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 articleshere. Full disclosure, I am the ring announcer and play-by-play voice for Evo. Positions for which I am not paid. In this article, Evo presents #FollowThis.
As I sat and talked through #FollowThis with Pro Wrestling Evo owner Patrick Wright in the wee hours of the morning, it struck me that this show revealed both faces of the promotion. On one side, there was the phenomenal in-ring work that produced a solid card, and a main event that is not to be missed. It is this face that is quickly driving Evo to the top indy promotion in the Southeast.
The other face is the only thing standing in the way of that top spot. Miscommunications, technical difficulties, lack of attention to detail, and at least one out of control temper, were all on display at the show. They did not kill the event, but they certainly took away from what was perhaps the best wrestled show to date.
The event opened with a pre-show match between two new talents who had tried out earlier in the day. Robyn Golphin is a small wrestler, in both size and weight, who bumps around like crazy, and has explosive offense. The best way to describe his opponent, Deandre Johnson, is "black Colt Cabana." Johnson doesn't have a great physique, but he was an instant hit with the audience, and gave the promotion something they didn't have, a comedy persona. Both guys will be back in the future.
Zack Salvation then stepped through the curtain before the show officially started. Salvation is a known commodity around the area, and as the crowd reaction showed, one of the stars the company is building. Salvation had been scheduled to face ROH standout Kyle O'Reilly, but O'Reilly and his travel partner, Tony Kozina (who was supposed to wrestle Jake Manning), had to cancel at the last second. With no match, Salvation demanded to make the title match a triple threat by adding him to the match.
Instead, another of the company's stars, "The Manscout" Jake Manning, stepped through the curtain. Since his match had been canceled as well, he asked Salvation to answer the "Manscout Merit Challenge," a stipulation match that will see The Manscout retire if he loses. After setting up the story, Zack accepted. It was a good moment, but the first of what would be several gaffes occurred here when the microphone Zack used was too loud, causing feedback and distortion, and Jake's mic was too soft. A problem that was at least part my fault. The normal sound guy could not be there, and it led to several moments like this throughout the show.
The show officially started with a technical error. Somehow, the projector screen was not on, and the opening was a back and forth video between the two main event wrestlers. The problem was realized about two-thirds of the way into the video, which led to the video being stopped, the projector turned on, and the entire intro being replayed.
I usually open the show by welcoming everyone to the show. Instead, the faction Cirkus came to the ring so that Evo Champion Marcellus King could cut a promo about his opponent, Cedric Alexander. King brought his "pet" Cirko to the ring with him, who sat on the apron. The story was good, Alexander's part of the opening video was him going crazy about King taking the title from him and the attacks from the Cirkus.
King's job was to sell that and foreshadow "another side" of Alexander. He failed to get the promo over in a miss that could happen to anybody. But he also suffered from Cirko flipping a fan off, causing the little section of the audience who saw it to pop. It was a stupid mistake, which Cirko took full responsibility for. Yet it was not to dumbest move of the night.
The opening contest saw Trevor Lee and new comer Ben Tyler defeat The Chiva Kid and new comer Joe Black. Trevor and Chiva have faced off many times, and have been accused of creating nothing but spot fests. Not this time. One of the best openers I have ever seen. All four men truly deserve to be highlighted for that match.
Before both teams could leave the ring area, and before I could setup the next match in the ring, music played for Mike Merletti, one of the wrestlers in the next match. This happened several times throughout the night, making the show seem chaotic at times. Merletti, appearing in only his second match, was defeated by Big Country, a character that is wildly over with the crowd. The match was OK, neither great nor bad. After the match, Country was attacked by a fan who was a plant. The "fan" was escorted from the building, and then ran sound for the majority of the night.
The match before intermission was Zack Salvation vs. Jake Manning. I have seen both guys work. Zack has a talent that I wonder sometimes if he even recognizes, and every person I have ever met that knows Jake Manning has told me he is one of the top five minds in the business. Both of those things were evident here. This was not a flashy match with a ton of high spots. But I say with no hyperbole or fluff that if I was asked to pick five matches that exemplify "story telling in the ring," this makes the list. Jake won and kept his career alive thanks to the Cirkus, a story that will continue to unfold.
