UPW Review (A Bullshit Establishment)

The title is a reminder for anyone with long memories in pro-wrestling (something rare, I am told). The Galaxy Theater has long been one of my least favorite venues although I recognized why UPW held shows in the venue. For its 4th Anniversary show, though, the Galaxy went beyond the stretches of atrociousness.

Steve reserved a table so that we could be assured seating since we expected a big crowd (and big it was, likely close to 600 fans). When we were seated at around 6:45 a waitress came by and took drink and appetizer orders and was promptly never seen again until about 7:30 when the band began playing. In that 45 minute time, the drinks and appetizers were brought and I take that earlier comment back, because our waitress did reappear for a short time to charge us for the appetizers although she quickly left. After those 45 minutes we eventually flagged her down and informed her she had never taken our dinner orders. She finally took them, conveniently forgetting to get mine, forcing us to flag her down once again. During all of this, we realized that she had overcharged us for the appetizers. When we finally got a hold of her, she explained that gratuity and tax are included. We responded that the menus say gratuity is only lumped in with parties of six or more and our group had five. She said this was a special event and the rules changed. Nice that no one informed us of that before hand. Second, after doing all the math, she still overcharged one of the appetizers, which was listed at 5.95 but she charged 7.95. No way tip and tax comes out to 2.00. We got the manager to come over and he just got angry and defensive, saying the same things this waitress, who we’d seen three times in 90 minutes, had said. In one of the more hilarious parts of the night, he challenged Steve to take out a calculator and prove the math was wrong. Steve took out his cell phone, did the math, and proved him wrong. The waitress changed her story at that point and claimed she never actually charged that much. She also told us we could leave if we didn’t like the service, which is humorous enough considering we all came to support UPW, not the Galaxy. Had I come just for some food, I would have left, but the sad reality is that I came to watch wrestling and am forced to put up with the Galaxy.

I like UPW and I did, in fact, vote for it as Promotion of the Year in the awards balloting. It has had solid wrestling all year, some good storylines, drew well, and was run as a better business than any other fed in SoCal this year. But putting up with that type of service definitely makes me think twice about attending again. As much as I respect UPW as a promotion, its hard to put forth a case that its worth $30 a trip.

But onto a show review…

Derrick Niekirk over Shaolin Punk (9’52)

This was alright but went too long. Niekirk apparently once had a WWF developmental deal while wrestling out of Arizona but I was not impressed. Punk hit a nice transition into a Fujiwara arm bar and he simply powered out of the hold and no sold everything. That was basically the story of the match: Niekirk dominates, Punk makes a short come back, and Niekirk no sells everything and puts him down. Punk did some nifty athletic stuff and a few nice kicks but nothing spectacular. Last time I saw him, he was doing flashy stuff left and right but blowing half of it as well. At least this time he seemed to have some basics down and didn’t blow anything. Niekirk has little charisma and bad selling. *1/2

Lil’ Nate over Joey Ryan and Matrix (7’37)

This was one of the smarter matches of the evening. The guys all mixed well together and a strong storyline was build in the match between the three. Ryan and Matrix took each other seriously, but not Nate, and many of the exchanges would lead to Nate eventually one upping both of them. He also connected well with the crowd doing a number of 3 Stooges comedy spots. Nate was one of the front runners for Rookie of the Year until his UPW classmates Skulu and Shawn Riddick lapped him towards the end of the year, IMO. An observation on Ryan’s “Technical Wizard” gimmick… I know the reason behind it, but to really be taken seriously as a Technical Wizard, he has to do some “technical” stuff in the match. Maybe a few reversals or some stock mat work that looks flashy. Something to get over the gimmick. It’s what Doug Williams does and what Dean Malenko did in WCW and WWF. **1/2

Hardkore Kidd & Al Katrazz over Native Blood (Navajo Warrior & Ghostwalker) (6’35)

This match was solid if unspectacular. It is very, very, very hard for me to get into any Native Blood match. I don’t consider either guy horrible but they are both so bland to me. They don’t do very many flashy moves or show a lot of charisma other than the stereotyped Indian war calls. Kidd and Katrazz have good heel charisma and both work hard although I think both of them are somewhat bland as well. This was a fine match but I don’t think anyone other than WBM came away being overly impressed with anything in it. *3/4

Smelly over Tommy Drake (7’24)

