There was a point in my life where seeing a new PWG DVD in my mailbox was the most exciting thing that could happen. That is more of an indictment on how lame my teen years were, and less about the quality of show that PWG was producing, although they were absolutely stellar.
PWG represented something that is slowly fading away from the US wrestling scene: the super indie.
When I began following PWG in the summer of 2012, the battle lines of independent wrestling were drawn much thicker than they currently are. Ring of Honor talents were forbidden from appearing on DGUSA/EVOLVE shows and vice-versa, talents under loosely-worded independent wrestling contracts were being pulled from iPPV’s, and Davey Richards and Tony Kozina were allegedly holding up promoters for money. That never seemed to matter in PWG, however. Wrestlers from ROH and DGUSA regularly fought to a clean finish, everyone was allowed to work these shows as PWG focused their efforts on dominating the DVD market, and, well, Davey Richards still bailed on bookings, even if they were in Reseda.
To explain the malaise I felt watching PWG expand into a wrestling powerhouse, I need to use Brit-Pop powerhouse Oasis as an example. PWG’s Definitely Maybe stretch can be traced back anywhere from Bryan Danielson’s exit in late 2009 to Paul London’s debut in early 2010, but it definitively ended at the 2013 Battle of Los Angeles, which is the first show William Regal was sighted at, and it doubles as one of the best top-to-bottom wrestling shows I’ve ever seen.
BOLA 2013 marked the end of my love affair with the PWG that I grew attached to. Before that, the company had a rougher edge to it. Cards felt like a talent show where everyone attempted to bring their best efforts to the table. It was a place, ultimately, where people could launch their careers into something new. In what I would consider to be the Definitely Maybe era, PWG helped foster the talents of Adam Cole, Drake Younger, Trevor Lee, and Willie Mack, among others, and helped them take the next step in their careers.
Cole is the most notable name on this list. He had become a blip on the radar thanks to his work in Combat Zone Wrestling, which is more than Willie Mack or Trevor Lee can say, both of whom were unknown when they debuted. When Cole debuted for the company in late 2011, he was already a blue-chip prospect, but it was the summer of 2012 for that year’s Battle of Los Angeles when we saw Cole bring his heel, CZW persona into the fold. He pinned El Generico on the first night of the tournament, then ran through Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, and Michael Elgin on the final night to capture the trophy. It was there that I felt Cole had finally arrived. He developed the “Adam Cole, Bay Bay” phrase through his work in this era and that has obviously paid dividends in this current climate.
PWG’s 10 Best Matches from the Definitely Maybe era:
- Young Bucks vs. Super Smash Bros vs. Futureshock: PWG 7/21/12
- Bryan Danielson vs. Chris Hero: PWG 9/4/09
- Chris Hero vs. Akira Tozawa: PWG 9/5/10
- Young Bucks vs. El Generico & Paul London vs. the Cutler Brothers: PWG 7/30/10
- Adam Cole & Young Bucks vs. AR Fox, Candice Lerae, & Rich Swann: PWG 8/31/13
- Akira Tozawa & Kevin Steen vs. El Generico & Ricochet: PWG 5/27/11
- ACH vs. Kyle O’Reilly: PWG 8/31/13
- El Generico vs. Kevin Steen: PWG 10/22/11
- Eddie Edwards & Roderick Strong vs. Young Bucks: PWG 12/1/12
- AR Fox & Samuray del Sol vs. Rich Swann & Ricochet: PWG 6/15/13
The PWG that allowed Cole to spread his wings was no more by the time the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles rolled around. The tournament had been revamped and expanded from two days to three for the first time since 2007. This was PWG during their (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? run.
The list of talents above was a whos-who of independent wrestling. Even Brian Myers, who despite bombing infamously on these shows, came in with some hype due to just leaving WWE. PWG had arrived and they were a force to be reckoned with.
Their post-show hype videos exploded on YouTube and the subsequent gifs dominated my Twitter timeline for days. Whether it was the debut of Will Ospreay or the Lucha Bros, the rise of Mike Bailey and Zack Sabre Jr as promotion kingpins, or the sheer domination of Mount Rushmore 2.0, PWG turned page after page in thrilling fashion, showing no sign of fear and no desire to turn back.
