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MPW "Elements" 1/12/02 review
by Digable James Cobo

No prologue this time - I'm too lazy. HOO RAH FOR LAZY.


Chris Protege comes over, and because we are Wrestling Dorks of the True Cloth we watch tapes for like five hours. I'll try to do a full report tomorrow, but here's the skinny on what we watched, for those who care:

- *ALL* THE LUCHA: The Lost Torneo was really good, SHOCKER~!~!~! is awesome, the Infernales rule the planet, Apolo Dantes still has it in him, and EMLL has too many great workers to decide who #1 is. General consensus is that LUCHA RULES.
- BENOIT/AUSTIN FROM THE EDMONTON SMACKDOWN: I missed this, like a dumbass, and having seen it now I can safely say that it's one of the five best WWF-style matches I've ever seen in my life. BEST BELT SHOT EVER.
- VARIOUS TWA STUFF: Naturally I dusted off the best AD vs. Spanky match I've ever seen, the one where Spanky SMOKES AD. Then we head the opposite direction and watch Buffet Brothers promos (and matches) and Mumbasa stuff and of course the BUSTER TIME PROMO~!~!!!!. General consensus is that ALL of the AD and Spanky stuff is essential, and that the promo is the greatest thing ever. And midgets should not be hidden inside coolers.
- SANTITO VS. NICHO FROM 4/6/01: Eh. Technically great, but I couldn't keep my attention up. Still, probably worth checking out.

We then go pick up my friend Eric, and hi-larious hi-jinx occur en route as I manage to miss the JCC something absurd like eighty times in five minutes. Inside, we meet Doron et al, with whom politicking is done about wrestling, USC, movies, and so on. Scrub inadvertantly convinces me not to shell out the sawbucks to go see Gorillaz. Then the bell rings and HERE WE GO!

Oh, wait - it's announced that Messiah's representing MPW in CZW tonight. I seriously doubt that the match he had with Justice Pain was as good as the one he would have had with Frankie Kazarian, but back to that in a bit.

1. Jason Allgood/Pinoy Boy/XTC vs. Joey Ryan/Scott Lost/?(I forget the name he went by, but he was Ultra Hot Whaterver-His-Name-Was) This particular review is basically going to be me taking the opportunity to congradulate Jason Allgood (mit nu EVIL HEEL GOATEE) for turning in the flat-out greatest performance I've ever seen him in, including the Miracle Sinister Carryjob of 4/13/01. He was just ON tonight, probably due to a combination of:

1. being in a six-man where two other guys could pick up the slack if he got outstripped,
2. working heel - and working it quite well, I might add,
3. not squaring off against people who work styles that conflict with his own.

Basically, Allgood's role - and he was in there a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time - was to hit some non-tricky spots, and to hit them smoothly, and that the rest would work itself out from there. He didn't have to contribute anything memorable to the story, because the story was kept to a minimum (it basically boiled down to your basic 1998 WCWSN Heels Vs. Faces type match), and as a result of concentrating exclusively on his work, worked a DAMN fine match. And ironically, the one element of the story that he contributed most to - that of keeping the endangered face, typically Scott Lost, away from being able to tag out - seemed to come as an aftereffect of his concentration, as compared to his labored plot points in the Rising Son match. I've been saying Allgood's not without potential for a while, and IMHO he just needs to keep it simple, and I've never felt more vindicated than I did after seeing his match tonight.

Of course, there WERE other guys in the match too, especially Scott Lost. Like Allgood, I haven't been overly impressed with his output, but for different reasons - whereas Allgood seemed overambitious, Lost just seemed prone to pointless highspots. Here, however, all he was really required to do was sell and hit big moves every now and then, and he did that very, very well. Every time I began to wonder why they were leaving him in for so long, he'd hit a NICE move and I'd be reminded again. And of course, Pinoy Boy continues his inexorable climb to being a real player in the indy scne by putting on another standout performance, largely by being responsible for bringing ALL the stiffness to the table. Even XTC, Joey Ryan, and Nise Ultra Hot, who were unfortunately overshadowed by the other three in the match, managed to play their respective heel-face roles quite well, hit their spots, and basically let the chips fall where they may.

