Outside the Ropes: XSE: Battle for Plymouth, Plymouth, IN – May 26, 2018

Xtreme Sports Entertainment (XSE) held Battle for Plymouth at the Life Plex Gymnasium complex in Plymouth, IN at 7:00pm on Saturday, May 26.  As you drive from Valpo to Plymouth, you know the intersection where the Hacienda Mexican Restaurant is?  The large building a bit farther behind the strip mall is Life Plex, and it is a really nice & spacious fitness and rehabilitation facility!

This was an exciting night of wrestling, power outages, notably drunk or stoned attendees stumbling around, and Ring Announcer Ryan Anderson laying the smack down on someone who didn’t listen to his instructions the first time!  Here’s the recap:


The first match featured Officer Rod Street versus Fireball.  In his usual pre-match remarks, Officer Street pronounced the name of the town “Ply” <rhymes with Fry> – “Mouth” <as in Mouth of the South>.  That was funny.  Rod Street’s posse didn’t use the numbers game to their advantage enough, and Fireball got the win.

Cletus Farmer came out to try to have an episode of “The Barnyard” and conduct an interview with Ames about his match later in the night with Scotty Young, but things got derailed pretty quickly, and with the addition of Travis Trendbender in the ring, it was decided that Cletus would get a make-over later on.  His combination of overalls with flip flops was particularly offensive to Travis.

Having recovered from his first match, Rod Street came back out with the rest of The Police Department (this time with Eva Lonis) to have an 8 man tag match against the team of Jorge Bravo, Moxie Mollie, Akira the American Yakuza, and Anthrax Rudo.  After a bit of chaos, Moxie Mollie pinned Eva Lonis.

The Rat Pack was introduced before the third match, some music played, and … one guy came out.  If I’d been to more PWK shows recently (shame on me!) I’d know his name.  But does one man really equal a pack?  Anyway, he was dressed snappily (Travis Trendbender would approve, I’m sure) and carried a clipboard.  For the rest of the night, he was wordlessly observing matches – is the Rat Pack open to new recruits?

The third match was Rick Vidal against Russ Jones.  This was an intense match, and I’m sure both guys were sore afterwards.  Russ Jones got the win, but I don’t think it was as easy as he thought it would be!  Below left: Russ Jones tries to pop off Rick Vidal’s head like a bottle cap.

During intermission, some guy picked up one of his sons and pretended to slam him on the edge of the ring.  And we all know that theapronitsthehardestpartofthering!  This is a good way to accidentally hurt your kid, and an even better way to draw the wrath of Ring Announcer Ryan Anderson, because who wants to be sued for negligence, anyway!  Ryan gave a stern warning for people to not touch the ring, and as he was saying this, the Dad picked up his other son and started to do the same thing.  Ryan was about to give him some hands!  So yeah, intermission was exciting I guess.

After intermission, the Midwest Monsters came out to defend their RCW Tag Team Championships against Mitchell Taylor and Anthony Lee.  I didn’t hear his partner’s name clearly, and even Mitchell Taylor admitted then only reason his partner was there was because Taylor hired him to do all the work.  Eventually Taylor realized he wasn’t getting his money’s worth, and the Midwest Monsters defeated the other pair.  Below left, you can see that Mitchell Taylor didn do nuffin, and below right, he is about to become two dimensional.

Before Match 5 got underway, Cletus came out to display his new wardrobe, which consisted of his same overalls, some sneakers exchanged for the flip flops, and a blue sportscoat.  The clothes make the man, Mr. Farmer.

Match 5 was a high energy match between Ames and Scotty Young.  Ames promised to kiss Young on the lips before the match was over, and the crowd was more eager to see this than you’d think they’d be.  The match was interrupted for a few seconds when the power briefly went out, causing Scotty Young to yell, “Who put me in the dark match?!” Not only did he get the punchline, he got the win.  Well, he did get kissed by Ames, too, so how much winning is that in the long run?

The main event of the night had Nick Cutler vs Jake Omen.  This was a match full of clever stalling tactics, loud & impactful strikes, near falls, and jokes from the crowd about Cutler’s chest hair.  Jake Omen eventually got the pinfall.  If we kept score in wrestling, the total number of counts would have been about 51-50 in Omen’s favor.

