IT’s FINALLY HERE.
The weeks of waiting finally ceased as the hottest weekend, both literally and figuratively, in professional wrestling arrived for those that did not manage to attend what promised to be an excellent weekend that displayed various styles of professional wrestling from all over the globe.
All nations of North America as well as England, Scotland, Wales and the Netherlands were represented in perhaps the most eclectic PWG Battle of Los Angeles to date: stars from AAA and Lucha Underground, Progress, ICW, ROH and even TNA battled for three days straight to be crowned 2015’s BOLA winner.
The format of the tournament is this, twenty four competitors do battle in singles competition with the loser being eliminated and the winner advancing to the next round. This continues until only three competitors remain, who then face off in an elimination triple threat match to determine who will be crowned the new number one contender to Roderick Strong’s PWG Championship and 2015 BOLA winner.
Night one featured six tournament matches along with two non-tournament matches and began with two wrestlers who have become familiar with each other over the past year.
Brian Cage vs Aerostar
Both regulars in AAA and Lucha Underground, Brian Cage, bald thanks to defeat at AAA Triplemania to El Patron which cost him his hair, and Aerostar met in the first tournament match in what turned out to be a pretty underwhelming opening. Aerostar was far from the top of his game, appearing passable at the best of times and sloppy at the worst.
However, that’s not to say the match didn’t have its moments: Aerostar landed a springboard no arm drop to the outside before a tope con hilo allowed him to take control before Cage began to over-power him. Cage laded his signature power spots culminating in a deadlift vertical suplex from the second rope.
A short match was redeemed when Brian Cage landed a variation of the steiner screwdriver to advance to the second round. I had high expectations for this match and expected better from Aerostar having seen a considerable chunk of his work this year. Luckily he had a chance to redeem himself on night two: an opportunity he more than took advantage of.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: **1/2
Biff Busick vs Andrew Everett
Biff Busick, all but officially signed to NXT, bid farewell to PWG over the BOLA weekend: his first match of the weekend threw together an interesting clash off styles pitting Busick’s mat based offence against Andrew Everett’s high flying. Team mates on night two, these two put on a really excellent match on night one.
Busick grew frustrated early on as Everett, through various flips and cartwheels, evaded his strikes before Everett landed reverse rana that sent Busick to the outside. Everett, forever willing to defy death, landed a beautiful springboard shooting star press to take out Busick.
Busick worked over the lower back before Everett attempted a springboard shooting star press to be greeted with an uppercut followed by half and half suplex then second devastating uppercut to secure the victory and advance to the next round. I really enjoyed this match and would venture to say it was a contender for match of night one. Busick really worked well with an opponent he is not too familiar with. Andrew Everett, as ever, did Andrew Everett things that were as spectacular as ever.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ***3/4
Will Ospreay vs Mark Andrews
Next up: two British wrestlers who have lit up the British scene for the past couple of years made their PWG debut. Mark Andrews, winner of TNA British Bootcamp 2, faced Will Ospreay, making his US debut, faced off in this tremendously fun first round match. Over the past year, Will Ospreay has been at the forefront of the British independent scene, having excellent matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Marty Scurll (also making his US debut at BOLA), Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins, Matt Sydal and, more recently, Kazuchika Okada.
Anyone familiar with the British scene knew how crazy this would be.
Often in wrestling, the term spot fest is often used as a derogatory term but this was perhaps the most exciting, fun spot fest of the year. Evidently, Mark Andrews and Ospreay share a great deal of in-ring chemistry and that translated into a really excellent match that ensured both men got over with the Reseda faithful.
Mark Andrews got on top early on after a series of reversals with a springboard hurricanrana followed by a tilt a whirl ddt. Andrews followed up with a casa dora bull dog before reversing a brainbuster into a stunner.
Will Ospreay gained the momentum with a handspring rebound enziguri before connecting with a standing cancoon corkscrew. Ospreay secured the victory with the imploding 450 after the Essex Destroyer to advance to the second round.
The fans really got into this one: chants of both these guys broke out during this match if only to confirm both men’s ability. Will Ospreay is an incredible talent and, at the age of 22 with only three years’ experience, I don’t think there is anyone better in the world at the moment with the same amount of experience.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ****
Los Gueros del Cielo (The Sky Blondes or The White Boys From Heaven) vs The Inner City Machine Guns
For the last time, over the BOLA weekend, Rich Swann, WWE bound, teamed up with his Inner City Machine Gun partner, Ricochet, to face Los Gueros del Cielo, composed of Jack Evans and Angelico.
After a dance off between Swann and Evans which concluded when Swann attempted a move only to land on his head, Evans and Angelico worked over Swann’s arm with frequent tags. Eventually, Swann made the tag to Ricochet, who landed a series of offence culminating in a diving ace crusher. Los Gueros del Cielo regained the advantage allowing Evans to stand on both men to deliver a standing moonsault.
Following Ricochet’s connection with the people’s moonsault, the match broke down with all four men delivering kicks and knees to each other. Swann delivered a reverse-rana before Ricochet missed a 630 splash. Angelico delivered a BT Bomb on Ricochet sending him to the outside before landing a tope con hilo to the outside allowing Jack Evans to land a 630 on Swann to secure the victory.
This was your standard PWG tag match: we got the comedy spots, the high flying and high quality tag team wrestling. I really enjoyed this match, it is worth a watch purely for the dance off at the beginning.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ***1/2
Trevor Lee vs Trent?
