Continuing the quest to get to know promotions of all shapes and sizes, this week weâ€™ll take a look at the â€œwrestling revolutionâ€ known as Asylum Championship Wrestling, featuring a special interview I conducted with their jack-of-all-trades, Alan â€œBuddhaâ€ Hahn.
TODAYâ€™S ISSUE: Asylum Championship Wrestling.
Thanks to the ROHFemBot, I got in touch with a former brother-in-arms of ours with a unique insight into the Colorado indy scene. Once a Staff Sergeant and Security Forces expert in the United States Air Force, Alan â€œBuddhaâ€ Hahn now serves as ACWâ€™s Chief of Security, Crew Leader, and official â€œBell Ringerâ€ otherwise known as time keeper. Buddha was good enough to send me a DVD to introduce me to the Colorado Springs-area federation, along with one of the coolest wrestling t-shirts I own. Thank you, Sir!
Hereâ€™s my interview with Buddha (who you can see at the bottom of the ACW Roster page), followed by a review of the DVD he sent:
VT: How did you hook up with ACW?
Buddha: Through one of the Colorado owners I have known for years. He asked me to help do set up and run the Crew.
VT: Whatâ€™s your job title/position?
Buddha: Head Crew Leader, Security, and Bell Ringer.
VT: How long has ACW existed?
Buddha: [Our] 7-year anniversary is next month.
VT: Who is the owner of ACW?
Buddha: Brandon Bishop.
VT: What is ACWâ€™s vision?
Buddha: To be the best indy promotion we can be on a limited budget and to groom wrestlers to compete at the indy level.
VT: How many shows do you run per month?
VT: Do you sell DVDs?
Buddha: Yes we [record] each show and try to resale the DVDs.
VT: Can you share any success stories of ACW talent whoâ€™ve gone on to bigger things thanks to their roots in your company?
Buddha: We have had Mike Bebiass on our roster and Franco Dâ€™Angelo who has [wrestled] a couple dark matches with the WWE. And signed to our roster is Dr. Death Steve Williams.
I asked Buddha if there was anything else he wanted to share with me about ACW such as their biggest show, biggest angle, et cetera. He said that while heâ€™s only been with the company for one year, their 100th show a few months ago was one of the biggest theyâ€™ve ever produced.
The DVD Buddha sent me included footage from an event that took place on 28 February 2009, and featured an â€œAsylum Royaleâ€ to crown a new ACW champion and much more. Hosted by Nathan Andrews and â€œThe Rocky Mountain Mouthâ€ Michael Titus (who successfully channels the essence of several legendary heel announcers), the DVD started with a group of picketing ACW employees parading around the ring as â€œthe multi-million dollar manâ€, Mr. Quinn (the storyline owner) cut a heel promo. Unfortunately the sound quality wasnâ€™t too great, so it was a bit difficult to understand what was going on. However, the gist was that Quinn Industries was asked to stop attacking ACW personnel, to which Quinn promised that the only time theyâ€™d beat down victims would be when those victims deserved it, in his opinion. The bad guy for this show was successfully established.
The reigning ACW champion, â€œthe Unrealâ€ Joshua Michael, joined the heels in the ring and discussed a last chance for the kayfabe former ACW owner Brandon Bishop, who was apparently run out of the company in a recent storyline, but Quinn stripped Michael of the ACW title due to injuries, establishing the conflict for the evening. This was a very Monday Night RAW way to begin the show, with the opening promo setting the stage for events to come throughout the night. The opening contest on the DVD was an ACW tag team championship match. No messing around there, thatâ€™s getting right into the thick of things.
Brother Luc and Reverend Crash (c) versus Epic and Chris Wrath. Standard tag team formula here, with Wrath playing the part of Ricky Morton for several minutes while the champs worked him over. Hot tag to Epic who, according to the established blueprint, cleaned house and the tag team titles changed hands via an impressive blockbuster-type inverted Ace Crusher on Reverend Crash by Wrath. The former champs complained that the only reason they lost the titles was that their spiritual advisor wasnâ€™t at ringside with them and they ran some crazy video on the tron, inspired by the Blair Witch Project, that didnâ€™t make much sense to me. But the match was fairly entertaining, if a little punchy-kicky at times. Brother Luc was pretty capable in the ring, and considering the massive bulk and obvious movement limitations of Reverend Johnny Crash, the fit and agile Epic and Wrath did a good job of working a decent match. Not bad overall.
A studio wrap-around by Andrews and Titus took us to the next contest, a match with an ACW contract on the line. I love that they added that little bonus stipulation to give an otherwise â€œstandardâ€™ match a bit more consequence. Good stuff.
