2005 Battle of Los Angeles Pt. 2 - September 4, 2005
I must mention that this show was the PWG farewell for James Gibson. What a waste to have him in forgettable matches just to give the rub to Arrogance. Should've booked him to go over El Generico, since the Masked Luchador was eliminated the night before anyway. Both men would've ended up in the same position for this night, while having a very good to outstanding match on the first night.
2005 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels
A very good match as would be expected from these two. Danielson was masterful in working on Daniels, outsmarting the more experienced veteran. By this point, it was painfully obvious that Danielson had completely surpassed Daniels.
2005 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Semifinal
AJ Styles vs. Bryan Danielson
Another very good match involving Danielson here. This one tried do everything that their ROH matches had. Great technical wrestling. Danielson being an occasional dickhead. Both men getting chippy with each other. Even simultaneously landing discus lariats on one another. But a PWG crowd couldn't fully appreciate this, which kept this from being great. And why was Styles trusted to carry this tournament over Danielson? That's some dipshit booking right there.
El Generico, Super Dragon, Jack Evans, & Frankie Kazarian vs. Joey Ryan, Scott Lost, Ricky Reyes, & Davey Richards
Most will enjoy this will more than I do. It's a cute, charming spotfest, but I have to see something truly special out of a spotfest to forgive the referee not enforcing tag legalities. Definitely some crazy shit in this one, and worth seeing at least once.
Much more entertaining than the match Williams had against AJ Styles five days earlier, but still nothing special. What did make this better is that Williams overcompensated for his lack of presence and charisma, vowing to not unleash any Canadian linked signature moves, teasing them, and then sticking to his word to piss off the crowd.
PWG Title Match
Kevin Steen vs. Samoa Joe
Pretty good, with Steen ultimately winning because he damaged Joe's right knee. This came into play because Joe hit a Death Valley Driver, but couldn't link it into a pin to make it an Island Driver, and then he raised his right leg to shake off the pain on a second DVD attempt, which Steen countered into a crucifix pin. Too bad ROH never got a chance to book this match.
Chanukah Chaos (The C's Are Silent) - December 3, 2005
Of major historical note for this federation is that Super Dragon interfered in the PWG Title match to fuck with Kevin Steen in his defense against Joey Ryan, resulting in a title change. Quite the way to give one of the best feuds in independent wrestling history one last go-home wrinkle, showing that Steen and SD hated each other so much that SD was willing to sacrifice the added benefit of defeating his archenemy for the biggest prize in the company, because he would rather get under Steen's skin. I'd have kept the title on Steen to make their feud-ending hardcore match even bigger and give the title extra prestige of being in such a marquee match for the company, but that's me.
I Quit Match
Scott Lost vs. Scorpio Sky
Decent feud-ender, of course much better than their tag match several months earlier which resulted in Sky losing his mask post-match. Lost opportunity (no pun intended) when Sky worked on Lost's hand for a minute, doing devastating work on it, and then they did nothing the remaining 12-15 minutes to follow up on that. Really good heated beginning, decent middle and ending. Good but nothing special, and I'll never watch this again.
Good opener in which Shelley dominated about 2/3 because he's just better than Lost in every facet. For much of the match, it seemed like every time Lost was about to get some momentum, Shelley had a counter to outclass him and quickly regain the advantage. In the end though, Lost was able to get the fluke victory on Shelley, which he badly needed after losing the feud to Scorpio Sky just a couple weeks earlier.
2 Skinny Black Guys vs. Roderick Strong & Jack Evans
Match starts off with the sports-entertainment, as Evans does his break-dancing to show up Tornado and has Generico going bonkers marking out for it. Once that awesome segment is done with, GeNext does a decent job of working on Tornado, and Evans is fantastic in using his small size and flexibility to escape Tornado's work, including the groin sweep in the corner and and a front facelock.
The match gets fucking awesome when Generico gets in and becomes the Ricky Morton of the match, as he should be of course. Strong was devastating to him, just laying in those backbreakers, gut-busters, and chops. As the match progressed, it kept getting hotter most of the way, although here is when the flaws came in.
When Tornado came in for the hot tag, the crowd didn't pop, which means had Generico showed a bit more struggle, this match could've been a MOTYC much like the Black Guys against the Young Bucks years later. The last several minutes were absolutely dazzling, something I recommend for fans of the American Wolves, just nonstop action. However, the ref did once forget that Tornado was legal when he counted a pin on Evans, but the commentary did point out that they too were forgetting who was legal due to the action.
That was a minor hiccup for tag legalities though, as Strong fucked up Tornado with his trademark offense and put the dazed Evans on him for a pinfall attempt, showing his professionalism during this very good spotfest. Evans botched the Ode to the Bulldogs though, making up for it with a standing twisting senton to finish the match. I'd love to have seen these teams rematch or in front of an ROH crowd at the time. Very good overall and the tiniest of hairs away from being great.
Davey Richards vs. Samoa Joe
This was like a combination of Kenta Kobashi's matches against KENTA and Go Shiozaki during his big title reign in NOAH. Richards, although a PWG Tag Champ at the time, was only a year and a half into the business so this was to be the match in which he both stepped up but also paid his dues. However, Richards got enough in on Joe that he didn't just pay his dues, but this match elevated his stock, certainly putting him on ROH's radar.
Joe was great at no-selling and daring the green Richards to knock him down. After trading blows coming off the ropes, Richards was able to use his compact frame, strength, and momentum to do just that to the then current X-Division Champ. Later in the match, as Richards was down selling Joe's devastating offense, he got paintbrushed with Low Ki/KENTA kicks to the face, getting more salt rubbed in the wound as he paid his dues.
Both men traded Crippler Crossfaces and other great submission work, but once Joe got Richards crotched on the top-rope, it was the Musclebuster and that's that.
Chris Sabin, TJ Perkins, Rocky Romero, & Frankie Kazarian vs. B-Boy, Alex Koslov, Petey Williams & Christopher Daniels
Good, fun multi-man tag with some sports-entertainment mixed in, but nothing special, par for the course for indy tag with this many participants involved. I saw significantly more entertaining bullshit from Black Guys vs. GeNext, thank you. I believe most will enjoy this more than I did though.
