Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
Battle of Los Angeles 2016: Stage 2
September 3, 2016
Stage 1 of PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles is in the books and we’re staring down the barrel of a loaded Stage 2. This second night of tournament action features six more opening round matches, including Cody Rhodes making his PWG debut against Sami Callihan. We also get a tag match with Heroes Eventually Die taking on Fenix and Pentagon Jr. Then the night is rounded out by three of the greatest high flyers in the world battling the Bullet Club. I’ll tell you right now, this is a show you want to see.
Dalton Castle def. Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa came into this tournament as a late replacement and presumably, this will be his last BOLA for the foreseeable future. On the other side of the ring, Dalton Castle makes his tournament debut, alongside two boys completely different from the boys he had with him the previous night. Castle has a deep roster of Boys, so it should be no surprise that he can afford to bring multiple tandems for such a tournament of high prestige.
After a cheapshot on Castle following a wonderful hug to kick off the match, Ciampa makes short work of the Boys. Castle catches Ciampa with Bangarang and almost puts an early end to the match, but Ciampa kicks out at 2. From then on most of the match is dominated by Ciampa. There would be brief comebacks by Castle, but the more seasoned Ciampa would keep finding ways to cut him off. In an impressive display of strength in the later part of the match, Castle lifted Ciampa from the apron into the ring for a German suplex. Seriously, no one in America does it better than him right now.
Ciampa makes reference to his departure from the indies to WWE by hitting Castle with both a Superman punch and a Pedigree. At some point in the final moments of the match, Ciampa started bleeding heavily from the mouth. Ciampa spit into his hand and chopped Castle, leaving a bloody smear on his chest. It was a super gross and rad as hell visual. Soon after, Castle regains control and hits Bangarang to pick up the win. Fantastic opener telling a tale as old as time; Ciampa put over the new guy on the way out of the territory and made him look great. ****
Mark Andrews def. Pete Dunne
I feel like I must be missing something with this match. Here you have a solid styles clash between the flippy Andrews and the dirty, brawling Dunne. It should make for a good matchup. What we got was the stereotypical match that people think of when they say that they don’t like the PWG style. These guys kicked out of EVERYTHING. Andrews kicked out of three tombstones; one of the outside, one normal, and one jumping. I don’t want to sound like Old Man Wrestling over here, but that seemed a bit much to me. It looked like Dunne almost got killed by a reverse rana off the ropes, but not even that was enough to put him away. The crowd was chanting “this is awesome” and I was waiting for this long match to end. Andrews eventually won with a Shooting Star Press. I don’t know what else to tell you, this match just wasn’t for me. The work that went into it was strong, but I don’t feel like it told any kind of compelling story to me. **¾
Cody R def. Sami Callihan
I feel like this match should be called the VOW Special. Unlike some of my colleagues (*cough* Rich and Joe *cough*), I enjoy both of these men, so you don’t have to worry about any site bias. Before the match starts, Cody looks genuinely ecstatic to be in this ring. I love to see this kind of enthusiasm out of wrestlers, especially ones that have as much experience as Rhodes does. This is my first time seeing Cody outside of WWE and I was pretty pleased with this match.
A good portion of the early goings were spent brawling on the outside. Overall, things were kept to a pretty fast pace. Cody’s work looked crisp here and he brought an extra bit of force behind his hits that he didn’t used to have. Cody and Sami felt very evenly matched with neither man getting a prolonged control period. There was a bit of PWG goofiness with Callihan donning a cat mask, but the bit was saved by Cody putting on his plastic face mask from his post-dashing, Dr. Doom gimmick. Cody eventually picked up the win with the Cross Rhodes. This wasn’t a blow away great match or anything, but I really enjoyed it. I’m excited to see what else Cody has ahead of him in this tournament. ***½
Pentagon Jr. and Fenix def. Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero and Tommy End)
First things first; the fusion mask that Pentagon and Fenix wear when they tag is AWESOME! Before the match can officially begin, Tommy End mulls over murdering a fan for something he said to Chris Hero. That’s what true friends do for each other. The match starts off with some Lucha style grappling between End and Fenix to the delight of a certain subsection of wrestling fans. This is a singles match that I’d very much like to see, but that will have to wait for another day. Pentagon and Hero tag in and that’s when everything starts to go bananas. Hero shows off his incredibly agility against Pentagon, spiking him with a step up Frankensteiner. A short time later, Hero and End are thrown to the outside where they’re hit by a dive from Fenix that you have to see. Any explanation of it wouldn’t do it justice.
The match goes on and both teams take turns beating the hell out of each other. At one point I thought Fenix was knocked out by a vertical suplex/flying knee combo by Hero and End, but Fenix kicked out at 2. The bird of rebirth eats a lot of offense from Heroes Eventually Die including a PK/Gotch style piledriver combination. This team has some of the best tag team offense in wrestling. Fenix turns things around, fighting off both of his opponents and planting Hero with a super impressive German suplex. Pentagon gets the hot tag and everyone gets a Slingblade. Control of the match goes back and forth with all four men absolutely destroying each other. Pentagon and End both hit sick looking kicks to the midsection on each other. End goes on a flurry of offense that looks incredible. This match is prime evidence that there’s no better striker in wrestling than Tommy End.