Before long, PWG had become not only my prime wrestling tastemaker, but the larger wrestling community had taken note, William Regal included. The issue with becoming the tastemaker, however, is that the promotion slowly started to lose its flavor. Five years after the Battle of Los Angeles blew up into wrestling’s premier talent scouting event, we see the effects of PWG’s ahead-of-the-curve booking. Looking at the 24 talents involved:
- ACH (WWE)
- Adam Cole (WWE)
- AJ Styles (WWE)
- Biff Busick (WWE)
- Bobby Fish (WWE)
- Brian Myers (WWE)
- Candice LeRae (WWE)
- Cedric Alexander (WWE)
- Chris Hero (WWE)
- Chris Sabin (formerly ROH, currently Impact Wrestling)
- Chuck Taylor (AEW)
- Drew Gulak (WWE)
- Johnny Gargano (WWE)
- Kenny Omega (AEW)
- Kyle O’Reilly (WWE)
- Matt Sydal (formerly Impact)
- Michael Elgin (formerly NJPW)
- Rich Swann (formerly WWE, currently Impact)
- Ricochet (WWE)
- Roderick Strong (WWE)
- TJ Perkins (formerly WWE)
- Tommaso Ciampa (WWE)
- Trevor Lee (WWE)
- Zack Sabre Jr (NJPW)
Sixteen of the twenty-four are currently signed to WWE with two having come-and-gone in between the tournament and now. Both Impact and AEW have two wrestlers under deals, with New Japan having one. The three free agents that remain have all recently left major promotions and could sign with a new company at any time.
This was not the PWG that I fell in love with, but I loved this PWG.
PWG’s 10 Best Matches from the (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Era:
- Kyle O’Reilly vs. Zack Sabre Jr: PWG 8/31/14
- Roderick Strong vs. Zack Sabre Jr: PWG 4/3/15
- Young Bucks & Super Dragon vs. Andrew Everett, Biff Busick, & Trevor Lee: PWG 8/29/15
- Mike Bailey vs. Roderick Strong: PWG 6/26/15
- Drew Galloway vs. Mike Bailey: PWG 8/29/15
- Young Bucks vs. Chris Sabin & Matt Sydal: PWG 12/12/14
- Chris Hero vs. Zack Sabre Jr: PWG 6/26/15
- Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher: 8/29/15
- Adam Cole & Young Bucks vs. Chuck Taylor, Kenny Omega, & Zack Sabre Jr: PWG 8/29/14
- Aero Star & Fenix vs. Drago & Pentagon Jr: PWG 8/29/15
The good times could not roll on forever and ever, though. PWG had two years of real relevancy. They had a real sense of power in the wrestling world from BOLA 2014 to BOLA 2016. By the 2016 rendition of the tournament, however, the charm had worn off. PWG was now in the business of booking Jushin Thunder Liger, flying in talents from multiple countries, and shoving indie star power down our throats. I don’t begrudge them for any of that. They earned that privilege by producing elite-level shows for a decade by that point. But they weren’t the PWG that I fell in love with, and I didn’t love this version of PWG. This was PWG’s Be Here Now phase.
PWG showed signs that they were unable to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.
Despite booking talents that I openly support like Keith Lee or WALTER, I was no longer interested in following the promotion. Super indies were no longer a rarity. ROH and EVOLVE were now on separate planes and the attractiveness of seeing their wrestlers collide was no longer there. Worst of all, PWG was still married to the DVD format and made it impossible to keep up with the promotion when WWE had entered the Network era two years prior. The last ROH DVD I bought was in 2015, I was able to keep up with Japanese wrestling companies exclusively through digital services, and indies like AAW, IWA-MS, and Chikara had made streaming easy and reliable thanks to sites like Smart Mark Video. Even PWG’s distribution partner, Highspots.com, had begun investing in streaming services for wrestling fans that wanted to consume independent wrestling. Of course, by the time the Highspots Wrestling Network launched, PWG shows were on there, but new shows would be uploaded 365 days after taking place. Not exactly convenient.
I begrudgingly purchased 2017 and 2018 editions of BOLA, and for the most part, enjoyed the tournaments, but I had no emotional attachment to the wrestlers, the fans, or the promotion, all of which I used to have. Times change, but part of me will always think of PWG as a Reseda-based company. Leaving American Legion Post #308 was a gut-punch to me. On the off-chance that the promotion left the Post during their residency, I couldn’t help but think of how much better the matches would’ve been had they been in Reseda, most notably a six-man tag with Super Dragon, Kevin Steen, & Akira Tozawa vs. El Generico, Masato Yoshino, & PAC. No one remembers this match; not because the work was lackluster, but because the crowd was.
I had complained during the 2017 Battle of Los Angeles that the Reseda crowd was too subdued, but I couldn’t help but wish for their return when BOLA traveled across the city to the Globe Theater in 2018. Despite booking standouts like WALTER, CIMA, and one of my five favorite wrestlers of all-time, Shingo Takagi, I couldn’t help but feel detached from the action. I had seen this. I had seen better versions of this. PWG was stale. Star-studded BOLA tournaments were a thing of the past. I was prepared to go from keeping one eye on PWG to dropping it from my feed completely.