I think what surprised me most about this match was how economical it seemed. Nothing seemed particularly wasted, it didn't seem needlessly complex, it never felt rushed or overlong...basically, this was a match that played to the strengths of everyone involved and downplayed their weaknesses as much as possible. I typically complain when a match faile to be ambitious, but here, I don't see the need. Everyone in this match is young, hungry, and if this match is any indication, has the talent to put something worthwhile together, but they need unambitious matches like this to let them explore their strengths and limitation. I'd call the match **, but make no mistake about it - I was IM-PRESSED.

2. The Cash Money Brothers vs. Silver Tiger/El Cholo I'd never heard of the Cash Money Brothers before, but I was QUITE high on the WPW boys. Naturally, they took the loss. The problem seemed to be a dyed-in-the-wool style clash - the Brothers seemed like they were simply wrestling the WPW boys *wrong*. Instead of playing to their greatest advantage - their size advantage - and breaking out power moves, they seemed content to confine their offense primarily to basic, low-impact stuff, aside from stuff like the inverted powerbomb, which is quickly becoming the US Indy replacement for the punch. Ordinarily, I'd congradulate them for knowing their limitations - which I do - but when you're going up against a team as high-impact and flashy as the WPW guys, you are in TROUBLE - which they were. They didn't look powerful, they looked slow; and when the WPW guys did the job it looked like they were jobbing to a team which wasn't in their league.

That being said, for the most part the Brothers didn't seem like the WORST tag team I'd ever seen - and it'll take a lot to unseat Kronik and the Harriseseseses and the Beautiful People. For the most part, they seemed competant - if not particularly exciting - which bodes well for them should they make efforts to improve. And of course the WPW guys were ON, especially Cholo, who IMSMR didn't blow anything at all. But this just wasn't either team's night; the potential for a solid match dynamic was there, but they just didn't pull it off. 1/2*

And out comes Christopher Daniels - flanked by Spanky - to grace us with a promo. Given that Daniels is responsible for the best indy promo I've ever seen (the one before the Angle match from UPW in 2000), I had high hopes. It's scary how good he is on the microphone, considering that he hasn't been working in an environment that's exactly conducive to interview skills, and it's a testament to his desire to succeed - a desire which I can't help but be convinced of its imminent realization - that he worked on the skill of interviews in spite of the climate. His interview here is certainly solid, definitely clever, and a really great example of how to get heat in the Mid-South Coliseum if it were transported to Sherman Oaks and flashed forward in time seventeen years (i.e. insult the hometown, insult the hometown favorite, call everyone ugly/fat/gay, you know the drill). Solid stuff, albeit not on the level of the "I don't have a wife to steal" high water mark set two years ago. It's also worth noting that at this point, Spanky is not wearing THE hat.

Before the next match, I remark to Eric that I never thought I'd be watching indy wrestling in the same room as giant dreidels. Remember that.

3. Phenomenal Phil vs. Frankie " FOR THE LOVE OF THE LORD, GET AWAY FROM THE LIGHTS!" Kazarian If any fed out there is looking for a reason to organize its card, look no further than this match. On the last show, Kazarian had a match that was good in terms of executing moves, but abysmal in terms of story, structure, and build. Similarly, on the last show - and the one before it - Phil had basically demonstrated that I was relatively correct in my assumption that he's essentially Everything I've Ever Seen In Wrestling Ever. Come THIS show, however, Phil gets a chance to shine, and Kazarian gets a chance to live up to all the hype surrounding him, and they both smash the ball DEEP into left field.

