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NO PEACE UNDERGROUND: GAUNTLET OF DEATH 2
SEPTEMBER 19, 2020, 9:00PM
ORLANDO, FLA. AT SOUNDBAR
The promoters made it explicitly clear that masks and distancing would be required in the indoor venue, and encouraged those unwilling to abide to watch the event streaming on the promotion’s own Twitch and YouTube channels. Between the streaming platforms, viewership seemed to hover around 250. Fans stood between two and three feet from one another on a reserved balcony, or several rows deep behind guard rails set up approximately ten feet from the venue’s stage. Both the stage and the floor area would be utilized by the wrestlers. Every match was wrestled with no ring and no ropes under death match rules.
The stream opened with a brief replay package of Jimmy Lloyd cutting a promo, and in particular 440 member Atticus Cogar calling out Alex Ocean in an interview and saying “if we’re coming to this company, 440’s going to take over.” This package would continue to be rerun between matches.
(1) Gregory Iron vs. Eli Knight
Iron started with a promo, claiming to be the only professional wrestler on the card. He accused fans of being disrespectful for chanting against his home state, and accused Orlando of having more COVID-19 cases than anywhere in America. He said he’s happy for the event’s mask requirement so he doesn’t have to look at anyone in the audience anymore. He took the basketball Knight had entered with to put on a showy dribbling demonstration despite his right arm being limited due to his cerebral palsy. Knight took the ball and threw it at Iron’s head. Iron fell from the stage, Knight flipped onto him as he backed up right against the guard rail next to the fans, then repeatedly hurled the ball at him.
The wrestlers exchanged knees and chops before Iron gained an upper hand and threw Knight into the guard rail. Iron rammed the edge of a chair into Knight’s gut for two. Knight retaliated with a back elbow and the chops resumed. Iron got Knight down once more and hit a senton as Drennen noted on commentary that Iron is working Knight’s midsection and making it hard for Knight to breathe. Iron rammed the chair into Knight’s abdomen once more, and struck him with an elbow. Knight fought back with strikes, flipped onto the stage then hit a baseball slide into Iron’s face. Knight hit more knees, a boot, and a pele kick for two. Knight clapped to rally the crowd, but the crowd was mostly unresponsive at this point. Drennen, true to form, called the fans “Orlando scumbags.” Knight ‘teabagged’ Iron to finally earn a pop, and Drennen said “You don’t want to [do that] at Soundbar; I’ve learned that the hard way.”
Knight went to set something up with a flip off the stage, but Iron leapt into a hurricanrana and then hit a swinging DDT for two. Iron set up a ladder across two chairs and tried to suplex Knight onto it. As Knight resisted, Iron whipped him right back at that guard rail. Knight did a platform jump over the ladder and onto the stage, and tried to powerbomb Iron onto the ladder. Iron countered and kicked Knight to get out of dodge. Knight rushed back off the stage, straight into a chair shot for three. Iron cursed the state of Florida as he left.
Winner: Gregory Iron in 9:41
Stoup’s take: A dull opener after the pre-match table-setting, but featured the most actual wrestling all night what with this being a death match show. I hesitate to say Iron “got over” since the crowd wasn’t into it, but it’s obvious he has something as shown by his basic yet effective character work before the bell. I don’t want to complain that no one took a bump on the ladder that was clearly set up for bumping, especially considering what would come later in the night, but it was markedly odd that the match climax centered around that ladder only for it to not play in to the finish.
(2) Jamie Senegal vs. Sawyer Wreck
Wreck played at greeting the crowd during her entrance, but held her arms up to indicate she didn’t want to get within six feet. Senegal moped after a dance routine, claiming Alex Ocean had dumped them. Wreck showed sympathy, but Senegal revealed the ruse by slapping her. Wreck tore off Senegal’s firetruck red wig, which was then briefly worn by the referee before Senegal snatched it back with their characteristic sass.
After a few strike exchanges, Senegal grabbed two malt liquor cans and tried to angle for a truce. Wreck accepted the beverage but then poured it down the front of Senegal’s trunks. Wreck booted Senegal for two, then the two went into sunset flip reversals for a sequence of near falls. Senegal struggled to work Wreck to the ground, then landed a few forearms before the wrestlers rolled onto the stage. Wreck whipped Senegal into a support beam and rammed their head into the stage. Wreck swung a light tube at Senegal but Senegal ducked and the tube shattered against the beam.
Back on the floor, Senegal DDTed Wreck on a chair but didn’t go for a cover. They instead took the time to set up a door across two chairs, then threw one of the malt liquors in Wreck’s face. Wreck tried to kick Senegal but Senegal did a split, then twirled out and dove forward from the stage to drive Wreck’s head through the door for three.
