Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Platinum Championship Wrestling is Rad

Before I get too deep into this one I want to make it clear that I don’t know the whole story, I don’t know any of the guys in PCW on anything more than an acquaintance basis, and all of this is written purely as a fan of professional wrestling. I’m not “in” with these guys and gals and I don’t write about PCW out of anything other than a love of the company and what it does.
I didn’t know this until last Friday night, but Stephen Platinum is leaving.
Well, technically Stephen Platinum is already gone. For the past two months or so he has been commuting from Orlando to Atlanta every weekend for Empire/PCW shows. Obviously that’s fucking ridiculous. Nobody could keep that up. But it does change my perspective on what’s been going on with Platinum Championship Wrestling the past few months.
           Side Note: Throughout this post I will refer to “PCW” even though the company has technically been “Empire Wrestling” for the better part of a year. There are two reasons for this – the first is that the presence of PCW has never gone away and never will. Even if there are no more PCW shows, what PCW has accomplished and brought to the industry will always remain. Every single man and woman that has walked into a PCW ring – whether to wrestle, manage, or referee – has not only given something to the company, but taken something away as well. What I have seen in the years I have been watching PCW is a dedication to the sport like no other. That, to me, defines PCW and is something that will always be present in the men and women I saw there.
The second is that “PCW” takes a lot less time to type than “Empire Wrestling”.
It was announced a month or so ago that September 28, 2012 – the night before Sacred Ground Chapter Three, PCW’s biggest show of the year – would be the final show at the Academy Theater. This was presented as a move by the Empire in order to further erase all signs of PCW from the company. At first I was shocked, then I decided I didn’t buy it. As far as I knew, the relationship that the Academy Theater has had with PCW has been mutually beneficial and enjoyable. The blaming of Empire seemed a little sketchy to me as well, particularly with Sacred Ground the next night and the final battle between PCW and Empire taking place. I thought for sure PCW would emerge triumphant and the Academy shows would continue.
But then I heard more and more about these shows in Porterdale, GA. Apparently the crowds there were great and the venue was pretty awesome. I have yet to attend one because a two hour round trip is not something I look forward to (as opposed to Stephen Platinum’s 16 hours). It also pretty much eliminates the possibility of adult beverages and I do like to enjoy adult beverages with my live pro wrestling. Anyway, the Porterdale stuff seemed to be going really well and that made me worry a bit more about losing the more proximal shows in Avondale Estates.
Then last Friday night I heard about the Stephen Platinum situation and I became worried that PCW might not have any future at all. That’s not something I want to think about. But it seems to be a looming fact. Sacred Ground Chapter Three may well be Stephen Platinum’s swan song; in Georgia, anyway.
My first experience with PCW was in October of 2010. It was one of the shows they used to put on at the Masquerade and it remains my favorite night of wrestling ever. It was the night I fell in love with this company.
Three of the fruitiest bastards I’d ever seen went toe-to-toe with three big, scary black guys. Two tough broads beat the hell out of each other. And Muffin Top (“Do or Die” Chip Day) – of all people – showed up and had one of the best live matches I’ve seen versus Davey Richards, Shane Marx, and somebody else. On top of all that, there was this announcer that was not only great at calling matches, but also absolutely hilarious. I was hooked.
Over the next several months I attended every show PCW put on at the Masquerade. I had to change my work schedule to my detriment a couple of times, but I wasn’t going to miss a single show if I could help it. I even sacrificed my annual viewing of WWE’s Survivor Series so I could see PCW’s November show.
And it’s a good thing I did because that was where I saw what is currently my favorite match of all time. It was a street fight between the Konkrete Gorillaz and the Exotic Ones and it remains one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen live. Like, even more than Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth. The match spilled out onto the floor of the Masquerade and involved WrestlingWith Pop Culture’s Jonathan Williams taking a bottle to the face and both teams being covered in blood afterwards. I still have Jay Fury’s blood-soaked shirt.
A few months later PCW had a show right before WrestleMania. I got to meet Jim Cornette and also start off what was my best weekend of wrestling ever. Thursday night was PCW, Friday night was Ring of Honor, Saturday night brought the WWE’s Hall of Fame ceremony (where some asshole shouted something to the effect of, “YOU KILLED PRO WRESTLING,” during Shawn Michaels’ heartfelt speech; I found out later that weekend the asshole was none other than PCW’s own “Human Hand Grenade” dany only), and Sunday night was WrestleMania. There was a time when I would have paid whatever it cost to sit ringside at the Granddaddy of ‘Em All. Those days are long gone. Me and the other attending Hooligans opted for the cheap seats and were approximately 5.2 miles away from the action. Basically just so we could say we were at a WrestleMania. I’m not going to lie and tell you the atmosphere was anything but electric, but ROH and PCW both put on better shows for my money. And they managed to do it without Snookie.
Over the next few months I preached the gospel of PCW to the Hooligans effectively enough so that by the time Sacred Ground Chapter II rolled around we had a sizeable group going. We traveled far to the South of Atlanta for one of the best wrestling events I have witnessed. And then we traveled back to Atlanta for the after party, where we got to mingle with Pandora, Aisha, Shane Marx, Mason, Marko Polo, the Washington Bullets, and Chip Day at Atlanta’s Best Gay Bar. It was a hoot and a holler and a night the Hooligans still recall fondly and often. And only PCW would have you travel from a church to a gay bar for a night of wrestling-related fun.
I don’t know exactly when the Academy Theater shows started. I think it was some time during 2011 because I don’t believe they were going on when I first discovered PCW. I wanted to go, but Friday nights just aren’t usually good for me because of my weird work schedule. Finally, in November of 2011, I had no choice but to attend a show. On 11-11-2011 a match was held to determine who would control the promotion – Stephen Platinum or the Empire. The tiny PCW Arena was packed and the atmosphere was like none other. Thanks to the dastardly Shane Marx – once the figurehead of PCW – the Empire gained control.