Primarily, the most compelling thing about this match was the way the story played out. Pre-match, Phil gets on the mic and essentially does a sentimental babyface turn, saying that he's from Sherman Oaks and that he dedicates the match to an old friend who "walked the halls" of the JCC. It's a great, professional gesture, of course, but it also ironically demonstrates something distinctly indyish about him - the fact that he's unable to separate his work from his personal life. In a sense, it makes him less of a pro wrestler - while making him more of an everyman.

Now in walks Frankie Kazarian, the essennce of Pro Wrestlers Today - tall, BIG, and looking EXACTLY like Kurt Angle in the face. He IS pro wrestling, and that's where the story comes down - it's the story of Phil, scrappy little everyman taking on the superman Kazarian. But it gets even better; Phil, despite his humanizing turn, still sticks with his whole "I may be short and Phil, but at least I'm not YOU" routine, insulting audience members etc., in an effort to get the crowd behind his opponent in the match dedicated to his friend. Irony: it's INTERESTING.

Mostly, it plays out in the moveset - Kazarian's moveset is suspiciously polished, and those spots that he hit recklessly and in great volume against Ricky Reyes look AWESOME here. He's also able to apply his more-professional - and therefore fuller - sense of wrestling acumen to know juuuuuuuuuuuust when he's got an opening, which is why the momentum shifting on reversals works SO well here. And finally, he's willing to take anything his opponent's able to give, a must for making one's opponent look credible.

That being said, I *REALLY* wanted to talk about Phil's performance. Technically speaking, it wasn't as good as Kazarian's - he blew some spots, and his moveset was occasionally ludicrous (I remember saying something to Chris about Phil being the shortest person in the world to use a gorilla press slam), but from a whole-match perspective, it was by far the harder of the two roles. Phil contributed enormously to the way the match was paced; he spent most of the time selling, and his offensive flurries were frequently short, so he basically was there to enhance Kazarian. Of course, it went beyond that - Phil essentially had to be a chameleon, shifting back and forth between sympathetic David facing brutish Goliath and a sneering Iago doing his best to unseat the defender of Professional Wrestling. I was stricken with astonishment at how well he was able to do just that.

But before you start thinking that this was a MotYC, let me assure you that it wasn't. Unlike the first two matches, ambition here would have probably helped the match a ton. The storyline was subtle, but it was pretty monomaniacal; it wasn't being told any other way than the one I just mentioned, and it wasn't propped up with any supporting storylines like working on a specific body part to a particular end, or using past techniques that have worked before, or whatever. As a result, the match came off...well, indyish, because they basically wrestled your standard back-and-forth match that just happened to have an awesome storyline right below the surface. And honestly, if they'd had some time to plan it a little more and not just thrown it together after Messiah went off to Boo New Jersey, it could have REALLY been something to see. I'll call the match **1/2, but I liked it a million times more than that. Whenever someone says I'm stupid for watching wrestling the way I do, refusing to enjoy so much stuff because of flaws, I hold up matches like this, because I know that all I'm doing is increasing my appreciation for the few things I do enjoy. And I know damn sure that I enjoyed the SHIT out of this. Now all Phil needs to do is change his entrance music to "Bouncin' Back" and he's my new favorite wrestler ever :)

And then the greatest thing in the world happened.

Some...guy...charged the ring, wielding one of the aforementioned Giant Cardboard Dreidels and clearing the ring of Phil and his manager. I don't think it's exaggeration to say that NOBODY had ANY idea who he was, because he got ZERO reaction despite bearing the single greatest foreign object ever. But, as Eric and Chris and I start cracking jokes about Star of David death matches and such, two things happen: he explains about the JCC getting shut down, and Phil returns to the ring and PICKS UP THE DREIDEL. And the guy keeps pleading with Phil to give money to the center with the fans throwing out resounding chants of "USE THE DREIDEL" and such. And eventually, yes, Phil did clock the guy with the Giant Cardboard Dreidel, and it was the single funniest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. I was *CRYING* I was laughing so hard. I LOVE IT ALL, and I sure do mean I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT ALL.

