PROGRESS Chapter 39 – The Graps Of Wrath

Arnold Furious: November 27, 2016. We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom. This was the show to crown a new Progress Champion after Mark Haskins forfeited the belt at the end of Chapter 38 due to a serious neck injury. There are five qualifying matches and the winner of each will meet in an elimination match at the end of the show. Jim Smallman welcomes us to the Ballroom. On commentary are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh. This show sold out in one minute and forty-eight seconds. I fortunately had the pleasure of being there. Jim puts over Joe Atherton (@oldathers) for giving out sweets outside the venue. “The world’s most ambitious paedophile”.

 

FSU vs. The South Pacific Power Trip
Opening the show with “Party Hard” gives the Ballroom an electric feel. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is here, as SPPT are number one contenders for the tag titles. That might be on the line here but I’m not 100% sure it was even announced as such. Dahlia Black accompanies the heels and she’s got a hole in her tights. Once you see it, it just screams at you. TK has his dungarees on so naturally he looks like a complete twat. “You’ve got shit dungarees” is totally appropriate. First spot of the show is Dennis hitting the Razor’s Edge on Dahlia over the top rope onto the lads. Dennis is fairly underrated, as he’s got great presence and does decent strong style. Joseph puts over Travis for winning the FCP Infinity tournament on Friday. Another cracking BritWres show in a year of seemingly never-ending great shows. Travis Banks is so great here. He’s in position all the time and takes every spot perfectly. Travis is the heart of the match while Eddie brings his power and Andrews the likability. TK brings shit dungarees. I’m kidding, he’s good too. Everyone knows their role and SPPT look very strong in winning. Travis bleeds horribly from the ear, which he cut the previous night wrestling Paul London and El Ligero in Southside. Dahlia kicks Eddie in the balls and SPPT pick up the win. FSU did a good job of getting the crowd all fired up but there’s no doubt that Travis is the future of this company (and all British companies).
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Joe Coffey vs. William Eaver
The storyline with Sebastian continues. He’s in Eaver’s corner and he’s crap at it. As a manager he has the opportunity to interact with the fans and the opponent and he can’t do any of that. There’s zero banter. That heat he’s getting is not heel heat. It’s ‘we don’t enjoy your company’ heat. I know he does work behind the scenes but for f*ck’s sake, less Seb. I imagine the front row wants less Seb too as he takes a tope off Coffey and ends up writhing in the masses. From there the Pastor works slightly heel, which is a bit worrying. The crowd don’t really want that and the lack of noise reflects the general apathy toward the angle. Which is weird in Progress where the crowd are usually hotter than hell. The actual work is quite decent but it doesn’t feel special in any way, which is unfortunate. Seb being the focus is all wrong because I don’t believe in his character. At all. The atmosphere and the story get to the boys and they don’t have the fluid match they could have. Eaver hits a high angle crucifix that looks downright dangerous, which is the last thing Eaver needs after injuring Sebastian in Brixton. The finish is horribly screwy with Seb distracting while Eaver taps out. Then Eaver gets the pin with a handful of tights. Boo. This fell flat on its face. Sebastian decides to steal Eaver’s spot in the final but Eaver’s cheating felt totally unwelcome.
Final Rating: *1/2

 

Post Match: Jim Smallman gets into significant and delightful banter with 14 year old Toby who’s sat at ringside. “Stay away from the bloke with the sweets”. “Maybe he’s got Benjamin Button disease”.

 

Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (c) vs. The London Riots
There’s a great story here where Rob Lynch messed his face up and now has to wrestle in a mask. This becomes important at the conclusion. These two teams had a great match in Brixton. Trent does some wonderful symbolic work in this match, throwing the tag shield down pre-match because now it’s all about the progress title. Trent is heel in Progress but his natural charm keeps seeping through and he leans face, compared to Peter anyway. Him yelling “Christopher” at Chris Roberts when he wants a pin counted is great. The Progress fans have discovered that Dunne gets triggered by being called “Peter”, even though Trent calls him that all the time. James Davis kicks this off with a crazy tope before everyone accidentally chops the ring post. It’s sickening. They do a lot of work on the floor, as they did in Brixton. The champs isolate Rob so they can work over his face, adding to the storyline of Lynch being seriously hurt. James Davis runs through his smashmouth cricket style, which reminds me that nobody seemed to know who Graham Gooch is. I compared James to Gooch at the venue and just got blank looks. I feel old. There’s a nasty botch when Davis can’t get BSS over for a double Death Valley Driver. That’s a lot of weight. The finish is a series of abuse for Rob Lynch, including an array of head drops and his protective face mask being torn off. The match lacked in tag team structure, with the exception of isolating Lynch at times, but it was a lot of fun. Pete biting Rob Lynch’s injured face is sick. Champs finish with the pump kick piledriver. Love it.
Final Rating: ****

 

Tangent: The main event is looking weird at this point because it’s all heels. Literally five heels and no one else. The biggest issue Progress seem to have going forward is they don’t have a lot of top tier babyfaces.

 

Matt Riddle vs. Will Ospreay
Oh my God, this was amazing. From the second that Matt Riddle walked out here he was treated like a world-class talent. He looks like a Greek God, he can make flip-flops look cool and he has an instant connection with everyone. He absolutely destroys Ospreay during the introductions. “Matt Riddle is not f*ck*ng about” says RJ Singh. Riddle has only been wrestling for a year and a half. It’s ridiculous. He looks like he was born in a wrestling ring. Will has to throw in his wackiest offence just to stay in the match. What kind of wacky offence I hear you ask? Moonsault off the wheelchair area! Followed by the Space Flying Tiger Drop. When they start trading moves back and forth it shows how far along both guys are, in terms of talent. Joseph points out that Ospreay has lost a lot in Progress since being champion. I don’t think he’s won at all. Riddle’s fast hands are too much for him and the match is incredible apart from one unfortunate botch where Ospreay slides through a reverse rana and Riddle ends up backflipping after the move has taken place. Riddle gets a mount, elbows the shit out of Will and hooks the Bromission to book his ticket to the main event. Standing ovation follows and Britain just fell in love with Matt Riddle. His ceiling is so high that if it wasn’t for the drugs he’d probably be in WWE already.
Final Rating: ****1/2

 

Marty Scurll vs. Jimmy Havoc
They start out by doing the double spear spot from Goldberg-Lesnar, which gets the crowd suitably worked up but Scurll survives the Acid Rainmaker and we settle into an actual match. Havoc is pretty much the lead babyface in Progress now, although that doesn’t feel right somehow. They do a lot of stuff around the ring, which is Jimmy’s style. Lots of brawling. Both guys add in an element of cheating. It’s in their DNA. It’s a tough act to follow the last two matches and I’d probably have slipped this in before Riddle but it’s always tough to know how a newcomer will be treated. Havoc does some solid recognition work in this including stealing the “superkick, just kidding” by hitting an actual superkick and elbowing out of the Chickenwing because Marty yells “chickenwing” right before attempting it. Scurll also gets in on the act by countering the Acid Rainmaker right into the finger snap. The match gets very booking-heavy toward the end with a clumsy ref bump. This leads into Havoc nicking the umbrella, hitting himself with it and pulling an Eddie Guerrero finish. Roberts gets up to see Scurll with the umbrella and calls a DQ in a hilarious spot. The timing and selling on it was amazing.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Natural Progression Series IV
Nixon Newell vs. Katey Harvey
Katey is Irish and her fashion choices get her flak. She has one sleeve. The best chant that breaks out is “you’re just a shit Winter Soldier”. The “sleeve” antics almost take over the match. Nixon has to be a contender for best British women’s wrestler in 2016. She is prone to the odd ricket and they make a hash of a headscissors takeover. The women overcome the somewhat distracting chants and the early flub and have a solid match. The strikes are on point, even though they create a weird atmosphere as the crowd yell “sleeve” at every Harvey strike. Speaking of fashion choices; Nixon has “nos da” written across her arse, which means “good night”. Presumably referencing the sleep induced by the Shiniest Wizard. Which coincidentally gets the pin here. Solid match. Love Nixon. Everyone should buy her Harry Potter inspired “Girl with the Shiniest Wizard” t-shirt.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Progress Championship
Jimmy Havoc vs. Matt Riddle vs. Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven vs. Sebastian vs. Travis Banks vs. TK Cooper
Title is vacant and this is under elimination rules. Two tag teams out there, which gives them a natural advantage. Seb brings Eaver with him for added support. Sebastian’s presence in the match drags it down because everyone is wanting him eliminated. Progress would have been best suited to eliminating him quickly to allow the rest of the match to kick in. The worry was that the match would be very storyline driven and that Sebastian would feature into the latter stages. Scurll jumps Havoc before the match to tease his elimination. This leaves Riddle as the sole babyface. An occurrence that led to people excitedly expecting him to run through all the heels and win the strap. Riddle’s connection to the crowd results in the crowd singing “Gold” by Spandau Ballet with the words changed to “bro*”. Riddle runs through all the heels one after another until a fantastic display of mat grappling with Travis Banks. It’s blow-away awesome technical work. Travis is quite sensational here. Proving he belongs in the top matches in the country. On the other hand is Sebastian who takes two terrible bumps for Riddle before Matt goes on a chopping rampage and we get insane topes from Trent and Travis. TK adds in a flip off the top and it’s bonkers! It’s TK’s last act as Riddle puts him out with the Fisherman Buster, with bridge, right after a nifty submission chain.

Jack Sexsmith runs in to give Seb the Mr Cocko Claw. This leads directly to Jimmy Havoc returning and, thankfully, dumping Seb with the Acid Rainmaker.

Travis looks to take over the match until Trent kills him with a piledriver off the ropes. He’s gone and British Strong Style move on to Riddle.

The champs do the Pump Kick Piledriver and dump Riddle. Quick-fire eliminations! That leaves British Strong Style vs. Havoc. The suspicion is immediately that Havoc overcomes the odds to win in this storyline.

Havoc and Seven do some tidy counters with Trent eating an Acid Rainmaker. Peter gets kicked out of the ring and a second Acid Rainmaker puts Trent out, much to my dismay.

Roberts takes another bump, this time to protect Havoc, who scores a visual pin with the Acid Rainmaker. Paz comes down to replace Roberts but Trent decks him to save Dunne. As British Strong Style look to put Havoc away Tyler Bate runs in. Trent turned on him months ago to set up the British Strong Style tag team but Tyler has had time to think about that. He turns on Havoc! Dunne hits Drop Dead and the Midlands lads stand tall with the title. Pete Dunne is the Progress wrestling champion! The story in this match was incredible. I loved everything they did. It made sense throughout and having Dunne walk out as champion, and as head of a trio of great Midlands wrestlers, is sensational stuff.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

*This chant caught on like wild fire and was being sung outside the venue after the show. The result of which was Matt Riddle joining the rabble and going into local pub The World’s End and promptly getting banned for making too much noise. The lyric in “Gold” is “always believing, you’re indestructible”. As the bouncer ejected Riddle he quipped “not so indestructible now are you?” A harsh burn. Nevertheless the fans totally connected with Riddle in a big way and I’m sure Matt enjoyed his trip. He’s back in the New Year because he’s wrestling Katsuyori Shibata for the Rev Pro title. Love the graps.

 

Summary: I loved this show live and it comes across just as strongly on VOD. There are three really great matches on this show (Riddle-Ospreay, tag titles, main event) and the story telling over the course of the show is fantastic. I love that Tyler Bate felt he couldn’t get even with Trent Seven but he looks up to him so much that he has to join the dark side to remain relevant. It’s a touching father-son relationship that they have and it makes me so happy to see them reunited. Even if it’s as a pair of total bastards. I’ll never not love the duo and their work. The show as a whole was an easy watch and the overarching storyline of Pete Dunne’s ascent to glory had a tremendous supporting cast. A genuine contender for best show of the year and it’s been a great year for wrestling.
Verdict: 100

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2016 – Night 3

Arnold Furious: September 4, 2016. Final day of BOLA 2016. Six quarter finals, three semi finals and the final to come, plus PWG tag titles on the line and a ten man tag featuring the first round losers.

