Planes, Trains and Automobiles Report Vol. 14: Baja Stars USA 3/16/19

Planes, Trains and Automobiles Report Vol. 14: Baja Stars USA 3/16/19 by Paul Newberry and Jay Doring

Paul: Hello again world, welcome back to the Planes, Trains and Automobiles report! Now it’s only been a mere eleven years to the month since we last had one of these, so let me catch you up: This series began on a whim back in September of 2004 after Scrub put out a call for reviews on that month’s AWS show (my review was one of about six on that show!). I meant it originally as a parody of those wrestling road reports that gave too much unrelated side information about stuff you really didn’t give a shit about. In time, I’m proud to say that it grew into an actual road report that gave you too much unrelated side information about stuff you really didn’t give a shit about. Over the next 4 years we covered events from a diverse array of SoCal promotions, in venues of all shapes and sizes, ranging from collectible shows, Elks lodges, fancy dojos, strip clubs, slam theaters, empty high school gyms, bars that cheered for black guys getting lynched, and well, whatever you want to call that garage thing in East LA. We saw performers on their way up, on their way down and on their way to nowhere. We got some calls right (The Young Bucks… eventually), we got some calls wrong (we still love you, Joey Harder) and were totally oblivious to others (hey, you didn’t know who Kyle O’Reilly was in 2007 either). It was a fun time to be a fan of independent wrestling, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

But such as life, all things must come to an end. At the start of 2009, Jay ended his Los Angeles experiment (which consisted of getting coffee for the cast of iCarly) and moved back to his native Boston. I didn’t feel like carrying on the column alone, and choose to support SoCal wrestling in other ways for the next several years. Gradually I lost touch with the scene and pursued other interests on weekends (i.e. tax fraud, Russian hookers, professional backgammon etc.) However, much like the Hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave….

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from Jay informing me that he was returning to the area for a visit. He asked if I wanted to go see the Bar Wrestling show on 3/13… I said I couldn’t make it. He countered with “How about BAJA STARS USA on 3/16 in San Diego? It has Paul London, you love Paul London. Plus 3/16 is International Stone Cold Day!” Wow, who could resist that offer? Okay, Baja Stars USA it is (that is just random enough to work). Now after eleven years, we are back older and marginally wiser. Ready to get back to our roots and hit the road one more time.

tl;dr: dudes you probably don’t remember from over a decade ago are doing another review. Yay?

Jay: Glad to be back! Well, beyond our first PTA report after 11 years, the trip to Baja Stars USA is another unique milestone in our partnership, in that it is the farthest we ever traveled for to see indy wrestling. This trip, which led us to viewing distance of the US/Mexico border, easily eclipsed our previous record for UPW’s brief comeback in San Clemente.

I’ve traveled to San Diego from LA before for Comic-Con, and encountered traffic (in one case, an overturned grocery truck caused 4 hours of delays in just one 5-mile stretch), but this trip was also close to four hours for no discernible reason. We could only speculate if the helicopter/drone hybrid we saw floating ominously overhead was the cause of the delay.

So why did we take this trip, rather than go to the much closer LA Lucha show this same day (which featured the Rascalz, and the unadvertised surprise of Teddy Hart and Nick Gage)? Well, we felt this show was a wonderful representation of the burgeoning new talent in the SoCal indy scene (featuring several recent SCU award winners) and I decided this was an essential sampling of today’s modern SoCal experience.

Well, not really. I made a commitment to visit a close friend who lives in Northern San Diego (who was a fellow wrestling fan and also attended the show with us), and this tied in with that visit. Following several text exchanges over several days, I convinced Paul to let me drag him along.

Paul: I was fine as long you weren’t the one driving. I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes many times while driving with Jay. I’m convinced that if he hadn’t moved I’d have ended up dying in a fiery car wreck on the way to a EWF show sometime in 2013. Anyway, after a long drive we arrived in one piece in San Diego a few hours early. Hmm, what to do now? Well, on the vague recommendation of SoCal Indy Legend and noted Funko POP! collector Scott Lost, We choose to kill some time in Balboa Park. Totally forgetting that it was also St. Patrick’s Day weekend and found it crawling with hipsters dressed as leprechauns. Aside from that, it’s an interesting place. Among the highlights are a museum on cannibalism, and a booth extolling the virtues of atheism. They handed me a flyer, it was blank (my jokes haven’t gotten any better in 11 years folks). So yeah, give it a visit when in the area, just watch out for dog poop.

