SoCal’s indy wrestling scene may be “Less Than Perfect,” but one rising young superstar has limitless potential…if anyone actually paid attention. Click below for the full column. Fans of independent wrestling in Southern California have a lot of reason to be thankful – while they could be suffering through poorly organized cards “headlined” by The Stro, Buff Bagwell, and perhaps a Doink (or three) like the rest of America, they are treated to the best unsigned talent in the world twice a month courtesy of PWG. Not only that, on any given weekend fans can watch a promotion catered to family entertainment, lucha libre, or any mixture in between.
However, the SoCal indies are, shall we say, less than perfect, and a potential fatal flaw is that the talent pool is rapidly drying up. During the turn of the century, Revolution Pro not only begat the franchise players of the region – Super Dragon, Excalibur and Disco Machine, but also produced a steady stream of trainees that would go on to ply their trade not only in LA and the OC, but in Mexico, Europe and Japan. RevPro grads Chris Bosh, Scorpio Sky, Quicksilver and many others helped establish PWG and the entire Southern California region as the premier hub of independent wrestling.
Since the death of RevPro, this steady stream of new talent has turned into barely a trickle. The elite trainees of the past two years (Alex Koslov and Fergal Devitt) have already moved on to bigger and better things, unlikely to ever return on a fulltime basis. Bino Gambino, The Young Bucks and the transplanted Karl Anderson have all made worthwhile contributions, but aren’t ready to “take the reigns” like Super Dragon and Samoa Joe did in the past. The simple fact is, Bosh, Scott Lost, Quicksilver et al are already on the verge of breaking down, and when they all exit stage left the scene will suffer. The past year’s SoCal Rookie of the Year nominees are proof positive of this.
The second major flaw is the total, frustrating STALENESS of many SoCal indy cards. If you venture outside PWG, or the student-based EWF and Inoki Dojo, you’ll see, to be honest, the exact same card no matter what the letters – “reliable hands” like Slymm, Aguilera and TJ Perkins main-eventing, and a few crappy guys who probably work for very little filling out the undercard. Charles Mercury is always in there somewhere, being underused. There’s absolutely nothing to differentiate a lot of these promotions, and honestly, no one should have to sit through Los Chivos or Johnny Paradise matches for FREE, let alone pay for them. It’s a vicious cycle that may kill the scene in a few years’ time: no new talent is coming up the ranks, and no promotion is actively hunting for it, even when a possible star falls practically in their laps.
“Star Factor” is a hard thing to describe, but you know it when you see it. I certainly didn’t expect to see it when C. Edward Vanderpyle announced a surprise opponent as a “test” for Markus Riot at an AWS show this past winter. When an almost comically short, Emmanuel Lewis-looking wrestler in blue gear stepped out from the curtain, I expected an abbreviated comedy match. Instead, Riot and this wrestler, announced as Jerome “LTP” Robinson, put on the best match of the afternoon. LTP showed phenomenal timing and crispness in his ringwork, and had remarkable chemistry with Riot, a wrestler I don’t think he’d ever worked with in the past. I remember coming away from that show thinking, “where did this guy come from, because damn, he’s got some talent.”
That thought was reinforced x10 a very short time later at Next Generation Wrestling’s February 3rd event, which turned out to be arguably the best non-PWG SoCal indy show of 2007. An unadvertised LTP was, again, a mystery opponent for Sexy Sonny Samson, a HRW wrestler who I was wary of seeing again after a…well, not good match against Babi Slymm a couple months earlier at AWS. Instead, he and LTP tore the house down and if not for a near-**** encounter between Ronin and Hook Bomberry later in the night, would have stolen the show again. LTP not only was on point in the ring again, showcasing some smooth flying and an outstanding standing Phoenix Splash, but he displayed an innate babyface charm that really can’t be taught. He knew exactly when to make a funny remark or a fired-up comeback, and the crowd ate it up. Not only that, he put over Samson too, selling his offense huge and making Samson look like a devastating power wrestler. The crowd was heavily into the dynamic of the match toward the close, and you could actually hear the crowd deflate when the heel Samson won. The mark of a truly talented wrestler is someone who can come in “cold” and make the fans care about him, and LTP accomplished that goal.
Since those two matches, I’ve seen LTP multiple times, usually at Inoki Dojo events, and while the “damn, this guy’s got talent” thought remains, the other half has become, “why isn’t he working on shows people actually ATTEND?” Instead of being at AWS every month, big EWF Covina events, or the most recent HPW card…he’s at the Marketplace for WPW, the promotion most people ON THIS SITE probably aren’t aware still exists. He’s working for Mr. California in XWW. He’s at the Inoki Dojo, which has been derided as a shell of a shell of a shell of its former glory. He’s the champion of the CWX…and I’m tempted to offer a cash reward to anyone with proof they were at that show. So to sum it up: possibly the best local talent to emerge in 2007 is working cards either no one sees or no one takes seriously, and in a region woefully short on young, fresh talent, that’s practically a freakin’ crime.
I’m not going to go overboard on the hyperbole and say LTP is the second coming of Pac, Jack Evans, Davey Richards, Kevin Steen or El Generico, but a high-profile promotion here needs to capitalize on LTP and make him their own. A graceful high-flyer (eye-popping spots include the aforementioned Phoenix Splash and the high-risk Spiral Tap) with a quick wit, unique look and easy charisma, he’s proven on several shows that he has what it takes to make fans love him. I’d even go as far as to say, if given the chance, PWG diehards would quickly embrace him as a scrappy underdog trying to prove himself against TJ or the Machine Gun.
Southern California is no longer the fertile breeding ground for new talent that it once was, so when a wrestler with a raw star quality, who may help invigorate the scene, comes along, he can’t be a silent tree in the woods. He needs be given the chance to break out. LTP, in this case, may actually mean Long Term Payoff.