PWG Two Hundred (1/3/19) Review

Added by Daniel DeMarco

It started off as merely an experiment, Excalibur said during his opening monologue. A group of southern California wrestlers decided to scrounge up some money to put on a small indie show in 2003. They called it Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

Nearly 16 years later, PWG hosted its 200th show, Two Hundred, leaving a trail of shows along the way that helped make the promotion one of the best and most influential indie promotions in the world.

Anticipation for this landmark event had been building for some time. Would PWG hold another final show in Reseda? Would we see legendary performers from PWG’s past wrestle or make appearances? Would PWG do anything extra to commemorate the anniversary?

In short: No. But perhaps we should have expected that. PWG has never been a promotion that looks back. It rolls with the times and continues wading forward, always looking to the future. So PWG, as it always does, held a tried-and-true PWG show. And it should not have been any other way.

Interestingly, recent times have begun marking a line in the sand between PWG fans. Two Hundred, with all the anticipation behind it, bringing that to the forefront. For as PWG advances in the wildly changing landscape of the indie scene, you have fans who too advance forward, looking at the bright talent of today and tomorrow. And you have fans who want the marquee names of yesteryear, and perceive PWG on the downslide.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, if Two Hundred was an example of PWG’s decline in recent years, we could only be so lucky to witness an incline again. Because for those in attendance, it was widely regarded as one of the best stand-alone shows in the promotion’s history.

Jungle Boy vs. Jake Atlas vs. Trey Miguel

Considering the anniversary this show represented, this match was almost poetic. Three young wrestlers, looking to make their name on the indie scene as a whole, opening up this grand show encapsulated PWG’s forward mindset. Not only looking for the young talent of tomorrow, but giving them a platform to get their names out there like few other promotions can provide.

Were there some botches? Yeah. These guys are still young and fairly green, and such is to be expected. But they were the botches of overachievers. Performers striving to be more, rather than resting where they stand and playing safe.

Because aside from those, these three blew it away. They had the usual rabid PWG fanbase anticipating an exhilarating night, and they kicked it off exactly right with this all-action three-way.

As was expected, Jungle Boy was the most over guy in the match. However, having been one of the signees of AEW, it’s uncertain whether Jungle Boy will perform at PWG again. And if this was his last show, it was a talent gone too fast, but one we were lucky to have gotten a taste of at all. Because he has the potential to be a marquee name in the next five years or so.

Rightfully so, Jungle Boy got the pinfall after landing a crucifix driver on Miguel.

***1/2

Puma King vs. Laredo Kid

It gets said every time. You get two luchadors facing each other in the PWG ring, and you know exactly what you’re getting.

In no way is that a bad thing. Because every time it delivers a fast-paced, thrilling match, often with a wide assortment of dives that send fans of the first four-five rows fleeing for their safety.

Puma continues to remind fans why they love him and make fans out of newcomers with his great charisma and dedication to character. If there is any knock on Laredo Kid, it’s his lack of charisma to set him apart from your standard luchador.

Arguably the stand-out spot of the match was a ridiculous swanton bomb from Laredo Kid off the top turnbuckle to Puma King on the outside. The height Laredo Kid got was stunning and terrifying at the same time — as if he had launched off a trampoline.

Puma King got the win in the end, applying a stretch muffler that had Laredo Kid fully wrapped up almost like a strange octopus stretch variation simultaneously.

Now, given the match variety on the show, many fans have differing opinions depending on what they like. But for your author, this was the “low” point of the show. In the sense that in a class of A and B students, the kid with an 85 percent average could be the lowest in the class.

In fact, the “worst” match of the show still had money thrown in the ring afterward.

Yes, that is the kind of show this was.

***1/2

Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent?) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)

This was one of the two more divisive matches of the night. Anytime you get the Best Friends, you’re going to have fans who eat it up and others who don’t care for the style.

In this case, you’re dealing with someone who loves the Best Friends. And here they were taking on a highly anticipated tag team debut in Aussie Open.

We got the usual hilarious comedy work of the Best Friends for the opening portion of the match. But with a perfect, growing rhythm, the match become more and more serious and competitive. By the last five minutes, this was an all-out fight.

At one point, Davis throws Taylor about four rows deep into unsuspecting fans, surely wiping out a small handful of people. A reminder at all PWG shows to be constantly paying attention and aware that at any moment you may need to run.

This match turned into far more than I would have expected and by the end was a great match. Rather than relying on humor the whole way, or being a complete spotfest, the match actually utilized much psychology as it went along. Aussie Open being the big, young tough guys who were able to manhandle once they had control, and Best Friends as the veteran team with more experience and tricks to work in their favor. Which eventually led to Trent? getting the pinfall victory over Davis.

****

Brody King vs. Darby Allin

You talk about putting two guys in roles they excel at. Especially Allin, who is excellent as the smaller, battling underdog. From his great facial reactions and never-say-die attitude, to his move set that is half surgical and half death-defying — exactly what you need to take down a monster.

