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DVD Review: FLASHBACK IWA Strong Style Tournament (6-27-03) w/Punk-Murdoch, Hero-Whitmer

Sep 20, 2007 - 3:55:29 PM

By Chris Vetter

Smart Mark Video, which records and sells all IWA Mid-South shows, has recently released many old shows on DVD for the very first time. I recently reviewed a March 2003 IWA-MS show, “Ultra Styles Clash Weekend,” and I decided to pick up another show from that era. This is a review of “Strong Style Tournament Revolution” from June 27, 2003.

I primarily purchased this DVD because it is a tournament that featured CM Punk, B.J. Whitmer, Chris Hero, and a “Stan Dupp” appearance, who is better known today as Trevor Murdoch.

IWA Mid-South at this time ran in a large, old looking factory-style building in Clarksville, Ind. I believe this was an old Kmart or something like that. The crowd is maybe 150 to 200, but again, there are just too many front-row seats empty, and that makes it look awkward on screen, as sees right across from the hard camera are empty. (It gives it the impression the crowd is much smaller than it really is!)

SMV, even in 2003, recorded the shows with multiple cameras, and they do a good job with lighting and editing. However, the hard camera looks down from an ‘eagle’s perch’ over one turnbuckle and into the ring – it is not straight on with the ring. On commentary are Dave Prazak and Lucy (WCW’s Daffney), and a variety of other wrestlers over the course of the show.

No backstage promos or segments here. To the ring! Prazak immediately told us this would be another IWA “marathon show” with 12 scheduled matches.

(1) Steve Stone defeats Nate Webb at 8:34.
Webb made fun of the fans, which was really weird, as I’d never seen Webb as a heel in IWA! Prazak talked about how Lollipop had been managing Nate Webb on some TNA TV matches. (Wow, when’s the last time anyone mentioned Lollipop?) Stone is bald and thick; I’ve seen a lot of him in IWA before. They opened with some quick reversals, and Stone hit some armdrags. Prazak talked about a new feud between IWA Mid-South and CZW. Stone hit some chops on the floor. In the ring, Stone hit a delayed vertical suplex for a nearfall at 2:30.

Stone hit a powerslam. Webb hit a Flatliner and a running crossbody block in the corner, then he choked Stone in the ropes. Webb stretched Stone, and he hit a snap suplex, then a Tornado DDT for a nearfall at 6:00. Stone hit a hard clothesline, and they were both down. Stone hit a swinging neckbreaker for a nearfall and an elevated Flatliner for a nearfall. Stone then hit a top-rope sitdown powerbomb for the pin! Solid opener.

(2) Round 1: Stan Dupp defeats Brad Bradley at 8:58.
Solid big man match. Dupp now wrestles in WWE as Trevor Murdoch; here he’s much thinner than he is today. Dupp wore a torn T-shirt and bluejeans. Bradley is a strong kid, and he’s currently in the WWE developmental system. They opened with an intense lockup. Tracy Smothers joined commentary, and he repeatedly called Dupp, “Trevor Rhodes,” implying that he’s Dusty’s son. (Which, honestly, in 2003, Dupp could have worked that gimmick easily.) Dupp applied a Fujiwara Armbar, and he slowed Bradley with a headlock. Bradley applied a headscissorslock, and this was a bit slow early. They hit double clotheslines at 4:00.

Bradley hit an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, then a backbreaker over his knee, and he applied a bearhug. The crowd was quiet. Bradley hit some shoulder blocks in the corner and a backbody drop for a nearfall. Bradley went back to the Bearhug, and he hit a Mafia Kick in the corner for a nearfall at 6:30. Bradley applied a Camel Clutch, and the crowd rallied for Dupp. They traded stiff forearms, and Bradley applied a half Camel Clutch, but he missed a second-rope elbow drop. Dupp nailed a hard clothesline, and he applied a Sleeper, and Bradley tapped out!

