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EPIC "For the Messiah", August 18, 2002
by Nise Digable Chris Lening

Coming off the heels of two fantastic major shows, EPIC had scheduled a set of TV Tapings to be held on the 18th, in preparation for another major show in Early September. But then the Messiah incident occurred, and the TV Tapings became a benefit show. If ever there seemed to be a hastily assembled attempt to make a big show, this would be it. In the week leading up to it, Sabu manager Josh Lazie announced he was retiring, and it seemed like EPIC Owner Gary Yap was about to follow. I got the general mood this show had all the makings of the wheels falling off the Wagon we call EPIC.

Oh, and before I go any further, I am your solo party host for this show, as Digable James Cobo no-showed. I'm not sure exactly why, so I will instead suggest it's because he was still all hepped up on goofballs from the night before. So I was left in line with nothing but the Shawn Assael book and the ridiculous Valley Heat, and the EPIC Fans. I got some quality bonding in with Jonathan and Doron, so all was not lost. Beverly Hills was represented well. We were let in sometime around 4:30, before being left to wait inside for another hour or so. By the time the show kicked off at about 5:45, the crowd was restless, and so the chanting hell had begun. There was some other dude who came out announced as the new host of EPIC TV or something, but his promo was entirely unintelligible, as the crowd was screaming and booing over him the entire time.

Lil Cholo vs. B-Boy When B-Boy was announced, most people seemed rather confused, as B-Boy was scheduled to fight Ruckus. Yet again, Ruckus did not appear, so we got the same replacement match as we did the last show. These two seem to work well together, so it's not a huge letdown for me.

The match seemed to have the same roles as last time, with B-Boy playing Mr. Bigtime Motherfucker, and Cholo playing the spunky upstart. They took it a little further than usual, though, as B-Boy laid on the shtick of overlooking his opponent really thick: he teased big moved and then went into a resthold or something a whole bunch of times. It seemed a little silly, but it did allow for a shift in the match, as Cholo was left to bring most of the early offense. Eventually B-Boy got his head back into the game and turned it back on, and it reverted into a more basic strategy of one guy controlling the other, but disrespecting him enough to allow for bursts of desperation face offense. It ended up as a very engaging match, although some of it may have been that the crowd was more than willing to chant for Lil Cholo. It still weirds me out to do that, though.

The work was generally very nice, with the exception of a botched head scissors that regretfully led to the night's first chant of "You Fucked Up". Of particular note is the opening sequence, which looked for all the world like it was headed for a pose of mutual respect, until they managed to build from it without going hitting the pose. Also, they did a nice job of maintaining B-Boy's Cross Special as an incredibly lethal move: As soon as it hit, it just felt like the match was done. Cholo had to be escorted out of the ring, even. It was a fine match, but it was probably ill-suited to open, given that it seemed less geared for fun than the previous openers, tag affairs with the Rev Pro guys. It wasn't as solid as the one last month, although I though the story was more fun, so that works for me. I liked it, but it didn't do all that much to bring the crowd on down.

The Havana Pitbulls (w/Larry Rivera) vs. Scott Lost and Joey Ryan (w/Hailey) Ryan and Lost are announced as hailing "From every Indy fed in SoCal", which is funny because it's true. I think the sound was still broken at this point, but if it wasn't, Joey didn't come out to "Bleed American", thus depriving me of the chance to make Emo jokes. Drat.

The first sequence of this match was just phenomenal, with Lost and whichever of the Pitbulls is the skinny one throwing bombs at each other on the mat and in the standup. It was an incredibly intense ride of a matchup. But then, with this being a tag match, and this being America, it went all formula, with Tonight's Ricky Morton being played by Joey Ryan, who, to his credit, got the crap beaten out of him by the Cubanitos. Reyes and Romero have a reputation of working very stiff, but Ryan and especially Lost were unafraid to return the favor, so the result was to help maintain some of the intense feeling of the first exchange throughout the match. It sorta died down towards the end, but it never stopped being a worthwhile little affair, even amongst the increasingly irritating chants of the crowd. I believe this match was the first where the guys in the row in front of me threatened to start shit with the guys in the row in front of them. It would be repeated ad nauseam throughout the show, but it irks me here, since I really did like this match until some of the other fans distracted me by being idiots. Nevertheless, I'd like to see all four of the participants in this match again, as they all did good stuff here.