 

BOLA Quarter Final
Dalton Castle vs. Trevor Lee
Trevor Lee, “TNA Superstar”, works heel because he’s a TNA guy. The first heel company since WCW. I suppose you could argue WWE are heels across the Indies but with what they’re doing, being pals with the Indies and NXT, that’s probably not true as soon as Vince is in the ground. Chuck continues his fine commentary by pointing out he worked for TNA too. “Getting that TV money” quips Excalibur. “Well, I haven’t actually been paid yet”. That’s a shoot. The match has a lot of posing and such. Peacocking, I believe the kids call it. The actual work is passable but underwhelming considering the two men’s collective talent. It’s not how you’d want to start a big final night of a weekender. It occasionally hits the necessary highs, like Lee doing a backflip right into a deadlift German suplex. Lee starts lifting more Hardy spots because that’s all TNA is nowadays to the casual fan. Dalton yells “fuck TNA” but gets caught immediately with the Canadian Destroyer. Lee advances to the semi’s.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

BOLA Quarter Final
John Hennigan vs. Ricochet
Rather predictably there are a lot of flips going on here. Ricochet is far superior in that respect, although Hennigan tries to keep up. Johnny Mundo is doing fine in Lucha Underground and looks ok in those matches where it’s all a bunch of spots. He does good work around the ropes in this, sliding under them, between them and off the top with the springboards. They also work in a suitably sick bump where Ricochet, tied in the ropes, takes a neckbreaker onto the apron. My word, it’s a sick bump. Part of Ricochet’s innovation isn’t just the offence but also how he take sickening moves. It’s the same mentality a lot of guys have, which is worrying for the long term future of their necks. Hennigan wrestles like a dick, using the referee and low blows. Starship Pain misses but Ricochet’s 630 does not. He almost forgets to get the pinfall because he’s so happy with how he landed it.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

BOLA Quarter Final
Marty Scurll vs. Cody Rhodes
Marty, if he was a true Villain, would finger-snap Brandi during the introductions. Instead he opts for bashing Cody with an umbrella while he’s trying to kiss his wife. That’s a decent replacement. Marty goes for a load of Flair offence to offset the Rhodes name, as well as lifting Stardust and Goldust spots. It’s a consummate display of sports entertainment from the Indie guy. A contrast to the sports entertainer trying to be an Indie wrestler. Scurll is not only entertaining but he’s able to sell the situation and Cody’s lack of fire actually hurts the match. It’s Scurll who’s the better worker, in every respect of the word. The Shattered Dreams becoming a Superkick, Just Kidding, to the nuts is perfect. Scurll takes his offence and tailors it to suit his opponent. It makes me wish he worked somewhere more important. All Cody has is the plucky comebacks. The dropkicks and small packages of an underdog. He’s completely outshined. Even when Scurll is dealing with Brandi, managing to get a kiss off her and celebrating like he’s won the WWE title, he’s the most entertaining guy. Also he sees the drop down punch coming and counters into the finger snap. Finally Scurll does a “chicken wing, just kidding” before winning with a punch to the balls. He varied his offence so well in this match. Cody gets love from the crowd but Scurll owned him here.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

BOLA Quarter Final
Chris Hero vs. Mark Andrews
These two had a really, really good match in Progress where Hero just killed Andrews. He does so again here, murdering the Welsh kid from the bell. The idea being that Andrews takes tonnes of abuse from Hero and keeps kicking out. Hero has a knack at killing smaller guys and having fun with it. He’s having a red letter year and you could see him winning BOLA easily. Virtually every move is potentially the end with Andrews taking vicious head drops and strikes throughout the match until he flukes a pin with a roll up. I love that Andrews had that ‘never say die’ attitude and a combination of hope and luck kept him alive in the tournament. The crowd pop the finish hard, showing they were invested in this. It only ran six minutes but it delivered huge.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Post Match: Hero takes the loss badly. He kills Andrews with a forearm smash and a super piledriver. He’s dead.

 

BOLA Quarter Final
Mark Haskins vs. Kyle O’Reilly
O’Reilly comes in with a hurt shoulder, which is a potential target. Both guys are very technically gifted so the focus is on counters and submission attempts. It’s a definite change of pace after the last couple of matches and it gives the crowd a chance to re-charge. Don’t underestimate the importance of matches like this on long cards. There are 12 matches tonight, the crowd can’t stay hot for 12 matches. Especially in this building, which is so hot. It’s a sweatbox. The build is slow in this but it figures into the structure with them trading down the stretch and Haskins digging into his bag of submissions to catch O’Reilly out. O’Reilly looks to take advantage with superior striking but Haskins is able to counter that with speed. Both guys are excellent at combinations and counters. Haskins busts out his super-torque Sharpshooter and gets the tap out for the surprising win. The BritWres guys are getting huge wins in this BOLA. This might be even bigger than Andrews beating Hero. The tournament has been turned on it’s head.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

BOLA Quarter Final
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay
Sabre comes in as the PWG Champion whereas Ospreay is the flippiest guy in the world. They’re really familiar with each other and that shows. Ospreay starts so fast, a huge contrast to the last match. He hits two dives and a Red Arrow before Sabre has time to breathe. Sabre comes back with great creativity, flipping Ospreay onto his head in the ropes and kicking the rope. Zack switches ‘dickhead mode’ on, no selling chops and stamping on Ospreay’s neck. Sabre is vicious in working the neck to the point where you want Ospreay to tap out just to save himself. Zack even gets the Young Boy Killer but Ospreay manages to slip out of it before it’s fully on. Last year Will struggled in BOLA and faded during the tournament. He’s become more accustomed to big environments and hot buildings. Ospreay brings all his new flips, which blows a few Reseda minds, and is again able to escape Sabre’s more dangerous holds. He even gets a technical pin on Zack, showing how far he’s come. This was really, really good. It was beautifully fluid and mostly logical.
Final Rating: ****

 

That completes the semi-final line-up. Here is the draw for later:

-Trevor Lee vs. Mark Andrews
-Marty Scurll vs. Mark Haskins
-Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay

A very strong showing for BritWres with four of the six semi-finalists coming from the UK. A reflection of how excellent the British scene has been over the past year. It’s especially pleasing to see the likes of Andrews and Haskins get a chance to shine.

 

PWG Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) vs. Pentagon Jr. & Fenix
I’m all in on Pentagon and Fenix teaming regularly. The Bucks have that John Cena reaction where half the crowd hate them and half the crowd love them. Everyone in this match is effortlessly good at their style of wrestling. The Bucks are hugely underrated when it comes to doing lucha and that’s demonstrated in spades here. Just because they don’t take lucha seriously, or anything for that matter, doesn’t mean they’re not good at it. This is another spot heavy PWG-esque match and the style of Lucha Underground is entirely compatible with the Bucks general lunacy. There are flips and dives and Pentagon kills Matt with a Package Piledriver on the apron. Everyone has a nice time. Many faces are kicked, in super fashion. If anything Pentagon and Fenix out-spotfest the Bucks. I know, right! The Bucks get upset with this and hit the Tope Con Meltzer Driver! “Holy shit” chants Reseda. I fucking hear you. Jesus Christ, that’s insane. The challengers get superkicked eight times each for the eventual loss but the match was over with that Tope Con Meltzer Driver. That was fucking nuts.
Final Rating: ****

 

BOLA Semi Final
Mark Andrews vs. Trevor Lee
Andrews had a quicker quarter final match but got killed by Hero after the contest was over. Plus Lee was in the opening match so he’s well rested. Andrews looks to finish it quickly with flurries of offence but is shut down by an aggressive Lee. That’s how they do things in TNA. Of course Andrews also wrestles for TNA. Lee seems to find it amusing to make all the crowd move and then do nothing on the floor. This turns him fully heel. You made me stand up for nothing, you jerk! Andrews takes a licking but keeps on ticking, which is his gimmick. You win some, you lose some but you look gutsy regardless. Andrews comes close to victory via reverse rana and SSP but Lee gets knees up on the latter and progresses to the final with the Small Package Driver. Andrews can always blame the beating from Hero as the reason for his departure.
Final Rating: ***

 

BOLA Semi Final
Mark Haskins vs. Marty Scurll
Haskins hobbles in here having been injured in the quarter final. Scurll is relentless in his assaults on the injured leg but perhaps takes Haskins too lightly, in a situation where he could win quickly. In tournament wrestling winning quickly is key. Haskins is still fast despite the injury and both men use a lot of familiarity stuff to tell a story. One major complaint regarding Scurll is that, despite being a stellar wrestler, he messes around too much. That’s in evidence here where more focus and less playing to the crowd would make sense. Out-doing Cody at Sportz Entertainment was fine but surely a little cheating combined with skill would make sense to take on Haskins. With Scurll almost preoccupied with fucking around it opens the door to a Haskins challenge. When Marty is trying to win the match, he targets the knee and dominates with relative ease. It really didn’t need to be seventeen minutes to tell that story. Haskins holds his end up just fine, keeping the knee in play by selling it and using his speed effectively. I kinda wish they’d not bothered with the knee because that aspect hampers the match rather than improving it. Haskins would win with the Star Armbar if his knee could hold the bridge, which it doesn’t. There’s a nice visual of Scurll getting the ropes on it and then tapping out to make sure Haskins releases the hold immediately instead of waiting for the five count. That’s smart wrestling. The ref had already seen the rope break, it wasn’t risky. When they give up on telling the leg story the match improves, especially because Haskins becomes a threat. Scurll doesn’t even win with a leg hold. It’s literally just there to fill time before the stretch. I take issue with a lot of great workers doing just this so it’s no knock on these two. The match ended up being good in spite of the knee work.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

BOLA Semi Final
Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet
Expect flips. They start at breakneck pace, aiming to put on ten minutes of madness. It’s an attempt to revolutionise professional wrestling and both guys are at the forefront. They’ve started to switch up the match they had in New Japan, changing bits of it but retaining the high spots. There are many flips. It’s pleasing that within those flips are also attempts to finish the match. There are strikes engineered to finish and big spots like reverse ranas that aim to finish. It’s not just flips for the sake of it. It lacks the sheer blowaway amazingness of the Super Juniors match, which got the entire world talking about selling and psychology. This match has less moments that are likely to cause arguments or drop jaws. Maybe it’s a sense that we’re just getting adjusted to how great these two are at this style. Ricochet takes the Oscutter on his way out. This was really good due to fluidity and smoothness combined with a very, very high difficulty level. It never wowed me like the NJPW match did but perhaps Reseda is a tougher environment to do that because everything around them is crazy too.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Bro Cat Psycho Kitties (Tommaso Ciampa, Sami Callihan, Pete Dunne, Matt Riddle & Brian Kendrick) vs. Team Liger (Jushin Liger, Tommy End, Jeff Cobb, Cedric Alexander & Chuck Taylor)
This is largely filler to give the tournament lads a rest. It’s traditionally one of the most entertaining matches of the weekend with a bunch of wrestlers who didn’t get to shine that much in their one tournament match. This is Kendrick’s first PWG match in two years and his stock has been elevated by the Cruiserweight Classic and impending return to WWE. He’s a “salty veteran” and this match is all about having fun. “Brother Dustin, I knew you’d come” yells Ciampa at Chuck. Taylor tends to get a thumb up his rectum from Ciampa at these things. Liger and Callihan have a bizarre ‘cat off’. Liger looks to be having the time of his life. Cedric slaps his thigh in the early going and Kendrick calls him on it. “Shame on you, you’re killing business”. It’s a dressing down! Cobb vs. Riddle makes me very excited that they’ll be feuding eventually somewhere. They’ve already had a match in AAW.

