Sunday, October 23, 2016

PWG Battle of Los Angels 2016 Stage Three Review

PWG Battle of Los Angeles Stage Three
September 4th, 2016 | Reseda, California

After a solid night one and a great second night, we’ve reached the final stage of the Battle of Los Angeles. I wasn’t a big fan of this layout for night three last year, so I’m hoping for something more fun this time around. The tournament matches sound interesting, the Young Bucks are facing a team that I actually really like and there’s a big ass wacky sounding tag match.

Trevor Lee def. Dalton Castle w/ The Boys in 13:37

Lee was still in “use TNA to get heat” mode. It feels a bit lazy to me but at least it does work in Reseda. Castle is a good choice for a guy to open shows since he’s always really fun. After Lee stole a Castle taunt, he turned his back and got leveled. Chuck Taylor recited the lyrics to the Wolfpack theme in another commentary highlight from him. They had some really good back and forth, with Castle starring as he showed off his really deceptive strength. Just as he seemed to be on the verge on a win, Lee busted out the most TNA possible move, a Canadian Destroyer, to advance. Good fun from the opening contest without overdoing it. I think the right guy went over, while Castle got to strut his stuff. ***

Ricochet def. John Hennigan in 11:51

Hennigan beat Sydal in a lackluster match on night one, while Ricochet bested Jeff Cobb. This is another Lucha Underground match as these two play Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo. They set a high bar in LU with their match on the show’s debut episode and again with an “All Night Long” match a few months later. Lots of fancy flips and acrobats to start. They know each other well and it showed with lots of fast paced counters. Hennigan looked way more motivated than he did in the first round. Ricochet avoided Starship Pain, leading to a battle of strikes. Hennigan tried to steal it with a “dong kick” and Moonlight Drive, but Ricochet kicked out. A third failed Starship Pain led to an awkward spot off of a missed Benadryller. Ricochet hit the 630 for the win. These two seem incapable of having bad matches together, though this was probably my least favorite. It had good action but I thought some of the final stuff looks too choreographed. Hennigan going to the well one too many times and it costing him was a good idea. ***¼

Marty Scurll def. Cody Rhodes w/ Brandi Rhodes in 11:39

Brandi was back with another special intro for her husband. Marty was in full villain mode, attacking Cody and then getting in Brandi’s face. I love how much of a handle Scurll has on his character. Scurll went for shattered dreams, complete with Goldust taunt, leading to a “she wants kids” chant directed towards Brandi. Scurll even stole a kiss from Brandi. His reaction after was priceless. Eden responded with a slap and Cody nailed a gorgeous moonsault. Cody got two on Cross Rhodes before blocking the crossface chicken wing. Unfortunately, there was a ref bump and a low blow by Marty to steal it. Like his match with Sabre in Evolve, Cody let the other guy shine. This was the Scurll show featuring Cody Rhodes. They worked a match that fit Scurll’s character and it worked. The finish was weak though. ***¼

The crowd chanted for Cody Rhodes to come back and he promised that he would.

Mark Andrews def. Chris Hero in 6:30

I came in expected Hero to murder Andrews. He obliged with a running kick, powerbomb and elbow in the first few seconds. Hero continued to kill Andrews with the smaller guy showing his resiliency. After kicking out of three tombstones a night before (too many), he also kicked out of Hero’s sick arm capture piledriver. Andrews got in a flurry of shots but it didn’t matter. In an upset, Andrews rolled up Hero and advanced. This was really well done. The story of Andrews being resilient and fighting from behind was much better told here than it was against Dunne. Hero is a beast, Andrews is tiny and they ran with it without overdoing anything. I probably liked this more than most. ***½

After the match, Hero knocked out Andrews with an elbow. He then completely took out Andrews with an avalanche piledriver.

Mark Haskins def. Kyle O’Reilly in 15:09

Both men took things to the mat early. Excalibur pointed out that O’Reilly has put on muscle to move up to heavyweight status in NJPW recently and that could affect his stamina. Once done with the mat stuff, they moved more into strikes, where I felt that they were again about even. The match moved along at a very methodical pace. It was a big change from the rest of the card so far. Kyle did the triangle choke, Mark did a stretch muffler and neither gave up. Haskins continued his string of upsets with another interesting sharpshooter. I wanted more from this. I appreciated that they went a different route from the rest of the card but it just came off as dull at points. **¾

Will Ospreay def. PWG Champion Zack Sabre Jr. in 10:56

These two had a killer match at Evolve 58 back in April. It may end up in my top ten matches of the year. Right from the opening bell, this was straight action. Ospreay nailed a dive outside and a red arrow for two but continued the assault with a kick and a second dive outside. Sabre avoided a 450 and got serious, twisting Will’s neck and even kicking the rope into it. That allowed Sabre to slow things to a pace that he’s more comfortable with. Sabre spent time folding and bending Ospreay in uncomfortable ways. We got some great exchanges down the stretch like Sabre catching a standing SSP into a submission and Ospreay finding new ways to break free of those submissions. Ospreay went nuts with aerial attacks until Sabre caught a middle rope Phoenix splash into a triangle choke! Sabre went for one of his tight pinning combinations but Ospreay bested him with one of his own and advanced. The best tournament match so far. Ospreay had a game plan to come out hot and Sabre did what he does best to make it his style of match. Ospreay had to dig deep to counter and survive Sabre’s best submissions before winning. These two just mesh so well together. Not quite on the level of their Evolve match but still great. ****

PWG Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) def. Fenix and Pentagon Jr. in 14:34

