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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.