Steve’s View #125 – How MPW changed SoCal, PWG tag tourney, and more

Before there was a Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, APW LA, PCW, or an EPIC, there was Millennium Pro Wrestling.

Before MPW started in early 2001, pretty much every active promotion in Southern California had a school associated with it. The one exception to that rule was Freddy Valentine’s ACW, which did use talent from many different promotions, but rather than building around matches, or not always using what would be considered the “top of the line” wrestlers from other feds, it built around crazy gimmick matches like alligator death matches and rattlesnake matches.MPW was founded in early 2001 by Paul Ventimiglia, who wrestled locally as Logan X. Paul started his wrestling career in 1998 when he began training with Cincinnati Red at the Grappler’s Den in Simi Valley. Logan X began working matches shortly after.

Logan X was probably most known prior to MPW for his time in UIWA, where he had memorable matches with Primetime Peterson and XTC. However Paul began to tire of the backstage politics that are common in the world of wrestling, so he came up with the idea of starting his own promotion.

Paul got Barry Cohen on board, who worked at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Center, which was a regular venue for UIWA, and now MPW had a venue.

Paul was working at the RF Video cart at the Northridge Fashion Center mall, where he met Adrian Montes. Adrian and Paul clicked and Paul got Adrian to invest in MPW, becoming the third promoter of the promotion.

Later Zoogz Rift (who was a short lived part of the promotion), Franco Zamorano, and Larry Park were added to the staff.

Unlike the other promotions at the time, MPW had no school in which to draw from, so Paul used his contacts in the wrestling business to put together a show using talent that was normally associated with different promotions throughout SoCal, mostly his friends from UIWA though. To go along with the local talent booked for the show, MPW also booked Psicosis (who no showed), Christopher Daniels (who was a regular in UPW at the time as their champion), and Adam Pearce who made his SoCal debut.

On March 10th, 2001 MPW held it’s first ever show, though aside from Daniels and Adam Pearce on the card, it was far from the all-star fed it was to become, but rather more like an extension of UIWA. On that first show Frankie Kazarian won the MPW title in a three-way with Daniels and Pearce (a match that was the first MPW match to take match of the month honors), and Samoa Joe fought a fairly brutal match with Cincinnati Red, which would be the subject of a lot of controversy in the next couple of days.

The event that really lead MPW towards truly becoming an all-star fed was something that was out of their control. UPW promoter Rick Bassman was unhappy with some of his top guys, including Samoa Joe who was scheduled to win the UPW title on the next show, and Frankie Kazarian who had a WWF dark match scheduled, risking injury so close to big shows. UPW wrestlers were then given a list of promotions they could work for outside of UPW, and MPW was not on the list. Now their champion was no longer able to wrestle for the promotion, despite a championship match between Little Guido and Frankie Kazarian scheduled for the next show. Also a good deal of talent was unavailable due to UPW, MPW needed to go elsewhere to fill their roster. So they turned to a promotion that was garnering a lot of hype, but whose workers rarely worked outside of the promotion, Revolution Pro.

Booked for MPW’s second show on May 19th, 2001 was a two out of three falls match between what was Revolution Pro’s biggest stars at the time, Super Dragon and Rising Son. Adrian Montes was a fan of Revolution Pro and frequented the shows, so it was an easy call for him to book them in MPW. There was some heat from other wrestlers however, as at the time the Revolution Pro workers weren’t too respected outside of their own locker room, including by Paul Ventimiglia. A lot of the questioning was silenced right away when the Super Dragon versus Rising Son match stole the show, and was the second MPW match in as many shows to be named SoCal match of the month.

With now a wider mix of talent in MPW, from UIWA, Rev Pro, EWF, WPW, CCW, luchadors, and outsiders (including Low-Ki on their July show), MPW became the first true all-star promotion in SoCal. In September 2001 MPW became the first promotion to book the Messiah, who had just been fired from XPW a week earlier.

Obviously by booking the top wrestlers from all over the region MPW began to receive the most hype, and became the promotion that almost every wrestler wanted to work for. Eventually UPW workers were allowed to work MPW again too, and pretty much SoCal wide (aside from XPW) there were no real barriers, and while wrestlers would still have loyalty for the feds they started with, they would be booked from promotion to promotion, which lead to the scene we have in SoCal today with most promotions using the same talent as the other promotions.

The talent issue really impacted SoCal wrestling in two ways. With wrestlers working top wrestlers from other promotions on a regular basis, the quality of wrestling really improved in the area. If you take a look at pre-2001 wrestling in SoCal, and take a look at it today, there is a very noticeable difference in quality. That’s not saying there weren’t good wrestlers in the area before MPW, because there were, just not as deep as there is today.

The other way the region was impacted was that promotions had an increasingly hard time separating themselves from each other, and potential dream matches were burned through at a rapid pace, sometimes with zero build. The first meeting between Super Dragon and Frankie Kazarian should have been a special match, but instead was done with little promotion in front of a few dozen people in a promotion that was considered “questionable” to even being legit. It seems that recently that local promotions have done a better job of separating themselves from each other by differentiating in style or storylines, or going back to using more of an exclusive roster.

The problem that plagued MPW, and plagues most independent promotions, was money. They weren’t making any on their shows, and their video distribution was almost totally limited to Adrian selling tapes out of his backpack at other shows. In order to generate money there was an idea for a local wrestling school run by Kevin Quinn to become the official MPW school, but that fell through when Quinn moved out of the area. MPW ran it’s final show in March 2002, a year after it started.

Though MPW faded a way, the idea of running just a promotion using top guys from all over and not a wrestling school didn’t, which lead to EPIC and GSCW (which later became APW LA) popping up shortly after, then PCW, and now Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, as well as a few other “promotions” that ran one or two shows before giving it up. MPW may have only lasted a year, but their impact has lasted much longer.

UPW will begin running a monthly show at their gym, ala Northern California’s APW and their Gym Wars shows. The first show will be December 13th. More info will be released when available.

Saturday, January 24th and Sunday, January 25th PWG will be holding a 16 team tag tournament to crown the first ever PWG tag team champions. Both shows will be at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.

I’ll be back this weekend or Monday with my next column taking a look at possible tag team of the year nominees and probably the 22nd’s PCW show.

-Steve

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