CALGARY – It seems cliched when a big show is referred to as said promotion’s Wrestlemania. Even Starrcade, which started before the WWE’s event, was often referred to as WCW’s Wrestlemania. While PWA’s Night of Champions VIII card in Calgary on June 19th may not have had 80,000 people filling a stadium, from a in-ring standpoint the show lived up to its hype.

The show featured something for everyone — big “name” stars, gimmick matches, grudge matches, title changes, and great wrestling from start to finish.

Booker T at PWA Night of the Champions. Photos by Jason Clevett

The show was headlined by Booker T defending the PWA championship against “T-Bone” Jack Sloan, who dropped the belt to him in April. Sloan brought back-up in the form of a masked man in riot gear, who frequently distracted the referee when Booker had the upper hand. The crowd loved everything Booker did, nearly blowing the roof off the Acadia Recreation Centre when he treated them to a spinarooni. Despite the crowd support, the two on one was too much. As the referee and Booker were distracted by the masked man, Sloan pulled a chain from his tights and nailed Booker while being suplexed to regain the PWA championship. Despite the loss, Booker T sent the crowd home happy by promising to return and shaking the hand of every fan at ringside.

The semi-main event featured Lance Storm coming out of semi-retirement to team with former ECW friend/rival Jerry Lynn against former PWA Tag Team Champions Super Wild — Superfly Dan Myers and Mattias Wild. Super Wild has really found their niche as cocky heels and improved tremendously during their time in PWA. They proved they belonged in the ring with the veterans matching up to them in a fast-paced, explosive bout. I never fail to be amazed by how good Jerry Lynn is, he is a treat to watch wrestle live. Storm showed no ring rust at all. Storm seemed to have things won when he trapped Wild in the Canadian Maple Leaf half crab but Mattias made it to the ropes. Once Myers was deposited to the outside Lynn and Storm payed tribute to Calgary by finishing of Wild with a Hart Attack. It was one of the best matches in a night filled with great ones.

Tribute was an important part of the evening as PWA did its annual Hall of Fame inductions. Two men who helped build the promotion over the past nine years, Phoenix Taylor and Chris Steel, as well as the Hart Family were inducted. It was a touching tribute, even if marred by microphone issues (prompting Taylor to say “it is good to know some things never change). Johnny Devine, in inducting Steel, referred to him as “a guy who has never been given his due in the business.” After suffering a career ending injury in 2008 Taylor has worked primarily behind the scenes. It is a shame as he was one of the best talents in Alberta at the time and his presence in the ring is greatly missed. The Harts, represented by Wayne, Ross, Alison and Georgia seemed touched by the loud “thank you Harts” chant.

Mayhem champion Ravenous Randy is a shoe-in during his bout with Apocalypse.

There is always a certain risk in a match like the “fans bring the weapons” match that pitted Mayhem champion Ravenous Randy Myers against Apocalypse. Weapons used included signs, kendo sticks, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask, a Playstation 2, and a ringside photographer/ SLAM! Wrestling reporter. Myers made me stand in the aisle to whip Apoc into me… and yes, I bumped. After much use of the various weapons, Myers was able to escape a powerbomb attempt onto two chairs and drive Apoc into them himself to retain the belt.

Former TNA wrestler Johnny Devine has returned home to Calgary permanently, adding a positive veteran force to the PWA. His match against Dylan Knight quickly became an international dispute, with fans serenading Australian Knight with “Oh Canada.” Devine scored the pinfall but was beaten down by Knight after.

The ladder match has been a staple of professional wrestling for 16 years, and I am always amazed with how many more unique, original spots seem to be created with every one. While it helps to have nine men to do them with, the Money in the Bank Ladder Match was as insane as one would expect with the fearless high flying talent involved. Early on everyone teamed up on the much larger Chris Steele who fought back to clear the ring. Ladders and bodies flew through the air and crashed to the mat and the floor, including that of Pete Wilson, who was laid flat on the ladder in the corner and unceremoniously dumped to the floor onto opponents. In the end, everyone except Steele and Andrew Hawks was scattered at ringside. Steele, standing on a ladder propped up between the middle rope and another ladder, pressed Hawks above his head as the ladder groaned and threatened to give, and tossed him onto the wrestlers on the floor. He climbed the ladder to earn a title shot sometime in the next year.

At Night of Champions in 2009, Slammer won a battle royal for a title shot, which he gave to partner Bill Yates. Yates interrupted the scheduled match between PWA tag team champions The Nightmares and Scotley Crue & Bobby Sharp. Yates and partner Tex Gaines were granted the chance to join the match, but the Nightmares snuck out with the belts.

The ladies had their opportunity to perform as well in a fun six-woman tag match. BC’s Veronica Vice and Nikki Matthews teamed with Danyah to face Bella Von Black, KC Spinelli and Tenille. The “good girls” walked out victories over the evil team lead by Black.

A title change opened the show with PWA Cruiserweight champion Chucky Blaze making a mistake of trying a 630 splash on challenger Alex Plexis. He hesitated too long and landed on his head, allowing Plexis to capitalize and snare the belt.

PWA reached another milestone with their 8th Night of Champions events. Over nine years they have built up a loyal following through the hard work and efforts of some of the best talent in Western Canada. If Night of Champions VIII is any indication, the promotion can only get bigger and better as they continue to grow.

Jason Clevett never thought he would add the words “used as a weapon in a wrestling match” to his resume. In addition to covering Night of Champions he spent his weekend arguing with a five year old that turtles must be able to leave their shells because “Franklin can” (turtles can’t Franklin is a filthy liar) and having hot coffee spilled on him. His life is never boring.