September is HERE, and with it comes one of indie wrestling’s most anticipated tournament, Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Battle of Los Angeles. The last three BOLA winners were Ricochet, Zack Sabre, Jr. and Marty Scurll who have each done well for themselves following their respective wins. It’s not a catapult to superstardom, but it is an excellent way for a wrestler to raise their stock by having fun matches and maybe impressing Dave Meltzer (or, at least, Travis Moody).
If you haven’t seen Mark Haskins since his brief stint in TNA’s X-Division, you’re in for a surprise. The former high-flier has transitioned into more of a technical, mat-based style. Lately, “The Star Attraction” has been tearing it up in Progress and Smash, challenging Pete Dunne for the Progress championship and winning Smash’s GOLD tournament after returning from injury. Expect suplexes and submissions, but he may do some springboards if you ask nicely.
Ready to have your mind blown? TMDK—TM-61 in NXT—isn’t a tag team; it’s a full-blown stable. And part of this stable is Jonah Rock. Rock is arguably one of the best heavyweights in Oz and is the current champ of Melbourne City Wrestling, as well as the Australian National Champion. Expect power moves that show off his impressive strength.
If you’ve somehow been living under a rock for the last few years, Brian Cage is a force of nature. He’s Wolverine. He’s a F’N machine. And he’s as impressive in the ring as his physique is massive. He could (and does) do moves that showcase his power like suplexes and powerbombs, but the man loves showing off his athleticism with moonsaults and elbow drops. Expect to see a little of everything.
If you’re not familiar with Rey Horus, you might know him under another name: Dragon Azteca, Jr. The luchador was trained by Rey Misterio, Sr. (and was the second person to be under the Hijo de Rey Misterio mask), and looks like a young Rey Mysterio in the ring. In LU, he even held the Trios Championship with Mysterio and Prince Puma. He’s incredibly agile and his transitions are incredibly fluid. Expect one of the prettiest 450s you’ve ever seen.
The Villain has been having a helluva year since winning last year’s tournament. He left EVOLVE and debuted for ROH with a bang and won the television title from Will Ospreay before replacing Adam Cole in Bullet Club and competing for NJPW in his first Best of the Super Juniors tournament. And in my favorite spot of the year, he stopped Okada’s Rainmaker in the most genius way—with his too sweet Bullet Club brolly, aka the Rainstopper. Expect to see broken fingers (yeah, it still makes me cringe whenever he does it) and chickenwings.
“Unbreakable” Michael Elgin
NJPW is the best thing that ever happened to Big Mike. After his lackluster ROH run—despite holding the top belt—he took off for the land of the rising sun and never looked back. In his first G1, he won over the Japanese crowds and basically experienced a rebirth of his career which included winning the 6-Man tag belts and the IWGP IC title. While the unbreakable one experienced some setbacks due to—ironically—breaking his left orbital bone, he did manage to win the rumble at Wrestle Kingdom this year, even if his performance in this year’s G1 was kinda flat. Regardless, he’s still a fun hoss to watch. Expect power moves, especially Elgin bombs.
“Bad Boy” Joey Janela
A last-minute entrant, Joey Janela replaces the injured TK Cooper. Janela is the type of wrestler that inspires Jim Cornette rants—he’s talented in-ring, but loves comedy. Depending on who you ask, Joey Janela’s Spring Break was either the best thing about ‘Mania Week or it was where wrestling goes to die. Janela is a multi-time CZW Wired champion and is an underrated worker. His feud with the latest NXT signee Lio Rush is damn near classic. Expect fun and foot stomps.
The former Evan Bourne is appearing on Impact these days, thanks to burning his bridge with NJPW, but he’s still the same Matt Sydal. He does crazy flippy shit and looks pretty doing it. Expect aerials and kicks—it is Matt Sydal, after all.
