“But what will make SoCal great?”
-Jay Cal, 11/06/2015
A simple question with a complex answer. Before looking at what it would take to make SoCal great, we have to look at the recent past and look at how we got to where we are today, and we have to ask what can the SoCal wrestling community can do to better itself.
Part 1: Looking at the past, Revolution, how we got to where we are today
When I saw Jay Cal ask that question in his column “Jay Cal’s View #148,” I thought to myself, “12 years ago, people were asking when will SoCal breakout and become more recognized.”
That’s because SoCal was great at one time.
The years 2000-2004 were considered to be some of the best years in modern SoCal wrestling history, and rightfully so. Super Dragon, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, B-Boy, Rocky Romero, Brian Kendrick, Bobby Quance, The Messiah, and Bryan Danielson were regular fixtures in the Southern California wrestling scene. Lucha Libre events provided fans chances to see top Mexican stars without having to leave SoCal. Each promotion offered unique events with enough supporting talent to create enticing matches and rivalries with the top stars in SoCal that captivated people’s interests in wrestling in SoCal. Companies like XPW and UPW, while both polarizing, provided fans lots of things to talk about both inside and outside of the ring. Along with all that, there were a group of prospects who were ready to step up and become SoCal’s next top stars. At that time, Southern California was a wrestling hotbed.
SoCal wasn’t without its faults thought. Mismanaged promotions, wrestlers with bad attitudes, drama, politics, threats, and problems that often plague wrestling plagued SoCal too. For all the positives that were going on in SoCal, there were also a lot of negatives. Despite the negatives, SoCal had tons of positives going for itself. When some promotions went under, new ones took their place. Quality matches were taking place week after week, and fans were enthusiastic about these events. Talented wrestlers from neighboring territories like Northern California would travel to SoCal to be part of the scene. Tapes and tape traders would help guys breakout and get bookings outside of SoCal. Almost every aspect of the SoCal wrestling scene had tons of potential to be more than it already was. 2000-2004 was a time when SoCal wrestling was great, but problems began to arise that would prevent SoCal from truly reaching its full potential.
But the biggest moment that would impact the SoCal landscape would come in 2003, when Pro Wrestling Guerrilla was founded by six wrestlers from the SoCal region.
You guys know the story about that promotion. While PWG thrived, the landscape of the Southern California wrestling scene began to change in many different ways.
With the most notorious and infamous promotion in SoCal, XPW, going out of business in 2003, along with UPW losing steam as years went by, PWG became the most prominent promotion in SoCal. As they began distributing their events on DVD, featuring a mix of local talent and big name independent and international talent, fans in, around, and outside of SoCal began to take notice of PWG.
But 2004 was a real turning point in SoCal. It was the year Revolution Pro went out of business. Since 1999, Revolution Pro was considered the place where some of the best matches in SoCal took place, and along with its school, the Rudos Dojo, helped produce some of the best homegrown wrestlers in the Southern California scene. When it closed, a huge hole opened up in SoCal. Not only did SoCal lose a promotion that helped produce great matches, but the area also lost an important school that helped develop and create new talent.
2004 and the years after saw new promotions start up or resurrect, but egos, politics, and poor management would prevent these companies from being able to thrive the way PWG had. Fans in SoCal began to get tired of professional wrestling as Mixed Martial Arts began to gain popularity, Dave Marquez would change the SoCal landscape by bringing the National Wrestling Alliance to SoCal, more promotions would begin to stop running, and some that had talented wrestlers on their shows were overshadowed by drama caused by promoters who couldn’t keep their egos in check.
As time went on, the quality of shows began to drop. The interest of many fans shifted from being enthusiastic about the scene to only going to PWG events. Wrestlers, promoters, and fans of local promotions that weren’t PWG all became frustrated with the growing popularity of PWG and the lack of attention or praise they were getting. The scene became full of people full of self-entitlement who believed they were worthy of blind praise. The attitudes and approach to wrestling by those in the scene became complacent. Rather than figure out why things weren’t working, promoters and wrestlers would blame fans for not wanting to see out of shape men putting on bad wrestling matches in VFW Halls in front of 30 people.
In a short period of time, SoCal went from being a place that had a MOTYC caliber match every weekend, to a place where you’re lucky if PWG is running that month.
But with the downfall of SoCal, there are things to be learned from SoCal’s past. In the last few years that I was writing for SoCalUncensored.com and following the SoCal scene, I became completely apathetic to the scene. A lot of people did, but I don’t think there was ever a louder, more vocal, and more polarizing critic than me. 2011, I stopped watching wrestling completely as it didn’t interest me anymore. In the past few months though, I’ve been checking out and catching up on wrestling. I admit, this is mostly because of Kevin Steen becoming a success in WWE, but it also was because I wanted to see if things have gotten better.
There’s potential for Southern California to become “THE” wrestling hotbed. It’s possible for the area to experience a resurgence.
Stay Tuned For Part 2