APW King of Indies 2001

Vallejo, CA – 10.26.2001

There is no commentary for this event. I swear I saw a shot of a timekeeper’s table with two individuals talking on headsets, though, so who knows if this was an intentional choice.

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Doug Williams vs. Adam Pearce

Pearce is bald by this point, but wrestling in jogger pants. That doesn’t stop him from claiming Williams pulled his hair when Williams outwrestles him. Pearce resorts to an eye poke to slow down Williams, following up with a spinwheel kick. Williams takes down Pearce with a tornado DDT for two. The Bomb Scare to the shoulder blades also gets him a two count. Williams knee strikes Pearce off of the ring apron and into the barricades after Pearce tried gaining control on the floor. Pearce shuts him down with a spinebuster back in the ring. Williams uses the ropes to escape a modified Regal Stretch and also kicks out after an airplane Angle Slam. Pearce surprisingly utilizes a super Frankensteiner and gets angry when it fails to get him the victory. He goes back to the Angle Slam, but this time, Williams counters with the Chaos Theory to get the pin at 8:20. They told the simple, yet effective story of Williams superior wrestling prowess being undermined by Pearce’s underhanded tactics. Williams triumphed, thankfully, and while it was predictable exactly how this match would go, it was done well. **½

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Tony Jones vs. Bison Smith

Tony Jones is an APW regular, but is most known for his inclusion in the film “Beyond The Mat” where he and Mike Modest had a dark match on the September 15, 1999 RAW. I didn’t recall Jones utilizing an amateur wrestling style, but it is primarily what he used in this contest. Smith takes him down with a suplex and Beele tosses him across the ring before clotheslining him over the top rope and to the floor. Smith does some damage ringside, but Jones takes him down with a belly-to-belly suplex and side slam back inside of the ring. Smith comes back with a shoulder tackle and a triumvirate of clotheslines before powerslamming Jones for two. Jones t-bone suplexes Smith. Smith halts Jones on the top turnbuckle and brings him down with a superplex. Jones ducks a clothesline and German suplexes Smith twice. Smith evades a corner attack and nails Jones with a lariat for the pin at 9:23. This was slow and uninteresting. I hate to say it, but it’s evident why Jones didn’t reach a higher level of success in wrestling after watching this match. I was hoping to see more from Smith in the next round, but that would not be in the cards either. *½

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Frankie Kazarian vs. Samoa Joe

Joe goes for an STF early, sending Kazarian scrambling to the ropes. Kazarian picks up the pace and grounds Joe with a spinwheel kick. Joe waterwheel slams Kazarian into the ropes and clotheslines him in the neck. Joe then yakuza kicks Kazarian to the floor. After a pair of DDT’s Joe puts him in a modified Anaconda Vise. Kazarian gets the ropes again, and also the second time Joe attempts the submission. Kazarian knocks him down with a pump kick to catch his breath. Kazarian sweeps Joe’s legs out to avoid a big boot and lands a springboard leg drop for two. Kazarian blasts him with a missile dropkick to the back of the head. Although Kazarian rolls under another Joe big boot, Joe catches him coming off of the ropes with a German suplex and then a Dragon suplex. A straightjacket German then gets him a two count. Joe pulls him into an STO and then puts on the Vice, with Kazarian tapping out at 9:13. I loved that Joe’s neck work on Kazarian paid off. Kazarian basically headhunting Joe in response as a counter attack was excellent as well. You got to see Joe’s ruthlessness during the match which helped him stand out. It’s crazy that Joe was this good so early in his career. ***¼

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Scoot Andrews vs. Donovan Morgan

