Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
2017 Battle of Los Angeles: Stage Two
September 2, 2017
Donovan Dijak Def. Trevor Lee
I have mixed feelings on Trevor Lee. He plays his role well in Impact, he has matches on the indies I like here and there, but I always feel disconnected to him. I never seem to get what others get out of him even if he has match I do enjoy. I watch all of his CWF Mid-Atlantic matches that a select few praise to no end, I like some of them but most fail to connect. So in general I have to say that, for my tastes, he is bit overrated, and yet the funny thing is I know many people would argue the opposite, which is okay. Regardless, this was a tremendous opener.
Dijak made a huge impression in his debut and it sucks that it took PWG so long to bring him in. He could have had a nice run in this company wrestling guys he never had the chance to wrestle before signing to the fed. Lee sold well for him and Dijak did the same for Lee in return, both looking good as a result and the match thankfully not overstaying its welcome and losing the momentum it initially had like a lot of PWG matches do. A great way to open the show with a good performance from the guy I was least interested in out of the 24 people in the tournament. ****
Sammy Guevara Def. Joey Janela
Janela has been one of the breakout stars in wrestling this year, and this was him reaching the top. Like it or not, PWG, and especially BOLA, is is the top of the mountain. If you work BOLA, you have made it on the indies. You are a star, unless of course you bomb and they never bring you back. Janela has made himself into a star, and in a lot of ways, 2017 has been his year on the American indie scene. Guevara, who made his debut at the last PWG in an excellent match with Rey Horus, has also had a big year, although I suspect 2018 will be even bigger once some of the other promotions get ahold of him as well. And in one of the most highly praised matches of the weekend by those there live, the two went all out to make their BOLA debuts memorable.
If you like a good indie spot fest car crash, then this was right up your alley and was everything you would have wanted out of these two, especially Janela being the maniac that he is. A few sloppy spots here and there, some awkwardness, but all of it added to the overall goal of the match which was Guevara and Janela going all out and killing their bodies so that those there and those watching at home would remember them by the end of the weekend, to stand out from the rest of the matches seen throughout all three nights. Are either of them super polished pro wrestlers? No. Do they need to be? No. Having guys who bring that element of sloppiness and danger is good and creates something unique, especially on shows with wrestlers such as Zack Sabre, Ricochet, Michael Elgin, etc. who are all polished and crisp. I questioned this pairing when it was announced but seeing in it practice made it seem like a no-brainer.
Janela kicked out of a Burning Hammer at the end of the match which I could see people being annoyed by but personally I rarely care about things like that. I just think moves are moves depending on the wrestler who does them, so Guevara giving Janela a Burning Hammer and Janela being able to recover from it does not necessarily mean people unable to kick out of a Burning Hammer from Kobashi are bad or weak. A Rainmaker from random indie dude X is not the same as a Rainmaker from Kazuchika Okada for example, since we see a lot of Rainmakers nowadays. You get the point. So the Burning Hammer spot was cool with me, and it weakened Janela enough for Guevara to immediately put him away with a 630 anyway. Maybe not my favorite match of the weekend, maybe not even my favorite match of the show, but easily one of the most memorable matches of the weekend. A successful debut for Guevara and Janela without question. ****1/4
Travis Banks Def. Mark Haskins
About two years ago now I heard about this Travis Banks guy. Never saw him before, but I heard from people who saw him during his brief time in America and Japan that he was rather average. I sought him out, I ended up watching a match of his with Damian Dunne on a random European indie, not a memorable match by any means, a match that encapsulated what I heard of Banks from people prior: average. It was an average match, but I immediately saw something in Banks. His instincts, his charisma, how smooth he was, he looked like a pro and I questioned what it was that made people think that he was merely average. I thought to myself that whenever a bigger promotion gives him a chance, if they give him a chance, he will be a star.
Fast forward a few months, PROGRESS brings him in to team with one of his friends from back home in New Zealand as he and TK Cooper rise to the top of the promotion and become by far their hottest act by the beginning of 2017. TK leaves due to his visa issues, and suddenly Banks is their biggest star not even a year into his run. I knew it as soon as I saw him, I knew he would become a star once given a chance, and not even two years later, he makes his PWG debut, his BOLA debut, as PROGRESS champion, as one of the biggest stars on the independent wrestling scene.
He was over in this match, people were excited to see him, and he held up his end. He delivered. Haskins was the right guy to pair him with in order for both to showcase their skills and play to their strengths. Both are crisp, snug, aggressive workers, Haskins especially being one of the most aggressive wrestlers out there. Everything he does looks nasty and real, he works with absolute disdain for all of his opponents, he works quick and urgent, with actual human instincts, not just wrestler instincts. Him and Banks have great chemistry in that regard and so this was quite easily the smoothest, cleanest, most snug match of the weekend up to this point, and it sucks that the referee messed up at the end and killed the crowd. Aside from that, this was quality pro wrestling and another good debut for a man who has made a star of himself in the past year. I hope we see more of Banks in this company soon. ****
Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll Def. Ricochet & Matt Sydal
I have no idea where PWG is going with their title or any of the wrestlers, but it seems Sabre has taken a backseat and will not be as involved, and considering how long his title run was, this is probably the best role for him right now. Him and Scurll make for a good heel tag team and with more tag teams coming in and some others moving out (perhaps their opponents here), I could see them having a lot of fun matches. Scurll is better suited as a tag wrestler in this environment to begin with as his singles act may have run its course, so keeping him and Zack together is a win-win.
