Now that ALL IN is in the rear view mirror, we look towards the next big wrestling event of the summer: Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA). This will be the fourteenth edition of BOLA, and my ninth in the last ten years. This is the first year since 2008 that BOLA won’t be at the Legion Hall in Reseda as this year’s show will emanate from the Globe Theater in downtown Los Angeles (September 14, 15, and 16).
There is a quote in one of my favorite movies—Moneyball—by Brad Pitt (playing Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane) he asks the question, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” That’s how I feel about BOLA. To me BOLA is truly a special time of the year. It’s waiting in line way too early, it’s losing my voice after the first night, it’s being burnt to a crisp and sweating all over each other, it’s friends who travel from all over the world, but mostly, it’s about the wrestling.
BOLA is a marathon of a weekend, and I love every second of it.
There has been a lot of turnover since last year’s tournament. Only a third of wrestlers who were in last year’s tournament are entrants this year. Jeff Cobb is the only finalist from last year’s tournament entered, and Cobb and Sammy Guevara are the only two wrestlers to make the quarter-finals last year that are entered in this year’s BOLA.
Super Dragon and Excalibur have done an excellent job restocking the bench, as they have selected 24 of the best wrestlers from literally across the world. For the first time ever, four continents will be represented at BOLA, spanning across eight countries. There will be fifteen imports in this year’s tournament, the most ever for a Battle of Los Angeles.
In this article I will break down the first two nights of tournament matches, give a brief bio of each competitor, talk about previous booking if possible, and of course give my predictions.
PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2018 Night 1
Adam Brooks vs. Rey Horus
Adam Brooks: While Brooks UK matches have gotten less than stellar reviews, Brooks has done well for himself in PWG. After very impressive performances against Jonah Rock, Brody King, and Will Ospreay under his belt as well as defeating Keith Lee in his final PWG match Brooks has a lot of momentum going into BOLA and is possibly set for a long run.
Rey Horus: The PWG career of Rey Horus has been absolutely fascinating. Horus made his PWG debut against Sammy Guevara last July at Pushin Forward Back, and with Guevara receiving a push right out of the gate, Rey felt like the other guy. The build for Horus has come very naturally, and he has slowly become one of the more popular wrestlers on the PWG roster. Sometimes a wrestler just fits a promotion like a glove, and that is certainly the case here. Horus really has become the heart and soul of PWG and is one of two pure white meat babyfaces (Eagles being the other) entered in this year’s tournament. Even through his mask, you can tell how happy and excited Rey is every time he steps through the curtain, and that passion has resulted in Horus becoming a beloved figure in PWG.
Prediction: PWG is known as a promotion without storylines, however there are a few basic rules they tend to follow, one of them is that if you beat a departing wrestler that means you are in for a push. With that in mind it would seem that Brooks is the favorite in this match, however Horus defeating Pentagon Jr. at Threemendous 4 creates a lot of doubt on my mind. The match result could be a coincidence, it could be PWG deciding to pull an audible and get behind a guy who has done a very good job of getting over, or it could be a red herring. Either way it turned out to be a brilliant booking decision, as this match is a total toss up for me. I think Brooks wins this one, but I’m not that confident.
Flamita vs. Puma King
Flamita: Of all the luchadores in PWG, Flamita is at the bottom of the totem pole. Although he has had very good matches and main evented two shows at last year’s BOLA, he hasn’t caught on like the other Luchadores have. Flamita in my opinion is much better as a tag wrestler as him and Bandido have put on killer performances in Dragon Gate, PWG, and PROGRESS, where they are the tag team champions.
Puma King: I’m coming in cold on Puma King. I watch a lot of wrestling so it’s rare I am able to see someone for the first-time ever. I have no idea what to expect from King, but I will say he reminds me of Cats: The Musical, which I highly recommend.
Prediction: I am not super high on Flamita, and I have no idea what to expect from Puma King. Two things I have learned over the years is Super Dragon and Excalibur are really good at scouting talent, and if you put Luchadores against each other in a PWG ring it will almost always result in a great match. This match is the biggest mystery for me, and I couldn’t be more excited. I expect Flamita to take this, but a Puma King victory isn’t impossible.
