The Collective 2022
Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Last week, I experienced my first Mania Week - sort of. I didn't actually go to Mania or any of the conventions, but damn did I ever have an amazing time seeing some incredible wrestling.
I thought I'd put together a small review of my week, so here it is - Willow's Collective Review 2022.
JOSH BARNETT'S BLOODSPORT 8
First show of the weekend I got to see was Bloodsport. Here's the thing, I'm not really one for combat sports, really. So a show consisting solely of no-ropes brawls wasn't exactly anything I thought I'd be super into, but it somehow produced one of my favourite matches of the entire weekend when Jon Moxley went up against Biff Busick. Granted, it got bloody as hell and y'all know your girl's a sick fuck and loves some blood, so it was bound to get a pop from me. I also got lucky because there were two empty seats front row next to my friend, so we ended up right in front of the action (I was lucky enough to get to sit front row for most of the shows this weekend, bless whoever never showed up to Dallas, I promise I put those seats to good use). Overall, this show way exceeded my expectations and was the perfect way to get my hype for the rest of the weekend (BONUS: I got to see Simon Gotch, who I've been wanting to see live for ages).
JOEY JANELA SPRING BREAK 6 - NIGHT 1
This was one of the shows I was most excited for. My friends had gone to a few JJSB's in the past and always talked about how fucking fun they are, so I couldn't wait for this show to get started. I had a great time, but we were standing up with several rows of folks ahead of us, and so unfortunately I didn't really get to see as much as I wanted. I feel like I missed a lot of the action, so I'm making a point to go back and re-watch this show some time this week so I can give it a fair shake. The energy in the room was absolutely electric and I had a blast being there with friends, I just wish I could've had a clearer view of the action happening in the ring. (If anything, it made a solid argument for me to buy seated tickets next time around so I can fully enjoy the show.)That said, we were by the entrance ramp for a bit, so being able to be right up close to Jon Moxley was pretty fucking cool. The scramble match was (not surprisingly) my favourite moment of the night - it had so many of my favourites in the ring, and it was full of flippies (including a fucking phenomenal 63o senton by Nick F'n Wayne, who won the match! We stan Nick Wayne in this house.)
Alright, we ended night one with an all death-match card and I was living my best fucking life (if we don't count the horrible hangover that I didn't shake for probably 2 days because of Wednesday night's karaoke outing). I was already beyond psyched for this show, but an unexpected twist made this one of the most fun experiences of the weekend, and that came in the form of the four middle-aged men behind us who had never watched GCW and had no idea that this was going to be an all-death match card; in fact, they had never even watched a single death match before. These guys and their commentary made my entire life. They went from screaming about getting cancer from the spooky dust to complaining about a light tube bundle only having a pair of tubes and not being nearly enough by the end of the show. Don't get me wrong, the action in the ring was fucking fantastic - I especially loved Akira vs Cole Radrick (Raddy Daddy 4life!) and Brandon Kirk vs Sawyer Wreck - but sometimes it's the overall atmosphere that elevates the show and boy did those guys ever elevate it. Overall, a perfect end to day one. We went back to the hotel to raid the lobby freezer of all its hot pockets, and got ready for day two.
FOR THE CULTURE
This was one of the shows I was most excited for, mainly because I'd been wanting to see Darius Lockhart for so long, but honestly it ended up being one of the highlights of the weekend because of the entire card. There were some really tremendous matches, but I think what made it stick out in my mind is that it was the show that I got introduced to the most new-to-me wrestlers that made me really interested in seeing them again: Mysterious Q, Zenshi, MJ Jenkins, Shane Taylor Promotions, and Keita Murray are all names I'll definitely be looking out for on future shows. It also had a few of my favs like AJ Gray and Bryan Keith, some folks I'm familiar with but had never seen work in person that I was happy to finally see (PB Smooth, Hitmakerz, Trish Adora, to name a few) plus we got a special appearance by the Creep Squad Queen herself, Faye Jackson!! It was the perfect way to kick off the 2nd day (I'm sorry, JCW vs LA Fights!!! I really wanted to see that show but we didn't get back to the hotel until 330am, so there was no way I was getting out of bed before noon.)
GRINGO LOCO'S THE WRLD ON LUCHA
This show. This fucking show. This was my show of the weekend, hands down. I always love lucha because I'm a huge fan of any acrobatic and high-flying style in wrestling, so I knew this was going to be one of my highlights, but it exceeded all expectations and then some. We debated between going to this show or No Peace Underground's Murdermania, because we wanted to check out a different venue and we were all death match fans, but we ultimately decided to go to Wrld on Lucha because it had a lot of folks on the card that weren't on any other shows that weekend, and for a bit of a change of style since we had just seen an all-death match show the night before (and, let's be honest, because we already spent hundreds on GCW passes, it was hard to justify adding other shows into the budget).
