Flashback Review: PWG BOLA 2011 By Ken Drabek

Added by Stuart Rodgers

Tournaments are fun. PWG knows this and provides wrestling fans with some of the best in the business, including their annual DDT4 tag tournament and their annual singles tournament, the Battle of Los Angeles.

The 2011 edition of BOLA marked the first time in its 7 year existence that the tournament was contested in one night, featuring only 8 competitors instead of the usual 16. The new format meant that whoever wanted to win the tournament would need to be victorious three times in one night.

The show kicked off with Chris Hero taking on Willie Mack in round one action. This was a great way to start the night, Hero played the role of the wise, savvy veteran against the upstart rising star of “Chocolate Thunder.”

Hero dominated at times, wearing down Mack with numerous strikes, including many of his trademark elbow shots. Mack showed his resilience and refused to stay down for the count, eventually shocking everyone by countering Hero with a backslide and pinning his shoulders to the mat for the 3. Mack amazingly advances to round two.

Up next, Dave “Fit” Finlay, one of the most highly regarded and respected workers in the business today, made his PWG debut in a first round match up with the then-reigning PWG World Champion, Kevin Steen.

No one has ever questioned the toughness of Finlay but his run with the WWE was surely saddled with far too much silliness, making it refreshing to see the veteran do his thing against Steen. “Mr. Wrestling” and Finlay had themselves quite a fight, brawling around the ringside area, but they also spent a good chunk of the match showing their technical ability.

After about fifteen minutes of stiff action, Steen was able to lock in his Sharpshooter, forcing Fit to tap out. The PWG moves on to the second round.

The third match of the night may have very well been the most entertaining of the night for me. El Generico took on Claudio Castagnoli in first around action.

These two are no strangers to one another, having battled many times, including a great main event for the PWG World Championship at KurtRussellReunion II back in January. Their match at BOLA this year has officially topped that one as my favorite between the two.

They played off the big man vs. little man dynamic perfectly, once again illustrating the resilience of Generico and the insane amount of punishment he is willing to put himself through in order to win. Claudio nailed some impressive power moves, including countering a cross body off the top into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.

In the end, Generico snuck out the victory to move on to the second round. The first round of action came to a close with a match we’ve seen several times in ROH this year but a first inside a PWG ring, Eddie Edwards vs. Roderick Strong.

Anyone who has seen these two go at it before knows that they mesh well with each other in the ring. While their BOLA match might not top what we saw from them at Manhattan Mayhem IV or Death Before Dishonor IX, it was still an intense and hotly contested match.

Lots of great submission wrestling here, including some creative counters, it’s clear that Edwards and Strong know what to expect from one another. The finish saw a series of near falls end when Edwards was finally able to keep Strong down for the 3.

It’s interesting to note that 3 of the 4 first round matches ended with roll ups or flash pins, definitely indicative of the level of competition featured in these bouts.

The RockNES Monsters, Johnny Goodtime and Johnny Yuma, were up next, taking on Joey Ryan and Scorpio Sky, aka the Dynasty. The winner of this one would put themselves in prime position for a shot at the PWG World Tag Team Championship.

This was probably my least favorite match on the show but it wasn’t bad by any means. Goodtime and Yuma will be one of the top tag teams on the independent scene sooner than later, they have loads of potential and continue to improve. Ryan and Sky are PWG veterans who are enjoying considerable success since reuniting earlier this year.

The Dynasty picked up the win, earning a future shot at the tag titles, which brought out the champs, Matt and Nick Jackson, the Young Bucks. They unleashed a post match beat down and launched into a promo claiming that they had no real challengers in PWG.

For my money, the Bucks are up there right near the top of the list of best heels in the business these days. They’ve managed to turn all of the backstage speculation about their “lack of respect” into an entertaining gimmick and they constantly get a ton of heat from the crowd in Reseda.

Their promo brought out Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli, who had both already been knocked out of the BOLA tournament. This set up a tag team title match for later on, as the Kings of Wrestling looked to try and turn their fortune around by taking the straps from the Bucks.

Second round BOLA action kicked off with Willie Mack taking on El Generico. These two are both incredibly entertaining to watch, both have outstanding body language and know how to effectively sell better than most.

This match was entertaining but it felt a little too short. Mack put up a good fight but Generico would not be stopped, picking up the victory over “Chocolate Thunder” with a brain buster to advance to the finals.

Eddie Edwards and Kevin Steen met in the other semi-final match. These two are no strangers, mostly doing battle against each other in a tag team setting in ROH, so this singles match was certainly intriguing. In what seems to be a trend for this show, it was another highly entertaining fight that mixed in everything from eye pokes to biting, super kicks, some high flying and submission wrestling.

The casual fan may knock someone like Steen for his physical appearance but I’ll be damned if I could name more than a handful of active professional wrestlers who can match Steen’s ability to work a crowd. The PWG audience simply eats out of the palm of his hand, though there was a solid amount of support for Edwards as well.

It seemed as though once fans at the show realized they could potentially be seeing a Steen vs. Generico finals, they shifted all of their support behind Steen, which made it no surprise to see him advance to the finals after making Edwards tap to the Sharpshooter just before the 13 minute mark.

So, the finals of the 2011 Battle of Los Angeles were set, Kevin Steen vs. El Generico. But before that, the Kings of Wrestling and the Young Bucks did battle for the PWG World Tag Team Championships.

This ended up being the last time that the Kings would team together in PWG, since Claudio is now doing his thing in WWE’s developmental promotion, FCW, as Antonio Cesaro. It proved to be a worthy send off for one of the best teams in recent memory. The chemistry between the Bucks and their much larger opponents was great and both teams pulled off most of their trademark double team moves.

The Bucks stole the victory with a roll up, using the ropes for leverage, and then fell victim to a post match KRS-One from Hero and Castagnoli. While there are still countless awesome tag teams on the independent scene, the gap left by the Kings of Wrestling will take some time to fill.

Main event time. Steen and Generico waste no time, immediately brawling all over the ringside area to begin the final match of the 2011 BOLA.

While this in no way lives up to the war these two had at ROH’s Final Battle 2010, it is still a hell of a battle between two of the fiercest rivals in all of wrestling. The enthusiasm from the packed crowd in Reseda only adds to the excitement.

Steen has several amusing exchanges with a little kid in an El Generico mask at ringside, again illustrating just how effective “Mr. Wrestling” is when it comes to crowd interaction. Near falls galore in this one. Despite his best efforts, Steen just cannot keep the Generic Luchador down.

El Generico nailed a nasty looking brainbustah onto the edge of the ring apron, signaling the end for Kevin Steen on this particular night. After strong performances in past BOLA tournaments, Generico finally emerged from the tournament as the victor.

He even brought his tiny masked fan into the ring to celebrate post match, definitely one of my favorite moments of the entire show. Steen snapped and broke the trophy, but left before doing any major post-match damage. All of this sets up a rematch between Steen and Generico for the PWG World Heavyweight Championship down the road.

The one night format drew the ire of some fans, but I think it worked nicely. It was certainly a plus as a consumer, only having to purchase one DVD to enjoy the entire tournament, but it also was a plus from a storytelling standpoint, making the entire event feel more focused than it has in previous years.

The 2011 Battle of Los Angeles is another quality show from the folks at PWG. The video quality is top notch as far as independents go. I still don’t quite grasp how PWG can produce such slick looking DVDs while other promotions fail to do so. Their shows always look and sound great and this one is no exception.

From top to bottom, BOLA 2011 is an entertaining show well worth checking out.

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