(3) Round 1: CM Punk defeats Tarek the Great at 1:35.
The referee was Mickie Knuckles (this is before she made her wrestling debut.) Prazak noted that Tarek has been in IWA since the promotion began in 1996. Punk here is blonde with purple tips, and he was definitely leaner than he is today. Lucy joked that she’s biased over who she was cheering for (it’s no secret, and Lucy is pretty open about it here, that she was dating CM Punk at this point in time.)

Tarek nailed some quick kicks to the chest, and a Tajiri-style spin kick to the head! Tarek nailed a flying shoulder block for a nearfall. They traded headbutts, and suddenly, Punk hit a Shining Wizard/running knee for the pin! Shockingly short. Punk held his head in pain. Fun start to a match, but this had to be a disappointment for fans there that this was over so quickly.

* NOTE: Prazak had mentioned a feud with CZW had begun, and this next match is an “IWA vs. CZW” matchup.

(4) Sonjay Dutt & Ruckus defeat JC Bailey & Simon Sezz at 15:29.
Ruckus was much, much heavier in 2003. He got on the mic and ripped the crowd, calling them rednecks & drunks, which the crowd cheered! JC Bailey’s mystery partner … is a longtime rival, Simon Sezz! Prazak was perplexed by this choice. The fans loudly chanted, “IWA!” Dutt and Bailey started, and Dutt slapped him and goaded him. Dutt accidentally hit Ruckus. Bailey hit an armdrag. CM Punk joined commentary. Ruckus worked Sezz’s arm over the top rope. Ruckus accidentally worked over Dutt’s arm at 3:30. The faces took turns chopping Ruckus on the floor. Dutt hit a springboard corkscrew press to the floor on the faces. Bailey hit a chairshot on Ruckus’ back.

Sezz hit a nice headscissors takedown on Ruckus. Bailey hit a doublestomp on Dutt’s chest as Dutt was lying on Sezz’s knees, for a nearfall! Nice spot. Ruckus hit a superkick on Sezz for a nearfall, then an ugly standing moonsault for a nearfall at 6:00, and the heels worked over Sezz. Dutt hit a hard clothesline for a nearfall. The CZW guys hit a team Russian Legsweep and a double standing Shooting Star Press for a nearfall. Ruckus peeled up Sezz’s shirt and chopped him. Ruckus hit a Dragonscrew Legwhip, and he applied a Figure Four Leglock at 8:00, with Dutt pulling on Ruckus’ arms for pressure. Dutt applied a Boston crab. Ruckus hit a handspring-back-kick on Sezz. Punk on commentary ripped on the bad officiating, calling it “pure comedy.”

Sezz hit a frogsplash on Dutt at 12:30, and he made the hot tag to Bailey. Bailey entered and hit some forearms and clotheslines, then a swinging neckbreaker on Dutt for a nearfall, but Ruckus made the save. Dutt hit a Tornado DDT on Sezz. Ruckus hit the Razzle Dazzle/cartwheel-back-elbow on Sezz. They had some awkward exchanges. The faces hit simultaneous dives to the floor. Sezz whipped Ruckus into the chairs. Bailey hit a top-rope guillotine legdrop on Dutt in the ring. Suddenly, Sezz grabbed a chain, and he attacked his partner, JC Bailey! Dutt quickly covered Bailey to score the cheap pin.

* Sezz was apparently throwing up at ringside; I’m glad the cameras didn’t show this! Sezz ripped open Bailey’s forehead with the chain. The “Super Mean” heel faction of manager Jim Fannin and wrestlers B.J. Whitmer, Mitch Page and Matt Stryker (NO, not the Matt Striker in WWE!) hit the ring. Fannin told Sezz that he looks like an eight-year-old girl who hasn’t eaten in weeks. The heels then beat up Simon Sezz, saying he was not going to join their faction. This was an extended beatdown of Sezz. Finally, Mark Wolf made the save.

* Chris Hero vs. Tracy Smothers was up next. Heel wrestler Michael Todd Stratton joined commentary. The bell had just rang when a fight between Tarek the Great and Hy-Zaya burst from the back and in front of the crowd! Several wrestlers ran over to separate Tarek and Hy-Zaya. The ringside announcer was exasperated, as he announced a short intermission so everything could be calmed down. Tarek shouted at promoter Ian Rotten that he wanted a match with Hy-Zaya. (I liked how this was done. The ‘short intermission’ trick made it feel like this genuinely wasn’t planned).