Winner: Jamie Senegal in 8:47
Stoup’s take: The novelty of Orlando’s first pandemic era independent wrestling with fans was enough to make me want to cover this event for curiosity how it’d be handled, but this match is what made me simply want to see it for my own reasons. I say that to soften my next point, which is that Senegal and Wreck have ceilings far higher than what they displayed here. The wrestling offense from each was noticeably soft, and it felt like there were a handful of miscommunications bogging them down. To be (even more) fair, the no-ring death match concept is extremely limiting, and when I’ve seen these wrestlers thrive it’s been in more traditional match settings. Wreck in particular always strikes me as someone who doesn’t need such risks to stand out, and I’m still waiting for a promotion to run with her in a big way. At least the wrestlers didn’t do anything too risky here, which may have been hard to watch after Wreck lacerated her shoulder in an empty venue death match with Alex Ocean this past spring.
(3) Neil “Diamond” Cutter vs. AJ Gray
Cutter greeted the fans with elbow bumps as Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” hit its first chorus. He let Gray make his own entrance before rushing in and delivering a senton. Gray quickly turned things around by throwing Cutter through an armload of light tubes. Cutter took the broken ends of the tubes and broke them on Gray’s knees. If one didn’t break he would immediately try again in a way that made the breakage of the tubes seem as though it was more important to him than breakage of his opponent. Gray ambled away, but soon returned with more tubes that he smashed over Cutter’s head. Cutter flailed his arms and Drennen stated on commentary, “Cutter and D-Von Dudley must come from the same school of selling!” Another tube shot and Gray had Cutter down for two on the littered cement.
Cutter began headbutting tubes against Gray’s head, then Gray broke a tube across Cutter’s back. He ground the broken end of a tube into Cutter’s forehead, then Cutter broke another broken end over Gray’s cranium. Cutter stuck Gray’s head through an unfolded chair with a drop toe-hold for two. Fans chanted “honey badger” for Cutter, who threw a chair from the stage onto Gray’s head. Gray mashed a gusset plate into Cutter’s forehead then powerbombed him through a chair for two.
Cutter and Gray sat across from one another in chairs and went punch for punch, then headbutt for headbutt. Then, as one might imagine, light tube for light tube. Gray got the better of Cutter with the tubes and shoved him from the chair. He arranged a load of tubes between the chairs, but Cutter whirled around and both men went through the tubes with a side Russian leg sweep. Cutter went looking for a weapon, and finally emerged with a net of barbed wire (you know, the kind you always see just laying around). The referee helped Cutter arrange the net on the chairs, then Cutter added a sheet of glass with more barbed wire taped to it. When Cutter went to apprehend Gray, Gray used a staple gun on Cutter’s face then side suplexed him off the stage and through the glass and barbed wire for three. Drennen called the match one of the top ten in No Peace Underground’s history.
Winner: AJ Gray in 11:11
Stoup’s take: And here we go. Though I’ve been known to use a light tube or two in my own gluttonous film projects, death matches simply aren’t for me. They engage a sort of adrenaline junkie bloodlust that manifests through the same blatantly cooperative stunt spots done in repetition, while simultaneously diminishing themselves as the wrestlers continue to no-sell like cartoon characters. The audience, who earlier in the night saw someone pinned after a chair shot, is left thinking more about what variety of light tube is being used than anything. Meanwhile the wrestlers are risking their health and livelihoods without even attempting much wrestling. Only the smallest amount of heel vs. face flavoring kept this one remotely palatable.
A voice could be heard over the venue PA reminding fans to socially distance. A video package exhibiting stunts from prior No Peace Underground shows was looped on the stream to hype the promotion ahead of the main event.
The announcer introduced ICW’s Danny Demanto as a special guest. Demanto took the stage with a mic to hype up the crowd. He said, “I appreciate you guys coming out, supporting death match wrestling during a pandemic!” He tried to start a chant against COVID-19. He announced that on November 12, No Peace Underground would be returning to the Soundbar. Then on the 13th, No Holds Barred will present an event titled Pit Fighter X in Tampa. Then on the 14th, No Holds Barred 8 is scheduled to take place, also in Tampa. Demanto said he wanted to be honest about his feelings on death match wrestling. He said No Peace Underground has been on his radar for four years, but it’s about time he involved them in “a weekend of ultra-violence in Florida.” He called Florida historically the most violent territory in America, but he blamed promoters for going soft recently. He said “November is going to get very bloody.”
A music video commercial for Orlando’s Liberty Barbershop played, set to “Jar Breaker” by the Teen Agers.
