REVIEW: PWG ‘Hand Of Doom’ (18/1/19)

Added by Daniel DeMarco

It had been common knowledge for some time, but PWG veteran Trevor Lee made it official mid-January he was heading to WWE. So PWG’s first event of 2019, Hand of Doom, would also be Lee’s farewell show.

A big deal given Lee’s tenure in PWG. Who stood as not just the most consistent heel of the promotion for several years now, but also one of its most consistent and reliable talents in general. Over the years, Lee was on far more cards than not. And when talent got injured, more than once or twice Lee answered the call to replace them.

The previous two years had already been an escalating time of the big wrestling promotions signing talent more often than prior, but 2019 has seen it taken to the next level. With the introduction of All Elite Wrestling, the business is entering an atypically exciting time as well as a strange one.

AEW has the financial backing to seemingly take on all established promotions, including WWE, which has already been flaunted with its initial talent signings. Sending a reverberation across the business where now WWE is trying to swipe up as much talent as it can while also expanding globally (i.e. NXT UK), forcing ROH and NJPW to follow suit.

The independent scene is in a state of hyper-turnover like it has not seen perhaps ever as talent leave each month, leaving empty spaces to be filled. Depending on how PWG handle the changing business landscape, 2019 could either be a wildly exciting year, or a step down from previous.

Hand of Doom, though, gave it an optimistic start.

Brody King vs. Jungle Boy

A match like this can always set a great tone for the night when executed well. The classic big man vs. little man matchup.

Both men are Californian indy talent, with King predominantly in the southern region, and Jungle Boy from the northern area. But surprisingly, Jungle Boy got the majority of the backing from fans as he was welcomed with big reception — perhaps because it was his debut.

More so than anyone on the show, Jungle Boy is the premiere example of how the landscape is changing. Without all the mass signings occurring, we likely would not have seen Jungle Boy debut in PWG for at least another year, maybe even two. Because as talented as he already is, there is no denying he is still quite green and needs more time to really tighten up his game.

So aside from some of the botches and clunky spots in the match likely a result of that, the match was well done all around. King no-selling Jungle Boy’s offense any time he tried to fight on equal terms, with Jungle Boy only able to make an impact once he started utilizing his high-flying abilities.

Jungle Boy took a beating here. The chops King landed were his most devastating ever in PWG. In fact, King landed one chop ringside that was perhaps the loudest your author had ever heard in person, if only second behind the chop Walter landed on Sammy Guevara after his match at All Star Weekend 14.

The match was a great back and forth affair, but King was always able to stifle Jungle Boy’s offense eventually. King got the pinfall victory following several sitdown piledrivers. Jungle Boy received big “please come back” chants.

***1/2

Puma King vs. DJZ

The style matchup here played out exactly as you would expect. The blending of a more traditional luchador high-flying and mat-work style with the more North American flying style was near seamless.

While your author is not particularly high on DJZ, he certainly has a prominent fan base. The fans were nearly 50-50 on this match which played into how the match was structured, as both men were constantly working to get the upper hand.

If you know both men, you know exactly what you were getting here. Which is not a bad thing, because both men do what they do very well. A great second match of the night that was entirely different than the previous.

At one point, your author and his friends were nearly wiped out by a dive uncharacteristically set up with almost no time to disperse. It will most likely be hilarious viewing once the show comes out.

Surprisingly, Puma King got the victory via submission in the end, catching most everyone off guard.

***1/2

LAX vs. Rey Horus & Laredo Kid

When a PWG card features two tag team matches, it always makes the card feel a bit more valuable.

Laredo Kid was replacing Flamita here, making for an unexpected third debut on the show. Either way, you know any time you have a luchador team, it is going to be a wild match. And LAX are just a ton of fun every time they perform. The result of their clash being exactly that: wild and fun.

Bell to bell, the action never stopped. These guys worked hard, despite some clunkiness in the match at several points where there was either miscommunication, mistiming, or someone just forgetting a spot.

LAX in particular are a hell of a team. Not in the sense that their work is seamless, but that they have their own style to them. You can’t watch another match between two teams and get the same dynamic. Because LAX is not like anyone else — they put their signature stamp on any match they wrestle.

By the end, everyone was doing dives leading to the climax of the match where LAX got the pinfall victory. Laredo Kid got some chants of “please come back,” but not unanimous by any means. His work did not particularly stand out, whether that was because of how much was going on in the match, or actually an indication of him.

***3/4

Robbie Eagles vs. Jonathan Gresham

Gresham was the last debut on the show. A debut many fans had been anticipating for some time with his work in ROH and the independent scene in general. With Zack Sabre Jr. now a once or twice a year appearance at PWG, the promotion could use a consistent talent with that quality grapple-heavy style. This match here was a good reminder of it.

On paper, this was the high-flyer vs. grappler match. However, the large majority of the match Eagles grappled with Gresham. The story of the match being Eagles showing he had grappling skills too, but at some point in each extended exchange, Gresham would eventually know more tricks than Eagles and end up gaining momentum.

Eagles would get back momentum by briefly using his aerial attack where he’s strongest, but would want to show his skill in grappling too. And the cycle continued.

Throughout the match, Gresham was working Eagles’ arm, and eventually Eagles hurt Gresham’s leg, making it a battle of who could take advantage of their damaged opponent first. Gresham’s selling of the leg was particularly impressive, at several key spots in the match highlighting his handicap and how it either missed him a spot, or undermined it.

By the end, they were almost exclusively attacking the compromised limbs, but it was Eagles who got the victory via a modified figure-four lock on Gresham’s leg.