In the picture above right, Cutler is about to chop Omen; Omen moved out of the way, and Cutler smacked the ring post with a shot that echoed off the rafters.  Ouch!

The next XSE event in Plymouth will be on Saturday August 04, with special guest Ricky Reyes, AKA Cortez Castro from Lucha Underground!


If you’ve read this far, you might like wrestling?  So maybe, check out the Northwest Indiana Wrestling Action Program (NWIWRAP) broadcast Sundays at 9:15pm*, right after Mostly Metal, which runs Sundays from 8:00-9:15pm CST, on WVLP 103.1FM in Valparaiso, IN. If you’re not in Valpo, catch it streaming on http://www.wvlp.org and the Tune In Radio app. Rebroadcasts happen Wednesdays 10pm – midnight, and NWIWRAP is archived on YouTube, just search for NWIWRAP. You can find @nwiwrap on Twitter. And you can subscribe to the nwiwrap.wvlp@gmail.com Google calendar, where I try to keep up to date calendar postings of shows in and around the NWI region.

* or 9pm, or 9:30pm, or anytime before or after, depending on how much stuff there is to cover! 

Outside the Ropes: ACW School’s Out, at Lincoln School, Roselawn, IN, May 18, 2018

ACW held School’s Out at the Lincoln School in Roselawn, IN at 7pm Friday May 18, 2018.  Fortunately, they had the show in one of the small pockets of time I have available this weekend.  Thursday: 5 different rehearsals for graduation ceremonies; Friday: Repeat.  Saturday: two of four actual graduation related ceremonies (Law School and Grad School) plus and evening reception (and the short time in between the two afternoon ceremonies is the only reason I have time to do this!).   Then Sunday, a morning ceremony and then the big kahuna with almost 800 graduates in the afternoon.  This isn’t to make you feel any sympathy for me, but rather to explain why parts of this recap are sort of brief!

This was a big blowout show, marking the end of ACWs main “year” until they resume shows over the summer.

Rockstar Jonny Nigh came out to reiterate the stakes in his match later in the evening with Drex Odell.  If he does not beat Odell for the ACW Heavyweight Championship, then he will retire from ACW.  But he is not ready to retire!

The opening match was a two-of-three-falls match between Brently Alexander Dawson and Kujo.  After his own entrance, B.A.D. waited by the entranceway to ambush Kujo as soon as Kujo entered the ring area.  But all this scheming must have exhausted B.A.D.’s ability to plan ahead, as Kujo got a pretty quick and easy pin very soon after.  The second pin took quite a bit longer, and went to B.A.D.   Kujo picked up his second and winning pinfall after he pulled B.A.D.’s vest up and over his head to blind him.  And then when B.A.D. was complaining to the ref about it, Kujo gave him a big spear for good measure.

Cliff Caviar came out with TK Zero to learn from GM Michael Allen who his opponent would be.  Allen admitted that Caviar got away with one against Arun the previous week, so let’s see how he would do without TK Zero at ringside, and TK was sent to the back.  Arun and Caviar went at it for a while (below left) until we learned that Caviar had another stooge in his back pocket, as Dave Allen came out to pounce on Arun.  The matches for the Tough Man Title are No-DQ, so this was fair game, and Caviar got the win.

Next, X-Calibur got a win over the long absent Dakota Prodigy (above right) in a match that was not nearly long enough.

Dave Allen took on ACW newcomer El Muchacho.  Here, Arun got a bit of revenge as he came out and distracted Allen, allowing Muchacho to get the 1-2-3.

