The Be All End All of PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2016 Previews! (with Leaf)
With all the LuchaPalooza stuff going on, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole other wrestling world out there. And by that I don’t mean the mother ship; I’m talking Pro Wrestling Guerilla.
Remember them? The last great independent wrestling giant (aside from AAW in Chicago) may not always get the eyeballs it deserves, but it remains an indie wrestling institution and this weekend it’s bringing something wrestling fans of all shapes, sizes and genres can enjoy. That’s right; this weekend is the Battle of Los Angeles, PWG’s crown jewel and arguably one of the biggest events of the wrestling year. Now I know what some of you are thinking; Battle of Los Angeles? Isn’t that a terrible Aaron Eckhart movie? To this I say turn off your mother ship Network and listen. Battle of Los Angeles isn’t that terrible Aaron Eckhart movie (that was Battle: Los Angeles); it’s a three day tournament where the best workers not chained to the WWE rowboat...excuse me, I mean not signed to WWE, go against each other to find out who is the best. The number usually varies, but this year PWG has gotten 24 guys, some that you’ll know from Lucha Underground, CMLL, Japan, the American indies, the British indies, hell even the gorram Olympics has a representative. An event like this needs a preview, and that’s where I come in. I’m here to break down this shindig known as BOLA and I’ve got some assistance in the form of my good pal Leaf. And we’re doing a twist this time; instead of us both breaking down every wrestler, I’ve assigned us twelve wrestlers each to break down. It’s unique, it saves time and honestly I forgot to tell Leaf we were doing it the other way. But it’s still unique! And of course we’ll give our winners at the end. So without further ado, Leafster! Come on down!
Dammit Leafster! I know you said you had to go get Salsa Doritos but this is totally and utterly…
I’m here. And I’ve got the Salsa Doritos! Did I miss anything?
Moses, get the meme out. I’m too disgusted to talk.
Look Leafster; it’s the guy AAA totally didn’t push away because their freakin idiots! Oh wait they did. Doesn’t matter here because we get to see Fenix do some more of the things that have made him the first ever Triple Crown Champion in Lucha Underground history. He’ll fit right in with the Reseda crowd too thanks to an appearance in last year’s BOLA where he and Matt Sydal tore down the house, followed by a tag match that is by far the best match you’ve never seen from the LU guys. The only problem; he’s going up the guy who probably is going to win it all. Damn PWG; they couldn’t have matched him up against Mark Haskins or something?
Don’t bash Haskins, the guy is seriously underrated. Hell, that’s his nickname. That lends me to our next competitor, who is a man who I always thought to be quite the opposite. I actually had the pleasure of watching last year’s semi-finalist Will Ospreay live recently, as I was sat in the front row at Progress Chapter 34. What became apparent is that the dude has a face of a heel. The more frustrated he got with Sabre Jr. controlling the match and the crowd loving his offence, the more desperate he became in the match. And it worked! It showed me that he was more than just the Aerial Assassin that he calls himself. If Ospreay lets those same emotions come out against one of the most exciting and (another) underrated performers in the business today, AND throughout the tournament, it could be particularly interesting to watch! But please, rename that Cheeky Nandos Kick will you?
This is the fourth BOLA for Kyle O’Reilly and his first since 2014. He’s also one of the three men looking to become the first ever two time BOLA winner. Spoiler alert; it ain’t gonna happen. O’Reilly is a killer performer and I expect he’ll have a dandy of a time with Mr. Bro in this opening round match but I just don’t have the feeling he’s long here. I’d expect we’ll see O’Reilly make a far bigger impact in one of the numerous multi-man matches we’ll see this weekend then in BOLA itself.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this but PWG should not be giving us Ricochet - Cobb below, not when they could have paired Cobb with this man. Former Olympian vs. Former Mixed Martial Artist. God damn. For those unaware of Matthew Riddle, he was a bright rising star in UFC before he was cut due to failed drug tests. Fortunately, the WWE were so high on him (pun completely intended) that they helped him get a deal with Evolve. Since then, he has won their Style Battle tournament and has become a very interesting performer for them. He absolutely dominates his opponents and I tell you Cult, don’t be surprised if he beats O’Reilly here, perhaps thanks to an interfering Bullet Club. You heard it here first!