After that night I tried to get out to Avondale Estates as often as I could. I still wasn’t able to go much, but I made it when it was feasible. And it was worth my while every single time.
That’s part of the magic of PCW – I have never once seen a bad show. I have seen bad matches. I have seen bad promos. But both of those things were people learning. People growing. And it was part of the show. Overall, each night of Platinum Championship Wrestling that I have experienced has been awesome and exciting. An atmosphere that nothing else quite compares to. I have never regretted taking time out of my schedule for a night of PCW.
In the time I have been a PCW fan I have seen Pandora and Aisha Sunshine destroy each other time and again in a way no WWE Diva or TNA Knockout ever would. Those two ladies would never go by some stupid moniker to differentiate themselves from the male wrestlers. They are simply wrestlers. And it never mattered where they were on the card, they made their matches the Main Event of any given night.
I watched Mason evolve from being a reviled heel to being the savior of PCW who carried the whole promotion on his tattooed back.
I watched the Vandal learn how to work in the ring and cut promos. The first time I ever saw him at the Masquerade I would have bet money he would never amount to anything. The last time I saw him at a show he was cutting one of the best promos and wrestled as solid a match as I’ve seen.
I watched dany only work his way out of the tag team ranks to become the most valuable singles wrestler in the company, working every night to be the top working heel; then transitioning to be the same amongst the babyface ranks. And believe me – I had my doubts about babyface dany only. But he made it work.
I watched Johnny Danger become a star. A skinny little punk with Godzilla on his baggy indie pants won over the PCW crowd with nothing but determination and just a little bit of pizzazz. And pizza. There was pizza at one point.
I watched Sylar Cross learn to work the crowd. First by finding his character as a heel, then by making one of the most unexpected turns in history to become a Hogan-esque babyface monster.
I watched the Washington Bullets become more than just a great tag team. Jon Williams has had successful solo matches and both he and Trey can spit fire on the mic now, getting the crowd behind them with words and actions. They continue to get the biggest crowd reactions in PCW.
I watched Geter go from being a prop monster that simply no-sold and let smaller men jump on him to being a skilled, athletic big man that is truly one of the most impressive I have seen live. When Geter runs out of the locker room, the entire crowd gasps and waits to see who he is going to lay waste to.
I watched Brian Blaze change himself from the weakest link in a three-man team to the leader. I think the hardest thing of all is not to go from bad to great, but to go from okay to great. Blaze was perfectly good the first time I saw him. But teamed with Nemesis and Jay Fury, then Geter; he just didn’t stand out. Given time and opportunity he became a leader in his own right.
I listened as Chuck Porterfield (who I don't have a picture of) became a suitable replacement for Stephen Platinum. The first time I heard him announce it was painful. Now he is an invaluable part of the PCW experience.
There are more PCW stories than this. There are the guys like Shane Marx, Kyle Matthews, Vordell Walker, and Fred Yehi that were great the first time I saw them and continue to be. There are others that came and sucked once and never came back. I won’t mention their names because I’m not a total dick. And maybe because I don’t remember.
Time and again the catchphrase I use to sell people on PCW is, “Everybody that is in PCW is better than the first time I saw them.” Part of the excitement of this promotion is watching the progression of the athletes. I have seen wrestlers who were absolute garbage turn into valuable competitors that I look forward to seeing every week. I have watched from the audience as people who could barely hold a mic slowly grew to cut blistering promos. There is not one single performer in PCW that hasn’t gotten better. Guys that started out making me groan from a botched suplex invariably end up with me gasping from a series of tight, well-executed moves.
While a great measure of this phenomenon obviously lies with the wrestlers, referees, and managers willingness to grow and learn; I think a massive portion of the credit goes to Stephen Platinum.
There is an independent film called The Booker. You should order it right now because it is one of the most impactful documentaries about professional wrestling you will ever see. It details the history of Platinum Championship Wrestling from its inception up through the first Sacred Ground. By which I mean it follows Stephen Platinum every step of the way because he is Platinum Championship Wrestling. You get an unprecedented look at the way a small wrestling promotion works and just exactly what it takes to keep such a thing alive. It’s fascinating and an absolute must-have for any fan of wrestling at any level.
Stephen Platinum is a great booker and promoter. I am not enough of a pro wrestling aficionado to say he is the best. I haven’t watched enough OVW to judge Jim Cornette. I haven’t watched enough ROH to judge the various people that have run their shows. Heck, my only experience with consistently watching pro wrestling stories comes from television – WCW, WWF/E, and TNA. And I don’t think those are very good gauges. Or if they are, then Stephen Platinum is a fucking god.