Larry Rivera gets in a good postmatch crack on Hailey, calling her the "Female R. Kelly" given her somewhat leathery appearance and role managing the youthful team of Ryan and Lost. Celebrity pedophilia jokes are GOLD for some reason.

Silver Tyger vs. Funky Billy Kim Despite it being less than seven hours removed from this match, I am drawing a blank here. The match itself was remarkably unspectacular, with Tyger seeming way off from his performance in the opener back in July, and Kim seeming rather bland. It was fairly quick, as well (Steve clocks it in at about five and a half minutes on the SCU Board), so perhaps that's why neither really seemed to get into any sort of groove. There's also the fact that Silver Tyger was probably distracted by some lady yelling that he was a Big Pussy, which led to the people in front of me starting a Silver Pussy chant. I tend to dismiss the effect crowds can have on a match, be it positive or negative, but this match, inconsequential though it was, was diminished by having to constantly restrain the Fists of Rage from enacting harsh and brutal vengeance on many, many people. It's bad enough when wrestlers come out to give retarded promos that scream "Look! I'm trying to get Over! Cheer and/or Boo MEEEEEE!!!!!" When the fans start trying to get themselves over, well, it's time to find a less irritating hobby.

After this, Adam Pearce comes out in dress clothing, and delivers a promo that sounds like he thought it up during a four-day binge of watching Arn Anderson tapes. Talking about respect and hallowed ground leads out Frankie Kazarian, who plays Cocky Heel #4a. This brings out Adam Flash, who carried some sort of belt made of foil. Flash looks every bit like you'd expect a CZW Wrestler to look, like a guy who works as an electrician's assistant during the week and plays bass in a death metal band named Jewhorevah or something. Flash chases Kazarian out of the ring, and for some reason I can't remember anymore, his valet flashes Pearce and the crowd. I suppose "flashes" is the wrong verb, as her shirt was up for entirely too long, exposing more than a few of the kids in the audience to what I'm assuming is their first sight of skank chest. Bully for them. Girl needed a sammich, and probably some counseling for self-esteem issues from her youth. I can really give no other explanation for showing your rack at a show to benefit an injured wrestler.

Team Chismo (Super Dragon, Excalibur, and Disco Machine w/Vixen) vs. Mr. Excitement, TARO, and Shogun in a Let's Hear it for Six Man Junior Elimination Match Super Dragon seems to get frustrated in the ring when the crowd does not respond favorably, and before the match had even begun, he had threatened to beat the shit out of some dong in an ICP mask. As a result, he seemed rattled to start the match, although it was hard to blame him or anything. For the first few minutes, I was just throwing out middle fingers whenever someone said something that bothered me. It was cathartic, too, around the tenth or twentieth flipoff. It seemed like the more vocal fans in attendance were responding to these six like the first time the Rev Pro guys worked in XPW: Power Ranger cracks, gay jokes, et al. But then, they all just sorta shut the hell up when the First Big Spot hits.

The opening work seemed a little weird, as Shogun seemed not quite as crisp as I've seen him before, but eventually they established a general hierarchy on both sides (Dragon and Excitement were clearly the team leaders, Excalibur and TARO their seconds, and so Disco and Shogun were taking a whole lot of beating, in preparation for their inevitable early eliminations). Then they went into a good old-fashioned Nitro Cruiserweight Dive Sequence, which culminated in the First Big Spot: TARO and Dragon are both on the turnbuckle, TARO hits a rana on Dragon, and now we've got ourselves a match free of fans trying to get themselves over by sounding witty. From there, it all unfolds like they set it up, with Disco and Shogun getting worked over by the other side, and the stage seemingly being set for an eventual Dragon/Excitement final clash. But…

It begins to run just a little too long before the first elimination, and so it starts to feel more like a first pinfall wins sort of thing. If I may use a ridiculous comparison, it began to feel like a good trance song, where everything just kept building and building and sucking in the audience until WHAM! Tiger Driver 98 on Shogun and that right there's a release point, end of match, 'cause we're all spent. The thing was, they probably should have gone more for a cheesier trance song, with the Shogun release just being the setup for the Disco release, setting up for the releases of Excalibur and TARO, and then it hits the giant Dragon/Excitement climax. Yes, that was preposterous and I apologize. How would one go about the shift in tone? I would wager simply cutting down the time until the first elimination (Steve had it clocked at well over 20 minutes) probably would help a lot.