Super Dragon vs. Kevin Steen
The big feud-ender here, and although this was a great closer displayed by its masterful storytelling, I can't imagine that these men look back on this without some regrets.
They beat the fuck out of each other in this one. They spent the first third of the match completely brawling out of the ring, going all over ringside and using chairs aplenty. A noteworthy spent was Steen simply throwing SD onto a bunch of seated chairs.
Once this got to the ring, the brutality only increased to show how much these men despised each other. Bringing back memories of Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley for me, they involved thumbtacks AND a barb wire board later on. There were numerous SD curb stomps in this one delivered by both men, some onto chairs of course, but Steen delivered his while poetically putting a SD mask on from one of the merch tables, paying off that part of their year long angle.
Steen played the Orton and took the bumps onto the thumbtacks. giving SD a taste of vengeance mid-way through the match. But it kept going because these men had a story to tell. Steen would deliver a Package Piledriver on FOUR chairs to SD, but that wasn't the finish. Steen also dug down deep due to both fortitude and hatred, kicking out of a shit that would be the end of any standard match.
Steen also took a Burning Hammer off the apron through a table on the floor, knocking Steen out so SD could handcuff him. Numerous times, also thanks to the handcuffs in the closing few minutes, SD had a chance to end this but prolonged it to sell the hatred and finality of this chapter. The end finally came when Steen, while handcuffed, was given a Super Burning Hammer, taking an ugly bump head first with that body landing on the thumb tacks, and then rolling over onto the barb wire board. There was no kicking out of that.
This is a defining match in PWG's history, independent wrestling, and from a match quality standpoint, one that both men can still be proud of almost a decade later. A fitting final chapter to the best feud in PWG history when that promotion still booked actual angles, and like KENTA vs. Low Ki did on the other side of the continent the night before for ROH, a great way to end 2005.
Good opener as expected. Let's hope Hero plans to channel Rey Mysterio and cloth his torso again, as he looked far more marketable this way than he does now with the same pudge. On the other hand, it's amazing to see Castagnoli at this point look not completely comfortable yet and his body language being drastically different than it is today.
As for the match, at some points it did look contrived, but they had good chemistry, going back and forth with nice reversals, many of them being arm-drags. Castagnoli got the heat when he hit his partner and trainer from behind when they had a mid-match embrace to show respect on each other. He has pretty damn great at playing the heel and controlling the match.
Hero would make a comeback with a backdrop suplex, getting his taste of vengeance. But that would be short-lived with Castagnoli went for a spinebuster but snuck in a blatant ball-shot Manhattan Drop. He was even better as a heel on this second and final control segment, feigning innocence like Nigel McGuinness at this time in ROH. But the student was still the student, finding himself looking up at the lights when Hero pinned him with a hurricanrana that would make Rey Mysterio proud.
3 Fearsome Black Guys vs. Ronin, Nemesis, & Disco Machine
Entertaining indy sports-entertainment style trios match, but nothing special, especially with the ref forgetting who was legal. Most indy marks will find more enjoyment out of this than I did.
The finish comes with Scorpio Sky on the apron and I guess that caused a distraction for his buddy Human Tornado's team. El Generico is NOT happy, so Sky makes the challenge at the next show to pit Dark & Lovely against Cape Fear. I'm interested in that for sure.
Rating: less than ***
Chris Sabin vs. Kevin Steen
This is Steen's first match in PWG after the brutal feud-ender against Super Dragon. Good mid-card match with nice transitions and comebacks, and I appreciated Sabin giving an eyepoke receipt to Steen deep into the match. This was funny, action-packed, AND made logical sense. Match is ruined when PWG Champ Joey Ryan interferes as this was apparently a title shot match and that pissed him off, despite no indication of such a stipulation on the title intro for this match.
Fun tag match, and of course since this is PWG with some spotty workers involved the ref forgot who was legal a couple times. Tornado was hesitant to go against fellow Skinny Black Guy Generico, while that was contrasted by Sky demanding his former fellow Aerial Xpressionist Quicksilver to get in when he got tagged in. This had some decent comedy in the beginning, as Sky was overly proud of his abs and Generico mocked him for it.
There was nothing insulting, and had the ref remembered who was legal, this would be the in the very good territory. There were plenty of great spots, including the former Aerial Xpress both executing dives on their new partners simultaneously, and the match also had numerous counters. This concluded appropriately with Tornado evading a corner Yakuza kick from Generico and giving him a release German Suplex, or as Tornado so eloquently called it during his career, Dat ..... Dead.
I'm amused that Sky shoved Tornado off to get the win and Tornado is pissy about it. Sky was actually the legal man.
PWG Title - Elimination Match
Joey Ryan vs. Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Steen vs. AJ Styles
In true PWG early days fashion, the commentators fail to mention that this is elimination rules until about 12 minutes in. I thoroughly appreciated that this was tornado rules, none of that tag shit that any of my readers know by now the refs would have fucked off with enforcing once the match had gotten to its third act.
There were some nice moments in this, including Styles willing to play dirty with Steen and delivering an eyepoke receipt. There was of course a fantastic Lioncock lowblow from Bosh that had the L.A. crowd marking out. I must admit, there was about a minute in the middle of this match that fucking fell apart, luckily these four were good enough to glue it book into something good.
Ryan brought a chair in and used it on Bosh, then framed Steen for it to get the former PWG Champ eliminated. Steen argued with the ref, and Ryan took advantage to cheat more with the chair, eliminating Bosh once the ref came back in. He had a decent little finishing stretch, with admittedly a creative albeit dangerous finish. Ryan brought the chair back in, Styles waist-locked him, and executed a German suplex. However, Ryan placed the chair on the ground right before the landing, so that both went head-first on it. Ryan (on his belly) put his arm on Styles (on his back) for the pin.
Oh, there's a tag main event that looks like it could be pretty sexy on paper, some of you may be thinking. Blow me.
