I should apologize for this late review of BOLA‘s Final Stage, but, straight-up: the weekend kicked my ass. And if you went all three nights, PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles likely kicked your ass too. As the weekend went on, the stages only got better — and, in many senses, the matches only got better; so imagine just how great Sunday night’s 2nd round and semi-finals went! Or, you can be kind enough to read the following thoughts on Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s single best day of 2018.
Second Round: Trevor Lee v Brody King – Another very good opener for BOLA, this time with Lee explaining that the match-up was bullshit considering the Impact Superstar had just come off the “most difficult match of [his] career” in Marko Stunt. Lee continued his weekend streak of killer comedy promos, forcing “Good Charlotte concert goer” Brody to retort full steam ahead. The much larger King had easily his best match of the tournament, and its efforts like this that explain why William Regal was in DTLA scouting the big man for NXT. Lee got the “upset” victory via flying body press. – 3.5/5
Second Round: Jeff Cobb v Rey Horus – I actually disliked the booking of this; not just the big man v small man factor, but Cobb already practically squashed Allin the night before — but in far more spectacular fashion due to Darby’s great selling. Horus is an apt luchador, and minus a match here and there (see: versus Bandito from ASW 2018), he’s much better in tags and multi-person matches (see: Night 2’s main event). If you’re going to do his match, I’d have had Rey going 100 miles an hour with Cobb trying to chase him. While Horus had his moments, the match layout didn’t do wonders when the eventual main event had the David v. Goliath angle down pat. 3/5
Second Round: Shingo Takagi v Robbie Eagles – This was a tremendous match, an international contrast of styles that worked out far better than it had any business doing so. The crowd was hot for both guys, and Eagles overcame the mistakes made from Night 1 with a near flawless effort, including some heay strikes of his own. He had no problem going toe-to-toe with the dangerous Takagi for much of the match. I loved the rear naked choke finish, as well, since Robbie was the one who tapped out DJZ the night before. Shingo made a lot of new fans tonight. 4.25/5
Second Round: Joey Janela v CIMA – With these two, you knew you’d get some comedy but thankfully CIMA shortened those antics from his first round match. This was an all-around solid affair that was only a mini letdown due to the previous banger. 3.25/5
Second Round: WALTER v Jonah Rock – The PWG Heavyweight Champ takes out a familiar face in a heavy-hitting 5-minutes. Leave it to Rock to catch heat anyway he can, this time imitating, ahem, The Rock and Roman Fucking Reigns with a Jonah Bottom, Superman Punch and failed spear attempt. WALTER agreeably put him away with a powerbomb. 3.5/5
Second Round: Bandido v Flamita – This is when the Final Stage really took off and never looked back. There’s been so many great themes this BOLA weekend and tag partner v tag partner was yet another one, as both luchas sprinted for 11-minutes in a series of RANA’s, tornado this, corkscrew that — you catch the lucha drift, with Bandito ultimately finishing off Flamita in style with a springboard German suplex. This was aweome. And it’s crazy to think this would’ve been the top one or two matches on a few of the earlier PWG’s from this year, but not on this night! 4/5
PWG World Tag Team Championship: The Rascalz (Zachary Wentz & Dezmond Xavier) v Lucha Bros. (Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix) – This has been on my most anticipated match list ever since the Lucha Bros took a brief LOA from Pro Wrestling Guerilla and The Rascalz went on to win the straps from the Young Bucks. It was bound to happen. Night 3 was actually the only ticket I bought from the original sale because of this match, and, boy, did it live up the hype. In a year of amazing tag matches, PWG has delivered some of the best of the year this weekend alone. Like many matches involving the four, this one opened up with some hilarity: Dezmond & Zachary not only came out to the ring donning Penta & Fenix’ masks, they aped each and every one of their signature movements and taunts, which even led to Penta, ever so comically, tagging in Wentz and Xavier tagging in Fenix! Once the inevitable happened, this was a Masters course in tag team wrestling — frantic tags, super double-teams, and pin-point spots without a botch. Following the Lucha Bros’ “thievary” of the champs’ assisted moonsault finish, The Rascalz got in their patented move for the win. A must-see match for fans of Impact Wrestling. *insert smile emoji* 4.25/5
Semi-Finals: Jeff Cobb v Trevor Lee – A surprising 14-second squash win for Cobb! – N/A