Joey Janela vs. David Starr
Joey Janela: Janela is a guy I was very late on. I was upset when he replaced an injured TK Cooper at last year’s tournament. Janela ended up making me look stupid and winning himself a spot in PWG after a great match with Sammy Guevara that included him taking a burning hammer on an open chair. In the last few months Janela has really proven he is not just a guy who takes wild bumps, but is also a top tier professional wrestler with excellent matches against Jonah Rock and Robbie Eagles at All Star Weekend 14 and winning the WWN title off of Austin Theory in EVOLVE.
David Starr: Starr’s infamous debut against Fred Yehi at Mystery Vortex V in January got his PWG career off to a rocky start. Even with very good matches against Travis Banks and Matt Riddle under his belt, he hasn’t fully gotten the crowd completely invested in his matches.
Prediction: Janela and Starr have a lot of history, they had a blood feud that culminated in a barbed wire match at Beyond Wrestling’s Americanrana. These two know each other very well, and I expect a very good match. To me this one is close to a lock, Janela moves on, and could potentially win the entire tournament.
Bandido vs. T-Hawk
Bandido: Bandido is the breakout star of the year. In 2018 he went from an unknown outside the Lucha community to debuting in Dragon Gate, PWG, AAW, PROGRESS and more. Bandido was in the main event of ALL IN and will defend the PROGRESS tag team titles at Wembly Arena in September. Bandido has been a house of fire ever since debuting at Time is a Flat Circle in March and has arguably had match of the night at every show he has appeared on so far. In his short time in PWG he has had incredible contests against The Rascalz (with Flamita), Taiji Ishimori, Rey Horus, and Robbie Eagles. Bandido is probably the most popular wrestler on the PWG roster, and with Matt Riddle out of BOLA, Bandido is the favorite to take the trophy, and challenge WALTER for the PWG World Championship.
T-Hawk: After several failed pushes to become the ace of Dragon Gate, T-Hawk was stuck in upper midcard hell. In 2018 he left Dragon Gate and made OWE in China his home promotion. The change of scenery could be exactly what T-Hawk needs, as he now has a clean slate to work with. This will be T-Hawk’s PWG debut, and his first US appearance since Dragon Gate USA back in 2013. With the majority of PWG probably unfamiliar with his work, T-Hawk has a chance to really make a name for himself at BOLA.
Prediction: This is the matchup I most wanted. Bandido has been on fire since his PWG debut and T-Hawk has a lot to prove. Bandido has spent a lot of time in Dragon Gate and is familiar with the style. As great as this match looks on paper, it is as close to a mortal lock as you will see. T-Hawk has no shot of winning this match, but a strong showing could do wonders for his career. Bandido is the hottest thing in PWG, and is my pick to win the entire tournament.
CIMA vs. Jody Fleisch
CIMA: Statistically speaking CIMA is one of the most successful wrestlers in Battle of Los Angeles history. With two appearances under his belt, CIMA has made the finals both times. CIMA is also the only former winner entered in this year’s tournament—winning it in 2007 in historic fashion—and he is one of only two men to record five eliminations in a single BOLA (Scurll in 2016). CIMA, now a representative of OWE in China, will be making his first PWG appearance since January 2012.
Joey Fleisch: Fleisch is one of the unsung heroes of independent wrestling. Not only did he help revive a near dead English scene (along with Johnny Storm and Doug Williams), but was a part of the early 2000s US indy scene as promotions transitioned away from ECW clones. Between 2010 and 2014 it appeared his career was winding down, never wrestling more than eight matches in any of those years Since 2015 though, Jody has seen a career revitalization, working in the UK’s top promotions (excluding PROGRESS). In 2017, Fleisch returned to the US for the first time since 2003 working for AIW and GCW. This will be Jody’s US PWG debut, and his first PWG appearance since the first European Vacation back in 2006.
Prediction: This actually isn’t a first time matchup. CIMA and Fleisch have wrestled on opposing teams in tag matches in Michinoku Pro back in July of 1999, CIMA’s team (along with Don Fuji) scoring victories on both occasions. These are two very important figures in wrestling history, and I expect them to put on a very solid performance. I see CIMA taking this one, but I don’t see him making it out of the second round.
