EPIC Review – September 29th, 2002

EPIC needs to get its act together regarding show production. I know people were supposed to get there between 12 and 1, and yet fans still weren’t let in until 5:00, when the show was supposed to be starting. The show started thirty minutes late and after the dark match, there was another twenty or so minute break because they couldn’t get the taping equipment to work right. Then in-between each match, there were long pauses, some extremely long. The ring announcer, time keeper, and camera men were off since throughout the night as well, having to re-do entrances over and over again throughout the night. I dunno who’s fault it is. Jon Ian has done all of this before for UPW so I would think he’d know what was up. The time keeper has no experience, I believe. Who knows with the camera men or the guys calling the shots backstage.

Tom Marquez (who has experience in production with UPW) and Larry Rivera shot three vignettes throughout the show to open, theoretically, three television shows being taped. The first had to be re-shot several times due to numerous production mistakes.

Dark match: Funky Billy Kim over Shawn Riddick

This wasn’t taped for TV. Both are mediocre wrestlers, although Riddick is a rookie so being mediocre is actually a compliment to him. After seeing him here and in UPW, I would say the race for SoCal ROTY is between El Gallinero Tres and him. If Bobby Quance becomes a regular down here for the rest of the month, I’d consider him, although since he’s not trained here, I dunno if he’d qualify.

The match was regular heel (FBK) vs face (Riddick) stuff. Back and forth. It was pretty solid. No blown spots, decent selling, and decent crowd interaction from both guys. *3/4

TARO Vs Spongebob

EPIC fucked up and the production wasn’t working, so TARO and Excalibur attempted to kill time. Excalibur made fun of “guchi glasses” Tom Marquez a bunch then TARO came out and challenged anyone in the crowd to a match. Hailey and Vixen brought out Spongebob, some sort of stuffed character that had previously been smacked around the audience ala an XPW beach ball but taken away by security. TARO then powerbombed spongebob off the apron. Spongebob also sent Excalibur reeling into two backflips off two lariats. TARO finished him off with a Psycho Driver. ****3/4

Disco Machine over Tony Kozina

Started off slow and built around headlocks. They’d pick up the pace with arm drags but bring it right back to the ground. Disco really tried to work the crowd against him while they were working the headlock, so I give him credit. Kozina doesn’t possess a large amount of face charisma and so far the EPIC fans have not taken to him. He did execute a great looking leaping hurricanrana to Disco that sent him over the top rope to the outside. I’ve seen Kozina do a few good dives in APW as well, so he is capable of some great highspots, he just hasn’t done much in EPIC yet. Disco won with a sloppy top rope chokeslam. This was a reasonable match. *3/4

Spanky over Joey Ryan

Spanky cut a promo saying its well known he quit EPIC over the garbage content but was back because Hailey offered him a great deal where he got a lot of money (so he could buy a new car stereo) and where any use of weapons in his match would result in a DQ; this clause was named the “Spanky Clause”. He also asked that Ryan play “fairsees, squaresees”. That wild Spanky.

This was a very well put together match. Ryan’s comebacks were well timed and Spanky is so charsimatic and so great in the ring. If Ryan had good charisma, he’d be getting over as an upstart babyface but I think the only way this can go is for him to go heel now. Ryan rang off a slew of offense in the closing minutes for a series of nearfalls that had Spanky reeling, but Spanky gained control after a ref bump. He pulled out some loaded knuckles but Ryan got ahold of him. He was going to use them but rolled SPanky up for the win without them. Ref McCord saw the knux, though, and awarded Spanky the match. Good match. Nothing great but a smartly put together match. **1/2

The crowd turned on Ryan and chanted “cheater” after the match. There’s no way he can get over as a face.

