Pruett's Wrestling Cares Association: Race for the Ring Live Review - In depth thoughts on the tournament format, the crowd, and the matches featuring Davey Richards, Kyle O'Reilly, Adam Cole, and more!
By Will Pruett
Wrestling Cares Association 'Race for the Ring' Round One, Bracket A
Alexandria Ballroom in Los Angeles, California
The show was scheduled to start at 6:00pm, but didn't actually begin until 7:00pm. There were some technical difficulties getting the monitors around the ballroom working properly to show the scoreboard for each match. To compensate for the wait, most fans ended up wandering into an upstairs bar where wrestlers were meeting and greeting. Maria Kanellis was also right outside the ballroom taking pictures with fans on a red carpet they had set up. The wait wasn't too bad (Southern California folk are normally pretty chill with late). I'm sure it won't be an issue going forward.
This was one of the better looking indie shows I've been to in quite some time. The Alexandria Ballroom is in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles (on the corner of 5th an Spring, across from The Last Bookstore, which is awesome) and is a pretty pleasant place to watch some wrestling. Inside the building, there are indoor waiting areas for lines, and bar areas for drinking and merchandise shilling. The actual ballroom is very pretty, with chandeliers hanging down. They outfitted it with a truss around the ring to hang lights from and a ringside barricade made from pipe and drape, so no one could be thrown into it.
The building was set up for 300-400 people, with attendance of around 100. It was not full, but the crowd seemed pleased with what they saw. Hopefully the people that did come with bring some friends to the next show. Every promotion starts somewhere.
As the show kicked off, ring announcer Larry Legend entered the ring and described it as a "mega event." This was my first exposure to Legend. He seemed to be playing at being a ring announcer with a slight self-referential nod in his work. He was fun to watch and good at hyping up the crowd. What he does works, especially on an indie scale.
All of the participants in the show were introduced. I was disappointed to see Sami Calihan would not be on the show as advertised, as he was tending to a family matter. He was replaced by Ryan Taylor. No announcement of this was made of the replacement, it just happened. Hopefully Calihan will make the second part of the first round. Each competitor was said to be representing their home promotions.
The rules of the tournament were then explained. Each match had a ten minute time limit. The wrestler with the most points at the end of ten minutes would win. Points can be scored via pinfall, submission, or countout. A disqualification would result in losing one point. In the event of a tie, a three minute sudden death overtime period would begin. If no falls were scored during overtime, the match would be declared a draw and both men would be eliminated from the tournament.
The rules definitely made for some interesting matches, both against the clock and between the competitors. Some guys knew how to work in the ten minute format really well and some were a little more hesitant about it.
1. Kyle Matthews defeated Colt Cabana 2-1 in sudden death overtime. This match was declared an upset victory for Matthews and it may have been the upset of the night. Cabana always has a great following and the crowd here was definitely behind him. Parts of this match seemed a little awkward and choppy. Cabana went up one point by forcing Matthews to tap out to the Billy Goat's Curse. Matthews came back and rolled up Cabana late in the match for one point.
This contest went to overtime, which Matthews ended up winning with a series of Superkicks leading to a pin.
After each match, the winners cut a promo. Matthews put over the wrestlers in the back and especially Cabana. Cabana told Matthews he is a pretty tough guy and shook his hand.
2. Drew Gulak defeated Bobby Sharp 2-1. Bobby Sharp made his United States debut here and won the first point of the match, with a Falcon Arrow leading to a pin. Gulak, who looks like an old school "shooter" type of wrestler, came back with a Rear Naked Choke to win his first point and tie the score. This match played with the clock a little, as Sharp tried to escape the hold, allowing himself a longer time period in it, instead of instantly tapping. This would cost him the match, as he was drowsy enough for Gulak to return and lock the choke in again for another submission victory. This match was decent and featured the first use of the clock and multi-fall strategy of the night.
In his post-match promo, Gulak put over Sharp. He mentioned that Sharp should have tapped earlier in the first choke. It was a nice psychological touch.
3. Jamin Olivencia defeated Ryan Taylor 3-1. Olivencia is the OVW World Champion and enjoys shouting his own name. Ryan Taylor is a local Southern California wrestler often seen in PWG, Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, and the Empire Wrestling Federation. This match also enjoyed the use of the clock quite a bit. Taylor was able to score a surprise roll-up for a point in about three minutes. What followed was an onslaught from Olivencia, first to tie the match, then score another two points before the end. Olivencia stayed aggressive even with a lead and was able to put Taylor away 3-1 by going three straight.
Jamin Olivencia said he, and the wrestlers in the back, were here because they are the best wrestlers in the world. He shook hands with Taylor and left.
4. Kyle O'Reilly and Davey Richards wrestled to a 1-1 draw. This was the best match on this show and really rallied the fans in attendance. It was well paced and made excellent use of the clock and the match rules. O'Reilly surprised Richards mere seconds into the match with an arm submission. Richards gave up the sacrifice point, as opposed to letting the hold stay locked in for too long. Great psychology and use of the rules here.
The match went on with fast-paced, desperate action. These guys knew they only had ten minutes and made the absolute most of it. This was exciting and hard hitting with the action spilling to the outside, but ever turning into an all-out brawl. They made use of the apron and the countout rules (an uninterrupted 10 count, even when on the apron or the top rope). Richards eventually tied the match with an Ankle Lock on O'Reilly with about three minutes to go. Richards looked to have O'Reilly almost in another Ankle Lock when the time expired.
