PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2017: Final Stage





PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2017: Final Stage

By Big Red Machine
From September 03, 2017

PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2017: Final Stage

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Dezmond Xavier vs. Ricochet - 5.5/10


FLIPZ. That what this match was. That doesn't mean there wasn't stuff in here I enjoyed (I thought using the same spot Xavier pinned Cage with on night one for a false finish here was a great idea), but the majority of this match was just flips.

One other spot that I really want to mention was this spot where Xavier did some sort of flippy dive over the top rope and landed halfway between how you would see him land if Ricochet were going to catch him and counter it into a powerbomb and how they would land if he was going to give Ricochet a hurricanra, and Ricochet just kind of... pushed him off while stumbling backward and Ricochet fell down as well. What was this spot supposed to be? Was it a failed rana attempt? Was it a failed reversal into a powerbomb? Was it just a thing that kind of happened by accident? Who knows? And it doesn't really matter. What matters is what it looked like, and it looked very raw and very real and very believable. Whatever that was and whatever did or didn't go wrong, the match was better because it happened exactly the way it did.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Marty Scurll vs. Travis Banks- 7/10


Like on night one, Marty cut a heel promo reminding us that he won last year's tournament and telling his opponent to just leave the ring now and save himself the embarrassment. Rather than give Marty a headbutt like "Flash" Morgan Webster did, Banks actually did leave the ring (mostly. I'm not sure his second foot ever left)... just long enough for Marty to turn around and start to celebrate, at which point Travis ran back in and rolled Marty up with a school boy for a nearfall to start things off.

From there Banks got a bit of shine until Marty cut him off and started working over his arm- including a chairshot, right in front of the referee, which he was not disqualified for. More work on the arm followed, then Banks made his comeback, we got some excellent technical sequences and great struggles in submissions, and finally a great series of roll-ups resulting in Banks getting the win. Props to whoever came up with the idea for Marty's promos and the opening moments of his match against Webster at night one because those were key pieces in setting the stage for this and building up the idea of Marty getting eliminated in an upset to the point that the crowd was begging for it before finally going nuts when they were given it here in this match.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak - a PERFECT 10/10!


The Mon-Stars Explode! And boy did they ever explode. These two guys had kind of had "their" match that they'd been having together earlier this year (in NEW and EVOLVE, and I think one or two other places as well) that was basically them showing off the insane athletic ability they have for men of their respectively large sizes. In my review of their second match in EVOLVE (at Evolve 84) I noted that they had kind of hit a point of diminishing returns on the "you won't believe that men this large can do these things" factor. Their next match together was in that same Chicago market, and just five days later at AAW's Thursday Night Special, so they went a totally different route with it, full of power spots and hard strikes and fighting spirt, and I thought it was an excellent change of pace.

This match was kind of a combination of those two. They started off with the impressive athletic spots but mixed the strikes and power in, too, so that it wasn't just about trying to be impressing and surprising people with their athleticism. Instead, it became, oddly enough, like a regular wrestling match. Sure it was slower paced than most and they did a better job of making every move mean something than most do, but when you broke it down, it really wasn't any different than a standard wrestling match... except that their size created this natural "WOW!" factor which- when combined with their methodical pacing- made everything they did feel more impressive and more important. It was a regular wrestling match, but- no pun intended- bigger.

Then they started to pepper in the fighting spirit stuff, but rather than just feeling like they were doing it for the sake of doing it (which is what fighting spirit spots almost always feel like to me), this played into that "WOW!" factor. It wasn't "obligatory cheer of surprise because Dijak popped back up after taking a big move." Instead it was "HOLY SH*t! I can't believe he took that big move and popped right back up!"

The most controversial part of this match will be the finish. What happened was Lee was pulled Dijak back into the ring, and as he was being pulled, Dijak grabbed the Mon-Stars jerseys the two had worn when they teamed up two nights ago. He held them up for Lee and insisted that they put them on. Dijak put his on, and Lee decided to play along... and as he was pulling his jersey over his head, Dijak nailed him with a superkick, then hit him with Feast Your Eyes... and Lee staggered but didn't go down, gave a huge roar, grabbed Dijak and nailed him with Ground Zero, and got the pin.