The fifth match before intermission was the match “five years in the making!” between Maverick Cage and Jimmy Holmes.  Well, rather between Cage and his entourage, and Holmes and the random folks who would run into the ring to give him a hand!  It was a No-DQ match, after all.  Maverick Cage had his personal ring announcer, who came out and rudely took the mic from the classy Chris Guzman, and who rudely insulted all the fans in attendance before introducing The Physical Specimen Maverick Cage, who came out accompanied by two extras.  Then Guzman was able to introduce Holmes, who came out alone.  A couple of times, Cage took advantage of the no-DQ rules and tossed Holmes to the wolves waiting outside the ring.  He also introduced a ladder (below left, Jimmy Holmes is about to splat into it).  A while into the match, Cage punched Ref Paper Harley, who went down.  This allowed some chaos to ensue, with Holmes being attacked until a friend of his came out to make the save, then disappear (I can’t remember his name from previous appearances, but he’s sort of a Hilbilly Jim type of character).   This overall-clad hero actually made a couple of appearances during the match.  After Paper Harley went down, Ref Zoran tried to come out and restore order, but he was held at bay by Cage’s crew.  Macho Del Silver, who had been sitting at ringside, got involved at one point to try to even things out.  Eventually, Holmes got the upper hand on Cage due to use of a steel chair – below right, you can see it, and you know how it goes:  Cage held Holmes so that his pal could hit Holmes with the chair, but Holmes ducked out of the way and Cage ended up getting hit).  Ref Socks Off O’Grady came out to count the pinfall for Holmes.  After the match and during intermission, Jimmy Holmes got a picture with all the kids in the audience who had been ever been in one of his gym classes.


After intermission, things got back on track with an Intercontinental Championship match between champ Jared Kripke and challenger Xavier Black.  This was a very evenly matched content, and several times the two of them used matching moves at the same time.  Kripke was able to hold onto his title.

Next, we had a tag team matchup, with David Forrest and TK Zero taking on Crimson Dynamo and Billy the Kid.  A group of kids at ringside were giving TK Zero the business; normally, I’d be in favor of this, but then the kids started yelling at TK Zero that he was old, which makes me ancient by comparison, and that hurts my feelings.  Stupid kids.  Maybe TK Zero is right about them.  Anyway, here you can see TK stepping on Dynamo’s head while discussing the weather with Ref Z, and while Billy the Kid shows no concern about his teammate’s situation.  Then later Billy the Kid plays with David Forrest while TK Zero trades insults with the kids at ringside.  And oh, the match ended when someone’s music played (I have no idea who’s) as if a run-in was about to happen, which distracted Crimson Dynamo and allowed TK Zero to pin him.  Then after the match, a masked man (Phantasmo?) came out and attacked Billy the Kid.

The main event was the Career vs Title Match featuring Rockstar Jonny Nigh and current ACW Heavyweight Champion Drex Odell.  This picture of him is here only because, hey, I thought it was a pretty good one.


Odell kicked out of Rockstar’s Pedigree-type finisher once.  Then later Rockstar took a clothesline from Drex Odell that normally would have ended the match, but he kicked out – below left, you can see Drex Odell in disbelief.  And eventually Rockstar was able to hit Odell with his finisher again, and get the win.  Your new ACW Heavyweight Champion is Rockstar Jonny Nigh!  Drex Odell took the loss like a star.  He has some nice words for the crowd, the organization, and for Rockstar, and then he handed over the belt to the new champ (below right).


I don’t know when the next ACW show is.  I know it’s listed on their Facebook page somewhere, but I’m too lazy to go dig it out right now.


If you’ve read this far, you might like wrestling?  So maybe, check out the Northwest Indiana Wrestling Action Program (NWIWRAP) broadcast Sundays at 9:15pm*, right after Mostly Metal, which runs Sundays from 8:00-9:15pm CST, on WVLP 103.1FM in Valparaiso, IN. If you’re not in Valpo, catch it streaming on http://www.wvlp.org and the Tune In Radio app. Rebroadcasts happen Wednesdays 10pm – midnight, and NWIWRAP is archived on YouTube, just search for NWIWRAP. You can find @nwiwrap on Twitter. And you can subscribe to the nwiwrap.wvlp@gmail.com Google calendar, where I try to keep up to date calendar postings of shows in and around the NWI region.

* or 9pm, or 9:30pm, or anytime before or after, depending on how much stuff there is to cover! 

Outside the Ropes: ARWPRO at Edison High School, Lake Station, IN – May 12, 2018

ARWPRO held a fundraiser for the Fighting Eagles wrestling club at Edison High School in Lake Station, IN at 7:00pm on Saturday May 12, 2018.

