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    Saturday, August 15, 2020

    The Supercard (8/15/20): Fight Smark Fight

    Initially, one is most likely brought to the world of pro-wrestling for the simple things. The bright lights. The colorful characters. The cool moves. However, as fans grow older and as teen angst sets in, the PG squeaky clean aesthetic of WWE's product tends to drive a lot of newer adolescent fans away. The fanbase got so annoyed that it became commonplace to legitimately hate the company's biggest star in John Cena.

    Aside from the infamous Summer of Punk, WWE continuously underdelivered in providing edgier and more mature content. In my opinion, this status quo was challenged once a hungry indy darling from Quebec stepped to the biggest face in the company. The image of one Kevin Owens raising the NXT title while stepping on Cena's US title is the call to change the company needed. 

    Before being introduced to naive teenagers like me, the man formerly known as Kevin Steen tore apart the independent wrestling scene in Canada and in the US. A former PWG and ROH champion, Steen was known for his devastating drop-you-on-your-head style and his top tier mic work. In my opinion, what's great about his character is that it's been consistent throughout his career which adds to the level of authenticity he brings to everything he does. 

    On a personal note, this edition of The Supercard features easily my favorite wrestler of all time. A wrestling fan turned wrestler who doesn't fit the (physical) mold of what a main event player conventionally looked like was such a revelation for a fat insecure kid in the ninth grade. Enough about my life, let's look at some of my favorite moments of "Mr. Wrestling" himself.

    Kevin Steen and El Generico vs. the Young Bucks (Ring of Honor Final Battle 2009)


    Initially feuding in Canada's International Wrestling Syndicate, Steen and El Generico (currently known as Sami Zayn) would eventually both go and team in SoCal's Pro Wrestling Guerilla and then Philly's Ring of Honor. Going over with the indy scene because of their heel-face dynamic, the team eventually earned ROH tag-team gold. After a classic tag match with the Young Bucks, a passionate promo by Steen and an industry-shaking betrayal, Kevin Owens automatically placed himself as one of the top heels in Ring of Honor.

    This working relationship is one that crosses borders, promotions, and decades making them forever deserving of  "Fight Forever!" chants. Three editions of Supercard wouldn't be enough to encapsulate possibly the greatest long-term rivalry in all of pro-wrestling in recent memory. That being said this match is arguably when the story began. 

    Significance to the storyline aside, you have four of the best wrestlers in the world in one ring. The teams told a great story going tit for tat until Steen's injured knee led to their team's downfall. In particular, Steen played a great role in bringing the more grounded explosive style to a match with three more high-flying focused guys. 

    Kevin Steen vs. AJ Styles (House of Hardcore V)


    Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore promotion is a severely underrated promotion. Boasting a slew of top-grade matches featuring wrestlers from multiple different promotions. Dreamer's good reputation with all of the huge US-based wrestling companies has allowed him to put together some quality cards.

    In June 2014, the fifth installment was headlined by a match between Kevin Steen and the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, AJ Styles. With rumors that Steen was going to WWE and with Styles being at the peak of his run in New Japan, it makes sense why Tommy would want to put these two in a main event. 

    Inside with arguably the best in-ring technician of his generation, Steen held his own and then some with the two wrestlers giving all 800+ fans in attendance more than their money's worth. The athletic and hard striking move set of Styles blended well with Steen's more gritty and hold-based offense. Also since both men were heels at the time, it was nice to see how evenly matched they were in terms of heel-like charisma and character work inside the ring.

    Also, I legitimately thought that Styles was dead from that spot off the top rope. 

    Main Event: Kevin Steen (c) vs. Eddie Kingston for the ROH World Championship in an ANYTHING GOES match (Ring of Honor Boiling Point 2011)


    When a promotion trusts Steen the opportunity to be their top guy, he proves every time why he has gained the respect of the wrestling community. After capturing the ROH World Championship for the first time, Steen would go on to have great match after great match with each time showcasing his incredible heel work.  This match with Eddie Kingston, an indy legend in his own right, is the perfect example of why Steen was so good at being the bad guy. 

    With Steen unsuccessfully challenging Kingston to his Chikara Grand Championship the month before, this was the opportunity for Kingston to get back at the man who disrespected him on his own turf. The match is hard to watch at times but in all the right ways with incredible action as Steen played the bully heal to a tee. In the middle of the action, it seems like Kingston is out of the match and Steen cuts an A+ quality promo, which made Kingston's storm to the ring so much sweeter. To keep it short, this was a great match by two great champions. 

    Bonus Match: Mount Rushmore promo (Pro Wrestling Guerrila)


    After a heel turn in PWG, Steen aligned himself with Adam Cole and the Young Bucks to form "The Mount Rushmore of Professional Wrestling". Flanked by the three champions of the promotion, Steen puts down the law and claims that the four of them are on the top of the food chain. This proves how much clout Steen had at the later part of his indy run. At a promotion where he wasn't even a champion, he was looked at as the top guy. He knew it and everyone else knew it.

    Adding to this, the promo shows who Kevin Steen (or Owens) is as a character. He's salty. He holds a grudge and wants to prove people wrong. Whether that's to his best friend, ROH management, PWG fans, or Vince McMahon himself, Steen always feels like he's chasing some sort of validation from someone. Even though he has won title after title, the core of his character has always been that of the underdog without trying to be. This nuance to him and his solid in-ring work is what makes him such a delight to watch. 

    In his own words in this promo, “I don’t need no goddamn belt. I’m the champion of the universe”. It’s both fitting and ironic that about four years later he would win a belt proclaiming him as the official champion of the universe. 

    Photos and videos courtesy of House of Hardcore, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and Ring of Honor

    *****

    Jacob Tambunting is a freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University currently studying BS Psychology. In his high school years, he authored plays for competitions, essays for projects, and fan fiction for fun.  He currently lives with his two parents, his two siblings, and his two dogs, and is probably writing something angsty on his 10-year-old laptop.
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    Item Reviewed: The Supercard (8/15/20): Fight Smark Fight Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jacob Tambunting
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