Welcome to Hard Time Blues: The World of Pro Wrestling from Merry-Go-Round Magazine! It’s a great time to get into professional wrestling. In each Hard Time Blues feature, MGRM contributors Luke Phillips and Maxwell Flynn will be exploring the wild, weird, and wooly world of the squared circle, and all of the angles, feuds, gossip, and evil wizards therein.
This week, Maxwell Flynn recaps West Coast Pro’s highly anticipated fourth anniversary show Ride the Lightning (available for replay on IndependentWrestling.tv).
Four blocks from Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA, the United Irish Cultural Center was an absolute packed house, with late comers vying for a clear view of the action. The crowd arrived early for a meet and greet with some of Japan’s top names in professional wrestling—Katsuyori Shibata and Chigusa Nagayo—and you could feel the excitement in the air.
The show opened with a six man tag match, The Conglomerate (Midas Kreed, D-Rogue, and Alpha Zo) vs. Robert Martyr, Kevin Knight, and their mystery partner—later revealed to be AEW star and Ring of Honor Pure champion, “The Red Death” Daniel Garcia. It was a hard hitting match that drew the crowd both ways, with The Conglomerate eventually taking the victory after a miscommunication between Knight and Garcia led to a little friendly fire, losing them their momentum and ultimately the match. The fan favorite Conglomerate and the wildly popular mystery entrant had the energy in the room buzzing into the second match, Queen Aminata vs. Japanese star Mio Momono, who was representing Marvelous Pro (out of Chiba, Japan).
West Coast Pro have excelled at building strong relationships with local and international promotions through both showcasing talent and hosting collaborative shows. The upcoming King of Indies tournament (November 19th at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco, CA) is similarly set as a cross promotional show featuring Pro Wrestling Revolution, West Coast Pro, Dragon Gate, and Pro Wrestling NOAH—the latter two promotions being based in Japan.
While these events have created great opportunities for wrestlers to garner worldwide exposure while simultaneously exchanging tips and techniques with a wide variety of talent, I would be lying if I said the fans weren’t getting the better end of the deal. As such, Queen Aminata vs. Mio did not disappoint, with both women putting on an incredible match full of hard strikes, high flying, and a bit of comedy. At one point a small referee error in counting a pin fall caused a false finish in Queen Aminata’s favor that split the crowd; amid a chorus of boos and cheers the match was restarted and Mio capitalized on the confusion. She quickly attempted a sneaky pin and took the official win. After the match, AEW star Powerhouse Hobbs, a West Coast Pro original, came out to announce that due to the mixup, this fantastic match would take place again at a later date. I’m not sure if that was always the plan, but the incredible pivot builds hype for the inevitable rematch between these two super talented wrestlers.
Next up on the bill was The West Coast Wrecking Crew (Jorel Nelson & Royce Isaacs) vs. Committee Of Violence (1 Called Manders & Levi Shapiro). What resulted was a perfectly fine match—silly but hard hitting. Repeatedly I wanted to yell “kick his ass you cornfed motherfucker” at 1 Called Manders, but held back because I was sitting next to a child; the crowd was solidly behind the West Coast Wrecking Crew, but the newly formed Committee of Violence had a great showing and pulled up a strong offense but unable to take the victory.
Marking the halfway point in the card was Jungle Kyona vs. Sandra Moone. Sandra Moone has been exploding on the scene during the past year, making appearances at GCW shows and on AEW DARK, and this opportunity against decorated Japanese star Jungle Kyona continues to show that West Coast has their finger on the pulse… This was Jungle Kyona’s second match back after taking a two year hiatus to deal with injuries, but you absolutely wouldn’t notice as she hasn’t lost a step. Both had a great match—lots of stiff strikes, and an incredibly cool powerbomb off the top rope gave Sandra Moone the edge she needed to get the win. I hope we get to see both of these competitors in a West Coast ring again in the future.
Alan Angels and Starboy Charlie, both dressed in denim, were ready for a no-disqualifications match that absolutely did not disappoint—we love a grudge match, don’t we folks? After brawling through the audience and receiving a gnarly DDT on the stage, a bloodied Starboy Charlie began to show a more aggressive side than I’d seen in previous matches; channeling the frustration from losing the West Coast Cup and defending West Coast from the monumental prick Alan Angels, Charlie utilized the weapons introduced to the ring by Angels. We saw chairs, a garbage can, thumbtacks, and a table in this hardcore sprint. Starboy Charlie is picking himself up, rebuilding the momentum he had going into the West Coast Cup. I’d love to see him announced for the aforementioned King of Indies tournament, but we’ll see what he has in store going forward.