After enough time was killed, we headed to the Montgomery Waller Rec. Center for BAJA STARS USA! The venue is of course a Rec Center on the top of a hill overlooking a park. No complaints, it was good size for the event, wasn’t cramped or a million degrees inside, parking was fine. I’d say the attendance was in the 100-130 range, with a lot of families.

My favorite part of the venue were the clearly posted “Gym Rules” signs at every corner. Which read: “GYM RULES: No Skateboards, Rollerblades, Sagging Pants, Dunking on rims, hanging on rims, hard sole shoes, profanity, bikes, smoking, radios, spitting, arguing, food, drinks. Failure to comply can result in expulsion from the gym at the digression of the staff.” I was wondering why they didn’t let me bring my radio in, all makes sense now. Jay however likes to live dangerously, and proudly rollerbladed to his seat.

Jay: This particular Baja Stars USA show was a marked departure from their usual events, which usually lean very heavily on well-known lucha libre talent, like Pentagon Jr., Fenix, Puma King, and Bestia 666. Unfortunately, this event coincided with AAA’s big Rey de Reyes event, so Baja Stars decided to go in a different direction and give US-based stars a chance to shine. The big headliner, Paul London, added to my excitement for this show since he was a sentimental favorite (I saw his star-making ROH Ladder Match against Michael Shane in 2002 live – you can even see him land on me during a crowd brawling segment).

Paul: At 6:50 PM the show begins. Unfortunately, we were immediately informed by the ring announcer that Paul London had “missed his flight” (I thought he was local?). Well, that sucks. But look on the bright side Jay, now you won’t have to worry about him landing on you again. He apparently wouldn’t be landing anywhere tonight.

Jay: This wasn’t a huge surprise, as I had heard multiple stories in the past year of London being unreliable, but it was a disappointment nonetheless. Following this revelation, Douglas James, part of the night’s planned main event, got on the mic and said this:

“dfjalksjfldsakfalksjf I don’t back down from a fight soiaurewoiyarkfla MATCH RIGHT NOW! (Seriously, the sound for this show as incomprehensible for most of the night.)

Paul: Yeah, there was a bad echo in the venue and we couldn’t understand much of what was said on the mic for the entire show. So forgive us on some of the finer details.

After that shocker, Danny Limelight, James’ other billed opponent in our now canceled 3-way Main Event, enters and they say some more things we couldn’t understand. It looks like we will be having our main event as the opener. Kids these days have no patience.

Match One:

 Douglas James vs. Danny “Limelight” Rivera © – Baja Stars USA Cruiser-weight Title Match

Jay: This is my first time seeing either competitor. Thanks to Steve’s interview with Rivera, I know he is a former SoCal Pro trainee, Marine veteran, and has regularly appeared on Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. He also has pretty cool superhero tattoos, including the Spider-Man logo on his chest. Douglas James is a Santino Bros. trainee (one of several on tonight’s show) and 2015 SCU Rookie of the Year who has been getting a lot of praise as a future breakout star in places like AWS and PCW, and has had a hyped series of matches with B-Boy and Rivera. Steve has interviewed him too!

This was an awesome way to kick off this show, and actually exceeded any of the action I had seen at Bar Wrestling earlier in the week. This was a sprint from start to finish, with some creative high spots at the very beginning (most notably Limelight jumping off a chair with an AJ Styles-like flying forearm on the outside). I was very impressed with James, who reminds me a lot of David Starr, adding some serious snap and intensity to his comebacks and offensive. James got the biggest nearfall of the match, hitting a really impressive twisting frog splash that only didn’t end the match because Limelight’s feet were on the ropes. James went to the top again, and was caught with a second-rope Spanish fly for a 1-2-3 and a roar of approval from a really appreciative crowd.