That is, until Two Hundred came along.
The hype video popped up on my YouTube feed one evening. I didn’t rush to click and absorb the content; I hadn’t done that in years. I wasn’t even sure what was on this card when I clicked on the video, because memorizing and anticipating PWG lineups had fallen into the bin of past obsessions. What came across on the screen, however, was something intriguing and interesting that I hadn’t felt in years. I took the bait and as soon as it became available, I jumped on the chance to watch Two Hundred.
PWG Two Hundred Results:
- Jungle Boy def. Jake Atlas, Trey Miguel at 10:31 (****)
- Puma King def. Laredo Kid at 12:53 (****)
- Best Friends def. Aussie Open at 20:32 (***1/4)
- Brody King def. Darby Allin at 14:12 (****1/2)
- Jonathan Gresham def. David Starr at 19:21 (***1/2)
- Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz def. Ortiz & Santana, Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix at 10:04 (***1/4)
- Jeff Cobb def. Bandido at 19:48 (****)
My primary reason for viewing this bout was to see the full match that opened the show, because my mind was blown after seeing Jungle Boy do a dive that I still can’t fully explain or comprehend. This match was eerily similar to Andrew Everett vs. Cedric Alexander vs. Trevor Lee from PWG’s 2014 event, Mystery Vortex II, which, on the Oasis-inspired timeline, is at the tail end of the Definitely Maybe run. Everett and Alexander had barely begun scratching the surface in terms of their potential when this match was booked, and Trevor Lee was so unknown that many in attendance were unsure of who he actually was.
The bill was set in stone this time around. Jungle Boy had been in PWG once before and was riding high off of his new AEW contract, Jake Atlas was continuing to show his worth on PWG undercards, and coming off of his first tour of Japan and a push in Impact Wrestling, Trey Miguel was making his PWG debut.
Simply saying these three threw caution to the wind would be underselling all that happened. This three-way was an assault on my senses. There was so much happening that I struggled to keep up at times, but I never wanted it to end. Jungle Boy stole the show with a dive of the decade candidate and Trey Miguel solidified his booking by demonstrating how much of a pro he’s become at the young age of 24, but I couldn’t help but leave this match with a new fascination for Jake Atlas.
Atlas is someone who I want to invest all of my stock in as a wrestling fan. He spent time training at WWE’s Performance Center in late 2018, and I think he would fit perfectly on All Elite Wrestling’s roster. Atlas was the star of this match. He has some size to him, and on top of that, he’s dripping with charisma. Jake Atlas is a star after this match and I hope that this is used as a launching pad for his career, the way that so many others have been able to leverage PWG performances into something greater.
— cozy superkick ♻️ (@cozysuperkick) April 15, 2019
Luckily, lucha gatekeepers once again let Puma King crawl out of his cage to grace us, as he tangled with one of my favorite exports from Mexico, Laredo Kid. Puma King bullied Laredo Kid into defeat just before the 13-minute mark. At least in my limited viewing of Puma King, this seemed like the kind of match that represented his ceiling as a performer. He’s a brute capable of pulling off the occasional spectacular move. The best thing about his performance here was his basing ability for Laredo Kid, who has been floating around the American indies for a handful of years now, on top of cementing himself as a viable performer in Mexico. Kid is tremendous and I hope he continues to be used in PWG.
— cozy superkick ♻️ (@cozysuperkick) April 15, 2019
The night peaked with Brody King vs. Darby Allin in what can really only be described as a sensible matchup. Allin charged at King with fists of fury at the opening bell, quickly found an opportunity to jump off of the Globe Theater balcony, and even crushed the back of King with a skateboard stomp, but that only angered the giant from Van Nuys. King has proved a lot of people wrong, myself included, with his stretch of high-profile matches in 2019. He’s proving to be a winner, and Ring of Honor did the right thing by locking him up at the end of last year.
He dominated Allin not with skill, but with ferocity. He couldn’t believe the audacity of Allin, who in King’s mind, is nothing more than a shitty gutter punk. Every time Allin bounced back from an attack, King hit him harder. He hit him as hard as he could, and finally used Allin’s skateboard against him for the victory. Possibly the best match of King’s career, and my favorite Allin match since his epic vs. Zack Sabre Jr at EVOLVE last year.
— cozy superkick ♻️ (@cozysuperkick) April 15, 2019
The faults this show had were in the tag team format. Best Friends vs. Aussie Open went too long during the opening half of the show, and the three-way tag for the PWG Tag Team Championships during the latter half of the show went too short, although that could’ve been due to some miscommunication and a mistimed spot to break up a pinfall.
