Another stacked PWG event — and lo and behold, another show which will not soon be forgotten. Likely one match in particular.
It is a testament to PWG that only a month after Battle of Los Angeles, not only was another event booked, but an event as stacked as this one. It is also true to say aside from regular PWG fans, “Smokey and the Bandido” did not exactly attract a ton of attention or hype in the way PWG has been known for in recent years.
The likely reason for this being the card’s lack of “name value.” A term deliberately used in quotations. For it appears the indy wrestling community has become divided the last couple years.
As more talent gets signed to WWE/NXT each year, you have one section of fans who think the indy scene is being ransacked and now lacks big names and top performers. Whereas the other group recognizes the mass signings, but sees plenty of star power not only still around, but up-and-coming wrestlers filling those voids aptly.
Depending on who you talked to, “Smokey and the Bandido” was either a card you could skip without much regret or a must-see show. Perhaps unfair to say, but a clear divide in fans keeping up with the times and fans stuck in a mindset several years old is becoming more apparent with each passing month.
Trevor Lee vs. Darby Allin
You could see the booking of this match coming from a mile away, and in no way is that a knock. Because these two pulled it off splendidly and accomplished exactly what it was meant to.
First and foremost, Lee is the best talker in PWG and it’s not even close. In recent years, nearly every match starts off with Lee interrupting the announcer and beginning a promo that lasts anywhere from 20 seconds to five or six minutes. And he just keeps getting better at it — painting himself as a heel to anyone who may not be aware, verbally clobbering his opponent, and making brash statements about his status in PWG — sometimes exaggerated, and sometimes undeniably true.
Lee’s shtick is he constantly underestimates his opponent, especially the smaller ones, who proceed to beat him down for a few minutes until he gains control back. Once the tide shifted, Lee bullied Allin at will. The usual taking advantage of cheap tactics.
Allin is at his best in the underdog babyface role, fighting for survival and hitting sudden, big hope spots. His high spots accentuate this given how dangerous they often are, leaving viewers feeling equally excited and fearful. Such as one particular massive coffin drop Allin landed from the top rope to the outside on Lee.
Lee eventually wrapped Allin’s hands behind his back in duck tape. Leaving him defenseless to Lee’s offense. But Allin being Allin, he found a way and began a sudden momentum shift. Hands still wrapped up and viciously assaulting Lee, Lee managed to swing the momentum back just as quickly with a huge double stomp to gain the pinfall.
Puma King vs. Flamita vs. Rey Horus
If you know these three guys, you can pretty well picture exactly how this match played out. If you don’t know these three guys, all you have to know is they are three excellent luchadors, and then you can pretty well picture how this played out.
The fast paced technical counter-work was all there. The high-flying was aplenty. And the action only ceased in those epic moments where all three men were attacking each other with such equal ability they all eventually go down after a whirlwind of offense.
As anyone who went to BOLA this year would expect, Puma King was over. Of course all three men got love from the crowd, but Puma King was undoubtedly the favorite of the match. His charisma and dedication to the character are something that make him stand out from most people he will be in the ring with on any given night, plus he has the moves to boot
Not much story or psychology to speak of. This was a match celebrating the style of lucha libre as we know it today and showcasing it in undeniably exciting fashion. Successfully, too, as fans rained down cash into the ring afterwards.
When all was said and done, it was Horus who fell victim to Puma King’s signature powerbomb. Those who know it can visualize it, and to those who don’t, it is best to watch it rather than read an attempt to describe the stunning setup. On top of that, it was landed from the second turnbuckle.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hechicero
It is not too often we get to see Sabre Jr. stateside these days. So it feels like a particularly special treat when PWG announces a match of his, when once upon a time he was on nearly every show.
With no official source to speak of, a claim your author was told was Sabre Jr. was allowed to choose his opponent for this occasion. Allegedly, PWG gave him an open contract, and Sabre Jr. handpicked Hechicero.
Most fans had little to no clue who Hechicero was, and those in the know were vocal of their intrigue in this matchup.
If Sabre Jr. is smooth, graceful mat-wrestling, then Hechicero is rugged, powerful mat-wrestling. Hechicero is somewhat similar to Timothy Thatcher in that regard, but still maintains the intricate, stylistic chain wrestling ability we see from Sabre Jr.
The match was slow-paced and methodical. It was apparent a sizeable portion of the crowd was not as enamored with this style of match compared the two prior. And perhaps the two men could have pulled more people into it if they made it a “high-spots” mat-wrestling match. But the two went for a more traditionally storied and structured match instead — which is not a complaint.
Sabre Jr. maintained his heel role he has worked the last two years, but the fans loved him anyway. Hechicero held the role of the physically stronger babyface who refused to take any of Sabre Jr’s crap in his cheap tactics and constant taunting.
It’s a match that wasn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy a more traditional mat-wrestling style will get a kick out of this.
Sabre Jr. won in the end with a bridging cradle pin. Hechicero received the famous PWG “please come back” chant, which speaks for itself.
Bandido vs. Fenix
Oh mercy me. No matter how ready the crowd was for this match, it was still impossible to be ready.
PWG fans in the weeks leading up to, and all day waiting for the show to start — this was the match people were talking about. Everyone was anticipating this match. To such a degree, it actually cast a shadow over the rest of the matches. Doing so on a card with plenty of fantastic matchups to look forward to.
Fans perceived this as a dream match. Bandido and Fenix are arguably the two best luchadors in the world, and among the best wrestlers overall. And thankfully, the match was treated as such too.
This was not your classic luchador vs. luchador match. These two worked this like a proper epic — reminiscent to what you would see in a New Japan main event. The match was built over time and was broken up into acts as the story progressed. It was not a sprint, but a marathon.
