Certificate: Not rated
Running Time: 96mins (main feature)
Director: Tom Botchi
Editors: Tom Botchi and Drake Nelson
Producer: Tom Botchi
Match Listings – Disc 1
- Double Hell Cage Match: The 2008 Territory Match of the Year
- Street Fight: Adam Thornstowe v MPT
- Barefoot Thumbtack Match: - 2007 runner-up for MotY
- Tables Match
- Taipei Death Match
- 6-Man Street Fight
Match Listings – Disc 2
- Falls Count Anywhere: - Rik Luxury v Adam Thornstowe
- Cage Match: - Rik Luxury v Adam Thornstowe
- The Reno SCUM invasion: - The Scum take over BRAWL and massacre the local boys
- 10-Man Anything Goes Match: - winners get control over BRAWL
- Hardcore Iron Man Match: - Rik Luxury v Adam Thornstowe
- plus more extras
I received a very nice email from Tom Skowronski, telling me that he enjoyed my reviews on Wrestling 101 and would I like to review the first ever DVD release from The Territory, a TV show that highlights the talent around northern California. Always eager to broaden my own horizons and keen to get W101 more exposure as well, I readily agreed.
Some emails back and forth later and the DVD came through the post all the way from the good ol' Yoo-Ess-Ay and into my PC ready to watch. I checked the discs (there are two discs; the second is extras) to make sure they worked and then left them on the side until I had the time to devote myself to watching their product.
Going in, I was impressed by two of the claims laid out by Tom in our email exchanges. The first “It's kind of a smart show, aimed at the smart fan” caught my eye due to really enjoying the Wrestling Reality series that used to on The Fight Network before it closed. The second really stood out and, in my opinion, put a lot of expectation on the quality of what I was about to see.
“Drake & I are both former workers as well as working towards degrees in the Media Arts & Television field. Therefore the production values are high, I would say on the level of Vince except without the HUGE crew. Our magic comes in the post production process and making the show come across live and being shot by a 64-man production crew, yet there is only two of us. The fact that we're former workers also provides us with what we like to believe would be somewhat of an advantage with our production in terms of knowing where the emphasis should be and why.”
As you can see, Mr. Skowronski made quite the bold claim, with the bolded and highlighted sections being the ones to totally grab my attention. With all of that in mind, I pressed play on Windows Media Player and sat back to watch what promised to be the greatest indy DVD release in history.
Now, credit where credit is due, the pre-titles video package is very well presented and edited, but that only serves to be a false dawn, a blighted beacon of hope, a calm before the storm. As soon as the first match begins, these claims are shown to be nothing more than propaganda and spin; the footage is of no better level than the usual UK indy. In fact, The videos Saz posts of KSW leave The Territory in the shade.
The DVD proper opens with the Double Hell Cage Match having started and absolutely nothing explained to the viewer as to what this structure is, why it's being used, who the eight wrestlers are, whether they are heel or face, why they are fighting, who, if anyone, they are either feuding with or aligned with... or anything else that would, you know, be useful information. Add into that, one of the commentators is annoying (Cannibal) and the other and the other (Tom Botchi) is even worse. If I could have watched it on mute, I would have, but, in the interests of fair play and objectivity, it has only been six minutes, so there is hope this is just a bad introduction to the company.
The Double Hell Cage is a match that involves two rings, one with a cage around it and the other with the ropes wrapped in barbed-wire. There are the usual weapons involved and some of the more “exotic” examples like a staple-gun. The trouble is that I have no clue who anyone is and, as such, have no emotional investment in anything that's happening. People are hit with weapons, dumped on wire, the commentators run over some rule about having to get a belt down from one ring and having to hang it on another, but, with no pre-match explanation, it's all lost as to why they need to do this and how they ended in the match to need to do this in the first place.
Some of the guys aren't too shabby, but the others look like what you would expect a low-level independent wrestler to look like and wrestle as you'd expect a low-lever independent wrestler to wrestle like. The one guy who's name I did pick out, Lester the Legend, does own the best hair this side of John Morrison though, so we like him. Lester also seems competent inside the ring while some of the other wrestlers bumble around and come across as very amateurish. Harsh, but then again, I'm working from the hype generated from the claims generated by the email exchange I had with Tom before receiving the discs.
There are some nice spots in the match (including a sweet 450-splash from the apron to the floor by Virgil Flynn), but they're not enough to save it from being a psychologically-bereft clusterfunk. Oh, and the way they switch to a replay will drive you insane.
But, with the start of the second chapter, things do appear to be picking up. Adam Thornstowe, who looks like a wrestler and carries himself like a wrestler, is in the ring and cutting a decent promo challenging anyone to come out and face him in a street fight. The audio is hampered by the commentators talking over Adam, but the point is across and, unlike the first match, I know who this guy is and, by his tone of voice and actions, what his personality and character is too. I am, to use my own phrase from earlier, emotionally invested in the situation.