Bringing us back from a quick intermission was Erick Stevens vs. Vinnie Massaro: a man that loves cookies vs. a man that loves pizza. This was a quality showing—exactly what you’d expect from a match between two multiple decade veterans. Wrestling with fairly similar styles, Erick Stevens was a little too comfortable in his submission based offense, while Massaro’s striking prowess earned him the victory. Vinnie’s win streak, now at twelve in a row in singles competition, proved him to truly be the gatekeeper of West Coast Pro, which begs the question who will step up next, and will they have what it takes to finally take Massaro down.
The third match of the night featuring an international competitor in Ben-K vs. Bryan Keith. Both left it all out in the ring, putting on the standout match of the evening. After they sized each other up in the opening minutes of the match, they traded grapples, then shoulder tackles, but continually came up evenly matched. Ben-K seemingly had a reversal for everything Keith threw at him, at one point catching him out of mid-air to deliver a monumental suplex before mounting him up into a torture rack. As neither man was able to get the clear upperhand, they showed their fighting spirit by exchanging stiff strikes in the middle of the ring. Capitalizing on a quick headbutt, Ben-K hit a powerbomb hoping to end the match, but Keith kicked out at the very last moment. Ben-K then went for a running lariat to finish the job but Keith was prepared, ducking it and crumpling Ben-K with a vicious knee strike of his own. Keeping his momentum, Bryan Keith sent Ben-K into the mat with a huge Emerald Tiger Driver for the win. Both men showed each other absolute respect after the match, bowing to one another in the middle of the ring. It’s a huge victory for Bryan Keith, one that will perhaps lead to a title shot for Ben-K’s Ryuo Championship (from Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling based out of Okinawa, Japan).
The main event of the evening was Titus Alexander vs. the reigning West Coast Pro Heavyweight Champion, Jacob Fatu. Titus Alexander has a unique presence; often booed and disliked as he comes to the ring, his pure wrestling ability begins to win the crowd over and turn them to his side. Earning this title shot by winning the West Coast Cup in August, he entered the day looking to end Fatu’s 211 day championship run. Hoping to get a quick upperhand Titus attacked Fatu before the bell, a strategy that did not pay off as one punch from the champion flattened him, sending him out of the ring to collect himself. Titus was not allowed a moment to recover, with Fatu delivering back-to-back dives to the outside to keep up the attack. Alexander crawled away from Fatu and worked to regain his composure, using his speed and reflexes to try and change the tide of the match. Unfortunately, on top of being a massive human being, Fatu is also deceptively quick and prevented Titus from reprieve.
As he struggled to get in whatever offense he could, the crowd slowly swayed to Titus’s side, building him up and giving him the edge he needed. Fired up, he took Fatu down for the first time with a big Tornado DDT, kicking off an offensive flurry. A handspring cutter sent the champion to the outside of the ring, giving Titus the opportunity to hit a picture perfect diving senton to the floor below. The war between these two men continued to even out with Fatu’s sheer strength countered by Titus’ ability to adapt.
After Titus kicked out of his finisher, the Killing Move, Fatu looked to end the match with an avalanche Rikishi Driver off the top rope. Fatu struggled to balance his footing and Alexander took advantage, reversing his predicament and delivering a move of his own off the top rope. He immediately transitioned to his finisher, the Sweet Time Driver, for a three-count, successfully ending Jacob Fatu’s championship run and becoming the new West Coast Pro Heavyweight Champion. Titus Alexander had already been dubbed the “Future Franchise” before Ride The Lightning, but as he carries the belt into the King of Indies tournament, he has the opportunity to cement himself as the “Current Franchise.”
On their fourth anniversary, West Coast Pro is showing no signs of slowing down. Every show only further establishes their following and demands attention as a rising staple in the Northern California wrestling scene, and slowly the Professional Wrestling landscape at large.
I’ll be back with more coverage of their future events, and we always say, it’s a great time to become a fan of professional wrestling!