4. Spanky vs. Super Dragon A really unfortunate match. They started out slow, laying the foundation of a story that looked like Dragon trying to hit moves with big impact to put Spanky away early vs. Spanky trying to prove that he could hang with Dragon on the mat. All was going well until about five or so minutes in, when Dragon went for an enzui chest kick and HIT the floor, clutching his knee. The rest of the match was basically the pair calling spots in the ring and doing the best they could to bring it home early.

Still, if anyone ever asks me why I call Super Dragon the greatest walking US indy worker, I'll show them THIS match. Primarily, Dragon does one of the greatest gut-it-out jobs I've ever seen, first by simply running the ropes - a lot - then by doing a lot of moves that require him to put significant strain on his knees and thighs, like the Supernatural Driver he used to finish Spanky off, and finally of course by doing a better dive than a lot of people do healthy. It was amazing to see, and speaks volumes about his desire to give the fans the best match he can deliver. But I was actually even more impressed by his efforts to inject psychology into the match, despite it being called on the fly due to his injury. He teased moves, he did the dive to "prove to Spanky" that his tactics weren't working, and he did his best to adhere to what seemed to be his original game plan (the big-moves-now thing). Color me impressed.

I was also quite impressed by Spanky, who did a remarkable job of playing his role in the psych and doing his best to protect Dragon after the injury. For instance, when Dragon went down, I was convinced it was a work, because Spanky went over and gave him a WICKED Stump Puller, but thinking about it later I remembered Spanky pulling on the leg that Dragon wasn't holding. Moreover, he proved to be unafraid to take some wicked bumps, notably a Supernatural Driver which I wouldn't take for a million bucks. But it's a damn shame he didn't get to show off what he's capable of in a real match with Dragon, because I *KNOW* they're a pair of really great wrestlers. DJC CALLS FOR A RETURN MATCH after Dragon gets all healed up.


5. Rising Son/Excalibur vs. The Ballard Brothers First and foremost: If your gimmick is that you're from Canada, MAKE SURE YOU CALL PEPOPLE HOSERS. It's just common sense :) And props to whoever came up with the camera skit idea.

I was really looking forward to this match - I haven't seen the Ballards in a little over a year, but I doubted that they'd gotten worse, and I knew for a fact that Son and Excalibur had gotten much, much better. And I wasn't disappointed at all, because this proved to be one of the best possible ways to showcase everyone in the match. The Ballards got to do This Is Heel Tag-Team Wrestling, Son got to be the showiest, most exciting wrestler of the night, and Excalibur got to bust out all the moves that got him over as a badass.

Actually, IMHO Excalibur was the most compelling part of this match. In every other match I've seen him in, he's mostly been notable for his potential, but this match was the first time that he really showed that potential being realized. It was unfortunate that he decided to try so much stuff that didn't really fit in with his persona (most notably the Sayama feint - he's more an efficient ass-kicker than a flashy motherfucker), but the rest of his time he was just being a SPECTACULAR cock - fucking up Rising Son, stiffing the Ballards in the face with elbows, and hitting one of the greatest Shining Wizards I've ever seen (possibly magnified by the fact that unlike in Mutoh's matches, I know they're coming, but I know DAMN sure that the one here was better than Reckless Youth's). He seems to be coming together as a wrestler, and if that happens, the sky's the limit.

The match was also interesting because it allowed Rising Son to play Face In Peril to his heart's content, which he arguably does better than anyone else in the promotion. He did seem a little hampered by the size of the crash zone, preventing us from seeing the World's Greatest Quebrada et al, but he made do fairly nicely. I think a lot of people - myself included - tend to dismiss him simply because he's so flashy and, compared to his peers like Dragon, B-Boy, and Excalibur, not as into creating context for his matches, but I always feel bad about it. I know for a fact that this match wouldn't have worked nearly as well without Rising Son here - he sold like a champ, made the Ballards' endless string of awesome double-teams look DEATHY, and hit spots that were really great, yet weren't too big for the beating he was taking.

