Retro Rewind: Fusion The Debut Show
By Josh Boutwell
On this week’s “Retro Rewind” we’re going to take a look at a show and a promotion that is a bit of a mystery but something that has intrigued me since I was in high school and that is the debut – and possibly only event – of FUSION.
Never heard? I’m sure you’re not alone there. I only know about this event because of coverage of it one of the Apter magazine’s back in 2005 that featured pictures of the show. At the time, I was a senior in high school and was really hardcore diving into the independent scene at the time, and especially TNA.
At this event simply called “FUSION: The Debut Show” they featured TNA stars like Amazing Red, The SAT, Frankie Kazarian and Sonjay Dutt along with international stars like Ultimo Dragon and former WWE/ECW stars like Scott Hall, Marty Jannetty and Tommy Dreamer. This eclectic mix of current, past and future stars was really interesting to me.
Then, about a year later I saw that the debut show was available on RFVideo.com but for whatever reason I never checked it out, that is until now. Last year on one of my many wrestling DVD buying frenzies I grabbed the event when RFVideo had a sale going on. I’m just now getting around to popping it in, though.
As for FUSION, I could find very little information on the promotion online except for the remnants of its primitive website back in 2004 courtesy of the Wayback Machine. It seems that this promotion was a venture started up by The Maximo Brothers aka The SAT and never made it past this debut show, though there are a number of other Indie promotions out there that bear the Fusion Wrestling or Fusion Pro Wrestling name even now.
Though the final product ended up being a fairly star-studded indie card anyway, the initial card seems to even be more stacked. A poster for the event hypes up Japanese legend Mitsuharu Misawa in the main event in a very rare American appearance, but the legend pulled out the event a few weeks prior and was replaced by Ultimo Dragon.
Another legend, Juventud Guerrera, was scheduled to face Amazing Red in a dream match of sorts but Juvi pulled out before the debut as well.
The event took place at the Rexplex Sports Complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey on Dec. 17, 2004, and the DVD doesn’t waste much time as there is no introduction or opening video or anything. We go straight to the opening bout.
The video quality of this DVD I pretty much standard early 2000s RF Video quality meaning it’s not great but it’s about as good as you’re going to get for an indie event. There are multiple camera angles, however. Rob Feinstein himself of RF Video and a guy named Doug Gentry are on commentary.
David Hansen & Silas Young vs. The Solution (Papadon & Havok)
I know very little about any of these guys but Young is by the far the most well known wrestler here as he is a longtime – and current – Ring of Honor wrestler. Papadon was trained by Homicide and came up around the same time as Amazing Red and The SAT. I’ve never seen Havok nor Hanensen before.
There looks to be maybe 100 people in attendance. Young shows off some nice athleticism early on and then Hansen and Havok botch a bunch of stuff when they get in. The camera misses a rana from Young on the outside but does catch a Tope Suicida from Papadon.
In a nasty looking spot Havok picks Young up in a Press Slam and drops him down across his knee in a sort of Gutbuster. Havok lifts Hansen up in a Powerbomb as Papadon dives off the top with a Blockbuster at the same time for the pin.
The match was technically fine outside the first little bit of botches from the big guys early on. Nothing special from anyone involved but I believe all four were pretty young at the time.
Ryan Drago vs. Jay Lethal
This is a Jay Lethal before he had ever even started with TNA. Drago would go only later to become Simon Gotch in WWE and MLW. Both of these guys were extremely young here and this may be the first and only time they have faced each other. Feinstein jokes that Drago looks like a red-headed Bryan Danielson.
Both guys pull out some excellent mat/chain wrestling for the first several minutes, but Lethal speeds things up and the past quickens. Lethal sets up for a springboard move but Drago crushes him with a Forearm Smash causing Lethal to crash to the floor in a big spot.
Story of the match is that Lethal wanted to quicken the pace but every time he would get going Drago would use strikes and submissions to ground him and stop the momentum. After a flurry of moves from Lethal, Drago is able to connect with a Springboard Enziguri of his own for a close nearfall.
Lethal manages to break out a Diving Headbutt for a nearfall of his own. Drago hits a Fisherman’s Buster for another nearfall and Lethal his a disgusting Dragon Suplex dumping Drago on his head for the pin.
This was an excellent, technical match from two guys that were really just starting out in the business. It’s really cool to go back and watch two guys that end up becoming relative stars in the business and how they started out. Drago was really good here.
Xavier vs. Dan Maff
Xavier was one of the first ROH World Champions and at one point was looked at as one of the Indie darlings during this point alongside guys like Bryan Danielson, AJ Styles, Low-Ki and Christopher Daniels. He seemed to sort of fall off the map after leaving ROH and I believe attempted to start up in MMA after that. Maff is the longtime member of Da Hit Squad tag team in the Northeast and he’s still hanging around ROH to this day.
Gentry and Feinstein talk about potential Fusion championships at one point during this match. “There’s a big future for Fusion, that’s for sure,” Feinstein ominously says. These two just trade nasty strikes and big moves early on, very strong-style based.