Ricochet and Sydal have been one of the best tag teams in wrestling whenever they pop up over the past two and a half years or so, of course with their hot New Japan run in 2015 and early 2016 before the trip to Hawaii and now the occassional PWG spots. Ricochet is obviously winding down his time on the indies so this was likely their last appearance together, and if so then it was a good way to go out. All four guys delivered, Sabre and Scurll working like absolute pricks and being one of the only acts to garner any actual heel heat in this building which in itself is impressive, with Sydal playing the babyface in peril and Ricochet serving as the hot tag. To compare it to Dijak and Lee vs. Riddle and Cobb from the previous night, this was more of a classical tag style match while that was more of a wild spot fest, so it depends on what you value more if you were to pick one, but they were of similar quality when it comes to their respective styles if you can appreciate both. Personally I liked this one just a tad more. Great match. ****1/4
Jeff Cobb Def. Sami Callihan
Solid match, albeit nothing special in comparison to the rest of the matches this weekend, maybe even the weakest of the bunch. Callihan, who I have actually turned the corner on this year, brings that same element Haskins brings to the table and is generally fun to watch outside of the goofy brawls he does in AAW. With that in mind, this was more tame but had a lot of those same elements I enjoy about Callihan and I do think he and Cobb have a better match in them. Cobb was likely preservering his body since he knew he was going deep in the tournament so it makes sense and he did work hard enough to make it a solid bout as I said. It was thankfully in and out at only eleven minutes too. ***1/4
Matt Riddle Def. Michael Elgin
I feel like Riddle has lost some stock this year, which was inevitably going to happen eventually. It seems the more we get used to him, the less special he is. We were all excited last year because of how good he was with such inexperience, but now, at least to me, he just feels like another indie guy. Another really good indie guy, mind you, but not the guy he was last year, not in terms of feeling. Not the best wrestler in the world like some called him, not a contender for any of the awards he was a contender for in 2016, Riddle is simply a really good, even great, indie wrestler, a guy who can headline any show you want him to headline, just without the aura he had initially. Could it be because he only really works one kind of match and rarely mixes things up? Yes. Could it be because I personally am tired of him? Yes, however, the thing about it is that I like him. I enjoy him. I just feel he comes across as less of a star lately.
Meanwhile, Elgin is bigger than ever and comes across like a total star everywhere he goes whether it be New Japan, New Japan in America, PWG, AAW or wherever else he shows up. Him and Riddle worked a hot, competitive 18-minute bout with almost no rest periods, a style that plays directly into the strengths of Riddle, similar to the match the two had in AAW earlier in the year. Because of that, it was probably his best match this year outside of the match he had with Cobb in PROGRESS. Right up there with the Shibata match from January, above all of his EVOLVE matches, above all of his indie matches. I would have liked to see them paired later on so that we could see another Elgin match or two but when you have 24 people in the tournament and all of them are great, a guy like Elgin might have to take the early loss. Best match of the weekend so far. ****1/2
Keith Lee Def. WALTER
Proper big lads wrestling right here. Two big ass men running into each other, throwing hands, throwing suplexes, doing everything they can to keep the other monster down. WALTER, despite having been around for such a long time, is another guy who has had a breakout year since he began taking bookings overseas and no longer being exclusive to Germany. At this point, with the quality of matches he has wherever he goes and the aura in which he possesses, his charisma, calling him one of the ten best wrestlers in the world would not be a stretch. Being that PWG and wXw are similar when it comes to environment, he seemed to be at home here and came across as totally natural, which is also because of how much of a professional he is, but having worked in front of the wXw crowd for so long does help.
Everyone knows Keith Lee by now so he goes without saying. Arguably the best big man in wrestling right now next to man who stood across the ring from him in this match, and so with that being considered, this was everything you would have expected it to be. Do they have a bigger, better match in them? For sure, but who can complain about what we got. Brutal strikes, two huge men throwing each other around, the epitome of big lads wrestling. Fantastic work. ****
Kenny Omega, Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson Def. Flamita, Rey Fenix & Penta El Zero M
I hate to end this review on a bad note since the show was so damn good, but these six-mans really drive me nuts. While I enjoy me a good indie spot fest, while I enjoy me some cool moves for the sake of cool moves and some fun for the pure sake of fun every now and again, these six-mans are where I draw my line. Not only was this boring and uninspired at several points, it was also one of the most masturbatory, cutesy, cringey matches I have seen all year, and if not for an excellent performance out of Fenix I would have called it a bad match. As it was, I have trouble calling it a good match because of how much it annoyed me but at the same time, because of how good Fenix was, I have trouble calling it a bad match although multiple aspects of it were bad.
I can watch a Dragon Gate style six-man every day and never get tired of it, but matches like these, these modern indie style six-mans, I will never be able to appreciate the same way others do. All the cringey triple team spots, that spot they do that always looks like trash where all six guys get in the middle of the ring and superkick each other at the same time, the bad comedy, these matches are everything I despise about indie wrestling these days. Again, I hate to end this review on such a negative note, this was just really not enjoyable to my eyes in any way outside of one good performance. I have nothing else to say, really. I give it 3 stars. Not a good 3 stars. A disappointed 3 stars. ***
Looking past the main event, this was quite easily one of the best PWG shows in recent memory with six of the eight matches being what I would consider great. A killer night of wrestling and a proper follow-up to Night 1.