Morgan takes the advantage with a snapmare into a back kick, followed up quickly with a leg drop. Andrews maneuvers Morgan to the apron where he situates Morgan on the middle rope and takes him down with a springboard leg drop. Andrews gets two with a leg lariat and then pitches Morgan to the floor. He drives Morgan’s back into the ring frame. Back in the ring, when Morgan looks to take down Andrews with a bulldog, Andrews instead clobbers him with a falling clothesline. Morgan bites the bottom rope to escape Andrews’ straightjacket choke. Morgan also uses the bottom rope to stop Andrews’ pinfall following a jumping Complete Shot. After a spinebuster and slam, Andrews attempts and misses a super leg drop. Morgan takes him over with an exploder suplex and then a Saito suplex. Andrews steps into the ropes to prevent Morgan from delivering his finisher. Andrews slides under his legs looking for a pump-handle maneuver, but Morgan successfully pulls off Sayonara (a sit-out double underhook facebuster) to get the pin at 10:20. This was about on par with the opening match, in that they told a solid story with very competent wrestling, but there wasn’t much crowd engagement It wasn’t terribly exciting, but still enjoyable. **½

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
American Dragon vs. Spanky

Both Dragon and Spanky were trained by Shawn Michaels and Rudy Boy Gonzalez in the inaugural Texas Wrestling Academy class. Things get heated between the two of them quickly in the corner, and continues as they fight for control of a leg submission on the mat. Dragon shoulder blocks Spanky with some power behind it. Spanky snaps off some armdrags, but Dragon pushes him to the corner to deliver a chop. Out of the opposite corner, Spanky takes Dragon back down with another armdrag. Spanky pulls off a Frankensteiner and avoids Dragon’s armdrag response. Dragon kicks out of a Magistral cradle and then goes outside to regain composure. Dragon surprises Spanky with a rolling savate kick to the stomach. He then drops Spanky stomach first across the top rope and chops him over the top rope and to the ring apron. When Spanky escapes a neck stretch, Dragon knocks him down with a kick to the chest. Dragon holds him in a cravate, eventually releasing with a suplex out of the hold. Spanky instantly lunges to the ropes to avoid a Dragon suplex and pulls Dragon into a sit-out Gourdbuster. Spanky takes him down with a dropsault and leg lariat for two. A chop battle ends with Dragon knocking down Spanky with a rolling chop to the head. Dragon turns Spanky inside out with a lariat, and the crowd stands and applauds when Spanky kicks out. Spanky avoids a corner forearm smash and hits Sliced Bread #2 for two. When he tries again, Dragon crotches Spanky on top and brings him down with a belly-to-back superplex. Spanky scores moments later with a springboard Flying DDT for two. Dragon blocks a Sliced Bread #2 with a bridging Dragon suplex for the pin at 14:41. Now this is more like it. The aggressive nature of their offense resonated with the crowd and just made everything feel more impactful and important. Spanky urgently going to the ropes when Dragon hooked the Dragon suplex was a great message to send about how devastating the move is, and made the ending where Dragon countered Spanky’s finisher with that very move was so awesome. I was beginning to wonder why this show got so much buzz back in the day, and this match made me begin to understand. ****

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Christopher Daniels vs. Super Dragon

Daniels comes into the tournament as “defending champion”, winning the 2000 installment of the tournament over Donovan Morgan. I did not recall Dragon having a vest top, looking very much like he was straight out of an episode of Super Astros. After taking some armdrags, Daniels baited Dragon into a strike to the face. Dragon sent Daniels out to the floor and followed with a slingshot crossbody, but seemed to have hurt his knee upon landing. That didn’t prevent Dragon from using his legs for a full nelson, or from delivering a standing corkscrew moonsault. Dragon’s next dive, a tope con hilo through the middle rope, resulted in his leg colliding against the guardrail. He still delivered a high crossbody back into the ring for two. Daniels clobbers him in the neck and lands a leg lariat before choking him with his foot in the corner. When Dragon surprised Daniels with a roll-up, Daniels used a chinbreaker and enzuigiri to shut him back down. After a Blue Thunder Bomb and neckbreaker, Daniels tries the BME. He misses, but lands on his feet, and Dragon knocks him down with a clothesline and nails him in the back of the head with a springboard spinwheel kick. Dragon crashes and burns on a shooting star press attempt. Daniels puts him down with a uranage and hits the BME successfully. Last Rites then gets Daniels the pin at 10:05. This was very good. I liked the story of Dragon taking big risks in an attempt to dethrone last year’s tournament winner, and Daniels taking a slightly more focused approach and coming out on top. I wish Dragon’s leg being “hurt” on those first two dives amounted to something, but even without that this was very good. ***¼