Maff goes for the Burning Hammer multiple times but Xavier would manage to squirm out of it and counter each time. Some of the chops and forearms in this one you could almost feel through the screen. After a clothesline from Xavier sends both men flying over the top rope they both get counted out.
Maff gets in the referee’s face after the countout and threatens him before the referee literally runs away.
That was an atrocious way to finish a really hard-hitting match that was pretty exciting.
Tommy Dreamer Promo
Tommy Dreamer weirdly dressed in a suit makes his way down to the ring for a promo. Dreamer says he’s come to this event to dispel some “internet rumors” and to also thank the fans for continuing to support independent wrestling. A “fuck Triple-H” chant breaks out as Dreamer talks about “shitty” wrestling that is out there at the moment, which is very interesting because Dreamer was employed by WWE at this point.
Dreamer talks about the recently released Rise and Fall of ECW DVD and says that he was disappointed that certain wrestlers weren’t featured enough on that DVD. He name drops Rhino, Tajiir and Super Crazy as guys that didn’t get their just due on it. He says that he brought one of his friends from ECW that should have been spotlighted more and asks him to come out, but Chis Hamrick comes out instead.
Hamrick – who was also in ECW – shakes Dreamer’s hand and Dreamer puts over how great Hamrick was but says that he wasn’t talking about him. Hamrick gets pissed and says that no one in ECW ever did more or took crazier bumps than he did for that company. Dreamer says that Hamrick definitely paid his dues and he isn’t attempting to disrespect him but he isn’t the guy that he brought here tonight.
Hamrick talks about his Hot Commodity team in ECW and says that he used to think that Dreamer was the heart of ECW but that was before he realized he was Paul Heyman’s bitch. He says that Dreamer has forgotten about guys like he and Steve Corino after he started working in the “office in Connecticut.” He says as soon as ECW closed he went to kissing Vince McMahon’s ass.
Dreamer says he gave his heart and soul for ECW and says that he’s never kissed anyone’s ass in this business. Dreamer says that he’s been seeing rumors about him retiring online but he says that when he retires it will be on his terms not on WWE’s or anyone else’s. He suggests that he kick Hamrick’s ass right here. Hamrick then Superkicks the hell out of Dreamer!
New Jack’s music hits and he hits the ring and attacks Hamrick as he was the one that Dreamer brought here.
No DQ Match: New Jack vs. Chris Hamrick
Jack pulls out a staple gun but drops it and picks up a fork to stab Hamrick in the head repeatedly, which busts him open pretty quickly. Jack staples Hamrick’s head and then pulls out a damn full blown knife and starts cutting Hamrick’ head.
Jack staple’s Hamrick’ balls and clotheslines him to the floor. Jack tosses Hamrick into a bunch of chairs at ringside. This did a pretty good job at showing just how few people were here. Hamrick finally gets some offense in and hits several hard unprotected chair shots to Jack’s head.
They continue to brawl all around the arena before finally coming back to the ring. Hamrick takes his insane dropkick attempt that he used to do all the time where he misses and then goes flying through the ropes and back bumps on the floor. Jack kills Hamrick with three straight unprotected chair shots.
Hamrick grabs Jack’s knife and starts cutting him with it. He hits a Guillotine Leg Drop for a nearfall in what may have been the first wrestling move of the match. He goes for another Leg Drop with Jack’s head on a chair, but Jack moves out of the way. Jack dives off the top and hits Hamrick with the chair twice for the pin.
The Dreamer promo was good and at this point the ECW nostalgia thing hadn’t been rammed into the ground yet. As good as Hamrick was and athletic as he was at this point it sucks that he was stuck in a garbage match with an extremely out of shape New Jack. The brawl was fine but I’ve kind of been desensitized to these violence for the sake of violence style matches.
Four-Way Dance Elimination Match: X-Pac vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Brian XL vs. Justin Idol
I’ve never seen Idol before but the other three I am very familiary with. X-Pac and Dutt likely need no introduction but this was Dutt right as he was starting with TNA. It’s X-Pac at a pretty rough time in his life. He was in between TNA runs and barely ever wrestled in 2004. This was also right after his “tape” with Chyna had been released, which Feinstein unfortunately repeatedly references.
Brian XL is one of the guys from this point in time that never got his just due. He trained with Amazing Red and SAT and was unbelievably athletic. He never got the breaks that some of the guys he came up with got but he went on to found House of Glory training with Red.
As I mentioned before, X-Pac only wrestled a handful of matches in 2004 and it looks like he showed up to this show without his gear. He’s wearing generic black and white trunks and isn’t wearing his trademark kickpads and just some basic wrestling boots. He actually showed up to a show in California during this time to face Bryan Danielson in a karate gi.
This was fast and furious straight from the beginning with all four guys getting their stuff in. XL and Dutt especially trade some crazy fast-paced, high flying moves early on. XL hits a Somersault Plancha onto Dutt on the floor leaving Pac and idol to square off.