I really didn't like this until about thirty seconds after the finish when it finally clicked with me. I will admit that Dijak being able to grab the shirts is a bit of a contrivance, but based on Dijak's actions here, I am willing to accept that he planted them under the ring before tonight's show with the intention of using this kind of ploy at some point in the match if he ran into trouble, so that at least explains why they would be under the ring.

Humoring Dijak and putting the shirt on is definitely something that fits into Lee's personality, as one thing that has been said about him repeatedly on commentary, both in PWG this weekend and in EVOLVE for most of this year is that he lacks the necessary killer instinct to put his opponent away, and we have seen time and again how his cockiness has cost or almost cost him matches. Dijak knew this as well and thus he had this plan in place to play off of it.

I liked the fact that Lee didn't go down for Dijak's finish, but only because the superkick came first, and because Dijak had trouble getting Lee up properly. If Dijak had just lifted Lee up and hit him with Feast Your Eyes it would have come off like no-selling for the sake of no-selling, but doing the superkick first and Dijak having trouble getting Lee up (which makes sense because he's been through this long, grueling match) lets the superkick be the move that capitalizes on the element of surprise, and thus, while Dijak is trying to hoist him up, Lee has time to regather his thoughts and think "not like this. I am not going through all of that just to lose like this" and thus his only staggering around after being hit with Feast Your Eyes but not going down- and his subsequent adrenaline rush and hitting Dijak with Ground Zero- rather becomes an act of will and determination; of fighting spirit. And that's what gets him the win.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Rey Fenix - 7/10


They made the smart decision to start this match off by getting as far away from the previous match as possible. Fortunately for all of us, that meant seven straight minutes of excellent mat wrestling. Then Zack had to go and ruin it by poking Fenix in the eye and I remembered that Zack is a heel in PWG and it made me hate him all the more. They still did some wrestling after that but it had a more pronounced babyface-heel dynamic. Fenix pinned Zack with a roll-up to advance to the semi-finals.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Sammy Guevara vs. Jeff Cobb - 5.5/10


A spotty but fun and short match which did it a good job of telling the standard "power vs. speed" story.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES QUARTER-FINAL MATCH:
Matt Riddle vs. Penta El 0M - 3/10


They just did sh*t. Lots of stalling in the beginning by trading catchphrases in each other's face, then a bit of submission work...and then right into Canadian Destroyer overkill. And I mean, like, four in a row, one of which was completely no-sold, and none of which had any real meaning in the match. Then we got a Package Piledriver on the apron, because a dude taking two Canadian Destroyers wasn't enough to put him down. Every time the Canadian Destroyer isn't a finish, Petey Williams dies a little inside.

After the aforementioned apron spot, Penta El 0M stole a fan's bottle of water. Then he took a fan's electric fan to use for himself. Then he climbed up to the top turnbuckle still holding the electric fan. The referee did nothing to try to get this foreign object out of his hand. Then they did a spot where Penta took a bump while still holding the electric fan, which predictably broke when it hit the mat. What an asshole. Seriously. You can't do that sh*t. I really hope somebody at least talked to him about this. Personally, if I was promoter and my company didn't use guardrails, I wouldn't book him after this (then again, I absolutely would use guardrails because I am completely terrified that someone is going to die at every PWG or Beyond show, and I wouldn't want to deal with either the guilt or the legal liability).