After Intermission, the wheels tried to come off. The first match featured Cirko vs. Arik Royale, a wrestler making his third appearance for the group. Arik had become a quick fan favorite, and my broadcast partner and I spent a great amount of time putting young Arik over both in general, and specifically as the only man to have officially announce he would be a part of Evo Eight, the company's annual tournament held in January. This was his time to shine.
What happened next can only be described as tragic. Royale blew spot after spot in the ring. Cirko, annoyed with how it was turning out, compounded matters by no-selling the finish and storming to the back. Fortunately for Cirko, no one will remember that because of the heat Royale was about to earn.
For some inexplicable reason, Royale got in the face of a drunk fan who was heckling him. The fan, eager to show that he wasn't afraid in front of his buddies, chest bumped Royale. Royale placed both hands on the fan's chest and shoved. They were quickly separated. Royale went to the back and the fan sat down. He was gone before I could get backstage after the show, and as of this writing, his status with the company has not been decided.
The final two matches were both championship matches, and quite literally saved the day. The fact that the wheels did not come off is a testament to the abilities of the final four workers. Caleb Konley defended his PWI International Ultra J Championship against Kirby Mack. These two had waged a very well done Twitter war as hype for this match, and the match did not disappoint.
Caleb was able to retain in a submission victory, but here again, a small problem hurt the show. After what was a legitimately tight match, Mack sold being out in the ring, causing referees and other workers come out and check on him, only to carry him to the back. It was complete improve from Kirby Mack. And on any other night, it would have been no big deal.
The main event started out in the hole. I was just starting towards the ring when Cedric's music played. I had to run backstage, stop the music, and start again once the setup occurred. I also managed to forget to announce that it was a no disqualification match. Cedric attacked King as soon as the bell rang, distracting from that gaffe, and drawing the fans into what may be the best match the promotion has ever had. Alexander and King had it all, it was brutal. Recent ROH signee Alexander showed the kicks that caught the attention of that company. King took every bump, including the one that caused him to bleed hardway, like a champ.
After a great back and forth battle, Alexander hit his finisher, but stopped the count after two. He went to the floor and got two chairs. He setup King for the one man con-chair-to, and after being encouraged by the fans, hit the move. Cedric slung the chair to the side, and collapsed in the corner like a scared child. King rolled over on his back, and twisted his arms and hands like he had a legit head injury.
I have been to well over 100 live events in my life, including dozens in the 1980s when you could get unbelievable reactions from fans. That said, I have never seen an entire crowd fall for a gimmick until this night. The place went silent. Not quiet. Complete silence. For several moments, my voice on play-by-play was the only sound in the building. It was as cool as it was weird.
I was concerned after Kirby Mack had essentially made the main event finish a re-do, but Alexander's shock and horror at what he had done, coupled with King's head injury acting (a job so well done his wife, who had not been informed of the finish, was visibly shaken) stole the show. So when King suddenly recovered, kicked Alexander in the testicles, and then smashed him with the chair to score the pinfall victory, the crowd was disgusted. That disgust turned to elation when Salvation ran back out to attack King and demand another title shot. And so it was that the show that had more than enough problems to derail left the fans clamoring for more.
In another place and another time, I was part of a team that did the impossible. We took over a drum corps show just weeks before it was to occur. With a group that controlled the schools working against us, three of us managed to not only find housing for over 1000 people, but saw us put 7000 butts in the seats. We had hoped for 1500. When talking about it afterward, the three of us agreed that there was always this feeling like we couldn't fail. That even if we had tried to make it fail, we would have been unsuccessful.
I am not saying Pro Wrestling Evo is going to shut down WWE and rule the world. I won't even go so far as to say the planned November show will happen. Life, and this industry, has taught me never to guarantee anything when there is no guarantee of a tomorrow. No, I don't know what the future holds for Evo. But I do know this. It feels an awful lot like that other time and place.
Questions and comments to css3238 or on Twitter @TheShoreSlant.
You can learn more about EVO, see the Underground webisodes, and purchase DVDs and merchandise on the EVO website.
Shore's Blog - Through the Curtain: Despite numerous problems, Pro Wrestling Evo dares the next show to #FollowThis
Oct 11, 2011 - 09:40 AM
Oct 11, 2011 - 09:40 AM
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