Thanks to http://www.digits.com for their badass righteous free counters
Pro: Don`t Call It A Comeback 3/22/02 Review
No prologue - I mean, seriously, does anyone actually read them? En lieu, I`ll just say that the rush-hour drive from LA to Pomona is a Large, Angry Bitch, as well as that Hybrid`s CD is really, really, REALLY good.
Pre-show, they actually do the National Anthem, as led by Corporal Stryker. Knowing the local crowds, I`m surprised someone didn`t boo.
1. Top Gun Talwar vs. Corporal Stryker Pre-match, Talwar gets GIGANTIC heat from the Legion of Preteens sitting in front of me just for being in the building, and Stryker gets probably the biggest face pop I`ve ever heard on a RevPro undercard for the aforementioned Patriotic Tomfoolery (as well as for handing out a bunch of Teeny American Flags).
Y`know, say what you will about the SoCal lower-cards, but I get a kick out of them; I`m always really interested to see if/how people improve. Case in point: Jon Talwar. About a month ago I was seeing him have a greatly-inferior match at CPW in front of eight people (not counting the La Raza guys, who would have been there anyway), blowing a couple of spots pretty badly; here, he didn`t really try anything too fancy, and the match turned out just fine. Talwar spent a lot of time selling, which was definitely the right choice - Talwar`s offense isn`t very state-of-the-art, and he actually seems to have pretty decent natural instincts about effective selling, so there you go. And when he did go on offense, he didn`t do anything particularly high-end (although the image of Jon Talwar - the only person in the universe shorter than me - doing a bearhug is a gift to me from the Gods of Wrestling), but then again everything he did looked fairly effective. The same, unfortunately, can`t be said about Stryker; ironically, his strikes looked REALLY bad (not in that there was a lot of air, but that it just looked like he was pulling his punches BIG-TIME), and unlike at CPW it was plainly obvious that he was protecting Talwar with his (Stryker`s) offense.
The match itself was Perfectly Acceptable Indy Rookie Wrestling; basic Face-In-Peril/Heel-In-Peril back-and forth thing without any elaborate transitions or sequences, but nothing to be ashamed of. And hey, it`s a RevPro opener; how much do you really expect? 1/4*
2. American Wildchild/Goalie Howe vs. Cyberspace/Buddy George Frustrating, frustrating match. I think Cyberspace is well on his way to becoming a worthwhile little worker, as indicated by his tendencies to Die For The Art, and I *know* that AWC`s capable of impressing me quite a bit - as I`ve been basically pimping him ever since I saw him ROCK in the Miracle Trios Match from 1/26/01 - but this match sure didn`t let either of those guys come out. Well, not for long, anyway - the opening part of the match was the best, being that it was Cyberspace vs. AWC, and they made attempts to create a Big Guy vs. Small Guy match; unfortunately for all involved Cyberspace tagged in Buddy George and was subsequently pretty much never heard from again. As for Buddy...well, AWC wasn`t working stiff with him, and IMSMR the most intricate wrestling move he attempted during his part of the match was a snapmare takeover.
That, my friends, was probably three minutes into the match - a match which went a little over twelve minutes. The whole sum of the rest of the match was cheap heat from the heels, cribbed WWF spots from Buddy (why no, I didn`t REALLY need to ever actually really SEE a stinkface), and unfocused, weak brawling. The big/little thing went right out the window, and BAH FNYEH FEH POO ICK was nothing left. I know I remember saying ``This may well be the worst match I`ve ever sat through`` at least once, but what with the TOMFOOLERY!, god only knows. DUD
3. D(ynamite) D vs. Street Styles A breath of fresh goddamned air after that last match - short, flashy, and interesting if you could get past the structure of the match. Street Styles may well be the Best Worker Who Ought To Be In UPW But Isn`t; his execution for the most part is pretty good, and as long as he doesn`t try to do too much, he delivers Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling. Here, he hit his spots, had some wholly functional transitions - although I can`t for the life of me remember a single one - and most importantly *didn`t*blow*anything*. For a spot-fu worker, cleanly hitting your spots ain`t the butter - it`s the bread, so it`s good not to see a big flailing mess.