They did a few more MOVEZ, after which Riddle hit his not-really-a-piledriver Cradle Tombstone Piledriver, did some Bryan Danielson crucifix elbows, then got the win with the Bro-mission.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES SEMI-FINAL MATCH:
Ricochet vs. Travis Banks - 6.5/10


Banks dove onto Ricochet during his entrance to start things off, which set the necessary frenetic pace for this match to keep it from feeling like it was just a bunch of flips and kicks. They had some good bits teasing a Banks victory, including a good callback to the previous round, but Ricochet picked up another win with King's Landing. The crowd seems to be losing some steam at this point.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES SEMI-FINAL MATCH:
Keith Lee vs. Rey Fenix - 5/10


They told the story of Fenix's speed and agility vs. Lee's size and power, but Lee dominated most of the match so it really felt like they were trying to tell you that speed and agility have no chance whatsoever. I'm not saying that that wasn't their intention, but even if the quality of this match was sacrificed for the sake of the larger (pun intended this time) story, that doesn't change the fact that it was sacrificed nonetheless.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES SEMI-FINAL MATCH:
Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle - 4/10


Riddle and Cobb are now treating Tombstone Piledrivers like Riddle and Penta El 0M did in the previous round. There was a lot of just doing stuff here, with no story behind it at all. Even more disappointingly, I don't even understand why they went down this route. You've got a former MMA fighter vs. a former Olympic wrestler! Just WRESTLE! Why are you doing crap that everyone else on the card can do- and already has done, many times over?

JOEY JANELA, MARK HASKINS, CHUCK TAYLOR, FLAMITA, & "FLASH" MORGAN WEBSTER vs. JONAH ROCK, BRIAN CAGE, SAMI CALLIHAN, TREVOR LEE, & WALTER - 4.25/10


Trevor Lee claimed that Jeff Jarrett had told him that his entire team would get TNA contracts if they won. The other team was supposed to have a different partner (either Matt Sydal, Michael Elgin, or Rey Horus by process of elimination) but said partner was injured. PWG World Champion Chuck Taylor, who had been doing commentary all weekend, volunteered to team with them, but wasn't dressed to wrestle, so he went to the back and they spent most of the match with the babyfaces down a man because Chuck Taylor is apparently a very slow dresser.

WALTER completely ignoring Trevor Lee's request for a double high five in the middle of the match made me laugh. WALTER wasn't being mean or anything. It's just that there is a wrestling match going on right now, so that's what WALTER is focusing on. Then it was all ruined thirty seconds later when I saw WALTER smiling. He's not supposed to do that. He's WALTER!

Random stuff occurred. Mostly cutesy shenanigans with some standard tag team psychology mixed in. Webster was the babyface in peril. Some of the big guys got to do impressive feats of strength, so that was cool.

This was also the one match of the weekend in which being the legal man apparently matters. Sometimes, anyway. The referee also let someone do a dive while wearing a helmet, which should be a foreign object.

Jonah Rock and WALTER had a small miscue and started fighting, brawling furiously all the way to the back. I really hope they have these two scheduled for an upcoming show so that this will actually matter.

While they were brawling to the back, T.K. Cooper randomly wandered out to ringside on his crutches. Trevor Lee immediately snatched one of them and went to hit Chuck Taylor with it. And when I say he went to hit Chuck Taylor with it I mean he waved it around over his head for a good fifteen or twenty seconds while the referee made no effort to get it away from him. He stalled for so long that it was pretty obvious that T.K. was going to stop him (or else why would T.K. Have even been out here in the first place?), then Chuckie T hit the Awful Waffle and got the win. There some cool spots in here, but it was mostly just a collection of spots. If not for the attempt at a heat segment, I would have rated it even lower.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES ELIMINATION FINAL MATCH:
Ricochet vs. Keith Lee vs. Jeff Cobb - 8.5/10


The fans demand a three-way test of strength, but Ricochet doesn't humor them because he wants to win this wrestling match and he's not an idiot. Slapping the two much larger men probably wasn't the smartest move, though, because now they're both targeting him... and working together to do so, to boot. He actually managed to hold his own for a moment or two before he was the victim of a DOUBLE POUNCE! And I don't mean they both hit him at the same time. I mean Cobb hit him with a POUNCE that sent him flying right into a second POUNCE by Lee. Ricochet might be reeling in pain on the floor of American Legion Post 308, but somewhere else in the world right now, Monty Brown is smiling.

