Photo: Esther Lin Photography
PWG’s 2018 Battle of Los Angeles has come and gone and the DVDs are finally out for the rest of the world to see. Rather than doing a full review of these months old shows, I figured I’d rank every match. People love lists. You must love lists, you’re about to dig into this one right here. From best to worst, let’s run down every BOLA match. Spoilers for the shows litter this list, so if that’s something you don’t want to see, click the back button now.
- WALTER def. Timothy Thatcher (Night 2, Match 6) ****¾: This is MOTYC level for me. They say that you hit your friends the hardest and that was definitely on display here. If this is the vision of what pro wrestling is that WALTER and Thatcher have, I’m more than on board for it. The hits weren’t just hard in this match, they were absolutely crushing blows. Without a doubt, this was the highlight of night two and of the whole tournament. Brutal in all the best ways, just like their match against each other earlier in the year. This is must see.
- Timothy Thatcher and WALTER def. Ilja Dragunov and Shingo Takagi (Night 1, Match 7) ****¾: Big boy season is here and it’s fantastic. The match delivers everything you want from these four men. The intensity is off the charts and you won’t find many harder hitting matches all year. Transplanting Shingo into this wXw match makes for an awesome dynamic and I would love to see him in 2019’s 16 Carat. This was far and away the best match of night one.
- Shingo Takagi def. WALTER (Night 3, Match 10) ****½: I’m at a loss for words when it comes to this one. It was brutality personified. WALTER is the best monster in the business and Shingo was monster hunting. If you can’t tell from the list, this is my favorite style of wrestling. The pop for Shingo’s victory was awesome because no one was expecting him to actually put WALTER away. Shingo might not have won the whole tournament, but this victory was just as important.
- Zachary Wentz and Dezmond Xavier def. Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix (Night 3, Match 7) ****½: What a killer tag title defense. Things started off with a little comedy with the Rascalz wearing the masks of the Lucha Bros and mimicking their movements, but once things got down to business, the match moved into high gear and never left. With all the flips and dives you could want, this was some of the most fun you’ll have watching wrestling.
- Jeff Cobb def. Bandido and Shingo Takagi (Night 3, Match 12) ****½: I really enjoyed most of this match. If this had just been Cobb vs. Bandido, we might have a MOTYC on our hands. Their section of the match was tremendous. They had the most convincing near falls of the weekend and one of the best-built matches overall. The closing stretch felt like it absolutely deserved to be the conclusion of an epic tournament. The opening segment, sadly, dragged the rest of the match down. Shingo was awesome the rest of BOLA, but he had terrible chemistry with Bandido and Cobb. It’s really a shame, but this is just more evidence that BOLA should have a straight one-on-one final. Honestly, Bandido and Cobb crafted a far more emotional match/finish than I ever would have expected. This was the best work that I’ve ever seen from both men.
- Shingo Takagi def. Ilja Dragunov (Night 2, Match 5) ****½: An incredible match between two beefy boys. They beat the absolute piss out of each other and you really got the feeling that Ilja left everything that he had in the ring. No man ever had a clear advantage. They were just taking turns bludgeoning their opponent until one of them couldn’t get back up.
- Bandido def. Flamita (Night 3, Match 6) ****¼: Well this was awesome! Pretty much non-stop, crisp looking action through the entire runtime of the match. These two guys know each other so well and it really came through here.
- Bandido def. Joey Janela (Night 3, Match 9) ****¼: This was an ECW tribute match and it absolutely ruled. The final spot might have been the most insane of the entire weekend.
- Joey Janela def. David Starr (Night 1, Match 5) ****¼: This was another strong entry into the feud these two have been having. Even though those matches take place in Beyond, the hatred seeped into this unrelated tournament match. Janela and Starr threw everything they had at each other and it was awesome. This is the kind of match I expect out of BOLA. While it wasn’t as good as their no-rope barbed wire match from Americanrana, this was still well worth checking out.
- Jeff Cobb def. Darby Allin (Night 2, Match 4) ****: I loved this matchup. Nobody is better at getting tossed around than Darby and Cobb is very good at tossing dudes around. Allin put up a great fight and there was actually a point in the match where I thought he could win. Such a great big guy vs. little guy match.
- WALTER def. Jonah Rock (Night 3, match 5) ****: Just a good old-fashioned clash of the titans.
- CIMA, Zachary Wentz, and Dezmond Xavier def. Bandido, Flamita, and Rey Horus (Night 2, Match 7) ****: INSANE SPOTFEST!
- Joey Janela def. CIMA (Night 3, Match 4) ****: While this began to feel like overkill near the finish, the novelty of this matchup even happening pushed it into the four-star range.
- Shingo Takagi def. Robbie Eagles (Night 3, Match 3) ***¾: While watching this match, it hit me just how much Eagles reminds me of Will Ospreay when he first really broke into the scene. He’s very good and he has the potential to be great, but he’s just not there yet. That’s really how I felt about this match too. It was very good, but there were enough little things about it that bugged me to keep it from being great.
- Bandido def. T-Hawk (Night 1, Match 4) ***¾: My cat watched a majority of this one, so take that as a judgment of quality as you will. Both men looked great here and beat the hell out of each other’s chests. Having fallen out of following Dragon Gate, I hadn’t seen T-Hawk wrestle in a while and it was very nice to see how great he’s doing.
- Jeff Cobb def. Rey Horus (Night 3, Match 2) ***½: This was a hard fought battle with both men trying to drag the other into their own style of match. What should have been a clash of styles actually meshed very well.
- Team PCO def. Team DJZ (Night 3, Match 11) ***½: Incredibly fun, but it felt like it was never going to end.
- Trevor Lee def. Marko Stunt (Night 2, Match 1) ***½: This was a super hot opener for night two. The ultimate underdog vs. the biggest jackass you’ve ever met. Trevor Lee isn’t exactly a giant, but these two made him feel enormous in this match. Strong note to start the show on.
- Brody King def. PCO (Night 1, Match 6) ***¼: It was hard to take your eyes off of this car crash. Several botches in the match helped add to that danger. PCO is hoss Sabu.
- Flamita def. Puma King (Night 1, Match 2) ***¼: This was very fun. It was what you think of when you think of the lucha style. Fast paced and high flying with a solid technical base.
- Jeff Cobb def. Trevor Lee (Night 3, Match 8) ***¼: This was barely a match, but it was so good to finally see Trevor Lee get his comeuppance.
- Robbie Eagles def. DJZ (Night 2, Match 3) ***¼: A good battle between high flyers that was dragged down by length and a lame finish.
- Jonah Rock def. Sammy Guevara (Night 2, Match 2) ***: This was an objectively good match that I just couldn’t get into. The Gentleman’s Three.
- Trevor Lee def. Brody King (Night 3, Match 1) ***: Not a very hot opener, but still solid enough.
- CIMA def. Jody Fleisch (Night 1, Match 3) **¾: This is a first time ever singles match between two guys you would never expect to see in the ring together and the novelty of that goes a long way. Bonus points to Excalibur for briefly explaining the Dragon Gate/OWE split.
- Rey Horus def. Adam Brooks (Night 1, Match 1) **½: The tournament kickoff match was what I would describe as lukewarm at best. The incredibly slow first 13 minutes of the roughly 20-minute long match was paced more like a lazy WWE house show match and not the opener of the biggest American indie tournament of the year. Things eventually picked up, but the layout of the match was oddly repetitive with both wrestlers taking too much time and paying for it over and over again.
And there you have it, all 26 BOLA matches in the order of how much they deserve your time. Objectively correct as my list may be, I know some of you will disagree and I welcome your yelling over on Twitter.