(by PHIL SCHNEIDER)
So because I am certifiable, I grab a cheap plane ticket and fly down to my old stomping grounds in the San Francisco bay area, to see my parents and check out the King of the Indies. I will delete stories of going to the Oakland Zoo with my mom (SCREAMER MONKEYS~!) and get right to a recap of the wrestling action.
Friday Night Showed up at 7:30, and missed the opening 8 man and my chance to see Super Chico (website said the show was starting at 8, damn you APW) and ran in to Bruce a lurker, old pal of Marcel’s and an all around solid guy. Bruce hooks me up with some 1990 EMLL (which will be reviewed in the next DVDVR.. synchronicity.) Long ceremony introing the legends and bringing out the 16 competitors, cool idea, but they should have only done it one of the two nights, as this was basically repeated on Saturday
“Anarchist” Doug Williams vs. “Scrap Iron” Adam Pierce
Kind of surprised they put this as the opener, considering it was bound to be the most mat based of the matches. Williams is just awesome on the mat totally freaky and carny and the crowd is really into whole match. Pierce is pretty much just there, as his main contribution seemed to be channeling every Iron Mike Sharpe heel move in the pokey. He did have a nice looking spin kick. Williams set the potato meter for the night by really laying in the uppercuts and forearms. Good stuff which is really different from what was done in the rest of the tourney.
Tony Jones vs. Bison Smith
Both guys have legit amateur credentials, and they did some nice amateur grasps early as they were taking each collar and elbow tie up into a greco roman lock, the idea early was that both guys were even as amateurs, although it was Jones who got the first throw. Jones suplexes looked really great as it didn’t look like Smith was jumping at all so Jones was just powering him over. The match fell apart a bit in the middle, as Jones started running the ropes and even climbed to the top, which was really counter to the entire vibe they were going for and really hurt the match. Jones does some things well, but he really need to prune down his moveset, eliminate the crappy leg drop and the punches, and stick to the suplexes and amateur stuff. Really brutal clothesline from Smith won the match. Sort of hit and miss for the most part, some stuff looked really good, some stuff looked pretty bad, I think these two have a great match in them, but it wasn’t tonight.
Scoot Andrews vs. Donovan Morgan
Pretty bad match, Scoot looked terrible as he was a beat off in most of his moves, there was this one segment with Scoot giving Morgan these weak chops and setting him up in that Sabu hold-the-middle-rope legdrop thing, I believe Bruce audibly groaned. Some nice spots by Morgan, but Andrews wasn’t coming along for the ride tonight. Worst match of the tourney.
Samoa Joe vs. Frankie Kaziarian
Bruce was pimping recent Samoa to me, and he delivered big as he looked really crisp here. Frankie was kind of there to take a beating, and he took said beating nicely, including eating a nasty running kick and taking a loony bump off the ring apron. This was basically a showcase for Joe but he looked really nice working the really stiff style which has become standard in your high end US Indies, and I want to se his ZERO One stuff bad.
American Dragon vs. Spanky
Best match of the first night, and a better match then their first round Super 8 match and their dying days of MCW match. They worked along mat section early with a lot of really nice stuff, including a section where American Dragon held Spanky in a cravate, and kept it on while Spanky attempted to counter out, with Dragon finishing the sequence with a sweet throw using the cravate. After the mat section, Dragon took control using nasty kicks and chops, and a hellacious running forearm, and then they had a big near falls section, with Dragon hitting a big top rope backdrop suplex, and Spanky hitting a jumping DDT. Finally Dragon wins with a Dragon Suplex. Both guys looked really good, with Spanky and Dragon both getting really over with a foreign crowd. I would have ended the match on the top rope suplex, but that was my only quibble.