(5) Round 1: Chris Hero defeats Tracy Smothers at 13:14.
They opened with some standing switches, and this was pretty basic early. They traded armholds, and Smothers bailed at 2:30. In the ring, Smothers applied an abdominal stretch, and he grabbed the ropes for leverage. On commentary, Michael Todd Stratton decided to “shoot” on CZW. (And there is nothing more annoying than a wrestler saying he is going to ‘shoot.’) Hero nailed some kneestrikes to the head, but he couldn’t get on the Hangman’s Clutch at 6:00, and Smothers bailed again. In the ring, Hero applied a cravate. They traded offense in a knucklelock. Hero applied the Hangman’s Clutch/modified STF, but Smothers escaped and bailed to the floor again at 9:00.

In the ring, Smothers hit a jumping back heel kick for a nearfall. Hero hit some hard thrusts to the chest, and he fired up, and he hit a second-rope missile dropkick. On commentary, Prazak noted that Hero had lost about 50 pounds in the past year. Hero hit some stiff forearms. Smothers hit a low blow headbutt and got a nearfall at 12:00. Smothers hit a belly-to-belly suplex and a spear for a believable nearfall. Hero fired back with a big boot, and he locked on the Hangman’s Clutch, and Smothers tapped out! Solid, mat-based action; this one isn’t for everyone.

* The fans applauded both wrestlers. Smothers got on the mic and called Hero “One of the most talented wrestlers in the world. I was in the ring with a better man.” Hero took the mic, and he thanked Smothers, and he put over IWA Mid-South.

(6) Round 1: B.J. Whitmer (w/Jim Fannin) defeats Ian Rotten at 14:15.
Good match. Mitch Page now joined commentary. The wrestlers opened with some quick reversals early, and Ian kicked at Whitmer’s thigh, so B.J. bailed. Whitmer was wearing a huge kneebrace. Whitmer applied a Fujiwara Armbar, then a cross-armbreaker, and Ian bailed at 2:30. They traded headbutts while in a knucklelock, and they were both down. Ian hit some stiff forearms, so Whitmer fired back with his own blows. Ian hit a headbutt that leveled Whitmer at 5:00, and he hit some more headbutts on the mat. Ian ran on the floor and hit a kick on Whitmer’s head, as Whitmer was lying on the ropes!

Whitmer came back with a low blow and some Kawada Kicks. Ian was bloody by his left eye at 7:00. In the ring, Whitmer began to twist the left arm, and he hit some kneedrops on it. Ian was really getting bloody! Whitmer hit some spine kicks, and he was in charge. Ian applied an anklelock, and he started to work over Whitmer’s left shoulder. Ian hit a headbutt on the shoulder, then a jumping senton for a nearfall at 10:30. They traded shots while fighting on their knees.

Whitmer applied a Front Guillotine Choke. Fannin jumped on Ian and twisted Ian’s arm in the ropes. Fannin hopped in the ring and hit Ian. The referee didn’t call for a disqualification, which surprised me. Whitmer put on a ‘loaded’ elbow pad, and he hit Ian with it. Whitmer applied a cross-armbreaker, but Ian was already out on the mat. Ian’s arm dropped three times, and the referee called for the bell. A hard-hitting match.

(7) Hy-Zaya defeats Michael Todd Stratton (w/manager) at 13:37.
Good match that topped my expectations. Stratton is a Jamie Noble-type hillbilly character. Hy-Zaya is a thin black man; I’ve never seen him before (and he was already gone by the time I started watching IWA). Stratton got on the mic and he said that CZW guys were “pu$$ies,” and the fans cheered. Hy-Zaya got on the mic and apologized to the fans for his fight earlier in the show. The crowd was HOT! Stratton opened by hitting some hard chops and forearms, so Hy-Zaya returned those blows, and Hy-Zaya hit a backbody drop and a clothesline, so Stratton bailed.