The show opened with a fatal-four-way for the Indiana State Championship currently held by X-Calibur; the challengers were Dave Allen, Maverick Cage (with Chazz Moretti), and Johnny Showtime.  Often the action was split 2-on-2 as Allen and Cage seemed to get along well due to their common dislike of Johnny Showtime and X-Calibur … or at least until it came to pinfalls, where they each interfered with pinfall attempts of the other.  As usual, X-Calibur spent a lot of time in the air.  The match ended when X-Calibur hit a shooting star press / 450 splash / some such crazy thing on Maverick Cage; Dave Allen instantly pounced on X-Calibur, hitting him and throwing him aside, and then taking over the pinfall on Cage himself.  And so Dave Allen is your new Indiana State Champion for ARWPRO.   Note that the Moretti Agency is 0-1 on the evening so far.

Next, in a match rescheduled from a weekend with crappy weather and snowstorms, Stacy Shadows (with Chazz Moretti) challenged Moxie Mollie for Mollie’s ARW Women’s Championship.  This was probably Moxie’s toughest challenge to date, but at some point in the match Shadows lost her cool and shoved the ref, drawing a DQ.  And so Moxie Mollie retains (escapes with?) her Women’s Championship.  Below left, we see Moxie on the receiving end of a suplex, and then we also see that it took 4 refs to restore order after Shadows went berzerk.  (Well, three are restoring order and one is supervising!) We’ll have to see who Chazz Moretti unearths next as an opponent.  But, note that the Moretti Agency is now 0-2 on the evening.

Ivan Manson took on Old School Manson and Rancid Joey Rak in a handicap match, since the he and The Family still have a beef.  You know, watching Mad Dog Ivan Manson slapping hands with fans as he enters is just … strange.  Manson won the match after a stunner on Rak, but then the Family ganged up for a beating of Manson after the match.  Max Holiday ran out for the save.  Now the pictures here may not look exciting, but you have to imagine the sound of the impact from what’s pictured in progress.  OSM and Ivan Manson are two very large mammals, and one of them simply dropping the other on the mat like in the left pic (1) makes a very loud noise, and (2) makes you wonder for a minute if the ring is going to stay up.  Then Manson coming off the turnbuckle with a double flying clothesline probably set off seismometers somewhere in Illinois.

Tag Team Champions Aggravated Assault (B.O.W. and Punisher 747 with Chazz Moretti) tried to defend their titles from The Mexecutioners (Santana Starks and The Machine), but the Moretti Agency went 0-for-3 tonight, as the Mexecutioners won the match.  This happened when Machine gave a dropkick to one of the members of Aggravated Assault, while Santana Starks was waiting to roll him up quickly for the three count.  The Mexecutioners are our new ARWPRO Tag Team Champions.  Oh, and Chazz Moretti got hit over the head with a pinata (whose name was Chico, I believe) afterwards.

Next, we had a triple threat match between the Manchester Hooligan Drex Odell, Teleporting Nick Cutler, and Brandon Blaze.  Cutler spent the first part of the match trying his best to stay out of the action; he was probably out of breath from using his powers to teleport from Bourbon, IN.  Below left, we see him shoving Blaze into a waiting Odell powerslam (out of the way, ref!).  Eventually, Brandon Blaze got the win after Drex ODell missed him with a moonsault (below right), and Blaze pinned the dazed Odell.

The main event had Ruff Crossing trying to take Max Holiday‘s ARWPRO Heavyweight Championship.  The end of this match was crazy, and I guess we could say that Ruff Crossing was a bit “Dusty” from riding the trails!  First, Ref #1 got clobbered and rolled outside the ring.  While he was out of action, Crossing hit Holiday with his cowbell and tried a pin.  Luckily, Ref # 2 sprang into action from the back and counted this pinfall.  The match seemingly ended with Ruff Crossing as the new Champ!  But, Ref  # 1 came to his senses and was aghast at these events, and ordered the match restarted.  In the chaos that followed, Ref # 2 got kicked in the face, Holiday got Crossing reacquainted with a boot named Sue, and Ref # 1 counted the proper pinfall, allowing Holiday to retain his title.

ARWPRO is in action next at Live in the ‘Ville, Hessville, IN that is, as the town shuts down the north end of Kennedy Ave for a festival on June 1 and 2.  ARW will have shows on both of those days!  Times and other details are still TBA.


