wrestling / Video Reviews

Enter the Beyond – Match A Day, Americanrana 2018

February 11, 2019 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Americanrana 18 Beyond Wrestling

Previously on Enter the Beyond

– I spent New Year’s Eve tuned in to an online streaming service to watch the first wrestling match of the year, Beyond Wrestling’s Heavy Lies the Crown II main event of Nick Gage vs. Josh Briggs in a Fans Bring the Weapons Match.

– After a few years on the shelf, I dusted off my old 411mania Wacky Wrestler of the Year Award for Beyond Wrestling’s lazy savant Orange Cassidy.

– I have written many columns at 411mania, including Match A Day that ended in 2010 after chronicling a pretty eventful year where I watched one pro-wrestling match a day.

“Variety is the spice of life” is only a cliche phrase if you live a boring life. For a wrestling fan in 2019, variety shouldn’t be your problem; however, I feel like there are so many who are still only watching mainstream pro-wrestling and are missing out the many different styles that are out there. Independent wrestling has often been a place of more freedom, but the big-box indie companies of the past few years have been really mixing things up, and at the forefront to me is the ever-eclectic Beyond Wrestling.

Every wrestling company has their own signature event, and Americanrana is the summer spectacular for Beyond Wrestling. If you’ve ever been curious to check out one of their shows, well then you’re in luck. Because not only was Americanrana one of the best pro-wrestling events from 2018, but you can watch the entire show absolutely FREE on YouTube.

Beyond put the full show online late last year as a celebration for hitting one million subscribers to their YouTube channel. I’m going to re-watch the last seven matches, one a day, for the next week and give a little blurb as I go, but you can sit there and watch the whole thing from beginning to end and marvel at the array of styles on display throughout this magically diverse card of pro-wrestling excellence.

Match #1 – Saturday, January 26th
Trent? vs. Jonathan Gresham
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana ’18, July 2018]

Style = Technical vs. Heavyweight: “The Octopus” Jonathan Gresham is just an absolutely brilliant technical wrestler, and when you see his name on a match I suggest you check it out and pay attention. Even in a seeming mismatch against a heavyweight like Trent Barreta, having such precise and intricate knowledge of clinical pro-wrestling can be an effective equalizer. However, mid-match the power moves of Barreta seem to take their toll on Gresham, but having just come back from injury himself, Trent moves a bit too slow to take full advantage and is constantly giving Gresham chances to strike his way back into the match. Unfortunately this one ends at that point of stalemate, when Trent’s manager for the night Stokely Hathaway turns on his new charge out of frustration and interferes. Nice while it lasted, and a good appetitizer for more.

Speaking of Jonathan Gresham, this dude is one of the best kept secrets of the professional wrestling world. If this match didn’t turn you into a fan, then why not check out HIS new Youtube channel, where he basically spends like a minute demonstrating the techniques behind some basic and tricky catch-as-catch-can wrestling holds with special guests and the students in his master class at the ROH Dojo in Baltimore. I spent my Monday binging through all of these!

Match #2 – Sunday, January 27th
Matthew Riddle & Tom Lawlor vs. Nick Gage & Matt Tremont
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Shooters vs. Hardcores: Textbook Beyond mix of promotions and styles, as the two legit MMA fighters and former UFC competitors take on two of the grimiest hardcore wrestlers in the game. The contrast never tilted heavy to one team’s style, which is cool about an odd match-up like this, especially since Tremont had beaten Riddle in a regular singles bout, and Riddle beat him in a death match, both earlier in Beyond. As a kind of rubber match for the two, it played out in plundery Texas Tornado style but never slowed down the way sprinters like Riddle and Lawlor like it.

After I watched this match, I logged on to my WWE Network account and warmed myself up for the Royal Rumble by watching three previous editions of that signature match: 1993, 2004 and 2012. What struck me as I jumped decade to decade was just how the variety in the wrestlers became more and more bland. Say what you want about the WWF in 1993, but that’s one of my favourite eras, and you can see why in the colourful characters and weird little things going on for each new Rumble competitor. By 2004, the Attitude Era was over and there were definitely a lot less unique characters, but by the time you got to 2012 pretty much every one who entered the Rumble was some dude with a name, who looked pretty jacked and wrestled just like the guy before him.

By the way, I fell asleep long before the 2019 Men’s Rumble Match started… bo-ring!

Match #3 – Monday, January 28th
CHIKARA Showcase: Mike Quackenbush, Solo Darling, Fire Ant & Boomer Hatfield vs. The Whisper, Volgar, Merlok & Travis Huckabee
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Lucha-Inspired Super-Indie Tag Team: More wacky variety straight from the heart of fluid tag team extravaganzas: CHIKARA! Beyond and CHIKARA were in the midst of a friendly little inter-promotional rivalry at the time, and this was an attempt by the senior company, and founder Mike Quackenbush himself, to steal the show with their signature brand of wildness.

What has always been, and apparently still is, so fun about CHIKARA is the barrage of creative masks and costumes they bring to the table, so when you just turn on a match like this you feel like you’ve flipped open a random page of an X-Men comic after not having read the series in years. So while some of the wrestlers on display weren’t as polished as Quack and Fire Ant, they went full-out cartoon mayhem in this one.