The match degenerates into thumbs in bums and Liger encourages Ciampa to stick the thumb in his asshole. “It’s Jushin Liger” says Ciampa, not wanting to sink to that level but Liger’s powerful sphincter destroys the thumb. We end up with a chain of thumbs in bums going across the ring until Liger overpowers everyone with his clenched cheeks. Then they hit the slow-motion, which is hilarious as always. I’ll never cease to be amazed at how everything goes into slo-mo. The fans truly dedicate themselves to that and I love how when time goes back to normal it does so with crazy dives that seem super speeded up due to the slo-mo beforehand. Then it’s Ciampa’s turn to dive and he’s scared so he starts singing “I Believe I Can Fly” and the entire crowd joins in as well as all the boys. Tommy End is singing it. That’s how you know this is a weird parallel universe and not the real world. Liger pins Dunne with the brainbuster for the win and much fun was had by all. This is almost impossible to rate, on the same scale as some wacky DDT matches. Crowd loved it though.
Final Rating: Liger’s bum cheeks are really strong

 

2016 Battle of Los Angeles Final
Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll vs. Trevor Lee
Two BritWres guys who have incredible chemistry with each other. Lee’s style is almost completely different to Scurll’s personality driven stuff or Ospreay’s flying. It’s a good combination of guys. I’m especially pleased with Ospreay flipping around the “Superkick, Just Kidding” spot. After an early breezy start all three guys look tired and I question the need for have them wrestle for thirty minutes but then there’s always a certain expectation regarding main events. Luckily Lee is a machine. It’s Scurll who looks more weary and logically he’d be first out, except he’s scheduled to win so they can’t do that. Ospreay tries so hard to steal the show but the little flaws in his work get amplified by his condition. A lot of the ideas are solid. Like the other two stealing Ospreay’s spots and working together as they both see Will as the biggest threat. Ospreay ends up in the Chickenwing with Lee stomping the fuck out of him at the same time. Will has no choice but to tap out.

Lee is very good at making himself look completely fucked when he’s actually fine. Scurll on the other hand is getting very good at varying his matches when faced with the same crowd. He has a very clear defined match that he can have with just about anyone and does frequently. When put in a position where he can’t do that he becomes a fascinating wrestler to watch. He’ll still get his trademark stuff in there but they’re weaved into a tapestry of graps. The weird part of this match is that Marty is the babyface but he still wrestles the same. He throws the ref into the way of a forearm and smashes the umbrella over Lee’s head. Keeping in mind that the crowd hate Lee because he’s been touting TNA all weekend. Scurll locks the Chickenwing in and Lee taps out. Scurll makes it back to back wins for the Eurograps. Nice one.
Final Rating: ***1/2

 

Post Match: “You know what? I fucking deserve this” – Scurll. He’s now due a title match with Zack Sabre Jr., coincidentally his best friend, who won the belt via winning BOLA last year and successfully challenging Roderick Strong.

 

Summary: I do enjoy a BOLA. There are plenty of tournaments during the course of the year but there’s something special about that sweaty box in Reseda. It brings out the best in people. While the top tier standard on this year’s show was lower than 2015 it was still hugely enjoyable. To the point where I’m really not sure I watched the same footage as TJ Hawke. But this is wrestling. Opinion’s are like assholes, everyone has them and Liger’s is better than everyone else’s.
Verdict: 88

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2016 – Night 2

Arnold Furious: September 3, 2016. Twenty four hours after Stage One is complete and we’re back in Reseda for BOLA night two. Jack Gallagher is missing from the tournament but a special replacement will be taking his spot against Dalton Castle.

 

Dalton Castle vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa is finishing up his Indie dates so he was barely available for this but I figure PWG did a deal with the lads in Florida seeing as Jack is one of theirs. Ciampa and Castle are both utter weirdoes so they do weird things until Ciampa inevitably beats the fuck out of Dalton because he’s a Psycho Killer. One of the Boys eats a Project Ciampa for his use of fans. He deserved it. Ciampa assaults Castle during his posing just to show what a complete dick he is. Ciampa is signed to WWE so he starts hitting WWE moves, including a horrible Superman Punch. The match is just all over the place, which Ciampa is entirely guilty of when he’s unfocused. The match only clicks with me when Dalton is trying innovative stuff and Ciampa is killing him in mid-move with strikes. Also when Dalton is hitting his ridiculous dead lift German suplex. Ciampa switches gears multiple times. He goes from hitting a Pedigree for giggles to spitting blood all over Dalton’s chest. Dalton puts him away with the Bang-a-rang. This match was all over the fucking place but was entertaining anyway. Both guys kept alternating between serious and goofy. It was two matches squished together. Nice to see Ciampa in PWG one final time though.
Final Rating: ***

 

Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews
BritWres is in the house. The Bruiserweight is making his PWG debut and is pleased to be recognised by the fans. Pete tries to control the match with power and technical skill. He’s also a total asshole. He gets over very quickly. “To hell with your armdrag, I’m gonna slap you in your dumb face” contributes Chuckie T to describe Dunne’s testy attitude. Andrews impressed in PWG last year, doing flipz with Ospreay, but this is an entirely different scenario. Dunne wants heat and doesn’t care how he gets it. It allows Andrews to shine by flipping around him. Andrews is game for getting Pete over too and he takes sickening bumps and a general shellacking. Dunne’s churlish behaviour includes trying to break limbs, stepping on Mark’s face and naturally chomping on his digits. Dunne is a great technician so his basics are on point but the brutality of his heel work is so good that everyone is rooting for poor little Mark. Sometimes you need someone to be that much of a jerk to get the babyface cheered. And yet Pete, hated though he is, does some wonderful stuff like throwing Andrews into the air and uppercutting his ribs on the way down. Also they repeat sequences and add in extra steps with Dunne learning from Andrews high spots. Apart from the reverse rana, that’s Pete’s Kryptonite. You know how you can’t powerbomb Kidman? You can’t not reverse rana Pete Dunne. Andrews keeps on ticking, as he tends to, despite Pete destroying him. Dunne just stamps on his head repeatedly at one point. He’s such a wanker that the crowd start chanting “Bruiserweight”. What a fucking great showing from Pete Dunne and Andrews has done so much for him, by taking such a kicking. They do a mid-air counter of the Super Drop Dead into a Stunner, which unfortunately isn’t sold because it would be fine as a finish. I love Pete just elbowing Andrews out of the air on a follow up. It’s so beautifully nonchalant. I also love that Dunne gets such a near fall that the bell rings. Dunne falls afoul of his Kryptonite reverse super rana and the SSP finishes for Andrews. Great match. Pete Dunne did incredible work here but they just slightly overdid the counters and didn’t finish the match with their best work.
Final Rating: ****

 

Cody Rhodes vs. Sami Callihan
Cody is introduced as the “grandson of a plumber”, which is a fantastic fucking call and the crowd are rabid for Rhodes based on that alone. Cody actually has PWG gear with the logo on and everything. He’s hyped to be here. Callihan’s main approach to this match is attempting to beat the shit out of Cody for doing the same thing he did (quitting WWE to go back to the Indies), only to greater fanfare. Cody does ok in this match, hitting a few wacky dives and getting the crowd revved up. Sami certainly kills him a few times, including a DVD into the buckles and various strikes. A welcome to the Indies for the former Dashing One. They’re not short on Sportz Entertainment either with Sami pulling out the Space Cat mask and Cody responding with his Phantom of the Opera clear mask he wore in WWE. Sami’s clawing of Cody is a nifty high concept deal. It doesn’t help him much as Rhodes finishes with the Cross Rhodes. This was fine and it was helped immensely by how over Cody was but it didn’t achieve a lot in the ring.
Final Rating: **3/4

 

Heroes Eventually Die vs. Pentagon Jr. & Fenix
This should be interesting as two of the best luchadores working currently face off against two of the best strikers in the world. If the match doesn’t end abruptly with Tommy End killing one of the fans. He is a frightening man. If he wanted to be he could be the biggest heel in NXT too. When it comes to the action Hero is in the mood to pop the fuck out of Reseda and he hits an effortless step up rana, which he should not be capable of. The lucha boys won’t take that lying down and Fenix hits a flip clean off his brothers shoulders to the floor. Pentagon makes the mistake, fearless as he is, of chatting shit. This gets him banged and Fenix gets isolated for a series of evil strikes from the HED team. Basically Hero holds Fenix in place and End kicks him before he’s dropped on his head. It’s not just the moves as there’s so much natural charisma involved in this match that it’s impossible not to get drawn into it. Pentagon makes the mistake of doing the cross on Satanist End and Tommy goes completely fucking nuts with the strikes. The way he fires those bastard things off is unreal and everyone is matching him for striking intensity. To the point where a double, double down gets a standing ovation. Fenix ends up picking off Tommy with a springboard 450 Splash. This match had a tremendous mixture of stuff. Hero and End brought sublime striking but it was contrasted beautifully with the lucha-libre. The match had something for everyone, whether they dig intensity, violence, flying or whatever. It was all here. I could have done with a little more logic in the finish but otherwise highly enjoyable.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Kamaitachi vs. Trevor Lee
Kamaitachi is representing lucha-libre and NJPW. Lee is representing southern graps and TNA, which makes him far more disliked than he would be if he wasn’t representing TNA. Kamaitachi is completely nuts and Lee doesn’t help him out at all by dropping him neck/head first on the apron in a disgusting bump. Kamaitachi doesn’t help himself either by doing that wacky senton where he vastly increases the chances of landing on his head. The crowd start chanting “Delete” at Lee so he hits the Twist of Fate on the apron. Another sickening head spike from Kamaitachi. He’ll have no neck left if he carries on like this. It’s a fast paced match with Kamaitachi alternating between trying to kill himself and trying to stomp Lee’s face in. Small Package Driver sees Lee advance.
Final Rating: ***1/4

 

Cedric Alexander vs. Mark Haskins
It’s really weird hearing someone introduced from Malvern in BOLA (or “Mal-Vern” as the Americans say). This is a display of technical excellence. Haskins has improved massively since his TNA run, developing a mat game on a par with just about anyone. It’s perhaps not a style that’s appreciated by the PWG crowd, especially during a long weekend but it’s great wrestling. Cedric is on his way to WWE so he knows to force the pace and when he does Haskins is equal to him. Haskins’ ridiculously fast tope once again takes out fans. Haskins is a showy wrestler, or he can be, but he’s also someone that does logical, sensible things in the ring. In this match he just dismantles Cedric, taking the arm then the leg and moving his offence around to set up multiple potential submissions. Cedric gets caught out by Haskins’ speed multiple times, perhaps overlooking that aspect of his game. Haskins used to be a flippy guy and he retains those advantages, only now he’s technically excellent too. Haskins transition into the Sharpshooter gets the crowd really excited for example. He’s so good at that. Plus Haskins’ Sharpshooter is fantastic. He leans so far back on it. Cedric is still keeping on an even kiel until he gets distracted by a shit-talking fan. Haskins transitions through his roll through DVD into the Star Armbar for the submission. This was the right call because Cedric is leaving and Haskins is capable of working just about anyone.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Matt Riddle vs. Kyle O’Reilly
Either guy could conceivably win BOLA. O’Reilly is a top Indie star and has been for years. Riddle is one of the hottest new stars in the Indies. He’s been making a name for himself in EVOLVE but PWG is stepping it up in front of a hardcore audience. They love him already but the field in this tournament is so strong. Kyle takes him to school, taking a similar approach to Haskins, working multiple body parts. Kyle is quicker and more aggressive. It’s only when Kyle allows Riddle to trade on strikes that it opens a door for Riddle to get into the match. Riddle targets the injured shoulder of O’Reilly and that gets him a further beating. O’Reilly’s transitions are really strong and Riddle gets to look good at surviving a beating at the hands of a more experienced opponent. Riddle ends up pinning himself by hooking a submission and refusing to let go even though Kyle has him pinned. This should have been bang up my alleyway because I love the technical work but it followed on from another match that was very technical and it didn’t click with me in this position on the card. The wrestling was still very good but I think I would have liked it better in a vacuum.
Final Rating: ***

 

Will Ospreay, Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks
This has huge hype because Meltzer went ***** on it. It’s the first North American match to get that rating since Davey Richards vs. Michael Elgin in ROH in 2012. Dave likes the flipz and there are five flippy lads in this match. The first big flip is Sydal’s and he botches it horribly, falling off the ropes. Five stars Dave? Are you mad? You can’t have botches in a five starrer! Don’t get me wrong it’s a really fun match with loads of dives that connect beautifully but five stars is somewhat reserved for perfection. That said he went five on Punk-Cena and that wasn’t clean either. The match has nothing resembling tags as people just hit wacky moves whenever they care to. Getting it to make sense and fit together is pretty impressive. Ospreay is again the stand-out both in terms of the insane dives and the selling. He’s the focal point of everything that’s good. Even selling the backrake (“argh, it stings so much”) turning a stupid move into something meaningful. Chuck Taylor is great on commentary here, calling all these guys on the pointless little moves that mean nothing in between actual moves. If they’d skipped those silly little bits it would intensify the ridiculousness. Like Sydal missing a super rana and just dropping into the ropes or Ricochet taking a satellite DDT onto the apron. The peak moves in this match are next level insanity and if the match operated at that level throughout it would be five stars. Like Ospreay taking a superkick in mid backflip. Or Ospreay using the Cheeky Nandos to set Cole in position for Ricochet to hit the senton over the turnbuckle over Cole. At it’s peak this match is crazy wonderful. The difficulty levels of off the charts too. At one point Ricochet countering a Dragonrana. The set up alone is nearly impossible to get right. The peak might be Ospreay cutting off the Bucks in mid Indytaker with the springboard Oscutter. The timing on that was exquisite. Shooting Star Meltzer Driver, from Sydal, sets up a trio of Shooting Stars for the win. This was just an insane spotfest. The crowd loved this.
Final Rating: ****1/2

 

Post Match: The crowd chant “five star match” and the three babyfaces just stare at Meltzer. Pressured into it Dave!