Brody King vs. PCO
Brody King: Besides Bandido, King is my indie breakout wrestler of the year. In 2018 he made his PWG debut, replacing an injured Matt Sydal at Neon Knights in a losing effort to Adam Brooks. King has quickly ascended to the top of the card at PWG, even receiving a PWG title shot against WALTER at Threemendous V (PWG’s 15th anniversary show). In 2018 Brody has also seen success outside of PWG as well, as he has debuted for EVOLVE, The Crash, PROGRESS, and AAW (where is currently the world champion). King is the first California local to make his BOLA debut since Jeff Cobb in 2016.
PCO: Pierre Carl Ouellet is one of the biggest and most surprising stories of 2018. At Joey Janela’s Spring Break PCO’s beating from WALTER is now stuff of legend, and has given his career an unexpected shot in the arm. PCO is a guy who never got his due in his prime due to politics, and whose career was almost lost to history. At 50 years old PCO is the second oldest person to enter BOLA (Fit Finlay in 2011).
Prediction: Brody King chops really hard. I fully expect PCO to have his chest blackened by the time this thing is over. I expect them to have chemistry as this will be PCO and King’s second match in just over a week as they face off in MLW on September 6th. This is close to a lock, PCO is a perfect fit for the night three ten man tag. I see King making a deep run, but I can’t see him winning since he just had a title match against WALTER. Also it might not be the worst idea for PWG to start cooling off Brody just a bit, as it might start feeling like too much of a push too soon for King.
Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher and WALTER) vs Ilja Dragunov and Shingo Takagi
WALTER and Dragunov have a lot of history together: last March Ilja defeated WALTER to win wXw’s 16 Carat Gold tournament, in a match that was regarded as a classic. A year later at this year’s tournament Ilja won the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship from Bad Bones, in a triple threat that also involved WALTER. In 2018 these two have wrestled several times in singles, triple threats, four way matches, and tags (even teaming on one occasion). This will be Dragonov’s US debut and his first match outside of Europe.
This will be Shingo’s return to PWG after a nine year absence. Shingo is a guy who has made his career in Dragon Gate, wrestling some of the best juniors in the world. However, earlier this year Takagi was an entrant in All Japan’s Champion Carnival and proved he can slug it out with the heavyweights. This week he announced he was going freelance meaning we can expect Shingo in many other promotions across the world. All four guys in this match work stiff and I can’t wait to see them batter each other. Another interesting wrinkle is both teams will be wrestling their teammates the next night in tournament action.
PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2018 Night 2
Chris Brookes vs. Trevor Lee
Chris Brookes: Since 2015 UK talent has had a very heavy presence in BOLA, even producing two winners. However as WWE’s stranglehold over Europe tightens, PWG is booking fewer guys from the region. Brookes is one of only two English and four European entrants in this year’s tournament, the fewest since 2014. Brookes is a long time PWG fan, even attending European Vacation II: England in Portsmouth back in 2007. To many PWG fans, Brookes’s debut is long overdue, but to me the timing couldn’t be any better, as it was announced not long after Chris possibly turned down a WWE contract and “declared his independence”.
Trevor Lee: Trevor Lee is as close to a homegrown PWG star as is possible. When Trevor made his debut at Mystery Vortex II back in 2014 he was pretty much unknown outside of the Carolina’s and was greeted with “who are you” chants. Four plus years later Lee is the PWG veteran. Trevor has more BOLA appearances than anyone else this year, he was a BOLA semi-finalist in 2014, a finalist in 2016, a DDT4 winner in 2015, a tag former tag team champion with Andrew Everett.
Prediction: Trevor Lee replacing Matt Riddle changes the entire tournament. Riddle was the heavy favorite to win BOLA and possibly dethrone WALTER. Lee is a solid replacement, and Lee/Brookes is a first time matchup. Before Riddle signed to WWE, him defeating Brooks was a lock, now I’m not sure. Trevor is a guy who could lose in the first round, or win the entire tournament.