That reminds me, I’ve been trying to clear out some of the saved series on my Marvel Unlimited reading list recently, and stumbled on to a nice little arc in the old Captain America Marvel Knights run written by Robert Morales (#21-32), the same guy who wrote the Tuskegee experiments inspired “first” Captain America story ‘Truth: Red, White and Black’. Looking him up afterwards to find what other gems of his I’d missed, I learned that he’d passed away back in 2013.

Match #4 – Tuesday, January 29th
Powerbomb.TV Independent Title Match: Tracy Williams vs. Wheeler YUTA
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Pure Wrestling: Tracy Williams is one of my favourites, a young journeyman who is summed up on commentary with this simple description, “If you can do it on your own, do for a living the thing you grew up loving more than anything else… that’s the American dream!” What that means to me is Williams being able to wrestle his way without quote/unquote selling out, proving that you don’t have to be gimmicky or “cool” to be a professional wrestler. Williams is the difference between buying a cabinet from IKEA or getting one handmade by that guy with his own workshop in the textiles district.

Wheeler Yuta is a little more of the indie guy you expect to see; looks flashy cool, seems ready to amaze you with some moves, but if this is your introduction to him, you’ll learn that he’s also a proficient grappler and can match psychology with a PhD like Williams. This subtle clash of styles is what you’ll get in Beyond that you’ll never see in mainstream wrestling because it has no patience to tell the nuanced story. I contrast this to the Daniel Bryan vs. Mustafa Ali match from Smackdown at the end of 2018, the only reason a match like that stands out is because the WWE has to constantly play it so safe that anything remotely different feels like a revolutionary moment. But Bryan had matches like that all the time in the indies, because you have the time and attention of the crowd to let an up-and-comer like Yuta go move-for-move with a technician, and his forward momentum is not just lip service but an actual athletic step in his development that you’re getting to see play out.

Speaking of playing, I dragged my wife to a friend’s house today to play the “board game” Merchants & Marauders with a group of similarly ageing, white dudes. Poor her… but she won. Beginner’s (or is it last timer’s) luck!

Match #5 – Wednesday, January 30th
Gentleman’s Club vs. Beaver Boys vs. Massage Force vs. Team Tremendous
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Comedy / Indie-Style Multi-Man Madness: So much going on in this one, but – of course – the highlight for me will always be anything Orange Cassidy! His sequence with the eternally underrated John Silver is goofy Cassidy lazy wrestling at its finest. And Cassidy gets to shine a number of times throughout, as about 10 different threads weave through this one, with a dizzying display of silliness and action that needs to be seen to believed.

Not the only wrestling I watched today, as I also submitted this review for Episode #28 of NXT UK. This is the only show I watch from start to finish from WWE ever week at this point, and I like that it might just be a sign of the WWE multiverse, and hints of unique variety still possible from the most generically corporate of companies in the history of pro-wrestling.

Match #6 – Thursday, January 31st
PCO vs. Brian Cage
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Super Heavyweight: What PCO (formerly Pierre the Quebecer) accomplished in 2018 was outstanding, including this near-headlining match against the ferocious Cage. PCO proved in his awkward classic against Walter at Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 that he could at least stand in and take some stiff punishment for epic lengths of time, and he continues that new tradition here against what increasingly becomes a more mirrored opponent. Generations apart, PCO looks like the alternate universe Old Man Cage, and after the first half of the match that features mostly Cage brutalizing the 50-year-old legend, the tale starts to turn in the final stretch as PCO becomes the one dishing out the punishment that Cage has to tiredly absorb. A nice twist and a fantastic match.

A classic character like PCO looks like a guy who would appreciate some classical music. If you’re like me, and are trying to force yourself to appreciate the genre more (or just feeling guilty for not understanding the nuances of the Dissect podcast better) then I’ve got a recommendation for you: Classical Classroom. Listened to the most recent episode today; they’re short, informative, and help you feel the passion people have for music that generally always felt very inaccessible to me.

Match #7 – Friday, February 1st
No Rope Barbed Wire Match: David Starr vs. Joey Janela
[Beyond Wrestling Americanrana, July 2018]

Style = Death Match Blood Feud: No ropes, barbed wire every where, street clothes, mutual hatred, main event!

If you’re ever wondering if that’s real barbed wire in these matches, there’s a scene early on where the HD Youtube camera gets close up on a barb jutting right into the back of Starr, and then strangely it happens in the exact same spot on Joey’s back a few minutes later. The early cautious barbed wire maneuvering quickly leads to a blood-soaked continuation of their New Year’s Eve Fans Bring the Weapons Match.

An excellent way to end the show, again, with a very different style of match. The hardcore aspect definitely helped put this one as a clear big time main event that is needed to keep an audience energized at the end of the show. Especially one that is so rabidly hovering around the ring, almost as if the mat is floating on a sea of heads. That kind of hellish landscape plays well against the violence in and out of the ring here, which escalates to dangerously unhealthy looking levels, and punctuates this fantastic event like a straight-jacket piledriver onto a cinder block exclamation point.

Well, I actually just had a pretty violent fight with my wife. Seems she thinks I’m spend too much time doing all these other things, while there’s a wobbly desk that needs fixing, days old dishes to be washed, laundry piling up, and… well, conversations with her to be had (or listened to, am I right fellas… joking!).

I gave her the spiel about variety being the spice of life and how I’m making myself a more well-rounded, interesting person… just like how Beyond Wrestling is the most unique wrestling promotion out there. She didn’t appreciate the comparison. Oh well, sometimes you’ve just got to make a choice and prioritize the things that really matter. See you next week?