Canvas Cavity Column:  NorCal promotion APW  offers up an insane 5 star bout. Again
By Michael Lano, DDSall photos by Dr. Mike Lano
Pro wrestling/boxing/MMA global photojournalism since 1966


“I’m not 100% sure what a 5 star match is by definition, but I think I know it when I see it”

re: APW (Northern California boot camp and promotion) had just such a match on their card last Saturday 1/5/13 in “Old School” Oliver John vs British Messiah Tim Thatcher



Jerry Lynn & Mustapha Saied - photo by Dr. Mike Lano

Jerry Lynn & Mustapha Saied – photo by Dr. Mike Lano


We’re blessed with many great indie promotions out here on the “Left Coast.”  From Pro Wrestling Guerrilla to Revolution and long-time groups run by active wrestles like Sir Samurai (Sacramento), Billy Blade (Central California), “The Reno Scum which I believe is primarily Adam Thornstowe (Reno, Nevada and the outlying area), Jesse Hernandez’ long-running EWF in San Bernardino and beyond, Martin’s Lucha promotion at the historic Flea Market, etc.  There’s of course the group specifically for legit female athletes in Northern California.  And All Pro Wrestling (APW) which began as a school/boot camp circa 1991 and as a promotion in 1995 when I covered owner Roland Alexander’s very first show with Mike Modest, Robert Thompson, and Matt Hyson, I believe was on that show against Joe “Bad Apple” Applebaumer.   Matt became Spike Dudley in ECW and beyond.   And just citing APW and PWG, both have had 5 star classics I’ve shot and covered in their lengthy history (I’d be remiss if I forgot Ron Rivera’s influential and excellent Rev-Pro, so I won’t).


Let me say this before proceeding.  Our entire lower 48 states (not sure if Alaska or Hawaii have traditional, regularly-promoting groups or just tours that come in) are blessed with many fine promotions.


Which brings us to APW’s first major card of 2013 which occurred last Saturday night at their Gym Wars dojo.  Long time total pro’s pros put on the best-crafted match I’ve covered live in years.  It was intended to be put out as total sport and that’s what it looked like.  Just a thing of beauty.


photo of the never ending incredible headlock (Oliver John has it on Tim Thatcher-bigtime) by Dr. Mike Lano

photo of the never ending incredible headlock (Oliver John has it on Tim Thatcher-bigtime) by Dr. Mike Lano


Oliver John (vet of over 10 years trained by wrestling legend Paul DeMarco who held Roy Shire’s tag straps for a long time in ’71 with Lars Anderson plus main evented out here at the Cow Palace beyond his major previous history in Atlanta and all over Florida to name a few territories) eventually dropping a quick pin count to Tim Thatcher.  But no drop in respect from any of us who know Ollie well.   It was a totally different classic from any of the terrific ROH, Chikara, Dragon Gate spectacular matches I’ve had the privilege of covering as well,  in that they really went out to make it start with full amateur wrestling.  Then they slowly introduced aspects of MMA, then super stiff non-Kawada (well, for America) before Ollie/Oliver yelled: “I’m going to headlock you and you won’t get out.”


And that’s mos-def, what happened next.  He put a headlock on “British Messiah” Thatcher which wasn’t broken despite every possible escape attempted (this was the faux wrestling part but still).


I mean superplexes off the top rope didn’t “break” the side headlock.  After 10 minutes (and they were moving fast all over the ring, w/ the headlock firmly on) the crowd chant-yelled “10 minute headlock which followed at the 15 minute mark.  Someone named Lano also yelled out (“Valentine/Brisco 1973″) and I’ll direct you to APW’s tv show on youtube which will have it this match up soon.  Brilliant.  Oliver had that amazing match at CAC where he got legit KO’d against Morishima a few years back, and was attended too by Harley Race, Bockwinkel, Ross Hart and Killer Kowalski.   He deserves to be in the Whiffc(after they misused him in a tv squash 2 yrs ago) or TNA or a regular in Japan.  Or ROH.  In Davey Richard’s league, easily.


APW booker "Marcus Mac" in his guise as one of the top indie managers I've ever covered - He's the "Boss of Pink/Mink/Ink" which is the name of his group of heels - by Dr. Mike Lano

APW booker “Marcus Mac” in his guise as one of the top indie managers I’ve ever covered – He’s the “Boss of Pink/Mink/Ink” which is the name of his group of heels – by Dr. Mike Lano


Last night’s show was off the charts and booked outstandingly well by APW booker/heel manager Marcus Mac (who’s announced for the Samoans all over their European, etc. global tours in years past) with basically everyone and anyone good on the west coast wanting to work for Marcus (who’s thankfully also a great guy everyone likes and respects).  From Mustapha Saied working a dozen APW monthly shows in a row now, to guys who hadn’t been back to APW because the competing promoters (to APW) kind of did the “loyalty” thing on them) but they  broke rank and were back like the Ballard Twins (then APW and Vendetta tag champs who in Norcal were hogged by thieving creep Jerk White who only promotes every few months).


