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EXCLUSIVE: Indy Wrestling Stars Waited For Missing EPIC Promoter
by Marty Goldstein on 2002-11-19

"A disaster of this scale is unheard of in Southern California" said young wrestler Excalibur, in his internet statement, where he apologized to Japanese legend Ultimo Dragon and "the entire Toryumon company" for ever getting them involved with promoter Gary Yap. Yap opened up EPIC, with Excalibur and other hardworking indy stars assisting behind the scenes, in Los Angeles, only a few months ago. But on Sunday November 17th all that effort lay in ruins as major players from the wrestling world, gathered together in the parking lot of the LA Entertainment Centre, locked out when Yap failed to pay the rent or get a ring.

Among the top-shelf talent that was stuck paying big expenses out of their own pocket were ECW legend Sabu, Japanese stars Masada and Nosawa, 3 members of the upstart CZW who came in from New Jersey, and one other special unnannounced mystery opponent who flew in Sunday for nothing- NWA/TNA star Jerry Lynn.

Along with West-Coast based Lucha and Proresu stylists such as Super Dragon, Hardkore Kidd, Tony Kozina, American Dragon, and Messiah, the card was an ambitious attempt to bring together a remarkable crew. But Yap, who had been quoted as saying when he opened up that he could afford to drop $1 million US while signing wrestlers from rival XPW to weekly guaranteed money, was found scrambling even 2 days before the supercard trying to line up backers. Then on Saturday Yap seemingly disappeared from view.

Messiah (Billy Welch), fired by XPW owner Rob Black and who himself is shrouded in controversy over being viciously assaulted and having his thumb chopped off a few months ago, went looking for Yap both Saturday and Sunday nights. He had moved in with Yap and was trying to help run things. On Sunday evening, both Messiah and Yap's fiance stopped taking calls. Monday morning, Yap was reported missing to the authorities. Yap issued a rambling statement on the Socaluncensored board on November 20th. admitting his being incommunicado and leaving Ultimo Dragon in a chaotic parking lot.

In his message, Excalibur, a founding member of the Epic office, asked Yap to call home as his fiance and children were concerned.

Longtime fan Bob Barnett, a trusted lawyer and friend to many wrestling stars such as Canadian Vampiro, said "Pro Wrestling is now officially dead on the West Coast." In sounding a warning for all young indy wrestlers that even experienced traveled vets like Sabu, Lynn and American Dragon can get screwed over by promoters and stranded, "You don't run a business plan on promises of investors, you run a business when money is in the bank."

The epic Story behind the Epic story - What was supposed to happen and what almost happened.

The idea was simple enough. Promote the return to American ring action of Japanese wrestling legend Ultimo Dragon, an international figure left a crippled mess by WCW years ago, and surround him with all the top names available. Market it to the internet savvy cult fans of the hybrid Japan/Mexican style Dragon pioneered. Keep building on the efforts of a number of talented young aspiring stars to build a business, get TV and draw big crowds and international bookings from being part of EPIC.

The actual work was left to be done by an underfinanced and overwhelmed fan, Gary Yap, who was getting top-level names to come to Los Angeles from Japan, Oregon, San Francisco, New Jersey, and around Southern California, and putting them out of pocket in the process, and furthermore stranded when the card was canceled and Yap went missing.

His coup de grace, the morphing of a scheduled Messiah vs. Spanky (WWE developmental deal in hand) match into an opportunity for 2 surprise wrestlers to get on the bill, add class and experience to the show and surprise the fans and critics, actually resulted in 2 surprised wrestlers left stranded in an Anaheim parking lot.

What was probably the best break of Steve Rizzono's career went south along with the entire promotion this weekend, and the California vet is taking it in stride. "Oh ya, me and Tony Kozina sat back with CZW's Ruckus and Jerry Lynn this weekend, BS'ing and trashing the business. So I'll be ready for bookings again next week."

Rizzono, who has seen a few fiascos in a 10 year career crisscrossing the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, had left the controversial XPW promotion in a huff and was getting a megapush with rival EPIC. And even his pal Sabu had heard Steve had rejoined Bay Area mainstay promotion APW.