Paul: Douglas James was the only one on the show who celebrated 3:16 day as he hit Rivera with a Stone Cold Stunner! Hell of a match to start us out. I dare say this ended up being a better match without Paul London’s involvement. Rivera was very crisp and had a lot of vintage AJ Styles in his game. Douglas James also came off really well, and give me a bit of a Davey Richards/Austin Aries-like vibe. Like Jay, I had never seen either of these guys before, and came away impressed and interested in seeing more. My pick for match of the night. We are off to a great start so far…

Jay: My one criticism of this match was at times, it seemed like it was cosplaying an “indy epic” (so many thigh slaps and superkicks) but the workrate at various points was definitely on par with something you would see in PWG or a similar high-end indy promotion. Both wrestlers definitely deserve a bigger spotlight in the near future. I would put this pretty close to a four-star match.

Winner and STILL Baja Stars USA Cruiserweight Champion: Danny “Limelight” Rivera

Match Two: DoomFly (Eli Everfly and Delilah Doom) vs. SoCal Crazy and El Mariachi Loco

Paul: I’ll borrow from Jay’s recent Bar Wrestling review: “DoomFly are the 2018 SCU Tag Team of the year (with Delilah Doom getting double honors as Women’s Wrestler of the Year), and each has made a big mark recently – Delilah recently appeared on Impact Wrestling and Eli (under the name Dane Bryant) got a televised win over The Miz on Smackdown.” Also I will add that Everfly is to date the only person to win the SCU Award Grand Slam: Wrestler of the Year, Most Outstanding, Rookie of the Year, and Tag Team Of The Year. If he could just find a way to win the Women’s Wrestler of the Year award he’d be all set (these days that is not as impossible as it may sound).

Jay: This match was my first exposure to SoCal Crazy, a San Diego indy wrestling institution and one of the most respected veterans in the SoCal indy scene. A 27(!)-year veteran, he was a key reason why SoCal Pro became a major player in the region, and at their 12th anniversary show, he gets a marquee match with ECW and WWE star Super Crazy. When El Mariachi Loco came out in a Lucha Underground jacket, I was initially puzzled, until I looked him up just now and realized he worked as El Sinestro de la Muerte and even had a trios title reign on the once red-hot but now eternally on hiatus show.

This match was another contender for Match of the Night, and might even have a slight edge over James/Limelight because it told an evolving story. The match started out with a comedic slant, with Mariachi Loco trying to seduce Delilah with his beguiling hips. Eventually, the lucha team displayed more heelish tendencies, cheating and successfully isolating Doom and Everfly at alternate points in the match. Following a spectacular hot tag sequence and some nearfalls that I bought into ending the match, DoomFly picked up with win with an assisted Sliced Bread #2 to another great ovation (I really can’t overstate how pumped the crowd was for 5/6ths of this show). The only flaws were a few minor awkward spots that seem to be common in intergender contests (compensating for weight differential between men and women can make some moves look slow and awkward) but it was another top-notch effort from DoomFly.

Paul: I agree with Jay here. My first time seeing DoomFly and I was pretty impressed. They could give Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae some serious competition for the title of World’s Cutest Tag Team (an honor that’s right up there with World’s Greatest Grandpa or Best Coffee in town) A good amount of energy and some innovative tandem offense (including a nice double 619) put them over the top. The masked men did a good job holding it all together as well. This was a lot of fun. Geeze, what a start to this show….

Winners: DoomFly

Paul: Post match, DoomFly took the mic… and again due to the echo I couldn’t understand any of it (a challenge I’d guess). This led to the Wolf Zaddies trio coming out to confront them, followed by RockNES Monsters and Richie Slade making the save. Setting the stage for what ended up being our six-man main event for the evening.

 

Match Three: Ty Ray vs. Super Beetle

Jay: Super Beetle is a EWF trainee who has recently gained some attention outside of SoCal (receiving bookings in Inter Species Wrestling, Bizarro Lucha, and GCW) for his Chikara-like/Tokusatsu-inspired gimmick. He’s blue, and one of my favorite comic book characters is the Blue Beetle, so he starts at an advantage for me. Ty Ray is another EWF trainee, and I learned (again, just now!) that he is a former EWF tag team champion with Super Beetle, so former partners collide!

