VANCOUVER, BC – The 2008 Pacific Cup is over and a new champion has been crowned. Unfortunately, he wasn’t exactly a gracious champion.

“Brilliant” Billy Suede wrestled three hard-fought matches to earn the right to call himself this year’s Pacific Cup champion and it wasn’t without some controversy.

Billy Suede with the Pacific Cup. Photos by Fred Johns

After an intense battle with CJ Strongheart, Suede was slated to wrestle Ice in the second round. However, Ice suffered a concussion during his see-saw match against Jamie Diaz and, as a result, was unable to continue in the tournament. “Dastardly” Danni Deeds took Ice’s place, a tough opponent to be sure, but a relative newcomer to Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling with far less experience than Ice. Suede was able to finish him in just over five minutes.

Meanwhile, the 2007 Pacific Cup Champion, Kyle O’Reilly, the NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight Champion, faced a hard road to the final as well. His opening round match against the enigmatic Halo was one of the best matches of the night. Several times it looked as if Halo would advance, but O’Reilly refused to give in and snatched victory away at the last possible moment.

O’Reilly’s second round opponent was Azeem “the Dream”, a cagey grappler who was embroiled in a controversy all of his own. Azeem got into a war of words with a local radio DJ from the station CRAVE FM. The DJ, one of Vancouver’s most popular, mocked Azeem but Azeem tripped him on the way out of the ring, getting the last laugh. During his match with O’Reilly, Azeem actually seemed to have the upper hand until the radioman came out and distracted him, giving O’Reilly a brief opportunity. O’Reilly capitalized and got the pin.

The Black Dragon, a former Pacific Cup champion, made his much-anticipated return to ECCW. He wrestled “Superfly” Dan Myers in the opening round and, despite and impressive showing from Myers, was able to get the pinfall and move into the second round. In this round, the Black Dragon sparred with the eccentric El Phantasmo, arguably the most loved wrestler in Vancouver. One fan held a sign in the crowd that read “El Phantasmo IS ECCW”. Phantasmo did not have the experience of Black Dragon, but one would not have known that based on the in-ring performance he gave. It was a daunting match from the get-go and Dragon started off hot but was grounded by Phantasmo’s rarely-used submission game. Several times, it seemed as if Dragon was on the verge of tapping out, but his resilience matched his desire for the Cup. Finally, though, the damage done by all the submissions proved too much and in what can only be considered an upset, El Phantasmo managed to defeat the returning veteran.

That set up a Pacific Cup final match for the ages: El Phantasmo vs. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Billy Suede. Fans could not believe what they were about to witness. One young fan remarked, “I don’t know what these guys have left after each wrestling two matches but I cannot wait to find out.”

Kyle O’Reilly goes to shake Billy Suede’s hand.

The final three-way match was fought under elimination rules, meaning the first wrestler to be pinned was done for the night. In a breathtaking contest that had the fans on their feet, that first elimination was a surprise to everyone: Kyle O’Reilly, the 2007 Pacific Cup Champion, was pinned first and was out of the match.

Action continued both in and outside the ring and it seemed at several points as if both remaining men — Phantasmo and Suede — were out of energy. A devastating running powerbomb by Phantasmo seemed to give him the victory, but at the last possible millisecond, Suede kicked out and the match continued. Finally, Suede connected with a powerful clothesline that proved too much for the popular Phantasmo. He could not kick out and Suede became the 2008 Pacific Cup Champion.

After the match, the locker room emptied as participants in the evening’s tournament surrounded the ring to show their respect to Suede. Suede took the mic and seemed, at first, to appreciate the gesture.

“As I stand here, with everyone around the ring in Vancouver,” he began, “I come to the realization that I don’t give a rat’s ass what you people think.”

Amazingly, the cheers did not turn to boos and more applause could be heard. Grasping his newly-won Pacifc Cup, Suede continued. “It’s important to win matches and win gold and and that’s exactly what I did tonight.”

Although the new champion had not been entirely respectful, the fans were appreciative of his efforts. “[Suede] totally deserved top win,” one fan commented, adding, “I was pulling for O’Reilly but it was just Billy’s night.”

Asked if the final match lived up to his expectations, one fan confirmed that it did. “That was perhaps the best match I have ever seen,” he said.

Interviewed before the tournament by SLAM! Wrestling, CJ Strongheart was initially uncertain about how he would fare in the tournament, saying he hoped to show the fans something new. Once the tournament was over, CJ was pleased with his performance in the tournament. “I am very happy with the way I performed,” he said backstage. “It couldn’t have gone any better.”

He also said that he enjoyed the Pacific Cup Tournament format. “The way this tournament is run is just a recipe for everything to be good. I enjoyed being part of it so much; the crowd was amazing.” CJ added that he was hopeful to be able to compete in the 2009 tournament and perhaps fare a little better.

The owner of ECCW, Dave Republic, articulated that ideas and plans for next year’s tournament are already starting to form. “There is almost a one-year build-up for this event,” he said, calling the Pacific Cup the “premier event for ECCW and possibly the biggest tournament in Canada.” He added that he was certain he would soon receive emails from participants in the 2008 tournament and other wrestlers who did not participate all looking to get in on the 2009 version.

“There were a lot of expectations from last year’s tournament and I think we exceeded those expectations this year,” Republic continued. “It’s really a tribute to the talent we have here. I’ve been involved with ECCW for 12 years now and the wrestlers constantly amaze me with their ingenuity and creativity. I know they study tapes and study their craft and tonight you get to see the results of that. These guys are just phenomenal athletes.”

One of the last wrestlers to file out of the building was CJ Strongheart who will have to wait another year to try to win the coveted Pacific Cup. “I really want to come back,” he said as he prepared to make his way back home. “The competition here is insane.”