As for the Ballards, they may be the best enhancement talent around. I really do want to see more of their matches, because like Son, if the RevPro guys had been facing anyone else, this match wouldn't have worked. The Ballards seem to have this innate gift of making themselves look awesome without overshadowing their opponents, which is a really great skill to have. Here, they sold great, and weren't afraid to bump like pinballs. I do wish they'd work a little stiffer, because ESPECIALLY when Excalibur started throwing them 'bows, their strikes looked suspiciously Rockish. I'd also argue that the only thing they really need as a team right now is a consistent finishing move to build to, because after a certain point, this just looked like a team doing every double-team move they could think of to the Rev Pro guys. Nevertheless, this match was fun as all hell, DEFINITELY worth watching. **3/4. And I'll say that I've got absurdly high expectations for the next Excalibur match now :)

6. B-Boy vs. Samoa Joe Match of the night. I couldn't be more impressed with Samoa Joe, who like American Dragon came back from Japan as a BEAST~!. The whole match was basically set up to be the world's greatest Jun Akiyama vs. Mitsuharu Misawa by-way-of-Sherman-Oaks match ever seen, as they emphasized neck bumps, fighting spirit, and basically worked each other over like the mid-90s AJ high-enders did. But Joe...JESUS CHRIST is he good. I need to see ALLLLLLLLL the Zero-One and NOAH now, because if he worked half as stiff there as he did here, he'd be the best worker on the card by default. By the end of the match, he was WASTING B-Boy with lariats that had my eyes bugging out of my head. But beyond that, he seems to have as firm a grasp on build as %99 of the rest of the US indy world; unlike most of the other matches on this card, the moves seemed to progress logically in intesity, making Joe look very methodical and professional. But unlike a lot of wrestlers who fall into that trap (*coughsnxxxhackMISAWAhork*), Joe avoided looking like he was someone way out of B-Boy's league, someone just there to pin the local guy and pick up a check. Mostly, he did this by taking CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY bumps (notably the dive by B-Boy and the Williams-esque Backdrop Driver), but as big as those moves were, it was the little openings he gave to B-Boy that made it look very, very credible.

Of course, it's not like B-Boy was sitting on his hands. Hell, I'd say he wrestled smarter here than in any other match I've ever seen him in. He played the role of Spunky Babyface Hero Guy to the nth degree, despite sporting the traditional Evil Heel Goatee. But instead of relying on his traditional arsenal - iconoclasm variations, shotays, and notably the Flowsion - he used moves which were either distinctly Japanese (i.e. the aforementioned backdrop driver), which would have done more damage to Joe as they were the types of moves that had beaten him lately, or simply balls-out risky, like that NUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTS headbutt dive he did to the floor that had a room full of people wondering if he'd just broken his neck. I didn't like how the end slowly turned into a kick-out-of-a-credible-finisher-a-thon, but if they had to go that route, they did it the best possible way - compare this match to the Reyes vs. Kazarian match from the last MPW show if you need a visual aid. But FUCK, man, this match was GOOOOOOOOOOD. Joe is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD. B-Boy is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD. Hell, they should just put him against Excalibur for next time and give 'em both a chance to see what they can do. In the meantime, this was somewhere in the ***1/2-***3/4 realm, and probably the best non-Super Dragon match I've ever seen live. Good job all around.

In here somewhere, the Rev comes out to pluck some kid out from the audience to inform everyone it's his birthday. I am SHOCKED that nobody started booing him.

7. Los Cubanitos vs. Aggravated Assault When they brought out AA to challenge the Cubanitos for the titles, I deeply wasn't expecting much since they looked exactly like the lost indy sons of Kronik and the Harriseseses. But LO AND BEHOLD, they didn't stink up the place. Mind you, they weren't spectacular or anything, but they brought the psychology, progressed from working the arm to doing shoulder/neck power moves, and didn't blow anything too spectacularly. The guy with the short hair seemed worlds better than the other guy, but neither one seemed to actively suck as or anything.