But I was more impressed with D. Street Styles, I knew what to expect; D was a totally new commodity to me, and in a few ways he managed to impress me quite a bit, most significantly in how he got himself over as a heel. He didn`t go straight to the obvious stuff like the face rake or the kick in the store, but instead mostly got himself over by presenting a very focused offense with some very, very, VERY subtly heelish touches. I mean, you gotta love anyone whose most heelish act is using a closed fist in the Deuce Deuce.
All of that being said, this wasn`t very much of anything. Selling and transitions were pretty much incidental in this match - as in, if they happened, so much the better, but neither Styles nor D were really busting their ass to get anything over beyond its immediate aesthetic values (the biggest pop of the match, IIRC, was Styles` Flailing Honky Leg Drop). All of the transitions came off of reversals of key moves, so the match didn`t have any real flow or anything. More specifically - and this has been true of pretty much all the XPW guys who I`ve seen - D`s strikes were pretty unilaterally ass, with a whole `lotta foot-stompin` going on, and it`s not like Styles` were MUUUUUUCH better. Of course, even if all those elements WERE in place, it`s not like they`d really be too obvious in a five-minute match, so there you go. 1/2*
Dragon, Excalibur (mit HAT!), and Disco come out to cut a promo, and for all I bitch and whinge about the LoP in front of me, I will say that they were booing the BEJESUS out of the trio before they got two steps out of the gate. Not being deaf, all three played BREATHTAKINGLY well to the crowd, inciting a Jim Jarmusch meets Promo Azteca-style Lucha Riot - kids were storming the ring, and they literally had to hold them back from charging Dragon. It was QUITE entertaining. There was also a promo being cut, although thanks to the Ass Acoustics of the Room, I couldn`t hear a single word. Not that it really mattered; I think I would have probably gotten the gist of the segment regardless of whether Excalibur was declaring the wrestlers the ethnic betters of the crowd or discussing the merits of the Andrea True Connection. Mini-lucha-riots will do that.
4. B-Boy vs. Lil Cholo One of the most interesting things about a restart is, well, pretty obvious - it gives everyone a chance to prove themselves all over again. At the first RevPro restart on 2/24/01, for instance, both Excalibur and B-Boy effectively elevated themselves with just one match, and then proceeded to have banner years, becoming viable cash cows in the process. But as workers, they seemed to stall right around May - they still had very good matches, but they weren`t evolving any more, adding new dimensions to their personae.
I love restart shows because frankly, they get to wipe all of that away. Here, B-Boy finally got the chance to take his newfound skillz - a pretty significant statement, given that you`d have to be blind, deaf, dumb, retarded, AND hate wrestling not to notice that B-Boy`s INSANELY talented - to a whole new level. He really started coming back into his own with his match against Dragon at the November MPW show, a match which saw B-Boy`s selling skills really start to develop, and he only got better, putting on an arguably more impressive performance against Samoa Joe at the January MPW show. Here, he was being matched up against Cholo, a wrestler who, while quite good, isn`t in his league; this would be his first chance to really craft a match all by himself in front of the RevPro audience.
And guess what? It was pretty good. I like it a lot more in retrospect, because watching it live the aesthetic flaws were glaring, but there was a whole lot of cognitive stuff going on underneath a shaky surface. The match revolved around B-Boy`s offense - he had the advantage due to having a deeper arsenal of moves, but whenever he tried to do anything even remotely rooted in lucha libre, the WPW-based Cholo would take the advantage. As a result, B-Boy got to show off all of his best moves, as well as bring out some new ones (most notably an INVERTED MOTHERFUCKING DRAGON SPECIAL, which had me clapping like a circus seal), and Cholo got to do some really flashy stuff. There was also a strong motif of strength vs. speed, manifested mostly by B-Boy *WASTING* Cholo with a bunch of WICKED drivers and such, and Cholo`s credible offense consisting mostly of flash pins. In other words, the match was laid out in such a way that the strengths of both men were played up, and that can ONLY make the match better.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of moments where the seams were pretty visible. Frequently, Cholo would take tentative control of the match on moves not related to lucha - mostly on low-end submission moves intended to wear B-Boy down, but in-story also playing right into B-Boy`s biggest strength. And B-Boy wasn`t flawless either; as the better worker in the match, it`s his job to notice things like that and tie `em up by, say, rolling through a legbar into a oh, I don`t give a damn.