In the ring, Stratton hit some field goal kicks to the gut, and a gutbuster over his knee at 2:30, then some open-handed slaps to the face. They traded slaps! Stratton hit a back suplex, dumping Hy-Zaya on his head! Stratton hit a brainbuster, and he tossed Hy-Zaya to the floor, where the manager worked over Hy-Zaya. Stratton hit a sitdown powerbomb in the ring at 6:30, and the crowd began to rally for Hy-Zaya. Stratton hit some more LOUD chops, and he hit a Gorilla Press, then a reverse Tombstone piledriver for a nearfall at 9:30.

Stratton hit a sitdown piledriver for a believable nearfall! Stratton hit a T-Bone suplex and another sitdown piledriver, and he was annoyed that he hadn’t gotten the win. Stratton hit a top-rope elbow drop for a nearfall at 12:30. Stratton hit a DDT onto a folded chair for a nearfall. Out of no-where, Hy-Zaya got a rollup for the pin! Sure, this match was completely one-sided, but it was an entertaining match. Stratton shook Hy-Zaya’s hand after the match.

End of DVD 1 at 2 hours, 10 minutes.

(8) Mark Wolf defeats Danny Daniels and Matt Stryker at 13:27 to retain the IWA Mid-South title.
To reiterate, this is the “unibrow” Matt Stryker, and NOT the Matt Striker in WWE today. The first time I saw Wolf wrestle live was probably late 2005, and he was really chunky and out of shape, so I was surprised to see him so lean and energetic here. (And it’s sad that he let himself go so quickly in just two years.) Smothers rejoined commentary. Danny Daniels got on the mic and proclaimed himself the uncrowned champion. It was immediately apparent that the heels of Stryker & Daniels were going to work together.

Wolf hit a double clothesline, then a backbody drop on each opponent, and the heels bailed. Wolf hit a clothesline on Daniels. Stryker hit some jabs to the face, and the heels were working together. Stryker hit a spine kick for a nearfall at 3:00. The heels began to argue. The crowd was really quiet. Daniels hit some kneedrops to the face, but Stryker tried to steal the win, and the heels argued some more. This was pretty basic two-on-one offense. Wolf hit some chops on both. Daniels hit a fisherman’ suplex at 5:30 on Wolf, and Daniels applied a Figure Four Leglock, with Stryker pulling on Daniels’ arms for pressure! Stryker choked Wolf in the ropes.

Wolf hit a low blow on each heal, then bulldog on one heel while hitting a clothesline on the other, for a nearfall on Daniels at 8:00. Wolf also hit a combination chinbreaker and DDT for another nearfall. The heels collided. Daniels put Wolf in a Camel Clutch, but Stryker made the save! Stryker hit some stomps on Daniels, and he was angry. Stryker put a modified Figure Four on Wolf, but Daniels made the save. I find Smothers excruciatingly painful on commentary during this match. Daniels dumped Wolf to the floor, and the announcers talked about Wolf’s past concussion problems.

Daniels put Stryker in a Camel Clutch. Stryker hit a Finlay Roll on Daniels for a nearfall, as Wolf was still unconscious on the floor. Stryker hit a sloppy slingshot suplex. Daniels hit an inverted DDT for a believable nearfall at 12:30. The crowd was really quiet, not cheering for either heel in the ring. The heels traded stiff forearms, and Daniels fell to the floor. Wolf snuck in the ring, got an O’Connor roll out of nowhere, and pinned Stryker. Basic, average match.

* Ruckus & Sonjay Dutt came out of nowhere to attack Mark Wolf! Chris Hero & the IWA roster ran in to make the save.

(9) Round 2: CM Punk defeats Stan Dupp at 13:33.
A really good match. Prazak on commentary talked about how Punk has been wrestling everywhere lately. They opened with some standing switches, and Punk hit a deep armdrag; Smothers compared it to Ricky Steamboat’s armbars. Punk applied a hammerlock on the mat, and he tied Dupp’s arm in the rope and hit a dropkick on the elbow at 4:00. Dupp refused to tie up in a knucklelock, and instead, he nailed Punk with a forearm. Dupp hit a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall, then a sunset flip that almost looks like a Canadian Destroyer, for a nearfall at 6:30.

