With voting starting on the 2015 Southern California Year End Awards, I thought I’d take a minute to look back 15 years, to 2001, in what is easily the strongest rookie class in Southern California over the last 20 years.
In the late 90s to early 2000s the WWF Attitude era was at its peak, WCW was still popular, and ECW and increased availability of tapes from Japan and Mexico was introducing people to types of wrestling they hadn’t seen before. The success of ECW had another effect as well, promotions starting up hoping to be the next ECW. Every promotion in SoCal had their own school (aside from Freddy Valentine’s ACW, but hey, they had an alligator death match), so and with wrestling popularity at its zenith, they were full of eager students.
In 1999 B-Boy was the SoCal rookie of the year coming out of CCW’s Palace of Pain. In 2000 Samoa Joe coming out of UIWA, beating out Revolution Pro’s Rising Son and Excalibur. Looking back, they both very good years for rookies. Then 2001 came around.
Early on in the year, thanks in part to being active part of local wrestling fandom, SCU’s own Adair Cole, who wrestled under the name Shogun had tons of hype going for him. People were claiming he would be the runaway rookie of the year in January. Wrestling out of Revolution Pro he had the opportunity to feud with Excalibur, and have matches with the likes of Mr. Excitement and Ultra Taro Jr.
By mid-year people were still saying Shogun was a lock for rookie of the year, but three other wrestlers, who would make this the best rookie class in the last two decades, came on strong in the later half of the year.
Scott Lost, who was from San Diego but would drive to Orange County to train with UPW, came on late. He started to get some attention working UPW’s Matt Wars shows, wouldn’t get his shot on UPW’s big shows at the Galaxy until late in the year (though he did tag with Ryan Ruffio against B-Boy and Funky Billy Kim at a Los Angeles show). It was his match against B-Boy on December 19, 2001 at the Galaxy Theatre that really started to convince people he was the real deal.
Scott Lost finished 4th in the rookie of the year voting. In 2002 he and Joey Ryan won the tag-team of the year award. He would win the tag-team of the year twice overall, and finish as runner up three other times. Additionally he would be a part of 2005’s match of the year, he would be names Southern California’s most outstanding wrestler in 2008 and 2009 for his in-ring work, and he was named the Southern California wrestler of the year in 2008.
He is one of the founding members of PWG, and outside of SoCal he has wrestled for promotions such as Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, IWA Mid South, and Osaka Pro. While he retired from wrestling in 2010, Scott Lost is certainly one of the top five wrestlers in Southern California between 2001 and 2010.
Coming in 3rd in 2001’s rookie of the year voting is one of indy wrestling’s biggest stars right now, Joey Ryan. Starting out as Joey Shadow, teaming with Sid Shadow (in a tag team called, of all things, The Shadows), Joey began his career at EWF in September of 2000. By February 2001 he had changed his name to “The Revolution” Joey Ryan. In June of 2001 he made his UPW debut, tagging with Stitches to become Natural Selection. Throughout the year Joey wrestled everywhere and really started making a name for himself. He would appear almost weekly, sometimes more, on cards for SCWA, UPW, EWF, and WPW. He was certainly one of the hardest working rookies, and his workload helped him improve quickly. Despite debuting late in 2000, there was not much talk about him early in the year. By the end of the year it was clear he was quickly becoming one of the best wrestlers around and was a legitimate rookie of the year candidate (I had him 2nd on my ballot behind TJ Perkins).
Joey continued his incredible workload in 2002. In March he wrestled Shogun when TJ Perkins was not able to make the match in what was supposed to be the rookie of the year versus the runner up match (Shogun claimed himself rookie of the year by default). He would win tag-team of the year with Scott Lost in 2002. He followed that up with a match of the year against Super Dragon in 2004, and he was named 2006’s Southern California Wrestler of the Year.
Like Scott Lost, he is one of the six original founders of PWG. Since his debut Joey Ryan has wrestled all over the world, including Japan, Germany, Mexico, and Australia. He has worked for TNA, ROH, DDT Pro, and Lucha Underground. As strange as it is to type this, thanks to the incredible strength of his penis, he has become a viral celebrity that even my mother in law showed me a clip of him. Easily one of the biggest stars in indy wrestling today, and one of the true backbones of SoCal over the last 15 years.
In 2001 TJ Perkins was known as Pinoy Boy, and it seemed like every match he just kept getting better and better. TJ trained at EWF and IWC, and like Joey Ryan started wrestling everywhere. While Shogun was getting early hype for rookie of the year, oddly it was a match against Shogun in August of 2001 at Revolution Pro that started to turn the tide towards TJ Perkins. After the match there was lots of talk about how much crisper TJ looked than Shogun. A couple weeks later he teamed with Devon Willis against Los Cubanitos (Ricky Reyes and Rocky Romero) at UPW in what some considered the match of the night. His time limit draw with Spanky at December’s UPW show cemented his claim to the rookie of the year award.
The next year TJ Perkins made his debut in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He has also appeared in promotions such Ring of Honor, CMLL, Wrestling Society X, ECW, DragonGate USA and TNA. He is certainly is one of the best wrestlers in the United States. Jesse Hernandez once told me that TJ is going to end up being one of the best wrestlers to come out of the EWF.
While TJ Perkins hasn’t won the Southern California wrestling awards that Joey Ryan and Scott Lost have, that is mainly due to him not working as many matches in Southern California. He has been nominated for the most outstanding wrestler award almost every year since 2006, and finished runner up twice.
Since 2001 there have been other good rookie classes, but none that have had three wrestlers the caliber of TJ Perkins, Joey Ryan, and Scott Lost. It’s rare when one rookie gets to that level.