If Shane Strickland is a god of the indies right now, then Sami Callihan is their Zeus. Ever since he requested his release from NXT a couple of years ago, he’s been everywhere: CZW (where he’s the current head of creative), Wrestle Circus, LU, Progress, and, of course, PWG. He’s a solid mat-based worker and an excellent brawler. Expect piledrivers and forearms.
In just a couple of years, Matt Riddle has become arguably one of the best wrestlers on the planet. Hell, in his first year as a wrestler, he was the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Rookie of the Year and Most Improved. With his MMA and amateur wrestling background, he’s a proficient striker and has impressive strength. Expect to hear the word “bro” a lot.
One of the best high-fliers going right now, Ricochet is currently one-half of the NJPW Jr. Heavyweight Tag champions. His spots are incredibly beautiful to look at—Ricochet is the very definition of “poetry in motion” with the smoothness and fluidity of a cat. It’s no wonder why he chose to go by Prince Puma in LU; he moves with grace of one. Once this season of LU finishes airing, he’ll be free to appear on television elsewhere—something he alluded to during the G1 Special—and NXT will be lucky to have him. Expect more flips than an Olympic gymnast’s floor routine.
Penta El Zero M
Like his brother Rey Fenix, the former Pentagón Jr./Dark has left AAA and has decided to take his arm-breaking talents elsewhere, though he is the current LU champion. The two of them are the current PWG tag champs and recently challenged then-champs RPG Vice for the Wrestle Circus Big Top Championships. He’s even expanded to the UK, making appearances for WCPW and Rev Pro. Penta’s quick, strong and has some vicious AF kicks. Expect hard-hitting strikes and a painful armbar.
Flash Morgan Webster
If not for the next guy on this list, we could’ve seen The MODfather in the Cruiserweight Classic. After nearly a year out due to injuries sustained in his match with ZSJ (a dislocated arm, torn shoulder and ankle ligaments, and two ankle fractures), Webster has returned to in-ring action and appears better than ever. He’s a great high-flier, like so many other participants, but he can also work a good technical match. The Welshman is super over in the UK and has the capability to become a star on this side of the pond. Expect some sweet 450s.
Zack Sabre Jr.
ZSJ is considered one of the best technical wrestlers in the world right now. With so many people his size leaning toward the “flippy shit” style of wrestling, his mat-based skill makes him stand out. NJPW agrees; the promotion held him back from Best of the Super Juniors to put him in this year’s G1 Climax, effectively considering him a heavyweight. The man is a submission specialist—who can forget that variation of the Rings of Saturn from the Cruiserweight Classic (my personal favorite in the whole tournament)? Expect lots and lots of armbars.
Sammy Guevara is the best ever. Seriously, that’s his gimmick—that he’s the best ever. Though those are lofty claims from a 24-year-old, the kid is talented. A product of Booker T’s school, Guevara embodies the cocky heel and is charismatic af. His technical ability isn’t quite there yet, but he makes up for it with aerials and promos that ooze confidence and charm. He’s currently doing work in GFW’s X-Division, but you can also catch him on Twitch in his local promotion, Wrestle Circus. Expect flips and pandas.
The winner of ROH’s 2015 Top Prospect Tournament, Donovan Dijak’s time in the company could be summed up with the word “potential.” He had the potential to be a main eventer with his size, speed and moveset, but he didn’t really get there. Often compared to a young Mike Awesome, the 6’7” powerhouse moves around the ring like he belongs on 205 Live. His mic skills still need work, but he his athletic and agile AF. Expect to “feast your eyes” on some springboards and big boots.
“Mr. Athletic” is a monster among men — hell, LU put him under a mask and called him “The Monster” Matanza Cueto. A former Olympian, Cobb can do it all. His suplexes make Brock’s look like child’s play; he tosses dudes around like they weigh nothing. His strength is incredible and he’s also agile enough that he frequently pulls off standing moonsaults and shooting star presses. Expect some powerslams and, well, more moves than your CAW.