Dupp hit a sitdown piledriver, and Punk rolled to the floor. Dupp jawed at Punk as Dupp nailed some chops on the floor. In the ring, Dupp hit some crossface punches and a swinging neckbreaker. He flipped Punk in the air, and Punk crashed gut-first to the mat at 9:00. Dupp hit some more chops. Punk fired up with some stiff forearms and chops, then some bootscrapes in the corner and a running Facewash. Dupp hit a Mafia Kick and a Tower of London/hangman’s stunner from the corner. Dupp hit a Russian Legsweep, and he tied Punk in an Octopus. Wow, Dupp can really mat wrestle! Dupp hit an Alabama Slamm for a nearfall at 13:00. Moments later, Punk nailed a Shining Wizard/running knee for the pin! Good match.

(10) Round 2: B.J. Whitmer (w/Jim Fannin) defeats Chris Hero at 9:56.
Good match. Smothers said that Whitmer is one of the most improved indy wrestlers in the world. The match began, and they immediately traded chops, forearms and punches. Hero hit a dropkick, and Whitmer bailed. Wow, that was an awesome first minute! Hero hit a shoulder tackle in the ring, and Whitmer bailed again. Hero hit some kicks to Whitmer’s sore knee, then a spine kick and a doublestomp to the chest at 3:30. Whitmer fired back with a release German Suplex and a standing neckbreaker for a nearfall. “I’m mesmerized,” Lucy said on commentary. “This is the hardest hitting sh!t I’ve ever seen.”

Whitmer applied an abdominal stretch on the mat, and he choked Hero in the ropes. Fannin also choked Hero. Hero hit a cool wristbreaker move. Hero applied a Fujiwara Armbar, and he turned it into a cross-armbreaker at 7:00, but Whitmer reached the ropes. Whitmer hit a running knee in the corner and a sitdown powerbomb for a nearfall, then a running kneestrike for a nearfall. Hero fired back by hitting the Hero’s Welcome/swinging faceplant for a nearfall, and he applied the Hangman’s Clutch/modified STT, but Fannin reached in the ring and pulled Hero to the floor! Whitmer got his ‘loaded’ elbow pad, and he nailed Hero with a forearm shot. Whitmer then hit a Hero’s Welcome on Hero for the pin! Hero was knocked out after the loaded forearm shot. Very good, hard-hitting match.

(11) Rollin Hard defeats Mitch Page (w/Jim Fannin) in a dog collar match at 12:59.
UGH. I just have no interest in watching fat guys cut each other up. This match just has a SICKENING amount of blood loss, from both men. Mitch knocked over some chairs as he walked to the ring. Matt Stryker joined commentary. Mitch hesitated, initially refusing to put the collar on. The match began, and Page attacked and hit some punches and chokes before he finally put the collar on. Rollin Hard hit a chainshot to the head, and he touched two corners. The crowd was QUIET. Rollin Hard hogtied Page with the chain at 2:00, and he hit a low blow.

They fought to the floor. Rollin Hard’s pants kept falling down. Wow, this is just SAD. Rollin Hard hit some punches to the forehead, and Page was bleeding. Page also hit some punches to the forehead, and now Rollin Hard was HEAVILY bleeding. Page touched the corners as they fought around the floor. Rollin Hard choked him around a corner post at 6:30. Rollin Hard hit Page on the head and the back with a crutch. They finally got back in the ring and Rollin Hard hit a side slam. WOW, Rollin was REALLY BLEEDING. “The blood is pouring from both of their heads,” Lucy observed on commentary. Disgusting, and definitely not entertaining in my book.

Page choked him a chain, and the blood was literally spurting upward from Rollin Hard’s forehead. Yuck. He was seriously losing a lot of blood. Suddenly, some women appeared at ringside and yelled at Fannin; it appears that one of them is Rollin Hard’s girlfriend. Rollin Hard touched each of the four corners as he followed behind Page, to get the victory. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Terrible action, sloppy wrestling, hidden by perhaps the worst blood-letting I’ve ever seen. Yuck.