Kind of a strange finish to have the grappler tap out to the guy who is more known for his flying. Unless the idea is for Eagles to start changing his style some and get a push, and Gresham is not a part of big plans coming up.

Nonetheless, a high quality match that never lost the crowd, even with the grapple-heavy style of it. Gresham got perhaps an even bigger “please come back” chant than Jungle Boy earlier in the night.

****

The Rascalz vs. Best Friends — PWG Tag Team Championship Match

The Rascalz, part of PWG’s new era this last year, found themselves defending their titles against another one of the classic PWG teams as Chuck Taylor and Trent? made their long-awaited (by some) return.

Just as you would expect from a Best Friends match, the mixture of comedy and serious drama was present. Early on as the Rascalz had their way, Taylor reminded Trent? he’s a heavyweight now and to start acting like it (a ploy on how Trent Beretta was moved from the junior heavyweight division to the heavyweight division in NJPW last year). This led to an extended sequence where the Rascalz could no longer knock Trent? over, even while teaming. But once Taylor got back in, the Rascalz started having their way again, with Trent? becoming frustrated with Taylor because he wasn’t acting like a heavyweight.

Usually Rascalz matches are on fire from the opening bell, but here the match was a slowburner. As they got away from the comedy, the match progressively picked up pace and by the end it felt like a proper Rascalz match, dives and all.

Rascalz retained the championship with their signature assisted moonsault finisher.

****

Bandido vs. ACH

ACH replaced an injured Flip Gordan about a week out from the show, and if you asked most fans, the resulting matchup was a substantially large improvement.

Not only that, but fans were just happy to see ACH back anyway, as he had not performed at PWG since December 2016.

But regardless of opponent, Bandido was the real star here. As excited as fans were to have ACH back, you better believe Bandido got the biggest ovation of the night during his entrance.

And would you believe it? Another fantastic Bandido match. It is almost like he is wildly over for a reason.

The freak athletic abilities of ACH provided a great opponent in this match as everyone expected. Though, it was not just a straight up athletic contest, as ACH decided to play heel. A choice that may have been a detriment to the match in terms of pure quality, even if it provided a bit more story depth.

Because as a match in a vacuum, the match did not seem to quite reach the heights of other Bandido matches the last year, despite still being great. The added element of character play is likely the reason for that, and perhaps that made it more enjoyable for other fans who prefer such things.

Nonetheless, this was still the best or second best match of the night, with Bandido getting the pinfall following his springboard German suplex.

Rumors going around are ACH too is soon headed to WWE. So if that is the case, it’s a shame the info is not fully confirmed as there was no farewell for him if this was indeed his final PWG show.

****1/4

Jeff Cobb vs. Trevor Lee — PWG Championship Match

You will recall Lee was the heavy fan favorite to win the 2018 Battle of Los Angeles. A fact that led to the most shocking moment of the weekend as Cobb defeated Lee in 14 seconds in the semi finals.

Then, long previously, and ever since, Lee has been claiming he would get a title shot and finally become PWG Champion. And in a rematch of that fateful night, he got his long-awaited opportunity.

No proper Lee match begins without a promo by the man, but before Lee even had more than 10 seconds to talk, Cobb went after him and before we knew it Lee had Cobb in a small package for the two-count, nearly avenging his loss in similar fashion.

Playing off the last match was a cool thing to do, but with hindsight it would have been a good idea to let Lee do a full promo. He is such a good talker and so good at being a heel, every time he does a long promo before a match, it fully enhances it. Especially it being Lee’s last PWG show, it was a shame not to get one last heel promo.

The match went 27 minutes, but the first ~17 minutes dragged a bit. That being said, the match seemed to tell an interesting story. As Lee worked far less as a heel after the first several minutes, not resorting to much of his dirty tactics as he normally would throughout. There was almost a sense Lee wanted to get this victory and do so with integrity.

Eventually, Lee went for his trademark punt kick on the apron, but Cobb ducked it and Justin, the referee, happened to be there to take the full force of it himself. From here, the match quickly grew intensity and excitement until the very end as fans started to get truly invested into the match.

Lee was left gob smacked at what to do with the ref down, allowing Cobb the chance to take control, landing his Tour of the Islands and going for the pin.

Except there was no ref. Over ten seconds went by before a replacement ref, Nick, came out to count, but by then Lee was able to kick out. Not long after, Lee suddenly shifted to his old self. He took out the new ref, and immediately following up with a huge low blow to Cobb.

The momentum he gained was short-lived, however, and Cobb landed another Tour of the Islands, but Lee kicked out at one. The crowd went berserk and Lee fired up to make a comeback. But Cobb proved too strong a about a minute later landed a third Tour of the Islands for the victory.

Lee’s PWG career may have been defined as one of its purest heels who the fans greatly hated, but at heart Lee was one of the most beloved. Mere seconds went by after the three-count before the building started chanting, “Thank you, Trevor!” Cobb’s celebration was brief, leaving the floor to Lee who was already teary-eyed before he got a microphone.

Just as Lee is such a pro conducting a heel promo, Lee is just as good at talking from the heart. Putting over PWG and its fans for everything they had provided for him and his career. Saying how maybe he had never won BOLA nor the PWG Championship, but the PWG fans made it possible for him to get hired by WWE. And brilliantly capping off his promo by saying he will likely end up getting fired from WWE anyway so he can come back to claim the PWG Championship after.

Any longtime PWG fan can surely say WWE would be foolish to fire Lee, and to not utilize him to his full capability. Because wrestlers like Lee actively make a positive impact on a promotion when allowed to, and leave a prominent void once they are gone.

****1/4