"Spanky couldn't do the match, so Gary was bringing me in as a mystery opponent. Now I figured me vs. Messiah, coming off of us being in XPW, that would pop the house. Then he had the chance to bring in Jerry Lynn. Well here's the top PPV star of the NWA/TNA shows and Gary wants to make Jerry the opponent and put me over in a different match. Everybody wins. Instead me and Jerry end up standing in a parking lot Sunday night."

Yap never had a contract with the L.A. Entertainment Centre. He never paid to rent the building. And according to Rizzono, 3 days earlier New Jack knew the show was in jeopardy because Yap hadn't found backers and had run out of money. Besides what he had heard through the wrestling grapevine, at the famous EPIC event where New Jack made a public display of a bounced cheque from XPW's Rob Black - Yap then bounced New Jack's cheque for that show.

Rizzono continued, "I understand he bounced a few but always made good. But this time, well the boys come in and it was chaos. We were told the show had been moved to Anaheim from LA, and we were in the parking lot when Ruckus called and said it was off. It cost Sabu $1300 just to show up, Tony Kozina paid $130 for a flight from Portland when Gary's credit card wouldn't work, and here we are with no show and no money. Now it cost me too - $70 for gas, I paid for the hotel, hey the boys look after the boys. We all trusted Gary and I am able to be patient. But the guys from CZW, who came from New Jersey, that wasn't right."

CZW is a major Northeast indy that is viewed as a key partner for other promotions to getting noticed on the internet and in new markets.

Apparently, Ruckus, Trent Acid and Adam Flash are all owed about $600 each.
"By Monday afternoon, they each had $20 to get by on."

According to sources, a major snafu in the weekend happened when Yap split with Anaheim promoter Martin Marin over the issue of Ultimo Dragon. The arrangement to book Dragon's American return and use Marin's ring was the basis of Yap's event. But at Marin's regular show at the Anaheim Market Place on Saturday, Dragon wrestled in a tag match in front of 50 people.

Yap, outraged at the scooping of his marquee exclusive, apparently said he would find another ring to use but no such ring appeared at the originally scheduled venue in LA on Sunday. A rumour spread that the venue was shifted to Marin's Flea Market site, but that turned out to be a non-starter. Yap claims in his statement that he tried to secure a deal with Marin on Sunday and patch things up. So wrestlers from all over went running around the freeways, running out of money while Messiah went running off to find Yap.

Among the inconvenienced marquee players were ECW legends Sabu and Jerry Lynn, Ultimo Dragon, Nosawa and Masada, American Dragon, Super Dragon, Kozina, Excalibur and fellow charter Epic member Disco Machine, The Ballard Brothers, Ruckus, Booker, Acid, Messiah, Rizzono and the Hardkore Kid, who provided Rizzono with the high spot of the weekend, as the boys hung out and waited. As vets they knew the survival tricks, and one is to look for laughs.

"Well, we were staying at the Adventure Inn off Century Boulevard by the 405 Fwy. Big warm pool, jungle themes, a few cockroaches in the room, but, hey, the rooms WERE nice... anyways this car pulls up, a 57' Chevy Belair lowrider, and on the back end is airbrushed Sabu, Mr. Fuji, Onita- and Abdullah the Butcher. El Santo and Misterio Sr were on the front. It was awesome. And Mike was driving. His car sure is HardKore."

As late as Monday, as the wrestlers straggled back home from L.A., it fell on Excalibur, who with the other locals and hopefuls have to live with the fallout of this affecting their pocketbooks for years to come, to explain the realities of what had happened and what was next for Yap.

"We ended up, as Disco Machine so eloquently put it, in the middle of the F'n street in front of some shitty building in LA locked out with Ultimo F'n Dragon standing right next to me...because of that, it's time to step up and take this like a man."

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Quotes from the boys: Notorious T.I.D. says "If you are a heel......stay the hell out of the crowd after your match. In fact, just give up all together. It's quite apparent that you are an idiot."
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