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
AJ Styles vs. Jardi Frantz

I have never seen Frantz before. He actually gets the advantage by sending Styles face first into the ring post and landing a somersault senton over the ring post from inside of the ring and to the floor. Frantz fails to get a pin off of this, and Styles from the apron takes him down with a Frankensteiner. Neither an enzuigiri or brainbuster are able to get Styles a pinfall. Styles also pulls Frantz into a Cutter when Frantz looks to wear down his back, and also blasts him with a dropkick. Styles muscles him up into a Dominator DDT for two. He German suplexes Frantz and keeps control of his waist lock so he can drop him with a facebuster. Frantz attempts a comeback and is shutdown with a superkick. Frantz does successfully nail a springboard dropkick, spinwheel kick, and springboard somersault senton, but does not get a pinfall from the sequence. Frantz headscissors Styles off of the top turnbuckle and then lands a top rope splash for two. They go back up, and Frantz brings down Styles with a super sunset bomb. Frants is unhappy when Styles gets his shoulder up from the pin and clobbers him with a pair of forearm strikes. Frantz tries a Frankensteiner, only for Styles to counter into the Styles Clash for the pin at 13:48. That finish ruled, and although Styles was basically on offense for 85% of the match, Frantz still looked very good. I am uncertain why he didn’t penetrate the Indies much beyond California, and he fit in just fine with the other luminaries on this card. Styles, of course, is exceptional, and I especially enjoyed seeing how he maneuvered Frantz into his offense. ***½

King of Indies 2001 Opening Round Match
Low Ki vs. Vincenzo Massaro

I first heard of Massaro from Twitter, learning there he competed in Lucha Underground. Simply due to my own ignorance, I was shocked to learn he was in this tournament, and against Low Ki of all people in the opening round. Ki was determined to get on a cross armbreaker. Massaro held his own, clobbering Ki as he mounted him and holding his own in their strike exchanges. When he sent Ki to the apron with a forearm strike, Ki came back in with a springboard knee strike to the face. Massaro is able to catch Ki as he tries an up-and-over in the corner, instead bringing him down with Quackendriver I. Massaro follows that up with a Shock Treatment. Ki takes him down with a Koppu Kick. Massaro clobbers Ki in the shoulders when he comes off the ropes and pulls him down in a butterfly lock. Ki escapes and delivers another Koppu Kick, following up with the Tidal Wave. Ki then comes off the apron with a flying knee strike to Massaro’s back. A rope-hung Dragon Clutch leads to a standard Dragon Clutch, which Massaro escapes by muscling Ki into a modified DDT. A rolling forearm smash gets Massaro a nearfall. Ki shoves Massaro into the corner after slipping off of his shoulders. He hits the Tidal Crush and a Phoenix Splash to get the pin at 15:26. I was surprised that Ki didn’t completely gobble up Massaro. Massaro actually held his own and had convincing near falls on a couple of occasions. This was an interesting choice to end the night, but a very solid match. ***

Vallejo, CA – 10.27.2001

King of Indies 2001 Quarterfinal Round Match
Bison Smith vs. Donovan Morgan

This match didn’t last long at all, as Smith incurred an injury to his left knee. Morgan ended up pinning him with a small package at 1:27.

