Throw Back Thursday – Pacific Cup 2007: The Fighting Irishman
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the privilege of being around ECCW when a lot of guys started out in the wrestling business. I’ve seen wrestlers like Scotty Mac, Aaron Idol, Artemis Spencer, Bishop, Kc Spinelli, Danni Deeds, El Phantasmo, Nicole Matthews, Jamie Diaz, Sid Sylum… even Jimbo Richards have some of their very first matches. And this is not denying any of the amazing talent these people possess (even Jimbo Richards!… or, ummmm, well the talent the REST of them possess), I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t seen anyone take to professional wrestling quite like Kyle O’Reilly. The word “prodigy” comes to mind. Watching him in the ring when he first started out it was hard to believe that he hadn’t been wrestling for years already. As we saw already, he made it to the finals of the Pacific Cup tournament not even a month after finishing his training. A feat that has yet to be duplicated. The words I used to describe Aaron Idol certainly apply to O’Reilly. Passion and determination. Quite fitting, since Idol was one of Kyle O’Reilly’s trainers in ECCW.
The 2007 Pacific Cup took place on June 16th in the host building of this years tournament, the Russian Community Centre in Vancouver. That year the bracketing reverted back to it’s original set up of 12 men ready to lay it all on the line for a chance to be Pac Cup Champion. Davey Richards made his return to the tournament that year facing off against MR2 in an opening round match. Richards had been away from ECCW for some time, making a name for himself in Ring of Honor and winning various other tournaments in various other promotions along the east coast of the United States. So there was definitely a buzz in the building when he came out for his first match. What I remember of that match was how hard Davey’s kicks were and how quickly he could throw them. Watching Davey on TV does not do him justice. I actually found myself in the unusually awkward position of feeling sorry for MR2. And though MR2 put up a valiant effort, Richards just proved to be to much for him as MR2 tapped out to a kimura armlock.
The next opening round match was one that had some people talking. It was to be Azeem the Dream squaring off with his Chilltown stablemate Scotty Mac. Would we finally see the dissolution of this group of “Side Thorns” (you know, thorns in everyone’s side? I’m glad you came along with me on that one) Or would we be witness to some kind of folderol or chicanery? As the two men stood face to face in the ring, yapping back and forth, I thought maybe this would be an actual battle. However, chicanery abounded. Scotty ducked an Azeem superkick and Azeem, seemingly slipping on an invisible banana peel, fell to his back where Smac covered him for the 1-2-3. Our hopes for a Chilltownless society were foiled once again. Scotty walked into the second round without breaking a sweat. But, he would need that energy for what was to come his way.
If there was a match that could be used as a highlight reel, it would be this next contest between Kyle O’Reilly vs The Amazing Halo. These two guys really seemed to be on the same page this night as they hit each other with mind boggling maneuvers, counter-maneuvers and counter-counter-maneuvers. In the end, it was Kyle that won with a roll up to advance. This was easily the most back-and-forth, physically draining match of the opening round. And Kyle still had a long way to go that night.
“Brilliant” Billy Suede advanced over Disco Fury when Disco, out of the blue and for no good reason what-so-ever grabbed his little disco ball on a chain and cracked Suede in the ear with it right in front of the referee to get himself disqualified. I’m still baffled as to what Disco was thinking. Following that one we had the defending Pac Cup Champion Memphis Raines advance after beating Sid Sylum in his second Pacific Cup effort.
The final first round match pitted El Phantasmo vs “Tornado” Tony Kozina. Kozina returned to the Pacific Cup with a new determination to finally win the prestigious trophy. Having been in the finals of the inaugural Pac Cup, he knew what being that close to the champion’s pay window tasted like. It was his time to take it all the way. El Phantasmo was in the ring doing his usual antics and having a good time. Unfortunately for him, Tony was there to wrestle. Kozina landed multiple dropkicks with pinpoint accuracy through out the contest but ended up aggravating a neck injury he had sustained a month earlier in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match in that building. Like the true professional that he is and displaying sheer grit, Kozina was still able to best El P in order to advance to the second round.
Why did I say that Scotty Mac would need that energy in his second round match? Because it was against Davey Richards. And as good of shape as Scotty Mac is always in, I dare say they are few wrestlers in the business that take conditioning and training more seriously than Davey Richards. And that condition was about to be put to the test. Richards having already exerted some effort against MR2, he was in for fight against a fresh Smac. And a fight it was! From hard hitting kicks and chops to highflying to technical mat wrestling, this match had it all and is my call for Match of the Night. And that’s saying a lot considering the caliber of competition that night. I hope Azeem got a bonus for his actions in the opening round because I think if Scotty had depleted his reserve by having a challenging first round, he might not have gotten past Richards. However, as the history books say, Scotty Mac toppled Davey to advance to the finals.
The final match of the night was a three-way elimination match for the 2007 Pacific Cup trophy. The participants to join Scotty Mac? Tony Kozina who, neck injury not withstanding, victoriously suffered through a war with Billy Suede. Also, after being able to rectify his lose in the 2006 Pac Cup finals against Memphis Raines, Kyle O’Reilly rounded out the three men. The dynamics of this match were very intriguing from the outset. A man that was referenced as an ECCW Legend by the ring announcer (who happened to be The Natural), Tony Kozina. A man that was about 7 years into his wrestling career at that time and firmly in a main event spot within the company, Scotty Mac. And a young upstart kid who had been wowing crowds from the first time he performed in front of them, Kyle O’Reilly. It was everything you’d expect from these three guys and then some. But my greatest memory came after the final bell. Kyle O’Reilly won the match to become the 2007 Pacific Cup champion but it was his impassioned victory speech that left me with goosebumps. In the world today there is a sorrowing lack of authentic moments. Of moments in time where true emotions are displayed. When Kyle grabbed the microphone and yelled that “This is why I wanted to become a professional wrestler!” I was living vicariously through him. As he thanked the crowd for allowing him to perform this “beautiful sport” in front of them, I don’t know if I had ever been more proud to be a wrestling fan. A brilliant night for ECCW and for the sport!
(Terrible Segue Warning) Speaking of “Brilliant”, that brings us to Pacific Cup 2008. Though we’ve revisited many amazing moments throughout this history review, the 2008 Pac Cup contains a favourite moment for me on a personal level… We’ll get to that tomorrow. Thank you for checking back with me everyday (well, ALMOST everyday). If you have any comments at all, please share them. I’d love to hear anyone else’s favourite memories.