After last week’s look at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, I explored another, even “indier” promotion called Grappling Entertainment Athletic Revolution, or GEAR. GEAR is a small promotion created to allow up and coming young wrestlers the opportunity to work with, and learn from, more experienced and established pros in a unique on-the-job training environment while entertaining live crowds along the way. Of course being a “completist” I started with their debut release, the aptly titled First GEAR, recorded on March 21st of this year in Brooksville, Florida.
TODAY’S ISSUE: My first look at GEAR.
I saw GEAR listed as one of the promotions sold by Ring of Honor at their online store, and after seeing the matches on their very first show and the affordable $15 price tag, I couldn’t resist checking them out. First GEAR featured popular independent stars like Austin Aries, Delirious, Roderick Strong, Erick Stevens, Jay and Mark Briscoe, Nigel McGuinness, Larry Sweeney, Jigsaw, Jason Blade, and Lacey, so ROH/FIP fans will feel right at home. Even Ring of Honor’s perennial fifth banana Shane Hagadorn got a chance to shine, teaming with curtain-jerker Ernie Osiris against “The Lifeguards”. Other familiar names on the card include Sal Rinauro, Kenny King, Seth Delay, and commentator Lenny Leonard, and if ROH had a developmental territory akin to WWE’s Ohio Valley Wrestling, one might imagine it’d look a lot like GEAR.
Their web site declares the following:
“What is GEAR? GEAR’s mission in simplest terms is this: To revamp and revolutionize the Florida pro wrestling culture by showcasing established athletes as well as developing new ones. GEAR believes that Florida’s pro wrestling scene has become stagnant and feels something has to be done to remedy the problem. GEAR is that remedy.
Many of Florida’s young athletes have found themselves in a position where they are unable to improve, not because of their unwillingness to do so, but because they lack the opportunities to be exposed to upper echelon pro wrestling athletes. GEAR will provide an environment where the stars of tomorrow will face off against the stars of today, thus giving Florida’s up and comers the learning experiences they so sorely lack.
GEAR’s family friendly events will be refreshing and unique to Florida, as it will feature a fast paced style, filled with unique high-risk maneuvers and hard-hitting, physical action. GEAR will not have bloody, crowd-clearing brawls, gratuitous illegal objects, or inappropriate language. GEAR is pro wrestling in its purest form, combining an old school foundation with today’s state of the art wrestling techniques.
GEAR is improvement. GEAR is evolution. GEAR is pro wrestling.”
GEAR is a great concept that can truly help the next generation of wrestlers become what most fans want them to be. It’s understood that after completion of “basic training” (in which a wrestler learns the simplest skills to work basic matches) the only way to improve significantly is to work with more seasoned performers. This is why young guys cut by the “big 2” often travel to Japan and Mexico for more experience before working their way back to the U.S. mainstream wrestling scene far better prepared to perform in front of knowledgeable crowds.
Not only is the concept behind GEAR a worthwhile enterprise, but the actual wrestling on this DVD was truly enjoyable as well. GEAR employed an old-school, more basic style than that offered by the bigger indies. They utilized a traditional announce team of a babyface play-by-play man (Leonard) joined by a heel color commentator (the “Hardcore Giant” Ron Niemi), and the characters presented embodied clear babyface and heel archetypes. Most of the heels mixed in a few time-honored spots like the “southern stall”, talking big but then running away, or trying to take a shortcut only to be caught with a hand in the cookie jar. This throwback style was quite refreshing.
Mark Briscoe worked heel in the spirit of the event, but his excessive attempts to get booed by the appreciative fans didn’t work too well, nor did his “offer the hand then pull it away” routine heat the crowd up the way he’d intended. In fact, the kids he dissed laughed, even as more kept offering their hands for the high-five they knew would not connect. Oh well, at least both Briscoes got a chance to work singles matches which doesn’t happen for them very often. Briscoe’s heel tactics were right on the money with the way GEAR approaches pro wrestling, as they went with a less-is-more approach that harkened back to a simpler time in the history of the industry.
As I once said of New England Championship Wrestling (a promotion I will discuss in an upcoming column), and it applies to GEAR as well, some of the more famous independent promotions like ROH, FIP, CHIKARA, and PWG produce such “gourmet” pro wrestling matches with incredible maneuvers and intense action that the experience can become too much for the pallet if it’s all one ever consumes. Imagine eating only the finest cuisine, constantly tasting dishes made from things you didn’t even realize were food and often not recognizing the words on the menu. Even the finest cuisine can get old when it’s the only thing you eat day in and day out. Smaller, simpler feds can provide that meat-and-potatoes comfort food which is always a welcome addition to the dinner table. For fans who enjoy a wide variety of wrestling styles and promotions it takes more than one dish to create a complete menu. I’ll even admit that every once in a while I find myself craving the fast-food of WWF/WWE and sometimes dig into my vault of DVDs and video tapes to pig out on wrestling’s empty calories. Just don’t tell anybody.
