SoCal Pro “New Year’s Retribution” January 13, 2018 – review with special guest Ruby Raze

This past Saturday SoCal Pro held its first show of 2018, titled New Year’s Retribution. This was also the promotion’s first show at their main venue, The Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside, since October, having last run at their school in San Marcos. For this review we have a special treat, as Ruby Raze joins me to give her thoughts on the show. Since there is always the “if you haven’t wrestled you shouldn’t write reviews” crowd, we brought in someone with “credentials.” Hopefully this makes them happy. At least half-happy.

The promotion drew a pretty decent sized crowd, and there was quite a few people standing by the time the show started. The crowd was really hot as well, which is really typical of SoCal Pro’s crowds for the most part. The show started right on time as well, which is also typical for the promotion.

Ju Dizz over Devin Sparks by submission. [10’13]

Steve: The opener saw Devin Sparks take on Ju Dizz. Sparks made his return to SoCal Pro at the Rumble in Oceanside back in October and was the last wrestler to be eliminated. Sparks played a really good heel and controlled most of the match. He was also cold apparently, as he kept his jacket on for a large part of the match as well. Ju Dizz did a really good job of selling Sparks’ offense. The crowd was really hot for Ju Dizz comeback. Sparks put Ju Dizz in a Boston Crab, but Ju Dizz was able to get out of it. He then took control and got Sparks to tap with a Boston Crab of his own. This was a really good opener.

Ruby: First off, I never said I had credentials. I just so happened to be able to catch a SCP show and be able to relax and watch some local talent! That being said, this match was the perfect match to start off the show; it had colorful characters with defined roles that really got the crowd going. This was the first time I saw Sparks in competition outside of CWFH since he began being the “American Kaiju” and I couldn’t speak highly enough about how well he does as it; he’s essentially an old school heel who takes his time and interacts with the crowd but with a more modern personna. This match was pretty simple but character work made it very effective and entertaining – really helped set the tone for the night and didn’t kill the crowd out the gate but for sure brought them to life.

Ballard Bros. (Shannon & Shane Ballard) over True Grit (Hoss Hogg & Jesse James), Dark Usagi & Dirty Doug, and Lil’ Cholo & SoCal Crazy to retain the SoCal Pro Tag-Team championship. [6’15]

Steve: You know the twin paradox, where there are identical twins and one goes off on a rocket and travels near light speed and the other stays on Earth, and the one who stays on Earth aged more? That is what I think of when I see the Ballards these days. On the plus side I’ve been watching them for 20 years now and can finally tell them apart. This was True Grit’s debut in the promotion. I thought SoCal Pro did a good job of presenting them as a big deal by hyping them on their big screen repeatedly before the show. Before the match started all four teams started brawling and the action spilled out onto the floor. The match itself only went just over six minutes, but there was probably five minutes of brawling before the match. True Grit looked really strong in this and got in a fair amount of offense. Hopefully they become regulars to spice up the tag division, as The Ballards and PBR (who haven’t teamed in nearly a year due to Ryan Walker’s injury) are the only current teams with any push to them.

I thought the match was pretty fun with a lot of action and it never slowed down. Every wrestler got to showcase some offense. They did an eight person facebuster spot, but most of the match was one wrestler squaring off against another while the rest were outside the ring. This was one of the better performances I’d seen with Dark Usagi I’d seen, who was mostly matched up with SoCal Crazy.Crazy was rolled up by one of the Ballards for the finish.

Ruby: I knew I was going to be at SCP for “Retribution” and specifically said, “I really want to see thet 4-way tag because it’s either gonna be really cool or it’s gonna be a disaster.” Turns out it was pretty cool. This match had non-stop action from the pre-bell brawl to the finish out of nowhere. There were no lulls during the match where I wanted to look at my phone or talk to the person next to me – match kept rolling at a good and smooth high action pace. To echo Steve, every participant in the match got to show who they were and what they do which was really nice to see with such diversity amongst the teams. You also got a real feel for each teams character. In addition to highlight spots, there were a few 4-way spots that were well executed but the waterfall ending was (of course) the fireworks to this match.