The man who accepts the challenge is Mr. Prime Time (or MPT), who ruins the seriousness of the challenge by coming out and dancing like a 1990s Rave-scene reject. The fans in the building holler with delight, so I'm hoping once the match starts, the first impression proves to be wrong... and he does so by giving us quite the brawl with a fantastic finish that comes out of nowhere. This easily makes up for the first match and makes me feel that all the negatives I found with the first are going to be confined there.
Match #3, a Barefoot Thumbtack Tag Match between three male wrestlers and one female wrestler (called, Cassie Summers – and she's a good-looking woman; much better looking than you normally find on an indy show), continues the good stuff. Surprisingly, for such a gimmick match, there is a lot of good psychology (particularly a genius spot with a broom) and the four wrestlers make a good accounting of themselves, giving us a reason to hate the heels and like the faces (depending on your viewpoint, you may go the other way, but at least you have some feeling either way). The spot of the match is Cassie being superplexed onto a pile of tacks. Stupid, but also brave on the part of the lady; I, for one, was impressed by her willingness to take huge bumps (she also takes a brainbuster, that is stunningly set up, into the tacks). For the second match in a row, The Territory impresses.
The impressive Adam Thornstowe (with a new look) is up next in his long-running rivalry with Rik Luxury as both men face off in a Table Match.. It's a really nice, but short, encounter, but it's marred by some really piss-poor lighting that has you squinting to see what's going on. The lighting withstanding, the two guys brutalise each other in front of an excitable crowd and you can tell these guys are very comfortable with each other. Another good match and the bad is definitely being outweighed by the good.
The next match, which goes back to the “giving the viewer nothing to know why the match is taking place, etc”, has a staple of hardcore indy feds ever since the original ECW used it to end the feud between Ian and Axl Rotten; the Taipei Death Match. Taken from the Van Damme movie, 'Kickboxer', it involves both competitors having their fists taped, soaked in resin or glue and then pressed into broken glass. This is then used to shred your opponent.
The original was quite exciting to see, mainly because it was original. Every other TDM has failed to live up to the Rotten Brothers and this was no exception, although it came close. The blood-loss is immense, particularly from Thatcher, and the action is brutal. It just falls short, however, due to the “seen most of it before” dilemma of virtually all stipulation matches. The risks taken aren't worth it (in all honesty, are they ever?), but fair play to the guys for going all out to please their audience. Some of the spots are inventive and the finish is very well done. The only problem is that with so much garbage wrestling on show, you soon get desensitised to it all and by this point in the DVD, you find yourself getting, I don't want to say bored by it, but definitely blasé.
After a poor start, The Territory redeems itself with four good-to-great matches in a row. Unfortunately, it couldn't last. Opening with a multi-man clusterfunk, the disc also closes with one that, again, gives us no reason to care. Some of the action is really good, but the lack of emotional investment detracts from it and, ultimately, takes much away from the match for it to really click as well as it would for those who had followed the storyline and knew the ins and outs of the angle.
The second disc has another four matches and one invasion angle, but, unfortunately, it wouldn't play on any of the DVD players in the house (one downstairs, one upstairs or the PS3) or on the PC or Laptop, so I have no idea whether the bouts are any good or not.
With that in mind, if you liked the Rik Luxury and Adam Thornstowe matches from the first disc, then you'll love this (and, vice-versa, if you disliked them, you have little to interest you) as it has a further three bouts featuring the two squaring off. The other two segments are an invasion from the Reno SCUM and a subsequent 10-man match for control of the BRAWL promotion.
As I said, I cannot comment on the quality of this disc, but you'll know from the first disc whether this is worth viewing for you.
After a piss-poor start, the collection really picked up and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality on show from the talent in the ring. The commentators are super annoying, so you may want to try and block them out if you can, but they don't detract that much from the later bouts. The camerawork, while nowhere near the outrageous claims made in the email, is of a good quality for a low-budget release, but the method of switching to a replay is ridiculous and WILL start to grate almost immediately.
The talent on show vary from guys who have no business being near a wrestling ring to those who are almost too good for this level of promotion, but not quite good enough for the more “name-value” feds around.
Overall, this is a mixed bag of content that will divide the wrestling fans down the middle. If you dislike garbage wrestling or weapons-infested brawls for no storyline reason, this should be avoided, but if you're looking for something where a little blood & guts goes a long way, you should check it out.
It's not my proverbial cup of tea, but the middle three matches on the first disc are worth seeking out the collection for.
Points: 5 / 10
“The Hangman” Draven Cage
To find out more about the company and to purchase the DVD see: TerritoryTV.com