A Shore Special--Through the Curtain: Pro Wrestling Evo returns to action, did This is Wrestling make up for Life as We Know It?
By Chris Shore
Through the Curtain is a series that follows Pro Wrestling EVO, an upstart independent promotion in Concord, NC. You will find previous A Shore Special—Through the Curtain articles here. In this article, Evo presents their third event, This is Wrestling clap clap clap clap clap.
Pro Wrestling Evo presented their third live event, This is Wrestling (clap clap clap clap clap) on July 23, 2011 at the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, NC. The show was billed as the "biggest night of the year" for what Evo promoter Patrick Wright says will be an annual event. But it was also the biggest night of the young promotions history for another reason.
The first show held at the Cabarrus Arena, Life as We Know It, was also the promotions second overall. Held in March, the show failed to live up to the buzz created by the first show, Evo Eight. In fact, the show was a disaster that Wright has decided will never see the light of day as a DVD.
But maybe disaster is the wrong word. After all, the arena thought it was successful enough to contact Wright and offer him a deal to ensure that Evo not only returned to the Cabarrus Arena, but that it would become a permanent fixture there. So after a marketing blitz and several changes to the card, This is Wrestling was to be the coming out party for the partnership between the Cabarrus Arena and Evo. And what a party it was.
Over 150 people showed up for the show, easily doubling the attendance of Life as We Know It. But more than just the number of fans, the "right" fans showed. Fans that cheered the babyfaces and booed the heels, fans that understood what they were seeing was good wrestling, and fans that will most certainly be back.
The show was not without its problems, but no show is. There were a couple of scary moments. And one match was not good at all. So when I spoke with Wright, I wasn't sure what he would say. He was so happy over the show, I should have wondered what he wouldn't say as he talked for some time.
"I'm thrilled," he offered right out of the chute, "We had a great crowd, a great show, and the video looks amazing. This show was everything I had pictured in my head when I started this company. I honestly don't know if I could be happier."
I walked him through the card to get his opinion of the matches. The opening match was Circo vs. Trevor Lee vs. Arik Royal. Lee was on the ill-fated Life as We Know It show, while Circo and Royal were making their debuts. Circo is a masked character that is part of the new Circus faction headed up by Marcellus King. Royal is a local wrestler who I had met, but never seen perform before. Turns out I had been missing out. All three men were very good.
I thought the match was a fantastic opener and Wright agreed. "That was the perfect opener for that crowd. They were hot and wanted fast pace action and we gave it to them. This was just one of the many booking decisions we made that turned out perfectly. I'm very happy with this match and you will be seeing all three of these guys again."
There were a couple of stiff moments in the match which I asked him about. "Yeah," he laughed, "Lee caught Circo in the back of the head with a kick and Circo repaid it with an enziguri to the face. Everybody's OK, and Trevor likes to work snug like that so he was digging it even as he ate Circo's foot. Plus I have it on good authority that Circo has a bruise all over the top of his foot so everybody's even."
The next match was Big Country vs. Jimmy Jack Funk Jr. Big Country is the same guy who has been wrestling as Cale Crosby for the past two shows. Funk Jr. is not a Funk by blood, but he was trained, and named, at Funk University. Both of these guys are big. Yet both moved very well and put on a match that I loved for its old school feel. Wright agreed. "That's what was so good about that match, it was so very different from the first match and yet it was just as good."
"Funk Jr. travels well, he brings a crew with him wherever he goes, and they helped get things started tonight with their enthusiasm. But he works such a great old school style, and Big Country is the perfect foil for Funk's heel character. We plan on having these two continuing their program for a few more months because I think it will be a ton of fun and a good draw."
Next up was the tag match that I had been highly anticipating. TJ and Kirby Mack, Team MackTion made their Evo debut against Zack Salvation and Caleb Konley. Team MackTion were trained by the Hardys and are well-known in the indy scene, having traveled up and down the east coast and working with other well-known teams. Caleb did a tour of Japan earlier this year and is getting a hard look from Dragon Gate USA. But it was Salvation that has most intrigued me.
Zack Salvation is best described as the guy that almost made it. He has a great look, solid mic skills, and can move in the ring. From the very first advertisements I had seen for Evo, he was the guy that stood out as the star. And while he has had success, including a short run in ROH and a 20 minute classic with Bryan Danielson at last year's NWA Fanfest, he seemed to have burned out at the tender age of 26.
"I'm not sure what happened with Zack," Wright told me in a previous discussion. "He just seemed to lose his fire, his passion for the business. And that's a loss for this business because Zack Salvation as he sits should be on somebody's roster. It still boggles my mind to this day that he isn't. I intend to talk to Zack and see if I can find a way to rekindle that fire. If I can, you'll be blown away because he's the best. Period."
Whatever Wright said to him worked. Salvation put on a clinic in the match. He worked tight. He worked funny. He even called a spot that had him dive to the floor face first, only to have TJ and Kirby move. The sound of his hands hitting the concrete will stay with me, and most of the fans in attendance, for some time. And after looking at his hands after the show, it will stay with Zack for some time too.