I’ve worked with Shannon a lot this past year in singles capacity, but seeing him and his brother reminded me of SoCal of yesteryear. As a fan there is no way you can like these guys. Besides being Canadian, the Ballards just make you want to punch them. Their wrestling run of 20 years seems to have given them a stockade of things to do during a match that you don’t normally see nowadays. Of course SoCal Crazy and Little Cholo are the hometown heroes down at SCP, and True Grit showed just why they are one of the teams to watch in SoCal. What surprised me was Dark Usagi’s character. I remember Usagi when he was younger in wrestling, and much like Sparks, this transformation is great (and his entrance gear is fantastic). As someone who hasn’t been to SCP in at least 5 years, Usagi teamed up with Dirty Doug is weird to me. Looks wise, work wise, and character wise I don’t see a mesh. Maybe this wasn’t the best match to see that in, but it’s an odd pairing. All the teams did really well in this match, I would keep an eye out for it.

Hunter Freeman over Destro by DQ. Destro retains the SoCal Pro Golden State title. [11’23]

Steve: Hunter Freeman is the most improved wrestler in SoCal Pro from 2017. He is really starting to blossom as a singles wrestler. Destro has never been great technically, but has charisma and is normally fun to watch. Recently he’s trying to be more of heel and in the process has lost a lot of the personality that has made him entertaining. This match was fine, but a little slowly paced at times. Late Destro had Freeman on the ground and was throwing some bad looking strikes at him and wouldn’t stop so the referee called a DQ. Security ran out and stopped him, and then Freeman’s partner in PBR came out (well after the beatdown ended) to protect Freeman. This brought out the Ballards to taunt PBR with the titles. I hate to see Freeman’s singles run end, but right now PBR is the only logical choice to get the titles off the Ballards.

Ruby: I would say one of the reasons to watch a SCP show is because of their colorful characters – Destro and Freeman are another two great examples of this. First off, entrance gear wise Destro kills it with his mask and light up jacket (low key jealous, I could never pull that off), but it all fits into this crazy character he has that seems one taco short of a combo plate. The thing I see that clashes is that by all rights and reason, he’s a “bad guy” but he has one of the coolest entrances I’ve seen in SoCal so off the bat he’s kinda hard to hate on. Hunter, part of the tag team “PBR,” has the party hard, Andrew WK thing going on and a ton of energy. From the get go, it was essentially a face versuss face match, even though Destro is a “bad guy.” Wrestling wise, Destro did wrestle as a heel and did do dickish stuff and Freeman got his ass handed to him (while still getting in some offense when he could). In contrast to Steve who felt it was too slow at times, I felt like that added to the story of Destro being dickish and when Freeman wouldn’t stay down Destro lost it and started attacking Freeman relentlessly. Security made the save and removed Destro which ended up stealing the thunder of Ryan Walker returning off injury to help his partner. Walker and Freeman are both beloved wrestlers at SCP so the reaction for his return could have been a ton better if Walker had made the save over security, because by that point Destro was no longer a threat. As a wrestling fan, I really wanted to feel that excitement of a returning Walker coming back off injury, but timing with security inhibited that and I feel that was one of the main points to that match.

Ryan Kidd over Dragon Yuki. [13’38]

Steve: This was Ryan Kidd’s first match in SoCal Pro since September. I believe this was Yuki’s first appearance in Southern California since 2016. Surprisingly I thought this was the worst match on the show. The two never seemed to get on the same page and there were lots of points where there was no real transition between moves. They’d hit a move, stand around, then hit another move. Ryan Kidd wore a mask to the ring, took it off mid-match for some reason, then put it back on later. I’ve never understood what the reason he started wearing mask is, but the reason for switching back and forth during the match is an even bigger mystery. Ryan Kidd is really talented and doesn’t need to resort to gimmicks in his matches. This match just didn’t work.

Ruby: Welcome back, Ryan Kidd! For those reading it who don’t know, Ryan Kidd just made his way back to the States again after traveling to Europe? Japan? Mexico? I don’t know, the Kidd goes everywhere and trains all over the world! This was my first time seeing Yuki wrestle. There isn’t a whole lot for me to say about this match because it was a style that I am not accustomed to being a lot slower paced than what I’m used to seeing Kidd do; from the get go that caught me off guard. I also felt like Yuki was straddling the line between good guy and bad guy so I never got a real feel if I was supposed to like him or not. In the same breath, Kidd is pretty charismatic and had a good reception, but also threw in some heelish strikes or stomping of the toes to knock Yuki off his feet. Overall I wanted to really cheer for one or the other, but never felt definite pull which was a huge contrast to the other matches on the card.