DJZ vs. Robbie Eagles
DJZ: DJZ is one of the longer tenured and accomplished wrestlers on the US indies. He is a two-time Impact Wrestling X-Division Champion, former Impact Tag Team Champion, and a former AAW Heritage Champion, just to name a few. DJZ is seemingly fearless and has some of the most innovative high flying offense you will see in wrestling. I am looking forward to his entrance, as I’m sure his gear will look incredible in the new PWG venue.
Robbie Eagles: Robbie Eagles is the best wrestler currently in the Australian scene, and one of the most underrated wrestlers anywhere. In 2018 Eagles has had match of the year calibur matches with Travis Banks, Will Ospreay and a four-way against Ospreay, Mick Moretti, and Caveman Ugg that is one of the most fun matches you will see all year. Eagles is a very underrated technical wrestler and he has a very unique offense, recently using his flying to attack his opponents legs. At PWA Call To Arms Eagles decimated Ospreay’s leg and got the submission with his variation of the Trailer Hitch. In PWG, Eagles is a pure white meat babyface, who is really winning the crowd over despite not yet winning a match.
Prediction: This could be the sleeper match of the first round. Both guys are ten plus year veterans and are both smooth as silk. I expect Eagles to record his first victory in a PWG and possibly make a deep run.
Darby Allin vs. Jeff Cobb
Darby Allin: When Allin made his EVOLVE debut against Ethan Page at WrestleMania weekend in 2016 he was seen as a guy who takes insane bumps, but possessed little actual wrestling skill. Since then Darby has proven that to be a false accusation, particularly in 2018 where he has had tremendous matches in EVOLVE against Zack Sabre Jr., WALTER, Austin Theory, and Matt Riddle. Darby has impressed so much that WWE has taken notice.
Jeff Cobb: Since making his debut in 2016, Cobb has become a world traveled veteran and one of the top wrestlers on the indie. Outside of PWG, Cobb has wrestled in AAW, PROGRESS, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and many other top promotions all over the world. In PWG Cobb is a former PWG Tag Team Champion (with Matt Riddle), a BOLA finalist in 2017, and a strong contender to win this year’s tournament.
Prediction: Allin is at his best when he is getting his ass kicked. Cobb at times lacks intensity. For this match to reach its full potential Cobb is going to have to work stiff and probably heel. The more Darby gets destroyed the more he gets over. Cobb is the favorite here, but a Darby roll up is not unfathomable.
Jonah Rock vs. Sammy Guevara
Jonah Rock: Jonah Rock has had a rough time getting over in PWG. His debut at last year’s tournament against Sabre Jr. was less than spectacular, and some fans have yet to come around. The fans decided Rock is a heel, and it is a role he has been excellent in (despite having go away heat with a small section of the audience). Rock is one of the best “schoolyard bully” type characters in wrestling, and has become the top heel in PWG. If PWG were a video game, WALTER would be the final boss, and Rock would be the penultimate. Rock is a badass heel, but both his offense and defense are noticeably lower than WALTER’s. Because of his lower defense, Jonah sells a lot more than WALTER does in his matches, and is one of the best bumping big guys in wrestling. Because of his lower offense, and given his character, Rock is more than willing to fight dirty to make up for it.
Sammy Guevara: Sammy is the least popular wrestler in PWG, and has massive “go away heat” with the Reseda crowd. A lot of fans still haven’t forgiven him for landing on Fenix’s leg on a missed 630 at Mystery Vortex V in January. Even with his lack of popularity, Guevara has had tremendous performances against Joey Janela at last year’s BOLA and against Rey Horus and Flamita in a triple threat at All Star Weekend Night 1 last October.
Prediction: These are the two least popular wrestlers on the PWG roster, they are also both heel. Prediction wise, I think Rock wins. Rock is in the middle of a push, and has unfinished business with WALTER, as WALTER defeated Lee and not Jonah in the triple threat to win the PWG title. Sammy is coming off a title loss and doesn’t need the win. The interesting thing is the crowd reaction. Will Rock become the de facto face and boo Guevara out of the building? Or will the fans just stay quiet?