If you’ve read this far, you might like wrestling?  So maybe, check out the Northwest Indiana Wrestling Action Program (NWIWRAP) broadcast Sundays at 9:15pm*, right after Mostly Metal, which runs Sundays from 8:00-9:15pm CST, on WVLP 103.1FM in Valparaiso, IN. If you’re not in Valpo, catch it streaming on http://www.wvlp.org and the Tune In Radio app. Rebroadcasts happen Wednesdays 10pm – midnight, and NWIWRAP is archived on YouTube, just search for NWIWRAP. You can find @nwiwrap on Twitter. And you can subscribe to the nwiwrap.wvlp@gmail.com Google calendar, where I try to keep up to date calendar postings of shows in and around the NWI region.

* or 9pm, or 9:30pm, or anytime before or after, depending on how much stuff there is to cover! 

Outside the Ropes: Is ACW A Powderkeg About to Explode?

Normally I write these little wrestling articles after seeing a show, so that folks who missed them can find out what happened, or so that folks who were there can revisit the event.  And normally I leave the previews of upcoming shows for the radio side of the media juggernaut that is the Northwest Indiana Wrestling Action Program.   But over the next two weekends, we are going to see back to back shows from ACW (ACME Championship Wrestling), and there’s going to be a lot at stake – so I thought maybe a little overview ahead of time might be in order.

ACW has been, to me, the “friendly little wrestling promotion that could” – based in DeMotte, they often run fundraiser events at regional schools (and both of the upcoming shows are such events); when not doing philanthropy, ACW holds their shows at their home base, the DeMotte Boxing Club – which only holds a few dozen people, and so is a nice intimate venue.  The promotion is owned by the friendly Jimmy Holmes, and the wrestling operations are overseen by the fan friendly GM Michael Allen.  It just seems like a happy company of which to be a fan.  But the words of some of the workers and the return of a man known as Maverick Cage are starting to pull back the curtain a somewhat uncomfortable amount to show that all may not be as “friendly” as it seems.

The first event is very soon: on Friday May 11 (tomorrow, in fact, as I write this), ACW will hold Lake Village Rumble, at Lake Village Elementary School in Lake Village, IN – bell time is 7:00pm Central.  Then next week, on Friday May 18, ACW will hold their now-annual event School’s Out at Lincoln Elementary School in  Roselawn, IN.  As we approach these events, I’m starting to notice an undercurrent of toxicity that might very well boil over at one or both of the events.  Here’s a quick breakdown.

First, we all see General Manager Michael Allen come out and slap hands with the crowd at the start of every show.  He’s a crowd favorite.  Now, recently Allen has had a battle of wills with Drex Odell during Odell’s hunt for the ACW Heavyweight Championship.  Starting a year or more ago, Allen forced the massive Drex Odell to jump through many hoops before finally acceding to Odell’s wish for a title match.  Once Odell captured the ACW Heavyweight Championship, Allen has thrown surprise opponent after surprise opponent at Odell to try to get the title away from him.    All along, Odell has has been in Allen’s face and ear, complaining about the unfairness of it all.  And that’s fine, we all know to expect grumbling from Drex Odell.

But if you listen carefully, you’re going to hear other workers also remarking on the heavy hand of Michael Allen.  Cliff Caviar, who currently holds the ACW Tough Man Title, is often heard to complain about Allen’s hand in his matchmaking.  And in a promo released this week regarding his match against Arun this Friday, he does it again. Thomas Keith posted some words about his impending match with Jared Kripke, where he said:  “Jared kripke this Friday i not just going to beat you and take your title that would be to easy no I’m going to absolutely destroy you and leave you a broken man your nothing kripke your just some guy with a beard this Friday I will rip that Beard off your face and shove down your throat and show you, our GM Michael Allen, and everyone else why I’m the greatest thing going in ACW.”  While he doesn’t really call out Allen directly here, it’s clear Allen is on the mind of Keith, when Jarek Kripke should be his sole focus.  So I wonder … why is this?  Why are Allen’s workers getting more and more vocal about him?  Is it just Drex Odell’s bad influence spreading around?  Or is there something we don’t know about Allen and his management of ACW?