Televised wrestling doesn’t seem capable of providing more than six weeks’ worth of genuinely compelling shows. By that I mean you don’t get months-long runs where it feels like every talent on the card is being used to their potential. PCW has been putting on consistently entertaining shows that successfully utilize the roster for over two years.
And I can and would praise Stephen Platinum all day long, but PCW wouldn’t be anything without its roster. Jay Fury, Pandora, Mason, Casey Kincaid, Shane Marx, and many more have put more into this company than I’ll ever be able to convey. I can’t imagine doing what they do.
I could never be a pro wrestler. I couldn’t walk around in pain all the time. I would never have the discipline to train every day. I can’t imagine putting so much of your life into something that only wants to chew you up and spit you out; a lifestyle that rewards such a tiny percentage of people and even those often end up ruined when all is said and done.
You see, the term “Professional Wrestling” is a misnomer. Pro Wrestling is not a profession for most. It is, as I sad above, a lifestyle. You don’t fill out a job application, start wrestling, and get a paycheck every Friday. Some never even see a paycheck. These people do it because they love it. Because there is something in these individuals that drives them to entertain, that compels them to be more than ordinary. Stephen Platinum is the man that helps them to find their place in the sport.
Heck, Platinum even gave me some time in the ring.
I’ve been watching wrestling ever since I was a kid. I’ve also dreamed of being some form of entertainer or other since then. A passive desire that I never really pursued with any vigor, but something that was always there – at the edge of my consciousness. Last year I got to live a dream and it was thanks in part to Stephen Platinum. I heard there was going to be wrestling at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. Monster wrestling. By that time I knew Stephen Platinum a little bit and I’ve known the guy behind AZA – Shane Morton - for years. Now, I’m not buddies with either one of them, but I felt comfortable enough to send a light-hearted suggestion through the Facebook that if they needed a ring announcer they couldn’t do any better than Phantom Troublemaker. They went for it and I got to announce pro wrestling in a for-real wrestling ring for one night (I could have done more but the day job and prior commitments got in the way).
It was amazing. There was no PA, no planning, barely enough lighting, and the audience was there for AZA, not wrestling. But I had a great time and believe I did a damned good job. The only letdown is that my videographers failed utterly in their jobs. I only have about thirty seconds of decent footage from the whole night. Maybe I’ll get another chance someday. But the experience was fantastic and I thank Stephen Platinum for letting me into his ring for one night.
I’ve also gotten to meet and speak with some great people as a PCW fan. The wrestlers themselves have been friendly and open time and again. Stephen Platinum has been a wealth of wrestling information the times I have spoken to him. And becoming friends with the guys in Team All-You-Can-Eat and Jonathan Williams has been cool.
This promotion has been a big part of my life for the past two years. I haven’t been able to see as much as I would’ve liked, but PCW has kept me interested in pro wrestling during a time when I have all but stopped watching televised stuff. TNA has some great matches, but you have to pick through some of the most inane bullshit ever recorded to get to them. WWE barely even has great matches anymore. I stopped watching SmackDown a few weeks ago and RAW is mostly fast-forward material. I can’t remember the last pay-per-view I ordered. And all of this is coming from somebody who didn’t miss a single minute of Nitro, Thunder, RAW or SmackDown for over a decade. I used to see every pay-per-view, whether I was buying them or going to Hooters or Barnacles to watch. Back when TNA did their Wednesday night PPVs I ordered every single one.
But I don’t want this to devolve into a rant on televised wrestling. I just wanted to make the point that if it weren’t for PCW I might not be watching any wrestling right now. But that company, those men and women, and that booker have kept me hooked and hoping.
Thank you all.
-Phantom

8 comments:

  1. wow! great article. i hope my white pants have been a part of your great PCW experience.

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  2. Great article. I'm going to miss PCW after Sacred Ground 3. I've started going just before Sacred Ground 1 and have missed very few PCW events since then. Grand Pa from Team All You Can Eat.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it and VERY jealous of your extended PCW experience! See you Saturday!

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  3. That song will live on in my heart.

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  4. it's a great article. the porterdale fans are a great group too, and we really hope you join us.

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    1. Thanks so much! I'll see you guys Saturday night at least.

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