Anyhow, once Shogun was eliminated, the crowd had a general air of thinking the match was over, and any chance the remaining five had of drawing them back in was pretty much shot by the fact that TARO seemed to be kinda out of it. Inevitably when something like this happens, there's a 30 or 60 or 90 second span where they try and figure out how to work around this, and so the match takes a huge lull. It was so bad here, coming Directly after everyone thought the match had ended in the first place, that the dreaded "Boring" chant started to fly. Yet again, though, the fun thing about the Rev Pro guys is that at any moment, they can do something ridiculously dangerous/deadly/fun-looking that negative chants give way to everyone going "Ohhhhhh" and standing up and clapping. The Psycho Driver from the Second Rope to eliminate TARO did nicely. Why TARO decided to get eliminated from a match he was injured in by taking a Psycho Driver from the Second Rope, I have no idea. Kid's got guts. Or possibly a metal plate in his head.

So it seemed like Excitement was left to fend against all of Team Chismo. Except Dragon bailed to the back after eliminating TARO, and so everyone was all confused. And then Excalibur offered Excitement the chance to just leave the ring now, and Excitement, being the face…accepts. Needless to say, it was confusing and pretty much a letdown, since they really seemed to be going somewhere until they just sorta stopped.

After the initial matworking didn't really fire up the crowd like it has in the past, the offense began to range to a more visceral style: I cannot recall a match with half as many moves where the victim slams into the turnbuckle before landing. The section right before the first elimination especially seemed more about sick-looking moves than holding onto the build; I suppose they sorta dumbed things down to adapt to the crowd. They were playing to a different atmosphere than the first two shows, which is not to say the first show was especially full of work dorks or anything. It's kind of odd when six Rev Pro guys go for 20 minutes and it still feels like a foreign atmosphere, but when the match opens with Dragon threatening one fan and ends with Excalibur spitting in the face of another, it's not exactly an Indoor Swap Meet or anything.

Intermission: It took so long I managed to email James twice from my cell phone, essentially telling him he wasn't missing anything yet. I managed to be dumb enough to pay for another $2 Coke with way too much ice, too. I probably would have considered leaving early if it weren't for my retarded desire to break out of the shadow of the Respected BTM Locker Room Leader and write the show up. Not that it was bad, it's just that most of the promising-looking stuff had been done already, and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to survive another hour or two in the Legion Hall without randomly striking someone wearing something with an ICP Logo. The wheels-falling-off image was still pretty much with me, and right up to the end, it only kept popping back up.

The Ballard Brothers (Shane and Shannon) vs. The Backseat Boys (Trent Acid and Johnny Kashmere) This was really two matches in one, segmented by the glory of heel micwork. Phase 1 was an exhibition in the many and varied ways one man's head can be placed on or near another man's crotch, and indeed many ways were found to suggest the Backseat Boys enjoyed placing their heads in each other's crotches. It was not by any means entertaining, though.

The second half reminded me far too much of a match I'd sum up by saying "They did some stuff, and then they did some other stuff, and THEN…they did some other stuff." To be fair, I was pretty well drained, so they may have been rife with subtext that I simply didn't catch in my malaise. Still, there were entirely too many double team moves, and more specifically entirely too many double team moves that were essentially the two guys mirroring each other after doing some silly pose. So it kinda veered past the line of uninteresting straight on into disinteresting.

For the second match in a row, there seemed to be a man knocked out in the ring, although here it was a bit more obvious. One of the Ballards was just dead in the ring. After the initial "Uh oh, what the heck do we do now" part, they covered it up pretty well, although I suppose the illusion is shattered about the effort needed to withstand a sleeper and a beatdown in the corner. Damn fourth wall being torn down.

Everyone seemed to have liked this match more than me after the show, so I guess I'm just fickle. Feel free to accuse me of projecting my own insecurities from behind my anonymous computer screen if'n you want. But this wasn't very good.