The usual good singles match from these two. Steen did use usual crowd banter throughout, ultimately forcing Generico to take too many bumps. They did a fine job of transitions, from yanking the ropes down on an attempted to clotheslines to a routine armdrag. Generico, in what I suspect is a move he picked up from the classic AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe match at Turning Point 2005 just a couple months earlier, pulled out the Fosbury Flop, which Steen took awhile to recover from.
The post-match is entertaining. Steen asks for a free Generico shirt, only to find out the item is sold out, then Steen says that he still hates his long-traveled colleague. Generico asks for a handshake and they embrace, only for Steen to of course clothesline and package piledrive him. Good stuff all around.
Jody Fleisch vs. AJ Styles
Before there was AR Fox, there was Fleisch to bring down singles matches a notch or two with botched spots. Fleisch badly botched a hurricanrana in the middle of the match, and Styles miscalculated his moonsault reverse DDT spot. That said, this was a good spotfest, although not anything epic. If it was actually epic and paced to its fullest potential, the crowd would've been going apeshit in the closing stretch.
Before the match, Bosh lays down a challenge that Cape Fear should perform oral fellatio on him in the ring once Arrogance wins. Quicksilver accepts.
The match is good stuff, paced very well, pinfalls only counted on the legal men, etc. It was on its way to be very good, but got thrown out when Joey Ryan and Super Dragon randomly interfered, then went at each other. Strange booking that really seemed to serve no purpose.
A rematch is agreed to on the next show in what seemed to be deemed as a Tag Titles shot match. Hopefully that one was booked with some kind of logic.
Chris Sabin vs. Alex Shelley
Really good stuff here, just needed some more selling to become a great match. They started early with their typically good counter wrestling to establish their familiarity, then got vicious with the kicks and neck work throughout the rest of the match. That was of course brilliant to soften each up for their Cradle Shock and Border City Stretch Finishers. And I didn't mind that Shelley was done after getting hit with the former just one after the work that had been done on him. Just have Sabin sell his own neckwork and this would've been ****+ easily.
Tag Titles Match
Super Dragon & Davey Richards vs. Roderick Strong & Jack Evans
Most will enjoy this way more than I did; this had some great action with a good pace, but ultimately didn't serve any kind of substance. I reflect back to Strong & Evans challenging Jimmy Jacobs & BJ Whitmer at ROH's Manhhatan Mayhem the year before, which was significantly shorter and with superior pacing and execution. While this was the main event for this show, that didn't mean this match NEEDED to go 25-30 minutes in order to be great. It could've easily shaved off 10-15 minutes to be just as good as Jacobs/Whitmer v. Strong/Evans.
Evans took a beating in this one as he should have, and I imagine it was a dream pairing for indy fans at the time to see the vicious dick SD unleash punishment on him. But at no point did Evans sells any limb work or even exhaustion from his beating later. This match also seemed to suffer from too many attempted hot tags, as there were several of them and none of them got a huge crowd pop. I'll never understand SD's mentality during his reign with the green Richards that it was necessary to work such ridiculously long tag matches like they were in fucking mid-90s All Japan.
Make no mistake, the action in this was very good and pretty. I definitely suggest watching it once as the mileage may vary for each viewer.
Really good stuff here, without any of the bullshit booking from their match at the prior show. Just good tag wrestling, mostly smooth transitions, action-packed, with the crowd in a fucking frenzy at the end. I was genuinely shocked to see an Arrogance match in which tag legalities were remembered by the workers, not just the referees.
This was right on the border of being great, but I'll explain why I don't put it in that category ultimately despite the crowd reacting so incredibly well in the closing minutes. Bosh & Lost had some nice-looking double-team moves, but they didn't look as crisp as Cape Fear's double-team moves. I think had they studied Roderick Strong & Jack Evans doing double-team moves, in terms of timing, pacing, and teasing, they'd have looked much smoother AND gotten this crowd to have a collective hard-on before the third act. Still really good stuff though.
Tag Titles Match
Super Dragon & Davey Richards vs. AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels
I want to preface this match review. Years ago, I had been provided with a custom-made comp of the SD/Richards Tag Title reign. I had never been so close to quitting on wrestling. Their reign was very tedious to sit through, with matches that went long for the sake of going long, made worse by Richards being incredibly green as he had less than two years in the business and it was very obvious that their colleagues were usually taking it easy. In particular, their match against the Kings of Wrestling, something that would look and sound absolutely stellar on paper, was fucking dog-shit, just a worthless pile of feces without any peaks or valleys whatsoever.
But this match right here, as well as SD & Richards's prior defense against Strong & Evans, somewhat pacified me. Sure, the Strong & Evans match turned out to be a fun but meaningless spotfest in hindsight, but what about this match?
The challengers were putting aside their professional rivalry that had spilled over into numerous federations, and did a fantastic job in their unity, forcing the green Richards to pay his dues and play the Ricky Morton role. Styles in particular was a hard-ass on him, but Richards held his own with footwork and strength since both have compact, muscular frames that mirror each other.
Years before their singles matches, Richards and Daniels also showed a very good chemistry, and make no mistake, for all the times that Daniels has phoned it in for PWG, he brought his working boots on this night. That was very clearly displayed when Richards gave him a Saito Suplex, which all these years later I don't understand for someone who had a notorious neck injury and usually don't take risks. He and Styles just did a great job tagging in and out, wearing down the smaller, greener half of the champions.
SD of course made his presence known, even though this match was designed to be the coming-out party for Richards. He came in to break up a Styles pinfall attempt on Richards. Styles was fucking annoyed, got up, and the two former PWG Champions had a brief fisticuff, with Styles shoving him in charging fashion and giving him a double leg takedown. Later when SD did the same thing, he then dared Styles to retaliate by giving him extra slaps to the back of the head. Styles of course got irritated and went after the troll again. That Styles had dethroned SD just a couple weeks shy of a year earlier I'm sure was a deeper layer for these two having tension, not that they needed any extra motivation to piss each other off.
I must also mention that like in the earlier tag match on this night for a shot at the titles, pinfalls and submission were only counted when involving the legal men. Such a crazy concept, and it was yet another little thing that genuinely made me realize that this match was in the same league as many of the classic tag matches involving KENTA & Naomichi Marufuji.