Super Dragon vs. Christopher Daniels
Really disappointing match, as it was wrestled almost like a Glacier v. Super Calo WCWSN squash. SD worked a much more highspot based match then anything he has done recently, with his only real offense coming on a flip dive and a twisty standing splash. This looked like the 1998 Super Dragon, not the AJish 2001 SD. Besides the highspots it was all Daniels, who basically gave Super Dragon nothing before beating him. This looked political , as Roland is not a SD fan and may have resented all of the Super Dragon internet hype, and Daniels seemed to be booked to treated him like a jobber. Including taunting the Rev Pro fans in the audience. This could have been awesome under different circumstances, but in this atmosphere it was pretty bad. Worst Daniels match I have seen since he worked RVD, and worst SD match since his Juvi UPW match.
They had some light problems and had an impromptu intermission. Internet superstar Frank Jewitt finds me and me and Bruce go over and meet Steve Yohe, Jagdip, and the legendary jdw (who I pictured as much taller.) Unsurprisingly the liked the first part of the show less then me (although Steve was much kinder, then the rest of the snobs) although they were into American Dragon v. Spanky and Doug Williams.
A.J. Styles vs. Jardi Franz
This was another super match, I was expecting a total spotfest, but Styles did a really great job of carrying Jardi, cutting him off on comebacks, so when he did make a comeback it was credible and fit the match. Easily the best match of Jardi’s career, as it was built well, had hot spots and a well worked story, with some big spots (Jardi hits dive of the night with an over the corner post plancha, but unlike some of the other dives it fit well). With Styles being the bigger star, and Jardi attempting to pull a big upset. Finish was really great as Jardi finally is able to make his comeback, but Styles cuts him off, countering a rana into a caught arm piledriver for the win. Almost as good as the AD v. Spanky match and really the only match in the tourney that exceeded my expectations.
Vincenzo Massaro vs. Lo-Ki
Really fun match with the normal Lo-Ki stiff fest. The open has Vinnie take Lo-Ki down and Lo-Ki break the chinlock by kicking Vinny hard in the face. I think this energized Vinny, as he started just pasting Lo-Ki with forearms, including one which knocked him across the ring. Sort of a Ki by the numbers match, but Vinny hung with him the whole way, really working a solid stiff match, with out busting out any big headrops or complex stuff. Finish was a 450 which is a spot Lo-Ki should dump, he didn’t hit it clean and it doesn’t fit his character at all, same with the dives to the floor. I liked this more then any Vinny match I have seen, just hard ass wrestling, and none of the flourishes he can be guilty of. Good violent stuff.
I then called big Dean in Richmond for the late night update and Bruce gets to talk to Dean, cementing his meet the internet geeks experience. Then me and the tOa boys head off to Denny’s and eat bad food, served by a very pretty stoned waitress, while discussing the pro-wrestling we all love. I start my irritating leitmotif by trying to name drop IWA Mid-South whenever possible, and we talk a lot about New Japan and Riki Choshu and the Destroyer and the DVDVR 500, and it was a truly solid time.
After an early lunch in Berkeley (TAI SAN~! PORK LO-MEIN~!) I head down to Vallejo to check out the boot camp. I catch the end of the Destroyer’s talk and heard him tell some very funny stories. After meeting the Destroyer and hearing the tOa boys pimp him hard, I need Dick Beyer footage yesterday.
After that, some of the rookie APW workers (Big Peter Snott, Billy Bricks, Sean Patrick O’ Doul and Tommy Blaze) worked a tag match. This was a training session, with all of the guys showing they have a really nice handle on the basics. Lots of simple pro matwork which was really fun to watch, Snott who legit looks like a guy who should blow up walking up the rings step impressed me the most. I love a fat guy who mat wrestles.
They then ran a training camp for APW students, Vincenzo Massaro is the head trainer, and they teach mainly on taking bumps and simple mat work, again focusing on getting a good base of knowledge before you work on your quebrada’s. Robert Thompson was their as well, and served as the base in an armdrag train, after Vinny put over his armdrags as the best in wrestling (during a talk about the difference between East Coast and West Coast armdrags which set my wrestling nerd heart afflutter.)
