Ladder Match Reviews 2020: #3

DEFY – YEAR 3, 31/01/2020

DEFY World Title Ladder Match: Schaff (c) vs. Artemis Spencer

There’s an opening hype video to promote the match, which is a good move that all indie promotions should be doing for their key matches as it gets the crowd and viewers at home invested. If possible, play it for the live crowd too. There are some places who have the means and the equipment to do this but they rarely, if ever, bother. I’ll slag WWE off all day long but they’ve always appreciated the positive effects of a video package.

The presentation and the graphics are great! The crowd feels hot and it’s a good looking venue too. I bet it’s a blast to see wrestling here. The only possible downside is that it is dark. Everything is dark. Black canvas, black buckles, black t-shirts, hell even the lighting is black. They’re definitely going for that nu-metal vibe. All the music appears to be from the same metalcore record company so I hope you like breakdowns, double bass drumming and Drop D tuning.

I’m not familiar with these guys at all. Artemis is like the out of control ex-champion and Schaff is the meaty, beefy, monster world champion who originally beat him for the strap. The babyface/heel dynamic is unclear and the opening video didn’t really help with that matter, but there is a mixed reaction for both guys and Artemis has a few more cheers than his opponent.

Having someone to root for is extremely important if you’re going for a slow burn, one-on-one ladder match. Unless you’re filling the gaps with spots and sequences, the fans need to have someone to cheer for, especially when an attempt at climbing for the belt is made. It’ll be interesting to see if, and how, they manage to navigate this.

There’s some dueling chants and it forces me to double check where this show is originating from. Not because chanting is exclusively a British thing but because those American audiences tend to have trouble keeping in time with each other. 99% it’s a mess of claps and words, but top work there Seattle!

Schaff utilises the eyepoke to boos and the ref gets to have his classic ladder match pop by sending Schaff’s cronies to the back. Schaff is now the confirmed heel and it’s happened within a minute or so of the match starting. Fine stuff. Very promising. Also, the main ladder is big and orange, just how I like them! A true ladder match staple and a nod to the greats. I also love a big, bright yellow one (like the one from Rock vs HHH). The black ones that WWE used to have with the silver rungs looked good too (timeless and nuanced) and I HATE the silver ones they’ve been using for the past twelve years. They’re garish and don’t command any sense of danger.

Schaff suplexes Artemis onto the apron from the inside in a wild spot. Looked like he was aiming to dump Artemis onto a ladder but missed. It looked good anyway. The match moves at a slow and steady pace; it’s got more of a brawl feel to it. There’s nothing spectacular or innovative, it’s just a good’ol heated street fight.

There’s some blood coming from Schaff’s nose due to an Artemis knee strike. There’s a great bit of camera work where Schaff hits a cannonball senton in the corner and it’s filmed from the POV of Artemis. Real good stuff as is the camera work in general. DEFY make sure the crowd/commentary audio balance isn’t over-bearing too which is also much appreciated. The commentary itself isn’t bad and that’s all you can ask for these days.

Schaff hits a falcon arrow, climbs for the belt and Artemis is there to take him down face first, focusing on the bloodied nose. He grabs Schaffs wrist and does some rough Fenix-like rope work to bounce himself onto the ladder whilst still holding onto Schaff’s wrist, which looks cool but is totally illogical. Schaff simply kicks him off the ladder. How are you expecting to climb up whilst holding your opponent’s wrist?

That actually got more people on board with Schaff as he takes over and batters Artemis around for a bit. Artemis manages to take over with a chair assisted 619 and a whacky chair assisted senton onto Schaff, who who was laid out over the ropes. Artemis heads up top looking to land a finishing blow but gets pushed to the floor and Schaff follows with a smooth big man topé con hilo. Artemis only managing to gain the upper-hand through the use of weaponry is smart story telling.

The spots aren’t too convoluted either and there’s been nothing really dangerous or uncomfortable, and it works with the style and pace of the match. Each man has only attempted a climb each so far, hinting that they’re going to have to go bigger to get the job done.

The ‘Taker chair special (chair to the throat) , which never fails to look brutal, keeps Artemis down and then Schaff strangles him with his belt. Artemis fires back and whips the fuck out of Schaff with the belt before returning the strangle favour. This is a fight, and if you’re going to do a ladder match in a heated feud then you work it like this. The ladder is secondary, the two wrestlers are the focus.

Schaff hits a DVD on the apron and looks pretty pleased with himself. Artemis is down and Schaff climbs the ladder to the sounds of boos. Artemis is up rather bloody fast after that apron DVD, and meets Schaff up top. Schaff headbutts him and Artmeis falls off, but after a tiny delay so does Schaff, and the commentary explains that it’s due to the headbutt. Schaff is holding his own head to sell it but I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of that.

Schaff starts rearranging furniture in the ring and he immediately powerbombs Artemis through a bridged ladder. No fucking around, that’s it. Job done. No teasing or convoluted sequences, no fannying about with other stuff, he just set up the ladder purposely and did what he set out to do within seconds. I really appreciate that.

Artemis rolls to the outside but Schaff rolls him back in….Right. I’m slowly falling away here. He rolls him back into the ring, wraps a chair around Artemis’ leg and heads up top. He’s going to Pillmanise him! Which he does! With a frog splash to the chaired leg! A powerbomb through a ladder, a Pillman frog splash just to make sure that Artemis is done, and that’s it! Great finish!

And it would be a great finish if that’s where it actually ended! For some reason, Schaff follows Artemis to the outside to carry on the punishment and misses a flipping senton off the apron. All of that was so frustrating. They got me with the great finish, lost me, won me over again, and then lost me again, but harder.

Atemis is limping a little bit but he’s shrugged of the powerbomb and frog splash really well. A miraculous recovery! I’m probably showing my age but I miss when having a limb attacked like that would be a finish or a deadly serious angle. Artemis buries Schaff under some chairs and hits a Spiral Tap off the middle of the ladder and then makes a climb. Schaff tilts the ladder back and Artmeis lands neatly on his shoulders for the Torture Rack Neck Breaker, and that’s enough for Shcaff to grab the belt. That’s a nicely done finish, but felt like they couldn’t decide which finish to use to they just threw everything at the wall instead of picking just one.

The Verdict
This match had a lot going for it. The overall presentation of DEFY makes it a really easy product to get into, but it’ll be up to your personal tastes on whether you can stomach all the dark shades and music that jumps straight out of my old MySpace page.

The pacing and the structure of the match itself worked for the most part, and the crowd were into it. The escalation of the fight and highspots was gradual, and made the bigger bumps stand out. It does fall apart in the final third though, where they go off-piste to just hit big spots without aiming to actually win the match.

The DVD on the apron seemed to be a turning point for that, where the lack of selling became noticeable. Also, that a DVD was enough to warrant a climb for the belt but hitting a powerbomb through a ladder AND a frog splash on a chair-wrapped leg a little later on just aren’t enough for Schaff? So he has to carry on and slip on a banana peel? That whole segment didn’t do the match any favours.

Maybe they were aiming to turn up the intensity and hit a higher gear, and it make it feel like they no longer cared about winning the match? That it was their hatred for each other that was more important? Maybe. If they were aiming to tell a story like that then it didn’t really hit home in the third and final act.

The main bulk of the match is a great example of a modern day street fight and I really enjoyed that portion. Stuff like Schaff following Artemis to the outside after big spots, Artemis leaping onto the ladder whilst still holding the wrist and even the ladder headbutt would’ve made more sense in that environment. Despite the faults, the lads worked hard and I’m keen to see more. ***1/2

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