(4) Atticus Cogar vs. Drennen vs. Matthew Justice vs. Jimmy Lloyd vs. Robert Martyr vs. Alex Ocean vs. Jordan Oliver vs. Eric Ryan in a “Gauntlet of Death” match
Drennen entered cutting a promo, claiming he’s the toughest guy at the event. He said he’s the only one there who throws a headlock, and it hurts more than a light tube. The crowd chanted “boring” and he said it’s the loudest they’ve chanted all night. He said he’s entering himself in the “Gauntlet of Death” main event at number one, and he’s going to commentate while he does it.
Robert Martyr entered, and Drennen criticized his Green Day theme music. He said he thinks the song, “Brain Stew” (released in 1996 and featured on the 1998 “Godzilla” soundtrack), is older than the 19-year-old Martyr, then said Green Day sucks. He then made fun of Martyr’s “Rodzilla” t-shirt. The referee called for the bell and Drennen began kicking at Martyr while harassing him on the mic. He ducked Martyr’s wild swings and rolled Martyr on to the stage. Martyr tried to get a few strikes in before falling again to a kick to the gut. Drennen turned to ridicule the audience, then Martyr struck him from behind with a chair. Martyr wailed on Drennen then leapt from the stage and hit a DDT for a close two. Drennen looked at the referee and motioned with his hand, a moment that seemed to later be informed by his return to commentary when he would indicate he has a “inch-and-a-half” laceration from all the glass on the floor. Drennen took the chair to Martyr’s back, then DDTed Martyr onto the chair for three.
Drennen pinned Robert Martyr at 3:27.
As the crowd continued to pelt Drennen with “boring” chants, Matt Justice entered and removed his studded belt as if he was about to use it as a weapon. Justice hurled Drennen into the guard rail and begged for Drennen’s best shot. He hit Drennen with a Death Valley driver onto a chair for three.
Matt Justice pinned Drennen at 6:25.
Jordan Oliver entered, and made “suck it” gestures at Justice. Justice ran at Oliver with a clothesline and the two spilled over the guard rail into the crowd. Justice held Oliver back for a fan to chop before throwing Oliver back over the guard rail. He continued to restrain Oliver so fans could chop him. On the stage, Oliver hit a low blow for two. Oliver superkicked Justice off the stage, then hit him with a running dropkick. Justice climbed back up and the two exchanged chops. Oliver slipped while kicking Justice back to the floor, and gleefully welcomed the crowd’s derision. Justice plucked him from the stage and dropped him on the guard rail before entering the crowd to wander around and celebrating. Oliver managed to drape Justice over the guard rail and stomp him. Drennen returned to commentary, saying he’s being taped up by trainers and that he isn’t finished with Justice. He said he’s “having un-COVID trouble breathing.” Oliver set up one door against the stage, then threw another door that soared straight into Justice’s face as Justice sat against the guard rail. He set up a door across two chairs and bulldogged Justice through it for two. He dove off the stage but was met with half a door to the head. Justice drove Oliver through the door still propped on the stage for three.
Matt Justice pinned Jordan Oliver at 16:14.
Jimmy Lloyd entered to the warmest reception of the night to that point, and sat across from Justice in the chairs to exchange blows. Justice stood and sank chop after chop into Lloyd before throwing a chair at his head. He tried to flip onto Lloyd from the stage but Lloyd dodged completely. Justice splatted on the cement but kicked out of a cover at two. Lloyd hurled Justice into that guard rail, but Justice chopped his way back to dominance and hurled Lloyd into the opposite guard rail. The two then began going back and forth with blows to the head with the broken door parts, and Lloyd covered Justice for two. He then repeatedly struck Justice with three chair shots to the head, then gave Justice a Death Valley driver through a part of a door that was leaning against the guard rail for three.
Jimmy Lloyd pinned Matt Justice at 20:47.
Atticus Cogar didn’t wait for his entrance to run in. Lloyd pulled out a staple gun and stapled a dollar to Cogar’s head, then another to Cogar’s shoulder. Cogar retaliated with a chair to the back of Lloyd’s head, then further softened the area with an elbow. Cogar brought out a pile of loose light tubes and the wrestlers began trading tube shots to the head – just as proud to take them as deliver them. They then began exchanging forearms before Lloyd nailed a surprising roundhouse. Cogar stayed on his feet and walked off to find more doors, which he promptly threw at Lloyd. He propped a door against the wall but Lloyd picked him up into a Death Valley driver through that door for two. With another door propped against the wall, Cogar kicked Lloyd to his knees then drove a fistful of skewers into his scalp. He then brought out a syringe and plunged it through Lloyd’s cheek. Cogar responded with a low blow and drove Lloyd headfirst through the door once, then twice after the door didn’t give way. Lloyd stayed down for three.