Forget Dalton; ARE THE BOYS GOING TO BE THERE?! You can’t have Dalton Castle without the Boys Leafster, that’s like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle if they didn’t go to White Castle. I love the actual Prince Pretty’s chances in this one. He’s an exciting young talent; he’s in a side of the bracket with a lot of past winners (generally a bad sign for success in follow up BOLA’s) and he’s in a place that won’t book him like he is in Ring of Honor. Really the only obstacle I see for him is the first round matchup with your boy Gallagher. Get him and Chris Hero out of the way and I can see Castle challenging for the Finals. In other words, he won't be challenging for the finals.
The Extraordinary Gentleman is exactly that, Extraordinary. Who else could turn a crowd completely against Akira Tozawa simply due to his charming nature and good-humoured technical skills? Those last few words are an oxymoron in itself! Gallagher will be making his BOLA debut after an astounding rise in popularity this year. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him at different shows near me and knew of this secret weapon. The question is, is Dalton Castle aware enough? I think this is the one match that could descend into a comedy affair whilst remaining extremely competitive. In fact, I recommend anyone to watch Jack Gallagher vs. El Ligero from Progress Chapter 34. I didn’t think technical comedy was even possible but those two nailed it. I’d wager that Jack advances to get people talking. People are just drawn to the guy, just like Castle actually, but Gallagher really feels like the man of the moment. It’s just good business!
One of the few performers you’ve gotten to meet in person Leafster! And boy oh boy does Chris Hero have a history at BOLA. This will be his eighth appearance in a tournament where he’s made it to the finals three times, including last year. He’s also never won in those three instances which would make him, in a term I shudder to use because there’s a chance Hero would elbow my face off if he saw this, the Buffalo Bills over BOLA. Forgiveness Chris! Normally I’d say he’d be primed for a long run here and the story of him finally winning BOLA after coming close so many times is something that one day is going to do great business for PWG. Is it this weekend though? I’m not sure, especially with Hero having a dream match for the ages against one of the most famous wrestlers ever.
Jushin Thunder Liger
Thanks Cult, you give me the hard task of building up Jushin Thunder Liger who has seen it all, done it all, and yet somehow extends his rota of things to do and things to see and has no plans of stopping at 51! Liger is a debutant in the BOLA and certainly doesn’t need to win the event, but then again, PWG don’t need him to either - having him on the card gives an instant wow factor! The most amazing thing about Liger is that his match quality never falters. Put Liger on a show and you just know he’s going to deliver. I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to older performers normally Cult but away from American wrestling, when you have the likes of Liger and Dr. Wagner Jr. delivering until the day they rule wrestling heaven, there’s nothing to fear whatsoever. I truly think he will go out in the first round though, as they’ll either deliver with Hero’s eventual victory or failing that, they will have him reach the final at the very least. That story is just too good to tell with one of PWG’s favoured sons. Still, I truly look forward to both men giving it their all here.
MARK ANDREWS LEAFSTER! I can’t tell you how much I absolutely adore this man. I got a chance to check him out at both BOLA 2015 and CHIKARA’s King of Trios 2015 and he was one of the most impressive guys I saw. Hell I thought he was better than Will Ospreay, a crime in the United Kingdom, Japan and most of these 50 states. This year he returns and the bracket is set up for him to at least make the second round. If he does look out Leafster; Mark Andrews vs. John Hennigan or Matt Sydal is easier money than El Hijo del Santo vs. Atlantis. Who am I kidding; nothing is easier money than El Hijo del Santo vs. Atlantis, which continues to beg the question of why no one will do it!
Okay Icon, I now direct you to the most brutal finisher that you haven’t feasted eyes upon yet, and won’t be able to remove from going forward… The DT3!