Drake is a high prospect of PWI, one of the only guys sans Modest and Morgan that get booked outside the fed, but I’ve never been too impressed with him. This match was confusing since neither guy pulled a convincing face or heel role. I thought Smelly was a heel but he didn’t wrestle like it and he actually gave a pretty good, animated interview before the match that got the crowd behind him. Drake kinda tried to wrestle face with some hand clapping but he has this smug look to him and never made any effort to get the crowd into it with facial reactions or body language other than the rare hand clapping. Both guys are bland to me, although Smelly has good charisma. This went too long, like every match so far other than the second one. *1/2

University White (Tommy Wilson, The Miz, Andrew Hellman, Shawn Riddick) over University Black (Shane Roberts, Sabbath, Alec Prokushev, Chris Mordetzsky) (14’45)

None of the University Black guys are impressive, other than their extremely bloated physiques. Other than Sabbath, I have no idea which was which either. Just a bunch of bland muscle heads with little charisma or impressive work. The one guy with long blond hair that was the last to be eliminated before Sabbath looked blown about 3 minutes into the match. I have to give him credit, its tough to get blown in an eight man tag but to do it within the first five minutes is extremely notable. I thought all the University White guys looked good. Wilson has a lot of charisma and shows solid work but his look (extremely pasty and thin red head) will always hold him back. Hellman had these wacky pants that would get red and shiny on and off from their gray base whenever he moved; irregardless of how he wrestled (which was fine enough), I would salute him for his spectacular pants. This was Miz’s first match at the Galaxy and he looked pretty good. Riddick looked good as usual. He’s likely the most polished rookie in SoCal. Match went too long, again, but I did like that the roid monsters lost. Change of pace for UPW, especially when a WWF guy is there to watch. *1/2

Kid Viscous over Mikey Henderson (9’02)

Decent match. Suffered from lack of any face or heel structure. I know that is one of the first things UPW teaches its students and has them practice in lite shows, and you’d think with a WWF talent scout watching, they’d want to do a good job of defining that, but for some reason in some of these matches, they never did it. I think Viscous was a heel here since Henderson did a USA gimmick, but he didn’t act it. He showed a lot less in this match than he has in the past as well. I think he looked best challenging B-Boy for the Lightweight title a few months back. Henderson wore a shirt the whole time and didn’t look to be in great shape. The match, like most of these, was solid but bland. Wish they’d open it up a little more rather than stick soley to basics. Henderson did a moonsault flip in his intro but did nothing remotely as athletic the rest of the match. **

Bison Smith over Ruckus, Jack Bull, and Horshu (8’30)

Here was the first awful match of the night. Ruckus is terrible. It’s hard to imagine he was training in TWA with American Dragon, Spanky, and all those other guys that have gained fame in ROH and other indy feds. Bison has yet to look good in UPW and Jack Bull had a huge tattoo on his back. Hoshu actually looked the best here (for some reason he didn’t get ring announced). He showed a lot of charisma and was the most athletic of everyone here. 3/4*

Erika Porter wins the UPW Women’s Battle Royal (12’09) -Victoria, Looney Lane, Lexi Fyfe, Rio Storm, Annie King, Melissa Coates, Maxi Minx, Carnidge, Erika Porter, and Desire all took part.

This was awful. Even more awful than the “Monster Mash”. Desire and Victoria were the only ones to do anything of note in the match. Everyone else was content to be lazy and do the normal “punch, kick, slowly try to dump someone over” battle royale routine. Victoria did a slingshot somersault leg drop and worked the crowd quite a bit while Desire was a house of fire all of the 60 seconds she was in. Instead of just getting dumped to the outside (like everyone else), she did an athletic leap over the top rope and saved herself. Then fought on the outside for a little while teasing elimination until she finally got hit to the outside. Lane vs Savvy does not excite me. 1/4*

Solo, Samoa Joe, & Skulu over Urban Outlaws (Mike & Marshall Knox) & Hollywood (13’55)

Best match of the night. I really enjoyed when Joe smacked around the Outlaws and Hollywood this match, after they smacked around Ryan, Scott Lost, and FBK last show. Its funny how that match was solely designed to make the cowboys look good but this match had Joe destroying them every time he was in. Someday, maybe these guys will learn how to look good when guys half their size aren’t bumping like pinballs for them. Skulu was way over with parts of the crowd. He has tremendous charisma and proved to have a good mind in the ring as well. Towards the end, one of the Cowboys blew a springboard leg drop and completely missed Skulu. Rather than sell the blown spot, Skulu wisely got up and took control of the match. He tagged out to Joe for a moment to get the match reorganized, then came back in and set up the spot again. I was ready to groan since I hate it when people redo the exact same spot they blew, but Skulu didn’t set himself up for a leg drop this time and waited for the Cowboy to deliver a springboard lariat instead in order to change things up. The Cowboy looked confused and the spot came off a little sloppy but I give Skulu credit for trying to save it. Finish was hot with Joe hitting the Island Driver, Skulu hitting a big top rope splash, and Solo ending it with an awesome twisting Superfly splash. Solo looked good for the first time ever tonight, maybe. The match went a little long as they did heat segments on both Solo and Skulu when there probably shoulda only been one, but I still liked it. The Samoans had great charisma and sharp work. The Cowboys looked decent but were only there for the ride. ***