Adam Pearce over Frankie Kazarian

Another well put together match. Both matches were “old school”, in that they didn’t rely on stiffness or gore to get over. The prior match never really got the crowd going but this one definitely did. Pearce had the crowd clapping from the start and Kazarian’s smug heel character is much, much better than his bland face character. His “I’m the coolest person in the world” schitck is pretty funny. Pearce came out to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”, which fits considering his “old school” character. They did some standard but crisp work out of headlocks and armdrags before building to some bigger offense, which isn’t really “big” in the modern sense. Pearce’s “Dusty” bionic elbows got big pops. Both guy’s had a great connection with the crowd and paced the match perfectly; that’s what’s most important in getting a crowd into the match, not necessarily stiff strikes, high spots, or gore. Pearce won with a good looking pile driver, which is a perfect way to finish an “old school” match. Nothing was blown, everything made sense, everything built, and both guys displayed great character in the ring. ***

Scott Lost over Lil Cholo

Both guys should have paid attention to the prior match, because neither understand at this point how to really engage a crowd. Lost is very talented and has some great spots and is capable of all sorts of whirly, spinning combination spots while Cholo can work a variety of styles and does the stereotypical”stomp or clap the mat to get the crowd to clap” spots to get the crowd behind him, but neither display a character in the ring with 100% consistency and effectiveness Kazarian, Pearce, and Spanky did tonight. This match had some nice spots. Lost’s elbow is awesome, reminiscent of Shawn Michaels’. They worked pretty light, or at least that is how it looked. There were lots of spots but not a lot of flow. Lost winning seems to set up a triangle of sorts with Hailey and Ryan, since Hailey finally has a winner in her squad. *1/2

Havana Pitbulls over Masada and Silver Tyger

Another good match. Masada was hilarious. After getting nailed in the face and chest by Rocky Romero during a striking exchange, he’d turn to the audience and make this wacky “I’m high with my tongue out” face then flatten Romero with a strike of his own. The gimmick was that Tyger needed a partner to take on the Pitbulls after rescuing a ring crew guy from the Pitbulls’ wrath and Garnet was at the same time interested in recruiting Tyger in the stable with Nosawa, Masada, and (sometimes) Kikuzawa.

The match consisted of two themes. When Tyger was in, he would get dominated by the Cubans, but when Masada was in, he’d dominate. Paul T said Masada’s job was to stretch and strike the Cubans since they were getting a shot in NJPW next month. He succeeded. The match was very intense although I think the Cubans could have done a better job setting up Tyger’s comebacks and letting him do some more flashy stuff. He was controlled too much, which is something Dean Malenko often did to luchador opponents, most notably Rey Misterio Jr and Psicosis. Like Malenko, the Cubans react to the crowd very little and go about their match with a totally intense competitive work ethic. The finish had Tyger blow a dive that was meant for a Cuban but accidentally flattened Nosawa on the outside, after some of his interference had put the CUbans in a rough position. The Cubans used this advantage to take out Masada and then pin Tyger shortly after. It wasn’t announced whether Tyger was in Gurentai or not, but I suspect not. An entertaining match. The Pitbulls are good workers who just need to work smarter with their opponents. Masada’s matwork with the Cubans was exceptional, as was his charisma. He was a stand out star of the show. **3/4

New Jack cut a promo about AMW and Disco Machine. He blasted the AMW piece, saying it was more about what indy wrestling was about and less about what happened to Messiah. He made sure to rip Disco a new asshole for admitting the matches are scripted. He specifically said Disco said it was fake. I don’t think Disco used the word “fake”, and I do not think Disco made the profession sound like it was without risk. Jack kept saying that the scars on his forehead and his impaired vision proved his shit was real, but it didn’t really matter because I don’t think Disco ever disagreed. He really buried Disco the person, or Michael Mondragon, by calling him a coward when he wouldn’t come out to face him. Jack’s promos are always entertaining but it seems like he’s using his mic time in EPIC to shout off one unprofessional thing after another and this was the second show he’s used his “star” image to put an indy wrestler in a tough position. Last show, he manhandled Black Metal and double crossed him knowing Metal could never defend himself. This show he did the same to Disco, except verbally.

Nosawa said he respected Jack unlike Hardcore Kidd (who was still selling his arm injury even though it’s obviously heeled, as part of a coward gimmick), then turned on Jack anyway. Weird that Gurentai were faces in the tag match but heels here. Inconsistent booking.

This crazy enraged fan who was also at the RevJ (and was shouting the entire time like an annoying lunatic) heckled Jack and got an earful. Jack told him to “show me your manhood” among other things when the fan backed down to his challenge. Entertaining to see this perennially annoying fan get bitched out by Jack.