The Bruiserweight is a man who is gaining stock and fast. He was an unlikely name to be featured in a Cruiserweight Classic Qualifier though it was most certainly deserved. The stocky British pit-bull provides just the right type of counter-offence for the lightning quick Andrews. Fast in his own right, Dunne will be looking to cut off his opponent with several strong grapples. Expect to see Andrews caught several times, leading him to crash and burn. As for who gets the victory here? It’s hard to tell. Though something tells me that Pete Dunne will be the man who most people will be checking out after Day 1, whether he wins or loses. Unfortunately, I think it’s the latter as Andrews vs. either Hennigan or Sydal will give us one hell of a high-flying highlight reel. Regardless, everything Pete does looks absolutely brutal, and I think he will put one hell of a show with the incredible seller that is Mandrews playing the ragdoll.
Is this the first time the Artist Formerly Known as John Morrison and currently known as Johnny Mundo is using his real name? How about that. If nothing else BOLA should continue Mundo’s comeback that was started in Lucha Underground and I love PWG pairing him up with Matt Sydal knowing that the two worked together so often in WWE. I’m just not sure how far he goes; I could see Mundo dropping out here or him having a good run towards the finals. If it’s the latter we could be in for huge treats. Mundo vs. Andrews, Mundo vs. Kamaitachi (!!!), Mundo vs. Cobb or Mundo vs. Ricochet (a match that’s TOTALLY never happened before) are sure fire hits waiting to happen.
Mundo vs. Ricochet? They should book that somewhere. Can we get them on the same show sometime? Maybe they could even give us Hennigan vs. Prince Puma. That’s just a thought. Speaking of Ricochet actually, we come to his tag team partner Matt Sydal now! The former Evan Bourne has been a sensation since returning to the independent scene a number of years ago and he now enters his FIFTH Battle of Los Angeles. If you want a story to rival Hero’s, Cult, you’ve got it right here. The one problem with Sydal is that he’s swimming in a sea of sharks here, high-flying sharks that is. Names like Ricochet, Fenix and Ospreay are some of the most talked about risk-takers of today, and you certainly include Mundo in that list. What those other high-flyers have proven is that they are successful as solo stars. Sydal has been competing most notably as a tag wrestler. With that being said, he did defeat one of those names, Ospreay, in the Super J-Cup and he beat Fenix in this very cup last year. This could well be one of the closest matches to call all weekend!
If you’re looking for a breakout star from this year’s event Leafster, look no further than this man. Kamaitachi is, for my money, the best wrestler no one has heard of these days. He was a New Japan washout who wound up in CMLL and ended up turning into a household name down there thanks to one of the greatest feuds in lucha libre history with Anniversary Show headliner Dragón Lee. The feud got him a gig in ROH and now here he is, ready to continue his great story. I think he will and, bold prediction here, I think he has the best match of the weekend if he gets to the second round. It’ll be close between him and Trevor Lee (and that match should be damn good itself), but if Kamaitachi gets to the next round and gets either Cobb or Ricochet, it’s going to be a classic. I’m talking Casablanca level.
At 22, Trevor Lee is one of the youngest talents in the tournament but by making this third BOLA appearance in three years, he’ll certainly be looking to use his experience to overwhelm his opponents. As you said above Cult, Kamaitachi is someone who in the right environment learnt so much. In Trevor Lee, you have a man who hit the ground running in PWG straight away and has considered it his home ever since. How’s that for a story? The Carolina Caveman is looking to clobber all in his path to win this year’s tournament and I definitely think he’ll beat your boy here Cult. Even though the Battle of Los Angeles attracts wrestlers from everywhere, you have to remember this is still a PWG event and they could do with pushing some guys who regularly wrestle for them. That’s not to say that Trevor Lee doesn’t deserve it, I just think that’s a sensible piece of logic - and it would see us having the imposing Lee against one of the scarily-athletic Cobb and Ricochet. Sign me up.
