The 2018 Battle of Los Angeles was on its way to arguably being the best BOLA in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s history. Night 1 and Night 2 before it were two all-time great BOLA shows. It was not just one or two matches that fans could not stop reminiscing about — discussing and dissecting bests and favorites amongst each other — more like half a dozen. And out of only 14 matches to that point.
One night remained to conclude this journey we have all set upon.
For BOLA is more than just a pro wrestling tournament. While PWG already bolsters a strong community environment among its fans, never is that stronger than BOLA weekend as fans spend three whole days together sharing their passion.
But it is also an endurance test. Three straights days in the SoCal summer heat, partying and yelling your lungs out in a crowded venue, often lacking sleep — it wears you down. Which makes Night 3 especially interesting, because the wrestlers are facing that even more so, and they are the ones who must go out and perform anywhere from one to three times that night.
Traditionally, Night 3 is overshadowed by the previous two for that reason. The wrestlers are already beat up heading in, and it is within their best interest to go a bit easier in order to preserve themselves as they progress through the tournament.
However, as we packed into the Globe Theater for the final night and were so fortunate to witness it all unfold, it became apparent early on these guys were not holding back for anything. And on the night when fans are supposed to be the most worn down, when the wrestlers are supposed to be completely spent — the entire weekend reached its pinnacle.
With great confidence, your author asserts BOLA 2018 was the best there has ever been.
Trevor Lee vs. Brody King
It probably is not an exaggeration to state three-quarters of the audience had Lee pegged as the favorite to win the tournament. With over four years as a PWG regular, Lee — despite being a massive heel — was the one guy fans have been waiting to get his big push to the top. A large portion of the audience was fully behind Lee to a degree perhaps more so than any time in his PWG career.
Make no mistake about it, though, Lee was still a heel. Remember, Night 3 of BOLA is almost Mystery Vortex-style. We only know who the competitors are, not who they are going to face in each round. So when Brody’s music hit, Lee was dismayed. So as one of the best promos in PWG, of course he made everyone aware of his qualms in being forced to face Brody after he had the “hardest Round 1 match” of anyone.
After a couple minutes of Lee’s bantering, Brody abruptly cut the promo short and the match was on.
The styles of both men meshed well. Brody was thrashing Lee about the ring — and on the outside around it. While Lee would find his offense when he could, trying to stifle the bigger man.
It was an interesting twist of booking. Despite being the heel — with everyone thinking Lee was the favorite to win the tournament and him having so much support behind him — there was a babyface aspect to the match with Lee having the overcome the bigger man.
And after a hard fought battle, he did after Lee hit his trademark reverse crossbody slam to gain the pin *** ½
Jeff Cobb vs. Rey Horus
Going in, this match was a pick ’em contest. Two PWG regulars going at it. Cobb who had now been with PWG over two years, being a former tag champ. And Horus who debuted in BOLA 2017 and had progressively earned the support of PWG fans more and more ever since.
This match was somewhat reminiscent of Jonah Rock vs. Sammy Guevara from Night 2, as it hosted the same dynamic of the big powerhouse taking on the high-flyer. Something about the match just did not quite gel, though. Not to say it was a bad match by any stretch of the imagination, because it was not.
Just because two matches are rated the same does not always mean they were of equal quality. Sometimes you can have a four-star match that exceeded its limits to reach that level. And sometimes you have a four-star match that was missing something and could have been knocked up a couple levels with some tweaks.
The latter scenario was the case here.
To be fair, though, Cobb’s strength was on full display here with some crazy power spots in catching Horus in his aerial attacks, and Horus was a great flyer as he always is. But in the end, Cobb was able to land the Tour of the Islands to gain the pinfall.
A quality match, and one that likely would shine on most independent shows. But this was BOLA ***1/4
Shingo Takagi vs. Robbie Eagles
One particular veteran PWG fan had been daydreaming about this potential matchup the moment both men made it past Round 1. And while no one else seemed to share his enthusiasm, we were all proven wrong by the end of this one.
Takagi certainly needs no introduction to wrestling fans. He’s a modern day legend, and even those who didn’t know him going into BOLA surely knew him by Night 3. But Eagles is a newer name on the scene. Coming out of the Australian independent landscape that has only just been getting steam this past year or so, Eagles was taking a big step up here.