I should also bring up the pacing. Unlike in Dragon vs. B-Boy, this match`s pace felt spastic at times; it`d be going along very quickly, and then suddenlyfornoparticularreasonthey`dbewearingeachotherdown. It was jarring, and got kinda tiresome - not so much that I couldn`t pay attention to the match or anything, but tiresome enough to make me think ``Gee, I wish they`d fix that``. It`s easily fixed, of course; it looked to me to be an issue of both parties positioning themselves to look too dominant when they went on offense (i.e. instead of wriggling for position while in a Cholo leg bar, B-Boy would ``just`` sit in it and sell the effects), a problem easily resolved by a quick 1.5 count here or a flurry of offense there.
I know this kind of stuff sounds picky as all hell, but hey, if that`s the kind of thing that`s wrong with B-Boy`s game, then he`s doing ALLLLLLLLLLL RIGHT by me. These are minute little details that just happen to be significant when they happen in a match that`s really good.
And the counters. You gotta love the counters. B-Boy`s really starting to figure out some creative counters that fit in-character; I remember especially right toward the end he countered something preposterous - like a kick, or a headlock, or something equally banal - into a Shubain attempt, setting off a friggin` FIREWORKS display of This Is Indy Chain Wrestling culminating in a WIIIIICKED Shubain. Effective (two guys both doing counters REALLY fast only gets both parties over), contextual (what with B-Boy actually demonstrating some matwork skill since the Dragon match and Cholo just being established as FAST), and AWESOME to watch, the only real flaws in it were the fleeting moments when Cholo looked lost. A great way to end a really fun match. And if you think about it, this match, flawed though it may be, could be considered even more impressive than even the Joe match - here almost all of the storytelling functions seemed to be controlled by B-Boy; it was his show, and he shone. **3/4
I think this was where TARO, Excitement, and Son came out to do a Rebuttal Promo. Again, I couldn`t hear shit.
5. Xtasis vs. Stigmata The LoP pisses me off significantly and in perpetuity RIGHT from the get-go here by hollering about how boring this match was - lies - and accusing Xtasis of stealing moves from the UNDERTAKER, for christ`s sake. I am only able to refrain from punching their leader in the face by the knowledge that that`d get me taken to the hoosegow, thereby unable to see the main.
That being said, the kids were kinda right, just way way WAY too early. The first five minutes or so were Perfectly Not Offensive One Bit No Sir Lucha, the kind of stuff you`d see in a match on the IWRG undercard not featuring the Caifanes. But from there, it just fell apart; their offenses weren`t advanced enough to really make anything particularly INTERESTING out of the whole affair, and there didn`t seem to be any real rhyme or reason behind the structure of the match. It was basically one of those vanilla indy matches - i.e. no build or selling or transitions, just sequence-sequence-sequence - only in a lucha context, and frankly after seeing a whole bunch of spotfests this just wasn`t my thing. It didn`t help at all that they got an awful lot of time, too - what I was hoping would just be a shaky middle section turned out to be the entire rest of the match, because they had a TON of time to fill up, and nowhere really to go. *
I think this was where that little girl started running around and attempting to do the Worm and the Spinneroonie, but only succeeded in humping the floor and convincing me and Eric that she was mildly retarded. Whenever it was, she sure kept doing it for fuckin` ever.
6. Joey Ryan vs. Shogun When Joey Ryan walked out, I`ll admit to being really disappointed, because Pinoy Boy`s been REALLY good lately, and I was looking forward to seeing what he and Shogun could do. But by the time the match wound down, I was actually a lot happier with Ryan being the substitute, because Shogun showed more here than I`ve ever seen.
