Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
Battle of Los Angeles 2016: Stage 1
September 2, 2016
Reseda, CA

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If I had an infinite supply of time and money there are a lot of wrestling promotions that I would follow that I just can’t afford to now. Regardless of that, when the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles rolls around, I make the time and set aside the cash for PWG. Between the names they bring in and the performances that they give, all three nights are usually in the running for show of the year. The first night of action features six first round matches and a trios tag match. Will the first night of Battle of Los Angeles 2016 live up to the high expectations?

Marty Scurll def. Pentagon Jr.

Before this match even begins the crowd is already completely losing their minds for these two men. On commentary, Excalibur and Chuck Taylor note that as the match starts, it’s already 9:30 PM. It’s going to be a long night for these fans. Scurll lives up to his villain moniker early on by tying Pentagon’s mask to the second rope. Even when he’s at his most dastardly, Marty always seems charming. On the other hand, Pentagon is never not, for lack of a better term, f**king scary.

Things started a little slow, but soon both men were swinging for the fences. There were so many superkicks in this one that you wonder if Pentagon is really one of the Bucks under that mask. It looked like Pentagon actually had the match won with the package piledriver, but Scurll somehow managed to kick out. The crowd couldn’t believe it and their shocked reaction was actually a pretty cool moment. Pentagon goes for it again, but Marty fights out of it and catches him in the crossface chickenwing. Scurll forces Pentagon to tap out and finds himself moving onto the second round. If you’re looking for an example of a hot opener, look no further than this match. Pentagon gave everything he had, but Scurll was just a little too smart for him. ***¾

As Scurll/Pentagon match ends, the bottom rope is in a sad state, touching the ring apron on one side. After a brief intermission, the rope is fixed, but for the rest of the night the wrestlers will keep off it to avoid breaking it again and potentially injuring themselves.

Ricochet def. Jeff Cobb

Jeff Cobb is a massive wrecking ball of a man and Ricochet is the perfect flippy dude to get thrown around by him. And boy, did Ricochet get thrown around in this one. If you told me that he spent more time in the air than he did on his feet in this match, I’d buy it. This match told a perfect David vs. Goliath story. Initially, Ricochet tried everything in his high flying arsenal, but none of it could put away Cobb. Then to change things up, Ricochet started throwing all kinds of strikes, but Cobb responded with even harder strikes. Near the end of the match, Cobb took control and was tossing Ricochet all over the place. I thought he had it in the bag. Cobb goes for something that resembled a Black Hole Slam, but Ricochet swung out of it and rolled up Cobb with a small package. Cobb struggles to break it, but the referee’s hand strikes the mat for a third time. Ricochet moves on. The in-ring was nothing to scoff at, but the story of this match is where it really shines. Ricochet couldn’t out strike, out wrestle, or overpower Cobb, but he could use his veteran instincts to outsmart him. This was my first time seeing Cobb wrestle outside of Lucha Underground and I was very impressed. ****¼

John Hennigan def. Matt Sydal

Two of the most beautiful men of the tournament clashed in this first round match. I don’t think that it has ever struck me until watching this match, but Hennigan is a huge guy. You really take that for granted when you’re used to seeing someone in WWE or even Lucha Underground. The opening of the match was pretty slow going with both men playing to the crowd quite a bit. Hennigan was flipping off audience members like he was Steve Austin. In the early goings Hennigan and Sydal were using very similar strategies which involved a lot of kicks to the legs. Hennigan was winning things in the strikes department and Sydal responded by taking the match to the mat.

Things ramped up as the match went on, seeing both men take a flurry of offense from the other, including Sydal kicking out of the Moonlight Drive. At one point Hennigan attempted what appeared to be a sideways 450 elbow drop, but Sydal moved out of the way. I really would have liked to have seen what that would have looked like if it connected. The ending of the match came when Hennigan dodged the Shooting Star Press, hits Sydal with a standing Spanish Fly, and then put him away with Starship Pain. This was a solid PWG debut for Hennigan, but it wasn’t a super memorable match. I feel like it might have been hurt by both men abandoning their limb work halfway through the match. It led to an unfortunately disjointed match. This wasn’t bad by any means, but I was hoping for better. ***½

Will Ospreay def. Fenix

I don’t expect anyone to be shocked when I say that this was great. Two of the best high flyers in wrestling going head to head is going to make for a good time. Right from the start, things were lightning quick. Both men were hitting flips and dives, soaring through the air like the birds they were named after (shout out to Chuck Taylor for that line). Both men did what they do best here. One thing that this match drove home for me was that Ospreay’s striking game is really underrated. While some flippy guys can often have very light looking strikes, Ospreay lays his stuff in. He doesn’t have the problem that a guy like Mike Bailey has where his flippy kicks only hit their mark a third of the time. The high point of the match for me came when Fenix attempted a Spanish Fly off the top rope and both men landed on their feet. Has it been done before? Yes. Did it look cool as hell? Absolutely. There’s not much else to say about this match. I thought it was awesome, but your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about the style that Ospreay and Fenix worked here. Wrestling should be fun and that’s what this was. ****½