Unfortunately, I can’t say this match was too memorable, outside of some fun selling and mannerisms from Super Beetle. This was slow-paced for most of the match, with only some trash talk from Ray keeping the crowd involved. Ray eventually his a fireman’s carry into a flap jack, which he calls the Sting Ray, to earn the first heel win of the night.

Paul:  Card placement killed this match live. This really felt like it would have been an ideal opener, but after the first two matches went balls to the wall with dives, Canadian Destroyers, fighting in the crowd and all manner of chaos, it really didn’t stand a chance. It was ok for what it was though. The crowd was very into Super Beetle and the timeless heel/face dynamic was entertaining. The finish came off very flat, as the crowd weren’t too happy seeing their beloved Super Beetle lose. The constant chant of “SU-PER BEE-TLE” did give me some Super Dragon flashbacks.

Winner: Ty Ray

Paul: So this was the first live SoCal show I’ve attended in many years. And to be truthful, not a ton has changed over that time. Same music, many of the same fans, and even the same David Marquez pacing around the entire show. Hmm, I’ve been out of the loop, did he ever end up getting that NWA thing off the ground?

Jay: Nope…

Paul: You don’t say?

Match Four: Cody Devine vs. Michael Hopkins vs. Dan Parker

Jay: Cody Devine, who notably competed against Brian Kendrick on 205 Live last year, VAPED on his way to the ring, instantly making him the #1 heel on this show (although he didn’t do anything particularly heelish once the bell rang). Hopkins was ostensibly the babyface, because anyone rocking vintage Nintendo gear is automatically a face to anyone over 30.

Paul: That’s me! Hopkins even had a Power Glove on! I love the Power Glove… it’s so bad. It’s hard to boo a man with a Power Glove. But it was easy boo the next man out, “D-Man” Daniel Parker. Who came out shouting all sorts of unpleasantness at the ringsiders. I just wonder where he was from. I wish he had mentioned it.

Jay: Paul is kidding of course. Dan Parker is VERY CANADIAN and wants everyone to know about it.

Paul: Yes, I’ve seen maps of Canada that weren’t as obviously Canadian as this guy. Anyway, this was billed as a 4-way also featuring Rocket Boy D’Marco Wilson who was nowhere to be found. I’ll just assume the “King of SoCal” missed his flight as well.

Jay: Devine and Hopkins took the bulk of this match, with Parker occasionally stooging and breaking up pins from the outside. When I looked at the results after this show, I was shocked it clocked in at just shy of 13 minutes, because it felt like well over 20. None of the three men really had much of an idea on how to fill that time, and it felt like a collection of spots without a lot of coherence or natural flow. Hopkins did do the vintage Human Tornado hurricanrana after hanging off a basketball hoop, but it took a while to set up and didn’t look as natural as Tornado’s.

Paul: He was hanging from the rim! The highest risk move of the night, as he faced not only possible injury but expulsion at the discretion of the gym staff! Which thankfully didn’t occur. I guess it wasn’t as severe of an offense as say, wearing sagging pants. I’m just glad no one noticed my hard sole shoes.

Jay: Or my rollerblades! Back to the match, Parker proved his Canadian bona fides by doing a Sharpshooter AND a Crippler Crossface (which I guess is officially no longer taboo) in quick succession. Eventually, Parker dumped Hopkins out of the ring after Hopkins hit his Burning Hammer-ish finisher on Devine, and picked up the clean but unearned victory. Parker is a fun heel who got by far the most heat of the night, which was the only bright spot in this match.

Paul: Afterward Hopkins claimed Parker stole his win, and layed him out with another burning hammer to the delight of the fans who chanted USA at the evil foreigner. This match was a little off, it seemed like they had good ideas but executing them to their fullest proved to be a bit of a problem. Cool NES gear though…

Winner: Dan Parker

Intermission:

Paul: Intermission started at 8:14 PM. Jay took this time to get a picture at the merch table with DoomFly! I swear could write a column on just the weird stuff Jay has purchased at shows over the years (I still have that Saki Maemura keychain he got me).

Jay: It’s important to support the wrestlers! Indy wrestling is like 20% being an in-ring competitor, 80% being a t-shirt salesman. I actually still have a crate of indy wrestling odds and ends at my house, but sadly my Nanae Takahashi keychain is lost to the abyss.