 

Verdict: 100

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2016 – Night 1

 

Arnold Furious: September 2, 2016. We’re in Reseda, California at the one Indie show Dave Meltzer simply refuses to miss every year. He’s at ringside to witness an exciting mixture of global talent squaring off in a sweaty building in front of sweaty wrestling fans. Hosts are Excalibur and Chuck Taylor.

 

Marty Scurll vs. Pentagon Jr.
Crowd is hot, in more than one sense of the word, getting the loudest possible duelling chants going before we’re even underway. It’s insane. This is one hell of a way to start the show as either guy could potentially win the entire tournament. Scurll’s personality shines through, as it does everywhere, and he targets Pentagon’s arm after seeing the Zero Miedo taunt up close. In a dickish move he also ties Pentagon’s mask to the ropes. Marty, as per usual, makes friends by ordering to crowd to shut up, because he likes to wrestle in silence and flipping off fans who try and high five him. Pentagon’s showmanship is also top notch with reckless dives and loud chops. The match is just a touch rough around the edges, perhaps due to a lack of familiarity. It also doesn’t help that the bottom rope breaks, which certainly distracts Pentagon. Scurll looks totally beaten twice, dropped on his dome the second time with a Package Piledriver. The Zero Miedo taunt gets Pentagon a broken finger, Pentagon taunts him back again in awesome fashion but Scurll slips out of the Package Piledriver and gets the Chickenwing for the submission. The stretch in this was fucking great.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Jeff Cobb vs. Ricochet
Ropes are now fixed. This is a battle of technical excellence vs. super duper flips. Cobb, former Olympian, is carrying a lot of weight, which could hurt him in Reseda because it’s so fucking hot but he is from Guam/Hawaii so he’s probably used to it. Ricochet spends most of the match fucking around, given his massive range of flips, while Cobb just pushes him away with his super strength. Cobb plays the monster role so well here, completely no selling the People’s Moonsault and jacking Ricochet up into a powerslam. Ricochet somehow outdoes this by simply hitting the craziest dives imaginable. The flipping dive over the ring post is just mad. And yet then Cobb is catching Ricochet on kick attempts and dead lift throwing him across the ring. That kind of power is borderline unthinkable. The strikes are great and whoever wasn’t a Cobb fan pre-show are at this point. It’s Ricochet who switches gears by showing off his own power, jacking Cobb up for the Benadryller. They go nuts at the finish with Cobb going after Tour of the Islands and Ricochet countering into a roll up for the pin. That was a lot of fun.
Final Rating: ****

 

John Hennigan vs. Matt Sydal
The battle of two guys with impressive abs. Obviously not Meltzer level abs but solid abs anyway. This match has a lot of posing and witty comments. “This isn’t SmackDown, it’s Reseda” from Sydal not being one of them. Sydal’s mat game is underrated. He’s very good at the technical stuff and he ties Hennigan up in an assortment of holds. Hennigan turns himself fully heel by throwing in a deliberate low blow as the crowd fade in the heat of the building. Johnny coasts through the match for the most part, and it’s a fifteen minute match so that’s a lot of coasting. He throws in all the high spots but they’re scattered around at random intervals and in between is posing and pausing. Sydal is marginally better by at least linking his stuff together but Hennigan advances with Starship Pain. Given the usual standard for BOLA this was below the bar.
Final Rating: **1/4

 

Will Ospreay vs. Fenix
I anticipate flipz. With a hard Z. I am not disappointed. Not everything lands clean but the difficulty level is really high and the crowd fucking love it. If you miss those WCW cruiser matches where guys did a bunch of fucking wacky dives I have a match for you. This is that WCW cruiser match on speed. There are daft bumps and ridiculous counters. While Scurll-Pentagon had a few communication issues this is beautifully fluid by comparison (presumably because Fenix speaks more English). They nail the timing on difficult spots like a ridiculous pop up rana countered into a cartwheel. Ospreay’s set up for the Cheeky Nandos is a thing of beauty, slipping out when Fenix leaps onto the top rope. The real gem is Fenix hitting the Spanish Fly off the top rope and they both counter and land on their feet. The entire crowd just loses it’s fucking mind at that. It’s completely insane. Ospreay has this habit of doing things that not only have audiences never seen before but never even imagined before. Oscutter finishes. The ridiculous double flip off the top was merely part of the insanity that prevailed in this match.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tommy End
Sabre is the PWG Champion. Sabre is the technical star here while Tommy will bring massive strikes. There is a degree of showmanship from Tommy as he stops before kicking Zack’s head off, just to warn him that he could, if he wanted to. Tommy has gotten crazy over in the last year and he’s on his way to WWE. He is going to be very popular in NXT. End sits Sabre down a few times on the strikes, causing Sabre to try and control the match by working the arm. Sabre’s joint manipulation is even more disgusting than End’s strikes. It’s a delicious contrast of two of wrestling’s most extreme styles. End’s combinations are so deadly that it’s actually tough to believe anyone can survive them. It’s perhaps something the WWE trainers will try and focus in on, making sure End uses the strikes effectively towards the finish of a match, rather than throwing them throughout. It’s not that Tommy has nothing else, at one point he throws in a moonsault to the floor because fuck it, it’s BOLA. Sabre’s own kicks are incredibly stiff and End starts countering out of the strikes. The match has been flipped. It’s a nice storyline. End firing up into combinations of strikes makes him look unstoppable but Sabre counters out of a pin to get back on the arm. The strikes down the stretch, complete with throws in between, are wonderful. Plus Zack keeps going after the arm to keep with the continuity. Zack ends up stomping the piss out of Tommy, running into a roundhouse only to recover and tie End in knots for the submission. Everyone has been underrating this one, it’s MOTN for me. Maybe the best singles match of the entire tournament.
Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Chris Hero vs. Jushin Liger
This is something! When PWG announced Hero vs. Liger I thought it wasn’t the best of opponents for Liger as he’d be better off against someone flippy who he could ground with submissions. Hero has to play heel because he outweighs Liger by approximately three-quarters of one Liger. Liger doesn’t wrestle a lot of guys that are this much larger than him. It creates a memorable and different match and Hero is so respectful that he’ll bump around all day for Jushin. Hero treats the Shotei like death for example. It doesn’t often feel like a legitimate match but it is fun to watch. Liger moves around like he’s a lot younger than he is (he’s now in his fifties for fuck’s sake) and is able to catch Hero napping a few times. Plus his kick-outs are timely. There are some great moments for Liger, the posing included, but it culminates with the Koppou Kick. Liger can still bust that out of nowhere. Hero does amazing work in taking both a powerbomb and a brainbuster, which must have been terrifying. Liger kicks out of the Ligerbomb at ONE, which is another tremendous moment. Hero eventually elbows Liger into defeat and this was a lot better than I expected. Testament to how great Hero is and what a legend Liger is.
Final Rating: ***3/4

 

Bullet Club (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks) vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish)
Dalton’s boys are reDRagon. The Bucks are wearing the trunks with Dave Meltzer’s face all over them. It’s not even the most ridiculous gear in the match. This is the main event so there are lots of chuckles to be had. Mainly through the flamboyance of Dalton and the Bucks realising they’ve broken wrestling to the point where everyone is now even more ridiculous than them. In this match the reDRagon lads use the fans to blow the Bucks over, multiple times, leaving me howling with laughter. It’s actually pretty freaky how good Kyle O’Reilly is at playing one of the Boys. He’s able to do all the spots, dancing and shenanigans without his mask falling off. Bobby manages one spot and it’s gone. The fan gimmick breaks me up every time. Attempting to blow Adam over on a sunset flip has me in bits. There’s a tidy bit of psychology when reDRagon pull off the masks and put in mouth pieces and suddenly start wrestling properly. The Bucks finish with a stereo Meltzer Driver, with Matt blowing a kiss to Dave himself in mid move. This was daft and it made me laugh quite a lot but the actual work was all over the place.
Final Rating: **1/2

Verdict: 95

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2015 – Night 3

Arnold Furious: 30th August 2015. Here’s the bracket:

Brian Cage vs. Jack Evans
Biff Busick vs. Chris Hero
Trevor Lee vs. Marty Scurll
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Pentagon Jr.
Mike Bailey vs. Tommy End
Will Ospreay vs. Matt Sydal

Based on form and star-power that would result in Hero vs. Sabre Jr. vs. Sydal in the final.

Brian Cage vs. Jack Evans
Cage had the worst first round match, against the botch-happy Aero Star, whereas Jack Evans had the strangest performance in his first round match, hammering off a bizarre post match shoot. Here Evans goes off on a rant about PWG’s poor production values before rounding on the muscular Cage as a “beauty pageant contestant”. This naturally gets Jack completely destroyed with insane power moves. The massive cross-ring biel is impressive. Cage’s massacre includes several freakish deadweight German suplexes, drawing a “suplex city” chant. Cage is a freakish specimen. Jack ends up fluking a roll up for the win, causing major Roid Rage! STEINER FUCKING SCREWDRIVER! If Vince catches wind of Brian Cage he’ll probably re-brand him as Brian Lesnar, Brock’s simple-minded, suplex loving cousin. I guarantee you, Paul Heyman could turn him into a main event because he has that same presence, just minus the pedigree. The match was a pure massacre but it was fun watching Jack Evans get ragdolled around the ring.
Final Rating: **1/4

