The suburb of Reseda in California isn’t at first glance somewhere that you would instantly peg as being inherently famous or influential in any field, yet when it comes to professional wrestling in North America, that’s exactly what it is. Reseda, and specifically the American Legion post #308 that is now the adopted home of Pro Wrestling Guerilla, perhaps the hottest independent promotion in the world right now.
- Pro Wrestling Guerilla – get it?
Attending the shows is practically impossible unless you’re in the know, and even then, it’s tricky. Internet Wrestling’s Grand News Wizard Dave Meltzer was at a couple of shows recently, and the word on the “street” is that even he had to pay. Indeed, the legend goes that film-maker Max Landis was at a show recently and ordered in pizza for everyone there, the attendances are so small, yet tightly packed.
People in attendance would have witnessed something special, though. PWG shows usually are. They’re not your average independent promotion, with show names plucked from the ether, such as ‘Free Admission (Just Kidding)’ or ‘Kurt RussellReunion II’ as well as the annual, traditional Dynamic Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament (or the DDT4) – a tag team tournament known the world over, and a three night singles tournament, The Battle Of Los Angeles (BOLA).
The recent installment of the BOLA tournament was a fine example of what to expect from PWG if you’ve never seen it. First, the shows run long. Very long. Exceedingly long. Nobody minds, in fact it’s almost expected. Cards aren’t always announced in advance, and even who will be participating can be a complete surprise.
There’s never usually an over-riding sledge hammer of storyline as there is in most promotions. Most of the time, it’s based purely on the desire to compete and become the best. At the moment, there is one ongoing tale of Excalibur being tormented by former partner and recently turned heel Super Dragon and his Mount Rushmore 2.0 stable of himself, Roderick Strong and the Young Bucks.
The self reverential nods to the independent life meant that the “shocking” turn of Super Dragon was followed immediately by The Young Bucks going to the back, and returning with boxes and selling T-shirts bearing the new four faces of Mount Rushmore 2.0 in the ring as the show ended – an absolute genius pay off to the smug, arrogant image they portray in most of their work these days.
The talent is a wonderful mix of established independent guys you know – Chris Hero, Young Bucks, Roderick Strong, for example, sprinkled in amongst up and coming guys that you WILL come to know, like Ricochet, Andrew Everett and Mike Bailey; bolstered with some PWG mainstays like Joey Ryan, his tag team partner, the phenomenal Candice La Rae, and Chuck Taylor. Throw in some imports from all over the world – Fenix, Pentagon Jr, Drew Galloway, Tommy End, Zack Sabre Jr. and you’ll get a list is that is as long as it impressive.
How did a small time promotion like this come to be at the pinnacle of wrestling in the US? Sheer hard work, quality shows and an astounding, rotating talent roster. Look at who has come and gone in the past few years of PWG and it’s a who’s who of the biggest names in the business. Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owns, Neville, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Cesaro, and CM Punk to name but a few – they all wrestled in PWG, under other names sometimes; but they all came through those ropes and went on to bigger things. Better? Now there’s the debate…
Established in 2003 by a group of 6 wrestlers known as the PWG Six – Super Dragon, Excalibur, Scott Lost, Disco Machine, Joey Ryan and Top Gun Talwar, PWG quickly established a reputation for being a bit different from the norm with their in ring product and quirky booking.
Of those six, Joey Ryan and Super Dragon still wrestle in the promotion, the now retired Excalibur is the play-by-play man (commentary on the shows from Excalibur and his revolving door of co-commentators is one of PWG’s highlights – insightful and hilarious at the same time) and also acts as the “Liason To The Board Of Directors” – your de facto authority figure, who doesn’t get overly involved in things.
The action itself is varied. On the last BOLA card, there was a technical wrestling showdown between Chris Hero and Timothy Thatcher that saw them fighting over various arm and wrist holds; along with a “British-style” match between Zack Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll; supplemented with a lucha libre aerialfest with Pentagon Jr, Fenix, Aerostar and Drago.
Add matches with an astounding array of striking from the likes of the aforementioned Chris Hero, Mike Bailey and Tommy End, big man power wrestling from the astoundingly agile Brian Cage and Drew Galloway, and you have a heady mix. PWG is also known for comedy; matches often degenerate into dance-offs, trash talk contests, and some of the funniest fan chants and interactions you’ll ever hear.
In the case of a 10 man tag match at the latest iteration of BOLA, an entire segment of the match was conducted in slow motion – everything from wrestlers, referees, commentary and even fans chanting was done in slow motion. It only came to an end when Mark Andrews and Andrew Everett looked at each other from across the ring and declared they couldn’t figure out how to do a shooting star press in slow motion, and thus ‘normality’ was resumed in time for the three count.
The comedy aspect could be off putting to some, but it’s not overdone, and the sheer quality and crispness of the workers involved offsets it in this writer’s mind. There were at least four matches at the recent BOLA that would be genuine contenders for Match Of The Year in my book.
Don’t think all of these accolades have gone unnoticed by the big guns either. The WWE sent Seth Rollins and William Regal to the latest batch of shows on a talent scouting mission and PWG regulars Rich Swann and Biff Busick are recent signings to NXT. They might not be the last to the WWE, and they definitely won’t be the last to find success in other promotions.
Lucha Underground, TNA and Jeff Jarrett’s fledgling Global Force Wrestling all have a hefty amount of talent that started in or are still working for PWG. Former Lucha Underground champion Prince Puma? Better known here as Ricochet. If you caught any of the recent GFW vs. TNA shenanigans, PWG regular Trevor Lee helped win the TNA tag titles as part of the GFW invasion. Confusing, I know, but that’s a whole different article!
Even New Japan are in on the act – The mainstays of the infamous Bullet Club are The Young Bucks, current defending PWG tag team champions, until the next face off with the inter gender team of Joey Ryan and Candice La Rae, anyway.
Yes, inter gender matches are common. And that’s no gimmick, PWG’s one regular female member of the roster is Candice La Rae and she might just be the toughest woman in wrestling right now. Along with PWG founder Joey Ryan, she has been tag champion as one half of ‘The World’s Cutest Tag Team’ and she not only hangs easily in the ring with the guys, she defeats them too, and it’s accepted as legitimate now, rather than a shock.
Even a double superkick to the face with thumbtack encrusted boots by the Young Bucks couldn’t defeat her in a Guerilla Warfare tag team match, Guerilla Warfare being the PWG version of No Holds Barred. Yes, thumbtack encrusted boots to the face of a woman!
Welcome to PWG – there are no “oh, we can’t do that!” moments in PWG. There are no limits, there are seemingly no egos at play. There are a LOT of “did they REALLY do that???” moments, however. Each match is different from the last, yet the fans buy into it instantly. Every one is welcome, everyone and everything is accepted… except Joey Ryan’s lollipop, but that’s another story.
Every man and woman on the roster seems to genuinely love the promotion and the fans feel it. The atmosphere at PWG shows shines through, even on a laptop screen, and that’s a big part of why so many wrestlers gravitate to this small promotion on the West Coast of the States.
WWE promotes NXT as the future of the WWE and therefore by association, the future of professional wrestling (or sports entertainment, if you will) and on some levels, they’re right. If you want to see an alternate take on the future, and get your eyes on some guys that will become the next generation of NXT stars, and perhaps even the next big stars of the whole business, then get yourself some PWG, sit back and prepare to have your mind blown.