Seven Levels of Hate Review
Posted by Gavin Napier on 09.08.2013
Gavin Napier returns to 411 with an exclusive review of the upcoming Seven Levels of Hate DVD chronicling the epic feud between Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana.
It's good to be back on 411, and it's even better to be in a position to review an advance copy of Seven Levels of Hate. To hear Adam Pearce talk about the project, you can head over to my website The Casual Heroes and listen to our interview with him.
7 Levels of Hate is, in every aspect, a labor of love. This may strike you as odd and entirely counter intuitive, but it is an indisputable truth. If you are unfamiliar with the feud between Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana (or even only familiar with the headlines), it would be easy to dismiss the program as just another feud, or two independent wrestlers being marks for themselves and trying to sell you on the fact that they're more important than they actually are. After sitting down and watching the passion shown by both Pearce and Cabana, as well as the emotions that the events touched off in promoters and fans on two continents it becomes impossible to dismiss for any reason.
The DVD opens with both Pearce and Cabana giving a glimpse into the two men's history prior to becoming involved in professional wrestling. The two grew up in Chicago and attended high schools that met frequently on the football field. The familiarity carried over into Ace Steel's Steel Domain Wrestling where Cabana was trained and Pearce was "polished." After establishing that the two men have been connected for quite some time, the DVD transitions to the NWA Hollywood Era.
NWA Hollywood was the flagship of the National Wrestling Alliance in the years after TNA split from the organization. They had regional television coverage and an established viewership that approached six figures. It was here that the prelude to 7 Levels of Hate truly began. The back story of the initial encounters between Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as the centerpiece is crucial for underscoring the events that would come later.
In the modern landscape of professional wrestling, the NWA is a dinosaur. Promoters don't work together, much less form a national alliance and vote on who's going over, or when and where they're going over. It is, for better or worse, an antiquated model. Similarly, the series of matches between Pearce and Cabana was a dinosaur of a feud. It was lengthy, it was bloody, it was character driven, and it was believable. It was reminiscent of great NWA feuds of the past that featured men like Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race, or Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine. There was a genuine friendship that became a rivalry that turned bitter over time. That's Booking 101. In this case, being a dinosaur is a good thing.
Ever a realist, Adam Pearce acknowledges where the NWA had been on the wrestling landscape since Shane Douglas threw down the title in favor of forming Extreme Championship Wrestling. Colt Cabana's initial title reign was helping to change that, as voices from around the wrestling world -including the WWE-employed Joey Styles - chimed in to congratulate him. The idiocy of the politics that have kept the NWA entrenched firmly in 1978 were soon put on full display and we get an explanation of how and why the title was suddenly switched over to The Sheik. It is here that we begin to get a sense of appreciation for the business sense that both Pearce and Cabana own that is inherently missing from the NWA brass. The value of bad decision is understated here, and for Colt's part, he doesn't say much about the title change.
After The Sheik flaked on the NWA, the belt was returned to Adam Pearce in a match at the Ohio State Fair that also included then NWA National Champion Chance Prophet, then NWA North American Champion Shaun Tempers, and Jimmy Rave. It would be the beginnings of a "do over" on the Pearce-Cabana feud. Opportunity only knocks once though, and moments cannot be recreated. Both Cabana and Pearce acknowledge that.
I cannot stress enough how much both of the key players in 7 Levels of Hate come across as students of the game. In listening to them discuss their approach to each match individually and the series as a whole, I would expect many fans to gain a new appreciation for both men. They recalled imagery of the past in order to connect with fans through each stage, in each gimmick match. Not surprisingly, it worked. The feud drew not only new fans, but new promoters to the National Wrestling Alliance.
The Bruce Tharpe Regime rears it's ugly head between stages five and six, and the DVD project goes from interesting and informative to downright engrossing. As multiple accounts of the drama are compiled, the pervasiveness of wrestling promoters' need to reinvent the wheel becomes depressingly clear. Despite the fact that Tharpe walked into an ideal situation with the NWA, he felt the need to change directions. Remember, the NWA had hit a high point - they were garnering legitimate attention from around the wrestling world and had a flagship program with an established viewership in the second largest television market in the country. What did Tharpe do? He immediately cut ties with Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and Dave Marquez, and began the process of alienating the two men that were carrying the ball in a genuinely interesting feud for a championship that had struggled to find relevancy for a half decade.
Promoters, officials, and wrestlers alike weigh in with opinions of what went down. Unfortunately, Bruce Tharpe and Chris Ronquillo refused to be a part of the DVD and so we'll never get their side of the story. The silence speaks volumes, though. Tharpe's rejection of a successful business model as well as the disrespect shown to men that are almost universally respected within the business (and that's no small feat within this industry) is staggering. To their utmost credit, though, both Pearce and Cabana show the utmost professionalism in discussing the events in a calm, rational, informative manner.
In most shoot interviews, the subject matter consists largely of wrestlers discussing things that happen in the locker room or on road trips, or offering opinions on other wrestlers. Seven Levels of Hate is a refreshing change to that in that you get multiple insights into one series of events and how it affected the careers of two men as well as an entire organization.
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that 7 Levels of Hate was a labor of love from start to finish. Watching the DVD will affirm that as you see men like Adam Pearce, Colt Cabana, and Dave Marquez discuss the conception and execution of the idea. If you have any further doubts, though, watch the credits. You'll find that Adam Pearce handled virtually every step of the DVD production himself. The process of recording and cutting the interviews (including Pearce, Cabana, Dave Marquez, former NWA COO Fred Rubenstein, former NWA executives Bob Trobich and Bill Behrens, and over a dozen more), finding the music, and putting together a professional grade DVD documentary that tells the story of independent wrestling's greatest feud has taken months. The result is one of the best "shoot" style DVD's you're likely to find. I can't recommend it strongly enough.
The 411: Adam Pearce is one of the most well spoken guys in the business, and Colt Cabana is never at a loss for words himself. The story is engaging and should be a treat for fans of indy wrestling, old school fans, or shoot interviews in general.