause, I went back to the battle royal for just enough time to see Carnage get the victory. Despite the match’s flaws, the winners’ trophy was given to Dynamite D’s mother, a very classy and fitting tribute to a SoCal wrestling legend.

The next match would set the tone for the evening. Kaos came out looking like the same guy he was five years ago. As it turned out, he was the only classic XPW guy who’d managed to stay in shape all these years. Kaos always had the talent and figure to make it to the top, and the guy he was wrestling (Vampiro) had spent plenty of time there, so the match was well anticipated. Anticipated, anyway, until Vampiro came out of the tunnel looking like he was going to practice. He had no makeup, long shorts, and taped off wrestling shoes. He should have just tried practicing his takedowns and chain wrestling, because the match he put on was uninspiring. Botched kicks and blown spots seemed to be the theme, and while Kaos did everything he could to rescue the match and get the crowd into it, it was simply not to be.

And as it turned out, Vampiro wasn’t the only one who’d decided to take the payday and mail it in. After a Pogo the Clown beating of the No Mercy Video crew (that included him just about decapitating Leroy the RCG), the Sandman came out to the roar of the crowd, a roar that lasted about 5 minutes because that’s how long his match was. He looked sloppy, moreso than in his ECW days, and being paired with Pogo didn’t help matters much. The match ended mercifully with his Singapore cane leg sweep, a move that doesn’t make any sense.

The next match featured the one veteran who didn’t mail it in for the night: Sabu. His performance as “guy who comes out for 5 seconds, then is escorted out by security because he’s ‘too injured’” was flawless. This of course, was happening while Raven stayed in the corner and watched Johnny Webb, Homeless Jimmy and Khan Kussion (Sabu’s replacement with similar taste in pants) wrestle. Webb was the same entertainer of old. While his actual wrestling looked suspect, he was a showman through and through, getting the fans into the match after Raven decided to break character with his “in-ring commentary.” Khan Kussion had an impressive dive, somersaulting through a table, the first move of the night to get the crowd really going. Other than Raven, the only actual problem with this match was that Homeless Jimmy won. Terry Funk was the special referee, and it’s really just nice to see he’s still alive and kickin’.

The next match was something of a classic XPW feud. GQ Money and “The Hardcore Homo” Angel were set to square off in what would turn out to be pretty entertaining, albeit sloppy. The crowd seemed to save their venom for GQ, with signs saying “GQ (HAS NO) MONEY” and “GQ’S BROKE” (as it turns out, he was soliciting people on MySpace for money to help buy a wrestling costume for the show). One fan even brought an enlarged picture of GQ’s face, resembling the signs basketball fans in New Orleans had for Peja Stojakovic. The match contained several entertaining spots where GQ would disappear and then reappear camouflaged as different people. This worked until the end, where GQ (dressed as a cameraman) attempted to fireball Angel’s face. He missed, badly, but Angel still sold the move and went down for the pinfall. While I liked the ideas, the execution was poor. Then again, what do you expect from GQ Money?

One of the highlights of the night came in the next match, which featured Team Revolution Pro (Joey Ryan, Ron “AWC” Rivera and the now unretired Disco Machine) and Team XPW (Jardi Frantz, Vinny Massaro and a mystery partner). The mystery partner turned out to be X-Pac, who actually looked like someone who’d wrestled all over the world before. His moves were crisp and on-target, a refreshing break from the awful performances the other veterans had put forth, but the match was short and had it’s share of blown spots. Other than re-establishing X-Pac, it really didn’t serve much of a purpose. This is sad if you consider the fact that Massaro and Frantz were once two of the best pure wrestlers in California. The worst part about this contest, however, was the portion of the crowd chanting “rehab” at X-Pac. He was one of the more well known recipients of help from WWE’s new rehab program and is now sober. The fans should be cheering for him, not giving him crap, especially when some of the guys they cheered for have drug problems of their own.

The night was not without it’s single decent-quality match. This belonged to the triple threat match between Jack Evans, Luke Hawx and Scorpio Sky (who, 5 years since the last time I’ve seen him, has put on a good wrestlers physique). Jack Evans was most impressive, hitting all of his spots in fluid motion and perfect synchrony. While there were a few borderline screw-ups, the overall product of this match was very clean, something that had been missing from the prior contests. It was like a good kick in the teeth, a wake-up call after the uninspiring bottom of the card. I have to give XPW props: featuring a match like this was not their strong suit, but the billing was deserved and I commend them for putting these guys this high on the card.

Unfortunately, what followed was the most disappointing match of the evening. Billed as the “return of the Gangstaz,” the team of New Jack and Mustafa was set to take on the Westsiders (or the Westside NGZ if you remember The Palace). As the crowd anticipated what should have been an extreme bloodbath, out came not the Gangstaz but a couple of locals, at least one of which is a known ex-backyarder. After tangling with the surprise opponents for a couple of minutes, the Westsiders left the ring (and as it turned out, the match period) just after the Gangstaz made their entrance. What followed was not an extreme bloodbath, but a few punches, a couple of kicks, a “fork shot” and a couple of head slams into the bleachers. No balcony dives, no exciting finishes, just 10 minutes of New Jack and Mustafa beating up half-talents. This might be the only match I’ve ever seen New Jack have that he could be ashamed to call his “last,” which is why I really put my face in my hands when he announced it was in fact his last match. New Jack’s post-match speech thanking the crowd was touching, but longer than the match itself. While the crowd gave him a raucous ovation for 15 years of putting his body on the line, some seem reserved about giving him his due for such a drab final effort.

The last match of the night featured the classic crowd favorite Supreme taking on the East Coast’s Necro Butcher in a no-rope barbed wire death match. The crowd went nuts for every broken table and barbed-wire spot as the two kicked the crap out of one another. Despite some obviously blown moves, the two gave it their all to entertain the fans. The match had one excellent spot in particular, when Supreme threw a bucket of thumbtacks on the floor of the ring, stalling the shoeless Butcher who was running at him. In the end, Supreme was victorious, and the show came to an end.

In years past, it was easy to label XPW as a bad company. This was not the case at “Cold Day In Hell.” Kevin Kleinrock and the rest of the Big Vision Entertainment crew did an excellent job with the show’s production. The big video screens and actual entrance stage added an element of professionalism to what otherwise would have been an indy show in a park gym. The show ran smoothly (not exactly a common thing during the Rob Black years) and the fans were out the door by midnight, early by XPW standards. While the angles were cheesy, the attempts to entertain were valiant. If not for a lack of effort from the so-called superstars, the show would have been very salvageable.

My advice to XPW is to skip out on the washed-up “hardcore legends” next time and concentrate on the wrestlers who will give you 100%. Why pay Vampiro, Sandman, Sabu, Terry Funk and New Jack to do absolutely nothing when guys like Supreme are just as over with the fans? Not paying these guys means cheaper ticket prices and better wrestling.

However, I can’t deny that the evening brought back memories of fun evenings at the Grand Olympic, and despite the mediocre show, it was great seeing old faces and reliving younger days. Hopefully the next time this happens, it takes less than 5 years, and the guys who will give 100% are called upon to be the new superstars.