The first match after intermission suffered from a lethargic crowd worn down by the intolerable heat. Considering sitting in the heat was unbearable, Trevor Lee and Trent? Did a solid job of stringing together an entertaining match.
After a series of reversals early on, Trent? gained the advantage with several forearm shots followed by a german suplex from the top rope for a near fall.
Trevor Lee halted Trent?’s momentum with a flipping powerslam followed by a german suplex of his own that sent Trent? on a collision course with the apron. Lee landed a double foot stomp before Trent? showed resilience to come back and land a powerbomb.
The match concluded as Trevor Lee delivered the small package driver to advance to the next round. This match took a while to get going but once it did the crowd really got into it. Trevor Lee is fantastic: regardless of your opinion of TNA, it is great he is getting national TV time every week.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: **3/4
Pentagon Jr vs Drago
Both Pentagon Jr and Drago gained worldwide traction due to their success in cult sensation Lucha Underground earlier this year and Reseda ate this up. Again, literally and metaphorically, the crowd were so hot for this one. Duelling chants of Lets go Drago/Pentagon echoed around Legion Hall before the match got underway.
Drago and Pentagon Jr traded grapples early on before Pentagon sent Drago to the outside with a ferocious lariat. Pentagon Jr drove home the advantage with a hanging ddt to the front row before beginning work on the arm in preparation for his devastating arm bar.
A drop kick handed Drago the advantage followed by a tope con hilo. Encouraged by the crowd, Drago landed a corkscrew dive to the outside before a hurricanrana from the top rope for a near fall. Pentagon recovered, landing a flurry of offence before channelling his inner Kevin Steen to deliver the package piledriver to secure the win.
This is a fine example of the occasion surpassing the content of the match: don’t get me wrong, by no means was this a bad match, but it wasn’t as good as their matches on Lucha Underground. Still, the crowd elevated this match and loved every minute of it.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ***
Matt Sydal vs Fenix
This match was as incredible as it looked on paper.
Throughout the year, Fenix has received much acclaim for his incredible work in Lucha Underground, particularly his Grave Consequences match with Mil Muertes. Conversely, Matt Sydal has been having some of the best matches of his career in promotions across the world.
Fans chanted ayahuasca as the match got under way, a reference to the infamous Colt Cabana podcast in which he claimed to have ingested the hallucinogenic that now allows him to see time in slow motion. As laughable as that sounds, I have trouble dispute his claims after seeing this match. Fenix gained the initial advantage with a springboard drop kick followed by a cancoon plancha to the outside.
Back in the ring, Sydal attempted a powerbomb only for Fenix to reverse into a hurricanrana. Fenix drove home the advantage with a flipping ddt from the top rope as a this is awesome chant broke out. Sydal fought back with his signature offence punctuated with calls of peace and Namaste. After a standing moosault, Sydal landed the shooting Sydal press to advance to the next round thus eliminating Fenix.
Both men were hugely impressive here. Sydal has improved considerably since his WWE days and this was the right match to book for both men. Reseda, unsurprisingly, loved Fenix as they made it abundantly clear they wished for him to return.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ****
Mt Rushmore 2.0 (Roderick Strong, The Young Bucks) vs EuroTrash (Zack Sabre Jr, Tommy End and Marty Scurll)
As a major exponent of British wrestling, I enjoyed this match tremendously. Marty Scurll, making his debut, Zack Sabre Jr and Tommy End emerged looking like stars on the level of Mount Rushmore 2.0. Credit to the Young Bucks and Roderick Strong: they are three of the best in the business today and helped Scurll, End and Sabre Jr get over in a big way.
The match got into full swing when Marty Scurll tagged in, tying up Matt Jackson in a romero special before rolling him around the ring. Matt Jackson tagged Strong in before Eurotrash worked over the PWG World Champion: the Young Bucks attempted to come to his aid before Scurll and Sabre tied them up, applying a double camel clutch. After the Young Bucks escaped, End delivered a series of thunderous kicks to both Bucks. Strong eventually came to their aid allowing them to connect with tandem tope suicidas to the outside followed by tandem powerbombs on the apron.
The match ended when Strong pulled Rick Knox in front of the Sabre allowing him to deliver a low blow before Mount Rushmore 2.0 used chairs to gain the advantage. 2.0 landed a double Meltzer driver before triple teaming Sabre with a double superkick and jumping knee combination followed by the End of Heartache to secure the win.
This match was clearly designed to highlight burgeoning tensions between Strong and Sabre Jr but also was a lot of fun: I loved when Marty/Nick Jackson paid homage to the Undertaker/Lesnar sitting up and laughing at the same time spot. In fact, I would say this was my favourite tag match of the weekend: the combination of styles really meshed well. A side note on the Young Bucks: I think they are the best tag team of the past ten years. Few have the charisma, technical acumen and ability to work a crowd like they do.
El Specifico’s Star Rating: ****
Final Word: What a fantastic night of wrestling and this is only night one! Seeing Scurll, Sabre and End hold their own against the Mt Rushmore 2.0 was one of my highlights as well as the incredible Ospreay/Mark Andrews match. Outside of the Brits, Fenix/Sydal & Busick/Everett were threw together an interesting clash of styles that translated into two excellent matches.
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Reviews of the second and final stages will be on the site very soon