March 10, 2009
Paul London debuts new character in California
By MIKE LANO - SLAM! Wrestling
HAYWARD, Calif. - Paul London made a spectacular indie return, debuting a new outfit and look in Northern California last Saturday night for Kirk White's Big Time Wrestling. London did his best to steal the show, both in the ring, and outside of it, with the fans who paid to see him wrestle.
In 42 years of covering wrestling; I've seen how the wrestlers interact with fans for autographs and pictures. But London really took the time to talk with each fan, make funny faces and joke with each fan -- much to the consternation of the Polaroid-taking staffers who wanted him to perhaps speed things up.
The fact that he speaks fluent Spanish was also a plus with BTW's Latino fans, who took to him quickly, even before seeing his topes and planchas.
London really seems to cherish his fans and treats them like family. "I love them. It's the old thing where without our fans, we'd be nothing," London told SLAM! Wrestling. "They're everything. But to see and experience on my end, a near-packed house with tons of fans here, and in this poor economy, it has to make you smile. Pro wrestling is rewarding for both the athletes on this side of things, and the fans. And I want to do whatever I can to let them know them coming here and supporting wrestling means the world to me and the rest of the wrestlers in the back. These fans here are great fans. They definitely made the show. And I'm just appreciative and having fun with them."
His new outfit -- a full-body military-esque costume -- and character are still a work in progress, sort of a fun, nerdy blend of 1970s band DEVO and a nerdy Air Force cadet with flight jacket and goofy, oversized sunglasses.
Many didn't recognize him from his fairly recent last appearance on RAW for WWE, back in November 2008, where he and tag partner Brian "Spanky" Kendrick kind of "got lost in the shuffle." It has long been speculated that WWE creative, and Vince McMahon, just doesn't care for tag teams anymore. Indeed, the shift of Kendrick and London during the 2007 draft to Raw from Smackdown was a surprise, as Smackdown -- where there was always more wrestling than talk -- seemed the perfect fit for the high-flying team. The death knell for the duo came with 2008's draft, and Kendrick returning alone to Smackdown, where he is now "The Brian Kendrick."
"Tag teams just aren't the thing there anymore, there's just not enough attention paid to them there. But tag team wrestling has always been an important part of this business and a draw," asserted London.
The native of Austin, Texas, who has a decorated amateur wrestling career behind him, had no answer when queried as to why he was never given a proper singles push other than briefly holding the now defunct Cruiserweight title in WWE. Instead, London was paired primarily with Billy Kidman and then Kendrick.
London does wish his former WWE co-workers well, and seems more relaxed and at ease calling his own shots and schedule now. His wrestling Saturday night with BTW champ Jason Styles was crisper, faster-paced and more innovative than having to work WWE style all those years. He is hoping that Japan will again take notice of his still-youthful talent, energy and, of course, his new character.
He talked a little about his training, which wasn't in the Northeast, where many seem to think it took place. "I trained in Texas, where I was born, with Ivan Putski," London said, adding that "Chris Daniels later finished up my training. Chris is one of the greatest trainers and motivators in wrestling today; besides being one of the best in-ring talents."
London is currently living in Southern California, and rather than Ring of Honor, he's been working on Pro Wrestling Guerrilla shows, most recently returning last month for their themed "Express Written Consent" show. London initially had made his name, pre-WWE, working for ROH and Japan's Zero-One promotion.
I pestered him about considering joining and attending the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion next month, April 13-15th, in Las Vegas (Caulifloweralleyclub.org). Surprisingly he said he's heard a lot about it and was considering it. He thanked me when I handed him an application and other CAC forms. Should he indeed show up, he would definitely spring to the forefront of the contenders for the "Future Legend" award handed out at the banquet.
Dr. Mike Lano has been covering pro wrestling globally since 1966 as a reporter/historian/photographer and is at email@example.com.