Best Friends vs. Aussie Open had its moments that were great. Taylor and Beretta have figured out a way to suck the audience in emotionally, even when they’re doing their comedy schtick. I can’t help but feel like one day their faux-fighting is going to turn into a gut-wrenching heel turn, and it’s going to hit us all harder than we were expecting.
Aussie Open is still very young. Kyle Fletcher is actually my age, which hurts to think about because I can assure you no one is flying me across the world to yap about wrestling. This match, however, was a snapshot of my issue with Aussie Open. They do a lot of things well, but I ultimately leave their matches feeling uninspired. I think that will change over time and I do think this match would’ve been greatly aided by stricter time constraints. There was no need for this match to go as long as it did, because when the action was finally shifted into a higher gear, I really enjoyed what they did. It just took too long to get there.
The tag titles match was a mess. LAX is a tremendous team, but I’ve yet to hear praise about their work in PWG. This was far from the best outing I’ve ever seen from them. On top of that, this felt like a house show-level effort from the Lucha Bros, something that I hardly ever say about them. Pentagon can coast on his charisma, but when he’s paired up with Fenix, the two typically do everything other than murder themselves. That was not the case tonight. The standout team turned out to be The Rascalz, who have transformed into charismatic balls of fire after spending so much time with CIMA in 2018. These three teams have a better match in them. In fact, this was probably the worst version of what they’re capable of. In the end, though, The Rascalz retained, and that is the right call.
— cozy superkick ♻️ (@cozysuperkick) April 17, 2019
David Starr and Jonathan Gresham put on a fine display of grappling, but I couldn’t help but feel like the match was directionless at times. That is a critique that few will nod in agreement with me on, though, as it’s more about how I feel about that style of match. What’s more important is that Gresham continues to deliver on larger stages and Starr did solid work in an American promotion.
The singles match on the second half of the card that mattered was Jeff Cobb retaining his PWG World Championship over Bandido. After years of working SoCal indies to hardcore bubble praise, Cobb finally got a chance to show his worth as Matanza Cueto in Lucha Underground. His work inside The Temple led to more opportunities elsewhere, and PWG was one of the first to come calling. His debut against Chris Hero was structured to show how powerful Cobb could be. He tossed the bigger Hero around with free will. In one match, he was able to show off his strength, his aerial abilities, and his potential, which has led to a run of dominance capped off with him winning the PWG World Title last year.
Similar to Cobb, Bandido had spent a few years garnering hardcore buzz from fans of indies in Mexico, but in early 2018, he made his first voyage to Japan to work for Dragon Gate. He, Flamita, and the Rascalz were then brought into PWG to take their touring match to the next step.
Bandido has essentially become a homegrown favorite. Not the crowds in Dragon Gate, nor the ones in Ring of Honor, react as positively to Bandido as they do here, and they were treated to a gem with the hard-working Cobb. This match showed me a lot about Bandido. He proved that he has more in him than being a sideshow attraction wrestler who peaks in the upper midcard. Bandido is not a spot machine. He’s a wrestler capable of grappling his way to a compelling story, just like he did here with Cobb.
This match felt big. Perhaps it’s because both men are currently signed to relatively exclusive deals with Ring of Honor, so their availability has gone down. I don’t think that was the contributing factor, however. This match felt big because Cobb and Bandido are big-time workers. They’re the two wrestlers that PWG has hit the biggest home runs with, which is especially impressive given that Bandido came up in what I consider to the bloated Be Here Now era.
For the main event of Two Hundred, this was the perfect match. The company’s two biggest stars stepped up to the plate and did their best to knock it out of the park. The clash of styles played into a dramatic finish as all throughout the match we saw Bandido using surprising feats of strength, but when it came to the finish, it was Cobb’s agility that led him to victory.
— cozy superkick ♻️ (@cozysuperkick) April 17, 2019
I encourage people to check out Two Hundred. I can’t say that I’m back on the PWG bandwagon, especially given that the next show is a Mystery Vortex gimmick show, which I think is far too played out by now, but this show sparked joy in me in a way that I was not expecting in the slightest. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of hearing Excalibur calling big moves and seemingly genuinely blown away in the commentary booth (shaped like a table) that caused me to go nuts about this show. Perhaps it was the fact that the in-ring on this show felt fresh and innovative, instead of the tired, old super indie tropes that I had come to expect from PWG shows.
I truly don’t know why this show made such an impact on me, but it did. PWG’s Two Hundred is one of my favorite shows of the year and it reminded me that PWG, even if they’re hobbling like Kirk Gibson due to a changing landscape and contracts being handed out left and right, can still go deep from time to time.