Some of this may come to a head this weekend.  But building over a looong period of time is something that will come to a head next weekend.  If cracks in the seams of Michael Allen’s management are a spark, what might be the whole powderkeg of ACW relates to the return of Maverick Cage.  Other than hearing his name tossed around here or there, I knew nothing of Maverick Cage until a recent ACW event in late 2017, at which Cage came out of the crowd and attacked ACW owner Jimmy  Holmes.  After doing so he announced to the crowd who he was and that he owed Holmes for some unfinished business – and a match was set between the two for School’s Out, which is now coming up very soon.

I was not around back at the origin of ACW, so I only know what I’ve seen of it lately.  And in an interview posted to Facebook just last night, Cage finally opens up about his motivation to return to action in ACW – and if what he says is true, then the “friendly little promotion that could” may have a darker past than we knew.  Cage portrays himself as the victim of Holmes’ manipulations: Holmes swooped in on the momentum of Cage’s own wrestling start-up, used Cage for a while to gain advantage, then kicked him to the curb.  And Cage has now picked his moment to come back and do something about it.  One reason this may go beyond a simple story of revenge to something more damaging to ACW is that some of the workers are already picking sides, and they’re not all going to back up their current “boss” Jimmy Holmes.  For example, Austin Fury has already voiced his support of what Cage has to say.  Will there be others?  Is  Cage’s return and genuine beef with the leadership of ACW going to drive a wedge right through the company?  Another reason that the timing of Cage’s return could be damaging is that we’re at the end of ACW’s main “season”.  They have been very active up until this month, but may wind down a bit after these two big final shows – when ACW returns, it could be a very different company … if it returns at all.

This story will keep developing.  I will try to get more information on Friday at ACW Lake Village Rumble, and see what I can report on Sunday night’s NWIWRAP, as we go forward into next weekend’s ACW “season finale” show.

ACW Lake Village Rumble includes:

(Edit: I had the Odell / Nigh match in the wrong place.)

  • Jimmy Holmes vs. Brently Alexander Dawson (B.A.D.)
  • Cliff Caviar (ACW Tough Man Champion) vs Arun
  • Jared Kripke (ACW Intercontinental Champion) vs Thomas Keith
  • The Bambino Family!

ACW School’s Out includes:

  • Maverick Cage vs. Jimmy Holmes
  • Drex Odell (c) vs Rockstar Jonny Nigh in a career – vs – title match


If you’ve read this far, you might like wrestling?  So maybe, check out the Northwest Indiana Wrestling Action Program (NWIWRAP) broadcast Sundays at 9:15pm*, right after Mostly Metal, which runs Sundays from 8:00-9:15pm CST, on WVLP 103.1FM in Valparaiso, IN. If you’re not in Valpo, catch it streaming on http://www.wvlp.org and the Tune In Radio app. Rebroadcasts happen Wednesdays 10pm – midnight, and NWIWRAP is archived on YouTube, just search for NWIWRAP. You can find @nwiwrap on Twitter. And you can subscribe to the nwiwrap.wvlp@gmail.com Google calendar, where I try to keep up to date calendar postings of shows in and around the NWI region.

* or 9pm, or 9:30pm, or anytime before or after, depending on how much stuff there is to cover! 

10 Album Covers In 10 Days

There’s a “challenge” going around Facebook in which someone posts 10 most influential CDs, one per day, and if you do that, you can nominate someone else to have to do it as well.  Now, I was nominated to do this by John Frank, who used to be my friend.  I have chosen not to nominate anyone, figuring anyone who wants to do this can just do it without prompting.  But on Facebook, the idea is to keep it quick, and just reveal the album covers one each day with not much discussion.  Since so many people wonder about my thoughts (tap … tap… is this thing on?), I decided that I would put a few words about each album here.   These are no in any order of importance, just a blend of 10 albums that – when I look back on my development as a music fan – likely had the biggest impact on me.  Maybe I’ll even link to a representative song from each!