Ilja Dragunov vs. Shingo Takagi
Ilja Dragunov: I was a little surprised when PWG announced Ilja was entered in this year’s Battle of Los Angeles. Not that he doesn’t have the talent or star power, but because Dragunov rarely wrestles outside of Germany, and has never worked outside of Europe. Dragunov has been on fire the past couple years in wXw. In 2017, he defeated WALTER to win the 16 Carat Gold tournament. After months off and an excellent documentary series, Ilja returned at 16 Carat Gold 2018 to a monster pop to win the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship from Bad Bones in a match that also featured WALTER.
Shingo Takagi: PWG has maintained an on-again, off-again relationship with Dragon Gate for years now. Dragon Gate wrestlers have made appearances in several previous tournaments (2006-2008, 2010), even producing a winner (CIMA) in 2007. PWG was also the home promotion of Akira Tozawa during his now legendary US excursion. Shingo himself is no stranger to a PWG ring, as he was an entrant in the 2007 Battle of Los Angeles, suffering a defeat to the eventual winner CIMA. This weekend will be Takagi’s first PWG appearances since he defeated El Generico at Guerre Sans Frontières back in 2009, in a match that at the time was regarded as one of the best in company history.
Prediction: Originally Shingo was scheduled to wrestle Travis Banks and Ilja was to face Jonah Rock. As far as the actual match, I have no doubt this will deliver, and this caps off a mini-story between these two as they go from teammates on night one, to fighting each other on night two. These are two of the bigger names in BOLA this year, and without knowing PWG booking it is pretty shocking that one of these two won’t make it out of the first round. If you know the way PWG books, you know they aren’t afraid to eliminate big names early (Galloway in 2015, Pentagon Jr. in 2016, WALTER last year). I expect Shingo to move on as he is arguably the bigger star, is making he PWG return, and was the last entrant announced.
Timothy Thatcher vs. WALTER
Timothy Thatcher: For anyone who says PWG fans only appreciate one style of wrestling, I’ll tell you to watch a Thatcher match in PWG. PWG is one of the few US promotions where the fans still love Thatcher. I believe a lot of that is due to him not being overexposed, as he only has a handful of PWG appearances under his belt, and recent ones teaming with WALTER. One of my favorite moments in PWG this year (that unfortunately didn’t make tape) is Ringkampf’s entrance at All Star Weekend 14: Night 1, where the pop was so massive that Thatcher couldn’t stop smiling the majority of the match. Thatcher has had good matches in PWG this year against Riddle and Rock, and in tag matches against the Chosen Bros (Cobb and Riddle), and Violence Unlimited (Brody King and Tyler Bateman).
WALTER: WALTER is the current PWG World Champion. He is the perfect guy to hold the title with WWE having signed nearly all the veteran talent over the past couple years. WALTER is also a much needed stabilizing presence at the top of the card after the PWG title was hot-potatoed at the end of 2017. WALTER is the final boss. The unbeatable monster, and one of wrestling’s biggest stars.
Prediction: This is a battle between Ringkampf teammates and a match PWG fans have been clamoring for for some time. This is a rematch of their PROGRESS match from Chapter 62, and just like that match, I don’t expect either guy (especially WALTER) to hold back at all. I think WALTER is the heavy favorite. It will be interesting to see who, if anybody, can defeat WALTER in this tournament, as the person who can knock off the champ in BOLA almost always receives a title match.
Stronghearts (CIMA/Wentz/Xavier) vs. Bandido/Flamita/Horus
Wentz and Xavier vs Bandido and Flamita is a match that has happened several times, both in straight tags and six man matches. It was their series in Dragon Gate earlier this year that got both Bandido and Wentz booked in PWG. Their rematch at Time is a Flat Circle was so good it won both men full time spots in PWG. Horus is no stranger to Bandido and Flamita, as they have faced off several times in promotions like The Crash in Tijuana, and the trio even teamed up at Progress’s Seattle show in August. BOLA night 2 normally has the crazier tag matches of the first couple nights, and I expect that here, as we the showdown between OWE and Dragon Gate (and Horus) promises to be pure insanity.
PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2018 Night 3
What To Expect
While this year’s Battle of Los Angeles doesn’t have the big names that BOLA’s of years past had, it is as eclectic and diverse a lineup as there has ever been. If you are interested in attending this years BOLA, you can. General admission tickets for night one are still available at PWG’s website, and there are plenty of tickets for all three nights on the secondary market (Twitter).