Biff Busick vs. Chris Hero
Hero is in no mood to let Busick get going and cuts him off at every opportunity. Both guys want a quick win, like Evans just got, and go balls out with the strikes from the opening second. If Hero could get his Kassius Ohno body back he’d be a monster. I really don’t understand how he can be so driven and determined at the wrestling but can’t maintain the physique to go with it. Not that I have a good body or anything but I don’t have the determination to do much of anything to fix it. The strikes in this are lots of fun, especially Hero who feels the need to make his punches look incredible. Shame he keeps switching them out for kicks, which don’t look as good as the punches or the rolling elbows. Poor Biff gets smashed with an assortment of potential KO blows, the best of which is a knee to the face while he’s coming off the top rope. It should easily finish and Hero looks a bit stupid for pulling Busick back up. Biff attempts a fight back by fish-hooking the mouth and biting but that just pisses Hero off. Biff is murdered out of the Indies with a piledriver off the top rope. Hero was devastating here. He’s on a run. Busick should fit nicely into NXT and he may surprise a few people.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Marty Scurll vs. Trevor Lee
Scurll heels it up as he’s the villain. Lee is the favourite thanks to a strong run in last year’s BOLA where he made the semi’s before being bested by Johnny Gargano. Scurll seems to have won over Reseda with a combination of his heel mannerisms, BritWres mat style and entrance music. Plus his personality comes through in spades. “I don’t suck, it was one time so it doesn’t count” says Scurll. “He was curious” chants Reseda. It’s a solid outing from Scurll and Lee barely has an opportunity to get his shit in. Lee comes in with a bad arm, from the Guerrilla Warfare match last night, so Marty works it all match long. Lee seems legitimately put off by the arm injury and his form suffers for it. Scurll seems one step ahead, with Lee falling for all Marty’s antics and paying for it by taking an evil Wildbomb. Marty’s antics connect all the time courtesy of Lee’s lack of familiarity with it all and his arm work is so consistent. Lee takes a couple of horrible looking bumps at the finish as Marty gives him no protection when knocking him off the top rope before putting him away with the Chickenwing. Which is good psychology in my book, seeing as he spent the entire match working the injured arm to set up the finish. It all paid off. Solid work from Scurll, Lee wasn’t quite so convincing but we can put that down to the bad arm and the series of sickening bumps he took the night before.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Pentagon Jr. vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
It’s the battle of the Jr.’s and the crowd think it’s awesome before we even get underway because it’s a clash of two worlds that don’t normally exist in one place. A luchadore heel from Mexico vs. a British technician who plies his trade in NOAH. This match can’t take place in too many promotions. I love Pentagon flipping the bird and Sabre responding with the two-fingered salute. Pentagon has no hope on the mat, he’s completely outclassed, although he shouldn’t feel bad about it as most people are. Pentagon’s exciting response is to show Zack how they mat wrestle in Mexico. It looks like he’s making it up as he’s going along. I love how they both let go of submission holds, as if they want to see what else the other guy has. It’s amazingly innovative and exciting stuff on the mat. I’ve been watching wrestling for a long, long time and I saw new holds in this match. Genuinely dropped my jaw at times with the difference of it. I have a suspicion I want to see a load of luchadores tour England and work that different style. It doesn’t click too well with puro but based on this, we have a clash of styles that delights. When Pentagon starts getting into the strikes, with his gloveless ‘silencio’ chops, it serves to piss Zack off. From there we see another side to both wrestlers as they wail on each other. It’s never quite at the intensity level of really good strikers but it’s fun. Pentagon goes after the Package Piledriver but it’s countered into a deep kimura and Pentagon taps immediately. The match petered out a little bit as they died under the California heat but the mat stuff in the first third of the match was worth four flakes alone.
Final Rating: ****

Mike Bailey vs. Tommy End
Bailey did an excellent job of playing the underdog against Galloway. He’ll have to do it again against End, who has him for size easily. This match is all about the strikes and they’re both into kicks. They could form an entertaining tag team based on a mutual love of kicking the shit out of people. In lieu of said tag team, they kick the shit out of each other instead. That’s the entire match; kicks. It’s great. It has to be the first time I’ve ever seen Tommy End get kicked so hard and repeatedly that he drops. Tommy’s knees might be the most amazing part of the entire strikefest though. Almost every one that he lands looks like a KO. Clearly not happy about being out-struck Bailey manages to hit his moonsault double knees on the apron, of all places. End’s brainbuster/double stomp combo should really finish because the impact is so high and Bailey is just this little child by comparison. But the storyline here is another giant-killing from Speedball. The finish is really lame by comparison as Bailey takes his time and hits one of his tamest kicks of the night; a Buzzsaw kick to get the pin. Finish aside, this was wonderful. A beautifully violent strike-fest.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Will Ospreay vs. Matt Sydal
This is the final second round match and it should be a cracker as Ospreay vs. Sydal has gone down in Rev Pro in England a few times, culminating in a genuinely awesome ****3/4 MOTYC from Summer Sizzler 2015. Their familiarity helps them before they’re even underway and those unfamiliar with Rev Pro will find themselves surprised by how smooth and clinical this is. “I’m the better flier” says Ospreay and Sydal wipes him out. “Don’t talk shit” preaches Reseda. Ospreay spends a while after that counting his teeth. It’s as if they want to have a realistic high-flying match, which is insanely ambitious. Sydal takes Ospreay off the top and Will drops south onto the ropes in a gnarly spot. Ospreay does solid work, both selling the possible missing tooth and a bad wheel to the point where that knee can’t be 100%. The injuries stop playing a part in the flippity concluding part of the match but that does allow Ospreay to do the flip where he lands on his feet off a super reverse rana. The silly spots continue and Ospreay takes it with the Imploding 450 Splash. This was a definite step down from the Rev Pro matches but it had the same sort of feel, despite the various aborted injury angles.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Mount Rushmore 2.0 (Roderick Strong, Super Dragon & The Young Bucks) vs. Angelico, Fenix & The Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet & Rich Swann)
The entire of 2.0 decide to call out anyone with the chutzpah to take them on, which ends up being this collection of talent. Like the other 2.0 matches this weekend it’s a fun contest with lots of big dive spots and flippity madness, broken up by Strong and Super Dragon hitting massive strikes. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a flippy young guy getting murdered with a lariat. Fenix doesn’t quite click with the Bucks, which is unfortunate and the match doesn’t quite live up to the matches that 2.0 have had thus far at BOLA. Not that it’s bad and 2.0 rock the triple teams when required. There’s a great sequence where Swann goes crazy on Dragon in the corner, only to be turned around and introduced to the concept of a Violence Party. Oh, Violence Party, I missed you dearly. Super Dragon continues the awesome by pretending to be the guy waiting a tag in Rich Swann’s corner only to murder him after taking the ‘hot tag’. It’s ingenious heel work.

Of the faces the top performer is Angelico, hitting superb flying knees, insane dives and taking ridiculous head drop bumps. Fenix tries to out-do that with more ridiculous spots but despite his efforts, not everything he does is clean. Everyone gets their chance to shine and Roddy’s one man wrecking crew spot, where he destroys everyone on the face team with intense strikes gives the champ a nice rub. It’s something WWE could learn from. Keep your heel champion strong so it means something when he loses. The match has a few awkward moments where the pre-planned spot goes array. In particular Fenix having communication issues and breaking up blatantly organised sequences too early. It’s a pity as when the match does go right it’s beautiful carnage. The finish sees Roddy isolate Swann and pin him with End of Heartache. It’s a bit underwhelming after the madness that preceded it but the match was solid entertainment throughout.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Battle of Los Angeles 2015 Semi-Final
Jack Evans vs. Chris Hero
Evans has totally overdone the injury angle and has ribs, shoulder and head taped up. He’s halfway to a Mummy costume. “When you boo me, you are booing the Rock’s favourite wrestler” says Jack before going on to claim that Highspots owe him royalties and what a “pathetic mess” Hero has become. Hero does wonderful work while Jack is running his mouth, by doing stretches and keeping warm. It’s solid character work from the veteran. When the match gets underway it’s Jack’s flipping versus Hero’s surly veteran striking. Evans has a gimmick where he won’t stay down for a two count, as part of the pre-match promo, and constantly burns through energy kicking out hard at one. It’s solid commitment to his own promo. The match is a massacre with Hero pasting Jack with an assortment of vicious strikes and Jack, hilariously, refusing to stay down past the one count. It’s some sort of crazy ploy to the point where Hero gets frustrated that he can’t get a two count, almost forgetting the aim is to get three. It’s such an amazing gimmick that I’m stunned nobody thought of doing it before, Goldberg aside. That makes the two counts feel genuinely like near falls when Hero starting really destroying Evans towards the conclusion of the match. Eventually Evans takes one elbow to the grill too many and stays down. Hero advances to the BOLA final. Loved the gimmick during this match.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Battle of Los Angeles 2015 Semi-Final
Will Ospreay vs. Mike Bailey
Ospreay eliminated the bracket favourite in Matt Sydal but now comes up against a different style. Bailey’s kick-heavy offence is enhanced by flippy moves. The problem these guys face is they’re both relatively inexperienced, especially in major Indie promotions and can’t quite get the feeling of a major match. Ospreay deliberately plays the fatigue card, which is probably the right thing to do but it just reminds the crowd how exhausted they are after three nights of wrestling. His favouring of the knee is some of the best selling of the entire weekend but the crowd is very much eager for that PWG-esque high spot style. Ospreay is kind to Bailey by not forcing the pace and allowing Speedball to look like the star. It’s a professional performance. Every time Will attempts a big spot there’s Bailey to find a counter for it. The whole thing is designed to turn Speedball into a main event tonight. Bailey seems completely oblivious to the fact the winner of this will need to wrestle again tonight and throws himself into every dive, every spot like it’s his last moment on the planet. The whole match is rest holds and insane dives, depending on who’s in charge. Ospreay manages the most convincing series of finishing strikes but it’s Bailey who comes out on top courtesy of his Buzzsaw Kick. I’m not keen on that finish. Ospreay did well during his three tournament matches but the one against Mark Andrews stands out. The heat and the schedule appeared to wreck Ospreay’s chances.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Battle of Los Angeles 2015 Semi-Final
Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
These guys used to be a pretty important tag team, as the LDRS of the New School and have teamed as recently as January in IPW:UK. Or the first night of BOLA if you want to be entirely accurate, under the moniker of Eurotrash. The experience and history are the building blocks of the definitive semi-final. Two guys who know each other extremely well and could wrestle a technical masterpiece without much effort. Reseda get a chant of “English wrestling” going as they go back and forth on the mat. Scurll brings the personality through his heelish antics and occasional disbelief that Zack can escape his holds. Also, the odd gay joke. It’s technically wonderful, clever and humorous throughout. Scurll totally wins at every turn in the comedy, including a spot where he’s stuck in a stretch and yells “I forgot to do my DDP yoga”. The action is so fantastic that the crowd pop a standing ovation bang in the middle of the warm up countering because it’s so good. There are a few old tricks in there, which are familiar to the BritWres enthusiast but it’s all so well done that it doesn’t matter. A near falls sequence that never hits a one count gets another standing ovation and a “World of Sport” chant. They’re owning it out there.

Marty’s obsession with the Chickenwing is so endearing. It’s like Benny from the Lego Movie. “SPACESHIP!” “CHICKENWING!” When these guys get serious and start to pelt each other with strikes it’s an entirely different match and that makes two outstanding matches all wrapped up in one package. The comedy stuff has critics but the lightening of the mood is all part of the match. It’s Marty trying to disarm Zack and make him take the match too easy, remembering their team and how much fun they had, before bringing the eventual aggression. But Sabre is prepared for this and has big spots lined up to beat Scurll. Marty’s attempts at finishing with the Chickenwing are hampered by Sabre working his arm and finding different ways to escape. Eventually one of these finds Scurll trapped in an armbar and he taps. Great effort from these two in a borderline epic contest. Quite how Sabre can work a near thirty minute match ahead of the BOLA final is anyone’s guess but he did and it was phenomenally entertaining.
Final Rating: ****1/2

Team Ciampa (Tommaso Ciampa, Timothy Thatcher, Andrew Everett, Drago & Mark Andrews) vs. Team Taylor (Chuck Taylor, Trent, Drew Galloway, Drew Gulak & Aero Star)
This is the buffer match to give Zack Sabre Jr. a twenty minute break before the main event gets underway. Chuck Taylor’s team didn’t originally have him in it, as he’s winding his career down (this is a work, by the way, as Taylor has signed with Global Force Wrestling). He dubs his team the “Five Man Band”, cracking up Galloway on the apron. The match has a lot of comedy in it, like Taylor’s boys teasing something insane only to hit a lame move instead and even Aero Star gets in on that doing two flips to set up a stomp. Or Taylor getting body slammed by all of the other team. He pops back up. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and super fuck you”. Not that the match is without action and high spots and at one point everyone hits dives, including Drew Galloway. The comedy continues with absolutely everyone getting hit in the crotch…which leads into the SLOW MOTION SECTION OF THE MATCH. The crowd go slo-mo, Excalibur goes slo-mo. It’s amazing. It might be the most joyous wrestling segment of all time. The top rope moves won’t work in slo-mo so they have to stop, miss and Chuck wins with Awful Waffle on Mark Andrews. “5MB” chants the crowd, having enjoyed themselves. I have absolutely no idea how to rate this on the snowflake scale but it was one of the most fun matches I’ve seen. A lot of people aren’t keen on the slow motion gimmick but these people have no sense of joy in their lives. It wouldn’t work in WWE but I’ve seen entertaining slow motion gimmicks before with Kikutaro or DDT or Chikara or PWG itself. It’s a comedy art form.
Final Rating: ****

Battle of Los Angeles Final
Mike Bailey vs. Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I love that all the guys kneel on the canvas before being introduced. It conveys the fatigue and respect of the situation before we even begin. The tournament has been exhausting for the fans and the wrestlers so they start easy. Almost at a leisurely pace. The three-way mat grappling actually comes across like a shoot, which is weird and I’ve never seen it done that way before. How would a shoot fight between three guys play out? It creates some extraordinary, never-seen-before mat work. There isn’t the level of seriousness that you get elsewhere and Hero rolls up referee Rick Knox for a near fall. This is why people love PWG. It’s different and sometimes being different is all you need. Being good helps. Speedball should be out of his depth in this match but takes it in his stride, the sign of a potential superstar. One of the hardest things to do in a three-way is to keep one guy busy while the other two work and they work around that by having all three guys involved in almost every spot. The fatigue of the evening helps to fill any blanks in. When someone is not involved it’s entirely believable that they’re just knackered and cannot get up to fight.