Frankie Kazarian vs. Adam Flash © (w/ the really thin girl whose breasts we've all seen) for the CZW Ironman Championship was interrupted right as it was about to start by B-Boy, an odd choice to interrupt, given he had already wrestled. I suppose he has more ties to CZW than Kazarian, but still. Anyhow, this became:

Frankie Kazarian vs. B-Boy vs. Adam Flash © (w/the really thin girl whose breasts we've all seen) in a Triple Threat Match for the CZW Ironman Championship Sometimes wrestlers just try too hard. The constant pursuit of neat-looking moves and sequences occasionally leads to matches where it all just sort of runs together. They did so much wacky two-and-three man stuff that at some point it really wasn't a legit match so much as a random collection of stuff. The air of the Main Event from the first Ring of Honor show was allllllll over this, as the previous 3-Way paradigm of "A and B go at it while C lies dead on the outside" was replaced with the "A tries for something on B until C does something to A, and occasionally B goes along for the ride" motif that would now seem poised to appear in every Indy 3-Way from now until someone comes up with something different. They burned through the "Shaky Alliance" portion of the Triple Threat within the first three minutes, and the middle of the match, which did have some silly but fun three-way mat spots, didn't last a whole lot longer, so this ended up with a whole lot of three-way finish overkill. The moves were often innovative, but they just came in such a volume that nothing really seems memorable a day later. Adam Pearce spent like nine years on the outside waiting to throw powder in Kazarian's face at the end; it almost looked like Kazarian was intentionally trying to avoid facing Pearce. It kinda reflected the whole structure of the match, what with the giant overlong barrage of almost-finishers: it seemed like the powder was never going to get thrown, and the match would never, ever end. It finally did end eventually, well after it should have.

Paul T comes out, and usually I don't like his promos, since they're all full of gratuitous cursing and what have you. He mocks the more irritating elements of the crowd and then reminds us all this show is for Messiah, so I've nothing to complain about. Well, until Hardkore Kidd comes out with a sling on his shoulder, and El Jefe and Black Metal at his side. Because then it turns into:

New Jack vs. Black Metal New Jack's matches appeal to a target demographic I am not in; given the general vibe of the night, this was not new, but still, I had no desire to see this when it began. But the thing is, they're normally so limited in what New Jack can do, and in what his opponent can do once New Jack starts cutting him up with stuff, that they usually don't make it past one or two plays of "Natural Born Killers", based on what little recent things I've seen. Well, this went past the first play into a second play, as Metal seemed like he wanted to get some sort of offense in. I'm not quite sure why this is, though; his entire arsenal before they went to the garbage stuff was a bunch of really bad punches. Eventually the letting of blood ensued, although Metal never really started hemorrhaging or anything; New Jack was later cut open by another wave of Black Metal offense, and there was a whole lot more plasma coming out then. To be fair, New Jack's forehead is scar tissue, so getting a bunch of blood to come out is significantly easier than it seemed to be for Black Metal. It seemed more or less time to end the whole thing, especially after the second time through "Natural Born Killers", but it just wasn't to be.

The match just kept on going, for what was probably about five minutes after the song had played twice (they just sorta stopped it after the second time), but it felt like forever. Black Metal seemed incredibly reluctant to show his face, and while I admire him from a standpoint of liking lucha and all, even I'll admit that it's a silly thing to do: You're facing New Jack. Just bleed from the forehead and get out of it, mask or no. It went on for so long that yet again, it became disinteresting, so much so that it felt like I wanted to be anywhere but the American Legion Hall in Reseda right at that moment. This is not the most positive attitude to take from the show, but by this point it had been a long, long time since anything good had happened. Eventually New Jack finished Black Metal off, and the main was left to go.

Sabu had been advertised, and he makes his way down to the ring for the next match, much to Jonathan's excitement. No opponent had been billed for him, and once they finally did announce it, the reason was pretty clear:

Sabu vs. Super Dragon Yep. Either someone no-showed (other than Ruckus, who had been scheduled to fight B-Boy, and Nick Mondo, who had been pulled from the card a week before), or they just didn't count on having more matches than wrestlers, but Super Dragon became the second man of the night to pull double duty, in what on paper looked to be a thoroughly odd matchup. I suppose it wasn't entirely beyond the realm of sense, as Sabu had fought Chris Daniels at the last show, and Dragon probably wrestled about ten or twenty minutes less than expected given the injury in the 6-Man, so there you go.