The thing with Eagles is, at least in his PWG career, he seems to perform to the level of his opponent. And boy was that the case here.
There are certain guys in the business — when you face them, you’re not just having a match, you’re going to war. And Takagi is one of those guys.
Eagles went into the match fully prepared and the two had a hellacious match. On paper, this match was much better than it had any right being given the stark contrast of the two men, both in style and in experience.
Takagi got the submission in the end, applying a STF and transitioning it into almost a rear-naked choke. But Eagles rose to the occasion and came out looking like a million bucks ****1/4
Joey Janela vs. CIMA
The year is 2018 and we have Janela and CIMA going one-on-one. What a wild business. One might think it was purposely booked as a nod to Janela’s desires to share the ring with older legends like he did with Marty Jannetty and The Great Sasuke. And if that was the case, it worked, because it had that exact same vibe about it as the two stared each other down from opposite sides of the ring.
CIMA may have disappointed some on Night 1 with all the comedy antics that filled the first third of his match with Jody Fleisch, but none of that was present here. This one was all business.
Now, CIMA has been in the business over 20 years now and is 40-years-old, so there is no doubt he has limitations these days. But just like he did on Night 2 in the wild six-man tag that capped the night off, CIMA worked to those limits.
This was another pick ‘em match. CIMA being a former BOLA winner himself, could have easily gone to the finals. And Janela being a fan favorite who has worked his ass off since debuting in last year’s BOLA has been in line for a decent push.
It came right down to the wire and looked like CIMA was going to be moving forward after hitting three of his signature Meteora’s in a row, but Janela survived and landed a superkick to gain the pin.
After the match, CIMA received a big ovation from the crowd. Everyone knew they were witnessing a legend who might not have many more years left in the ring, and the appreciation was sky-high for him to come back to PWG after all these years ****
WALTER vs. Jonah Rock
This match seemed to be a long time coming. Earlier this year, it looked like PWG was going to give Rock a push as one of WALTER’s challengers. Many expected it coming out of All Star Weekend 14, but then Sammy Guevara and Brody King were the subsequent challengers instead.
Plus you had the added element of WALTER being champion. While some thought it entirely possible WALTER would be the first reigning PWG champion to win BOLA, most expected he was going to lose somewhere down the line in order to set up a potential challenger — a la NJPW and the G1 Climax.
Rock was as good of a possibility as anyone given recent history.
Being the two monster they are, they went in there and had a match resembling a Godzilla movie. It was hard-hitting, and slow and deliberate (in a good way). And while some battles of behemoths get dragged out as both men refuse to go down, this was much more in the style of two monsters working to land that one killer blow to put an end to things — like watching a heavyweight prizefight.
It did not take too long, and WALTER caught Rock in one of his heavy powerbombs to land the pinfall after about five minutes ***1/2
Bandido vs. Flamita
Fans started throwing money in the ring before the match even began.
Yeah, what does that tell you?
The crowd knew exactly what they were in for here. Of course, Bandido and Flamita are tag team partners who not only have plenty of experience as a team, but as opponents too working Dragon Gate and various Lucha promotions this last year.
This was one of those matches fans were widely hoping would happen somewhere in the tournament, because it was guaranteed to be a barnburner.
It gets said nearly every time two luchadors square off in PWG, and one would hate to be repetitive, but there is just no other way to put it: Bandido and Flamita put on a clinic of lucha libre. They know each other so well, and both the technical and aerial maneuvers were breathtaking to witness.
As if Bandido did not already have the PWG fans in the palm of his hands, he pulled out a new trick from his bag (at least to us) and delivered what can only be described as a springboard German suplex — but must be seen to fully capture its beauty — to defeat Flamita via pinfall
If not for the six-man tag on Night 2, this match would almost certainly be the high-flying spectacle of the weekend. But the match that followed gives it a run for its money ****1/2
The Rascalz vs. Lucha Bros — PWG Tag Team Championship Match
The BOLA tournament itself would be enough. But each year, BOLA is made that much more special because of the non-tournament matches showcased across the three nights. And given that Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz were not participating in BOLA itself, who could possibly turn down the idea of them defending their tag titles on the weekend to make up for it
Especially when their opponents were two fellows also not participating in BOLA for the first time since they debuted with PWG back in 2015 — Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero M.