The only one who seems to have an energy reserve is the ridiculous Mike Bailey, although he has had the shortest, easiest evening to this point. His two matches combined were ten minutes shorter than Sabre Jr.’s semi-final. Sabre has already wrestled 41 minutes prior to this match tonight. Hero a mere 24 minutes while Bailey had 21 minutes. This freshness is certainly reflected in his performance and also in Sabre’s as the Brit spends a big chunk of the match resting. Bailey’s rapid-fire offence turns him from an underdog to the favourite and at one point he has both guys down with Cossack style Kick Flurries. Where is he finding this energy? While working Hero down the stretch he keeps Zack from entering the ring by hitting three dives at different times, in between wrestling Hero. It’s the Mike Bailey Show. Hero puts Bailey out with Rolling Piledrivers. The poor kid put in a terrific showing though and is beloved by the fans. If he hits the gym to work on his toning he’ll be back. This came a little early for him.

With Bailey eliminated it becomes a simple exercise in giant-killing with Zack looking to outwrestle Hero. Sabre having the benefit of a rest period where he was outside the ring and Hero was expending energy putting Bailey out of the match. They tease Hero putting Zack down as Sabre looks exhausted going into the final stages, saving bursts of energy to protect himself from match ending spots. Zack has enough left to take Hero out on the mat and he hits a series of stomps to Hero’s head. It’s brutal considering how much effort they’ve already expended. They perhaps wrestle for too long as the energy levels down the stretch are extremely low. The selling is at the level of Triple H matches, although due to genuine exhaustion. Mainly from the heat. Sabre eventually gets the better of Hero on the mat and gets the submission after an exhausting thirty-five minute contest.
Final Rating: ****

Post Match: Roderick Strong comes out here to promise to “beat the shit out you” to the BOLA champion. Sabre, bringing the personality, calls him “Captain Shitty Boots” and suggests he’ll be moving to California. This brings out the European contingent to celebrate with Sabre. It’s pretty amazing to see BritWres standing tall at the conclusion of BOLA. Many of the British talents stole the show, which was not easy. I’m very proud to see this group of wrestlers having succeeded at BOLA. Pre-tournament I spent a while bigging them all up on a podcast. To see them come through justifies the British scene.
Summary: For sheer consistency, this was an astonishing three night tournament, filled with just about every kind of wrestling you can think of. The final night perhaps didn’t quite measure up to the other two, due to sheer length and how tired everyone was. This exhausting final night did feature a slew of great matches though and Sabre-Scurll is essential viewing.
Verdict: 98

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2015 – Night 2

Arnold Furious: 29th August 2015. The success of BOLA’s opening night put some severe pressure onto night two but the most intriguing thing about night two’s line up was the sheer unpredictability of it. Night one had quality wrestling but just about everyone who was expected to go over did. Sydal, Pentagon Jr., Busick, Ospreay etc. Night two features an array of matches where the outcome is far from being so clear cut. In particular the big Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr. contest. Zack is one of the tournament favourites and Ricochet the defending champion. One of them must go!

Marty Scurll vs. Rich Swann
The Villain wastes no time in displaying his villainy as he jumps Swann to prevent him from dancing, hits a tope and a powerbomb. The crowd are into Marty, thanks to a solid performance on night one and his aggression is enjoyed. On the BritWres podcast we’ve said many times that Scurll is only as good as his opponent but Swann is great and even the worst workers in the tournament should be a good match for anybody. Although some of the lucha guys might have a disaster in them. Scurll’s tactic is refreshingly simple; he taking Swann’s arm to set up the Chickenwing. Even when I slightly disliked Scurll I still marked out for the Chickenwing. The fans get into him, doing the “WOO, WOO” that features in his music and there’s even a “Party Marty” chant. Swann has some pleasing flippity action and his lucha bits are smooth. His strikes are quite nice too but Marty just pokes him in the eyes. Living the gimmick. They do a bit of no-selling, which is fine because they’re both a bit lightweight, and it’s a solid contest. Swann decides to flip Marty off so he breaks his finger. That finger-breaking spot from Scurll is amazing. “You fish and chip eatin’ motherfucker” – Swann. The personalities at play in this are wonderful. Swann gets baited in and the CHICKENWING finishes. Solid stuff with the character work living up to the action.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Angelico vs. Jack Evans
These guys are tag partners in Mexico for AAA as Los Gueros del Cielo. Evans decides to establish an issue before they start by saying he “carries the team” and that Angelico can’t beat a Hart Dungeon trainee. It’s a smart ploy otherwise the choreographed moves they do would come across as too pre-planned. Jack spends more time cutting a promo during the match than wrestling it. “You will not embarrass me in my home promotion” – Jack. Excalibur points out he’s not wrestled here in “about six years”. His last match was actually in 2008 for PWG. Jack chugs a beer and goes all Drunken Master on Angelico, which pops the hell out of Reseda. If Jack could channel all the madness into a coherent match it would be goddamn beautiful. He’s clearly keen on doing something completely different and new. I appreciate that but the match is seventeen minutes and they’ve only got maybe ten minutes of good material. Everything else is Jack going mental and Angelico looking confused. Not that there isn’t great wrestling in the match but moments of insanity, in between moments of differing insanity. Evans at one point hits a 450 Splash to the floor and fucks his knee up but Angelico doesn’t work the knee. It’s just something that went wrong so they don’t use it and just go back to the pre-planned match. Angelico doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do with Evans. I wish the weirdness and Angelico’s awkwardness didn’t drag the match down as much as it does because Evans being a jerk is one of the best things since Brian Pillman. He’s out of control. Towards the end he can’t stand, references Reseda being the home of the Karate Kid and uses the FUCKING CRANE KICK to win. Fifty million stars! I need more Jack Evans in my life. His post match rant against PWG’s booking mentality is virtual career suicide, in PWG anyway, and is absolutely wonderful. This wasn’t the cleanest or most sensible match you’ll ever see but Jack Evans has to be seen to be believed when he’s all Loose Cannon like this.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher
Hero has been great since leaving the WWE, which makes me wonder how he washed out there in the first place. It absolutely bewildering. Why didn’t they just do Kings of Wrestling? They had both guys and weren’t doing anything with them. Thatcher is a ten year pro and that’s enough time to build a considerable in-ring repertoire. His body puts Hero to shame too. He’s lean and mean. The one aspect where Hero can out-do Thatcher is in the personality stakes. Thatcher is a fucking Terminator. Hero has a wider range of emotions and is better at winding the fans up. I can see Thatcher becoming one of those guys that has a die-hard hardcore fan base that just appreciate his grappling skill. Hero’s variety of tactics and styles are taken away from him one hold at a time by Thatcher. There’s a little bit of selling but the match is more about which guy can take the most abuse and they just pound each other in between the chaining. Thatcher no selling Hero repeatedly kicking him in the face before instigating a WAR on the floor is sensational.

This match is square up my alley. It’s all manliness, submissions and beatings. It feels like a genuine contest at times, an actual fight. In some ways it’s a throwback to the kayfabe days as it never appears to be cooperative in any way. I LOVE IT. Hefty strikes and deadweight suplexes ahoy! It’s a battle. Honestly, if I could change wrestling and make it more realistic this is what I’d have in mind. It reminds me of UWF (Japan not Bill Watts). The strikes! Thatcher breaks out the kind of counters that are usually done by Ishii. Who thinks of blocking a rolling elbow with a headbutt? Thatcher takes at least two piledrivers that look like they break his neck. This is all set up for the Hero’s Welcome, which finishes. I. FUCKING. LOVE. THIS. FUCKING. MATCH. It was brutal and beautiful. Possibly the best match of the entire tournament.
Final Rating: ****1/2

Pentagon Jr. & Drago vs. Fenix & Aero Star
This might bring me crashing back down to Earth as I’m not overly keen on lucha at the best of times. However Fenix owned it against Sydal and Pentagon Jr. will bring the personality. Aero Star certainly looks a lot more comfortable in this match than against Cage. Fenix just entering the ring looks incredible. The match has a lot of flippity business and makes me interested in checking out Lucha Underground. If any show can get me into lucha it’d be one more catered to an American audience. Pentagon Jr. makes a big deal out of taking his glove off so he can hit one chop but DAMN it’s awesome. That’s the personality. He’s not the cleanest of wrestlers. Especially compared to Fenix, who does some crazy stuff with Drago.

The problem with all this is there are moments where someone is standing around waiting to be hit with a dive or some other flippity spot. And on the back of Hero-Thatcher, that’s just not acceptable. The timing is off a couple of times and it’s irritating. Luckily they compensate with a lot of really fun spots and sometimes, when the timing is on, it clicks perfectly. Like in Dragon Gate, when it’s all perfect, it’s unbeatable entertainment. But they need to get on the same page and don’t all the time. Two spots for you; Pentagon Jr. hitting a package piledriver and Gorybomb at the SAME TIME. Then Aero Star outdoes him by hitting a Superfly Splash…off Fenix’s shoulders…while he’s standing on the top rope. Before they even attempt a pin Fenix turns around, springboards off the top rope and hits a ridiculous multiple rotation dive to the floor like it’s a goddamn afterthought. The whole match has silly spots in like multiple attempts to hit handsprings and someone dropkicking the unfortunate attacker in the face while they’re upside down. After all the craziness the finish is rather underwhelming with Drago deciding to break up his own submission to help Pentagon Jr. only to get caught and hit with a Thunderfire Driver. Match was a horrible mess at times and utterly breathtaking at others. Therefore it doesn’t quite live up to the Michinoku Pro match at the first ECW PPV Barely Legal or the Dragon Gate guys guesting for ROH at Supercard of Honor but it was definitely fun.
Final Rating: ****

Drew Gulak vs. Tommy End
I don’t know Gulak very well because he’s a CZW guy. I’ve seen him wrestle there but I dislike the promotion so much that I tend to avoid it where possible. This has an MMA vibe about it, as Gulak is a mat wrestler against End, the kickboxer. The classic grappler vs. striker contest. In the rich traditions of early MMA it’s pretty dull compared to the last two matches but, to be fair, those are big matches to live up to. My biggest issue with the bout is it doesn’t need to be long. All the fans want to see is them wail on each other. They could literally accomplish everything in five minutes of crazy strikes and dodges that they do in the twelve minutes allotted. Those five minutes are how they finish. Lots of cool strikes and Gulak does wonderful business by just grabbing and throwing End to protect himself. Tommy ends up blasting Gulak with a big right hand to get the win. This dragged and the first half did very little. It was just a warming up process before the actual match kicked in. Last couple of minutes were really good though and tipped my rating over three stars.
Final Rating: ***

Mike Bailey vs. Drew Galloway
Bailey is another discovery of PWG. He’s been doing the Indie rounds but caught on to a few big bouts in PWG earlier this year. Notably a title shot at Roderick Strong in June. He’s also caught on in EVOLVE so maybe 2016 will be his year. He’s a combination of ridiculous high flying and martial arts kicks. Galloway is about a foot taller but as an ex-WWE wrestler he’s not a fan favourite here. Galloway isn’t going to fade away though and he’s determined to show WWE they were wrong to release him. They tell a good size battle and Bailey refuses to let the calm Galloway dictate the pace, wailing on the bigger man in classic giant-killer fashion. The only problem the match really has is that Galloway should never be losing because he’s big, he’s agile and he knows how to dismantle an opponent. So the only thing Speedball has is his guts and intensity and that shouldn’t really be enough. Only in fairy tales. But then Galloway’s whole approach is to make the fans want Bailey to win more, at one point lifting spots from Sheamus.