Paul: After Jay was finished marking out, we finally got around to meeting SCU honcho Steven Bryant (Fan of Godzilla) for the first time. Only after Jay went up to the wrong guy asking if he was Steve.

Jay: Paul got a sampling of my wife’s unending frustration at being always unable to figure out who/what someone is pointing to – I’m actually pretty sensitive about it. I wear glasses for a reason!

Paul: Anyway, Steve is a nice guy. We are very grateful to Steve for bringing up our dusty old columns a few times recently. Intermission ended at 8:30, now back to action! Who will miss their flight next?

Match Five: Matt Vandagriff © vs. Lucas Riley – Versus Pro “Level Up” Championship Match

Paul: Here is a change, a match featuring Santino Bros. graduates! The green-haired Matt Vandagriff recently finished as the runner-up to yet another Santino alum Dom Kubrick in the 2018 SCU Rookie Of The Year balloting. There is no shame in that, some future big names finished as SCU ROY runner-ups (comically so in hindsight, again we still love ya, Joey Harder).

Vandagriff was originally billed as taking on Jake Atlas (don’t even ask where he was trained, you can guess). Who was double booked for AAW in Chicago tonight. A show he also ended missing after United Airlines turned heel on him (a problem Eli Everfly also faced a week later. I wonder Paul London was also booked on United…).

Jay: Promoters, seriously, stop booking wrestlers on United. They are the Shockmaster of airlines, if the Shockmaster had suffocated someone’s beloved dog when he tripped.

Paul: So no one gets anything. Which is too bad, I have heard good things about Atlas and wanted to see him live. I can’t win tonight.

It’s not all bad though, replacing Altas is Lucas Riley (yep, another Santino trainee). I didn’t know much about Lucas, but a quick YouTube search revealed a channel with the earliest videos being him as a little kid talking about his WWE action figures and being excited for SummerSlam 2011. The only comment on them is him saying “Awesome video” on his own video. Aww, that is great, warms my cynical heart. Can’t help but cheer for him after that. Now all grown up, he’s been all over SoCal lately, recently appearing in the SoCal 6-way at Game Changer Wrestling’s last LA show.

Jay: The “Level Up” Championship on the line here is contested in Versus Pro, a promotion in Las Vegas, and it’s defended here presumably because Vandagriff had the belt with him, and sure, why not?

These two obviously know each other and had a competent match that started with a bang as Riley immediately hit Vandagriff with a C4/standing Spanish Fly for a nearfall.

Remember when I said the crowd was great for 5/6ths of this show? Well, this is the 1/6th – they were absolutely dead for this match, which is too bad, because both guys put in a solid effort. Vandagriff, “The Natural Flyer” lived up to his name by hitting difficult spots smoothly, and with a look that could launch a thousand fanfics, should be getting bigger bookings soon. The end came when Vandagriff reversed a Small Package Driver (Seth Rollins’ indy finisher) into a small package of his own on the mat to retain.

Paul: Yeah, this was pretty solid, some nice stuff from both. Though the added title stipulation didn’t leave much doubt as to the winner. As Jay mentioned the law of diminishing returns was in effect on the crowd reaction here, it seemed to go the way of the buffalo as the show went on.

Winner and STILL Versus Pro “Level Up” champion: Matt Vandagriff

The RockNES Monsters (Johnny Yuma and BHK) and Richie Slade vs. Wolf Zaddies (Tito Escondido, Che Cabrera, and Rico Dynamite)

Paul: The two time SoCal Tag Team of the year, RockNES Monsters should need no introduction on this website. Long time staples of SoCal, although they have changed a bit since I last saw them. Johnny Goodtime/Kevin Martenson/Rockin Randy Rocket is now known as BHK apparently(?), and Yuma now looks like 1997 Eddie Guerrero if he dressed up as the Honky Tonk Man for Halloween. Teaming with them tonight is Richie Slade, a long time EWF regular. Who like half of this card, had also factored into the SCU Rookie Of The Year voting, finishing as the runner-up in 2012.

The opposing trio consisted of the man who beat out Slade for that 2012 Rookie of the year honor, “Latino Meat” Che Cabera. Who went full Chuck Taylor on a pair of little children in the front row. Scaring the life out of the little buggers, while their parents laughed. Delightful.

