For sixteen years the Knights of Columbus Hall, affectionately called the EWF Arena, have been sacred grounds for the Empire Wrestling Federation. Last Friday, July 3rd I made my first pilgrimage to EWF Arena with the hopes of seeing more from Gary Yap’s Man in Black and Gatson vs. Darevko, up close. I got what I wanted and then some. Overall I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw Friday Night. Empire Wrestling Federations presents itself as a very traditional professional wrestling company. The approach is very old school, and they are proof that you really do not need to reinvent the wheel to put on a good wrestling show. Friday night was a great night for wrestling and I would encourage more wrestling fans to check out their shows.
As I was waiting for the doors top open, I over heard some EWF fans talking, they are very passionate and knowledgeable about the product. I was listening to a group talking about the results of the last show. Interesting note, Empire Wrestling Federation had been running consistently since 1996, they are the longest running wrestling promotion currently running in SoCal. No one in SoCal can boast the pedigree that Jesse Hernandez and company have promoting live events for nearly 20 years is quite an impressive feat. Looking through the crowd that continues to pour in, 4 minutes to show start, there are very few familiar faces. Which is awesome, that means that this fan base is pretty exclusive to EWF, which makes this crowd even more special. Make no mistake, these aren’t Indie fans, these are EWF fans.
The first match was Jimmy Laffin taking on Prince Raccid Nijar. The match started off fairly evenly matched. Things took a turn for the worse for Laffin, when a running powerbomb into the turnbuckle lead to Nijar sending him over the top onto the floor. It was a nasty looking pump. The match was over, shortly after that, Nijar wins with a pedigree. For what it was, which was a squash it was entertaining. Nijar is solid. Laffin didn’t get enough time to show me what he’s all about.
After the match, Ben Tomas announced another “Night in the Empire” live event, details to be released soon. “Night in the Empire” if I’m not mistaken was a streaming event. Ben handed the show over to Matt Sinister who has a bit of an interview segment. Brute Daddy was his guest, but to be honest, the crowd pretty much swallowed this segment with a boring chant. I have no idea what was said. What I got from it is that after being booted out of the “Connected” Brute Daddy is more focused than ever.
This led to Brute Daddy versus Tyler Ray. Ray was dwarfed by Brute. Although Ray got some offense in, this match was all Brute. This match up was very much a David and Goliath. Even after a sick ddt, Ray had nothing on Brute. Match ended with a “brutal” powerbomb. This was a fun match, very simple. The fans were into it. Tyler Ray looks like has a lot of potential.
Next up was Brandon Gatson vs. Sasha Darevko, this was the match I was looking forward to the most. Having not seen the previous two matches, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but two professionals like Gatson and Darevko, I had a feeling this could be match of the night. As I predicted, Sasha brought his working boots, he wasn’t playing with the pussy cats tonight. Thus far, this was the most competitive match of the night. With the EWF arena crowd firmly behind him, Gatson connected with a beautiful spinning heel kick and two different cutters, but couldn’t put away Sasha. Likewise, Sasha’s spinebuster and Rock Bottom were only good for two counts. Even a curbstomp couldn’t put away Gatson. I was probably the only person in the EWF Arena who popped for the Curbstomp. But what finished off the fan favorite was a bit of slight of hand and a chain wrapped around his fist, to give Sasha the W. This match definitely lived up to the hype that I had given it.
Then it was a “Lucha Tag Match”. “Mr Excitement” Ryan Kidd and Fidel Bravo (whom I don’t think have ever teamed before) took on Bobby Lee Jr.and Fecha Fugaz., (who I also believe have never teamed before.) Bobby Lee Jr. is a second generation Luchador competing regularly for IWRG in Nacucalpan de Juarez, in the State of Mexico. The Rudos worked surprisingly well with each other. Kidd’s time in Mexico has been beneficial, he’s gotten a lot better since last time I’ve seen him. Kidd’s heel game was on point. The fans were going ape shit over spilling and then spitting water onto Bobby Lee. Lee and Fugaz didn’t Finish saw Bobby Lee pin Ryan Kidd… This was another fun match. Both luchadors were over with the crowd, Fidel Bravo is very consistent in being an entertaining heel and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much Kidd’s grown in the last two years, he’s improved so much.