King of Indies 2001 Quarterfinal Round Match
Doug Williams vs. American Dragon

Dragon instantly crawls to the ropes when Williams rolls him into a grapevine ankle hold. He trips Williams and cranks on his left ankle, utilizing a spinning toe hold in the process. Williams uses his legs to lock Dragon’s right ankle and twists on the left, and Dragon grabs the ropes once more. Williams rolls through another ankle hold from Dragon into a victory roll for two. They fight for a grapevine ankle lock, which ends with both of them rolling out to the floor. Back inside of the ring, Williams clotheslines Dragon to stop his kicks to his thigh. He sends Dragon sternum first into the corner. Dragon resists the Chaos Theory, but Williams is able to take him down with an exploder suplex for two. Dragon avoids another corner attack and knocks Williams down with an enzuigiri. Williams tosses Dragon away to stop a Dragon suplex, takes him down with a tornado DDT, and applies a crossface. Dragon is close enough to the ropes to get his foot on the middle one immediately. Dragon blocks a Chaos Theory with a victory roll for two. Williams gets the better of a strike exchange and German suplexes Dragon for two. After a pair of rolling forearm strikes, Dragon uses a Dragon suplex for two. He then locks on the Cattle Mutilation to get the submission victory at 9:30. I felt like they had a couple more minutes in them, but I liked this match a lot. Much like Dragon had Spanky’s Sliced Bread scouted in the opening round, he had Williams’s Chaos Theory scouted in this match. The submission he used was also effective after all the damage Dragon had done to Williams’ neck throughout the contest. Dragon just rules, man. ***¾

King of Indies 2001 Quarterfinal Round Match
Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki

Joe open hand strikes Ki while he has him in a mount. Joe had to lunge to the ropes when Ki put him in a double wristlock armbreaker. Ki surprises Joe with a kick upside the head. Joe smacks Ki before delivering one of his own. Joe then knocks down Ki with a clothesline and transitions into a cross armbreaker. Ki is able to catch Joe’s face wash kick attempt and take him down with a dragonscrew leg whip. Joe rolls Ki into a kneebar. Ki kicks Joe with his other foot, but Joe is able to hold onto his knee. Joe drops a knee onto Ki’s face and also a Muta elbow for two. Ki stops Joe’s onslaught with a Koppu Kick. Joe and Ki get into a strike exchange. Joe blasts Ki in the side of the head with two rolling chops. Ki ducks a kick and delivers an enzuigiri. After multiple head shots, Joe falls to the mat and Ki covers. Joe is out, but his hand is under the ropes so a pin cannot be registered. Ki pulls him into a butterfly brainbuster, then leaves the butterfly lock applied until the referee calls for the bell at 9:49. This match stood out as feeling more like a fight, where raw strength and impact determined the victor rather than who was the better wrestler. Ki pinning Joe after their open hand exchange would’ve been SO much more gratifying, but regardless, this match stood out, and felt like a statement piece for both competitors. ***½

King of Indies 2001 Quarterfinal Round Match
Christopher Daniels vs. AJ Styles

These two had just met two weeks earlier in St. Petersburg, FL at the NWA 53rd Anniversary Show where Styles pinned Daniels with the Styles Clash. Styles takes it to Daniels with strikes right away. He and Daniels end up knocking each other down with stereo crossbody attempts. A spin kick knocks down Daniels when they get to their feet and then delivers a dropkick. Daniels counters a clothesline with an STO and delivers a leg lariat. He drops Styles face first onto the top turnbuckle and uses the top rope for a slingshot belly-to-back suplex. Styles grabs the ropes to avoid an O’Connor Roll and then kicks Daniels in the chest and head. Daniels side steps a corner attack and pummels Styles into a seated position before landing a dropkick. Out of a different corner, Styles sends Daniels to the apron and dropkicks him into the barricades. Styles then follows with a springboard dive. Back inside of the ring, Daniels kicks out from a pin, and then belly-to-belly suplexes a charging Styles into the turnbuckles. Styles manages to fight Daniels down from the top turnbuckle and nail him with a superkick. When Styles attempts a back handspring elbow, Daniels instead German suplexes him out of mid-air. A Blue Thunder Bomb leads to the BME but is only good for a two count. Styles German suplexes Daniels and then muscles him into a facebuster for two. The Dominator DDT follows. Daniles pops up Styles into a powerbomb, but Styles from the apron snaps off a Frankensteiner using his feet. Daniels places Styles on the top turnbuckle to block a tornado DDT. He shotei’s Styles before attempting a Frankensteiner. Styles counters into a super Styles Clash, but because Styles is so worn down, he has to rest before turning over Daniels for a pin. Daniels grabs the bottom rope to save himself. Daniels blocks a clothesline. He tries for a backslide, but Styles resists, so Daniels kicks him in the stomach and lands the Angels Wings for the pin at 14:38. This match was so good as the counters had the crowd going nuts and made so many pinfalls seem believable. You also now have two different finishers established for Daniels as he heads into the semifinal round. You expect good stuff from these two when they are put against each other, and they definitely delivered here. ****

I’m skipping over the Battle Royal that includes all the eliminated first round participants, Bryan Alvarez, and a bunch of other APW folks. A gentleman named Robert Thompson wins the battle royal at 14:17.

