Editors Note: The Crux of this Article was written shortly after Bart’s Bash! Unfortunately to work and family obligations this article has taken entirely too long to be published. My apologies to Bart, AWS, and the wrestlers that competed on this show. However, it is better late than never, so here’s my review of the AWS Bart’s Birthday Bash #11.
The last time a professional wrestling legend made his way to a wrestling ring in Southern California, was apart of the Wrestle Reunion in 2012 when the Steiner Brothers, Big Van Vader, Mick Foley, The Great Sasuke, Dan “The Beast” Severn, and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine took part in the Pro Wrestling Syndicate show. Although a lot of star power lands in California, when it comes to legends, it is rare to see a bonafide Legend come to California and compete. As much as I wish to see Severn, Vader, or Scotty Steiner, wrestle in SoCal, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Needless to say, I was more than a little excited when Bart Kaptizke announced that Sabu would be returning to Southern California. Sabu made his debuts for AWS and Vendetta Pro, but was a former XPW World Champion and previously competed in both EPIC and appeared for FCW.
Being a teenager marking out to Sabu’s insane dives on Prime Ticket, it was a thrill for me to see the “Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal, Death Defying Madman of Wrestling” live and in person for the first time. I wasn’t much of an XPW fan, so this was only the second time I ever got to see Sabu live. Sabu is a draw, it isn’t open for conversation it’s truth. I’ve been to the American Legion Hall before, but the house was packed and many were there for Sabu. Although his age is growing, the fans in attendance popped for more than nostalgia. We got all of the traditional Sabu spots. The Arabian Facebuster with a chair, the chair duels, using the chair for dives, and for good measure the camel clutch. I truly thought TJ Perkins was perfect as the role of his opponent; I’ve racked my brain over the past few days thinking if anyone could have done as good of job as TJ and I don’t think it’s possible. Perkins is one of the most technically proficient wrestlers, ever. But with his background in Lucha Libre, Puroresu, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Perkins. He wasn’t just cannon fodder, he did eat a chair shot or two, but he battled like a champ. It was clear TJ was up to the challenge; he’s been in some high profile matches from across the globe and has been in the ring with some of the biggest names in the business. You could see some wrestlers, perhaps shrinking in the spotlight when they are challenged by a legend, but TJ didn’t. I was very proud of the work Perkins did with Sabu, the moment wasn’t lost on TJ who tweeted at me, “It’s always a dream come true to wrestle a legend.” I don’t do match ratings, but I loved this match and really look forward to when Bart brings back Sabu and whomever choose for his opponent. I’ve read complaints that it was too short or there were no tables. To that I answer, for a first time one-on-one encounter do we need tables? It is exactly what I had hopped for when I saw TJ Perkins’ name next to Sabu’s. On any other night, this would have been match of the night, but more on that later.
This show started off with the Lightweights taking center stage as El Ridiculoso was set to defend his AWS Championship against Kadillak and Mercurio Jr. This match was a great way to get the crowd on their feet. The action was quick. Kadillak is one of the most under-rated guys in Southern California. And I’m not just saying that, his speed is mind-boggling in the ring. They used to say Bruce Lee could hit you twice before you even knew it. Kadillak could hit, spinning heel kick, and do a running diving moonsault on you in the corner before you knew it, which he basically did. Ridiculoso is also one of the rare guys that can blend comedy with his wrestling. I wasn’t familiar with Mercurcio Jr., but he kept up with Kadillak, which cannot be incredibly easy. More than a few times it would appear our hero Ridiculoso wouldn’t walk out with his championship, but some how did. Great way to start a show off.
