Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of the week when we give our condolences to the crushed aspirations of Florida Championship Wrestling’s ensnared group of hopefuls. This January 22 episode of FCW is a special one, however, as it features the third annual FCW Grand Royal.
Yeah, that all sounds very glamorous, but for time’s sake, let’s just call it Royal Rumble Light, agree that the timing is obviously not coincidental, and move onward.
Maxine Announces the Grand Royal
The FCW GM Maxine starts off in the ring accompanied by a more ethnic sounding Wyatt Cenac. Maxine explains that the winner of the Grand Royal will get a match with the FCW Heavyweight Champion Leo Kruger later tonight.
Her unnamed associate explains that the contestants will be determined by a 30-second timeframe during which wrestlers must awkwardly stumble over each like a mob of horny drunk men chasing the only woman on a nude beach.
I might have paraphrased that. Those between the ropes when the clock expires will be the official contestants of the Grand Royal. The result is a pretty insubstantial brawl, though it did end awesomely when Seth Rollins hit a top rope moonsault into the other losers.
Match 1: FCW Grand Royal
In typical battle royal fashion, the big men were targeted because they’re always a threat to win this type of match, just like Mark Henry. After toppling some big guy in red I don’t know, Husky Harris was likewise thrown over the top rope by over half the contestants. He stomped away, new tattoos and all.
By the way, I’m glad that psychotic gimmick he apparently had after leaving NXT didn’t stick. If Mark Henry’s taught us anything, you don’t have to give a cheesy gimmick to every big man. Just let them flatten people...or dance.
Among the notable contestants and those I actually recognize, there are Hunico, Dean Ambrose, Damien Sandow looking like a grizzled Civil War veteran (not literally, as that would require him being dead); as well as Briley Pierce, Brad Maddox and Richie Steambaot. Then there’s a whole lot of dudes I’ve never heard of who were barely mentioned by commentary.
Perhaps you think me lazy for not putting in the extra effort to research every individual, but it’s a promotion’s job to sell the wrestlers (as well as the wrestlers’ jobs to sell themselves*), so I rather learn about them the
lazy natural way.
*You get that hooker joke out of your mind right now, you depraved bastard.
At one point, there was a noticeably bad attempt at a near elimination. A dude in red tights was thrown toward the ropes, but he awkwardly came up just short, so he hung from the top rope while still in the ring like a sloth. This should serve as a painful reminder that while we might not love guys like Heath Slater, there’s actually worse than him in FCW.
As the match begins to wind down, Mike Dalton (whose name the commentators did repeat enough for me to pick up on) was worked over by two opponents at once, building him up as an underdog.
However, in all his babyface zeal, Dalton managed to eliminate them both leaving the Grand Royal down to the final two men: himself and FCW 15 Champion, Damien Sandow. Shit, Dalton, your ass is grass.
Right away, Damien Sandow is shitting himself in joy. “Mike Dalton?” he and the commentators implicitly scoff. “Are you kidding me? I’ve wiped my ass with tougher toilet paper!” Damien tries to throw Dalton over the top rope, but he hangs on. Laughing, he tries again on the other side, but once more Dalton manages to catch himself.
Getting annoyed, he tries for it one more time, but Dalton counters and tries to send Sandow over the top rope instead. Stopping himself just short of elimination, Sandow regains his composure and turns around dramatically with the expression and beard of a pissed off axe murderer.
He charges back into the ring, seizes Dalton, who manages to hit a lifting DDT before clotheslining Sandow over the top rope for the victory at 11 minutes.
Winner of the FCW Grand Royal: Mike Dalton (**)
Overall the action was pretty dull. I was disappointed Seth Rollins and Antonio Cesaro hadn’t made it into the ring, though at least Eli Cottonwood didn’t manage to lumber in there and eliminate people with his moustache. (Yes Doctor Money, you weren’t alone in enduring that misery.)
It really felt like a typical WWE battle royal, though without a more energetic crowd, which can be damaging to a match. However, the last few minutes, especially the end sequence that saw Mike Dalton come out the underdog winner, were well worth plodding through the rest of the match.
After the match, Mike Dalton celebrates in the crowd. The commentators put over his underdog victory. He hugs a heavy, elderly woman I assume is his mother. Byron Saxton abandons the announcers’ desk to lay down the question on everyone’s mind: Are you nervous about getting your ass pulverized by Leo Kruger?
Ignoring the sexual innuendo he could have drawn from that question, Dalton said he expected to be the underdog and wouldn’t have it any other way, I guess because being bigger, stronger and more talented is overrated.
Gosh, look at the hair on Dalton. It’s like platinum blond, though take that with a grain of salt, I’m not a hairstylist. It’s probably what Dolph Ziggler’s hair would look like if he had wrestled in the '90s when two feet of hair was normal on men. Speaking of Ziggler, Dalton’s jawline and physique are strikingly similar. He could almost be his …
(Four minutes and thirty-seven seconds of Google later.)
HOLY SHIT, MIKE DALTON IS DOLPH ZIGGLER’S BROTHER! My question is, how does one brother get such a generic name when the other sounds like a Willy Wonka candy bar? Wow, this Dalton fellow just became a whole lot more interesting.