Completing the child- hating Wolf Zaddies trio are Tito Escondido and Rico Dynamite. Tito is (you guessed it!) also a product of Santino Bros, while Rico actually goes all the way back to the XPW Asylum. Before the match the evil trio shouted some words at DoomFly, who were buying food and/or drinks at the concession window (an exchange which in itself violated a multitude of gym rules). “Before the match they shouted some words at DoomFly who were buying food at the concession window (which probably counted as multiple violations of the posted gym rules).

Jay: As we’ve mentioned, this show kinda suffered from pacing problems – after a blazing hot start, the matches got progressively stagnant, so it was nice to close the show on a good old-fashioned pier-six brawl! I had to protect my new precious DoomFly picture on multiple occasions as the action spilled perilously close to me.

Paul: You left your DoomFly picture face down on the ground, Jay. I almost stepped on it.

Jay: Some of the strikes in this match were especially loud, which added to the chaotic nature of this match. The RockNES Monsters, who are solid vets in traditional tag team settings, did a good job controlling the pace of the brawl and Slade, who appeared on 205 Live during the Survivor Series quad-shot, was an effective face-in-peril. The climax of the match was when one of the Zaddies got caught with his pants down (literally), and we got the timeless sequence of “all the heels fall into their partners’ butt.” I was sure that RockNES was going over, but the Zaddies turned the tide and hit Slade with a triple strike to send the fans home…angry?

Paul: This was exactly what it should have been. Good fast paced action that got the crowd involved. Fun match from all. Although the heel team who had traumatized children earlier getting the victory felt like it closed the show on a sour note.

Winners: Tito Escondido, Che Cabrera, and Rico Dynamite

Paul: The show ended at 9:04 PM. We filed out in orderly fashion, and noticed the 2018 SoCal Tag Team of the year making out in the hallway. Now that is progress, you’d never see that from previous winners such as The Young Bucks or Arrogance. Good on you 2019! Also I was handed a flyer for another upcoming show at this venue. OMG Mr. California still wrestles?

Well, with the show at an end, it was now time for the long and arduous four hour drive home, all of which I will tell you about in sickening detail right now…

Jay: Uh, let’s not and say we did.

Paul’s Final Thoughts: Well, I’m willing to bet this won’t be one for the Baja Stars USA time capsule. The local talent did a fine job picking up the slack after the promotion lost all their normal special attractions to AAA (not to mention Paul London being M.I.A.). My only problem with the show was the pacing. As we mentioned during the review, it definitely blew its load early, leaving some matches in unfavorable positions. But still, as someone who is mostly unfamiliar with present day SoCal, this definitely helped spark my interest in attending more shows in the future (especially if they have Mr. Impressive on them).

Jay’s Final Thoughts: The other friend I brought with me to the show described his experience as, “I thought after the beginning it was going to be the best show ever…but yeah, it was fine I guess.” His feelings echo mine, as after a hot start (including putting the main event on first), the show limped to a finish until the 6-man tag injected some energy in the final stretch. Overall, it was a worthwhile show enhanced by the fun crowd, but not one you would drive four hours to see.

Baja Stars USA returns to San Diego on April 14th, headlined by a triple threat tag match between Pentagon/Fenix, Rey Horus/Flamita, and Puma King/Danny Limelight, as well as ECW alum Super Crazy vs. Aeroboy vs. Mortiz. Check SoCalUncensored for more details!

Jay: Thank you again to Steve at SoCalUncensored for allowing myself and Paul to return to the site, and I hope we don’t go another 11 years before doing it again. If you’d like to follow me and my creative work, my Twitter account is @IMCJasonD, and I have a comic book releasing on Kickstarter April 19th called The Naked Eye. It’s set in SoCal, somebody wears a lucha mask, bad guys get put through tables, and Abdullah the Butcher is namedropped, so it’s tangentially wrestling-related! You can find a free six-page preview on nakedeyecomic.com

Paul: This whole thing has secretly been one big ad for your comic book hasn’t it?

Jay: Yep.

Paul: You bastard. Anyway, thank you for reading! It was fun to do this again. See you all in eleven years.

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