He may or may not be the man behind the mask of Lucha Underground’s Champion Matanza, but there’s no question that Jeff Cobb is a straight up legend. The former Olympian has been outstanding since coming onto the indie scene and this should be no different even if he’s there for just this match. In fact it’s almost unfair this is his opening round contest considering how revered Cobb and Ricochet are these days (especially by LU fans like us Leafster); doesn’t this feel like a finals match? Those are the breaks I guess. Let’s just hope Cobb doesn’t break poor Ricochet in half here. He’s a diabolical man that Cobb is Leafster; if he’s not Matanza he certainly shares some sort of relation.
Damn, there’s wasting a spot on this guy. If they wanted an amazing storyteller, high-flyer and general all-round badass, they could have contacted Prince Puma. I mean, come on! That being said, the man who strangely shares the same tattoos as the face of Lucha Underground is going to be great going against the man who may or may not be behind the mask of Matanza. He is perhaps one of the most sought-after wrestlers in the world, and with his popularity rising beyond Lucha Underground and the most hardcore indie fans thanks to a certain match with Will Ospreay, he could well be in contention to become the only two-time winner of the tournament thus far. If Ricochet bests Cobb, it’s hard to imagine Lee or Kamaitachi stopping him. If he reaches the semis, he faces one of Andrews, Dunne, Hennigan or Sydal - which again, you have to consider him a favourite in any of those matches. Ricochet isn’t a spot monkey - everything he does is so damn considered, no matter how flashy the move. The story that he told with Rey Mysterio at Ultima Lucha was phenomenal, as we watched a man who barely speaks and is hidden behind a mask show some of the most evident expressions of frustration when he failed to put his hero away. Ricochet is the total package, and it’s hard to see this package not being delivered to the semis AT LEAST.
I haven’t been as high on the WWE Cruiserweight Classic as you and others have Leafster but the one person that has impressed me (asides from master of the universe Máscara Dorada) is Alexander. I’ve never been a big fan of his, at least till I saw him work down at Full Sail. Never has losing twenty some pounds done more for a wrestler than it did for this man, who looked like completely different performer after he shed that weight. Now I’ve gone from groaning about him replacing Adam Cole (BABAY!) to actually be super stoked to see him. I can’t see him going far because of the WWE commitment and PWG (rightfully) isn’t going to put over a guy who will be gone a few weeks later. He’ll be super fun though as long as he lasts, and the thought of Alexander vs. Pentagon Jr. is a pretty proposition if I do say so myself.
I mentioned Haskins earlier as being an underrated prospect. I can proudly say I own a Haskins t-shirt with that very “u” word emblazoned across the design. A common misconception with fans who only know Haskins via his brief stint in TNA is that he is a “fake John Morrison”. Just because he wore a coat, shades, had long hair and had the swagger of him does not mean… okay, I can’t complete that sentence. The fans might have been right at one point just because of the way that he was once packaged, but they are most definitely not right now. Roaring to the ring to Crobot’s high-energy Nowhere to Hide, Haskins is a completely different animal. The hairy Brit explosion hits some of the snappiest offence to be found on the independent scene and has some BEAUTIFUL kicks. What can be said about Haskins now is that he’s got that intense look to him in the ring that Trevor Lee has - which almost makes me wish that we were getting that match but Alexander should make for an interesting clash of styles! He recently became the Smash Wrestling Champion over in the States and is now making his PWG debut, proving that Haskins is more than intent on making his name in the States. I think people will soon see why we here in the UK love him.
Eh. Forgive me Leafster but I’m not that high on the Villain. The persona is cool, the look is cool; the wrestling is a little too reminiscent of Davey Richards for me to latch onto. He’s got some good people to work with if he goes far so thankfully that won’t be a huge issue, but man alive would it depress me if this guy got farther than the guy he’s facing in the opening round. Honestly this is the only guy I don’t want to see do well. I’d only root for him if he went against Davey Richards himself, and that’s because Davey Richards is a vicious life sucking bitch from which there is no escape from. Too strong there Leafster?
