What I Did On My Summer Vacation: GCW Homecoming Night 1

GCW Presents Homecoming Part 1
Live from Atlantic City, NJ
July 25, 2020
Available on FITE.tv

Two nights before I left for Atlantic City I was sitting with a friend on a park bench at sunset in downtown Little Rock. We’d just gone for a long power-walk and were discussing our plans for the weekend. Because of quarantine reasons I’ve been reluctant to share my summer’s wild and violent good times with people who don’t watch wrestling or only casually follow the WWE product and know vaguely of any other promotions. She wouldn’t understand it, this friend of mine. She cannot comprehend why I’m a fan, why I enjoy it, or why I’d plan an entire season of traveling to one independent wrestling show after another. However, knowing this, I still told her where I’d be going and why. Of course she was polite but incredulous.

“Wrestling on the boardwalk? That sounds nuts. And you said they’re doing it all weekend?”

I’m sure that to my friend the weekend trip sounded like some kind of crazy back-alley deal, especially when I explained to her that the show would feature some of everything wrestling fans wanted to see, including deathmatches. I can just see this perky suburban mother of two college kids picturing blood-crazed fans looking like Mad Max extras carrying flaming torches and heavy chains and cheering on a terrifying massacre in the ring. Imagine trying to explain ICW’s 4th of July show to this lady.

After a moment of what I figured to be contemplative thought of the intricate mechanics of deathmatches on her part, she looked at me. “How do you find out about these things?”

I had just one answer for her. “I keep my ear to the wall.”

And with that thought in mind I departed that Friday with a backpack stuffed with the essentials, including multiple rolled joints of quality Real Kind Meds bud, tins of delightful THC-infused gummies and candies, and both money and time set aside solely for the purpose of strong resort town alcoholic beverages. True, I could have done this trip sober...but honestly, it would have been like having cake with no icing. Not that there’s anything wrong with moderation or even self-control, but in a place like Atlantic City I think it’s best that all things are done in the same manner there, which means doing them to damn death.

Night 1 of GCW Homecoming had a hell of a festive atmosphere even hours before the show went live. I spent the morning on the beach drinking Steel Reserve in between sips of bottled water and wandering off to smoke joints somewhere furtive, every now and again taking a trip over to the Garden Pier to see the crew setting up the ring. And the set up itself, though! This summer has provided GCW the opportunity to show off their creativity in selecting venues for events. Between last month’s Wrld on GCW 2 in Indianapolis and the Backyard show earlier this month the shows have been memorable partly because of the unique locations they take place. There’s a good deal of pleasure that comes from being at the show live and going back to watch the FITE.tv replay to see how well it looked on screen. These hard working people deserved a beautiful venue to showcase their product and it’s good to see they pulled it off.

On commentary: Kevin Gill, Emil Jay, Emilio Sparks

Somehow commentary for wrestling matches has evolved to become as critically dissected as the matches themselves. Personally I think that’s bullshit, why hold commentators to such a standard anyway? If the goal is to get the viewer invested in the match, then I say the GCW commentary team is on point. Sure, they’re not the polished WWE crew with the boss screaming in their ear and they’re not the controlled chaotic AEW commentary team either. Kevin Gill, however, continues to blend well with whoever he’s sharing the table with. In this case, Emil Jay (who will always impress me with his incredibly vast knowledge of wrestling) and Emilio Sparks paired pretty well with OG Kev for this event.

Match 1: Lee Moriarty vs. Jimmy Lloyd vs. Matthew Justice vs. Allie Kat vs. Benjamin Carter vs. Calvin Tankman

Nothing wrong with starting a show off with scramblefuckery. It’s great to see Moriarty and Tankman get acclimated to GCW so quickly this summer, too. Lee got a lot of love on social media after his appearances in this weekend’s events and his showing in this opening match merited a lot of the attention. Good work in the hottest part of the day from everyone in this one. I was pulling for Lee to get the victory but it was satisfying to see Tankman dominate once again in a scramble and come away with the win.

Match 2: Tre LaMar vs. ACH

I went back and re-watched this one as I wanted to see if the online criticism for his GCW debut was legit. If there was any ring rust I say the guy still pulled off a good match (just as much credit is due to LaMar for this too, though). I think a second viewing of this match is needed for a lot of ACH’s detractors. Not every single moment of a match has to pop and there are moments when the heel would do well to play to the audience and confirm that the match actually has someone to audibly boo. Call it de-neutralizing the crowd, because it didn’t take long for everyone to rally behind Tre. GCW needs a good bad guy and I’m glad to see ACH is becoming a regular booking for the promotion; his victory here against LaMar kicked off what I think will be a good run for him.

Match 3: Chris Dickinson vs. Mance Warner

God almighty, both Dickinson and Mance have nothing but my respect. It was hot as hell at this point in the early evening and yet these two went all out to give everyone the action we wanted to see. This match delivered as a good hoss fight; sitting there outside on the boardwalk watching Mancer and Dirty Daddy go one on one reminded me of what it was like to be a kid and go to Memphis during the summer at the Mid South Coliseum. My greatest memories of those hoss fights were how hot it was and how loud the slams were on the damn canvas. Fast forward to 2020 and I’m pretty damn glad I get to enjoy it all again. I’m grateful to both these guys for keeping that good memory alive for me. Dickinson gained the hard-fought win over Mancer, and old school fans can rejoice that the energy of those Memphis big boy fights ain’t one bit dead.