First GEAR was very light on ga-ga, and each non-wrestling segment led directly to a match later in the show. On average, the contests were shorter than the usual 20 to 30-minute matches found in the bigger indies, with each clocking in at around 10 minutes. This might make watching GEAR easier for my short attention-span readers out there who don’t have the patience for the longer in-ring performances. The crowd clearly enjoyed themselves, and even ROH’s ultra-heel champion Nigel McGuinness was treated as a babyface just because they were so happy to see him. Although he’s great at working heel in ROH, I’m sure it felt nice for Nigel to have the crowd hang on his every move and pop for his signature lariats like they used to. Incidentally, McGuinness’ non-title match against reigning FIP Florida Heritage champ Sal Rinauro provided a rare inter-promotional champion-versus-champion match. Plus, Ring of Honor fans got an equally rare look at “Sweet-n-Sour” Larry Sweeney actually lacing up his boots for a match against Erick Stevens. Sweeney’s a wrestling genius and any opportunity to watch him work is worth pursuing.
In the tradition of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Sweeney absorbed abuse from the monster Erick Stevens until he had an opening to chop-block the leg, and he used that opportunity to stem the tide of Stevens’ steamrolling offense and go to work on the damaged wheel. That one maneuver made me pop, simply because it fit so nicely with the entire old-school motif GEAR had going, and what better legendary heel to emulate than the “dirtiest player in the game”? Sweeney next moved onto the wrist tape choke behind the ref’s back a la Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Outstanding stuff, and it proved that the classics never go out of style. The match soon became a tribute to great heels in the history of the business and Sweeney even pulled down the straps of his singlet like Jerry “the King” Lawler for good measure. It was a fantastic performance by Sweeney, but it came as no surprise when Stevens, in the role of virtuous babyface, endured all of the underhanded tactics and drilled the villain with his patented Doctor Bomb for the victory. This was pro wrestling in its purest form; a straight-up ‘good guy versus bad guy’ story that was a lot of fun to watch.
Speaking of Erick Stevens, in an interview at Online World of Wrestling, the ROH star and former FIP world heavyweight champion discussed GEAR:
Alan Wojcik – 2008 saw the emergence of a new promotion in Florida, namely Grappling Entertainment Athletic Revolution (www.gearwrestling.com). The website explains the concept behind GEAR but I wish to hear it from someone who has worked for the promotion and got his start in Florida.
Erick Stevens – Yeah, GEAR’s mission is something Roddy [Strong] and I are very passionate about. A lot of the young guys end up wrestling young guys here in Florida and not really learning anything, so we wanted to give them a place where they could get it in the ring with some experienced talent.
That sums up GEAR’s mission and focus very nicely. It’s honorable of the more established guys to want to do this for the next generation of performers making their way in the business. Back to the show…
The main event featured the team of Austin Aries and Delirious taking on the YRR’s Kenny King and his handpicked partner Austin Amadeus. In the traditional way the wrestling business used to function, the final moments of the show included a brawl between these four men that led to the follow-up event in April called Overdrive, with the intention of making fans want to see the singles match between Aries and King which they set up here. And it worked, because I already have that show on order. Unfortunately, besides First GEAR and Overdrive there is only one other GEAR show available at ROHwrestling.com; GEAR’s own homepage hasn’t worked all week. This leads me to wonder if the company was yet another in a long line of failed experiments and promotions that didn’t make enough money to survive. Keep your fingers crossed, indy fans. WWE alone can’t be trusted to groom the next generation of wrestlers, especially considering their stance that any muscle-bound, tattooed monster standing 6’2” or taller can be a wrestler, but an athletic, fast, intense, well-schooled performer is useless because he doesn’t weigh 250 pounds. A breeding ground such as GEAR could help the young stars of tomorrow add the required tools and polish to their repertoire so they might ascend to the next level, while offering the discerning wrestling fan a nice change of pace.
So spend $15 to help ensure the business you love has a future – it’s the right thing to do. Besides, one never knows if Nooie Lee, Austin Amadeus, Chris Jones, or even Moonshine McCoy (a dead ringer for the Necro Butcher) could become the next Bryan Danielson once they fine-tune their performances and add some finesse to their game. Stranger things have happened in the wacky world of professional wrestling.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” – Alexander the Great
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
It’s an Ace double-feature, as Aaron Glazer provides a phenomenal look at every ROH show this calendar year in his Pulse Wrestling Official 2008 ROH Show Compendium (an irreplaceable resource for the ROH fan looking to increase his DVD library) and an outstanding Ring of Honor Weekly discussing some of the best things the beloved indy fed did this year.
As long as we’re talking Ring of Honor, let’s see what John Wiswell has observed about the “terrifying” changes resulting from former head booker Gabe Sapolsky’s release in the consistently fantastic Cult of ROH. Always an excellent read.
Mark Allen loves Thanksgiving, and he described what he’s thankful for this year in his Historically Speaking.
Jonathan Kirschner is the ultimate source for CHIKARA info. Check out the Thanksgiving edition of Chikarticles.
Burgeoning indy queen Norine Stice is back in the trenches for your reading pleasure yet again as she brings you a DVD review of 3Xwrestling’s High Octane show.
Danny Cox reviews another fabulous WWE exploitation of their extensive video library, The History of the Intercontinental Championship, which looks amazing…
Finally this week is Raffi Shamir’s look at WWE in cyber space with his DotCom Delivery.