Tristan Gallo versus Dallas Murdock. The big and powerful Gallo executed standard heel tactics (he has obviously studied the great heels of the modern era) in contrast to Murdockâ€™s babyface shtick, and they put together an entertaining match. Gallo threw a very good dropkick for a man of his size – impressive. While the match seemed familiar to somebody who watches a lot of wrestling, it still came across as their own story, not a copycat match. Gallo threw triple German suplexes and followed up with a gorgeous Northern Lights suplex for a close near-fall. Murdock was the face-in-peril for the majority of the contest, and displayed great heart and desire in enduring the offensive onslaught of Gallo. Murdockâ€™s comeback included a wicked kick to Galloâ€™s face that sent both men over the top rope to the floor, and they continued battling outside resulting in a double count-out. This was perfectly acceptable wrestling; nothing wrong with it whatsoever.
Mr. Quinn, now sporting the championship belt over his own shoulder, came out to address the crowd once again and announced a battle royal for later in the night with the ACW title on the line. He also stated that since his man Franco Dâ€™Angelo was so likely to emerge victorious, he ought to just hand him the title belt on the spot. He explained that whichever wrestler eliminated Brandon Bishop in that match would leave with a check for $5,000, pulling out the old bounty angle. Asylum Championship Wrestling does a good job of hitting the classic notes of pro wrestlingâ€™s greatest symphonies. Like the opening match, this arc felt familiar without being stale. Kudos to their bookers for dancing on the line between comfortable and retread. ACW fits like an old pair of jeans you reach for whenever theyâ€™re not in the laundry.
Mitch Carter (w/Veronica Vance) versus Kay O. An inter-gender match? Uh, ok. I have no idea about the storyline explanation for this one. Hopefully weâ€™ll find out from the Rocky Mountain Mouth as the match progresses. Kay O is a big girl who reminds me a bit of Sara Del Rey, while Carter leaves a little something to be desired in the muscle and bulk department, so in that regard they were pretty evenly matched. Although Carter woman-handled her throughout, early in the match Kay O chained an amazing rana into a modified DDT â€“ very cool! Later, Carter planted Oâ€™s face into the canvas with a wicked curb stomp and followed up with a vicious neck-breaker. What a jerk!
Carter really worked stiff with Kay, and sheâ€™s a legitimate tough lady for the beating she endured. He trapped her legs between the ropes and executed a dastardly snap neck-breaker, then stood on her hair and pulled her shoulders halfway out of their sockets. But when he attempted a corkscrew 360 moonsault, Kay displayed some ring-generalship and avoided the contact. It was at that very moment that I realized theyâ€™d done a great job of drawing me into Kay Oâ€™s plight, because I found myself hoping that opening would be the shot she needed to put her opponent away. However, the valet at ringside finally realized she had a job to do (she did nothing but stand leaning against the apron and watch the match until then) and got involved, snagging Kayâ€™s leg as she hit the ropes and allowing her man to perform a roll-up for the pinfall victory. Curses, the forces of evil had prevailed yet again! When Iâ€™m cheering for a gal Iâ€™ve never heard of to defeat a heel I donâ€™t know, thatâ€™s phenomenal storytelling; high marks for that. Side note: we never did find out why a man was wrestling a woman in the first place. Oh wellâ€¦
In the aprÃ¨s (which didnâ€™t make a lick of sense to me, as the heels beat down Kay O until the injured Rob Ryzin rescued her, but then she repaid him by Pillmanizing his leg), big Buddha got screen time and his name mentioned on commentary by Titus as he helped break up the fray. Attaâ€™ boy, Buddha, your Security Forces training seems to have paid off. Just like in the original ECW, that segment led directly into the next matchâ€¦
ACW Cruiserweight Champion Josh â€œFXâ€ Evans versus Rob Ryzin. The cruiserweight champ took the ring immediately after the other heels left, and went right after the nearly-crippled Ryzin. I assume Ryzin had a title shot coming to him, and Evans was being opportunistic in â€œgrantingâ€ it here and now while the challenger could barely stand. That shows sound heel tactics for certain, but as Evans danced like a goof and played to the crowd, I couldnâ€™t help but be baffled by the heel/face alignment which was completely impossible to follow here. If Evans was the heel then Ryzin was a babyface. But if he was, then why did Kay O, who wrestled like a face against the heelish Mitch Carter just moments earlier, stomp his injured ankle as a reward for rescuing her from a post-match beating? Color me confused. During the short championship match, Evans drilled Ryzin with a super-kick the moment the bell rang, but even on one leg Ryzin put up a fight against the man with the skunk-colored hair. Evans got in the refereeâ€™s face and the zebra pushed him off, right into a schoolboy roll up by Ryzin for the 1-2-3, and the title. Two title changes on one card? I guess I got a great night of ACW action to review.