But Zack did not overshadow the other three men. Caleb and Team MackTion lived up to their hype as well. Caleb is a specimen that really must be seen (check him out on EVOLVE tomorrow night!), and TJ and Kirby showed why they get calls from up and down the East coast. Moves were lighting fast throughout this match, and Team MackTion played the perfect foils to Zack and Caleb's team.
There was only one really bad spot in the match, and it was a scary one. The move was supposed to be Zack hitting a super powerbomb with TJ onto Kirby. TJ didn't get quite parallel and Zack lost his balance trying to muscle TJ up to make sure he was protected. The result was a nasty looking spot where TJ landed on his head, but seemed to show no adverse effects from it either during or after the match.
The ending of the match though is what most impressed me. Team MackTion won with their finisher "death from Above." One of them hooked Zack in a surfboard while the other went to the top rope and jumped off to stomp on him. It's a great looking move that Zack sold like a champ. He cut a promo after the match that setup his full babyface turn at the end of the show, and was a nice touch just before intermission.
It was this match that had Wright the most talkative. "What did I tell you? Tell the truth, when's the last time you saw somebody lay themselves out like Zack did tonight? That's what I've been wanting from him. Do you realize he called that floor dive? It's not like somebody said 'Hey, you know what would be cool' and Zack volunteered. He called that spot. You know how many guys would look at me like I was insane if I suggested they do that. But he went out there and tried to kill himself for this show. That's why I love Zack Salvation.
"Now I don't want this to be the Zack show because it isn't. Caleb went out there and showed why I wanted him just as bad on the roster, and TJ and Kirby proved that they should be a feature of our soon to be formed tag division. And putting this one right before intermission was the right call because the crowd needed a chance to catch their breath."
As it turned out, the crowd had a long chance to catch their breath because the match after intermission did not deliver. The semi-main was the first "Manscout Merritt Challenge." The Manscout Jake Manning had challenged anyone to come and try and beat him. If he lost, he would leave Evo forever. The person picked to answer the challenge was George South Jr., son of Goerge South who had wrestled as enhancement talent back in the day for the Crocketts and later WCW. South also trained Manning and several of the other wrestlers appearing on the show.
I have never seen George Jr. wrestle before, so I don't know if he had a bad night or if he is a bad worker. What I do know is that this was Botchamania worthy. The most egregious spot, and I could listen to arguments for others, was when Jake whipped him to the ropes, only to have George Jr. make a weird turn for the buckle after running a few steps and then bumping into the corner. Manning even shrugged in the ring before continuing.
That's not to say it was all bad. The mat wrestling they did was pretty good, and George did hit a nice springboard moonsault to the floor. Manning is a ring general, as described to me by several wrestlers, and did his best to make this look good. They worked through the match before the show, and had a good plan and decent rhythm, but there were just too many blown spots, and it made this match stand out for the worn reasons. Especially in light of the other matches.
"But you know what," Wright told me when I pointed out the problems in this match, "George asked for a shot and I gave it to him. Did he make the most of his chance? No he did not. But he thanked me after the show and didn't ask for any money. He knew he didn't do his best tonight and it takes a big man to do what he did. I've seen guys do much worse and demand star treatment afterward. George did none of that."
I asked if this hurt the Manscout Merritt Challenge since it was the first. "No, not at all," Wright said. "We did what we needed to do here which was establish the challenge and the stipulation that Jake has to leave if he loses. I think we did that just fine, and now the challenge will only get tougher."
The main event was Cedric Alexander dropping his Evo championship to Marcellus King. This was the match I had most looked forward too. And while it was a very good match, it did not blow me away. Both men worked very hard, and there were no bad blown spots. But it didn't move me as much as I had thought it would. Part of the problem was that the crowd seemed shell shocked from the previous match, but primarily it was that they weren't buying into Marcellus at the beginning.
The original plan had called for Marcellus to interrupt the ring announcer at the beginning of the show (full disclosure, I am said ring announcer), but that plan was scrapped last minute. I asked Patrick if they missed an opportunity there. "Yeah, I think we did. By the end of the match they were all over Marcellus. I mean, when he won they didn't just sit there, they were bitching and complaining about him winning. But if I had it to do over again, he would do the promo at the start of the show."
After the pinfall, Marcellus and Circo laid boots to Cedric until Zack made the save, chasing off King and hitting the Zack Lash on Circo. He cut a promo to close the show, completing his babyface turn, and announced that he would be taking the title off King's hands. He closed the show by taking off his jacket to reveal a "Hulk Rules" t-shirt, and reminding the fans that wrestling was supposed to be fun, and announcing that salvation had come to Evo. And judging from the reactions of the fans, promoter, workers, and arena staff, I would say he was accurate.
Questions and comments to css3238 or on Twitter @TheShoreSlant.
You can learn more about EVO, see the Underground webisodes, and purchase DVDs and tickets for the August 20 event on the EVO website.
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