Ricky Mandel over “Uptown” Andy Brown to retain the SoCal Pro Heavyweight championship. [18’17]

Steve: This was a Shark Cage match, with Mandel’s manager Everett Scott to be locked in a shark cage during the match. Andy Brown came out with a lot of fire and these two went at it right away. They matched up really well. Brown hit some really nice running knee strikes for a couple of near falls. Mandel had some nice offense in this too. While Everett Scott was locked in the cage he was reading a book. This was a really good match, but I thought the ending hurt it. When watching wrestling you have to do a lot of suspending of disbelief, but still matches need to be consistent in the rules of the world they are in. First the referee takes a light shove that somehow drops him to the mat and knocks him unconscious. Then Dirty Doug and Usagi run in, with Andy Brown taking them out. While this is going on Everett Scott escapes from the shark cage. Andy Brown gets a hold of Scott and hits him with a package piledriver. Mandel has recovered by this point and knocks Brown out with his finisher, and it happens to right when the referee regains consciousness. The referee counts the three and Mandel retains. The problem i had is Everett Scott is still laid out, clearly not in the shark cage. What is the point of the gimmick match if there are no repercussions for violating the rules of the match? I’m sure no one expected Scott to stay in the cage, but I don’t think the finish was handled well and it was the only negative in an otherwise good match.

Ruby: I hope he never reads this, but during the main event match Andy Brown showed why he’s one of the hidden gems of Southern California. The match that Brown and Ricky Mandel put on kept my eyes glued to the action. There was one particular point in the home sprint where Brown hit a wizard followed quickly by another knee strike to the back of Mandel’s head that was a huge highlight and brought the crowd up so high that it should have been the finish.

As stated, Mandel’s manager was locked inside a cage but placed at a ringside corner. I’m always critical of manager work because as a manager people always came down hard on me, but it forced me to learn a lot. Regarding a book, I don’t know the full story of why he would read during a match for his client after he’s already interfered, but that was a distracter that pulled me out of the moment. I also echo Steve in that during the match the ref clearly sees Scott interfere while inside the cage but does nothing. If the point of the cage was so Scott doesn’t interfere, and, in general, if a manager is caught interfering, the match or the manager can be thrown out then I don’t understand the exception or even the lack of finger wagging and warning. As a fan I would have been yelling my head off at ref and calling him names for not doing anything.

To put back the focus on the in ring participants, this was a great match. The bad guy won, but I feel like there is also an opening to continue a story between Brown and Mandel. It was a great match to end with because despite the “good guy” losing, the crowd also has love for Mandel (maybe in big part because he’s their local and Brown is newer to the promotion?). What I did love about this match was that there were enough peaks and valleys that I was able to ride the waves of excitement and disappointment throughout – a feeling I myself aspire to place in those watching. I hope that this match gets released on YouTube because I would like to watch it over again to see if it holds up as well as I remember it. Hat tip to the participants involved.

Final Thoughts

Steve: I thought this was a fine show, with the main event being the best match. Most of the times SoCal Pro shows are paced really well and never feel long, and this was no different. This felt like the start of the build to their anniversary show in April, which is always their biggest show of the year. It looks like we’ll be getting Ballards versus PBR and with Ju Dizz taking out Sparks who has been booked strong since his return he appears due for a title push as well. They also announced Juventud Guerrera and Penta El Zero M for their anniversary show. Their next show is on January 19 at Mira Mesa High School in San Diego.

Ruby: Being ignorant for the most part to SCP shows and storylines, I felt like I had the eyes of a first time fan at their show. As a first time fan, I felt like there were parts of a story I missed that were not recapped that might have helped a bit (then again, I don’t know if I missed social media content or anything). For me, one of the best parts of the show were the characters that were unlike one another. Timing wise, the show went really quick. I would have liked to have seen one more match to pull an even 3-intermission-3 but that’s just me. The fans there were great, hospitable, and seemed to be loyal to the product and their wrestlers. The gym setup was really nice, and there were some good selections for eats and drinks (Up Skewers is working that loop!) For the first time in quite a while I got to patron a show with the sole purpose of watching and I must say – not bad!! It seems like Jeff Dino runs an organized, consistent show. If I were closer I’d go catch some more shows of theirs if I was looking for a wholesome, family friendly experience.

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