* Mitch Page pulled referee Mickie Knuckles back in the ring, and he hit some punches and a kneedrop on her, as Prazak exclaimed, “She’s just training!”

* Replays of that disaster aired. If you want to see a close-up of blood pumping out of someone’s head, here’s your chance.

(12) Finals: B.J. Whitmer (w/Jim Fannin) defeats CM Punk at 13:19 to win the strong-style tournament.
A very good match, and best of the show. They opened with an intense lockup, and they traded several loud chops! OUCH! Punk hit a drop-toe-hold into the corner, some bootscrapes, and a Facewash. Whitmer hit a running knee. Punk got tied in the ropes, and Whitmer nailed a knee to the side of Punk’s head, then Whitmer hit a snap suplex for a nearfall at 2:30, and B.J. was in charge. Whitmer hit several Kawada-style quick kicks to the chest. Punk fired back with a flying crossbody block for a nearfall and his own Kawada Kicks to the face for a nearfall.

Punk applied an abdominal stretch on the mat, but Whitmer reached the ropes. The crowd was fairly quiet. Punk hit a back suplex and a catapult senton for a nearfall at 6:30. Punk hit a powerslam for a nearfall.Whitmer hit a hard clothesline, but he missed a top-rope flying headbutt. Punk missed a top-rope guillotine legdrop, and they were both down, and the crowd began to heat up. They got up and traded some STIFF forearm shots, until Punk went down. Whitmer hit 10 quick spine kicks for a nearfall at 9:30. Whitmer gave Punk a suplex into the corner. Jim Fannin gave Whitmer the ‘loaded elbow pad.’

Punk nailed a Shining Wizard, and he put on the loaded elbow pad, and Punk hit a roaring forearm for a nearfall, but Fannin put Whitmer’s foot on the ropes. They hit double clotheslines, and both men were down. Fannin pulled out another ‘loaded elbow pad,’ and he put it on Whitmer’s arm. Whitmer hit a forearm shot with the loaded pad for a nearfall at 12:00. Punk tried, but he couldn’t hit the Pepsi Plunge. Whitmer hit a second-rope exploder, a Saito Suplex, another exploder, and a Dragon Suplex for the pin. Good match with a nice finishing sequence from Whitmer. The heel faction of “Super Mean” celebrated in the ring.

DVD 2 ends at 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Final thoughts:

This show took place about six months before I started watching IWA Mid-South shows. I’m fascinated that there are so many wrestlers on this show I’d never seen before! It speaks volumes about how quickly the IWA roster turned over that year, as IWA focused more shows in the Chicago/northwest Indiana area.

Best match goes to the finals. Whitmer scored a couple victories early in the show with the loaded elbow pad, and fans were cued in to watch for that in the finals. These two definitely know how to hit hard, and they always mesh well against each other.

Punk vs. Stan Dupp in the second-round earned second best. It was great to see Trevor Murdoch (Dupp) as a leaner man with some good mat wrestling skills. Punk definitely got the very best out of Dupp here. Third-best goes to Whitmer-Hero. While I didn’t expect a lot out of Hy-Zaya vs. Stratton, it was such a hard-hitting beatdown, I wound up giving that fourth-best of the night.

I’m sure hardcore, deathmatch fans will disagree with my assessment of Rollin Hard vs. Mitch Page. They see lots of blood and see great action. Me, I just see some fat guys with little athleticism deeply cutting each other until a dangerous amount of blood loss occurs. Even thoug I’m not a fan of this style, I’ve seen ‘good’ hardcore matches before; this just was not one of them. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

I expected to like this show a LOT more than I did. There were only a couple really “above average” matches, and nothing spectacular. The spread out, quiet crowd also hurt the atmosphere of this show. In general, I have not enjoyed watching DVDs recorded in this building. If you are looking for some really good, older IWA Mid-South shows, I’d recommend passing on this one. Thumbs slightly down. This DVD is available at for $20.

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