Daniels got taken out at the end, showing that the dream tag team on this night was ultimately inferior to the champs that had been teaming for several months by this point. Once Styles took a super lung-blower from Richards while being held captive by SD, everyone just knew it was over. What an incredible match this was, and it might by team for those in charge at PWG to get it included on a compilation.
This was the first genuinely great match in the SD/Richards reign. It was the first great match to go on the resume of Richards, with literally less than two years in the business. It told a great story and allowed Richards to shine and sell to provide a star-making performance. It's no coincidence he would get booked by ROH shortly after this.
This is my pick for the best match of my retro PWG viewing so far. This is better than anything in SD's feud against Kevin Steen. It's better than the hard-hitting classic Styles had against Samoa Joe. It's better than the acclaimed singles encounters Bryan Danielson had worked with the usual suspects up to this point in the company.
I also wanna mention this, just as a what if. I mentioned KENTA & Marufuji. One of my big dream matches back in 2006 was to see KENTA & Marufuji vs. Styles & Daniels, since it would have put two great teams (consisting of natural rivals) against each other, with all four men having established themselves as stars in their scenes and the opposing forces never colliding. But I also wish we could've gotten KENTA & Marufuji vs. SD & Richards booked for ROH in 2006. That could've had some REALLY interesting dynamics in it.
Hell of a debut for Sydal here, as he continued the roll he was on in 2006. They have a nice exchange early and then Steen stalls. This prompts a fan to chant "We want wrestling" and Steen seats himself next to him to join in on the chant. He gets back in the ring and they have more exchanges.
This got really impressive in the finishing stretch. Steen went for the package piledriver, lifting Sydal for it only for Sydal to counter it with a hurricanrana pin. But Steen kept the momentum to roll forward with it and get leverage, getting to still drop Sydal with his finisher. Sydal also did a very good job of selling Steen's work on his left arm, more than he would've needed to make this an impressive debut. Steen puts him over strong post-match.
Apparent Lucha Rules Match
Los Luchas vs. Cape Fear
I say apparent because guys came and went mid-way in the match, so Disco Machine on commentary assumed it must be a Lucha Rules match with this including Los Luchas. This was a phenomenal spot-fest tag, and that someone actually acknowledged why it broke down into that style is what makes this click. An explanation from someone is all that I ask for.
Spectacular match. They do some nice exchange wrestling, with Strong constantly getting a hammerlock on, including a unique one I hadn't seen before. Strong would get to work on Sydal's back, just decimating the smaller of the participants. About mid-way through he brought Sydal's hope spots to an abrupt halt with a back-drop suplex on the outside ring apron, devastating the back even more.
Sydal though would show much heart and determination, even after being press-slam tossed onto a bunch of chairs on his back. He blocked an attempted powerbomb on the floor, using what strength he still had in his back to back-drop him. He'd suck up whatever pain he had after an extended heat segment, getting Strong to the outside and landing a corkscrew plancha. He would also manage to block an attempted Liontamer from Strong.
Strong blocked an attempted earclap hurricanrana while on the floor, following up with a Yakuza kick than Sydal taking a head-drop style bump for an awesome nearfall. After more great work, Sydal found himself on the turnbuckle, landing a picture-perfect springboard DDT to position Strong for a Shooting Star Press. This got Sydal a huge victory in PWG, making a star being born in the company, and hopefully he could carry that momentum into his singles pursuit in ROH.
All this match needed was a bit more selling from Sydal to be a MOTYC. But this was without a doubt a fantastic match, one of the best PWG hosted before its golden age.
Good stuff but nothing memorable. The pacing and mat wrestling were all fine, but the selling was minimal and there was no emotional connection developed with the audience. I seriously don't remember who even won the match.
Chris Sabin vs. Austin Aries
Another good match highlighted by great character work from Aries. He dressed flamboyantly like his Starr gimmick in TNA and begged off early from the dominating Sabin, sparking "Macho Aries" chants. Since Aries was still a babyface, he gave the paying audience what they wanted with numerous Savage mannerisms, including the sledge and elbow drop along with taunts. Aries would win by holding the tights too much like WWF era Savage. You see how I actually remember finishes when the match actually tells a story?
Kevin Steen vs. Bryan Danielson
With this being the day before Steen's before, he says Danielson should sing "Happy Birthday" to him, to which Danielson agrees if Steen wins, but should Danielson win, then Steen is finished with PWG.
This was another good match for the night, with very good wrestling itself that unfortunately wasn't all that psychologically engaging. After Steen countered a Cattle Mutilation with his own shitty Cattle Mutilation, he found himself positioned for a Tiger Suplex, with Danielson then using the positioning to turn him over the victory.
Steen begs Danielson not to hold true to the stipulation because he would only have CZW left to earn anything resembling a decent living in the business. Danielson says Steen can stay but he had to sing "Happy Birthday" to him since Danielson's birthday was later in the month, AND Steen had to simultaneously booty-dance.
The post-match made me realize what this match needed to hit an emotionally unforgettable level. Since Steen was working in CZW during this period and was months removed from his violent feud against Super Dragon, inserting him into ROH for its feud against CZW would've been a great way to get him a spot in that federation, and had Steen challenged Danielson for the ROH Title, that could've been some hot shit.
This is a battle of Dark & Lovey, and Scorpio is accompanied by Chung. I will be as gentlemanly as possible (unlike the commentary) and mention she provided a head-turning presence at ringside.
This started off hot and spilled to the outside. Tornado grabbed a nearby basketball, slam-dunked it on a nearby hoop, and used the slam-dunk position to execute a hurricanrana on Scorpio. Very creative, entertaining spot that was perfectly positioned. Then in a moment of foreshadowing Tornado's character, he attempted to assault Chung by throwing the basketball at her and chasing her around the ring while doing so. I don't recall her doing anything to have justified THAT much comeuppance from Tornado, so when she helped out Scorpio later, I was ethically sympathizing with her (not because of her beauty.)
