Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Feel the impact!

Ever since ROH changed in such a way that most of my indy-fan brethren would agree was for the worse and the HDNet show has failed to live up to Ring of Honor’s standards, it’s been tougher than usual to satisfy our craving for the sort of wrestling action we enjoy. Sure, there are lots of older DVDs to be found, but that’s a source that will eventually dry up for those of us who aren’t interested in the Adam Pearce era. So I recently revisited Ring of Honor’s sister promotion, Full Impact Pro, and discovered a reliable source of high quality, exciting wrestling action at very affordable prices.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Full Impact Pro Wrestling.

I’m currently exploring FIP shows from around March of 2005, where the landscape includes Austin Aries bringing the ROH world championship down to Florida for title defenses quite often, CM Punk running around with Homicide’s FIP title strap and leading the New Dawn stable, and the crowning of their first tag team champions on the horizon. Erick Stevens is a young rookie, just one year into his pro career and learning his way while sporting a considerably chunkier frame than his more athletic build of today; watching a talented bruiser like Stevens in his formative years is a lot of fun. Bryan Danielson is sporting his big-beard look, kicking ass and taking names. The incredibly underrated wrestling wizard, James Gibson, is in the midst of his all-too-brief association with ROH/FIP, and workrate freaks should treat themselves to Gibson’s indy stuff whenever possible. Brian “Spanky” Kendrick stops by every now and again, and Samoa Joe and Colt Cabana are frequently on the cards. Adam Pearce shows up sometimes as well, Antonio “MVP” Banks gains experience right before your eyes, Jimmy Rave is often on the scene, and unknown workers like Vordell Walker, Jared Steel, and Jerrelle Clark consistently overachieve and impress.

On commentary, ROH’s dynamic duo swap roles in FIP, as Lenny Leonard performs lead play-by-play duties while Dave Prazak adds color commentary in the old Bobby Heenan slot of both heel stable leader and announcer. Prazak’s over the top shtick is too good to ignore, and quite humorous, although babyfaces who find themselves on the radar of DP Associates have little to laugh about. The faction means business, and always makes an “impact” through classic, time-tested, nefarious means.

Full Impact Pro is very low-rent as far as production, but those of you who value substance over style and steak over sizzle will be able to appreciate this niche promotion. I once compared New England Championship Wrestling to Ring of Honor, describing ROH as gourmet cuisine and NECW as a more meat and potatoes alternative. FIP is also simple and no-frills like NECW, but in Full Impact Pro you get outstanding wrestling action, whereas NECW’s production simplicity permeates the in-ring content as well. Most NECW cards feature action akin to two students putting together a basic match at the end of their training, before they’ve been seasoned or learned to work personalities and psychology into the mix. It’s just a flow of moves with little story or reason for the action. But in FIP, you see the same refreshing lack of ga-ga found throughout the indies, with outstanding wrestling between the ropes. To complete the analogy, you might say FIP is like fillet mignon; it’s still a steak and nothing exotic, but it’s an outstanding, top of the line steak.

It doesn’t matter if it’s two relative unknowns like, for example, “The Modern Miracle” Steve Madison and “Tornado” Tony Kozina working a match in a small bar converted for wrestling, performing before a tiny crowd with no fanfare or ring entrance music. What’s important is that their contest on the Bring the Pain DVD was solidly entertaining because they worked a pure, old school pro wrestling style. The lack of pyro or 10,000 fans takes nothing away from the quality of the match. Roderick Strong, one of my favorite wrestlers, wrestled a match on the same show against Adam “the Insane Dragon” Brower, and here’s the best part: I saw Insane Dragon against Austin Aries (another favorite of mine) on the night prior at With Malice and didn’t care for him. But in the match against Strong, with another shot at Aries’ ROH gold on the line, he really stepped up and impressed me and I found myself drawn into the match. There’s nothing better than having low expectations and being pleasantly surprised.

Back here in 2009, the young phenom Tyler Black is the reigning FIP world champion, continuing in a line of great performers like Bryan Danielson, Go Shiozaki, and Homicide as the standard-bearer for Ring of Honor’s sister promotion. Roderick Strong and Erick Stevens, who once went to war over the FIP world championship and each proudly boast multiple runs with the gold, currently hold the tag team straps. FIP’s mid-card belt, the Florida Heritage Title, was long owned by Stevens as well, properly serving as a stepping-stone to bigger things for the master of the Doctor Bomb. Fans who are familiar with these names will tell you there’s a whole lot of quality wrestling to be found in this paragraph.

Austin Aries, Nigel McGuinness, Davey Richards, Kenny King, Delirious, The Briscoes, Claudio Castagnoli, Jigsaw, The Dark City Fight Club, Rhett Titus, Necro Butcher, and other indy favorites are all on the current roster, and it’s difficult to imagine combinations of these guys forming cards that aren’t fun to watch. Most DVDs sell for 5-15 dollars at the FIP section at ROHwrestling.com, and you won’t find a better buy for your wrestling dollar.

Full Impact Pro is a fine example of the simple but satisfying sort of wrestling many fans hope to see from WWE and TNA but consistently fail to find. FIP’s hard-hitting, no-nonsense, sports-oriented approach is a far cry from the mummies, warlocks, leprechauns, imaginary creatures, undead zombies, cross-dressers and “divas” littering the mainstream scene. Visit the site and pick out a few $5 gems to start with, and see if you don’t get hooked on FIP. I’ll bet you will.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.” – Oscar Wilde

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Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

How should Ring of Honor utilize Eddie Kingston? John Wiswell knows; check out this week’s Cult of ROH for Wis’ plan.

Paul Marshall brings the TNA noise and funk with Total Nonstop Weekly.

Mark Allen talks recent WWE happenings This Week in ‘E.

Here are Pulse Wrestling’s rankings for WWE, TNA, and ROH.

After quite a long absence, Michael Fitzgerald returns for Smack YOU! Welcome back, Fitz!

Dale Clarke offers his 10 Thoughts on SmackDown! while Paul Marshall thinks about WWE Superstars. Rounding out the field is Jon Bandit with 10 Thoughts on TNA iMPACT! – that’s 30 thoughts for you.

Finally this week, Big Andy Mac reports on the latest episode of ROH on HDNet.

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