Frankie Kazarian over John Cena by DQ (14’58)

Great intensity by both guys and some nice American style mat work at the start. The match never really picked into high gear though, which sadly was a pattern throughout the night. I think the guys were too consumed with proving they had the basics down and never realized they had to really turn it up down the stretch in the matches. I found the size difference between the guys interesting. Cena is considered average sized, even small, for the WWF while Kazarian has good size on the indies, yet matched together, Cena dwarfed Kazarian. His arms were as wide as Kazarian’s body. Perhaps that is the “Some reason” Kazarian has been left behind when Cena and others made it to OVW, as Cena pointed out earlier. This went too long since it seemed like they went about twelve minutes before picking up the pace . They teased some moves but the ref bump and reverse DQ finish annoyed me. It served its purpose though, to put over Kazarian on a WWF guy without the WWF guy losing. IN that way, it was intelligent booking. **1/2

B-Boy & Funky Billy Kim over Ballard Bros. (Shannon & Shane Ballard) to win the UPW tag team titles. (12’34)

These guys actually went full blast the entire match, which made it the most unique match of the night and probably a lot of people’s favorite. There wasn’t great build or any really good heat segments in the match but it was non stop action. B-Boy did the Super Dragon top rope foot stomp. They did parallel segments towards the end with a submission being done in center ring with there no hope of escape while the partner struggled to break free on the outside to make the save then redoing it with another pair a few minutes later. I found that nifty and give the guys credit for a creative and dramatic spot. FBK did a spectacular moonsault to the outside at the finish. There were some good double team moves this match but there was a screwy finish which I never like. The Thrillaz are a good team though, and I’m glad they have the titles instead of someone like Native Blood. They built to a Thrillaz Vs Hardcore Inc Vs Ballards match/storyline well. **1/2

Tom Howard over Sylvester Terkay to retain the UPW Heavyweight title (8’34)

There was a very strong angle earlier in the show where Terkay jumped Howard during a presentation of past UPW champs (That included the now retired Aaron Baker, Smelly, Joe, and Cena) and injured his knee. Howard sold the knee very well throughout the match but Terkay’s attacks were pretty lame. He has a good “monster” aura with his Bruiser Brody biting gimmick but he is still very lumbering. He is not incredibly coordinated and his mobility is shot, like his knees. The match was very slow, as a result. Howard forgot about selling his knee at the finish as well. It was a well structured match but Terkay just isn’t very good. I think there might have been more emotion in the match if this had been built up over a few months instead of hot shot over one show.

The show was average. It was nice seeing past UPW memories on the big screen and seeing some UPW wrestler’s favorite memories. Cena and Victoria wrestling on the show was cool and they did a good job trying to build up the main event in one night. I was most impressed with Joe, Skulu, Nate, Ryan, and Howard tonight. I think Howard really projects himself as a true champion. A lot of guys can get over chasing a title being the underdog but very few can keep their heat as the champion and go a step further to being “the man”. Super Dragon’s done it on an indy scale in SoCal, Steve Austin did it in WWF, Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto did it in Japan. Others like Rising Son failed in SoCal, Rock was never as over as the champ in WWF, and Keiji Muto still hasn’t become “the man” while champ in Japan. Its a credit to Howard that he knows how to adjust his character and role depending on his placement in the promotion. Its for that reason that even though he rarely wrestlers in SoCal, he’s a deserving candidate for Wrestler of the Year. I didn’t pick him but it still makes him a strong choice.

This was one of the more boring UPW shows I’ve been to in awhile. I’d like to see the wrestlers open it up a little more in some of the matches. I’d rather the undercard matches be basic since they should build up to the bigger matches, but a lot of the bigger matches are being wrestled just as basic as the others. I realize WWF is trying to stress fundamentals now after a few years of high spots getting out of control, but the fans will not keep coming back to see the “basics”. The main guys have to show their stuff. I’d also like UPW and the Galaxy to work a little closer, since it was extremely disappointing to get the “bait and switch” gratuity bullshit pulled on us here.

Thumbs in the middle. Some good stuff but definite room for improvement.

IM – neojmc