Mustapha Saied battling Billy Blade on the APW show - here tossing Billy into the back of his car and driving off, to kick his ass further at a local Burger King! - by Dr. Mike Lano

Mustapha Saied battling Billy Blade on the APW show – here tossing Billy into the back of his car and driving off, to kick his ass further at a local Burger King! – by Dr. Mike Lano


The absolute top guys were there last night working,  from all the L.A. promotions (like returning B-Boy and Chris Cadillak on down to Sir Samurai’s longtime Sacramento group, name groups all over the west coast, Modesto, Billy Blade’s group Vendetta and more.  Billy will be booking his second year in a row for CAC’s annual show this April in Vegas (he did great last year) involving as many promotions as possible once more.  WWE Tough Enough star AJ Kirsch, who gets better each show.  New heel Matt Carlos, Dave Dutra.  A parade of stars ala APW’s 2001 innovative King of the Indies Meltz and I were at (Bryan Alv wrestled too!) which began ROH, etc. and everything to follow with Chris Daniels, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Kazarian, Sakoda, Bryan Danialson, Lo-Ki, Mike Modest, Donovan Morgan, Scoot Andrews, Spanky y mucho mas.


Again, All Pro Wrestling’s Gym Wars was off the hook as it usually is.  “Kristie Von Erie” was back to her NorCal roots after her stint in TNA. Any of us who’ve reported on her since her first matches in SoCal and NorCal are totally proud of her, despite what I alone am guessing was frustration in TNA.  She’s worked so hard on her skill sets, and it just shows in each crisp move and mannerism.   She keeps improving every time (she was always good but now is the complete worker) and has been a regular, she said, in Shimmer.  She said she’s now moved permanently from NorCal to Jersey so she just came out for this major show and I think is still with Jesse Neal. Boo Boo face to TNA for dropping them, Petey Williams, Davari, Amazing Red, SATs and so many other greats the past 10 years.


And like Lil Cholo and other longtime indie stars, Kristie’s (think the Von Erie is not a derivation of a wrestling work name but that of a punk rock star) really an all-star athlete now on all cylinders.  She was great on all the APW, BTW, PWG shows she’d been on before the TNA thing, but is a complete worker now.   Just great to see a female doing serious wrestling (and she kicked a few guy’s asses in the battle royal, including longtime West Coast rave Rik Luxury).   Adam Thornstowe won the battle royal and got to pick his main event for next Gym Wars which is a Universal title shot at heel Dylan Drake in a streetlight.


Dylan Drake of APW holds nearly all the world titles on the West Coast - by Dr. MikeLano

Dylan Drake of APW holds nearly all the world titles on the West Coast – by Dr. MikeLano


The entire card was spectacular and topped APW’s normal highlight shows of the year in their Halloween Hell and Christmas Chaos events.  There was a royal rumble rules battle royal where all things pointed to Rik Luxury winning, but he was eliminated about half way through.  Adam “Reno Scum member” Thornstowe tossed out his own tag and biz partner in legit 7′ plus giant Paul to win.  The winner (Adam herein) got to pick his match for the next big Gym Wars show next month,  and Adam said he was picking a street fight title bout with APW’s primary champion in heel Dylan Drake.  The evening started with heel manager Mathew Thiel being tossed out by APW commish and lead trainer Larry Blackwell after he tried to highjack the show.  Larry and APW security tossed out Mathew after one of his classic, riled-up promos.  Again,  just a wealth of talent for booker Marcus Mac to choose from (and the Carnival Of Shadows weren’t even booked on the card as the depth level was so off the charts already.  SMW and ECW legend Mustapha Saied, all the great SoCal stars, Billy Blade and his crew from California’s midpoint, the Ballard Twins returning to APW after 10 years and so many more.  The Ballards said they’ll still work for the opposition group here whose cards they basically save (this group only runs every 2-3 months so not many shows per year anyway).  And they were returning to APW as joint/combined tag champs for APW and Billy Blade’s group.  Billy by the way, ran an amazing free show for Cauliflower Alley Club in Vegas last April and is lead promoter once more this April.  He’s of course going to be joined by athletes from all the groups that worked this APW show and I believe even more SoCal, Vegas ones with wrestlers from other promotions probably added from other parts of the globe as occurs each year.  And Brian Blair and I’m guessing our own Rock Riddle from CAC (70′s veteran and former Rip Hawk fan club prez in the 60′s!)


Few more rambling thoughts on this great APW card:


Sporting a zillion times more chest hair than Joey “70′s disco dude with replica Harley Race’s infamous trunks from ’73″ Ryan, is long-time west coast wrestler and Oakland promoter Sheik Khan Abadi (who’s a face in APW and I believe his own very innovative and fun Oakland group of HOOD SLAM).  In a superb NorCal vs SoCal fast-paced light-heavyweight grudge match, he and El Chupacabra (also a wrestler/promoter out here) dropped a great match to primo L.A. talent in veteran stars B-Boy and Chris Cadilak.  B-Boy was involved in several 4 and 5 star matches in the 90′s and 00′s at APW and was even on King of the Indies back in 2001, which again totally changed the business overnight.


B-Boy did a spot I’ve never seen before on Khan (sort of like the classic 70′s lady wrestlers move in tossing a fellow worker “by her hair”) but instead of pulling his long hair, he tossed him across the ring by his chest hair.  Like the Ollie John/Timothy Thatcher classic, this spot and match has to be seen.  The entire card has to be seen.  If you go to or or APW;   you’ll really be treating your eyeballs to some state of the art pro wrestling.   And we need it so much after suffering through what the so-called major tv promotions are offering in bloated USA and Spike tv offerings of late.  Really a shame when WWE and TNA have so many great talents.   I’m hoping when they finally pair Bryan Danielson with Claudio, and they don’t screw it up and let them “go.”


– Article & photos by Dr. Mike Lano, DDS








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