And I'd also like to congradulate the Cubanitos for taking the king of all on-the-fly matches - a replacement in a title match - and making the opposition look credible as all hell. They gave AA sooooooooooo much offense that it looked ridiculous at first, but then by like the 20 mark, it actually started looking like the mystery team had a chance in hell of winning. Like just about everyone else, I was just waiting for the Cubanitos to start going all Beautiful People on AA, but I betcha that they didn't due to AA keeping up with them. Nevertheless, there wasn't a shortage of stiff shots, especially in the getting-slapped-in-the-face department. My main complaint about this match is that it *was* patently obvious who was going to win, and as a result the drama was essentially sapped out of it. I also thought that as far as being a title match, this one was just kinda "there" - when the most spectacular element of the match is how roundly solid it was, that's not really something you'll be telling your grandkids about years from now ("Siddown, now, y' little scamps; Pappy's gonna tell you about the time Ryan Rufio no-showed and the Cubanitos had to face off against Aggravated Assault." God, I'd make the worst grandfather ever). Nevertheless, I'm not going to complain about a six when I was expecting nothing more than a two.

8: Christopher Daniels vs. Tech IX (MPW Title Match) Daniels is just THE SHIT to see live. I always forget about how complete he is as a wrestler, but seeing him live showed me that yes, Virginia, he can move smoother than just about everyone else out there, play to the crowd with the best of them, and carry a match all by his lonesome, because he did all three of those here. Actually, it's probably not fair to say he carried Tech IX, because Daniels didn't totally smoke him - he let Tech have his segments of offense, and basically set him up as the biggest babyface of the night (well, after Kazarian and his Platoon of Rats) by being the most spectacularly effortless cock in all the land. And it's not like Tech's a bad wrestler, either - he executes his moves fairly well, and rarely bites off more than he can chew. It's just that in terms of charisma, he's just kind of there - basically, his persona is that he's a fairly intense guy named after a gun.

What I did NOT like about this match was its simplicity. Basically, this was a long Jakked match - quick transitions, minimal selling, and targeted work having absolutely no long-term effect. They pretty much got twenty minutes to go out there and do all of their spots as crisply as they could. And I'll admit that they did that very well - I don't recall anything being blown conspicuously. Still, Tech was in there with one of the best US indy workers trodding the sod; if ever there was a time for him to experiment and try some of the trickier stuff, this was it. It was clear that at least early on, Daniels wanted to take the match in that direction, as he did a big segment where Tech worked on his arm, but it was quickly forgotten. I also thought the booking kind of wasted this chance for Tech IX to make a name for himself. After all, this was his first defense in MPW of the MPW title; his win should be a little more definitive than a schoolboy rollup when Daniels is arguing with the ref.

Nevertheless, I've certainly seen worse matches than this. It's just that it was solid, when it could have been dynamic. I think on tape it'll turn out a little worse for the wear (as compared to B-Boy vs. Joe, which I'd bet will turn out AWESOME on tape). Call it ** and call it a night.

Post-match, there's a huge beatdown by Joe, B-Boy, Kazarian, and Prime Time Peterson on Tech. My guess is a one-night tourney for next time, with the winner getting a shot at Tech, but then again, I am a film student, so I'm not above stupid mistakes :)

Anyway. Overall, a VERY good show, albeit one marred by an unfortunate injury in what was shaping up to be a contender for best match of the night. The best thing about this card was the consistency - aside from the Brothers vs. WPW match, there wasn't a bad match on the show. I'm also extraordinarily glad to see talent stepping up and carving out niches for themselves - mostly Allgood and Phile - as well as other wrestlers - take a bow, Excalibur, B-Boy, and Joe - finally apparently harnessing their potential and taking steps to being actual great WRESTLERS (as compared to great US indy wrestlers). Definitely worth checking out.

Digably Yours,
Digable James Cobo
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