12/07 Wrestling Cares Association "Race for the Ring" Semifinals Report - Adam Cole vs. Steve Anthony, Johnny Gargano vs. Papadon, Golden Gate Tag Team Championship, and more!
By Will Pruett
Wrestling Cares Association Race for the Ring Semifinals
American Legion Post No. 46, Culver City, CA
For those wondering this is a different American Legion than the one PWG usually runs in Reseda. It is definitely smaller, although some of the size differential could be from the amount of production equipment WCA brings along. This is a show with higher production standards than Ring of Honor. It's a top-notch operation, especially considering what indie wrestling tends to be.
The charity for this show was Wildlife Waystation. WCA picks a charity for every show and gives them a portion of the ticket sales.
The show kicked off about ten minutes after it was scheduled to begin (which is amazingly prompt for Southern California). All of the competitors for the evening were introduced (another cool touch WCA does for every show). When all of the competitors were in the ring, there was a ten bell salute to the late Southern California wrestling promotor Roland Alexander.
Shelly Martinez then hyped up the crowd and informed them about the charity in the building. She was pretty good at getting the crowd into the chanting and cheering mood.
Angelo (the ring announcer) explained the rules of the Race for the Ring Tournament matches.
1. Forever Hooligans defeated The Ballard Twins in a first round match in the Golden State Tag Championship Tournament. I've never seen The Ballard Twins before this, but they aren't exactly impressive looking. They come to the ring in ill-fitting coats with their logos on them. When the coats come off, one sees they're both quite out of shape (one more so than another). There's also a thinning hair with long hair issue going on with hilarious bald spots.
The match became the Ballards getting the best of Alex Koslov. The Hooligans built up to the hot tag really well, but it wasn't the best hot tag moment. Shortly after the tag, Romero pinned the less out of shape Ballard for the win. It wasn't the best match, but it was a crowd pleasing opener.
2. Drake Younger defeated D.J. Hyde in a Technical Challenge. In this match, the first wrestler to break a single rule (or be pinned or submit) will lose. The match began with Hyde attempting to get Drake to use a closed fist or break another rule. Drake made a comeback and tried the same tactic. Hyde then broke the rules behind the referee's back, but could not be disqualified.
Another referee was called to watch the outside of the ring, so Hyde could not cheat again. Hyde beat down Drake and got a series of near falls. Drake made a comeback, taking Hyde down a couple of times and almost putting him away. Hyde managed to get heat on Drake once again. This included a sloppy D.J. Hyde Chokeslam. Drake managed to win the match by reversing Hyde's lariat attempt into Drake's Landing. Drake scored the pin. Hyde is exceptionally out of shape.
3. Timothy Thatcher and Oliver John defeated Scorpio Sky and Ryan Taylor in a first round match in the Golden State Tag Championship Tournament. Thatcher and John's gimmick is being "Old School" and they play it off pretty well. They come to the ring without music and there is a severe lack of showboating. They also attempt to keep their composure and wrestle technically. It's a fun act to watch, especially with John coaching from the corner.
Sky and Taylor are Southern California indie regulars. They tend to wrestle a more standard indie style. There a great exchange early in the match between Thatcher and Taylor with some unique takedowns and technical wrestling goodness. John and Thatcher dominated a great deal of the match with frequent tags. The closing exchange featured John catching Taylor with an awesome looking jumping powerslam for the pin. This match was pretty good and Thatcher and John really impressed me.
4. Johnny Gargano defeated Papadon in a Race for the Ring Tournament semifinal match. This match has a fifteen minute time limit with the wrestler with the most pins or submissions in that time winning the match. Both men were tentative at the beginning of the match, likely selling the extra five minutes in this round of the tournament. There were some highly technical exchanges at the top, followed by Gargano attempting to lock in the Gargano Escape. Papadon got out and then the match became about establishing his power.
Papadon score the first point via pinfall at about 6:00 with an inverted DDT followed by a suplex. The match has been about Gargano reacting to Papadon's power. Gargano came up from an uppercut from the second rope bleeding (likely from the nose), but he refused to quit. He hit Papdon with a big kick from the ground, then a spear through the ropes. At this point Gargano began dominating. The crowd was really hot for him as he tried and failed to score a fall on Papadon. Papadon attempted a clothesline on a downed Gargano and was caught in the Gargano Escape. He rolled Gargano up to escape the Escape. Gargano was able to roll Papadon up for a three count with just 3:00 minutes remaining.
After a short exchange, Papadon hit Gargano with a huge clothesline, downing him for nine seconds. The crowd cheered Gargano to his feet. The near falls at the end of this match were intense. Both men worked really hard to win it. Gargano was able to roll Papadon up with a bridge with only 20 seconds remaining. Gargano won a fantastic match 2-1.
With Gargano having bled in the match before intermission (a busted nose), the mat was thoroughly cleaned during intermission.
It was announced that the next WCA show will be on January 18.