The 23-year-old “Carolina Caveman” has already carved out an impressive career in PWG, having defeated former champs Kevin Steen (in his farewell match, no less), Adam Cole and Chris Hero. Outside PWG, last year’s BOLA runner-up spent the better part of this year as TNA/Impact/GFW’s X-Division champion. But it’s arguable that his best work has been in the regional promotion CWF Mid-Atlantic where he’s held five different championships, including being the current heavyweight champion. While Lee’s known for being a high-flier elsewhere, in CWF Mid-Atlantic, he routinely wrestles longer, more technically sound matches. Expect lots of kicks, aerials, a few suplexes, and plenty of boo’s.
The “Kiwi Buzzsaw” has been making a name for himself in the UK and in his native New Zealand. The winner of this year’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament, he will be facing Pete Dunne for the PROGRESS Heavyweight Championship. Aside from PROGRESS, you can find him in WCPW and Revolution Pro; thanks to WWE’s working relationship with PROGRESS, he tagged with protégé TK Cooper in a tag match against Rich Swann and Mustafa Ali at Wrestlemania Axxess. Banks’ charisma can suplex you into oblivion, but he’s not afraid to go to the top rope either. He works well in both single and tag matches. Expect some technical brilliance.
Rey Fenix is from a family of luchadors and is well-known in the US thanks to his previous stints in Chikara and LU. While at LU, the high-flier became the promotion’s first Triple Crown Champion after winning the Gift of the Gods Championship, the Lucha Underground Championship and the Trios Championship. He’s currently one-half of the PWG tag champs with his brother Pentagon el 0M (formerly Pentagon Jr. and Pentagon Dark) whom he feuded with in LU. Expect lots of aerials.
Dezmond Xavier has been getting more television exposure since joining GFW as part of the X-Division. Prior to that, he was best known for his work in CZW where he held the tag championships with Zachary Wentz as part of Scarlet and Graves and as a member of OI4K. Xavier is also a former WrestleCircus Sideshow Champion. He’s fast, he can fly, and he can wrestle a technical match. To quote Daniel Bryan, he’s a fun guy to watch. Expect some …dives.
At 22, Flamita is already one of the best high-fliers in the world, with Meltzer comparing him to a young Rey Mysterio. Lucha Underground fans may recognize the young veteran (he’s been wrestling for nearly a decade) as Night Claw from the show’s second season before a falling out with AAA led to him leaving. AAA’s loss has been Dragon Gate’s gain, with Flamita having held multiple championships in the Japanese promotion. This past May, he bested Mark Andrews in the PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 tournament before falling to eventual winner, Travis Banks. Expect hard hits and soaring moonsaults.
“Limitless” Keith Lee
After leaving ROH last year, Keith Lee has quickly established himself as one of the best big men today. This hoss has it all, the speed and agility of a cruiserweight combined with the strength of a Big Show or a Mark Henry. We saw flashes of his greatness during the feud he and former tag partner Shane Taylor had with War Machine (agile big men in their own right), but it’s been his outings against talent like Brian Cage and fellow BOLA participant Donovan Dijak that have truly highlighted what Lee can do. His match vs. Dijak at EVOLVE 81 is widely considered one of the best from the 17,658 hours of wrestling that was ‘Mania weekend. Expect monkey flips and powerbombs.
WALTER (formerly Big Van Walter and Big Daddy Walter) may not be familiar to many in the US, but he’s been a staple of the European wrestling scene for a few years now. Trained in part by NJPW’s Tomohiro Ishii, WALTER is the head trainer for German promotion Westside Xtreme Wrestling and is your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler. That’s not a joke; ZSJ and others immediately tweeted their excitement at his BOLA announcement, followed by begging for a matchup between him and Keith Lee. He’s wrestled everyone from Bryan Danielson to Johnny Gargano to Matt Riddle and it’s been said that he’s the best heavyweight in Europe. Expect suplexes and forearms for days.
More to come!