Steve’s View #131 – SoCal Year in Review part 2, UPW, and more

Continuing from my last column, Id like to finish my SoCal year in review with
July through December.

The last six months of the year saw the birth of what would end up to be SoCal’s
hottest fed of 2003, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and two other promotions, APW
LA and PCW run into problems that would make their futures look bleak.

UPW once again ran at the Grove in Anaheim on July 11th, drawing about 400
people. The show featured a tournament to crown a new UPW Heavyweight champion, as Tom Howard was stripped of the title for not defending it for 90 days. The tournament featured Skulu, Adam Pearce, Keji Sakoda, and Chris Mordetzsky. The tournament finals saw Adam Pearce defeat Chris Mordetzsky, which lead to the crowd throwing every cup and water bottle in the audience into the ring as the heel team celebrated. While most of the matches were above average, nothing on the show really stood out which is a problem that plagued UPW throughout 2003.

Mil Mascaras, La Parka, and Blue Demon teamed to defeat Rey Misterio Sr., El
Cobarde, and Acero Dorado on July 13th’s FMLL show in front of over 600 people,
which was one of FMLL’s biggest shows in Southern California in 2003.

On July 18th WPW ran a one-night tournament called “Best of the West”
featuring some of the top wrestlers from Southern California, as well as a couple
of Northern California wrestlers too. While the tournament was plagued with
questionable booking in the semi-finals, and as with most one-night sixteen-man
tournaments the length got to be a problem, the tournament did help to further
establish Scott Lost as a top tier wrestler in SoCal, giving him pins on Hardkoree
Kidd, Jardi Frantz, and Super Dragon before being eliminated in the finals.
Lil’ Cholo was the tournament winner, winning a four way after both semi-final
rounds went to a draw. The show also featured two Toryumon X wrestlers, as Taji
Ishamori defeated Henry Sugawara III.

The next day at July 19th’s Revolution Pro show, the Rev Pro tag-team tournament
finally came to an end as Mexico’s Most Wanted defeated Scorpio Sky and Quicksilver
in the finals to become the first Revolution Pro Tag-Team champions. Also on
that show Super Dragon defeated TARO to recapture the Rev Pro Junior title.

WWE once again returned to SoCal with a Raw taping at the Staples Center.

On July 26th Pro Wrestling Guerrilla made it’s long awaited debut. PWG was
founded by six wrestlers, Super Dragon, Joey Ryan, Disco Machine, Scott Lost,
Excalibur, and Topgun Talwar. The idea originally came about when Super Dragon
was thinking of putting on a tournament with the best indy wrestlers from around
the country, and morphed into a promotion. The first show featured AJ Styles,
who was at the time the NWA World Champion, in his SoCal debut going up against
Samoa Joe. However Samoa Joe was injured at a Ring of Honor show on the East
Coast, and was replaced by Frankie Kazarian, who was left without an opponent
due to an injury by Jardi Frantz. While the show was not up to the standards
of their later shows, by all accounts PWG’s debut was a success, and very quickly
people were calling them the best promotion in Southern California.

Revolution Pro’s August 9th show Scorpio Sky was able to defeat Super Dragon
in a brutal match to win the Rev Pro Junior title that Dragon had reclaimed
from TARO less than a month earlier.

Central California’s EPW moved into SoCal on August 10th and began running
regularly at the Bakersfield Dome. However the promotion was unable to last
long there, only doing a handful of shows, and feuding between different members
of the promotion left the company in what they deemed to be a “restructuring”
phase. More than likely they are probably gone.

APW Los Angeles and Central Coast ran back to back shows on August 16th and
17th, with both shows featuring Colt Cabana who was making his return to SoCal
after wrestling Super Dragon on a Revolution Pro show the year before. The APW
Los Angeles show also featured the SoCal debut of CZW regular Sonjay Dutt, who
was defeated by B-Boy.