Match 4: Blake Christian vs. Alex Zayne

Yes, the heat was crazy, but I was crazy enough to stand my happy ass up all the way through this match. There was no way I wanted to sit down. Prior to this match I told both Blake and Alex how excited I was that I would be seeing the sequel to their 2019 Escape from LA match live and in person. It can’t be just me who thinks that their Homecoming match surpassed the LA show, right? Maybe there’s bias since I was there this time? I’m willing to let that be the question that keeps me up at night forever and has me going back and forth watching both matches because these two are just that amazing each time. Full transparency, however - I was expecting Zayne to get the win here. Not that I’m mad at all about Blake taking the victory in the end, however, because now I declare this to be the next big longstanding professional rivalry in wrestling. Please God, let me be the one who travels anywhere to see a Christian vs. Zayne match live.

Match 5: AJ Gray vs. Alex Colon

Holy shit, Alex Colon! I’ll talk about how great AJ Gray is all day long but there’s nothing like Alex Colon in a deathmatch. I think the next time I see the friend I mentioned earlier I’ll use this match to describe deathmatches to her. No matter what words I use, though, there’s nothing that’s going to convey to her what it’s like to be there and feel the shards of light tubes fly past you as it’s shattered over someone’s head or smell the blood dripping off of a man that’s just landed outside the ring a foot away from you. To look at Alex Colon up close and see the road map of a career on his back and arms and chest is not just impressive, it’s foreboding. Praise to AJ Gray for stepping into the deathmatch world against the dude who sits atop the mountain of broken glass; it was a brutal fight but there’s no stopping Colon when he’s in his element.

Match 5: EFFY vs. Spyder Nate Webb

I went back and re-watched this one on the FITE replay because I admit, I was fairly lit at this point after four joints, several THC gummies, a light beer, and 2 cans of Steel Reserve and missed a good deal of it because when they were cleaning the ring after the deathmatch I wandered (I have a habit of that) off back into the Showboat - which is a trip to walk around when you’re blazed - thinking I’d be back in time on the pier. I wasn’t, and damn it I missed two of the best entrances on the independent scene today. Fuck. Thank God for the replay.

Maybe people who are new to GCW or the independent wrestling scene have a habit of labeling EFFY and Nate Webb as ‘comedy’ wrestlers because they’re so good at funny spots and you see them so often in gifs and clips. There’s a full library out there (check IWTV!) if you’re not yet introduced to Nate’s lengthy history in the ring or EFFY’s diverse styles (to say it succinctly, Daddy can get messy). As much as I love the fun side of these two that came out to play on the boardwalk, they’ve got other matches that showcase how damn good they are. EFFY got the win here and the crowd was treated to a good time by Daddy and Nate between a bunch of damn brutal fuckery.

Match 6: SHLAK vs. Nick Gage

Friends, at least once in your life I encourage you to experience a Nick Gage entrance. I clearly recall a year ago looking at the magic that was Gage coming out with ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ to a loud crowd of fans moshing and jumping and celebrating the arrival of the King in the wildest ways possible. I wanted to be a part of that energy, and once I felt it I was hooked. There’s nothing like Nick Gage. I’m pretty sure I stood for a good part of this match too, partly because I wanted to support the God Of This Shit and also because I wanted to get out of the way whenever glass shards flew past me or if anyone came falling in my direction. Damn I love watching deathmatches live. I wish I could say I loved the finish, but 44OH ran their usual bullshit and screwed Gage out of the win. My buzz was visibly and momentarily harshed on the live stream.

Match 7: Joey Janela vs. Yoshihiko (DDT Ironman HeavyMetalWeight Championship)

Oh man, this was the match to watch. By this point in the show I was sailing. Yoshihiko might as well have been Yoshi Tatsu and I would have believed it. I had a great time screaming my ass off at the spots and at more than one point thought how cool it was for Yoshihiko to have his own official handler…and then in the end we have a new HeavyMetalWeight champion and suddenly Lio. Perhaps it’s because I was solid stoned out of my damn mind but I didn’t call that ahead of time at all, even when I’d seen Lio walking around prior to the show. I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the surprise, too. Sometimes it’s good to get yourself stoned enough to set the tone for your willful suspension of disbelief, because that shit was great. :)

Match 8: Homicide vs. Rickey Shane Page (GCW World Championship match)
That was me you saw and heard once again giving RSP and his crew hell, no doubt. I’m fairly sure the state of Ohio isn’t bad at all, especially comparing it with my home state. Sandusky may very well be a wonderful place. None of that shit matters, however, when 44OH is around. It’s fuck Ohio and that’s that. Homicide gave it his all on the boardwalk despite the fight being severely unfair. The first night of Homecoming ended with RSP and 44OH standing tall once again after cheating their way to yet another win. How fucking good is it going to feel when these clowns are kicked back under the rocks they crawled out from?

Post-Show Thoughts

...and this was only the first night!

I could go into great detail on the wasted escapades that followed after the show and into the weekend, but that’s just giving too much away that could go into a potentially best-selling roman à clef (hint hint). By the end of the show I was intensely high and there was a full boardwalk of alcohol and trouble that awaited. That was another great thing about the show. It ended early enough to where everyone had the rest of the night to party. So...that’s what we did.

Atlantic City was becoming my kind of town. I’ve got a little more to say on Night 2.

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