Poor Candice LaRae, it seems like she can’t catch a break. At last year’s “Summer Heat 3”, then manager Mondo Vega turned his back on her to side with Hudson Envy. LaRae seemingly got her revenge at the “New Alternative” when she defeated Vega, but after Hudson attacked her you could tell the story wasn’t over. Fast forward to Sunday Night, LaRae partnered with the debuting Crystal White against Envy and Kitana Vera, I think you got exactly what you’d expect from these ladies, I’m constantly impressed with how tough Candice LaRae is. I remember a few years back as part of the NWA Pro Wrestling Showcase her working against Amazing Kong, then NWA Women’s Champion and it was just insanely brutal. And with her efforts against Joey Ryan in PWG, Candice really can take punishment. I was really unfamiliar with Crystal White, but she got a great reaction from the crowd. LaRae and White were looking good in this match… when out of nowhere Buggy Returned. Yeah, that Buggy, and post match Buggy attacked LaRae… and Diablo and Sage Sin decided to use the the Lazaire Fair approach, watching Buggy, Envy, and Vera triple team Candice while Mondo cheered them on. Seemingly turning their back on Candice and Crystal, The Master of the Neitherworld followed Buggy and Envy to the back.
The Battle of Super Heavyweights was a lot of fun. The Mighty Plague looks as big as ever. TEREX accompanied to the ring by Cedric The Hitman and another guy, who’s name I didn’t get. This was just a back and forth of behemoths. The former AWS Tag Team Champion Plague actually managed to slam TEREX, which I don’t know if I have ever saw before. That feat of strength alone should be celebrated.
I was also really impressed in the match up with Ricky Mandel and Hector Canales. It was only in February, oddly enough the last time I wrote a review, that Hector Canales would win the Wrestler of the Month honors and his match with Bo Cooper would be Match of the Month. So there was little doubt that Hector Canales would have a good match. Ricky Mandel isn’t a slouch either. I’ve watched these guys have matches over the years from SoCal Pro and CWFH, but tonight was different. Obviously with Hector’s new persona he was showing his “Real Man’s” deal where he was a lot more flamboyant than the “El Chido” we might be used to in the past. The match was fine, nothing too special when Ricky, tired of Hector’s antics yelled at him to take off those shorts… (The Real Man Shorts) and wrestle him like a man. Even looking back at it 2 weeks later, it just didn’t sound right. Hector would remove those pink trunks, to reveal he was wearing his El Chido trunks underneath. Removing the pink trunks unleashed a different Hector, one that was sans the playfulness, this one was all business. However Mandel was able to get the upper hand and as a way to taunt Hector put on the shorts… which had magical powers and started to make Ricky a little bit more fabulous. The antics weren’t over and I think Ricky and Hector did a great job of renewing this rivalry, while adding some comedy. This wasn’t the same Hector and Ricky match I’ve seen a half dozen times. The comedy didn’t take away from the action. As the action spilled outside the ring, Hector crawled under the ring only to emerge wearing Superman underoos and a matching cape. Hector had a 3rd costume change during this match, which ties him with Mick Foley some 20 years ago. The entire crowd ate up ‘SuperMex’ Canales as he flew through the air and eventually winning this match. On a night where the top of the card was so heavy, you could almost see this match up being forgettable, but Ricky Mandel and Hector Canales put some much fun into the match, that you couldn’t. On some cards, this would certainly be Match of the Night contender.
Prior to the AWS Heavyweight Championship Match, Cholo napped a young fan ringside that was decked out in Lil Cholo Swag… a Lil Lil Cholo if you will. The Champ explained that its because of fans like this little guy, that he was already a winner, no matter the outcome of the match. Another stellar match that again on most nights would have been considered a Match of the Year candidate, this bout pitted Ryan Taylor vs. Lil Cholo. Right off the bat, I have to admit that I forgot how good Cholo is. It wasn’t long ago I saw him in the #1 Contender Match for the title, but those matches are always radically different from straight up one on one matches. There was a remarkable amount of high flying in this match from both Cholo and Taylor as bodies emptied to the Legion Hall Floor, launching from within the ring. Following the double stomp and a successful defense Cholo grabbed a different fan, toasted cupcakes, and celebrated a much deserved victory. There was a couple of times through this match, I really thought Taylor was going to win the title, they did a good job hooking me.
