The WPL season kicks off in Las Vegas
Round 1 The WPL Kicks Off in Vegas
coverage provided by Brandon Showers
November 12th marked the first tournament of the World Paintball League (www.uapl.tv). Held at the Las Vegas Sports Center, the WPL consists of over 24 teams from around the country, fighting it out in a 3-man format for $3000 at each event. The league is the brainchild of Duke Hillinger, a Chicago based action sports producer, and Milt Call of Ultimate Air who also owns Pittsburgh Smoke, the NPPL 7-man team.
|The hosting crew|
Hillinger had shot the World Cup in previous years and was bit by the paintball bug like everyone else. An extreme sports athlete himself, Duke developed the idea of a 3-man league that captured the intensity of the sport of paintball, without the unnecessary sitting and shooting. What spawned from his talks with many industry heads was a 3-man league that included teams from all across the country to compete for a huge prize package and even cars throughout the season. After shooting the Ultimate Madness, Milt Call approached Duke about creating a television program around the 3-man format. Striking an unusual deal with the WGN Superstation, Duke negotiated a 46 episode series featuring the WPL teams.
|West Coast Division|
The tournaments are regional, which means that all of the teams at the event in Las Vegas were from the West Coast. There were 8 teams playing in a single elimination tournament bracket. The games were played similar to the X-ball format in that they played point after point until the first team won four out of the potential seven matches. The time limit on the games was 3-minutes which made for much more aggressive play and a good amount of complete chaos. While the 3-minute time limit may seem too short, for television it is a positive change because all too often, a paintball game comes down to a few guys sitting and trying to shoot the other person out. This leads to some very boring play and watching it on TV is even worse. The 3-minute time limit was imposed to stop that and it seems to have worked. The teams would break out in a pretty standard formation but within the first minute, a player would run down the center of the field and blow someone’s face off. It was some really exciting stuff.
|Refs had to be on top|
for the fast format
Even more exciting was watching the referees try to figure out what had just happened. The referees were by no means understaffed or inexperienced. They were the same lot that refs the XPSL headed by Phil Dominguez. But nobody was ready for the chaos that pro players in a 3-man format can cause. It was like holding a firecracker tightly in your fist and then lighting it. Try all you like, you can’t contain the explosion, and the referees couldn’t contain the pro players. During the finals games, a horrible argument would ensue every point as players would run down the center of the field and shoot a guy from the middle and then continue to stomp down the field, hit or not, and try to shoot everyone else out. By the time a referee could go in to call him out at the 50-yard line, they had already dismantled the remainder of the opposing team and were standing at the other end of the field. It then becomes an argument of “who shot whom” and Phil Dominguez had to make some kind of call after a 5 minute meeting with his referees while angry players argue over their shoulders.
|I'd like this setup in my basement|
The field itself, although said to be a cage, was anything but. The “cage” that everyone had referred to was actually more like a frame for the studio lights to hang from. The rest of the open area was just covered in netting like any other tournament field, although the nets barely touched the floor. In some places there was a good inch between the netting and the ground. I didn’t feel like that was very safe considering the bleachers full of little kids sitting at ground level. Not to mention the lack of barrel bag enforcing around the field where players walked straight off of the field with their naked barrels.
Staging areas were delegated to a few folding tables and chairs off to the side of the field. Teams then had to walk out the back of the building to get air. Many teams had to stage on the floor without the proper amount of tables. You could hardly call the corner of the facility a “staging area.”
|B Real is in da house|
In WWE grand style, before the games began, teams entered through an archway of lights and smoke and then descended down a platform on to the field while Duke himself announced each of their team and individual names. It was pretty cool and many of the players were embarrassed and shy about walking through the arch of fame and revealing their faces to the crowd. Something that they had better get used to. High above them was a huge video screen that would air information about the games like scores and the current standings as well as a video feed from on of the cameramen. Duke had enlisted the help of the Traumahead cameramen for the series. If anyone knows the ropes of recording paintball, these guys do.
|Matty Marshall on the mic|
High above the field were Matt Marshall and Ryan Greenspan who were giving play-by-play commentary for the crowd below. Games started on Matt’s call as he asked if both sides were ready and then announced their 5-second count.
The bunkers were all red and black with the WPL logo on the side. But they were lacking sufficient grounding to keep them from bouncing around. Because the event was held in a sports complex, the crew couldn’t just stake the bunkers into the ground. Instead they filled them with a good amount of water, which worked for the most part. At the fifty yard line, there were a few times where a player would take a hard slide into the dorito and capsize the bunker while refs ran to bring it back down to the ground. The turf was similar to the NPPL, but much more cushioned and completely new.
Teams included Dynasty, XSV, Stoned Assassins, Naughty Dogs, Bob Long’s Assassins, LTZ, LA Hitmen, and Gladiators who were in a for a rude awakening with their first game against XSV. Although Gladiators actually took the first point with only two guns working, XSV quickly learned how to play the field and won the match.
|A little disagreement|
LTZ faced off against Dynasty in their first game. Based out of Las Vegas, LTZ had the largest amount of fans and they definitely made themselves heard. It was like a bunch of soccer moms yelling at their kids. LTZ made for a real show as they traded points with Dynasty. The two teams took it all the way to the 7th game to decide who would move on, but in true Dynasty fashion, they came out on top and sent LTZ home on the first day with a score of 4-3.
|Up close and in your face paintball|
True to the end, which only consisted of two previous games apiece, XSV and Dynasty faced off in the final match of the event. Amongst the arguing, Dynasty managed to pull ahead and take the first winning spot.
The following day was an entirely new tournament with all of teams returning. The games were a little more organized after getting most of the bugs worked out. The teams had learned how to capitalize on the chaos with the referees. The arguments were even more intense as teams like XSV and Assassins continued on their merry jaunts down the center of the field, hit or not, while the refs were left to pick up the pieces. In a startling upset, Bob Long’s Assassins beat out Dynasty in the semi finals and got to face off against XSV for first place. Although it was a hard fought battle, the Assassins were no match for Thomas Taylor’s level of aggression and XSV wound up on top.
|Paintball can be a spectators event|
The WPL has done a great job of bringing paintball to the masses. The 3-man format makes for a constant supply of action during a game thus getting rid of the standard “sit and shoot” that televised paintball has been plagued with. By keeping games action packed and easier to follow, the WPL could be the best thing to bring paintball into the homes of America.