Semi-Finals: Bandido v Joey Janela – Seeing how I had these two guys in the finals, my prediction was stunted. But I’m glad it was. Watching these two battle at BOLA was like watching Sabu vs. RVD from Hardcore Heaven ’96 just without the hardcore–yet. Once I told my fellow Ringside Apostle pals that reference about halfway through the match, Bandido snatched a fan’s chair for some sit-up opponent attacks near the apron. After a series of dives, Ban would later punish the “Bad Boy” with his signature springboard German through a chair. It was, to quote Excalibur, “UNNBEELIEEVABLE!” Then Joey kicked out. The crowd was uproarious the entire way, tossing in chair after chair after chair — much like ECW in its day — to which Joey positioned near the corner with hopes of a punishing superplex. It didn’t happen and “The Magnificent Bandit” reversed the plex into his now PWG-famous flipping top rope fallaway slam through the stack. “OH MY GOOOOOOOD!” is right. 4.5/5
Semi-Finals: Shingo Takagi v WALTER – How the fuck do you follow that? Easy. With a match-up the PWG faithful have been clamoring for ever since Shingo’s announcement into BOLA; once the second round played out, our jaws dropped with the thought of what was to come. Following the crazy Triplemanía antics of the last match, WALTER v Takagi felt more like an ol’ school bare-knuckle UFC world title fight. The variety of match stylings in this BOLA has just been tremendous; stiff, strong-style, brutal, shoot… all those words are apt in attempting to try and describe these two’s straight ruthless attacks. Takagi hit the surprise lariat (a move WALTER has been putting guys away with this whole year) for the triumphant victory, which could lead to a sort of Ishii/Omega type rematch somewhere down the line. 4.25-4.5/5
10-Man Tag Special: Puma King, Dan Barry, Darby Allin, PCO, & Jody Fleisch v T-Hawk, DJZ, Timothy Thatcher, Adam Brooks, & David Starr – It was time for the shitshow, or, better yet, “The PCO Show”. The chief reason we were excited to see PCO in BOLA wasn’t even for the tournament, but for this 10-man madness. Of course, this was a clunky, nutty affair, with nothing nuttier than “Detective” Dan Barry — who replaced an unfortunately concussed Ilya Dragunov (who sent his regrets and many thanks to PWG fans in a tweet from earlier in the day) — doing his whole stick-up shtick to much of the crowd’s approval. Of course, this match meant nothing more than a chance to get many of #BOLA2018‘s first round knockouts a chance to get their shit in, with plenty of shenanigans and plenty of suicidal high-spots. How PCO didn’t wind up dead himself during this match is baffling. 3/5
Battle of Los Angeles 2018 Finals: Jeff Cobb v Shingo Takagi v Bandido – There was no way these three could top what we’ve already witnessed already, right? Wrong. For 9-minutes, PWG fans were hot for quite possibly the best Triple Threat/Trios match all year; yeah–usually only WWE does ’em, but this one was the best. Then, maybe/maybe not surprisingly, Bandido took out Takagi. You figured that Shingo wouldn’t win after he basically “won” his own BOLA by eliminating WALTER in the last round. But so sudden? As great as the first 9-minute were with fun albeit brief double-team alliances formed, one of the longest tenured, most respected (Cobb) and one of, if not the, hottest (Bandido) stars at PWG took it up another two or three notches when this went to one-on-one. The last 10-minutes of this main event were arguably the best 10-minutes of PWG action all year, a perhaps wild statement coming off the previous two night main events and all the excellence witnessed on this final day; but the false finishes were FUCKING INSANE.
I’ll even go out on a limb and say these were the most intense false finishes I’ve seen at a live professional wrestling show at least since Ishii/Omega from the G1 Special last year, complete with Cobb and Bandido kicking out of each other’s signature moves — the springboard German and Tour of the Islands. Booking-wise, Cobb makes a far more sensical next opponent for WALTER, while Bandido was on such a high Sunday that no one could really blame Super Dragon and Excalibur for pulling a “Vince” and changing the booking last minute. Thankfully for Cobb’s (and Bandido’s) sake they didn’t (WALTER already faced his small guy for the title in Sammy Guevara, and I can wait a little longer for that dynamic again). Cobb won BOLA with an incredible Tour of the Islands following an amazing TotI reversal of Bandido’s signature fallaway slam. This took my breath away. 4.75-5/5
Overall = 4/5 Bibles
Who needs Reseda? If you weren’t lucky enough to attend any of PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles this year, please do go out of your way and cop that Blu Ray 3-disc package when it releases. If the scores and reviews don’t speak enough volumes, I promise that BOLA‘s Final Stage was easily the best night of PWG action all year. The other two nights were pretty damn awesome too, culminating into the most fun time I’ve ever had PWG. For me personally, The Globe Theater felt just as electric as the old Legion Hall, even with all that space and upper balconies and fans didn’t have to sweat through three shirts or ruin a New Era cap to prove it. On a side note, watching football next door right before the 4-hour show was great, even if my Patriots did shit the bed. Who didn’t shit the bed, though, were all the competitors from this weekend, and all the nutty fans who came out to support them. This is pro wrestling at its finest, and I’m damn proud to be a part of it.