Like I’ve said through out this article, there was so much fun at this show. However, I think my favorite match was the 4 Tag Team Elimination Match for the AWS Heavyweight Championship. The last time I attended an AWS show, the Ballard Brothers successfully defended the titles against PPRay in what was an incredibly fun match. The two teams battled so uncontrollably that Jason McCord, who nobody gives a shit about, laid down the law by laying the smackdown. Adding into the mix the LA F*Ers and the team of Sindarin and SoCal Crazy. All the craziness of the original encounter was amplified by 4 in this match. Shoulder and Elbow Collar tie ups that spilled out to the floor and circled the ring by all 8 men. It will be interesting how the video will look; this bout had 4 mini bouts going on between all eight men. Much like Hector and Ricky from earlier this match had a lot of comedy mixed in. One of the funnier moments of the night was when one of the Ballards eye raked Piloto (who wears a mask and thus an eye rake doesn’t really work) yelled out to the crowd “Ok, I can’t see now.” Then he wandered over to Gold Digger and honked her horns. Crazy and Sindarin were the first eliminated in the bout, when Crazy was pinned following a Rosas roundhouse kick. Surprisingly to me, the LA F*ers were next eliminated when both brothers rolled Piloto Suicida & Shamu Jr. With the match down to just PPRay and the Ballards the intensity from their match in March had returned. Eventually “Pretty” Peter got the pin on Shannon to become the new Tag Team Champions. After turning down the services of the Gold Digger, PPRay Celebrated with the belts, it seemed the moment wasn’t lost on the duo as they acted like they had won the World Series or the Superbowl. It was an awesome moment to see live that ended with Ray singing the lyrics to their theme song, “Obsession” as they exited the Legion Hall floor.
Finally… the match that I voted for Match of the Month was on tap. Scorpio Sky vs. B-Boy. I’m positive that these two titans of SoCal had faced off prior to this night, but I can’t remember. Even if they had, things have changed pretty significantly since then. Scorpio Sky is one of, if NOT the Top Dog in Southern California right now. His abilities in the ring are awe inspiring. When I think of Scorpio Sky’s humble beginnings in Rev Pro, I remember a lot of high flying and although Sky is still very capable flying around the ring, it was the introduction of the strikes and submission (probably inspired by his very real MMA training) really makes him a hybrid in this area. B-Boy has also gone through a metamorphosis as of late, with a greater focus on his fitness and a renewed passion for wrestling SoCal. This match was billed as a “Grudge Match” with beef stemming from back during the Elimination Match in March. The match was a 2 out of 3 falls match.
Scorpio Sky took an early advantage using throwing haymakers in the corner, using the ropes to choke the life out of B-Boy. Then Sky would taunt the “New Age Punisher.” The first fall would ultimately be Sky’s has he’d hit the Ace of Spades to score the victory. The second round, B-Boy would battle back. The intensity of B-Boy brought him back into the match. B-Boy somehow ended up with one of Candice LaRae’s Cupcakes (no, that isn’t a euphemism) and smashed it in the face of Sky, temporarily blinding Sky and really gave the advantage to B-Boy. He’d win the 2nd round with a Shinning Wizard to pin Sky. At this point, I can’t do the match justice. The intensity was fierce, I would put this match up against Super Dragon vs. B-Boy MPW November 2001 which was a Match of the Year Candidate. I did vote it as my Match of the Month. The final round, both men were visibly winded (as they should), but the intensity grew. Both men connected with elbows back and forth where neither man would get knocked down. They battled through the pain and adversity, until the tombstone piledriver, delivered by the “New Age Punisher” would ultimately finish the match and making B-Boy the victor 2-1.
I don’t know when the video will be made available. But Bart’s 11th Annual Birthday Bash might have been my favorite wrestling event of the year. There was a ton of action, the matches flowed well, and really had a bit of everything. The next AWS Event, August 24th in South Gate at the American Legion Post #335. Lil Cholo will defend his AWS Championship against Joey Ryan, PPRay will defend their titles against the Suburban Comandos, B-Boy and Scorpio Sky will square off in a Submission Match, plus so much more. This is a show, you’re not going to want to miss.