Review: The Last Match: A Pro-Wrestling Rock Experience

The Last Match appeared in my Facebook feed. A wrestling rock opera featuring live wrestling, famous stars, and rock music. I had to check it out.
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You know that Simpson's episode where Bart sees Planet of the Apes: The Musical. His eyes stretched a mile when he saw rock music and break dancing with actors in ape costumes? That was my reaction to The Last Match.

Walking into the Temple Theater in Rochester, NY, I was greeted to a full sized wrestling ring. A rock band was tuning up. There was even a pseudo Titantron above the entryway. The ring proudly advertised World War V.

The show started and we were asked to cheer, taunt, and scream, while taking as many pictures as we wanted. This was not an ordinary Broadway production. The enthusiastic ref and super fan, played by Trinity Colvin, told us about her favorite wrestling event that she would remember forever, World War V from the 1989 World Wrestling Alliance. She sang about the wonders of pro wrestling in the 80s.

Cut to the two announcers, Scarlett Sublime and Struttin Jimmy Sutton (played by McKenzie Mitchell and Jeff Seal). They announced that Ben Vengeance (Anthony Nuccio) had been wrestling for thirty years and he was ready to retire. His body had sustained too many injuries and this would be his last match against Alex Swagger (played by Simon Miller). Other matches on the card included Sam the Barbarian (James Bull) against Johnny Nobody (Brandon Scott), a tag team match with The Surgeon ( Afa Anoa'i Jr.) and Cannonball (Terry Adonis). Ben Vengeance's wife The Fabulous Miss Jenny (Mikayla Agrella) would face off against The Mother (Mickie James) in her most important match of the year.

The combination of rock music interludes, monologues from The Ref to explain wrestling terms to the audience, and classic 80s wrestling moves was a buffet to the senses. A part of me thought "I wish wrestling was really this scripted...oh wait." The audience had no trouble cheering for the face and disrespecting the heel. The wrestlers had no trouble insulting the audience or giving high fives to the kids. In one segment two tag-team females were tied up in mat wrestling, when the ref explained that they were engaged in a violent ballet. The music changed to a ballet ballad and both actresses performed a slow motion jockeying for position ballet.

In the backstage scenes, wrestlers broke kayfabe and spoke about their relationship to the business. Miss Jenny was concerned that her husband was going to get crippled in his last match. Ben Vengeance decided that he was going to take two Swagger Daggers from Alex Swagger and that would end his career for good. Ben sang a beautiful song about how the wrestling industry had destroyed his body, but his love for it kept him going. The Titantron showed off animated movies of Ben's career.

Alex Swagger was the heel behind the scenes. He believed he deserved to win and that Ben was an old has-been. He ridiculed the roster for being inferior to his fame. He sang a punk song about how awesome he was. The audience booed him constantly. His evil plan was that he was going to make an example of Ben in the ring if he didn't get him over.

Meanwhile, the entirety of World War V played on. The Surgeon had a storyline that he did unnecessary surgery on Cannonball's sister. Every time the faces won over the heels the audience erupted in cheers. Then the scene would go backstage where wrestlers would bond over their experience in the industry. The best heel of the night (besides Alex Swagger) was the Mother. Mickie James played a neglectful drama mama with fifteen kids. Her character was over the top and her lethal weapon was using a baby.

The songs were meaningful. Ben Vengeance sang about his love/hate relationship with the industry and how he wanted to bow out of wrestling. Miss Jenny sang about how she was torn between her husband's well-being and advancing her career. The Ref did a rap song defining every wrestling industry term.

Before the main event, there was a gauntlet match where actors dressed up as easter eggs to Broadway hits and wrestled for a title. There was never a dull moment from bell to bell as The Last Match mixed comedy, sports entertainment, and music to a great story. I can't even say that about some actual Pay-Per-Views.

The finale showed the match between Ben Vengeance and Alex Swagger. The production invited a Rochester native to help announce the match and improvise the color commentary (I also heard a rumor that Dalton Castle did a guest cameo one of the nights). The story was set up with a loose tie-in to the Montreal Screwjob. At the end of the finale, the story paid off and the crowd loved every minute of it.

I am now wondering why wrestling doesn't have musical numbers and dramatic montages in them as I think they work so beautifully together. I am thoroughly impressed with the ring choreography (by James Bull) and the singing talent. This was co-produced by Matt Cardona, John Colandra, Michael Tivey, and Ramin Karimloo. It's a labor of love that will captivate any wrestling fan or Broadway enthusiast.