WARNING: STRONG VIOLENCE AHEAD
Welcome back to H2O and to the first day of a triple-bill of violence, wrestling and wonder. We’re kicking the weekender off with a good old dose of Rising Star warfare as the Hustle Cup comes to our screens. There’d be 16 Rising Stars in an elimination tournament where the last four would duke it out in an elimination match. Alongside that, Alex Stretch returned to competition in a falls count anywhere barbed-wire bunkhouse match against Drew Blood, Chris Bradley and Kristian Ross defended their H2O Tag Team titles against The Extricated and much more. Let’s get into the action.
Round 1: Austin Luke defeated Celcio Vega, Frank Bonetti & Brandon Kirk via Crossface on Vega
Up first was Austin Luke taking on new faces Celcio Vega and ref turned wrestler Frank Bonetti alongside the exciting Santiago. Sadly, Santiago didn’t make it to the ring as he was attacked by a ghost, a ghost that turned out to be the student slayer, Brandon Kirk. He inserted himself into the match and our new four-way was made. This was pure joy to watch as Kirk had fun at everyone else’s expense and dominated a lot of the going. He was fine being a dick and made an enemy of everyone, a move that eventually cost him. Vega and Bonetti got the chance to show off throughout and Luke got the first win of the tourney by submitting Vega with a Crossface. It was a competitive little match that had the crowd warmed up nicely.
Round 1: Darian Hardway defeated Anthraxx, Nick Grande & Rocket via Super Powerbomb
Next up was the Kryptonian, Darian Hardway doing battle with the monster Anthraxx, the Alien Rocket and Nick Grande. Hardway was definitely the strongest in the ring but he had speed, skill and a sheer violent will to watch out for amongst this group. Anthraxx was back from injury and determined to show he was better than ever. This upped the action count as everyone had their time to shine. Hardway was kept out of things early so came back with a vengeance whilst Grande looked to show he was better than everyone, Anthraxx had moments of pure destruction and Rocket wowed everyone with his fast strikes and aerial excellence. This proved to be an amazing styles clash and definitely had the crowd hooked throughout.
Round 1: Adonis Valerio defeated Duncan Aleem, Marcus Mathers & Leroy Robinson via 450 Splash on Aleem
Third up was a battle between the Naughty one Adonis Valerio, Sole Survivor Duncan Allen, Leroy Robinson and the Young Prodigy, Marcus Mathers. This looked to be another clash of styles with Robinson and Aleem potentially skewing the odds in their favour as they both belong to the group tearing Undiscovered apart, Affirmative Action. Their numbers definitely came into play but they were hardly on the same page and often turned on each other when the situation suited it. Mather and Valerio were often able to work together momentarily, then went back to wrecking each other. Once again, the action was rapid and fun with Aleem hijacking the match with his comedy gold 450 spot. Valerio was able to take the win by hitting a 450 of his own onto Aleem after sending Mathers crashing and burning to the outside. This match kept the trend going as everyone had a riot in the ring and the crowd loved them for it.
Round 1: Reid Walker defeated Deklan Grant (w/Jess Moss) GG Everson & Edward Hawkins via Bridging Tiger Bomb on Grant
Lastly, we had our final four-way. Reid Walker was in there with The Grimy Bastard Deklan Grant, GG Everson and the Affirmative Action’s President Edward Hawkins. This match had a very obvious monster in the form of Everson that would require the efforts of all the competitors here to deal with. This was definitely the most physical of the four-ways as all-flash was gone in favour of just straight up beating the hell out of each other. Walker got the outside treatment where he was picked apart by the seconds, Hawkins got more offence in here than I’ve seen him get off in any other match, Everson was the monster taking out everyone and Grant was his usual brand of gritty with added arrogance following that betrayal at Hustlepalooza. He was denied his three-peat by the combined forces of Devon Moore and Reid Walker, forcing him to eat his first tournament loss of the year.
Falls Count Anywhere Barbed-Wire Bunkhouse: Alex Stretch vs Drew Blood ends in a draw
We took a break from the tournament for a taste of the old ultraviolence. Alex Stretch is one of the wildest men in H2O and now he was back in action taking on the Notorious Drew Blood in a barbed-wire brawl that could go anywhere. No rules, no restrictions, just glorious violence. They even had barbed-wire haybales. Blood couldn’t even get in the ring at first as Stretch dropkicked him onto a door and broke it with a chair drop. What followed was sheer unadulterated chaos, we got apron suplexes, barbed-wire haybale cock shots and facebusters, cowbells and carpet strips to name but a few. Stretch’s face was pissing blood but that didn’t stop him channelling Terry Funk through his attire and actions, even bringing out a flaming branding iron. There were so many bunkhouse items in use alongside the traditional deathmatch plunder and so much blood loss that it really felt like an all-or-nothing match. We even had an invincible shower door. Both guys ended up so messed up that there wasn’t even a clear winner. They both crashed onto a barbed-wire frame and both got pinned. This was a blast, violent, messy and full of Alex Stretch craziness that I am glad to see in action again.