In one of my favorite tag team match moments of the year there’s a crazy chain of submissions where Fenix has End in an Indian death lock, Hero has Fenix in a cravate, Pentagon locks Hero in a kneebar, and End and Pentagon slap the hell out of each other. The holds are broken and all four men take each other down with strikes as the fans lose their minds in appreciation. Things move at a blistering pace from here. The ending comes when Fenix catches End with an insane Frankensteiner while they’re both standing on the top rope and then finishes him off with a springboard 450 splash. What a match! Tommy End has his second must see match from this set of shows. I can’t recommend seeking out this match enough. ****¾
Trevor Lee def. Kamaitachi
Things start off hot in this one with Lee killing Kamaitachi with a double stomp and hitting him with a suicide dive when he rolls out of the ring. The pace doesn’t let up as both men hit each other with increasingly riskier moves, peaking in Lee dropping Kamaitachi neck first onto the side of the ring with a backdrop driver. That was a scary looking spot to say the least. Trevor Lee plays the dickish heel with an inflated ego from his time in TNA throughout this match. Kamaitachi mounts a comeback and smashes Lee with his never not scary Super Senton to the outside. I’m only highlighting some of the high risk moves because these two are insane and that’s what most of this match is.
Some time later, Lee hits Kamaitachi with a German and holds the bridge for the pin. Kamaitachi kicks out at two and that’s when I notice that sitting near the entrance is Kamaitachi Fan! She made it to BOLA for a good one. The match never really lets up on its breakneck pace. Kamaitachi almost has it won after hitting two Meteora’s, but he goes to the well one too many times and that’s what ultimately costs him the match. Kamaitachi is never able to regain control and Lee eventually puts him away with the small package driver. This is exactly the kind of match that you hope to get out of these two. It was explosive and a ton of fun too. ****¼
Mark Haskins def. Cedric Alexander
Ever since I saw this match was on the show I was looking forward to it. Mark Hawkins is a name that I’ve heard quite a bit, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever actually seen him wrestle before. On the other side of the ring is Cedric Alexander, who is putting in the best work of his career right now. The early goings of the match is filled with a lot of hard strikes, including a slap from each man that looked very not fun. As Haskins took control of the match he did everything he could to pick apart the left arm of Alexander.
Haskins really comes off as a seasoned veteran that has answers for pretty much anything. He can grapple, he can fly, he can strike, and he can fight off anything that Alexander offers him. At one point Haskins gets Alexander in a Sharpshooter after a crazy bodyscissors transition that I’ve never seen before. The closing stretch of the match is super fast and incredibly crisp. Both men fire up with a killer slap exchange and before you know it, Haskins has Alexander tapping out to an arm submission. Cedric continues his awesome work from this year and Haskins certainly impressed in his BOLA debut. ****½
Kyle O’Reilly def. Matthew Riddle
With the style that these two men wrestle, this is a matchup that just sounds like something you need to see. This is very much a worked shoot right style match, like something you’d see in UWFi. The two men are super evenly matched early on, but Riddle has an edge on O’Reilly in the grappling department, allowing him to take control of the match. At one point Riddle hits a springboard kick on O’Reilly, something that I can’t imagine is easy to do without shoes on. Kyle takes control and things begin to resemble a more traditional wrestling match. Each man picks apart one body part of their opponent; O’Reilly goes after a leg while Riddle targets a shoulder. Riddle has some devastating slaps in his arsenal and Kyle eats a lot of them. Riddle gets a near fall with a Fisherman’s Buster, promoting a “Broly sh*t” chant. Even Kamaitachi Fan gets behind Riddle!
The ending was a bit of an odd one, but the lead up to it was great. The two men exchange boots to the face before O’Reilly kills Riddle with a clubbing lariat. Pin by Kyle, but Riddle kicks out at 1! O’Reilly hits the brainbuster and Riddle kicks out after that too. Kyle tries for a few submissions, but Riddle slips out of every one and locks in the Bromission. And then in what felt like a very anticlimactic moment, O’Reilly pins Riddle while the hold is locked in and gets the three count. For what was a great match up until that point, the ending doesn’t sit well with me. I understand the story reason behind the choice, to have these two so evenly matched in skill that Kyle had to rely on his veteran instincts, but with a tournament like this, I want definitive finishes. Hopefully we’ll get a rematch down the road. ***¾
Will Ospreay, Ricochet, and Matt Sydal def. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks
This match has everything you want out of it: flips, superkicks, dives, apron bumps, kisses for Dave Meltzer, the whole nine yards. This match is a lot like the match that closed out the show on night 1. This is the ice cream sundae to act as the final treat in the eight course meal that was BOLA Stage 2. There’s nothing to overthink here, it’s just pure fun. My biggest takeaway from this match is how damn good it was and how easy these six men made it look. The match ended beautifully when Sydal, Ricochet, and Ospreay all hit simultaneous Shooting Star Press’. The crowd chanted five star match when it ended and I don’t think that they’re far off. What a good time this was. ****½
Stage 2 of BOLA features a bunch of solid singles matches and two incredible tag team matches. The tournament matches are all pretty good, but if you’re expecting a MOTYC out of them, you’ll be a bit disappointed. Thankfully, the two tag matches will take care of your needs. When the show ends, we’re left with five matches at four stars or higher to add to the spreadsheets, with two of those matches ending up on my rewatch list for my end of the year MOTY top ten list. This show is well worth your two and a half hours and your $20. Check back soon for our review of BOLA Stage 3.