Once again, the commentators did a wrap-around (with clearly defined heel and face characters, which I appreciate) to move the DVD forward. The former tag champs came back to the ring and called out a man called Kincaide, and he ran them off with a chair. This all had to do with a guy named Father Zane, and a kidnapping angle that was related to why he wasnâ€™t in their corner for the earlier tag match (apparently Father Zane is the â€œspiritual leaderâ€ of Brother Luc and Reverend Crash they were missing when they dropped their gold in the curtain-jerker). ACW was going for creepy here, but Iâ€™m not sure they managed to get any deeper than â€œsillyâ€. Still, Iâ€™ll give them an A for effort â€“ at least it was a planned and thought out storyline they executed, which is far superior to most of TNAâ€™s nonsense lately.
Kincaide versus Father Zane. This match was for the â€œACW Institutional Championshipâ€. I donâ€™t know exactly what that is, but Iâ€™ll go ahead and guess itâ€™s a hardcore title of sorts. Zane was wrapped up in a tarp, tied, dressed in rags, and covered in dirt, which was meant to indicate that heâ€™d been Kincaideâ€™s prisoner for some time before this event. Dirt flew off of him every time Kincaide threw a strike, which was kind of funny. While Kincaide was the face, he used dirty tactics against the would-be preacher, so whatever Father Zane did to deserve this treatment must have been pretty dastardly. Titus mentioned that a â€œ24-7â€ rule applied to this title, similar to the one WWF used for itâ€™s hardcore championship at one time, which confirmed my suspicious about this being a hardcore strap.
Zane can actually work, and he looked good in this contest (well, his wrestling looked good. His dirty, tattered gear didnâ€™t look too slick). Kincaide threw an impressive STO (miscalled a Russian leg sweep by Titus), and the battle raged on. The big babyface executed a very nice exploder suplex followed by a pump-handle bomb, and Zane answered with a unique lung-blower type of face crusher, driving his knees into Kincaideâ€™s head. Kincaide recovered, and answered with a powerful clothesline and Zaneâ€™s â€œministryâ€ came back to interfere. They drugged Kincaide with â€œchloroformâ€, allowing Father Zane to retain his Institutional title. More typical pro wrestling fare, but it didnâ€™t feel hackneyed. The heels beat down Kincaide after the match until Kincaide made his own save. That dollar store chloroform certainly doesnâ€™t last as long as the name-brand stuff. Zane and pals shouldnâ€™t skimp on the most important part of their offensive arsenal. End of Disc 1.
The second disc started with â€œThe Voice of ACWâ€, ring announcer Danger Dean, calling out his former friend Mitch Carter and wanting answers about why their friendship failed. His valet Veronica Vance slapped the announcer and Carter took his head off with a sickening super-kick, and our friendly neighborhood Chief of Security came out to protect Danger Dean from further harm. Well done, Buddha. Now, back to the wrestling action.
Asylum Royale. This was a Royal Rumble match, with the winner earning the vacant ACW championship. Wrestlers entered the ring in 60-second intervals, and lest we forget, the former owner Brandon Bishop had a $5,000 bounty on his head. Since he was obviously the target of the current leadership regime, Bishop was forced to enter the ring in the #1 position; no surprise there. Before the opening bell, Bishop addressed the crowd on the house mic and thanked the audience for their support over the past seven years, just in case this was his last time in ACW. During his promo, he called out Quinn and company for using a WWE-type match, acknowledging that they were â€œborrowingâ€ Pat Pattersonâ€™s brainchild. Just before the contest started, Bishop eliminated Quinnâ€™s attorney with a very nice helicopter bomb, and then the behemoth Reverend Crash entered the ring to get the show on the road.
Bishop, ACWâ€™s real-life owner, is actually an accomplished in-ring performer and he looked very good in the match. To nobodyâ€™s surprise (at least nobody whoâ€™s been watching wrestling for more than three weeks), Brother Luc was next to join the fray, and the former tag team champs went to work on Bishop until he took a necessary shortcut and punched Crash low to get out of trouble. Guess who came out as the fourth competitor? You got it, Father Zane. Now it was three on one, and Bishop was in a bad spot.
When the 60-second period expired, out came Kincaide to even the odds and the three would-be holy rollers scattered. Zane eliminated himself by running in fear of the big man and leaping over the top rope, and before I could blink, Bishop stood alone in the ring waiting for the next wrestler to enter the match. Next up was Lamont Taylor, an African-American wrestler whoâ€™s gimmick is that since the country now has a black president, a black wrestler deserves more respect than what ACWâ€™s been giving him. Again, things in ACW are familiar without being tired. He and Bishop went to town on each other until Mitch Carter came out as the next entrant. In tried-and-true heel fashion, Carter waited to strike until Taylor was down and Bishopâ€™s back was turned.