Tornado also attempted a jumping move to the outside and hurt his right ankle, reaggravating a recent injury in that region. Scorpio went to work on it and applied numerous ankle lock submissions as well as a figure-four leglock. If only Kurt Angle had watched this to see how to soften an ankle, maybe his work wouldn't be so heavily criticized in the past several years.
Tornado was able to get some good comeback spots, managing to mix in his signature stuff. However, doing so caused more pain to his right ankle, which he sold very well. Also, Chung helped Scorpio out enough times, an unidentified attractive young white lady appeared to brawl with her, marking the PWG debut of Candice LeRae. Scorpio went after LeRae but Tornado prevented domestic violence.
With the ref trying to keep LeRae outside the ring, Chung tried to capitalize with a lowblow on Tornado, but she instead hurt her hand due to his being so large in the phallic department. This caused him to merely scratch his genitalia moments later to take away any discomfort in that region. Scorpio was able to overcome a Dat ..... Dead in the end, taking out Tornado with a beautifully executed DDT. That paid off some pain that was undoubtedly caused on Tornado's neck when he took an inverted DDT on the apron in the middle of the match.
This isn't necessarily great or anywhere near MOTYC territory, but I have zero complaints about this. Selling, storytelling, psychology, character work, great positioning and execution, with very, very good sports-entertainment meshed in.
Briscoe Bros. vs. Cape Fear
Easy match of the night here, and a great tag match. Sure, this had spots as would be expected, the highlights being some hurricanranas, dives, and running sunset powerbombs to the outside. But what stood out above everything was that tag legalities were never forgotten about by any of the wrestlers. NOT ONCE. Excellent match with great pacing, cutting the ring in half, comebacks, and amazing action.
B-Boy vs. Matt Sydal
This would've been much better as undercard match since this lacked personality. Overall, the wrestling was good even with a botched head-scissors early, but B-Boy's heat segment just couldn't be as engrossing as Sydal's. With the commentary pointing out that B-Boy is owed a PWG Title shot in the future, it only made sense to go over after landing a discus lariat and G2S.
Good but a little too long since neither has the charisma and timing down to have a killer main-event quality match. Tornado was also annoying with his babyface biases. Everything was smooth in here, but as I mentioned there wasn't anything in this that was worthy of emotional investment. Jade Chung tried interfering on Lost's behalf but Tornado had Candice LeRae use a char to chase her to the back. B-Boy eventually won since I guess people were supposed to get a raging hard-on to see Joey Ryan vs. B-Boy in 2006. Good match but whatever.
Cape Fear vs. Chris Sabin & Kevin Steen
The unsurprising MOTN with ZERO TAG LEGALITY PLOT HOLES TO BOOT~! Really good action with various segments of cutting the ring in half. The highlight had to easily be a bunch of moves one after another on the outside, just crazy shit that was timed and executed perfectly to earn the enormous pop it got, ending with Sabin jumping off the apron and giving Generico a head-scissors into empty folding chairs. After a tremendous third act that was packed with action, Steen put down Quicksilver with a 450 Splash. Man, Sabin & Steen really could've been a special team but it's all good knowing who their primary partners in the business would turn out to be.
PWG Title Match
Guest Ref - Human Tornado
Joey Ryan vs. Davey Richards
I should note that the absurdly long reign of Richards & Super Dragon as Tag Champs ended at Enchantment Under the Sea to Ryan's Arrogance buddies Lost & Chris Bosh. IIRC it wasn't a clean end to the reign and may have been the beginning of the former X-Foundation becoming Arrogance. I don't care enough about this faction to bother confirming that. The Embassy gave indy fans the the same deal at this time but with much better pizzazz, charisma, and work ethic.
Because of that though, I believe it's why Richards started the match with a tope con hilo to Richards on the outside. He dragged Richards outside and into a locker room, beating the shit out of him. This became an extended squash, with the chickenshit Ryan getting the heat back through cheating or maybe interference from Arrogance. Tornado takes himself out when he launches himself at Arrogance, causing Rick Knox to officiate the rest of the match. Ryan eventually wins by cheating/interference. Whatever.
Post-match, B-Boy and Frankie Kazarian come out to force Arrogance to take a collective powder. I can't make out anything B-Boy says due to the shitty acoustics, but I do catch Kazarian saying he wants a shot at the PWG Title when B-Boy wins it. Oh goody. What I do know is that Ryan vs. Lost on the next event is a cage match. That sounds like it has all kinds of potential to unintentionally amuse me with indy bullshit.
Good tag match as would be expected but not the potential classic for a number of reasons. Cape Fear truly shined in this match while KOW was a bit sloppy, but they were 24 hours removed from that work of art Cage of Death finale on the other side of the continent. That explains why they took shitty arm drag bumps, as well as Castagnoli's head bleeding quite easily.
While the match had its obvious flaws, it is a testament that after a rough performance for KOW in the first act, they got on track with Cape Fear, providing well-timed counters and double-teams galore. The highlight to me was near the end, as Hero thought he had escaped a Yakuza kick from Generico, only to turn around and eat one to the crowd's approval. I must point out that for some reason Castagnoli got the winning pin counted on Generico despite Hero being the legal man. Overall, this match was the best it could be given its circumstances.
PWG Title - Cage Match
Joey Ryan vs. B-Boy
I had heard many things about this match over the years, with them being polarizing of course. I'll be honest: I dreaded watching this match because Ryan is inconsistent and can have a tendency to over-rely on shallow smoke-and-mirrors to keep the audience engaged, while B-Boy's severe lack of charisma makes him a peasant's version of Homicide. And unfortunately, my dread was warranted.
I'm gonna go through the positives first: both men did work hard to make this match stand out, but this feud never had the heat to be the epic they wanted it to be. They took bumps, involved weapons, had blading, all the things on paper that a blood feud ender would want. But that's what a smarky know-it-all pre-teen would grab watching Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker from Bad Blood 1997, and this match seemed to be a shallow attempt at recreating that. The audience did at least get into all the interference in the last several minutes and rallied behind B-Boy to dethrone Ryan's shallow reign, absolutely molten-hot when they were convinced they'd see the title change.