In all honesty, I get far more into the idea of Galloway just destroying the poor kid as his massive power moves pop me more than Bailey’s flippy moves. Not that either guy is inferior at what they’re doing but Drew’s moves are so much fun. The problem with his WWE run was the amount of other big dudes he wrestled. He’s much more entertaining throwing Indie midgets around. They do a great spot in the corner where Bailey goes for the double stomp with Galloway tied up and Drew just leans back up and hurls Mike off the top rope. From there it’s all about Galloway refusing to stay down for any of Bailey’s big spots, constantly coming back at him regardless and just being the BEAST. The near falls in this are off the hook as the last couple of minutes feel like everything is a finish until Bailey flukes a cradle to advance. I can’t say I’m a massive Mike Bailey fan, like almost everyone in Reseda, but this match reminded me how much I like Drew Galloway and the story they told was near perfect David vs. Goliath stuff and the whole thing was believable.
Final Rating: ****

Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This sees defending champion Ricochet facing Zack, who’s been contesting with champion Roderick Strong and is seen as a favourite. Whoever wins this will certainly be considered a top contender for the tournament as a whole. The story of the match is that Sabre is too good for Ricochet on the mat and can even counter the flips to put him back there. The crowd love both guys so much they resort to a “both these guys” chant. Due to the sheer amount of different matches, these guys decide to base the contest on mat wrestling, which is an easy win as they’re both great on the mat. Ricochet works a bit of sportz entertainment with the People’s Moonsault, which Zack easily counters into a triangle choke. This leads to a change in attitude from Ricochet, who acts like a complete jerk to help solidify the crowd behind Sabre Jr. Before this they were on the fence and Ricochet wanted to make sure Sabre got over at his expense. It’s a generous performance. Once Zack has been given that green light he bosses the match, countering almost everything Ricochet attempts, even the big strikes. Ricochet is a confident guy so he doesn’t let it bother him and they start to trade on bigger spots, as the match grows but it’s Sabre who owns the match. He’s just too good when it comes to the technical counters. Ricochet has to create new offence just to get one over on Sabre and the match develops a ‘big match’ atmosphere. It is exhausting. The crowd feel as burned out as I am but the wrestlers give it their all. They look tired. The finish has an unfortunate turn as the ref is way slow getting down to count a flash pin, which makes Ricochet look stupid but apart from that the match worked throughout. Sabre ground away at Ricochet but Ricochet was a bit too inventive to get beaten by normal means. Eventually something weird and different would win the day and that’s how it ended.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Guerrilla Warfare
Mount Rushmore 2.0 (Super Dragon & The Young Bucks) vs. Biff Busick, Andrew Everett & Trevor Lee
2.0, dicks that they are, are hated by the collective babyfaces in the ring. The storyline saw Super Dragon return to form 2.0 a few months ago after missing some three years with injuries. He is the driving force behind the heel group of himself, Strong and the Bucks. This is his first PWG match, or match anywhere for that matter, since January 2012 where he teamed with Akira Tozawa and Kevin Steen in a losing effort at Kurt Russelreunion 3. He was one half of the tag champs at the time and those belts were vacated due to Super Dragon’s injuries. Most people thought he’d retired. Especially as his 2011/2012 run constituted a couple of matches and before that he’d not wrestled in three years. Super Dragon is one of the principle owners of PWG so he’s been busy behind the scenes. However he used to be quite active until a slew of injuries, due to his intense style, turned him into a backstage dweller for the past eight years.

Three promotions you, probably, didn’t know Super Dragon wrestled for:

  1. XPW. Back in 2001 after XPW branched out to the West Coast they were looking to expand the roster and hired a number of locals. Super Dragon worked three times against other SoCal locals such as Disco Machine. Despite going 3-0 he was never used again.
  2. WCW. Super Dragon once wrestled for WCW, under the name Super Dragon, in a 1998 try-out match. His tag team partner? WCW luchadore Blitzkrieg. He was not signed.
  3. All Japan. In early 2003 Super Dragon did a tour for AJPW. He lost most of his matches but here are some of the wacky opponents that post-split AJPW put him in with: John Tenta, Gran Hamada, Satoshi Kojima, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy “Wang” Yang and Elix Skipper, then going under the name “Extreme Blade”.

Anyway, Super Dragon’s years away have not dimmed his ability to be a complete asshole. Nobody, not even Chris Hero, can stare down a fan like Super Dragon. You just don’t know what he’s going to do. Half the chairs in the venue end up getting used as weapons so everyone ends up standing. The rules of a Guerrilla Warfare match are there’s no DQ’s so anything goes. It’s part WWE hardcore match from the Attitude Era, part Young Bucks amusing themselves and part crazy headdroppery. It’s a cocktail for carnage. But it doesn’t stop with the guys beating each other up as the ref gets superkicked so Rick Knox comes in to try and get revenge and just gets annihilated by a CURB STOMP!

Not content with killing everyone 2.0 go after the commentators, taking it to nWo levels of booking, but Trevor Lee hits a fucking tope OVER EXCALIBUR’S HEAD off the announce position! All the faces get huge spots. Busick’s ring-clearing destruction of 2.0 gets the entire crowd standing, although they’re already up because all the chairs got used in spots. Super Dragon keeps himself out of most of the match, just moving into position when someone is doing something flippity. For a guy who hasn’t wrestled in three years his timing is phenomenal. The match is so much fun that you can see people at ringside who cannot stand still. They’re literally bouncing around from the energy. The Bucks go after the thumbtack training shoes (shoes with thumbtacks stuck in the bottom) only to get cleared out by Rick Knox. He’s back in control of this contest! LARIAT FOR SUPER DRAGON!!!

The carnage of the conclusion is barely believable as everything builds to bigger and bigger spots. Not content with double stomping thumbtacks into Biff Busick’s face Super Dragon finishes him off with the Psycho Driver. This was fantastic. Just absolute madness and sheer unadulterated carnage. But…it’s not over yet. Super Dragon decides to stroll around the crowd looking for a fight because winning a match isn’t enough for him. This brings Excalibur into the ring to proclaim “this is not over by a fucking long shot” and the crowd demand he defend PWG for them but Excalibur deflects the responsibility onto the locker room. “I will not rest until I see them put in the fucking ground”. Before he can wrap up 2.0 come back out here and destroy Excalibur. PSYCHO DRIVER THROUGH A CHAIR! With his co-commentator down attention turns to Chris Hero and IT’S FUCKING ON! Hero tries to take on all three of them but eventually weight of numbers takes it for the heels. The way they’ve set this up will result in a killer pay off. But not tonight. PSYCHO DRIVER!
Final Rating: ****1/2

Summary: Good lord, this show had just about everything you could ever want to see from a wrestling show. It doesn’t matter if you like storyline, action, heat, comedy, flying, technical, striking, Strongstyle, Lucha. It doesn’t matter, this show had a match for you. Into old timey 1980s wrestling? Hero vs. Thatcher was all that and more. Into ridiculous high spots? The Lucha Underground guys had you covered. You’re into the Attitude Era? The main event had a crazy hardcore brawl and the kind of storytelling reminiscent of the nWo at its craziest. You likes kicks? Tommy End. You like a guy who’s lost his mind and does the first thing that comes into it? Jack Evans. You like limb work? Zack Sabre Jr. You like dancing? Rich Swann. You like to see an underdog or a dominant powerhouse heel? Bailey vs. Galloway. This show had everything and almost every single thing hit. There are few shows that have the consistency of this one. It’s a marvel and it is unmissable. There’s nothing that’ll trouble match of the year voting but for consistency there hasn’t been a card like it anywhere in 2015.
Verdict: 100

PWG Battle Of Los Angeles 2015 – Night 1

Arnold Furious: August 28, 2015. The Battle of Los Angeles, or BOLA as I shall refer to it henceforth, is one of wrestling’s more enduring tournaments. This year it celebrates a decade of existence. The first tournament taking place in Los Angeles (duh) way back in 2005. The first show featured an array of top Indie talent battling over two nights. This included AJ Styles, American Dragon (Daniel Bryan), Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens), James Gibson (Jamie Noble) and Rocky Romero. The tournament was won by PWG mainstay Chris Bosh, after a tournament long angle concerning an AJ Styles injury. Bosh won the final match in less than six minutes before embarking on an “Austin 3:16” knock-off speech. The speech itself was a fantastic idea that the crowd loved BUT unfortunately Bosh failed to tell AJ his plan and Styles, a devout Christian, went into a Jesus-based rage and cut Bosh’s speech off in mid-flow. How can AJ Styles not have seen the Austin 3:16 promo? I guess he was a WCW fan, being from the south.

The following year the tournament got slightly more ambitious and PWG began a long tradition of bringing new talent in to North America. The 2006 event saw the inclusion of wrestlers from Dragon Gate including CIMA, Dragon Kid and Genki Horiguchi. Also involved were El Generico (Sami Zayn), Chris Sabin, Roderick Strong and Davey Richards. The latter beating CIMA to win. Unlike other big Indie tournaments, like the Ted Petty Invitational, PWG has leaned towards talent that can continue to be a success for them when selecting a winner instead of picking a flavour of the month to win.

2007 was the first time the final was a three-way elimination match. It was scheduled to be in 2006 but a Super Dragon injury prevented his inclusion. The 2007 edition again featured a rich array of talent including Alex Shelley, Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne), Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro), Necro Butcher, PAC (Adrian Neville) and Nigel McGuinness. CIMA returned, beating his Dragon Gate buddy Shingo along the way, to capture the victory.

2008 was a slightly more low key tournament, won appropriately by Low Ki. PWG like to have shocks in the BOLA and 2008 saw Kenny Omega, Roderick Strong, Austin Aries and former winner Davey Richards ousted in the first round. It showed the talent available that they could even consider doing that. Most Indie shows couldn’t. Other participants included McGuinness, Masato Yoshino, Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) and Chris Hero. It was the latter who was beaten by Low Ki in the final. The tournament reverting to a one on one final.

In 2009 even more was at stake with the PWG title vacant and being awarded to the winner. The title had become vacant when Bryan Danielson beat Chris Hero for the belt, ending Hero’s epic 425 day reign as champion, only to be unable to defend the title as he’d signed for WWE. Writing this in 2015, the wrestling landscape has changed in regard to WWE’s attitude towards Indie groups. 2009 featured some risky tournament booking as PWG picked home talent Joey Ryan to make it to the semi’s and Brandon Gatson to get a big run, going over Alex Shelley in the second round. The final match delivered regardless with Kenny Omega defeating Roderick Strong to win BOLA and the PWG title.

2010 is one of the more disappointing BOLA’s. Brandon Gatson returned and again made it to the semi’s. Joey Ryan ended up winning his first BOLA by defeating Chris Hero. The main highlight of the tournament was the success of Akira Tozawa, who was beaten by Hero in the quarter-final in a heroic career-making performance. Tozawa’s BOLA turned from joke to superstar in his home country.

2011 is the only BOLA to take place in one day. The streamlined tournament saw El Generico capture BOLA after having a thrilling first round match with Claudio Castagnoli. A match that would be repeated on NXT Arrival in 2014. The final contest saw Generico best long-time friend and tag team partner Kevin Steen. Presumably the WWE were watching PWG in 2011 as most of their Sami Zayn NXT booking stems from this show. Other notable participants included Dave Finlay. Perhaps he was WWE’s mole as he went back to WWE as a producer/agent the following year.

2012 saw the Indies needing to rebuild as so many Indie talents had either signed for WWE or were busy in TNA. Nature abhors a vacuum and that’s true in wrestling as much as anything else. When there are no stars available new ones will be created. There were great showings in this tournament for Sami Callihan (Solomon Crowe), Adam Cole, Michael Elgin and Ricochet. Cole eventually besting Elgin in the final match. Both men would see their ROH careers take off after this.

2013 saw another highly rated BOLA featuring new, exciting talent like Johnny Gargano, ACH and Kyle O’Reilly. ACH vs. O’Reilly was a particularly special match. O’Reilly would go on to claim victory in the final against Michael Elgin. Poor Big Mike, always the bridesmaid.