Midway through the match is when it started to hit those peaks as the two men engaged in a wild duel of chops and slaps that got a standing ovation from the crowd. From that point, the excitement and action almost never ceased.
The last couple minutes were insanity, just as you would expect. And after Bandido landed a signature move of his off the top rope, impossible to describe, (those who saw his PWG match with Robbie Eagles recall the top-rope finisher he used then) he did a crazy deadlift of a downed Fenix into a huge package piledriver to gain the pinfall victory.
Expectations were sky-high, and the match delivered in full. After the match, the two men embraced and shared a moment of mutual celebration as the crowd liberally threw cash and praise. Before leaving, Fenix walked to Bandido and told him, “you are the fucking future.”
Timothy Thatcher vs. Brody King
If nothing else, these are two imposing, mean men you would never want to mess with. Thatcher, the violent technician, going against Brody, the agile, heavyweight brawler.
That said, it was still somewhat of an odd style matchup. Thatcher in particular can be tough to match up with, given his unique, throwback style. Not everyone can flourish in a Thatcher match, and given Brody’s relative inexperience compared to most who work PWG, the odds were stacked against them.
That said, the match was still an enjoyable one, with nothing to actually complain about. What it suffered from was the phenomenon in PWG where good matches are not the average anymore, because the bar is raised so high in the promotion.
Thatcher and Brody had a good match that blended both their natural styles. It took a while for the crowd to get fully invested in the match, but late in the match another wrestling phenomenon occurred which helped things despite it accidental nature.
After an intense back-and-forth, Brody capped off a sequence with a big lariat. Except on or both were out of position, so instead of Brody’s arm clubbing against Thatcher’s chest, it swung against his face. It was not long before everyone noticed Thatcher was bleeding like a leaky faucet out of his nose onto himself and Brody.
Naturally, the crowd unanimously became more invested at this point. One might refer to this occurrence as “fortunate juice.”
It was not long after, though, that Thatcher trapped Brody in a Fujiwara armbar to get the submission victory.
Thatcher, being the savage he is, celebrated by wiping the blood that covered his nose and mouth and smearing it across his chest. A sight that anymore keeping up with PWG has surely seen by now on social media.
The Rascalz vs. LAX — PWG Tag Team Championship Match
If The Rascalz winning the PWG Tag Team titles marked a new era of the division, then this matchup cemented it.
With the tag team division struggling the last several years, it finally seems to have some stability again. Primarily thanks to The Rascalz, but also to a new array of tag teams entering the picture for fresh matchups — the debut of LAX here being a prime example.
The modern incarnation of LAX were a highly anticipated addition to the roster given the work they have been doing the last year or so. Nobody batted an eye at the fact they were getting a title match in their debut, which speaks for their reputation and standing in the scene.
LAX are hilarious live. The little things they do, whether verbally or physically, make a match that much more enjoyable. The kind of details that likely don’t come through on the screen, as they are little comments here or gestures there.
The two teams matched up great together, and the match was nothing but fun and exciting from beginning to end. Their styles meshed without a hitch. Both teams went tit-for-tat across the whole stretch.
This was not a match of babyfaces and heels, but two competitive teams vying for victory.
The match may have gone home earlier than anticipated, as Santana hurt his knee late in the match, but the ending certainly did not feel rushed in that case. The Rascalz got the pinfall after a combo of Wentz landing a senton bomb from the top rope and Xavier following up with a corkscrew senton from the opposite corner.
WALTER vs. Jeff Cobb — PWG Championship Match
Two storylines were brought into this match. Cobb being the dark horse winner of BOLA 2018. And the uncertainty of WALTER’s future.
Everyone was certain Matt Riddle would be the 2018 BOLA winner, until he suddenly signed with WWE/NXT about a month out from the tournament. Then his replacement, Trevor Lee, was pegged as the certain winner after years of fans thinking his big main event push was imminent. The two main alternatives were Bandido and WALTER himself. But almost nobody expected Cobb to win the whole thing.
For Cobb’s PWG career was almost marked by Riddle’s presence. Just as Cobb was gaining big momentum, the tease of the Riddle-Cobb match was big in the scene, which is when PWG pulled the unexpected trigger of the two becoming a tag team.
They performed both as singles and as a tag, but even despite Cobb eliminating Riddle from BOLA 2017, Cobb still stood in Riddle’s shadow. But once Riddle left the indy scene, Cobb was suddenly free — something no one realized at the time.
And then there is WALTER. In an age where few wrestlers seem adamantly dedicated to doing things their own way, WALTER was on that list for some time. But recent rumors indicate he might very well be on his way to WWE/NXT as well.
This match seemed to be the deciding factor of that question.
You get two powerhouses in the ring like these two and it is not hard to imagine the kind of match they will have. Instead of going for the back-and-forth slugfest, though, the match played out as a dominant performance by WALTER. With Cobb, the match was built around his hope spots.
Multiple times over the course of the match, Cobb would get WALTER in the Tour of the Islands, but WALTER would manage to escape to gain control again. On maybe the fourth or fifth attempt, Cobb finally lands it, but is too beat-up to get the instant cover. So once he finally crawls over for the pin, WALTER kicks out.
And it is from that point on the two start going back-and-forth. But it is not long after in a seemingly meaningless ground scramble, Cobb locks WALTER in a three-quarter nelson pin to score the pinfall (likely an homage to his amateur wrestling career that proceeded his professional wrestling career). Nobody was expecting it, and the building went crazy for the title change.
Cobb, citing his post-BOLA speech, says he will keep it short and sweet this time, simply exclaims, “thank you!” before exiting the ring.