The thing about Shogun`s always been that he`s got all the natural charisma in the universe, a willingness to play along, a good arsenal, and an overwhelming ability to show it all off - and in spite of all that, his matches aren`t as good as you`d expect from somone with all those tools. Here, however, the match was cohesive, dramatic, and sound - all without Shogun showcasing those aforementioned talents. The big difference was in Shogun`s selling, which here was more effective than quite a lot of the indy wrestling I`ve seen. The match wasn`t built around a body part being worked, just a cumulative beatdown, and Shogun sold everything - the individual moves, the speed with which they were executed, the total effects - really, really, REALLY well. And what`s more, he didn`t have to bump like a superball to do it - which isn`t to say that he didn`t take his fair share of bumps (notably a GIANT slingshot missed plancha), just that even without the death, he got Ryan`s offense over really well.
Which was pretty fortunate, too, since Ryan spent the overwhelming majority of the match on offense. And moreover, he wasn`t really up to the task; like in the opening six-man on the last MPW show - as far as I know, my first exposure to Ryan - he basically threw out his big moves as soon as he feasibly could, but unlike at MPW, the match wasn`t structured in such a way that it didn`t look really, really rushed. It also looked like he got progressively more and more lost as the match went on, as the intensity level of the moves peaked about halfway through the match. Shogun`s selling really helped move it along, and he did know right when to cut in for a few quick spurts of offense, but for the most part, the match seemed like it had a solid foundation (Shogun`s selling) and nothing built on top. *3/4
7. TARO/Mr. Excitement/Rising Son vs. Disco Machine/Excalibur/Super Dragon You may notice that this review is surfacing something like three days after the actual event. For once, I`m going to say that it`s not late because I`m lazy - it`s late because I want to make sure I don`t overrate this match. It was good - *real* good, in many ways exemplary - but just this once I`d like to get it right. I can`t tell you how many RevPro matches I overrate on the basis of the first unplumbed impression (why, is that someone holding up a sign saying ``All of them``?), but with a match this substantial, I don`t want to do that.
So I took two days to roll the match around in my mind, and I`m pleased to say that for the first time since probably 4/13/01, I actually like the match *more*.
Most indy matches - hell, most matches period - tend to be pretty monomaniacal; they tend to operate on one level. Not so here - this match was an amalgamation of the high-octane spotfest style that characterized RevPro back in `00, the AJPW-cum-MPro style from back in Santa Fe Springs, the lucha showiness and heel-face dialectic from the Norwalk Swap Meet shows, and above all the sum total of all the character development that`s seemingly ever gone on in any of these six men`s careers. Watching it live, you see, it was just plain too much, but having had a chance to sit back and sort everything out I can safely say yeah, that was a really fucking good match.
In terms of innovation, the key here was the character development - or more precisely, how they expressed it through wrestling. I honestly can`t think of a match where in-match character development was more deeply rooted in both past, present and future, but this one sure was, and it felt dynamic as all get-out. There was a sense of watching Mr. Excitement mature, for example, before the audience`s very eyes as he managed to take on both Excalibur and Super Dragon - and beat them both - but for the fan with prior knowledge, there was also the fact that he was finally reaping the rewards of, say, taking the Stiffest Beating I`ve Ever Seen Live (vs. Rocky Romero in August), and could finally ``hang with the big boys``. Similarly, Dragon ``blowing his knee out`` - an injury angle faked as well as it probably can be - called back to matches as recent as January, but also made it perfectly clear what kind of an asshole he was going to be now that he`d turned rudo. It`s things like this that make me like RevPro more than any other indy - it doesn`t exist in a vacuum, and it rewards the viewer for paying attention.
This match, however, didn`t *just* operate on that level - a smart business practice, since I`ve been left to conclude that although the fed was putting on The Greatest Indy Matches Of All Motherfucking Time in February to July of last year, it probably wasn`t very accessible. This match, on the other hand, had a serious, world-class spotfest on top that AAAAAAANYONE could get into, resulting in a packed house BLOWING UP, and even allegedly coming up to the workers at the MPW show the night after and asking when their next show would be. But unlike, say, Any Red Match, this was a very smartly-worked spotfest, a necessity when the match goes a little over thirty-six minutes. Not only were the types of spots varied (most of the RevPro matches from February to April of last year tended to have most of their spots be strike- or neck-death-oriented; this one had top-rope moves, dives, stiffness, neck-death, and lucha flashiness), but they varied based on the opponent, meaning that TARO ate a whole buttload of top-rope moves to be eliminated, seeing as how all the participants ``knew`` that he was a Plucky Little Bastard who would require more than the average amount of damage to put him away, or that Excalibur ate a WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICKED sleeper suplex from Excitement for the elimination in a reminder that a little over a year ago Excalibur WASTED Excitement when he debuted the Tiger Driver `98, and now it was Excitement`s turn for payback. But the most impressive thing about the spots wasn`t even really the spots themselves - it was the pacing. The match was structured in such a way that, say, the work the rudos did on Rising Son`s leg didn`t slow the match down, but rather gave the fans a chance to rest without the match letting them go. Very smart, very cool, very, very, very well done.