King of Indies 2001 Semifinal Round Match
Donovan Morgan vs. American Dragon

Morgan is the far fresher of the two, yet still was compelled to poke Dragon in the eyes to start the match. He looks to get the match over with fast to further conserve his energy for the finals. When that doesn’t work, he takes Dragon outside and throws him face first into a chair and thrice into the barricades. Back in the ring, Morgan takes out Dragon with a shotgun dropkick for two. Dragon softens him up with multiple forearm strikes and a pair of running forearm smashes in the corner. Morgan ducks a clothesline and O’Connor rolls Dragon. Dragon cleverly holds Morgan’s arms, pinning him to the mat while keeping his own shoulder up, and ends up getting the win at 6:17. Morgan is competent but very dull, and that was made very apparent in a match where he was on offense the entire time. I liked Dragon outsmarting him to win the match, but the as a whole this was lackluster. **

King of Indies 2001 Semifinal Round Match
Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels

I’m not sure what Daniels was thinking when he roped Ki into a striking and kicking exchange, but to his credit he definitely held his own. After trading control on the mat, Daniels shoulder blocks Ki. Ki kicks Daniels in the shoulder from the apron. Daniels cuts him off with a leg lariat. Daniels drives Ki shoulder first into the corner. Daniels continues to attack Ki’s shoulder as he is grounded. Ki uses that shoulder to take down Daniels out of desperation when coming down to the ropes, but it exacerbates the damage as well. Daniels capitalizes by hitting a Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Ki comes back with the Tidal Crush for two, and then the Tidal Wave. Daniels kicks out of a Phoenix Splash. He drops Ki with a uranage and lands the BME for two. Daniels places Ki on the top rope. When Daniels tries a shotei, Ki catches his arm and puts him in a Dragon Sleeper. Ki brings him to the mat, gives him a Ki Krusher, and then re-applies the Dragon Sleeper. Daniels taps out at 15:07. Ki gets a huge momentum boost by defeating last year’s tournament winner before heading into the finals, but also heads into the finals with an injured left shoulder. This started a bit slow but picked up a ton of momentum once Daniels focused on Ki’s arm. Ki’s counters were well received, and once again the crowd was behind the nearfalls.Ki looked like a monster fighting through his shoulder pain to pull off the Ki Krusher, which may just get the fans behind him going into the finals. Great stuff. ***¾