On August 29th and 30th PWG ran a two-night sixteen-man tournament to crown
the first PWG Champion. While the tournament didn’t draw as well as expected,
it really put PWG on the map due to the tape and DVD sales it has generated.
Frankie Kazarian won the tournament and the title, defeating Joey Ryan in the
finals. Joey Ryan’s victory over Super Dragon is considered by a lot of people
the match that elevated Joey Ryan into a top-tier wrestler in SoCal, and not
only did the match get ranked number one for the month of August, it is considered
a strong match of the year candidate.

September 6th’s PCW show saw the first SoCal meeting of the Messiah and Kaos,
a match that was considered a dream match by a lot of XPW fans. Kaos won the
match in a non-title match, and a deathmatch between the two was set, but that
was never to happen, and Kaos has pretty much disappeared from wrestling.

The third annual Revolution J was held on September 20th. Like the two previous
Revolution Js, this one was a one-night sixteen-man tournament. The Revolution
J has become an annual event, even though the first one almost put Revolution
Pro out of business. This year’s event featured the return of Super Boy to Revolution
Pro. During the tournament however Super Boy came out and announced he wouldn’t
be wrestling but Rising Son would be taking his place. In Rev Pro’s storylines
Son had been banned from Revolution Pro for his “shoot” promo earlier
in the year and a worked fight with Scorpio Sky a few months later. So once
Son came into the tournament I think most people figured he’d win to further
the “Rising Son, enemy of Rev Pro” storyline. Son gave a less than
stellar performance in the tournament, though he did have a fine match with
Super Dragon in the finals, and was getting legit heat from the fans for his
ring-work, not the desired storyline heel heat. The Rising Son versus Rev Pro
feud would continue throughout the rest of the year, building to the confrontation
between Rising Son and Scorpio Sky.

The Havana Pitbulls returned to SoCal after months in Mexico working for CMLL
and defeated Los Chivos for the EWF Tag-Team titles on September 26th. On that
same show Bo Cooper defeated Steve Masters to capture the EWF Heavyweight championship.

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla ran it’s 4th show on October 4th, which featured the
return of AJ Styles, and the SoCal debut of the Briscoe Brothers. Frankie Kazarian
was able to get t the pin on Christopher Daniels in a three-way with Styles,
and the team of Super Dragon and B-Boy defeated the Briscoes. The show also
saw Adam Pearce defeat Joey Ryan to become the number one contender for the
PWG title.

October 11th’s Revolution Pro setup what would be the biggest indy match in
SoCal in years, as Super Dragon ripped up TARO’s mask in the “Pride of
the Mask” match that also featured Rising Son, Phoenix Star, Quicksilver,
and Zokre. After the match TARO challenged Dragon to a mask versus mask match
at the next show.

Revolution X, an offshoot of Revolution Pro made it’s debut on October 14th.
Revolution X uses mostly the same roster as Revolution Pro, but features more
women and hardcore matches, and has former XPW valet Veronica Caine as it’s
figurehead commissioner. The debut show featured Disco Machine defeating Super
Dragon in the main event, as well as Supreme defeating Lonestar in a hardcore
match.

UPW ran it’s last show of 2003 on October 22nd, and it was a show that saw
several changes to the card due to Keji Sakoda and Chris Mordetzky. The main
event was scheduled to be Mordetzky going against Adam Pearce for the heavyweight
title, but Mordetzky was replaced by former champion Tom Howard. Howard was
able to recapture the title, and it was announced he’d be facing Sting at the
next show in December. The December show was eventually cancelled however, and
Howard’s next match would be a shoot fight in Japan on New Year’s Eve.

Lucha VaVoom’s attendance continued to grow, drawing around 1,750 people to
their October 29th show. Not only were the live shows getting bigger, Lucha
VaVoom secured a TV deal with Comedy Central and announced dates for shows in
Toronto, and plans to run in other cities as well. The 29th’s show featured
Socal Hall of Famer in the main event, teaming with Hurican Ramirez Jr. and
Piloto Suicida to defeat La Parka, Misterioso, and Gringo Loco.