Brody took probably 80 percent of the match, just beating on Allin all over the ring and outside it as well. Allin is one of those guys who is seemingly so good at his job, it is often hard to tell the line between selling and actual pain. He is reminiscent to someone like Tomohiro Ishii in that sense. Whether it’s real or part of the script, it all comes off as the prior.

Allin also landed a coffin dive from the balcony — most fans expected him or Joey Janela to be the first ones to jump off the balcony in the Globe Theater originally, though we know by now Sammy Guevara took that honors.

As if the match were not already crazy, though, Allin brings out a skateboard from under the ring to use. With which he climbs to the top rope and leaps onto Brody’s back, as he’s standing, with the skateboard. Allin’s offense was short-lived, though, as Brody quickly regained control and powerbombed Allin onto the skateboard on the mat. I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse that the board did not break from the impact. But it was immediately followed with Brody landing a huge sitdown piledriver for the pinfall.

A lot fans considered this match of the night.

****1/4

Jonathan Gresham vs. David Starr

This was beautiful stuff, folks. The last time PWG saw an old school technical wrestling match like this was probably Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Marty Scurll at Mystery Vortex IV. I don’t know if Starr and Gresham have some sort of rivalry or relationship that stems way back, but they sure worked like it.

These two had the other divisive match of the night, as comes with the territory of the style. On a whole, the crowd was largely into the match nonetheless, but there were sections of fans who were head-over-heels for the seamless mat work.

Starr is one of those guys who has a great reputation everywhere else he works, but has had quite the time getting the PWG fans behind him. Had this version of Starr been showing up the whole time, though, there never would have been an issue. Starr was all business here, and none of the cheap heel nonsense we’ve seen prior that clunks up matches and stalls action.

The match did not stay pretty, however. Because this one turned into a fight by the end as well. But it was Gresham who came out victorious after locking Starr in the Octopus Stretch for the submission.

Again, this was a divisive match, but such in the way that fans either weren’t high on it much at all, or as a large portion of fans had it — their match of the night.

****1/2

The Rascalz (Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz) vs. Lucha Bros (Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix) vs. LAX (Ortiz & Santana) — PWG Tag Team Championship Match

The moment this match was announced, everyone knew what was coming. Balls to the wall action from bell to bell. And boy did these guys not disappoint.

Take the template of the opening match, double the amount of guys in the ring, raise the bar on the athleticism, and quadruple the amount of skill and finesse, and you basically have this match. A complete sprint, spotfest match that hardly left time to breathe.

So much happened in such a short amount of time, it would be futile to even try explaining. But it was spectacular to watch unfold.

The match was not untainted, though. After 10 minutes of breath-taking action, the Rascalz got the pinfall with their signature assisted standing moonsault. Except the finish came unexpected and abruptly, and every sign seemed to indicate it was a “bad” finish.

General consensus by now is that was the planned finish, and it was supposed to look bad, which made the events after the match make sense as the Lucha Bros left quickly in anger at the pinfall, and LAX attacked the Rascalz afterwards feeling they had been robbed.

In theory, the finish was a nice way to start a solid feud going forward. But in reality, the finish fell incredibly flat with the fans. In a sense, the fans felt robbed of the incredible match they were watching just to have it end in that way. It’s a finish that probably would have worked in most other promotions, and certainly with matches that were not so blow-away that the fans had no desire to see them end any time soon. But at PWG it left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths.

Admittedly, wrestling is not all about star ratings, but what was on its way to that five-star territory was marred by a quick, “bullshit” finish.

****1/4

Jeff Cobb vs. Bandido — PWG Championship Match

The hype for this match was big. To say Cobb and Bandido tore the house down in the BOLA 2018 finals would be an understatement. Anybody who was in the room that night will never forget the electricity that filled it.

Cobb went on to win the title after he earned a shot with the BOLA victory, and here Bandido had earned his shot the old fashion way by stacking up victories.

Most fans were inclined to compare this match directly to BOLA, and those fans largely came out somewhat disappointed. Did this match reach the same heights as its predecessor? No.

But perhaps it was not supposed to. Because what ultimately ended up happening was Cobb and Bandido had a great match that would have been unanimously lauded if not for their previous encounter. A proper championship match that ended when Cobb hit his Tour of the Islands for the pinfall.

Your author could be wrong, but the structure of the match as well as the post-match communication between the two men seemed to indicate this was merely Chapter 2 of an ongoing story. Cobb and Bandido could very well be PWG’s spotlight rivalry for the coming year or two. And if that is indeed the case, it would have been foolish to utilize everything they had for this match.

So, instead, it is better to look at this match on its own grounds, and know it is most likely not the final time these two will face off.

****1/2

Credit to @RobBishopSD for the picture