King of Indies 2001 Final Round Match
American Dragon vs. Low Ki

Ki kicks Dragon in the chest a couple of times. Ki tries to butterfly lock his arms, but Dragon gets to the ropes. Dragon also turns a headscissors from Ki into a Texas Cloverleaf. When Ki escapes, Dragon shoulder tackles him through the ropes and to the ring apron. Ki pulls Dragon’s hair as Dragon mounts him, so Dragon kicks him in the back twice. Ki snapmares Dragon into a very hard back kick. Dragon backs Ki to the corner to break a chinlock. Dragon busts out a Tidal Wave to Ki in the corner much to the crowd’s joy. Ki shows him how it’s done when he reverses a whip to the corner and hits the Tidal Wave himself. Dragon takes the time to recover on the floor. He takes control with a modified parachute stretch, throwing forearm strikes to Ki’s nose too. While their feet are interlocked, the two of them strike each other while in headstands, with Ki grabbing Dragon by his hair and kicking him in the forehead upon releasing. He then drops Dragon with a brainbuster and applies a guillotine choke. Danileson backs Ki to the ropes and angrily throws him out of a butterfly suplex. Dragon whips Ki down to the mat by his arm. He then hammerlocks the arm and delivers a knee strike to Ki’s neck. Dragon snaps Ki’s shoulder before releasing the hammerlock. Ki buys himself some time with a Koppu Kick. Dragon hooks Ki’s arms for a Dragon suplex. Ki fights his way to the ropes, placing Dragon on the apron. Dragon keeps the full nelson applied, but Ki breaks it on his own and kicks Dragon in the side of the head. Ki misses a Phoenix Splash but rolls up to his feet. He and Dragon exchange running boots at the same time twice. Ki knocks Dragon off the apron and into the barricades and follows with a Phoenix Splash onto a standing Dragon! Dragon ends up winning a strike exchange outside, maintaining control back inside of the ring. He belly-to-back superplexes Ki once. He tries it again, but Ki turns over mid-air and applies a Dragon sleeper when they land. Dragon quickly puts his feet on the ropes to escape. When he looks for the hold again, Dragon first tries to reverse into the Cattle Mutilation, but then gets to the ropes when that doesn’t work. Ki drops Dragon with the Ki Krusher. He brushes Dragon in the face with a kick. When he goes for the Tidal Wave, Dragon baseball slide dropkicks him to halt the move and locks in the Cattle Mutilation. Dragon’s own arm is too hurt to keep it applied for long, so he Dragon suplexes Ki and puts it on again. He has to release again, and this time he brings Ki to the top turnbuckle. Ki made Danielson pay for it, bringing him down with a super Ki Krusher. The crowd chants Low Ki as he slowly crawls over to make the cover, and they react loudly when Danielson gets his shoulder up. Ki tries the Tidal Wave and is caught in a Dragon suplex. When Ki kicks out at two, Danielson quickly gets the Cattle Mutilation re-applied. Ki quickly submits at 29:51, and Danielson is your 2001 King of Indies tournament winner.

This was everything you want from a tournament final. Each competitor utilized tactics that worked in previous rounds, while also showing that they had succumbed to the damage and energy exerted in those rounds. Small things like Ki taking extra time to make a cover or move on to the next bit of offense went such a long time in conveying this, and it also got the crowd engaged as it gave them some extra time to absorb what was going on. The near half-hour went by quickly, and it was satisfying to see the person who was the actual best performer in the tournament come out the victor. This is a match that holds up today, and exemplifies the best of both competitors. ****¼

It’s easy to see why the 2001 King of Indies has a reputation for being such a great tournament. So many independent wrestling companies had either delved into hardcore wrestling or high-flying wrestling as their bread and butter during this time, so a tournament that focused on technical wrestling and strikes would stand out and be appreciated by die hard fans. I can’t say this is the best independent wrestling tournament of all time, as the exceptional matches feature a small concentration of the tournament competitors, namely, American Dragon, Low Ki, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels. That said, the tournament’s influence cannot be understated. It’s clear watching these shows that the type of wrestling utilized was the blueprint for Ring of Honor, and their influence in wrestling at large is tremendous.
When ECW closed, RF Video lost their main source of revenue. CZW became hot during the Spring of 2001 due to buzz from a Jun Kasai tag team match and the first Best of the Best tournament, and with the way Rob Feinstien and Gabe Sapolsky spoke of CZW on their website during this time, it seemed like they may have been interested in trying to get involved with that company directly. That didn’t happen.

At the same time, Rob Feinstein had also begun openly discussing in the RF newsletter who he would book were he to start an independent promotion. Between the names Rob mentioned in his newsletter, which included the likes Bryan Danielson, Spanky, Low Ki, Briscoes, SAT, Special K, Backseat Boyz, Steve Corino, Da Hit Squad, and people whose stock rose from the tournament, like Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Doug Williams, and Scoot Andrews, RF Video now had a large enough crew of eclectic wrestlers to create that promotion. Not only that, but Eddie Guerrero had recently begun taking bookings on the independents after being released from the WWF, and just by being part of a card added credibility and buzz.

On December 3, 2001, RF Video announced that Ring of Honor would launch on February 23, 2002, and would be a collaborative effort between Rob Feinstein, Doug Gentry, and Gabe Sapolsky.

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