November 15th saw Pro Wrestling Guerrilla running again, with American Dragon
returning to SoCal in a defeat at the hands of Frankie Kazarian. That show also
featured CM Punk’s SoCal debut as well as Super Dragon defeating Joey Ryan in
a brutal hardcore match.

A week later PCW was plagued by numerous no-shows and ran one of the most disappointing
shows of the year. From almost top to bottom the show had troubles, though it
did feature a rematch between B-Boy and Super Dragon on what was essentially
the two-year anniversary of their 2001 match of the year from MPW. By that point
the crowd had been completely killed and while the match was good, it didn’t
match up with their previous matches. Once again B-Boy won, giving him three
straight singles wins over Dragon going back to 2001. Overall the show was very
badly received and a lot of fans felt they were ripped off by the prices of
the show not being lowered with PCW knowing of the no-shows. To date PCW has
yet to announce a new show date.

On the same night as the PCW show, WWE ran a Smackdown brand house show at
the Staples Center that drew around 6,000 and was headlined by Brock Lesnar
defeating former SoCal wrestler John Cena to retain the WWE title.

Revolution Pro ran what has to be considered it’s biggest show in it’s history
on November 29th, which was headlined by Super Dragon defeating TARO in a mask
match. The match was the end of a feud that stretched back nearly four years,
as Dragon captured TARO’s mask and he was forced to reveal himself as Kevin
Lyon. Rev Pro drew around 300 for the show, which is their biggest draw to date.
The November 29th show was also the first time that all three Rev Pro titles
were defended on the same show.

APW LA’s attendance had been steadily declining over the second half of the
year due to numerous factors including the creation of PWG that took away APW
LA’s status as the “must see show”, booking far too many screw jobs,
a negative stigma attached to the APW name, and a general lack of promotion.
Their December 6th show was a benefit show, first for victims of the Southern
California wildfires, then for a church when it was decided there weren’t many
victims of the fires in the Newhall area. The show itself started really well,
but was thrown off track when the ring broke during a match between Adam Pearce
and Babi Slymm. That effectively eliminated the semi and main events. A few
days after the event it was announced on the SCU message board that the church
hadn’t received it’s money yet, and that the amount of money that was going
to be sent kept changing. The church was paid a couple of days after the message
was posted, but the controversy surrounding the whole benefit managed to further
hurt the APW LA name, and bringing into question if they could draw a real crowd
if they attempt to run again.

The next night in Bakersfield APW CC was able to run APW’s annual “Kristmas
Kaos” at the Bakersfield Dome without any real hitches, though they didn’t
draw as well as they’d like. That show featured WWE wrestler Al Snow defeating
Robert Thompson in the main event.

WWE held it’s Raw and Smackdown tapings in SoCal on the 9th and 10th respectively.
The Raw tapings from Anaheim featured Goldberg defeating Kane by DQ in the main
event, while San Diego’s Smackdown taping saw Brock Lesnar defeat Rey Misterio
Jr. in the first WWE match to ever make the SCU monthly rankings.

Vizzion became the 21st EWF Heavyweight champion on December 12th when he won
a battle royal for the vacant title. The title was declared vacant when Bo Cooper
failed to defend it on two straight shows. Going into the battle royal Vizzion
was told that Steve Masters would be winning the belt. A spot in the battle
royal was set where Vizzion would throw Masters out, and Masters would skin
the cat and then knock Vizzion out, but the real plan was for Masters to go
out and have Vizzion win the belt and be a total surprise to him. The plan worked
to perfection.

Revolution Pro’s last show of the year was called “Big Show for a Big
Man” and featured the retirement match for TARO. Originally the match was
to be Topgun Talwar taking on TARO in a sort of passing the torch of the “biggest”
man in SoCal, but it was changed to American Wild Child and Talwar teaming against
TARO and Super Dragon. TARO and Dragon were able to pull off the win, and after
the match everyone said their goodbyes to TARO. TARO also was able to pass the
torch to Talwar, by cutting a promo stating he’s now the biggest man in SoCal.