Match 2: Jason Jordan vs. Abraham Washington
I guess Abraham Washington has been getting a workout chopping down cherry trees and fighting slavery, because the man is jacked. Was he this freaking big back when he was hosting a talkshow on ECW?
Anyway, he comes out in flashy duds the commentators say are new, while demonstrating cocky heel antics. Best of all, his head doesn’t shine like a Lego anymore. Jason Jordan looks like the black stock wrestler for WWE ’12. I smell a squash...yes, my mother’s making dinner. Also, it looks like this match will be very one-sided.
(I can do campy too, WWE.)
Man, I can’t get over how big Abraham is. It’s a bigger shock than when Armando Estrada hung up his suit and laced up his boots to show off his washboard of an abdomen.
Anyway, early on Abraham hits a big-ass bitch slap to Jason Jordan. He’s talking a lot of trash, which considering the very lame action in this match, is about the only thing keeping me interested.
A couple minutes in, Abraham Washington sets up a theatric legdrop but misses when attempting a second one. There’s a brief back-and-forth that ends when Abraham Washington hits a very slightly modified neckbreaker for the win after three minutes.
Winner: Abraham Washington (1/2*)
I liked it enough to not just rate it as a squash match, but only because of Abraham Washington’s charisma. The man was terrific at trashtalking and put a lot of theatrics to his offense, however shallow it was.
That finisher kills me though. Abraham has to weigh somewhere around 250 pounds, yet they can’t give him a more powerful finisher than a modified neckbreaker? And I use the word “modified” loosely, I could hardly see the alleged modification the commentators mentioned.
I think he might have turned it into a cutthroat neckbreaker, which is one of those modifications similar to Mike Quackenbush grabbing an opponent’s leg on the other side for a fisherman buster and calling it a brand new move. I love the guy, but come on.
After the match, Abraham Washington put on his shades to initiate swag mode. “Did you see that? Did you see that? Of course you saw it, unless your name is Helen Keller.” Line of the night, ladies and gentlemen. “Abraham Washington is the baddest man in this place and if you don’t like it … you can put it in your face!” Not a terrible catchphrase.
Abraham Washington’s new gimmick is fantastic. He wrestles as well as Helen Keller sees, hears and thinks, but this character has a ton of potential. It’s better than being Mr. Lego Head on ECW.
Match 3, FCW Divas Championship: Raquel Diaz (Queen of FCW) vs. Audrie Marie (c)
These two had a much better contrast in characters than Audrie did with her challenger last week. Raquel oozes stuck-up bitch, while Audrie is essentially a knockoff of Mickie James. I think I might like the Queen of FCW gimmick for Raquel.
The opening was solid, nothing creative but more impactful than a lot of usual divas action. Sometimes it’s hard for women to sound hard-hitting in a ring given their size, but they pulled it off in those first couple minutes.
Audrie Marie avoided a clothesline with a Stratus-esque Matrix dodge, also following through her bridge into a spinning headscissors. A very nice move, but the impression wouldn’t last long, as Audrie followed it up with a botchy clothesline and legdrop.
Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but both moves were as green as the Grinch, but not played by Jim Carrey and thus less cool.
After five minutes, Raquel Diaz countered the Eye of the Hurricane to win the FCW Divas Championship with a Gory Bomb.
Winner and New FCW Divas Champion: Raquel Diaz (*1/4)
After the match, Raquel declared that her claiming the Divas Championship was just the next step in taking over FCW. I can’t say I know what this is leading up to considering I’m unfamiliar with usual story progression in FCW or what characters she might be playing off of, but I like her and this match was decent, so I’m okay with it.
Let me take a moment to describe something I’ve noticed about the FCW shows. If you’ve never watched a small-time indie promotion, this sort of venue is very similar. It’s not very large, smaller than most ROH shows in fact, and thus you don’t get as loud of crowds but you do get those fun moments when a particular fan’s voice stands out.
“You suck!” when Raquel cut her promo probably wouldn’t have gotten through in the din of a WWE audience, though I’m glad it did here, as now that fan doesn’t have to go home and angrily blog about how much he hates Raquel Diaz.
He can be satisfied that he revealed her oral activities to an entire television audience. In some small way, this is a victory for us fans. Remember it.
Main Event, FCW Heavyweight Champion: Mike Dalton vs. Leo Kruger (c)
These two have a stark size contrast that will work nicely into the underdog story they’ve built around Mike Dalton, who is essentially Ziggles Light (I’ve been using that phrase a lot, haven’t I?), with a similar physique and face, but more of a cruiserweight than his brother. Leo Kruger, on the other hand, looks like some strange mix of Randy Savage and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.
He’s beefy, wears leopard print tights and has a 1970s pornstar moustache. In all, he exudes manly dominance. I feel like he should be tearing tusks off mammoths instead of flattening Dolph Ziggler’s little brother, but I digress...let’s see some flippin’ dippin’ wrasslin’.