In what was part comedy, part mind games, the Rascalz came out wearing Lucha Bros garb — mimicking their opponents. Particularly Xavier’s impressions of Penta’s mannerisms were so well done and made for great spots that got the match started.
Once the Lucha Bros got tired of the nonsense, though, the match got hot quick, and it wasn’t too long before they forcibly stripped the Rascalz of the masks. From that point on, it was balls to the wall.
If you had the pleasure of seeing the Rascalz vs. Bandido and Flamita from PWG Time is a Flat Circle earlier this year, you can pretty easily envision how wild this match got. The pace and precision of both teams is just something that won’t ever stop being spectacular. And after an entire weekend up to that point of phenomenal wrestling, they blew the crowd away with ease — in the sense that they make make it all look so smooth and effortless.
The Rascalz retained the titles after landing their signature assisted moonsault finish on Fenix for the pin ****1/2
Jeff Cobb vs. Trevor Lee
It took less than 30 seconds to have the entire crowd on their feet in utter shock. Just like that, the tables got flipped on nearly everyone’s heads.
Lee came out for the first match of the semi-finals, and once Cobb’s music started it was déjà vu all over again. Lee was furious he had to face another one of the big men in the tournament and got on the mic to voice his displeasure even more firmly.
Cobb had less patience than Brody King, however, and attacked Lee soon afterwards. And only moments later, he landed the Tour of the Islands and got the pin over Lee.
Finishes like that have been teased multiple times in recent years, but to actually pull it off, and to pull it off during BOLA on the majority favorite to win the entire event — Wow.
It was barely even a match, but this is one of those cases where the rating is an overachieved version of the plain value. On mere merits of shock factor and the balls of the promotion to go through with it, this one gets well deserved credit ***
Bandido vs. Joey Janela
When you talk about guys preserving themselves on Night 3 in order to make it to the end, this is the antithesis of that.
On a regular PWG card, this match would undoubtedly be insane. But on Night 3 of BOLA in the semi-finals, even two mad men like these guys would be expected to do a toned-down version of what they would normally do when matched up.
In almost poetic fashion, though, these two being who they are, toned-down seemingly doesn’t present itself in their repertoire.
If one had to use one term to describe this match, it is uncertain what would be more suitable than to call it a car wreck of a match, in the best way possible.
Over 10 minutes into the match, with it already being excellent, Bandido has Janela laid out and starts beckoning to the crowd for a chair.
He finally gets someone to slide a chair into the ring, but he’s calling for another.
Another chair is slid in. But he’s calling for another.
And very quickly it becomes apparent Bandido wants many chairs, to which a healthy chunk of fans were happy to provide him with.
It was not quite Terry Funk in ECW, but it had the mind wandering to those days of old as some two dozen chairs got tossed into the ring to satisfy Bandido’s request.
Janela took the opportunity of Bandido’s distracted motives to capitalize and lay him out, to which point Janela started building a small fort of chairs. Bandido recovered and went on the offense, and the two made their way up the turnbuckle in front of the positioned chairs. Back and forth they went until Bandido set Janela up for his somersault fall-away slam off the top rope. It was almost too crazy to imagine in the moment, but they went flying anyway and crashed through the chair fort and Bandido got the three-count ****1/2
Shingo Takagi vs. WALTER
Since the conclusion of Night 1, this was a match that had the fans rumbling about; hoping it would get booked somewhere in the tournament, or at least at a later show.
It is hard to properly describe it, but some wrestlers have a special presence. You love guys like Joey Janela or Bandido, and they will always get huge ovations, but then other guys cast an aura where you can’t help but almost look on in awe.
And every once in a while two of those wrestlers face each other.
We all knew it was going to be a war. There was simply no other conclusion.
One man would fall, and the journey there would be violent. It was the only certainty of the match.
The match followed in the same vein as Takagi vs. Dragunov and WALTER vs. Thatcher the night before. A epic clash of two titans of the ring. Constant action that left fans both horrified and enthralled by what they were witnessing. Brutality on full display.
The end result was huge here. The near-falls were excellent. Back and forth they went. Could WALTER continue his reign of domination, or could Takagi slay the champ?
They kicked out of each other’s most devasting moves, forcing the crowd into a frenzy. But then Takagi landed an enormous lariat on WALTER.