SoCal’s last show of 2003 was December 29th’s Revolution X show. That show
saw the Rising Son and Scorpio Sky feud continue with Rising Son defeating Scorpio
to win the Revolution Pro Junior title in a ladder match.

On December 31st at the K-1 New Year’s Eve show in Japan, Tom Howard and Sylvester
Terkay both made their mixed-martial-arts debuts. Howard lost to Kristof Midoux
late in the first round via choke, and Sylvester Terkay won easily over Mauricio
Silva in 13 seconds by knockout.

Like I said at the beginning of part one of my year in review, I think overall
the SoCal territory is stronger going in to 2004. The future of a few promotions
are in serious question, but promotions like Revolution Pro, FMLL, EWF, and
UPW seem as strong as ever, while newer promotions like PWG and Lucha VaVoom
seem to have built solid foundations. The disappearance of a few promotions
might mean less wrestling overall in 2004, and less work for some wrestlers,
but will help keep the existing promotions stronger as there will be less chance
to burn through what could be marquee matches in some promotions as quickly
as it’s been done in the past, allowing more matches to be built to. Also the
chances of two shows running head to head are greatly reduced. However there
still will be enough promotions around where it’s doubtful there will be many
weekends where multiple shows aren’t running.

I have a feeling 2004 will be a very good year.

Note: This column was written before any of the SoCal year-end awards were
announced.

This past Saturday I had the chance to check out the debut of UPW’s new monthly
show at their school titled “Mat Wars”. Rather than do a full review,
especially since almost a week has passed, I figured I’d just give my general
thoughts on the show.

I really like the idea of running the monthly shows, especially if UPW uses
it to hype the big shows. The first show was perfect how they were running stuff
for the Mat Wars show, while hyping the big show, but not doing anything that
you’d need to see the Mat Wars shows to understand on the Grove shows so the
hundreds of extra fans there aren’t confused. I also like how it gives the big
shows a more special feeling. When the Grove and Galaxy shows were the only
shows UPW was running, those were their normal shows. Now those shows are going
to seem that much bigger in comparison.

Another plus from the Mat Wars show was the wrestling was overall better than
the last few shows, as the matches were allowed to develop and were less WWE
styled. That’s not to stay the show wasn’t more of a WWE style show than most
local promotions, because it was. It just seemed the wrestlers were given more
freedom and it showed in the matches.

I always have thought that the fewer the titles, the better, as having too
many titles takes away the meaning from the others. At the same time UPW having
a Mat Wars title makes sense because it gives the promotion a belt to have feuds
over on the Mat Wars shows, and leave the main titles for defenses on the big
shows (and rare Mat Wars shows), allowing them to keep their specialness.

I thought the show itself was good. There wasn’t a bad match on the show. The
two matches I was most impressed with was the opener featuring Tony Stradlin
defeating Lil’ Nate, and the second match with Tommy Wilson over Lionheart.

Speaking of Lionheart, watching him in the ring it was hard to believe that
was his first match. He seemed so natural. His size will probably work against
him, but with as good as he is in his first match, and if he keeps building
on that, people will look past his size. One wrestler told me that he thought
Lionheart was the next Bobby Quance in what a natural he was.

The only negative on the show to me was the main event. I was really looking
forward to the match between Skulu and Mikey Henderson, and just felt it went
too short, with the match going four and a half minutes. The match was still
good for what it was though.

Overall though it was a good show and I think these shows can turn out to be
a big plus for UPW in 2004, allowing them to run far more shows per year and
to build up some of their students faster. Plus you can’t beat the $5.00 price
(which the recent trend for UPW, AWS, and WPW to run shows for $5.00 is a very
good thing for fans).

Announced for their February 7th show is Mike Modest versus Frankie Kazarian
plus the rest of their Mat Wars Title tournament.

There will probably be a delay between this column and the next Steve’s View
as I’m starting work on a Baron Michele Leone biography that I hope to have
up on the site in the next couple weeks. The piece on Leone should hopefully
shed some light on this almost forgotten SoCal legend who was more popular in
SoCal than Gorgeous George in the early 1950s.

Steve

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