Now, of course, the structure of the match didn`t make it good all by itself - a big part of why this match was so good lay in the performances put in by *everyone*. I mean, when Rising Son`s arguably the weakest link in the match (for Rock-selling the work being done on his knee whenever he ran, although it deserves saying that he sold it ACES everywhere else), everyone is on FIRE. TARO, for instance, managed to turn in not just a great performance, but a great performance that didn`t necessitate him tasting lots of death; the things that stand out about his performance relate more to how aesthetically pleasing his moves were rather than the ass-beating he took. Similarly, Disco Machine - arguably the most underrated worker in Southern California now that TARO seems to be working back at the level that`s going to make people sing his praises loudly - executed everything he tried well, and didn`t try to do anything that would detract from his character as the Big Guy in the match. That`s the thing about Disco Machine - he`s always good for a rock-solid match at the dirt worst, and if he`s given the license, he`ll shine. Excalibur, like B-Boy, continues to develop his character; I think he`s been helped enormously by the addition of the Shining (Johnny?) Wizard to his arsenal, as it takes him from being Just Some Asshole Wrestler to Just Some Asshole Wrestler With A Credible Finisher That Can Come Out Of Anywhere (off Dragon`s back, off the top rope, you get the general idea). Same goes for him as a wrestler; here his moves were logical, motivated (i.e. the extra oomph he put into his moves against Excitement and ex-Twin Tower TARO), and really really REALLY well-executed. It indicates to me that he`s finally starting to really get comfortable with pacing, and if that`s the case, watch the fuck out, because there`s no limit to how good Excalibur can be. As for Super Dragon, what can I say? Best performance I`ve seen him put in since the B-Boy match in December obviously, but one of the most nuanced ones I`ve ever seen him put in. It bears mentioning that he worked a LOT of this match - he was probably in the ring about eighteen minutes of it, if I had to guess - and that like Shogun, his selling was EXCELLENT. Unlike the work on Son`s leg, nobody was really targeting any of Dragon`s limbs, so he was free to execute his moves, provided that he compensate for damage and the duration of the match, which he did quite nicely (by taking longer to lift people into the air, moving less quickly into reversals as the match wore on, taking time in between spots to recuperate briefly in the corner - stuff like that). And of course his execution was spot on; in some cases, it was pretty spectacular (i.e. the UFO/diving leg lariat which, while not as vicious as the one he gave Rising Son at the Spirit of the Revolution finals - or probably even the Jardi one - sure as hell did feature a wraparound so that he could kick Excitement in the face), but at the very least it was impressive and effective.
But the real story here was Mr. Motherfucking Excitement stepping up to the motherfucking PLATE here. I`ve seen Excitement put on some good performances before - for the longest time, the best Matt Sinister match I`d ever seen was against Excitement, and like I said waaaaaaay up there he sure did take one HELL of a hell of a hell of a beating against Rocky Romero in August - but this was something else. Here, I saw him modify his style so that he could better work with Excalibur (i.e. selling more, making his moves look more impressive), then modify it again so that he could better work with Dragon (demonstrate more ``fighting spirit``, put more emphasis on ``working`` the neck rather than just making the move aesthetically impressive), all without overshadowing their styles. I saw him get over two moves as credible finishers - the sleeper suplex and the backdrop driver, which was reaching Williams-Kobashiesque levels of Neck Deathitude - in front of a crowd who weren`t too familiar with his work (hell, I *am* familiar with his work and I never really remember either of those moves being all that emphatic as finishers). I saw him sell damage in such a way that every move he took looked like the match was over, done, finis, bagged and tagged, but at the same time I saw him get in his offense in such a way that it looked like if he could kick out, he`d have a chance. Basically, I saw him throw down a star turn; he stepped up to the plate BIG-TIME here, putting his creative stamp on a really, really good match. Like I said, when you can outshine one of Disco Machine`s best performances, TARO reminding everyone of why he got such high praise, Rising Son getting over a body-part-focused storyline better than he ever has before (not to mention everything else, like hitting his moves cleanly, pacing himself well, and showing some innovative ways to kill people and to die), Excalibur striding confidently towards becoming the Next American/Super Dragon, and Super Dragon putting on arguably his best performance in nine months, you have done SOME THING RIGHT.