After the boot camp they ran a training camp for fans who wanted to learn some basics, I packed my American University gym shorts and carried my New Balance to California to give this a shot so I got suited up. Vinny and Tommy Blaze ran the camp and we ran through a couple of simple bumps. The somersault bump, handstand bump and low schoolboy, we also practiced locking up. After taking three schoolboy bumps in a row, I decide that if I ever go to wrestling school, it will be that Jimmy Valient school, punching, matwork, stalling, but no bumps. Vinny also demands a higher ranking on the 500, blowing my attempt to be incognito. Donovan Morgan shows up and gives sort of a RF shoot interview about the business including getting potatoed by Bradshaw, and a discussion of nutrition techniques, the fallacy of highspot artists and Richard Slingers physique. One ominous portent was when he made a statement about not risking his NOAH contract in front of 200 people.
I go get some Jack in the Box (QUESTIONABLE MEAT SUBSTANCE TACOS~!) and head back for the big second night. On my way to the rest room, I get recognized by an unmasked Super Dragon who intros himself, and I wonder where exactly my picture is on the internet (Fuck you in advance Dean). I grab a bleacher seat and holler at Jag and get jazzed for another night of quality indy wrestling.
They intro the legends and the remaining 8 wrestlers, which was cool, but a carbon copy of Friday’s ceremony. They should have saved it for the second night or worked out something unique.
Donovan Morgan vs. Bison Smith
Last December I went to an APW show and these two had an excellent match, so I was jazzed for this. Not to be unfortunately, as Smith apparently blows his knee out doing a front flip as his ring entrance. He tries to tough it out, but Morgan just rolls him up with a small package for the win. Smith gets helped to the back, and hopefully isn’t seriously hurt.
Doug Williams vs. American Dragon
I think it is unfortunate that a British guy using an Anarchy gimmick doesn’t come into the ring to “Anarchy in the UK.” This was probably my favorite match of the night, I am a mark for matwork and Williams and AD just ripped it up. Lots of really smooth counters by both guys. Williams really looked great and, I wished this match was a semi final so I could see Williams work more. Sort of interesting to see how the British snakepit style meshed with Dragon’s puro matwork.
Samoa Joe vs. Lo-Ki
After the first round I was expecting violence from this match, and it didn’t disappoint. I have watched a lot of Lo-Ki matches and this was probably the stiffest I have seen. They were trying for a worked shootish kind of thing, as the opening matwork was more of a struggle then the smooth matwork of Williams and Dragon. At one point Lo-Ki went on his back in the guard crab, like Royce Gracie, it was kind of neat but I don’t know if the idea was that Lo-Ki was afraid to trade with Joe, which makes no sense, or it was just something he thought up. The end was basically like the Kawada v. Sasaki match, with both guys just pummeling each other until Ki is able to hit a nasty kick and put on that twisting submission he does. Not the smoothest match, but really intense and violent.
A.J. Styles vs. Christopher Daniels
Total spotfest, which sort of fed the worst of Chris Daniels as a worker. I don’t think either guy hit two moves in a row the entire match. Styles hits a spot, Daniels counters, Styles counters, Daniels counters. Rinse reapeat. The spots they hit were really crisp and neat (except for a blown Plancha by Styles), but each move meant the same. Styles hits his Styles clash off the second rope, which was a huge “Holy shit” spot, and Daniels is back on offense less then a minute later. Kind of reminded me of those ECW matches, where individual moves are amazing but it adds up to nothing.
Pretty fun for a Battle Royal, which naturally suck, Chico took a pretty big beating and took a nice bump. My man Big Peter Snott took a nice bump too. The match ended with just Spanky, Vinny Massarro and Robert Thompson. Nice work here and Thompson takes out Spanky with a nasty reverse brainbuster. Then Thompson and Massaro work a nice mini-match, although after all of Vinny pimping of Thompson’s armdrags during the boot camp, Robert didn’t throw one armdrag.