Spanky and Messiah had a mic confrontation. Spanky brought up the “Spanky Clause”, and complained that no one ever threw him a benefit show while he was starving to make it in the business. He said losing a thumb wasn’t a big deal, and hilariously, some people clapped. Messiah came out and gave Spanky props for being a great wrestler and getting a shot in Japan and WWF; he then asked that Spanky give him respect for all the work he does. Spanky said he doesn’t respect anyone that mutilates themselves to entertain a bunch of idiotic fans. I suspect a small part of the audience identified with Spanky’s otherwise belligerent and arrogant heel character. Messiah said he doesn’t wrestle death matches because he likes it (he hates thumbtacks!), but because he wants to entertain the fans and do what the promoters ask him to. He challenged Spanky to a match, and Spanky agreed for October, but pointed out he would be in Japan, so Messiah challenged him for November. Spanky agreed but said the Spanky Clause must be in effect. Messiah agreed. It was a good segment. Spanky’s mic work was off the charts good for an indy worker. He is more ready for WWF than any other junior heavyweight worker in America, I believe. Messiah’s mic skills aren’t bad but he was out of his league with Spanky, and Spanky had to cut him off and reel the segment back to its main points a couple of times when Messiah stumbled his words or started rambling. It was like Hulk Hogan cutting off Roddy Piper during their famous WCW feud and bringing the promos back to important points and getting over the storylines. There is really an art to working the stick just as there is to working a match.

Samoa Joe and American Dragon drew

This match started off as good as any match in the world. The mat work was very, very good. They worked through holds on each other, but it wasn’t flashy give-and-go like some do, but an actual struggle. Joe’s face turned bright red shortly into the match due to how hard Dragon was clenching his face in the holds.

They worked from the mat to a lot of extremely stiff strikes. Joe’s chops on Dragon were brutal. As white as Dragon is, his chest was even more red. As good as their striking sequences were, there was a glaring psychological flaw with the match as this started. IN their tag match, Joe was a complete monster and dominated for the most part. In this, Dragon went toe to toe, and went even further than that. In one shoulderblock sequence, he sent Joe reeling to the ground. He generally lost the striking battles but he really bitched Joe around on the mat and Joe was selling his arm almost the entire match due to the gratuitous arm work Dragon did. It was good Joe sold it for so long, but it kept him on the defense way too long for the match to be believable. This wasn’t as hilariously crazy as the APW KOTI match where Low KI and Joe fought a battle to the death by unloading strikes on each other the entire match, and the much smaller Low Ki winning out, but it was similar.

The other problem with the match was that Joe became noticeably winded about ten minutes in. Since this match went about twenty-two minutes, that meant a blown Joe was wrestling for half the match. The pace slowed down considerably about half way through and the match began to resemble a new age Ric Flair Vs Dusty Rhodes match. American Flair running around the ring bumping off Dusty Joe to keep the action turning. I don’t want to make it sound like Joe is a bad wrestler because he is very good and one of the best in America, but his conditioning really limits him in singles matches. Maybe he shouldn’t have been selling so much and that winded him quicker than if he had been in control for the most part. Dragon is such a good seller that I can’t help but think that would have been better.

But at least they tried to convince the audience that Dragon could keep control, by the way he continually hammered Joe’s arm. Joe got in some good power moves like suplexes and powerbombs for near falls while Dragon continued going for submissions (smartly realizing his offense would not look too good against a man Joe’s size). Joe got Dragon in an STF that segued into a Crippler Crossface that had the crowd on the edge of their seats waiting for Dragon to either tap or reach the ropes. When he finally got the ropes, most of the audience applauded. The section I sat in was quiet most of the match, it consisting of mostly ex-XPW fans, I guess, who were waiting for someone to go through a table. A local wrestler named Furious George actually had the gall to heckle the arm work, insinuating it was too boring for America. Hey idiot, who’s going to Japan and who’s gonna keep working midcard in PCW?