H2O Tag Titles: Chris Bradley & Kristian Ross defeated The Extricated (Mouse & Aiden Baal) via Bam Sullivan being a dickhead
Time for our title match of the night as The Extricated took their title shot against 2x champions Chris Bradley and Kristian Ross. We know what happens when the Extricated set their sights on something so Ross and Bradley were in for an uphill fight here if they were going to leave with their titles. This was another fun match-up as we had three hosses and the ultimate innovator in Mouse. It was an eclectic mix of early dives, power plays and hoss-fight striking. Baal was really laying it in against Ross and Bradley whilst Mouse was pulling out all his creative flips, drops and claws to match up to the size disadvantage he was out. We got competitive flurries from both teams as The Extricated’s experience came into play, giving them the upper hand against the champions. That couldn’t extinguish their fire though and the champs had the match on the brink of victory. Mouse had the match won with the Mouse Trap/Shiranui combo but couldn’t capitalise as Bam Sullivan interfered and the match was thrown out. The Champs retained but it wasn’t in the way they wanted to and Sullivan got to be a smug asshole, as he’d cost The Extricated another title. The champs also announced an open challenge for Destiny. Bobby Dempsey and Myke Quest accepted the challenge. But they weren’t alone, Jeff Cannonball also answered the call and is bringing along a different partner to Mitch, the returning Queen of the Dinosaurs Terra Calaway.
Eddy Only (w/Eric Ryan) defeated Frankie Pickard via Smoke-side Cradle
Well, time to clear the air a bit with a whole lot of smoke style. We had the King of Smoke Style Frankie Pickard taking on the master of White Trash Smoke Style Eddy Only. It wouldn’t be an H2O show anymore without 44OH! and Only was going to be the first appearance of the night. Who was going to be the real King of Smoke Style? Well, this time it was Eddy Only, but (pardon the pun) only just. Pickard had his number for most of the match and was continuously out-smoking and out-wrestling him. We got mid-match smoke breaks, a smoking barfight and Pickard almost being bought out of the match by Ryan after he threatened to burn Only’s swearing finger. It was a fun little match which was a nice change of pace from the barbarity and competitive wrestling we’d been having. Only was at his best again and Ryan was making it all the more fun being the straight man. Only just continues to get funnier, even if I always want him to lose.
Rickey Shane Page (w/Atticus Cogar & Eric Ryan) defeated Ryan Redfield via Mouse Trap Pin
Our penultimate action was some good old non-title action. Ryan Redfield has been on a tear in H2O and now he wanted to give the top champion in the company a black eye. The problem was, Rickey Shane Page didn’t even know who he was and he certainly didn’t care. This was Big Red’s chance to leave a mark. He certainly did, he left several but inexperience and numbers caught up and he fell short in his efforts. RSP had the help of his boys throughout and just kept picking apart Redfield as the match went on. Redfield was forced to take advantage where he could and work from underneath as RSP went from taking him lightly to desperately trying to kill him. This match had an excellent hybrid hoss fight feel and told a compelling little story across a smallish time limit. It was fun, fast and only raises Redfield’s stock as he took the champion to the limits and forced his boys to come to the rescue. The champion survives embarrassment and we saw RSP resort to classic wrestling pins when his power failed.
Hustle Cup Elimination Final: Adonis Valerio defeated Reid Walker, Darien Hardway & Austin Luke via XXX-Factor to Luke
Last but not least, the main event. Four fighters had made it through the opening round and now they were going to have to pick each other off if they wanted to raise that cup at the end. We had Austin Luke taking on Darien Hardway taking on Adonis Valerio taking on Reid Walker. All had their wounds and weariness, who was going to go the distance now. The first elimination was almost instant as a duo of mini brawls broke out and both Valerio and Luke were sent outside. Walker tried to follow with a dive but Hardway cut him off with a forearm and KO’ed him for the three-count. Luke and Valerio worked just as quickly and got rid of Hardway with a Figured Four Frog Splash combo. That left Luke and Valerio, with Valerio being in slightly better condition for this one. They shook hands and proceeded to beat the hell out of each other, kicking, dropping and striking each other as the time stretched on. They went hell for leather for almost ten minutes, collapsing from exhaustion and taking the others’ legs out a lot of the time. in the end, it would be Valerio that got the win dropping Luke with the XXX Factor, taking the first-ever Hustle Cup. He’d put the effort in, shown out against his opponents and now, the Naughty One had another accolade to his name. Luke had certainly taken the fight to him but it had just come short and he needs to preserve himself for tomorrow’s even deadlier tournament… Congratulations once again Adonis Valerio. You get to stand triumphant at the end of an interesting little show to kick off the weekend.
All images courtesy of H2O,