Leo Kruger does an excellent job as a dominant heel in the early going. He hits an emphatic waistlock takedown and works over Dalton with stiff, measured strikes. Mike Dalton seems to share his brother’s penchant for selling, though so far he hasn’t doing anything I’d call an oversell, as I often apply to Dolph Ziggler spinning around in a circle and then head-spiking every time he takes Trouble in Paradise.
Just as his size would suggest, Mike Dalton moves and wrestles much more like a cruiserweight. He’s certainly faster and perhaps more agile than Mr. Ziggles. He went for several roll-ups, including a nice crucifix for a two-count. If I ever used a roll-up variation for a finisher, I’d call it to the Fruit Roll-Up.
This might sound obscure, but the two did a very good job of working around each other in the early going. What I mean is there was none of that awkward bumping into each other or struggling to keep out of each other’s way when appropriate that you might see among greener wrestlers.
The two moved out of the way when was needed and moved to where they should be. It’s a fundamental skill, but imperative to master at this stage in the game, considering they’re both probably at the level where they’re viable contenders for the main roster, Leo Kruger more so than Ziggles Light.
Mike Dalton hits a flurry of strikes, including a leaping enzugiri, but Leo Kruger still throws him to the floor in dominant fashion. Right back from commercial break, Mike Dalton again gets thrown to the floor. Either they didn’t actually edit the match around a commercial break or Kruger didn’t consider the potential for redundancy when throwing Dalton to the floor for a second time.
The champion is still working a very stiff, dominant style at this point. He worked over Dalton briefly with a modified camel clutch, that included him raking at his face (a nice touch), and soon after pummeled him with a series of arm-pull clotheslines, each one bumped emphatically to sell the intensity and size difference.
To cap off this powerful display, Dalton ran the ropes only to get caught in a SPINEBUSTER OF DEATH AND DISMAY AND OH MY GOD DID YOU SEE HIS HEAD SNAP BACK~!? for a two-count. See, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler, that’s why JR was more fun: he actually got excited. Cole only gets excited when Miz is berating fans and beating up Daniel Bryan.
In the last four or so minutes, we start to see the big moves come out. Mike Dalton hits a top rope huracanrana for a long two-count. Kruger fights back with a sleeperhold that Dalton manages to turn into a pin that the champion breaks up. Leo, in all his manly power, laid out Dalton with a nice Jackhammer, but only for another two-count.
Back to their feet, Kruger looks to be setting up another big move, only for Dalton to work his way out and hit his lifting DDT for a two-count that Kruger stops by getting his foot on the bottom rope. I don’t normally go into that much play-by-play, but I liked this series for its clean though powerful simplicity.
After failing to roll up Dalton with the tights, Kruger locks in another sleeper. Dalton fights out of it with a jawbreaker and attempts another roll-up, but Kruger catches him, lifts him to his feet through a wheelbarrow clutch and locks in the final sleeper. They play up Dalton’s desperation to reach the ropes for a few moments before Kruger locks in the bodyscissors and the challenger taps at 12 minutes.
Winner and Still FCW Heavyweight Champion: Leo Kruger (***1/4)
This was just a notch above last week’s tag team main event. It was a lot cleaner and had better action, but it still felt somewhat formulaic, which is almost refreshing to WWE’s sometimes convoluted television main events, especially when they’re tag team matches at the behest of “HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA” Teddy Long.
Like I gushed several times, the underdog story was executed to a tee, especially with Kruger fitting into the dominant heel role perfectly.
As Leo Kruger celebrated a successful title defense, Chris Russo announced next week Damien Sandow will defend his FCW 15 Championship against Richie Steamboat in their main event. Well that sounds...AWESOME!
The show quality was very similar to last week, with a couple decent mid-card matches and a very good main event. Though the mid-card was slightly better last week, the main event was just as better this week and thus the Jan. 22, 2012 edition of FCW earns a 7/10. At the very least, I’d recommend checking out the FCW Heavyweight Championship match.
FCW is discussed most lately for its indie darlings like Seth Rollins, Antonio Cesaro, Dean Ambrose and Damien Sandow, but there are a lot of guys on the roster just as worthy of our consideration, even if they’re not as cool as Dean fucking Ambrose, because he’s Dean Ambrose.
Alright creepers, it’s time to wrap up this review with a segment I like to call the Developmental Deal. It’s where I pick one FCW talent and assess his potential within FCW and the possibility of his ascension to the main roster.
Since they’re all people have been talking about regarding FCW lately, I’ll give you two-for-one: Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins have both been working house shows and dark matches lately. As an even better sign, Triple H was reported as saying he’s holding off on their debuts until they have strong storylines prepared for each man so they can hit the ground running.
Despite embarrassing himself in other press appearances, Triple H impresses me with how attentively he’s treating two men who certainly deserve such attention. Obviously this eventual promotion would mean the end of their tenure in FCW for the most part.
And let me just mention that between the two, Triple H said Dean Ambrose is the more promising. Fuck yeah. (WrestleZone)
That’s all for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed your stay in wrestling purgatory. Until next week, I’m Nicholas LeVack, and you’ve just been … Florida’d.