American Dragon vs. Donovan Morgan
The match started with both guys spitting on each other, and then had some stiff strikes. Morgan quickly took it to the floor and whipped AD into the guardrails, Morgan was on a Bret Hart at a house show mood tonight, as may not have even left his feet for a bump. The end came really quick with a double pin after a suplex with AD lifting his shoulder. Worst match of the night, really disappointing. I am not sure what the circumstances behind it are, but Morgan didn’t show up at this tourney.
Christopher Daniels vs. Lo-Ki
Much better paced match then Daniels v. Styles, they opened with Lo-Ki htting some stiff kicks on Daniels and Daniels bailing to establish that he didn’t want any part of Ki’s kicks. Daniels took over the advantage by working over Ki’s arm, and that was the base of the counters and Daniels work. Ki did his handspring on the arm which was a pretty big flaw, but otherwise this match was really swank. On the selling issue, which obviously is a contentious point, I think someone can sell varying degrees of damage. Just because an arm or a leg is hurt, doesn’t mean that you have to sell it like it is useless. Shaking it after hitting a move or clutching at it after an impact is fine selling, Lo-Ki was working like his arm was damaged, not like his shoulder was separated, he probably shouldn’t have done a handspring but clapping hands with the fans is fine.
The Meltz stops bye, and I avoid mentioning his hate of Jumbo, Nagata v. Nishimura, love of Test, suckiness of Ben Miller or the sweater he was sporting. I do make one crack about Vinny’s physique though. Meltz dug Joe v. Ki adding an ally to the tOa crew who hated it.
Vinny Massaro/Jardi Franz/Frankie Kazarian/Adam Pearce vs. Scoot Andrews/Spanky/Tony Jones/Super Dragon
This was an MPRO style 8 man, and was a lot of fun. Some comedy spots, some dives and a hot ending, nothing to set the world afire but I really enjoyed it. Super Dragon looked good here, as he hit the biggest dive and had a fun exchange of Misawa elbows with Vinny. Scoot looked weak again, and inexplicably gets the pin. Spanky was fun here too, as he is a neat worker who seems to be in AD big shadow a bit, but he is cool in a very separate way. I would have liked to see him work someone else in the tourney (maybe save AD v. Spanky for the second round) to give him a chance to shine with another worker.
American Dragon vs. Lo-Ki
This is the third time I have seen this match live, and while it was flawed in ways which made it the third best of the three, it is still a magical match up and I don’t think I enjoy a current rivalry in wrestling more. Lots of neat stuff in this match with a lot of really stiff work a usual, and a lot of playing off their previous matches, with each trying to hook in the submissions which got them their wins. My favorite section was both guys locking each other in indian deathlocks and standing on their heads while just slapping the hell out of each other. The end was great too, as Dragon kept going back to the Cattle Mutilation which is how he beat Lo-Ki in July, initially Ki gets a rope break, the second time Ki taps but the ref is on the other side and Dragon can’t hold the bridge anymore. He finally has to go back to it a third time for the win.
There where problems though, while I think Dragon’s leg was more a case of him working through a legit injury, rather then a storyline point, Lo-Ki should have either ditched the bandage or sold the arm more (although it was not the match killing point for me, that it was for the tOa boys, and I don’t believe in breaking kayfabe in crowd chants, kind of like yelling “That’s fake” at a magician.) Also I didn’t like Lo-Ki doing a dive, it was impressive as a stand alone spot but Dragon had to wait to long to catch him and it doesn’t fit the style of match they were working. Also they burned too many big moves at the end, the July MOTY was so great because it was so simple, this got too extreme with top rope backdrops and Ki-Krushers being kicked out of. Still the vast majority of the match was excellent and the crowd was frenetic for the end.
Very cool ceremony at the end, with all the wrestlers getting ribbons and speeches by Roland, AD, Bockwinkle and Red Bastien. Jason Deadrich lives his heel manager gimmick by giving me bad directions to the party, so after a fruitless search for the mysterious Chevy’s I head back to Berekely after a great weekend of wrestling. For match quality and atmosphere this beats the 2001 Super 8 and was just an awesome show.