  1. Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind (1983).  Back in high school, we had Van Halen, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and then these Iron Maiden guys came on my radar.  My friend John Zanniker and I got tickets, on a whim, to the Maiden concert at Riverfront Coliseum maiden.jpg(maybe Cincinnati Gardens, RIP?) in Cincinnati.  We ended up on the floor.  I was sort of scared at being that close, would I go deaf from the loudness?  Get poked in the eye by a metal stud flying off leather pants?  At this point, my image of metal bands was stereotypical (I liked the music, but had a narrow interpretation of it).  Iron Maiden rushed out on stage to hit their first song, which I didn’t know since I really didn’t know any of their music well yet, and I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.  A lead man wearing a white lace shirt?  Bright blue clothing on a guitarist, rather than black leather?  Smiles?  Non ear-bleeding volume?  What the hell was this?  And then came the part when Bruce Dickenson introduced a song called To Tame a Land, by saying it was all about the book Dune.  And suddenly my mind was blown.  Here was a combination of what was growing to be my favorite form of music and also science fiction books?  Considering that this was about the same time as I was thinking, “That record Off The Wall sounded pretty good and I like Thriller, maybe I need to check out more Michael Jackson”, I think this single Iron Maiden concert and record (which I bought after the concert) changed my life.
  2. Black Sabbath: Heaven and Hell (1980).  I honestly don’t remember if I finally got this record before or after the one above.  But this was my first Black Sabbath album ever, and I was blown away by the combination of heaviness, mood, sabbathdelicacy, and Ronnie James Dio’s amazing vocals.  If you’re not a metal fan and don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the song Children of the Sea, and pay attention to how Dio switches from angel to demon at the 40-second mark; this is everything great about him, and if you don’t get it, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you!  I think I was previously aware of Sabbath because of Never Say Die, and wasn’t really expecting the different vocalist here.  When I then went backwards to check out the early years, my next purchase was Black Sabbath IV, and my first reaction was “WTF”?  It took a long time to adjust to the older Ozzy sound, but as a good soldier, I figured it out.
  3. Dream Theater: Images and Words (1992).  A few years before this, CDs had become a thing, and I was working on building my collection – I kept going dtwith the big name metal and rock bands, as well as some new age stuff.  The whole glam / hair metal scene wasn’t doing if for me, and I wasn’t yet really digging below the surface to find alternatives.  But it was getting easier to keep an ear to the ground, and I started hearing some names of more underground metal bands popping up.  Not yet ready to commit CD dollars to them, I went to a store and bought two cassette tapes:  Dream Theater’s Images and Words, and Fates Warning’s Parallels.  Fates Warning was great, and I continue to follow them to this day, but Dream Theater … ho.lee.shit, I had no idea that this sort of sound was out there.  I almost thought it was a practical joke – I mean, how could there be a band out there that so perfectly blended my interests, taking the intricacies of Kansas, Rush, &  Yes and blending them with the in-your-face heaviness of metal?  The song out there on the radio ended up being s shortened Pull Me Under, but some others – like Under A Glass Moon – spoke to me more strongly.  And so here was punctuated equilibrium step number 2 in my musical life, and I was lost down the next rabbit hole of finding out just what else was out there.   (Believe it or not, though, one of my next cassette purchases was Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss, talk about whiplash!)  In conjunction with this discovery of Dream Theater, I also came around to find that there was a good internet (“Usenet” at the time) based heavy metal community filled with really cool people, and I made my first “internet meet up” with a group of people for a concert – Dream Theater, at Hammerjacks in Baltimore.  That spending of $50 for a night out has now evolved to having spent thousands of dollars attending ProgPower USA.
  4. Rush: Moving Pictures (1981). I don’t know if I knew much about Rush before this, except for maybe some radio hits off Permanent Waves? But Tom Sawyer was out there now, and this onerush came up as a feature in the Columbia House Record Club (I was starting to become a pro at signing up to get “6 records for a penny” with the obligation to buy one more in a year … or was that BMG?).  So I ordered this based on marketing, and was really glad I did!  It was another good example of how what you heard on the radio was very often not the best song on the record (that belongs to Red Barchetta here).  When it’s all said and done, I think I like Signals a bit more (I mean, it does have The Analog Kid on it), but in terms of “influential” I have to go with Moving Pictures, because if this record hadn’t stoked my fire for progressive hard rock and its cousins, I likely may never have bought Signals afterwards.