We got there about halfway through the opening match of Jack Cartwheel and Johnny Caballero and could already tell we had made the right choice. The crowd was on its feet already, giving out some of the biggest reactions so far that weekend - and this was just the opening bout. There were so many great matches: Dr. Wagner Jr. vs Psycho Clown was somehow heartwarming, hilarious, and deadly all at once. We got our taste of death matches by way of Pagano and Sadika, watched Shane Mercer absolutely toss around a bunch of small luchadors (including my fav, Drago Kid!!) which was fun as hell, but the match of the show - excuse me, the match of the weekend was Team Gringo vs Team Laredo. You've probably seen that spot of ASF flying through the damn sky and then doing a ton of flippies while getting tossed from one opponent to another. It made me literally jump out of my seat in such pure genuine awe and excitement like I've rarely ever experienced in my life. I genuinely couldn't believe what I just saw with my own two eyes. Anyway, that spot alone made this the best match, and show, of the weekend.
JOEY JANELA SPRING BREAK 6 - NIGHT 2 :THE GREATEST CLUSTERFUCK
Joey Janela promised a clusterfuck, and he delivered a Clusterfuck.
This show had so many fun moments, but the two that stick out the most are both the Invisible Man spots and the Socially Distant match-up against Joey and Jimmy Lloyd. I absolutely loved the Socially Distant Match they had for Acid Cup 2 and remember showing it to as many people as possible when it first happened. I truly believe that as silly as these two spots are, they truly showcase how incredibly talented wrestlers are. You can't tell me that seeing wrestlers selling hard against an invisible opponent isn't cool af. Like how are you able to make your body flip that way without someone setting you up!? That's impressive as all hell!!
There were a lot of fun match-ups and surprises, but I still am so unsettled and confused by Early Morning Guy Steele. It wasn't until I realized it was a mask that it made more sense, but like, who the fuck is this Vincent D'Onofrio in Men In Black looking motherfucker out here doing clean as hell 450 splashes? I NEED TO KNOW.
EFFY'S BIG GAY BRUNCH
If there was a show I was bound to cry at, it was Effy's Big Gay Brunch, and boy howdy did I ever cry. Each time there's a Big Gay Brunch, my friends and I get together, make brunch, and watch a day's worth of wrestling. This year, we got to watch the Brunch together, in the front row, during one of the best weeks of my life. I honestly kept tearing up because of both the overwhelming feeling of queer pride and my love of friendship. I finally got to see the Maine State Posse (hopefully hitting up Maine for a Limitless show this summer!), I got to see some favourites like Dark Sheik, Parrow, and Edith Surreal, but most importantly, I got to experience the bisexual feverdream that was Allie Katch vs Dirty Dango. Effy clearly booked this match specifically for me, and then they had a god damn lapdance-off?!?! Are you even serious right now??? What a fucking fun show. It was campy and bad ass and fun and hard-hitting and all the things I knew it would be and more. It was even worth getting up at 9am for.
UNSANCTIONED PRO'S MULLIGAN
I was so stoked to see Unsanctioned Pro because it's the home promotion of one of my best wrestling pals. I know how much my home promotions mean to me (shout out North Pro and UCW!) so being able to see her folks was really exciting. I especially loved seeing the opening match with Cincinnati's Most Wanted, who I had heard a lot about and didn't disappoint. Billie Starkz didn't win her match, but she did say she loved my top when she went by during her entrance, and listen, teenagers are scary bc they are judgy as hell so nothing makes me feel cooler than a teenager giving me a compliment bc you know they MEAN that shit. So thank Billie!!!! Cole Radrick and Mike Bailey were two of the stars of the weekend overall, but getting to see them one-on-one was fun as hell. I can't lie, I was a bit disappointed that Big Vin vs Casanova Valentine's death match didn't happen because of Vin's injury, but I wasn't mad that Hoodfoot came out as the replacement. You could tell the crowd was fading a bit because it was nearing the end of a long three days of shows and I don't think they gave that match the energy and reaction it deserved, but don't worry, ya girl was still screaming her lungs out for some bloody death match action.
BLACK LABEL PRO'S NORM
Finally, we hit the last of The Collective shows with Black Label Pro's NORM. I really debated whether or not to hit up this show or Uber it across to Arlington for New Texas Pro, but ultimately laziness won out and I decided to just stick to the same venue and enjoy my last Collective show. Not going to lie, I was so exhausted by the end of the night that this show is mostly a blur at this point but I absolutely loved finding out that Filthy Tom Lawlor is a Never Nude, I was pumped to finally see Puf, Jody Threat, and Violence is Forever in person, and I heard one of the loudest slaps of the entire weekend from Black Taurus (who had a super fun little toro toro spot with Alex Zayne's bright red fur coat.) The show was fun, but man, I think everyone was just a little bit exhausted.
And that's my Collective experience! We didn't actually check out Mania itself, but we did have a time and a half watching it from Dave & Buster's on Sunday...until we all got notifications telling us that our flight that was leaving in 6 hours got cancelled and we needed to then spend the rest of the night on the phone with Expedia. That said, it was truly a blessing in disguise, because not only did it mean we ended up spending an extra day in Dallas, it meant we got to go to Monday Night Raw (my first ever TV taping and Cody's return promo!) and then, while partying with some of the crew and wrestlers, the FUCKING UNDERTAKER WALKED RIGHT BY ME. Just casually walked out of his SUV and walked by me. I cried like the fucking mark that I am and I'm not even embarrassed about it because the legend, the phenom, the dead man...he walked right next to me, and honestly, the entire trip was cemented as one of my favourite trips in my life instantly in that moment.
Thank you, Dallas.
See you next year, The Collective.