X-Pac goes for a Powerbomb but just absolutely drops Idol on his head in a sickening botch. Pac attempts a Somersault Senton off the top but misses. XL and Dutt continue to brawl on the outside as the camera angles are having trouble keeping up with everything.
Idol hits a Cradle DDT on XL but Dutt kills him with a 450-Splash as he went for the pin to eliminate Idol. Pac hits Dutt with a Bronco Buster and Dutt catches Pac with an Asai Moonsault and Michinoku Driver. He goes for a Moonsault Ghetto Stomp but Pac moves out of the way and connects with an X-Factor to eliminate him.
Pac almost immediately hits XL with an X-Factor but he kicks out at two and Pac seems shocked. XL hits a Springboard Flying Cross Body for a nearfall but as he goes for another high spot Pac catches him in midair with an X-Factor for the pin.
This was way too short to be as good as it could have been but all four guys pulled out some fun offense. Pac looked great despite his personal issues at the time, minus that disgusting Powerbomb botch. Seeing how athletic XL was is almost depressing that he never got the shot he deserved.
Evan Karagias comes out and the audio on his microphone was so quiet it was hard to make out anything he said. I know he said “let’s get it on” or something at the end but then Kazarian came out and Karagias left. I guess I should be happy I was spared an Evan Karagias match.
Justin Credible vs. Frankie Kazarian
Kazarian was already an X-Divisions star in TNA at this point and as he comes out “fuck TNA” and “fuck Jeff Jarrett” chants break out.
Kazarian attempts to bail on the match early on but Credible cuts him off and they start brawling into the crowd. Even though this isn’t No DQ the referee doesn’t even attempt to get them back in the ring or stop them from using weapons.
When the match finally gets back to the ring Kazarian fakes a knee injury and then chop blocks Credible’s knee before putting him in some unique submission holds.
Kazarian goes for the Tombstone but Credible counters it into That’s Incredible for the pin.
This match was okay except for the referee just letting all the brawling go on outside and the weapon usage. It would have been nice to see Kazarian put in that Four Way in place of Idol or work with Hamrick instead, though.
Scott Hall vs. Marty Jannetty
Hall was an absolute mess at this point in his life and though he was nowhere near the shape he was in WCW, he still looked pretty jacked here. This was right before he got fired from TNA in 2005. Hall cuts a promo before the match and trashes Marty, while saying he “ain’t no HBK.” Jannetty says that he may not be HBK but Scott isn’t the “Scott Hall you used to be either.”
Jannetty was actually in a pretty decent place at this point in his life. He was in good shape and a few months after this show would have an excellent match with Kurt Angle in WWE that would lead to him getting signed again before getting fired for being Marty.
Hall gets weirdly preoccupied with a fan at ringside that was trolling him, which results in the fans chanting “shut the fuck up” at the fan. Jannetty goes out and raises the guy’s arm in response. Hall turns Jannetty inside out with a big clothesline that Jannetty sells like death.
Jannetty goes to the top and Hall hits the Outsider’s Edge for the pin in like four minutes. This sucked. Hall was blown up a couple of minutes in and clearly couldn’t do much. Hall could have just made an appearance and slurred his promo, while Jannetty had an actual match with someone else on the card.
Main Event: The SAT (Jose & Joel Maximo) vs. Ultimo Dragon & Fuego Guerrero (Amazing Red)
The SAT were one of the better tag teams around at this point and were way ahead of their time as far as some of the double team spots they were pulling out. I have no clue why Red is under the mask for this match. He worked as Fuego Guerrero in MLW and Japan but it was no secret that it was Red and he was much more well-known in the Northeast. So, that was a bit bizarre. This was Dragon’s first match in America since leaving WWE earlier in the year.
The action was fast and furious here as all four guys were at their athletic peak. The action was all over the place and all four guys broke out all of their offense. At one point Dragon backdrops Fuego over the top into a Plancha onto the SAT and then dives onto them as well.
Jose Maximo attempted to Powerbomb Fuego off the apron through a table but Fuego blocks it and comes back with a Diving Red Alert through the table. Fuego hits the Code Red on Joel and then dives off the top right into a Spinebuster. Joel hits a crazy Powerbomb into a Facebuster for a nearfall.
Dragon goes for the Asai Moonsault but the SAT cut him off and then hit the Spanish Fly on Red, but Red kicks out at two. Joel hits the Maximo Explosion for the pin, however.
This was by far the best match on the card. All four guys killed it and really worked hard.
Overall, the show was star-studded – especially at the time – but unsurprisingly, the majority of the younger guys carried the event. The main event and Lethal-Gotch were easily the best matches with the 4-Way being a fun, but way too short match. Hall-Jannetty and New Jack-Hamrick were the only things that were just not fun at all really. The coolest thing about shows like this is to see guys that would end up becoming big stars just starting out as well as the guys that were on the way out.