I grin even with the prospect of speaking about Pentagon Jr. Whether as a rudo or an anti-hero, we can call Pentagon the true villain of professional wrestling. He breaks his opponent’s arms, has made his master bleed on multiple occasions, and dances whilst tasting the blood. They’re just exceptional circumstances however; I feel the need to stress that so that people don’t label Pentagon as just a hardcore wrestler. In the ring he as powerful as he is rebellious. Watch out some of the hardest chops in the business, the best executed Slingblade in all of wrestling (Sorry Finn, ya pale piece of shit), and a move that you and I love, well, we’ve never talked about it I know you must do - the Pentagon Driver! This match will be insanely fun as both men will try to out villain one another, though whilst one man shouts the word “chickenwing!”, the other is anything but a chicken, as he shows Cero Miedo. What’s not to love about, for all intents and purposes, a skeleton ninja? Nothing I tell you! Nothing!
Here is arguably the most interesting man in the whole damn thing. Fresh off his freedom and a few indie matches the son of the son of the plumber Cody Rhodes makes the jump into the indie big leagues and kicks off the second act of his career. I do think he will go far in this thing and may in fact win it, with Pentagon Jr. and Zack Sabre Jr. serving as the only guys I could see getting the kind of push Rhodes will get. Forgive me though if I’m more interested in seeing what he does with it. I was a huge fan of Cody during his WWE run (before I stopped watching WWE at least) and he’s quietly one of the more versatile performers in wrestling, but there’s no question that his last few years in WWE have hurt that reputation thanks to him being saddled with a poor variation of the gimmick his brother made famous. That gimmick is now gone, the freedom to pain whatever canvas in the ring he wants is there and he has top notch talent to work with. I’m really hoping Cody takes advantage of this opportunity.
I’ve never understood Sami Callihan’s appeal and I still don’t - both in the ring and outside of it. I hate to say that too as I know how appreciated he is and as someone who is training to be a wrestler, the last thing I would want to say is anything bad in case maybe, just maybe, I end up on the same show as him one day. With the news that this man has signed with Lucha Underground for Season 3, maybe he will finally click with me, and I hope he does because I have nothing against Sami whatsoever, I just haven’t quite got him yet. Truth be told, I don’t see him besting Rhodes who is having one of the most incredible runs on the indie circuit post-WWE release I have ever seen. He is accepting match after match and delivering against big-name opponents. I’m rooting for Sami to prove me wrong here, not like he owes me anything for I’m just a wrestling columnist and I’m one of many at that! Maybe he’ll prove me just as wrong by beating Cody.
If he hadn’t signed with WWE recently End would’ve been a sleeper in this thing. I’m not as high on him as others are Leafster but the man is still very good, with a killer look and a great chant (“TOMMY! TOMMY! TOMMY FUCKIN END!”) to boot. Alas that WWE contract will keep him from going past the second around, and the only reason he ends up there is if his opponent has decided to follow in his footsteps. At least we’ll get one more TOMMY FUCKIN END chant though. I’m gonna miss that bad boy Leafster.
Zack Sabre Jr.
ZACKY! ZACKY! ZACKY SABRE J! It just doesn’t work the same does it Icon? I’m entirely with you on this one Cult, it’s all about who has signed with WWE first. That being said, Zack is last year’s winner. It’s not out of the question to say that PWG will have Zack get eliminated first but with his run in the CWC still going strong and with rumours of a potential win, plus, with him being the defending tournament winner AND the current PWG Champion, they would have absolutely nothing to gain in Sabre being defeated here. For me, as much as I love Tommy, it’s a safe victory for the technical wizard. You also have to think as well that out of the rest of the tournament, only Jack Gallagher comes close to matching him as a technical wrestler. He may even go far for diversity alone. With all of those factors, he’s definitely one of the favourites Cult. That’s for sure!