One, two, three. And the building erupted. Not only was Takagi going to the finals, but he had put down the dominant PWG Champion. And all sorts of possibilities opened up — every single one being exciting and intriguing ****1/2
Team PCO (PCO, Puma King, Darby Allin, Dan Barry, and Jody Fleisch) vs. Team DJZ (DJZ, David Starr, T-Hawk, Timothy Thatcher, and Adam Brooks) — Special Non-Tournament 10-Man Tag Team Match
One of the most beloved traditions of BOLA weekend is the Night 3 10-man tag match. A bunch of the wrestlers who did not make it out of Round 1 get to partake in one giant match at the end of the weekend, and sometimes there are even surprise entrants.
By Sunday, both Marko Stunt and Sammy Guevara had already flown out of Los Angeles. And in great misfortune, Ilja Dragunov reportedly suffered a concussion in his Night 2 match with Shingo Takagi and was not going to compete on Night 3. Which left one open slot to fill.
Officer Dan Barry reporting for duty.
Everybody knows the 10-man tag match has no true significance overall. In the midst of the tournament, it acts almost as an icebreaker. It is all about having a good time. Literally everything goes.
Most would recognize the legacy of the Night 3 10-man tag by the infamous slow motion sequences of years prior. And no matter what the guys decide to do, the fans are in for the ride.
Just like all the years prior, this was a ton of fun, and incredibly entertaining. You had everything from wild one-on-one sequences between wrestlers you would never see in any other promotion, to Barry pulling out his “gun” and scaring everyone into submission except for Thatcher, to Brooks stealing the gun and shooting PCO, to PCO doing a huge moonsault to everybody on the outside of the ring, and all kinds of madness in and around.
Team PCO got the victory when PCO went up and landed a swanton bomb on Thatcher while Barry had him wrapped up in a sleeper.
Fun is what this match is supposed to be all about, and fun is what it was to a tee. The perfect kind of light-hearted action to settle the crowd in for the finals of the weekend ****1/4
BOLA 2018 Final: Jeff Cobb vs. Bandido vs. Shingo Takagi
The whole weekend came down to this. A three-way elimination match to crown the winner of the 2018 Battle of Los Angeles.
In years past, by this point the competitors are nearly spent. The exhaustion of the weekend is undeniable and the finals resemble more of a battle of attrition than the barnburner matches which preceded it.
And to start off, this one seemed to be following suit. Cobb was the primary target to take out, but Takagi kept turning on Bandido every chance he got. That’s how the match went until Bandido was able to eliminate Takagi himself after landing the top-rope somersault fall-away slam.
Once it came down to Bandido and Cobb, the action from that point forward was absolutely sublime. The match became something far more than anyone could have possibly expected. A true epic in every sense of the word.
Undoubtedly, the crowd was firmly behind Bandido. The chants were enormous. But by no means did that mean they were against Cobb. Bandido simply fills that perfect babyface role that’s so infectious, you cannot help but get behind him.
The near-falls in this match — absolute insanity as they traded their biggest moves against one another. The crowd was completely unhinged and emotion was packed so densely in the air, there was nothing else to breathe.
Finally, Cobb landed his Tour of the Islands from the top rope, capitalized by another in the center of the ring, and got the pin.
As a testament to the amount of pure emotion in the match, the building erupted despite the fact the massive fan-favorite lost. The release of emotion was undeniable after what everyone had just witnessed.
Rick Knox brought the trophy in and presented it to Cobb, who sat with it for several minutes. Meanwhile a man entered the ring who picked up Bandido to console him. Cobb’s emotions ran wild as he was visibly tearing up whilst soaking in the win as he stared down the trophy in the middle of the ring.
Cobb, never known to be a man of many words, said his piece at the end expressing his thoughts on the win, in how happy and thankful he was. Just before leaving the ring, making sure to aim his thoughts directly at the PWG Champion, WALTER.
Bandido was left, who cut a promo of his own, apologizing for his proficiency in English. He made everyone aware the man who entered the ring was his father, and talked about his journey to where he was that day — a babyface promo in the purest sense of the concept.
A beautiful ending to one of the most incredible weekends of pro wrestling anyone in attendance had ever witnessed. And perhaps, somehow, BOLA 2019 might be able to overshadow it, but for the time being, BOLA 2018 has to stand as the pinnacle and pro wrestling at one of its finest hours in the modern era *****