The pop the crowd gave when they heard this was for the titles was great. However, the PWG tag division is pretty much just the Young Bucks going over random teams from around the world (Ricochet & Sydal, Gargano & Ciampa, reDRagon, etc.) It’s hard to measure how much more like the challengers than the champions. I don’t know if there’s a measurement for a gap that wide. They don’t team together often, but Fenix and Pentagon worked seamlessly together. Everything they did just came off so well. These guys just threw the idea of a traditional tag out of the window and had an insane tornado style tag match. I couldn’t list all of the spots in this, but there were a ton of superkicks. The spots got bigger and bigger, capping out with a tope con hilo Meltzer Driver outside to Fenix. Pentagon survived one on the inside before the Bucks reeled off a ton of superkicks to retain the titles. The best Young Bucks match I’ve seen all year and possibly my favorite ever. Granted, I don’t like a lot of their stuff but still. Fenix and Pentagon were awesome and this match being a nutty balls to the walls brawl was the best way to go. Pentagon is the MVP of the weekend. ****

After the match, Pentagon and Fenix thanked the fans. The Bucks returned and attacked them.

Trevor Lee def. Mark Andrews in 8:18

In a lot of tournaments with multiple rounds in one night, there’s usually a guy that takes a beating and is hurt entering later stages. That was Andrews. Lee took advantage and controlled most of this match. Andrews was sure to get in his hope spots and though he got in several, you could feel that he was overmatched. He nearly won with another rollup in a cool callback to earlier. Lee got his knees up on an SSP and rolled through into a small package driver to make the finals. Good story that we get in tournaments because it makes sense and works. I liked it. ***

Marty Scurll def. Mark Haskins in 16:44

Scurll attacked right from the start. His plan of using the umbrella to get a quick upper hand has worked so far, so why not continue? Not wanting to get in too much trouble, Haskins took to the air, which he hasn’t done in the tournament so far. I liked this because it gave him a chance to showcase all of his skills. To combat that, Scurll went after the leg which was smart but took away some of the fun of Haskins’ offense. Near the end of the match, the two men traded awesome submission transitions. Scurll tapped to an armbar but his foot was on the ropes. Haskins thought he won but a lot of the fans didn’t grasp the spot. Scurll eventually won a counter battle to win with the chicken wing. I enjoyed a lot of this. It was different than a lot of these matches since the beginning was so damn good instead of the back half. The middle left some to be desired, but I liked the final stretch. ***½

Will Ospreay def. Ricochet in 10:08

This is the third match between these two in 2016. The first, at Evolve 59, was awesome while the second, at the Best of the Super Juniors, was on par and sparked a lot of controversy. As expected from these two, it just goes at a crazy pace. Tons of aerial spots in a compact match. We got a pretty good series of strikes before Ricochet blocked the Oscutter. He nailed a reverse rana but Ospreay got right up and responded with one of his own. A great final series ended when Ospreay countered the Benadryller into a cutter before hitting the Oscutter to round out the finals. Not their best work but I liked how they worked so quickly and did a lot with the short time allotted. It gave them no time for any BS. ***¾

Team Liger (Cedric Alexander, Chuck Taylor, Jeff Cobb, Jushin Thunder Liger and Tommy End) def. Team Bro-Cat Psycho Kitties (The Brian Kendrick, Matthew Riddle, Pete Dunne, Sami Callihan and Tommaso Ciampa) in 17:39
Well this was all kinds of absurd. The multi-man tag at last year’s BOLA was the bad kind of comedy match. This was far more enjoyable. Shout out to the random Kendrick appearance. He didn’t want to participate but the team held him down and painted his face like a cat to join his partners. Callihan had the entire cat mask on. The comedy stuff was too much to fully write down here. There was talk of thumbs in asses, cat based offense and the typical slow motion stuff featuring a slowed “Jushin Liger” chant. The fans even sung “I Believe I Can Fly” at one point. This isn’t for wrestling purists. If you accept it for the wackiness it is meant to be, it’s fine. An offensive buffet ended when Liger pinned Dunne with the brainbuster. Mindless fun and that’s okay sometimes. **¾

Marty Scurll def. Trevor Lee and Will Ospreay in 19:19

So, these are three of the hottest names on the indies in 2016, so not a bad choice for the finals. The crowd started hot for this but died down a bit as it went on. It’s a similar problem that the 2015 BOLA suffered from. The final night is just so long and it hurts. Anyway, the first portion of this match moved along nicely. The guys were amped up and Ospreay really brought it. I see why he came out firing though, since he was the first man eliminated. About halfway through, he got sent packing following a stomp/chicken wing combination. The final exchanges between Lee and Scurll weren’t bad, they just felt less inspired than when Ospreay was in. After a ref bump, Scurll used his umbrella on Lee but couldn’t put him down. Marty eventually won with the chicken wing in an anticlimactic finish. Disappointing finals. It started off pretty good but I think it just never clicked the way I hoped it would. I think that they shouldn’t have done two heels in the end. Ospreay having to overcome one of the other guys doing heel stuff would have worked better. **¾

Marty Scurll cut a passionate promo after the victory. Zack Sabre Jr. came out to get in his face and set up the future title match that Scurll gets for winning this. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a huge fan of their matches together, so I’m not too stoked about it.

Overall: 7/10. Probably the weakest of the three shows. I don’t think I’d consider anything on this show to be bad but some stuff underwhelmed (O’Reilly/Haskins and the main event come to mind). There is a lot of good, like Ospreay/Ricochet, Scurll/Haskins and Hero/Andrews for example. There are also two great matches in Ospreay/Sabre and the Tag Team Title match. I think the final night just runs too long, so it drags at times. A good, but not great capper to the tournament.