However, now I get to take the dump on this match that it truly deserves. Granted, this DOES feel as great as HBK vs. Taker, Jimmy Jacobs vs. BJ Whitmer, and Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA (all that were very violent flavors of the cage match genre) if one wants to compare this to the god-awful piece of shit cage match between Adam Pearce and Frankie Kazarian two years prior. I'll give this match that much credit at least. But this is still an overall terrible cage match, especially one that's supposed to end a supposed blood feud.
The match itself went on for over 30 fucking minutes, which along with the brawling outside, interference, and referee violence, indicates that these two thought they could pull off something on par with that work of art in October of 1997 I keep mentioning, and I ain't referring to Age in the Cage. These two men simply aren't good enough to go that long and keep it organically engaging, especially with each other. While HBK was a major douche-bag with years of credibility established at the top, Ryan here was strictly a chickenshit heel relying on smoke-and-mirrors after being established as a choke artist beforehand. Meanwhile, B-Boy lacked the credibility of Taker, who had been made out as a legitimate bad-ass for many, many years before stepping inside that first-ever Cell.
The violence Ryan inflicted on referee Rick Knox must also be addressed too. While HBK hurt the ref inside that Cell match because he was looking to escape the epic beating from Taker, Ryan exchanged blows with Knox simply as a transparent attempt to get heat, rather than rely on his work, body language, and facial expressions. It certainly took away any hatred he supposedly had for B-Boy that the commentators were so desperately trying to force the viewer to buy into.
There was also all kinds of dangerous shit in here, and because there was no real meaning behind any of it, no fluidity or rhythm, I'm not going to bother going into further detail on them. But shit would happen that would end a PPV main event and then the match would keep on going, without any honest selling of the pain these two men dished out on each other. But that's not all, folks.
There was also the ludicrous amount of interference in the closing minutes, first beginning with Scott Lost to help out Ryan, and the crowd didn't even react, leaving me to make the educated assumption that they were rolling their eyes at it. When several more heels and babyfaces came to ringside, the crowd at least then got heated, but it was for the smoke-and-mirrors spectacle, rather than the interference itself adding a subtle wrinkle to the match like between Xavier and Paul London at ROH's One Year Anniversary Show. While in that match the interference from Allison Danger and Alexis Laree was quick and a way to get Danger out of the equation, and added heat to the possibility of London finally winning the ROH Title, this was just pure cop-out TNA main event booking bullshit that took away from what really mattered, which was Ryan and B-Boy putting their issue behind them with the company's biggest prize on the line.
That said, I had mentioned the crowd went crazy when they believed B-Boy was gonna dethrone Ryan, but that of course didn't happen, much like London not beating Xavier in that ROH match I mentioned. But that match gave Xavier credibility, showing how he took advantage of the situation as well as London's disadvantage of having just competed in a hard-fought title shot match. In this match, it soured the crowd completely on the match, with them genuinely feeling ripped off because it was time to finally bring the charade of Ryan's megapush to an end. I can only imagine how frustrated fans must have felt going home after this show. I know I'd have reservations about attending PWG's upcoming Battle of Los Angeles triple-shot.
What hurts this match more than anything really isn't how badly it pales in comparison to other matches from the past that it wanted to be. As mentioned, these two men supposedly hated each other, but I never once bought that from what I had seen from the two interacting on this rewatching project of mine. But while this half-assed excuse of a feud was going on, there was the greatest feud in the history of independent wrestling unfolding on the other side of the continent, ending 24 hours before this in the Cage of Death match I mentioned earlier in the tag match review. That match was a massive payoff of all the little things, with tremendous timing, teases being delivered, false finishes, a layered arc, and swings in momentum. This was just just a smoke-and-mirrors dog-and-pony show between two guys who looked like they watched Mick Foley tapes and thought they could do something magical by having blood and bumps aplenty.
In short, this match, when especially compared to the Cage of Death just the day before, was like the overall laughable final season of Dexter compared to the simultaneously airing masterpiece that was Breaking Bad's high-octane final season. This match on its own would already have glaring weaknesses, but that something within the blood feud genre that was so perfected also took place simultaneously only further exposes what a shoddy cage match this truly is.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Night 1 - September 1, 2006
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament 1st Round
Rocky Romero vs. Roderick Strong
The closest thing to a substantial match on this first night of triple-shot action. The action was decent enough to be on an episode of televised wrestling, but nothing close to being memorable, and based on this, I'm not as excited to for the rest of their PWG trilogy as I had assumed I'd be. This never kicked into an adrenaline-rushing gear and Romero's selling was nonexistent. If he had been willing to sell around this time, he could've made himself more emotionally engaging to the audience against the bigger, stronger Strong.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Night 2 - September 2, 2006
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament 1st Round - Hardcore Match
Super Dragon vs. Necro Butcher
Necro is wearing wrestling boots which was a good idea based on this match's brutality. Way too much dangerous shit between these two as expected, but nonetheless a very good brawl. In the midst of all the crazy stunts these two pulled including numerous unprotected chairshots, and a wooden table breaking underneath their combined weight, there was plenty of psychology and storytelling largely thanks to Necro. On the outside, SD smashed Necro's right hand with a chair on the apron.
This caused Necro to be in severe pain when delivering right hand punches, even delaying him to go for pin attempts after dropping SD with devastating maneuvers, including a Tiger Driver. But that also sabotaged his attempts to get out of a head-scissors, and when he finally did to follow that up with punches, he had to nurse his wound. This allowed SD to land some Kawada kicks but Necro sucked it up again and dropped him with a right hand when running the ropes.
They also set up a table inside the ring which didn't break as expected upon impact; the ring also had a folding chair and non-folding chair inside, adding to the atmosphere of this chaotic main event. Perhaps most surprising was a great nearfall in which Necro almost put SD down with a classic O'Connor roll, showing that he's more than a garbage stuntman that he made himself known for. He also showed great fire in the closing moments as SD went to work on him, digging down deep to hit some right hand punches despite the pain.