Atticus Cogar pinned Jimmy Lloyd at 28:40.
Alex Ocean entered to the reaction of the night, and pulled multiple weapons from his pockets including skewers, syringes, and a lighter with lighter fluid. He offered Cogar a beer but Cogar batted it away. Ocean started in with strikes but quickly went for the chairs and drove one into Cogar’s crotch. Cogar was quick to his feet and suddenly drilled Ocean in the head with a staple gun. Ocean absorbed the pain and showed off by punching the staples further in. On commentary Drennen said, “This is like wristlocks to these guys.” Cogar pressed a bale of barbed wire into Ocean’s forehead as Drennen lamented a lack of traction on the floor due to all the broken glass. Cogar landed an air raid crash onto a load of light tubes, then took some tubes that didn’t break and smashed them across Ocean’s midsection. Ocean reeled but came back with body blows. He snatched a syringe from the stage and poked it through Cogar’s cheek. Drennen said, “I don’t think that’s the vaccine they’re looking for.” Cogar took Ocean’s skewers and jammed them into Ocean’s head. He slid the syringe from his cheek and playfully tossed it to Ocean’s feet. Cogar arranged a sheet of glass across two chairs as Ocean sold on the stage. He dug the end of a broken tube into Ocean’s head, then went to bulldog Ocean onto the glass. Ocean hit a low blow and tried to powerbomb Cogar through the glass but Cogar ducked away and chop-blocked Ocean’s recently injured knee. The two rolled to the floor and Ocean suplexed Cogar through the glass for three.
Alex Ocean pinned Atticus Cogar at 38:27.
Eric Ryan entered with light tubes, and his 440 stablemate Cogar took one final cheap shot on Ocean. Ryan punched tubes into Ocean’s forehead, then brought out a contraption of gardening rakes taped to light tubes that he promptly shattered across Ocean’s back. Ryan prowled, then headbutted two tubes into Ocean’s forehead. A box full of tubes at his feet, he took tube after tube to Ocean’s head. Ocean quickly rallied and got to his feet for a couple tube shots of his own. As Ocean sat back down to tend to his knee, Ryan propped tubes against him then broke them with a chair shot. He propped a broken door part against the stage, leaned Ocean against it, then some tubes across Ocean. Ocean grabbed the tubes, however, and hit Ryan with them. Ryan tried to flip onto Ocean but flew into the door part and Ocean covered him for two. Drennen pointed out that the referee had to count on a chair since there was too much broken glass on the floor. Ocean threw a chair straight into Ryan’s face and left to find more weapons. He returned with – you’ll never believe it – more light tubes. He threw them into Ryan’s face for two. Ocean walked off once again, eventually returning with a crude structure members of the production crew had to hold up for him. Drennen called the structure a “light tube guillotine” as it had a row of tubes waiting to be dropped from bits of electrical tape. Cogar reemerged and threw a fireball at Ocean, who then fell victim to his own ‘guillotine.’ The light tubes didn’t break, so Ryan stomped them into Ocean’s back. The referee stopped the match in Ryan’s favor.
Winner: Eric Ryan over Alex Ocean by referee stoppage at 46:35.
Ryan began hitting plants with light tubes as his 440 brethren helped. Drennen called it “‘Cobra Kai’ style – no mercy, 440 never dies!” Various wrestlers including Jamie Senegal and Sawyer Wreck ran in to help, then Leon Scott appeared to further boost the babyface resistance. As Scott went to attack 440 member Gregory Iron on the stage, he was attacked from behind. Iron drove a kitchen utensil into Scott’s forehead. As Scott lay on his belly on the stage, Cogar spray-painted “440” on Scott’s back in bright green paint. Ryan stormed up to the camera and grabbed the lens, and the stream cut to static, then color bars.
Stoup’s take: Death matches are the geek shows of the independent scene, getting by on how many times people will pay to hear curse words over and over while wrestlers obviously collaborate to rip their own flesh. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, and their narratives barely exist. If I’m forcing myself to see things in as favorable a light as possible, I can say that Eric Ryan came off as legitimately menacing in his part of the gauntlet. Drennen is also a boon to any promotion he works with, as best exemplified in my experiences with Mayhem on Mills, and I liked seeing him open the bloody marathon main event by talking up his headlock. I appreciate the effort put in to live streaming the event on multiple platforms, and the audio/visual production value was high relative to this level of promotion. I do also commend the promoters for strictly enforcing at least some semblance of mask and distancing guidelines, even if an indoor event with mask-wearers standing three feet from one another (and doing a fine job of keeping it that way throughout) is still not where I personally want to find myself for a while, especially when wrestlers are working on the barricade often and even crossing it on occasion.