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Tommy End

In this match we’ve got Zack Sabre, one of the best submission wrestlers in the game, taking on Tommy End, one of the best strikers in the game. What makes this matchup so interesting is that both men have no problem wrestling the other man’s match. This perfect mix of styles led to what might be one of my favorite matches of the year. Sabre spent almost the entire match trying to tear apart Tommy End’s left arm. I mentioned earlier in the Hennigan/Sydal match that they dropped the limb work halfway through the match. Sabre is the kind of performer that can stick with the same plan for the entire match and it never becomes boring. As things went on, Sabre only went after the arm more viciously. The ways that ZSJ was twisting and yanking on End’s left wrist looked like Sabre wanted to rip it off of his arm.

It was clear that both men respected their opponent a ton and because of that they were going to hit them with everything that they had. I’ve never seen Tommy End hit a moonsault before, but here he busted out two of them. End’s springboard moonsault to the outside was picture perfect. There’s a certain ruthlessness that Sabre brings into his matches that makes them feel different from everything else. He doesn’t care what he puts you down with, he just wants to win. End is very similar in that regard and there were several times that I thought he had put Sabre away with a diving double foot stomp, a German suplex, or something else entirely. The most memorable visual for me is Sabre and End sitting on the mat, completely exhausted, but still kicking and slapping the hell out of each other. For as violent and vicious these two were, there was no malice or ill intentions in their actions. Everything they did was out of respect. The match came to a close when End submitted to Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness. It was brutal affair and it was amazing work by both men. ****¾

Chris Hero def. Jushin Thunder Liger

If you’re a fan of New Japan, it’s easy to take a wrestler like Jushin Thunder Liger for granted. Nine times out of ten, you see him in a nothing match very early on in the card. Seeing him in that context so often, you forget that this man is truly a living legend. At 51 years old, Liger has spent the past 32 years being one of the most influential junior heavyweights to ever step into the ring. When you take him out of New Japan, how special he really is shines through. In this match, Liger makes his BOLA debut and takes on Chris Hero for the very first time. Liger gives up a lot size in this match, but he makes up for that in experience and fighting spirit.

This match has a much more methodical pace than anything else on this card has. It feels like both men aren’t here to show off, their opponent is too dangerous to afford them chance to do that. Hero plays the disrespectful heel in this match, probably because doing anything else would leave him star struck. Liger takes the best that Hero has to offer and asks for more.

At one point, Hero plants Liger with a Liger Bomb, which only serves to fire up the living legend, resulting in a kickout at one. There are two moments where I thought that Liger had the match won; once when he hit the brainbuster and another when he hit the Liger Bomb. Eventually the youth and strength of Chris Hero prevailed. Hero got the three count after hitting three brutal looking elbow strikes to Liger’s head. This was a special match and I’m incredibly happy that we got the chance to see these two men in the same ring. ****

Adam Cole and the Young Bucks def. Dalton Castle and the Boys

On a show full of serious tournament action, this match was a welcome bit of fun. The big mystery of the first two thirds of the match was just who were those Boys? At one point one of them lost their mask, revealing him to be Bobby Fish. A few minutes later they unmasked themselves to show the world that they were really reDRagon!!! As the crowd is stunned, Kyle O’Reilly and Fish begin wrecking everyone in sight. The closing stretch is the strongest part of the match for sure. Everyone gets to go nuts and Castle gets to show off his freaky strength. The match ends when the Bullet Club team hits a double Meltzer Driver. A match like this really defies star ratings because while I really enjoyed the goofy stuff with reDRagon, another viewer will probably hate it. This was easily the most fun match on the show, but I can’t say that it was the most well worked match. It was the perfect match to close out the show and send the fans home happy though. ***½

Final Thoughts:

The first night of BOLA isn’t what I would call a show of the year contender, but it is a damn good show. Out of the seven matches on the show there are four matches that are four stars or higher and one of those is a match of the year contender. There wasn’t a single bad match on the show. I have to say that I really enjoy how PWG produces their shows on DVD. By cutting out entrances and exits for the wrestlers, the show was a quick two hours. Those 120 minutes are PACKED so it goes by incredibly quickly. This was well worth the price of admission and I’m looking forward to night two. Good thing I already have that DVD waiting for me! Look for my night two review very soon.