In overtime (three minutes, sudden death), the pace picked up. The crowd really got into the match and appreciated the work of both men. They traded submission attempts with neither man getting the upper hand. Finally, time ran out. They were still tied 1-1, thus they were both eliminated from the tournament.
This match only being able to go 13 minutes and ending in a draw was a little deflating. The match was so good that it made up for the deflation. The crowd begged for three more minutes, but no time was to be allotted. Richards said they should come to another one of these shows and have the match without a time limit, just to prove who the better man is. The crowd agreed. After the show, Les Thatcher confirmed to me that this match was about leaving the crowd wanting more and it definitely did so. This is the must-see match of the show.
Intermission was next up. We learned that Wrestling Cares Association will be running their next show on June 29th at the Alexandria Ballroom. I am looking forward to being there.
Before the second half of the show began, a $1,000 check was presented to the Scott L. Schwartz Children's Foundation. They said they were giving half of the show's draw instead of the promised quarter. This was a cool segment with Les Thatcher, Nigel McGuinness, and David Jackson presenting the check.
5. Pepper Parks defeated Vordell Walker 2-1. This was one of those "watch how hard we hit each other" type of indie matches. It wasn't bad. Walker is a large guy who seemed able to go. Parks had a decent look and despite a slightly silly name, seemed all business. Walker went up one point early with an ankle submission. Parks came back and tied things up with a spinning fisherman's suplex. Parks then managed a top-rope leaping neckbreaker for a three count and his second point.
This match played with the clock at the end, as Walker had Parks in a submission hold for the final seconds and Parks was holding on until time ran out.
After the match, Parks said Walker was a big impressive wrestler. He discussed the challenge of not knowing his opponent for round two yet due to Richards vs. O'Reilly going to a draw.
6. B-Boy defeated Jake McAllister 2-1. B-Boy is a Southern California wrestler often seen in PWG and other local indies. McAllister was impressive here. B-Boy scored the first point with a running knee strike. McAllister was able to lock B in the Texas Cloverleaf to tie it up. B-Boy scored his second point by hitting a Kryptonite Krunch and pinning McAllister. McAllister came right back and locked in a Crossface, but the time ran out.
It was odd to see two matches end in such similar ways. It's an obvious device to use as time expires and I really liked each use of it, but doing it two times in a row took away from it.
B-Boy let us know that Southern California is his and no one will beat him here. He still has not answered why he wrestles in weird leather shorts.
7. Steve Anthony defeated Caprice Coleman 1-0. Steve Anthony is the King of the 450 Splash. Caprice Coleman is the preaching half of his ROH tag team. These guys meshed together alright. Anthony went up one point after hitting the 450 Splash. After this, Coleman seemed to have the upper hand for most of the match, but never could put Coleman away.
In an unintentionally funny moment (only funny because no serious injury occurred), Coleman went for a springboard leg drop and hit his head on one of the chandeliers, sending crystal into the ring. Despite his athletics, he was never able to score a fall.
After the match, Coleman put over Anthony, both because of his athleticism and his age. He said they were the old competitors in the tournament, and that Anthony would win it all. Anthony said everyone in this tournament is great, but he is that much better.
Before the final match, the date for Bracket B was announced again (June 29).
8. Adam Cole defeated Anthony Neese 2-1 in sudden death overtime. This was the second best match of the show and another one worth checking out. Neese is the indie standout that made a brief stop in TNA. Cole is an ROH favorite, representing PWG, which he is currently the World Champion of.
Cole went up early in the match with a Straightjacket German Suplex after a great little almost-countout section with Neese. Following this, Cole was selling a ton for Neese, as Neese hit him with a rough looking Powerbomb into the corner and more offense. Neese tied the match with just a minute remaining. Adam Cole locked Neese into the Figure Four (Neese had injured his leg earlier in the match and was selling it), but the time ran out, necessitating overtime.
Cole and Neese were competitive through the overtime period, with Cole winning with a reversed roll up with only 40 seconds remaining. The crowd applauded them and chanted "Wrestling Cares" which maybe one of my favorite chants ever.
Adam Cole said he saw an opportunity and capitalized. Good final match and moment.
After the final match, it was raffle time. Autographed posters and things were raffled off to the fans who bought raffle tickets. Many of them won, since attendance was not high. A few people won multiple posters.
Pruett's Pause: This show was attempting to do something new and set up a new concept. In this way, it worked really well. As the night went on, the clock itself seemed more over. As wrestlers interacted with it, checked in on time, and really treated this like a competition, the crowd grew more engaged. I was doubtful at the halfway point of the show (and let down by not getting more Richards vs. O'Reilly), but I do consider this concept a success.
I'm excited to see how strategies develop and change as the tournament goes on and matches get longer. In a conversation with promoter Les Thatcher after the show, he seemed delighted at how the show went. After a late start, all the wrestlers embraced the format and enjoyed bringing a welcome simplicity to their matches. This wasn't a show about high spots and outside dives, it was about the wrestling and the competition. This concept could catch on and be something pretty special.
For more information on Wrestling Cares, check out WrestlingCares.com.
Any thoughts on this show or concept? What did you think? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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