Here`s the thing about this match: ALL of that was going on. On the surface, that`s a good thing; it keeps the mind active. But the way the match was structured, it ended up being detrimental at times. The problem was that the elements weren`t blended together so much as all shown at once; there wasn`t, for instance, any real transition between TARO`s elimination as a result of a beating prompted by the knowledge that he`s a Plucky Little Bastard and the elimination of Disco - they just sort of did one, then did the other. Granted, I can point that out, but I can`t really think of a way to solve it, but it`s a flaw in the match, and it deserves mention because of how it would make the seams of the match show whenever they changed the tone. I`m certainly not taking away from the ambitions of the match; in terms of structure, I`ve never seen a match try to do so much and actually succeed in it. But for every five instances where the match succeeded, there was one instance where it fell apart. The match possibly could have benefitted from ten more minutes, which feels odd to say about a thirty-six minute match, but the elimination all seemed to happen in like a six-minute span, which only accentuated the changes the wrestlers were making in the tone of the match (like how the rudos had to change from the TARO beat-a-thon to the focused beating of Son, to the adaptation of how they`d wrestle now that their numbers were evened back out - things like that).
Additionally, as with any match with so many fans of AJPW, there were a LOT of finishers kicked out of. Not primary finishers - nobody kicked out of the Psycho Driver or the Tiger Driver `98, for instance - but backup finishers like the UFO, the Shining Wizard, the chokeslam, the swanton bomb, all of them were kicked out of. Again, this isn`t so much a critique of this match, since to criticize killed finishers is basically just to criticize modern wrestling, but rather it seems shortsighted to have the wrestlers actually *kick out* of these moves, especially in a six-man match where there`s plenty of people to run in and break up the pin attempt, ESPECIALLY when they`re in the ring the size of a postage stamp where it would be easy to get rope-breaks. Kicking out of a finisher kills the flow of the match; it`s where the whole top-this mentality comes from, and although this match`s internal logic pretty much suppressed that mentality REALLY effectively, little touches like that are the kind of thing that separate this match from the 4/13/01 tag.
I guess it just boils down to what you`re looking for in a match. Me, I like to microanalyze everything about a match (``NO DUH``, screamed everyone), and I got enough of that with all of the stuff going on in here to convince me to overlook some of the more macro-flaws that stand out when I think about it. Add to that six performances by guys who apparently wanted to try to do some different stuff - and for the most part suceeded with flying colors - and I`m entirely happy. In a way, this was the perfect choice to headline a RevPro restart card, because it IS RevPro: if you go in willing to pay ridiculously rapt attention and accept that they`re not going to wrestle a traditional match, you`re going to be very, very happy. And hell, even when I try to distance myself from being the RevPro Cheering Section, there`s still enough here for me to make a case for this being the best elimination tag I`ve ever seen. So yeah, this was really good :) ****1/4
Herein concludes my master`s thesis :)
Yessir, this show was allright, especially if you`re the type of wrestling fan who`s willing and able to watch matches for individual performances instead of matches (in which case you`ll probably enjoy the B-Boy and Shogun matches all the more). And of course the main...well, right now it`s the second-best match I`ve seen from 2002, and I have a sneaking suspcion that the execution of the wrestling and the IN SANE crowd heat will only help it on video. Suffice it to say that yeah, this show was allright - and when I drive for 90 minutes in LA rush hour AND sit behind a bunch of Really Annoying Kids, well then, the show was pretty good.
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