Dragon shortly after breaking the hold locked on the Cattle Mutilation and I thought Joe was going to submit but the time ran out. The match was paced well from mat work, to striking, to near finishes. The crowd gave it a standing ovation (except for my section) and both guys got loud chants. This would be a MOTYC if not for the two glaring weaknesses I pointed out above. It was still very good and I was happy to see it. ***1/2

Jardi Frantz and Bobby Quance over Super Dragon and B-Boy

Another very good match. Of the four, only Frantz seemed off. The heel Chismo tag pairing was a first for me; I had never seen perennial rivals Dragon and B-Boy teaming up before, I’m not even sure if they had. They had good chemistry together and had some good double team moves. In one case, Dragon hit his powerbomb in the corner on Quance and B-Boy immediately followed up with his running drop kick that totally demolished Quance’s face. In another B-Boy set Frantz up on his shoulders and Dragon followed with a springboard leg lariat; it only slightly hit, though, so didn’t look nearly as good as it could. That’d be a great finisher for any tag team, though. The match had a lot of back and forth at the beginning with no mat work and eventually lead into a prolonged section where the heels worked over QUance. He proved his versatility by not only being explosive on offense and during his comebacks, but also selling very well during this “baby face in peril” section. Dragon and Boy really laid into him and gave him a beating. Frantz tried to act like the protecting big brother-type during the match by coming in and smacking the heels off. Once he got the hot tag things really heated up. Frantz hit a beautiful springboard 450 to the outside and Quance then hit his awesome shooting star press as well. Back inside a little later, Quance missed hi SSP but landed on his feet only to eat a sick lariat by Dragon. It was pay back after Dragon himself got his face rearranged by a great looking Quance spin kick. Both teams traded near falls; some dramatic, some telegraphed with interference. Finish had B-Boy hit Frantz with a series of offense including a great looking palm slap for a good near fall. He went up top for something but Frantz got right up and hit a super rana with both guys standing on the turnbuckle for the pin. It was impressive looking but Frantz’s selling was quite bad. He shouldn’t have been able to shrug off some of B-Boy’s biggest offense and ran up the turnbuckle so easily to finish him off. Ironically, it was actually reminiscent of B-Boy no selling Dragon’s offense in their famous MPW match to put Dragon away there.

Like the previous match, it was full of strengths and two real weaknesses. Frantz’s selling was noticeably inconsistent with the rest and I think the finish was too spotty. It wasn’t your spot-my spot ad nauseum, but you could tell when one guy was going to run in to break up the pin and start a new cycle of near falls. Another very good match but not a MOTYC. ***1/2

Sabu over Elix Skipper and NOSAWA

Mad Man Pondo was in Japan and couldn’t make it. No idea where Devon Storm was. I only saw the beginning of this. My group wanted to leave (it was after 9:00 and we had to drive back to San Diego) and even though I wanted to stay I was the minority. Someone else can comment on this. I think given the circumstances, this was a good match to book. Sabu going over Skipper is a good idea too, since it saves a more direct Sabu-NOSAWA decision for later. Of everyone in EPIC, only Nosawa has been built up as an opponent for Sabu well. Messiah was chasing him earlier as a heel (even though it was he that was getting screwed over and avoided by Sabu which made no sense for a heel character to go through) but now he seems to be involved with Spanky as a face. Nosawa Vs Sabu does interest me somewhat since both can wrestle a little and incorporate props with some thought behind it.

Overall, I thought the show was good. What keeps these EPIC shows from being great is the production mess ups. The show starting thirty minutes late and there being several 10-20 minute breaks in-between matches really hurt the flow of the show and overall enjoyment. If EPIC wants to be major league, it has to correct these mistakes. I’m sure if the show was streamlined, fans like Highrollar wouldn’t be talking about abandoning the promotion, even if blood and gore was absent for one show. These intangibles can make or break things for fans.

I think the next shows have some match ups built up well from this show. Super Dragon Vs Bobby Quance was set up by their exchanges in the tag. Frantz Vs B-Boy is set up well by the finish; I’d assume B-Boy would go over in the rematch. Hardcore Kidd vs New Jack is still set up. Nosawa Vs Sabu is set up. Nosawa and Masada Vs Sabu and Crowbar would actually be an interesting match to further build to a Nosawa-Sabu match. Spanky Vs Messiah is there… Joe Vs American Dragon is definitely there, Excalibur even challenged Dragon to a rematch on behalf of Joe for a future show.

I give the show a thumbs up due to the high match quality, but every show can’t always have blow away matches, once one show fails, those production glitches are going to kill EPIC.

IM – neoJMC