But after taking a chairshot with another chair already folded around his head, a curb stomp, and Super Psycho Driver onto a chair, Necro had nothing left, bringing this war to its appropriate climax and closing the evening with a thunderous audience that pounded on the apron with great enthusiasm. Splendid surprise here.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Night 3 - September 3, 2006
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
Chris Sabin vs. El Generico
One of the finest openers prior to the company's golden age. The action and mat wrestling were all great with tons of sweet reversals, but that didn't really matter. The primary story of the match was Generico teasing the Top Rope Brainbuster. Sabin did a masterful job of avoiding it and made sure that story didn't outshine him, as he controlled the majority of this match. But once Generico landed his finisher on Sabin, the crowd erupted with joy, and here's a crazy concept - it was the actual finish.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
CIMA vs. Kevin Steen
Steen shows off during his intro and does sit-ups, so CIMA tops him by doing sit-ups on the top rope. Steen tries to copy it but fails miserably even with the ref's assistance. Already enjoying this match and they've yet to lock up. CIMA almost finishes Steen off early with a crucifix pin, and Steen returns the nearfall favor about 30 seconds later. They had some nice mat wrestling to follow up, and the big story became CIMA selling as he struggled to lift up Steen's heavy frame.
The tide turned when Steen charged at CIMA in the corner, but ended up having his left shoulder eat the ringpost. CIMA then followed that up with a successful scoop slam that caused all three men to bump to the crowd's uproarious approval. He then dropped Steen with a Saito Suplex for a nice nearfall, and it was incredible to see CIMA selling his back, not because of the work Steen had implemented on him, but showing that his adrenaline was wearing off.
Steen caught CIMA and took him down with a swinging modified Schwein of his own for a nearfall. They exchanged blows in the corner, resulting in Steen taking him down to deliver a gorgeous moonsault for another nice nearfall. He went for another one which was a huge mistake against someone with the accomplishments of CIMA, resulting in Steen eating a lung-blower while climbing the turnbuckles, landing the majority of the damage on Steen's neck.
CIMA got a double knees to the chest along with a followup guillotine choke DDT, then a figure four scoop slam for another nice nearfall, willing to cause further pain on his back. Steen lariats him when he runs the ropes for another nearfall, then attempts the package piledriver. CIMA evades it and lands a superkick, then counters another lariat attempt to finish off the former PWG Champ with a rollup that consisted of a Hammerlock and visually similar to the small package. Really good stuff.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
Dragon Kid vs. Roderick Strong
The forgotten great match of the evening here. After being shoved around by Strong early, Dragon Kid avoids a chop and they have a nice sequence to follow up. Strong follows Dragon Kid to the outside after dropkicking him out of the ring, then makes the same mistake as he'd done against the likes of Matt Hardy, CM Punk, and Bryan Danielson. He went to clothesline Dragon Kid on the outside, only to be evaded and have his right arm strike the ring post.
Dragon Kid was phenomenal in following up on Strong's wounded right arm, landing all kinds of blows and locking on various submissions, including a stunner on the right shoulder and then delivering a knee drop on it. He was actually relentless on the right arm and shoulder, taking full advantage against the bigger and strong opponent. Strong would catch him sliding underneath the legs and land a backdrop suplex and then a butterfly suplex, but still sold the damage on his right arm afterwards from sucking it up for those moves.
Because he didn't chop the ringpost as he had done in his major ROH matches, Strong was still able to land a chop on Dragon Kid, but it hurt him like a motherfucker still. He locked in a submission that I've yet to identity, working on the neck, arms, shoulders, and legs of Dragon Kid, then landed a knee on the back. Dragon Kid still landed some hope spots including a spin kick, but Strong got pissed off from that and tossed Dragon Kid towards the turnbuckle and then tossed him with a followup fallaway slam.
Strong went back to work on the back, not only perfect for his repertoire, but to sabotage Dragon Kid's acrobatic work. Dragon Kid still went for hope spots while in a bearhug, only to be tossed overhead and then dropped with a vertical suplex afterwards for a nearfall. Strong went back to work with another submission I can't identity, harming the neck, shoulders, back, arm, legs, knees, and ankles, then kept implementing his will. He landed a chop which still felt uncomfortable, but didn't cause unbearable pain by this time.
Strong went for another bearhug, but Dragon Kid reversed a lifting move with a DDT to regain control. He did an absurd extended head-scissors than hit a moonsault on Strong to the outside as the crowd was getting crazy for this action. Back inside, he blocked Strong's cutoff attempts, hitting a springboard Buff Blockbuster style blow on Strong's right arm and shoulder while holding onto it. He ducked a chop while running the ropes, then locked an Octopus hold on Strong to follow up on the right arm and shoulder.
Strong managed to escape it and pancake Dragon Kid, but had to now use forearm strikes rathern chops with his right arm. That control would be short-lived though, as Dragon Kid cut him off while crotched on the top rope and slammed Strong's right shoulder on the rope, then landed a springboard Arabian press inside the ring for a nice nearfall. Strong would still block a hurricanrana and position Dragon Kid for a suplex, only to be hit with a Stunner. Dragon Kid went back to immediate work on Strong's right arm, but Strong lifted him and dropped him on the turnbuckle in a style visually similar to when Brock Lesnar countered CM Punk's triangle choke with his running powerbomb. Strong lariated Dragon Kid, resulting in a stupid head-drop bump for a nearfall, and he's slow to follow up due to his exhaustion and pain in the right arm.
This delay allowed Dragon Kid to hit a crucifix bomb while in the fireman's carry position, but it didn't quite have the epic impact of Austin Aries landing it on Samoa Joe on that magical night in Philly. That's just a nearfall and Dragon Kid is slow to get up after all the damage he's also taken. He does a roll-through hurricanrana (that's almost blocked) for a nice nearfall. When he runs the ropes, Strong catches him with a military press gutbuster for a nearfall, and Strong is continuing to sell the right arm, only using it for forearm strikes.