Next up was a very powerful but smaller guy whoâ€™s name sounded like Jack Cox, from the team known as Suicide Tuesday, followed by the former cruiserweight champion Josh â€œFXâ€ Evans. Evans played to the crowd once again, even as the other member of Suicide Tuesday entered the ring. Taylor cut Cox in half with a devastating spear, and out came #11, Tristan Gallo. For some ungodly reason, Gallo and Evans cut a little rug (canvas?) together before getting down to the business at hand. If I never see that again, itâ€™ll be too soon. And yet, after eating a triple noggin-knocker from Bishop, they danced again. Why?
In keeping with the finest Royal Rumble traditions, the very next entrant was none other than Tristanâ€™s recent opponent, Dallas Murdock, and you could almost envision the ACW creative team studying WWEâ€™s past January spectaculars for the blue print on how to execute this sort of match.
Murdock was on fire, and while the dancing duo tried to slow him down, he took Gallo over the top rope with him, essentially equating to the second time in one hour theyâ€™d both eliminated each other. 50-50 booking? Trying to convince us these two are equals, and setting them up for a feud, Iâ€™d imagine. Onward we go. As Suicide Tuesday exploded and eliminated each other, an unnamed Hawaiian grappler entered the ring followed closely behind (60 seconds? Hardlyâ€¦) by Kay O. Titus went so far as to refer to Taylor as the â€œtoken black manâ€ on commentary. No wonder he feels like heâ€™s being treated unfairly. Yeesh!
Epic and Wrath were both now in the contest, and there were only two competitors left as Bishop held on. I would not have been the least surprised if he had hung on to win the match and the ACW title. The big, bad, enforcer of the evil owner, Franco Dâ€™Angelo, was next to join the party and he looked twice as big as everyone else involved. My first reaction to seeing him enter the ring was, â€œthis dude will be a load to get over the top rope. Good luck to everyone else in there.â€ He nailed Bishop with a snap DDT, and started ruling the ring, tossing one man out after another. Kay O showed no fear, but she regretted attacking the big muscle man when he eliminated her after she spurned his romantic advances.
In pure WWE style, Mr. Quinn himself was the final entrant, or was he? In a surprise move, the ring announcer Danger Dean came out next, and he went right after his former pal Mitch Carter with a vengeance. He might not have been a legal member of the match since our boy Buddha carted him off before he had a chance to be eliminated. The second extra surprise entrant, and the real final participant was none other than the man who began the night as ACW champion, â€œthe Unrealâ€ Joshua Michael. Is Vince McMahon actually booking this show? If it were January, I could see John Cena in this exact role.
In all the confusion, somehow Bishop and Dâ€™Angelo were the last men remaining in the match when Michael showed up, and just when he had the chance to be a hero, SEERVE! Michael turned on Bishop and eliminated him, then removed himself from the match via the top rope to ensure Dâ€™Angelo was victorious. Michael shook Dâ€™Angeloâ€™s hand as he handed him the strap, and Quinn revealed that his plot had developed exactly as heâ€™d planned. Apparently he had Michael in his pocket, and he played his pawns against one another to meet his own sinister goals (just as the archetypical evil authority figure always does). The announcers gave us one final wrap-around, neatly folding the corners of the show and setting the viewer up for ACWâ€™s 100th live event on April 4th that Buddha mentioned in our interview. Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing that one.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, Asylum Championship Wrestling is a good promotion that Iâ€™d definitely go see live on a monthly basis if I were anywhere near Colorado Springs. They have decent storytelling, capable wrestlers, and a good grasp of the balance between ga-ga and action that makes a show flow without overdoing it on either side of the coin. A nice point in their favor is that a valid military I.D. card grants you free access to any and all ACW shows, and as a 17-year active duty man myself I have to respect that.
This is the point of the column at which Iâ€™d normally recommend you check out ACW, but other than the Asylum Championship Wrestling area of YouTube.com and their home page which hosts a few videos, Iâ€™m not sure where you can find ACW content.
NOTE: Iâ€™d like to formally ask Buddha to comment on this column below with information on where/how fans can get their hands on Asylum Championship Wrestling DVDs, because Iâ€™d certainly enjoy seeing some more of this unique promotion, and Iâ€™d imagine other indy fans would as well.
Stay tuned for more information; Iâ€™ll share any ACW news with my readers as it becomes available. Remember, sometimes itâ€™s the inmates who run the asylum, and in this case that ainâ€™t a bad thing.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.
p.s. â€“ â€œIf you want to increase your insanity, avoid the asylum.â€ – Amy Cameron Farmer
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this weekâ€¦
Big Andy Mac has the report on the 25 July episode of ROH on HDNet.
Speaking of ROH, John Wiswell discusses Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA in this weekâ€™s Cult of ROH.
Newcomer Tess Nolde goes into the WWE vault for a look at cruiserweight division history in a recap of the Vintage Collection.
Finally this week, Dale Clarke and Mark Allen go head to head, speculating over who Jerichoâ€™s new tag partner should be in the latest episode of Versus.