2014 was the first three night BOLA and saw the breakout for UK wrestler Zack Sabre Jr. Sabre highlighted the first round with a win over Adam Cole, before an outstanding match with Kyle O’Reilly in the second round where his tournament ended. The tournament saw a number of top talents get a chance to shine with Ricochet, Gargano and Strong making the three-way final. Another star-making performance was that of Candice LeRae, who made it past Rich Swann before losing to Gargano. Finally Trevor Lee had a breakout tournament, making it to the semi finals before also losing to Gargano.

This brings us up to 2015 and a tournament that features a wonderful array of talent from all over the place. As a UK based fan it was particularly interesting to see Will Ospreay, Mark Andrews, Drew Galloway, Marty Scurll, Tommy End and Zack Sabre Jr. involved. Being a relative stranger to the modern US Indie scene it was an opportunity for me to scope out talent from there and also from Mexico, thanks to the inclusion of Aero Star, Fenix, Drago and Pentagon Jr.

Part of the joy of BOLA is the atmosphere created by a few hundred die-hard Indie wrestling fans being packed into the sweatbox that is the American Legion Post #308 in Reseda. It may not compare to MSG, the Arena Mexico, Sumo Hall or even York Hall in terms of venues but it’s a special one. A modern day Viking Hall in terms of atmosphere. Hosts are the always entertaining Excalibur and Chuck Taylor.

Brian Cage vs. Aero Star
Both guys are from AAA and also Lucha Underground. Cage is a big American powerhouse. Aero Star is in this match to get the crowd going with pleasing flippity lucha stuff. Speaking of the crowd, they are molten from the first bell getting into count-along spots like the stalling suplex, banging on the ring apron. Aero Star makes the first fuck up of the tournament and even repeats the spot. But that does not effect his confidence and he throws himself into spots with the kind of reckless abandon that makes me appreciate wrestlers so much more. Aero Star botches again, attempting a springboard super rana then they fuck up a Code Red. They’re trying, bless them, but it’s a disaster out there. Cage decides to save things with a STEINER SCREWDRIVER!!! Naturally Aero Star is dead. Match was really botchy but I can’t hate on it because the finish was insane.
Final Rating: *3/4

Biff Busick vs. Andrew Everett
Busick has since been hired by the WWE and has reported to NXT. Everett is a flier whereas Busick is more of an all-rounder. Busick’s strikes alone differentiate him to the guys in the first match whereas Everett is keen to flip around. Busick has the strike/suplex kind of offence that is beloved by Indie fans and any fans for that matter. Everett needs to do crazy stuff to just get a look in and does so; CRAZY OUTTA CONTROL SSP TO THE FLOOR! Of the two I much prefer Busick, due to his experience and style but Everett is a lot of fun. Biff shows flashes of Val Venis and Lance Storm but switches into his own stuff to make it all so much more brutal. Russian legsweep into an Octopus, Maple Leaf into an STF. Everett can’t match any of this. His body is somewhat out of shape and Busick is a machine. Almost all of Everett’s offence is desperation stuff. Until he flips out of a German suplex and hits a hands-free reverse rana. It’s sick! Obviously the selling is somewhat lacking as all these guys are desperate to get their shit in and show the crowd everything they have in the locker. It’s definitely a showcase. This is never more evident when Everett goes up for a Phoenix Splash and can’t quite land it. Everett’s stuff looks a bit too pre-planned, whereas Busick is snug and clean. Everett attempts a springboard SSP but gets planted with the mid-air European uppercut, one of several Cesaro-inspired spots in the Busick locker, and Biff advances. Clearly the right choice, in spite of Everett’s occasionally jaw-dropping offence.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Mark Andrews vs. Will Ospreay
Nice to see Ospreay’s chant has made it over to the States (“Ole, Ole, Ole” with Ospreay replacing Ole). He looks so damn happy about it too. Ospreay’s skill set is incredible, especially considering he’s only 22. Andrews is no joke either and they nail some lucha spots making the first four guys look positively amateurish by comparison. Ospreay shows another aspect of his game with a few innovative stretches that freak the crowd out. Ospreay makes Andrews look insanely good to the point where the crowd are cheering for him. The collaboration spots are on point. There’s a lot of flipping and insane near falls that get the entire crowd on their feet. For a ten minute match it’s quite incredible. I’ve omitted most of the PBP for this one because I was sat enjoying it. They attempted a lot of difficult spots in this and nailed all of them.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet & Rich Swann) vs. Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico & Jack Evans)
This would be the first non-tournament match, used to involved tournament participants on most nights. Angelico is a handsome South African wrestler, who’s 6’ 3”. He has a regular team with Evans in AAA. The team-name translates to the “Warriors of Heaven”. Catholic countries are so dramatic. The crowd sing “All Night Long” to try and get Evans to dance but ICMG’s dance instead. DANCE OFF! Rich Swann lifts a hilarious tribute to the YouTube clip of “you can’t do this on concrete” and head-spikes into the mat. That level of self-abuse is ripe for a match in DDT against YOSHIHIKO (DDT’s legendary sex doll wrestler). The dance off and the slower pace shows what this match exists for; it’s a buffer match to calm everyone down. ICMG’s work a very deliberate style, resorting to comedy and spots like the People’s Moonsault. The great thing about Angelico is that, despite his height, he wrestles a very clean lucha style. I don’t know if it would ever translate to a major American promotion and he seems to have found his niche. You don’t see many South African luchadores cracking the USA. Angelico started out in Spain and then made the logical transition to Mexico. When the match does pick up a bit it only exists as a series of spots. It’s quite disappointing, compared to the matches that surround it. But then BOLA is mostly about the tournament. If anything it’s Angelico, the man I was least looking forward to seeing, that steals the match. His knee strikes on Ricochet are ridiculous. Ricochet actually takes a hell of a beating, which might factor into his BOLA title defence, which commences tomorrow. As the match progresses everyone gets tired in the heat of the building (referenced throughout the night as being over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the spots start to get a bit sloppy. Still Angelico has a moment of excellence with a suicide dive over the turnbuckle. He impresses me a great deal with his high spots. Evans finishes with the 630 Splash. This was a bit slow to get going, then a bit sloppy when it did get going. Not to the levels of Aero Star in the opener but noticeable. It ended up being decent filler but not anything more.
Final Rating: ***

Trent? vs. Trevor Lee
Trent? is also known as Trent Baretta, one half of Roppongi Vice in NJPW and it’s the same name (Barreta) that he used in the WWE. This is an odd rarity as Trent didn’t take the name into WWE with him but started using it when he was in developmental. I’m really not sure how he’s allowed to use it. Normally the WWE get very possessive about their creative. Trevor Lee, if you’ve never seen him, is a bit like Daniel Bryan only much younger and with a hick mentality. He has the same look and does kicks. The difference is that Lee is an angry young man. There’s a definite feeling that the heat in the building is starting to effect the crowd and it’s not popping spots like it was at the top of the show. Perhaps aware that once this bout is done, we’re into the marquee main event matches. From my point of view it doesn’t help that I find Baretta to be more effective as a comedy guy and he doesn’t do a lot of comedy in this. They have some big spots that work (like a massive German suplex on the apron from Lee) but a lot of the transitions and such don’t connect. Both men look completely exhausted after ten minutes and do a fine job of making the big spots mean something. There is actual, honest to God, selling. That helps to differentiate this from the spot-heavy matches that dominated the card up to this point. Lee eventually takes it with the Small Package Driver, beautifully executed. The match struggled to get going but delivered once it got there. The big spots really felt like they meant something.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Drago vs. Pentagon Jr.
Drago’s blue demon mask is pretty awesome. He brings the flying and Pentagon Jr. brings the dickish heel counters to those flying moves. The dropkick bang in the middle of a handspring is both evil and brilliant. I’m generally not keen on lucha but it often improves when the luchadores come into America and change their style just a little to eradicate some of the lucha silliness and make the matches just crazy. They have an especially good sequence where they tease dives a few times before Drago hits a tornillo. The match isn’t completely devoid of lucha stupidity but keeping it one on one helps. One of my biggest complaints about lucha is the multiple person idiocy. One of the most ridiculous spots in this is a Canadian Destroyer being used as a near fall. That is a goddamn finish every day of the week. Nobody should be kicking out of it. The familiarity stuff is nice where big moves are countered in mid-move. Pentagon Jr. is a bit sloppy in that respect but the ideas work. Package Piledriver murders Drago out of the tournament.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Fenix vs. Matt Sydal
Sydal has been getting hotter and hotter since coming back from injuries and his WWE run (2008-2013). This is the first clash of styles as it’s AAA vs. US and a lucha style vs. Sydal’s slightly lucha Dragon Gate flying. Although Sydal has more to his game than that and can work a fine mat game. Knowing that Fenix flies a lot Sydal takes his leg and wipes it out. It rapidly becomes a war with stiff kicks and vicious corner spots. Fenix does a fine job of selling the knee in between spots, allowing Sydal’s tactic to remain relevant. He still bounces around on it so it’s not super-effective but at least there’s a tip of the hat in there. Fenix surprises with his mat skill, tying Sydal in knots. It’s cleaner than anything Drago and Pentagon Jr. did. Fenix is winning the lucha show-off competition. Sydal plays all nice but dominant only for Fenix is be all FUCK YOUUUUU in response. This drives Sydal to counter-violence like a gorgeous spin kick to kill Fenix coming off the top. The strike counters are sublime throughout. Some of the counters from one move to another in mid-air remind me of the Sydal-Ospreay series in terms of ridiculousness. The Spanish Fly from Fenix is nuts as it’s from a standing position off the top but Sydal survives and takes it with the SSP. This was a seriously great match. When I talk about a general dislike of lucha it doesn’t extend to luchadores who are crisp and insane. Like Rey, like Psicosis, like Juvi, like Super Calo, like Flamita. Fenix is on that level. I already dig him a lot.
Final Rating: ****1/4

Eurotrash (Zack Sabre Jr., Marty Scurll & Tommy End) vs. Mount Rushmore 2.0 (Roderick Strong & The Young Bucks)
Zack and Strong have an existing feud thanks to a cracking match at Don’t Sweat the Technique. Strong is a complete dick to ring announcer Melissa Santos (who is an exceptionally attractive Hispanic lady who announces for Lucha Underground), which sets up the champs as the heels. Roddy is PWG champion and the Bucks the tag champs. Nice to see the “Tommy fucking End” chant made it over to the US as well. Scurll isn’t on Sabre Jr.’s level (they used to team as LDRS) as a mat wrestler but he’s pretty good and he’s good enough to take Nick Jackson to school. Bucks get so upset with it that they fall over each other in some of the evening’s best comedy. Meanwhile Sabre brings the most outstanding technical wrestling of the entire night.

The action hots up as they start doing crazy dives and End hits a goddamn moonsault to the floor. Even the tough striker is doing crazy dives. The insanity doesn’t stop there as Roddy goes for his apron backbreaker on Scurll and they MISS THE FUCKING APRON. Marty taking the bump straight to the floor. Marty has another great spot seeing as he’s wrestling the Bucks and his usual “superkick, just kidding” business works perfectly. From there they mock the Undertaker-Lesnar zombie situp laughing spot from SummerSlam, a spot that deserved to be mocked. There’s something hugely endearing about Nick Jackson being the Indytaker. It’s a fun atmosphere and a seriously entertaining match. Zack is especially wonderful, dismantling the Bucks’ limbs in vicious fashion.

Everyone in this is brilliant. It’s a colossally entertaining venture. Everything from End throwing knees to the Bucks superkicks to Sabre’s technical excellence to the multiple teaming spots to the insane counters to the comedy. Everything lands. And the match is nearly 30 minutes of constant action. It’s brilliant. The near finishes are nuts to the point where it’s totally overdone but it’s so much fun that I don’t care. Eventually the weight of numbers is just too much and Sabre gets pinned by Roddy, reigniting their feud. Of course now Zack has to win BOLA to stand any chance of getting another shot at Strong but stranger things have happened.
Final Rating: ****1/2

Summary: This is only Night One! There are two more nights of this madness to go. Naturally this is an easy thumbs up as there are three matches over **** and the rest of the card is really solid. If Aero Star hadn’t blown half his spots in the opener we might actually have had an entire card over ***. Could this be the best opening night of BOLA, ever? Gotta love wrestling.
Verdict: 100