With the gnat thoroughly swatted, the two giants then squared off. The gnat came back for a moment, but was the recipient of the single highest back body drop I have ever seen, courtesy of Keith Lee, which put him back down again. The big men then did another spot, but that darned Ricochet came back again, so this time it was Cobb's turn to manhandle him. They started throwing Ricochet at each other, but Ricochet was able to find an opening, get them to bump into each other, and get in some offense, resulting in a triple-down.

The story progressed in that general manner, with the two big men fighting each other until Ricochet would charge in and usually (but not always) get some offense in before one of them put him down and they want back to focusing on each other. They told that story very well (although it did almost feel too repetitive at times) aside from one major misstep, which was when they would have Ricochet lift the big men up. To me, that runs completely counter to the story they were telling- that of Ricochet's speed seeming completely futile in the face of the size and power of Lee and Cobb, but Ricochet never gave up. Aside from those few spots, they told all the way from the very beginning of the match to the very end, which Lee hit Cobb with Ground Zero and pin him, then catch Ricochet when Ricochet tried to dive onto him and go for Ground Zero again, but Ricochet countered it into a small package for the win.
The details on the finish were almost perfect. Lee, the bigger of the two giants, outmuscled Cobb, who had just himself outmuscled Ricochet, making his strength feel insurmountable to little Ricochet, and then going to the finish as quickly as possible afterwards, which Ricochet using his speed and agility to counter the very move that Cobb as unable to counter, and get the win. The only thing I would have changed was to start the whole thing off with Cobb powering out of one of Ricochet's pins and then tossing him to the outside, rather than having him just reverse a move and having Lee pull him out as he was running the ropes. I think it would have made the contrast between Lee's success against Cobb and Ricochet's lack thereof- and thus the enormity of the odds Ricochet was facing- that much more stark.

The crowd- which had been supporting both Lee and Cobb a lot more than Ricochet, popped HUGE for the finish. I popped even bigger because unlike them, who only had the benefit of what they had seen throughout the night- which included key elements like the building up of Ground Zero as a finish and the earlier Fenix vs. Lee match where Fenix's speed and agility proved to be no match for Lee's power- I also had the benefit of Excalibur's commentary throughout the weekend, which did an excellent job of subtlety reinforcing ideas of both subverting expectations (which he was able to illustrate with the many upsets) and fates of the three former BOLA winners in this tournament (Ricochet, Zack, and Scurll), which build up the idea of Ricochet at least making it to the finals, as well as setting up equal grounding for the idea of him winning it and the idea of him failing to win a second time, like Marty and Zack had.

RICOCHET PROMO - Great! He put himself over for being the first-ever two-time BOLA winner, and had what could diplomatically be described as "fighting words" for PWG World Champion Chuck Taylor before having some literal fighting words for Chuck by challenging him to a title match, as winning BOLA entitles him to. Chuck accepted the match... and then he and Ricochet left for some reason it was Keith Lee who cut the show-closing "thank you for coming" promo.

Final Thoughts
Another great show from PWG to close out another excellent BOLA. Unlike the first two nights, which were pretty consistently great all up down the card, this show gets by on the merits of a handful of great matches that pulled the rest of the show up. Obviously the Lee vs. Dijak match deserves a huge amount of credit, but the big difference between this year and recent years was that this year the main event tournament finals- the thing the entire weekend has been building to- was one of the matches that delivered, which made this show feel much better than recent BOLA finals have. That being said, burnout was still a factor. I got through each of the first two nights in one sitting, but the final night took me about six. I really think they should cut the tournament back down to a two-night event with sixteen entrants. Or if you really want to keep it at twenty-four for some reason, have the first night be all three-ways, and split your sixteen first-round losers into either two eight-man tags or a six-man tag and a ten-man tag on night two, acting as a buffer between each of the three final rounds.

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