Strong runs the ropes and eats a drop toehold followed by a missile shotgun dropkick on the apron, then rolls back in. Dragon Kid springboards off the top rope to finish off Strong with his patented hurricanrana, only for Strong to channel Chris Jericho and reverse it with a Boston Crab, to which Dragon Kid almost immediately taps out. I love that realistic quick submission which I'm sure they learned from the Chris Benoit vs. Dave Finlay finish a few months earlier at Judgment Day 2006, and as the video chapter fades out, Strong is continuing to sell his right arm. Excellent match with tremendous psychology that is more than deserving of inclusion on the next edition of Sells Out.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
Davey Richards vs. Austin Aries
Aries still has his abdomen taped up due to the botched reverse hurricanrana at ROH's Unified. They have good matwork to start with Aries still getting the advantage despite his injury. They work on each other's left arms and Richards gets a crucifix pin nearfall. Richards continue working on the left arm of Aries, which I always love since Aries is left-handed. They continue to exchange more quality mat wrestling with Richards blocking the typical dropkick escape from the head-scissors, but Aries rolls forward for a headlock. Richards locks the head-scissors back on, only for Aries to use the momentum to hit his patended dropkick escape.
Aries controlled a bit more, including hitting a suicide dive and goes back to work on the left arm of Richards as well as a bit of the shoulder, which can be great for his finishers but also the Rings of Saturn as he'd used in the past for victory. Richards blocks a brainbuster to return the left arm favor, but gets a Finlay roll followed by a frogsplash attempt. However, Richards gets the knees up, causing further pain to the damaged ribs of Aries.
Richards followed that up by working on the ribs and abdomen, including an abdominal stretch. Aries would cut him off a few minute later for a comeback, including a nice roaring forearm with his left, although I'd have like a bit more selling on that joint from him. As I suspected, he went for the Ring of Saturn on Richards, following on that left arm work, but he couldn't lock it in fully, actually at least selling the pain in his ribs and abdomen, which Richards went back to work on a bit.
They have more nice back-and-forth work with Aries getting the upper hand. Not learning from his frogsplash attempt, he goes for a 450 splash but Richards rolls out of the way. Richards follows up the enhanced pain on the ribs of Aries with a fireman's carry gutbuster. Aries tries to use his veteran experience to take out Aries with a classic schoolboy pin, but Richards locks in a Cloverleaf-like submission that focused on the ribs of Aries, giving Richards a major singles victory.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Quarterfinal
Jack Evans vs. Genki Horiguchi
Pretty good spotfest here that Evans controlled the majority of. I was really impressed with how crisp the early sequence was, and the evidence was clear for the improvement of Evans thanks to his time in Dragon Gate. Horiguchi actually showed some nice psychology on his back, having difficulty following up with a pin attempt after landing a trademark move, reminding me of the trios masterpiece at Supercard of Honor. In the end though, the younger Evans had more explosiveness behind his acrobatic work, that was combined with his improved body part work, resulting in him advancing.
2006 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament Semifinal
CIMA vs. El Generico
The most acclaimed match of the night and deserving of it just as much as DK vs. Strong. In light of all the awesome action in this, I really appreciated CIMA continuing to sell his back from his earlier match against Steen during his pre-match stretch. They had nice technical wrestling early as usual for the evening. They reach a stalemate as their legs are locked up and they roll over on their necks for a very brief slap exchange, and CIMA is selling his left leg.
Generico gained control for some time, only for CIMA to land a lung-blower. CIMA followed up on Generico's lower back, which Excalibur is kind enough to point out in commentary would sabotage the top rope brainbuster. CIMA then decides to play heel when gouging Generico's eyes during an attempted comeback, then tells the viewer to fuck off. CIMA goes for an abdominal stretch and gets a Full Nelson aftewards, working on the neck. He places Generico's neck in a vulnerable position in the corner, hitting a lowered shotgun dropkick on the ass, which caused Generico's neck to jam into the turnbuckle.
Generico made a comeback and hit a top rope Quebrada to CIMA on the outside, but continued selling his pain and exhaustion. As CIMA is about to get back into the ring, he is surprised by Generic's trademark through-the-ropes tornado DDT for a wonderful pop. That not only is perfect for popping and rallying the crowd, but softens the neck for the top rope brainbuster. CIMA is still able to kick out in the ring after a splash, and now Generico is selling his back too.
CIMA baits Generico, evading a Yakuza kick, but winning the cutoff battle by kicking him in the gut. That's then followed by a springboard stomp and then a springboard shotgun missile dropkick on Generico's neck, softening up that body part for the Schwein. Generico still manages to cutoff a suplex and guillotines CIMA's throat, but his springboard move is countered with an Ace Crusher for a nice nearfall. CIMA goes for his guillotine choke DDT, but Generico hits him with a modified Falcon Arrow for a wonderful nearfall.
CIMA evades another Yakuza kick attempt, then walks into a big boot. CIMA sucks it up and lands an uppercut to Generico, then hits a modified Iconoclasm. CIMA goes for a frogsplash and gets the same result as Aries earlier in the evening. This allows Generico to finally hit the teased Yakuza kick and then a half-and-half (Nelson) suplex for an awesome nearfall as the crowd's giving them a standing ovation. CIMA cuts off a top rope brainbuster, then hits a top rope tornado DDT, which Excalibur is kind enough to point out in commentary is similar to Jushin Liger inflicting upon Owen Hart. CIMA follows that up with the Schwein, and the crowd is stunned to see Generico actually kick out! "THIS IS AWESOME~!"
CIMA blocks a last-ditch cutoff attempt, and finally finishes off Generico with a second Schwein. I've no problem with Generico kicking out of the Schwein as it elevated his stock for the PWG fanbase. This was an incredible match with quality selling and fantastic counters as well as storytelling. Worth every bit of praise it has gotten over the years.
The rest of the tournament matches were disappointing thanks to selling issues from Davey Richards, who defeats CIMA in their lone singles match to date. Because Super Dragon was to win this tournament but got concussed earlier in the evening, a rewrite was done. Richards won but was granted his request to join SD in attempting to regain the Tag Titles. I'm sure SD wouldn't make Richards regret such a selfless act by his former fellow tag champ.
Despite the last couple tournament matches being disappointing, this show easily gets my highest recommendation thanks to SIX quality matches of varying flavors, including a couple classics, one highly acclaimed and the other sadly underplayed. Easily the best PWG event since Astonishing X-Mas and comparable to some ROH events at the time.