David Jackson, Les Thatcher, Nigel McGuinness, and Shelly Martinez came to the ring to give the giant check to Wildlife Waystation.
5. Katarina Leigh defeated Tracy Taylor in a Beat the Champ Series match. This match has the same format as the Race for the Ring matches, only with a ten minute time limit. The match began with a back and forth exchange between both women, with Taylor providing to be smarter. Taylor managed to get a pin with a leg lariat around two minutes in. This is my first exposure to Taylor, who is athletic and charismatic, but a little clunky in the ring.
Around 5:30 into the match, Leigh scored her first point off of a Neckbreaker onto her knee. She then began dominating the match. Leigh was very aggressive, transitioning between bending the rules with shots on the ground or in the corner and various submission holds. Leigh scored her second point with around 70 seconds left when she managed to send Taylor head first into the corner and them rolling her up. Katarina managed to survive the final minute to win the match 2-1.
Katarina Leigh was informed that Cheerleader Melissa will be her next opponent. Leigh promised to take the "Beat the Champ Challenge" trophy home in January.
6. Timothy Thatcher and Oliver John defeated Forever Hooligans in the finals of the Golden State Tag Team Championship Tournament. Thatcher and John kept their coaching and technical wrestling antics from before alive (They're easily in my top three favorite things on this show). The Hooligans played the faces in peril well (even though Thatcher and John weren't exactly playing heels).
The Hooligans made occasional comebacks, but they were dominated by Thatcher and John. At one point, John delivered a Piledriver to Koslov, which caught me by surprise. Koslov was the focus of the punishment for a long period post-Piledriver as well. Oliver John attempted a big splash off the top rope and allowed Koslov to tag Romero. Thatcher was tagged in as well and we got a classic hot tag sequence.
The Hooligans managed to punish Thatcher a little now and took control for the first time in the match. Romero managed to lock Thatcher into an STF, which lead to a ton of crowd heat as Thatcher crawled to the ropes. Thatcher eventually suplexed Romero into a ceiling fan hanging over the ropes. John and Koslov ended up being the legal men again. John rolled Koslov into a small package. With the referee distracted, Romero rolled the package to favor Koslov for the three.
After the match, Les Thatcher refused to award the trophy to the Hooligans. A rematch will be held at the next show under tournament rules. The Hooligans victory was given to John and Thatcher.
This match was an excellent example of two teams taking out all of the common indie tropes (dives and four man breakdowns) and telling a compelling story to work the crowd into a frenzy. Great stuff from all four men. Their match in January will be must-see.
8. Adam Cole defeated Steve Anthony in a Race for the Ring Tournament semifinal match. Once again, these matches are fifteen minutes with the most falls winning. Adam Cole doesn't play his obnoxious heel character from PWG and ROH in the tournament. Anthony considers himself the master of the 450. Adam Cole scored the first point of the match with around 11:25 left with a shining wizard knee strike.
Both men bumped heads in the corner, Cole fell, Anthony went for the 450, but landed on his feet when Cole moved. Cole ate a Superkick, followed by a German Suplex from Anthony and was pinned. Around 9:00 remaining and the score is tied, 1-1. After Cole went for the Florida Keys with 7:00 remaining, Amthony scored an O'Connor Roll to score a point (2-1, Anthony).
Adam Cole, now playing from behind, almost scored a pin after a sunset flip powerbomb out of the corner, but when he couldn't, locked Anthony in the Figure Four. They played the tap-roll-ropes-pin drama of the Figure Four for a while (it's a very versatile and exciting hold). Anthony is now selling a hurt knee. Cole continued trying desperately to put Anthony away as the clock ticked down to 3:00 remaining.
Cole managed to pin Anthony with a modified Victory Roll at 2:45 to tie the score 2-2. Cole then went back to the Figure Four, but Anthony refused to quit. With 1:00 remaining Cole went up top, but was thrown from the top by Anthony. Anthony then went to the top rope to attempt the 450. Anthony missed the move and the clock expired. With the score tied, we went into a 3:00 sudden death overtime.
Adam Cole hit the Florida Keys German Suplex after about 30 seconds of overtime, but Anthony kicked out. Anthony managed to find himself back on top with Cole prone for the 450. He hit the 450, but Cole kicked out. With 50 seconds to go they were still tied. Anthony hit Cole with a Superkick, them a side suplex bridged into a pin. As the ref counted three, Cole's shoulder shot up, but Anthony's were down. Cole wins 3-2 with 25 seconds remaining in overtime.
Cole was asked about Johnny Gargano in January for the ring. Cole discussed matting Gargano in the finals and proving once and for all he is better.
A raffle closed out the show.
Pruett's Pause: This show was excellent. I wasn't too enthused about the format of the tournament matches at the last WCA show I attended, but this show blew me away. After a slow start with the first two matches, everything else impressed me. Hooligans vs. Thatcher and John and Gargano vs. Papadon both really impressed me. When this show is available, go out of your way to see it. WCA is unlike anything out there in indie wrestling and well worth seeing.
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