I see the brackets breaking down like this Leafster; Will Ospreay and Chris Hero will be the final two on the top bracket, Hennigan and Cobb will be the final two in the middle and Pentagon will go against Cody in the bottom bracket (Cody Rhodes vs. Pentagon Jr.! What a time to believe huh?). So who goes to the finals? On the top I’ve got Ospreay. It pains me to say that because I’d really like to see Hero finally win the big won, but there’s no doubt that Ospreay is one of the hottest names right now and a finals without him would just be weird. In the middle I’m going to surprise you and go with Jeff Cobb. Don’t ask me why Leafster; I’ve just got a funny feeling. As for the bottom, my heart wants me to so badly go with Pentagon. And you know what; dammit that’s what I’m going to do. Who cares if no one can see two LU guys in the finals? Pentagon will beat Cody and our BOLA final will be Will Ospreay vs. Jeff Cobb vs. Pentagon Jr. And now I’m gonna break your heart Leafster because Ospreay will win.
I know; I don’t like it either. Not because I don’t like Will Ospreay but because Cobb and Pentagon are both clearly our guys and they deserve this bad boy. They just don’t quite have the buzz that Ospreay has following that Ricochet match, even though you and I both know Pentagon and Cobb can have better matches with that man (and may or may not have already!). Whatever. Will Ospreay will win, the Brits will celebrate and hopefully Pentagon comes back in and breaks all their arms afterwards. Especially Scurll’s. I want to see that arm hanging like that munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. Wow I got dark there.
That’s very interesting Cult! For me, there’s two possible wrestlers in each bracket that I feel have the chance of being in the final three. For the first bracket, Will Ospreay is a name that immediately jumps off the list. Ospreay is one of the most talked about guys on the independent circuit currently - I mean, let’s face it, you probably haven’t heard Vader mentioned that many times in years! Another point to make as well is that wherever Zack Sabre Jr. the defending champion is, Ospreay is never too far behind. They’re often booked on the same cards together, with a recent example being the Rev Pro and Progress shows in the UK just a number of weeks ago - they were on both shows over the same weekend. They seem like career rivals already and I would not be surprised to see them square up against each other here. Ospreay got as far as the semis last year and that was before his rise in popularity this year. My personal choice from that bracket would be Chris Hero, for the sentimental value that you mentioned earlier Cult but also because he remains one of the most consistent performers on the circuit. If his performance in the Super Strong Style 16 is anything to go by - Hero has incredible stamina, going toe to toe with fellow BOLA battlers Mark Andrews and Tommy End within the tournament. Admittedly though, I have to go with my head over my heart with this one, and say that Ospreay will reach it due to his current status in the wrestling world.
Bracket two is much simpler for me. I have two names - the first of which is Ricochet. I still just have this feeling that the Ricochet-Ospreay hype is going to continue to propel us to the final, and I wonder if PWG feel like they can recreate that but in a triple threat environment with one other star - perhaps Zack Sabre Jr. - in order to add a different element to what has already become one of the most talked about independent matches in a long time. The other name is actually your “surprising” pick Cult. I too have a weird feeling about Cobb that I just can’t shift. I’m still going to say Ricochet but I’m second guessing myself typing every word here. As for the third bracket, I again feel like PWG will be going with where the hype is here. The most hype lies with Rhodes and Sabre Jr. Either of those men would work in that scenario but truth be told, in Zack Sabre Jr. you have the defending PWG Champion and the defending BOLA winner. It’s just hard to bet against that. And yet, in my final of Ospreay vs. Ricochet vs. Sabre Jr., I have Ospreay down as the winner as he will be the one man in the match to have not won the tournament. Then, if PWG wishes, they have one hell of a dream match between these two rivals for the title as a result of that. For some weird reason, I really do feel like PWG are considering a lot of logic in this year’s tournament - with the inclusion of many CWC combatants, the men who made Vader’s face as red as his attire, LU’s finest and a big former WWE star. Am I being too sensible here?
No my good man. But we have run out of time and we must make way now. Any last words Leafster?
Those damn Salsa Doritos cravings. Well at least you have me, and I’ll be back soon with a preview of CHIKARA’s King of Trios tournament featuring another special guests. What can I say; people love me. Till then, ALL HAIL YOUR SAVIOR MÁSCARA DORADA/GRAN METALIK/WHATEVER HE WISHES YOU TO CALL HIM! This guy gets it.