Intermission is exactly the zoo I remember at the last EWF show I went too. Fans could have their pictures taken in the ring with the “Heroes,” the merchandise table was filled with Lucha Masks, DVDs, and other collectibles, the 50/50 Raffle was repeatedly solicited over the loud speaker, and the concession stand was packed. The heroes were certainly accessible with fans, signing autographs and they each looked like they were enjoying themselves.
After intermission, Andy Brown went mano y Mano with Yap’s The Man In Black aka HIM. Setting him up close, he’s more impressive than what I’ve seen on video. HIM’s gear is reminiscent of Super Dragon, I’m sure that is no accident. HIM is an excellent counter wrestler. (not sure who he is, but he’s very well versed.) There was a moment in the match that reminded me of Super Dragon vs. Low Ki from MPW back in 2001, where Andy (playing the role of Dragon) attempts to dive into HIM (playing the role of Ki) and counters with a leaping kick to the head, it really was the most excellent call back. Gary did a great job eliciting heat from the ring side crowd. Andy Brown was the perfect babyface in this match, never seeing him live, he’s extremely talented. I imagine he could easily become the face of EWF in the very near future. HIM just kept coming, he had zero quit. Still not sure who the man behind the mask is, but he’s far more talented than he gets credit for. This match was fantastic. Match ends in a time limit draw. The finish kept both men looking strong. Next week in Azusa, HIM takes on TJ Perkins, which might be a Match of the Year Candidate.
Next up was EWF Tag Team Championship Match; The Congregation of Pain (Friar Juan Roman and Archimedes) vs. “Handsome” Johnny Star and “Iron Man” Mike Maze. Early on, I noticed some cues that spoiled Star turning on Maze. The match itself was fine. Archimedes and Friar Juan are no joke. These guys are a solid tag team. During this match the story was the heels out smarted the faces with dirty tactics. The babies tried to focus on Archimedes, the heels tried to focus on Maze. This match had a lot of Johnny Star running into the ring to save Maze, but his best efforts would essentially end up hurting Maze, his interference was more of an inhibitor for the opposition. I didn’t think the referee wasn’t very good in this match either It kind of felt like maybe he was “on the take,” it hurt the credibility of the match and over emphasized Starr’s intentional run ins giving the other team the advantage. Wish I was posting this live, because Star did in fact walked out on Maze, the swerve was far too predictable and hurt this match. This obviously sets up Maze v Star down the road. The action was good and the crowd was into it, but had the officiating had been a little better and the run in had been limited, the swerve probably would have had more of an impact.
Lastly the Main Event, a Six Man Ladder Match for the EWF American Championship. Now everyone in this match certainly busted their asses in the match. But I didn’t like it. First, I don’t understand why you would crown a new champion in a six way match, let alone a ladder match. I would have rather them have a straight up one on one match between the two highest ranking wrestlers who aren’t Mike Maze. Or if you wanted the next champion to be more of a fresh face a battle royal. I do understand that the Great Goliath Battle Royal is a yearly event for EWF, maybe they should have waited to crown the champion until this year’s GGBR. Regardless, this match had an interesting group inside the ring and at times outside, which was fine because the ring was extremely crowded. I didn’t know Richie Slade and Anthony Idol had a partnership; they reminded me of mini Shawn and Mini Diesel. Am I the only one? The crowd was really hot for the Baby Bull. The match was rounded out with the Viking Warrior, RJ Ruiz, and Adrian Quest. It was the interaction between Slade and Idol that had my attention. The match was just okay. I think it was Ruiz who put one of the smaller ladders around his neck to whack guys in the head. That was pretty funny. And I no I’m in the minority, because the crowd was eating this match up.
If this is the Empire Wrestling Federation I’ve been passing up on for the past six years, then I truly have been missing out. Although I didn’t love the ladder match and the swerve in the tag match was telegraphed, I really enjoyed the over all event. Match of the night honors goes to Gary Yap’s Man In Black vs. “Uptown” Andy Brown. A close second for me would have been Darevko vs. Gatson. The next show is Saturday July 11th in San Bernardino. For anyone who hasn’t gone to an EWF Show or it has been a while, you owe yourself to give it a shot, if you’re looking for a fun night of wrestling.