  5. Styx: Cornerstone (1979).  This album was in the bullseye of my musical tastes at the time.  When I look back over it all, it’s not the best Styx album by any means, styxbut it was my first one, and we’re talking about influential here, not best.  I think this was one of the first times buying a single 45rpm led me to purchase the full record.  Of all the records I ever owned, this is one I remember the most of putting on the turntable over and over, playing with the cover (it opened up in a tri-fold), and reading along with the lyrics.  Oddly, what would have been my favorite songs back then are now replaced as favorites by ones that were likely in my least favorite – like Boat on the River.  Back then:  ugh, skip, no wonder it’s a B-side!  Now: Tommy Shaw, you are one of my favorite songwriters ever!
  6. Little River Band: First Under the Wire (1979).  Along with Cornerstone, this was one of my early favorites when starting to collect albums (well, at the time, I don’tlrb think I knew I was turning into a collector, I was just starting to take up more space with LPs).  LRB was the first real concert I ever went to (second, if you count Shaun  Cassidy).  It was all because of Lonesome Loser, and I found lots of other songs on the record to love as well.  I mean, who doesn’t love Cool Change.   I think my favorite is The Rumor.  This album taught me that it was OK to love vocal melodies and light rock.  And to this day, the bands that incorporate layered melodic vocals go right to the top of my favorites.
  7. Tangerine Dream: Force Majeure (1979).  Hmmm, I had to look up the year of release for this one, and it’s actually a later release than I thought.  Anyway, this is Tangerine_Dream_-_Force_Majeure.jpgthe oddball compared to the rest, since it’s all ambient / electronic new age.  I was introduced to Tangerine Dream by my friend Alan in church youth group (yeah, it was a thing) in 1983 or so.  I learned that this is GREAT music to read fantasy novels to, and now I have several mental associations with books and music.  Whenever I listen to this album (ex: Cloudburst Flight) , I start remembering scenes from Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson.  I followed up my initial exposure to Force Majeure and Rubycon by eventually owning about 40 Tangerine Dream CDs.    TD led me to many other spectacular new age artists, like Vangelis and David Arkenstone.
  8. Alan Parsons Project: Turn of a Friendly Card (1980).  Hey, are you noticing like I am that a lot of my most influential albums came out when I was in high school and finally had money to spend on stuff like this?  Turn of a Friendly Card was probablyaparsons my first foray outside the more mainstream radio hits.  Sure, Games People Play was on the radio, but this was a case of radio drifting over to Alan Parsons, not Alan Parsons drifting over to radio.  When I found that this album had a song that by itself almost took up and entire album side, I thought that was pretty cool.  Yeah, this one brought me over to the side of progressive rock more than others, I think.  I probably would never have tried Tangerine Dream if I wasn’t already softened up for stranger music by Alan Parsons.
  9. The Rippingtons: Curves Ahead (1991).  This is what I was listening to before rippingtonsDream Theater blew my mind.  I was living in the DC area, and had access to some good jazz stations.  I started really liking the more modern poppy jazz that probably was considered vile stuff by jazz purists. The Rippingtons were the first jazz band I really dove into, and this was the album that started it all.  They were my gateway to Spyro Gyra, Larry Carlton, David Benoit, and so on.  I have a lot of excellent concert memories from that part of my musical life, such as seeing The Rippingtons as part of the “Jazz on the Roof” series in Indianapolis at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, which was the most magical venue at which I’ve ever seen a show.  Maybe Center Stage in Atlanta is in competition for that, though.  I don’t really follow jazz bands anymore, but if someone has tickets to a good show, let me know.
  10. Seventh Wonder: Mercy Falls (2008).  This could very well be my favorite album of all time.  It’s certainly in my Top 3.  Apart from a quick mishap with some awful voice acting that spoils the best part of a ballad, this is, to me, a perfect album.  It is the “youngest” album in this whole list, so its influence is not the same as the others – it did not set me on a musical path, but rather it has confirmed that every musical choice I ever made was the right one, because each choice led me to this album – which has on it everything I love about heavy metal; it’s heavy, it’s soft, and it all comes with great melodies and awesome vocals.  The song Unbreakable is a microcosm of all that – it sweeps through everything I love about music.  This concept album also has an emotional punch.  I defy anyone to listen to this short song – which is from the point of view of a little boy whose father lies in a coma – and concentrate on the lyrics, and not have to tell people around you that you got something in your eye.  See?  All of this in just one album.  Whammo. seventhwonder