As it happens, the match kinda turned out like Sabu/Daniels did, with clashing offense, Sabu going for all the things that make him so popular with the kids today, Dragon getting in lariats and dives whenever he could, but eventually succumbing to what everyone more or less wanted to see, the Tables and the Chairs and the Arabian Moves and so forth. Still, there was something of a build to it, with the Sabu parade of funtime offense only coming after a sequence where his opponent tried to avoid it, or at least tried to get in some offense of his own. It's not the world's deepest wrestling storyline, but it works well in Sabu matches, where you're pretty sure there's going to be a few tables and a few chairs coming into play.

Yet again, though, Sabu kept his streak of mistake-free wrestling intact, as the worst thing I remember seeing was a bit of a hesitation on a dive from the top rope to the outside. Hell, back in the six-man, Dragon seemed a bit hesitant on his springboards from the top. You had to get these moves down; the crowd had established a whole lot of hostility to those who, in their Herculean efforts to entertain by performing feats of physical strength, speed, and agility, had "fucked up" in the process. Dragon didn't even really go for anything here one could fuck up, unless there's a way to botch a lariat that doesn't involve being Giant Singh or that girl from Tough Enough 2. It's kinda hard to say he straight-up half-assed it, though, since he was willing to lay on a table stretched across the guardrails while Sabu leapt from the ring on to him.

The only nitpick here is that while Josh Lazie did his normal job of setting up all the spots for Sabu, gathering and placing the tables and chairs where they needed to be, serving as a springboard for Sabu to jump off, the rest of Team Chismo, who had escorted Dragon out, didn't try and stop him. C'mon, guys, show your boy a little love here.

The past two Sabu matches have followed up the best matches on the card, and as a result I've been kinda out of it, and missed large chunks of them. Here, I finally got to see this supposedly rejuvenated Sabu everyone's been going on about, and he really is as much fun as he can be. The experience is also aided if you're sitting next to someone unafraid to use the name "SabuFan316" on Message Boards, so there's that. It felt about as much fun as it possibly could have been, so you can't really ask for more.

Even then, the night seemed pretty shoddy; compared to the last two shows, it was a huge letdown.

But it's all about how you send them home.

Josh Lazie gets on the mic, announcing his retirement from wrestling, genuinely distraught over the whole thing. Before he goes off for good, he calls to the ring the man that, to some degree or another, everyone came to see.

The Messiah, looking fine except for heavy wrapping on the hand where the thumb was cut off and one bloodshot eye, gets what had to be at least two or three minutes of continuous applause. Really, it was impossible not to cheer; I mean, he didn't walk out looking for pity or full of anger like this was some sort of wrestling angle blurred too far, but with a sense of calm, and an extreme gratitude to everyone who had come out, to the wrestlers who had been there for him, and to EPIC itself. He gives a low-key speech to the crowd, and it was here that everyone was silent, with some people even shushing each other. Naturally, if you're going to have a benefit show for a former XPW Wrestler, fans of that nature will come out in bigger force than if it was say, a benefit for the American Dragon, and their response to the matches will adjust accordingly, but I will admit that even the most annoying fans during the show were incredibly respectful to the Messiah. It's pointless to try and split hairs over a match of the night, since this was by far the most important part of the night. Very nearly everybody in the back makes their way down; and basically it seems like if they were gonna pull the EPIC Plug, it'd be right about then. But they keep on talking about the future of EPIC, and so this West Coast SuperIndy still might have some legs after all.

After New Jack has some words of his own, EPIC Owner Gary Yap sends us all home with closing remarks, and while nobody could really say the show went off without a hitch, there really weren't a whole lot of people who didn't go home happy.

Post-show sees me wait outside for Scrub, King of Men Who Trade Videos from their backpack, hand me a copy of Best of the Best, since I promised to do something to offset all the IWA-MS James has to watch. Reviews soon on BTM! Hooray! Anyhow, I end up talking a little with the various SoCal elite, and I end up unable to form coherent sentences and sound like a total moron. "I liked it when…the guy…hit that other guy…with the thing…Yeah…"

Closing Thoughts: The wrestling was yards off from where it was the first two shows; the only people who had their best EPIC performance tonight were Sabu and, from the perspective of connecting with the crowd, TARO. The crowd was the worst I've ever been a part of. Until the end. I seem to dislike this show more than most (if they release tape, I'd only recommend buying it if the proceeds go to the Messiah's medical bills), but the last part gave me a nice lift. As long as they run another show, I'll be there. The Wheels remain intact. I had fun. Mostly.

Chris Lening
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