Monday, May 18, 2015

PWG 2014 Battle of Los Angeles: Night 3 Review

The 2014 edition of the Battle of Los Angeles concludes!

PWG 2014 Battle of Los Angeles: Night 3
Reseda, California 8/31/14

As a reminder, PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles Tournament usually operates under a blind bracket system, where we don’t know the matches in the tournament that take place after the first round until the competitors come out.

1.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – Johnny Gargano vs. Candice LeRae: ***1/4

So we start off the Quarter Finals with a match that actually looks very interesting on paper. As it turned out, it was pretty good. Gargano is always good, and I think he meshed really well with Candice. An entertaining opener for sure. The only negative thing I can say is that the referee screwed up the finish. That hurt the match to a degree. Either way, Johnny Gargano gets the win, advancing to the Semi-Finals.

2.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – Open The Freedom Gate Champion Ricochet vs. TJ Perkins: ***1/2

These blind brackets can produce a lot of interesting matches, and this is another example of that. As I’ve said before, Ricochet is just an awesome wrestler, and TJ Perkins is so smooth and technically sound. They’re almost a perfect match for each other, and that reflected in the action we saw in this match. Eventually, Ricochet would score the win and advances to the next round.

3.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – ROH World Champion “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin vs. Trevor Lee: ***1/2

Another interesting match as a result of the blind bracket. Obviously Elgin had a size advantage, but that didn’t stop Trevor Lee from giving Elgin everything he had. Lots of really good action throughout this match. Elgin looked really strong, and Lee never quit. In the end, Trevor Lee caught Elgin with a small package to score a huge upset victory, advancing to the next round. Of course, this match will probably be remember most for what happened to Elgin afterwords, as him losing this match was one of the reasons why ROH had him lose the ROH World Title shortly thereafter to Jay Briscoe.

4.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – Kenny Omega vs. Matt Sydal: ***1/2

This might be a first time ever match, I’m not sure. Another really solid match on this show. Lots of really solid action between these two. At this point, I think it was safe to say that Sydal has worked off the ring rust, and Omega looked good in here as well. After some really nice action, Omega would pin Sydal to advance to the next round.

5.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – IWGP Heavyweight Champion “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles vs. Roderick Strong: ***1/4

Styles has had a really busy August. The G1 Climax in New Japan, three ROH shows, and now he’s in BOLA. This match is particularly interesting, because Strong nearly got his neck broken after tucking his head in a Styles Clash during a match with Styles in ROH back in January.

We know in the past that these two can have a great match. Unfortunately, booking really hurt this match. Towards the end of the match, the referee got knocked down, and Strong brought a chair into the ring. When the referee was revived, he believed that AJ Styles hit Strong with a chair, and called for the bell, awarding the match to Strong by DQ. The fans were not happy with the finish. It was interesting to see what was going to happen with AJ Styles in this tournament, since he’s the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and can’t lose. Not only that, but Roderick Strong is in the middle of a push, so he really couldn’t lose either. PWG definitely booked themselves into a corner, and the result was not that good.

6.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Quarter Finals – PWG World Champion Kyle O’Reilly vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/4

Once again, we have an awesome dream match involving Zack Sabre Jr. This time, he’s facing Kyle O’Reilly. These two had an awesome match. It was just as great as Adam Cole vs. Zack Sabre Jr. from the previous night, but I’d say this one is slightly better, mainly because O’Reilly is also a very good technical wrestler, which resulted in us seeing a lot of cool stuff in this match. This match was just so awesome in so many ways. After a hard fought, back & forth affair, O’Reilly eventually knocks out Zack Sabre Jr. to score the win! He advances to the next round….or so we thought.

After the match, Roderick Strong comes out and attacks both Kyle O’Reilly & Zack Sabre Jr. Both Excalibur and Rick Knox try to prevent the attack, but they are taken out by Strong as well. Strong then sets up a bunch of chairs, and the delivers the End of Heartache/Orange Crush Backbreaker onto O’Reilly through the chairs! He then locks in the Stronghold until Bobby Fish runs him off.

7.) Six-Man Tag – Mount Rushmore (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks) vs. ACH, Brian Myers & Chris Sabin: ****

So with it being the final night of the tournament, we’re getting some multi-man matches involving guys who lost in the first round of the tournament. Here, we have Mount Rushmore taking on the unique team of ACH, Brian Myers & Chris Sabin. This match was a lot of fun to watch. Cole & The Young Bucks were great together as always. I wasn’t sure how the team of ACH, Myers & Sabin would work out, but they worked together pretty well. One of the more memorable spots of the match was when ACH ate a double superkick from The Young Bucks while he was crowd surfing. Unreal. In the end, Mount Rushmore would pick up the win.

It was announced before the tournament matches continued that Kyle O’Reilly was taken to a local hospital after Roderick Strong’s attack, and that he was out of the tournament. They then announced that, in an extreme coincidence, that Roderick Strong would receive a bye to the Finals. This was very odd, as how could you receive a bye in a blind bracket. For that matter, how did Strong know he would get the bye if this tournament was a blind bracket? Really weird…

8.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Semi-Finals – Johnny Gargano vs. Trevor Lee: ***3/4

So instead of getting three Semi-Final matches, we’re only getting two. This was a really good match. You can always count on Gargano to put on a very good match, and Lee continues his run of great performances in PWG. Unfortunately for Trevor Lee, tonight was not his night, as Gargano would get the win, and advances to the finals.

9.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Semi-Finals – Kenny Omega vs. Open The Freedom Gate Champion Ricochet: ****

Now I’m sure these two are familiar with each other, as they’ve both spent a lot time in Japan over the years. This was an awesome match. Great back & forth action between both guys, and the crowd was really into it. These two are so good, and in this environment, it’s impossible to have a bad match. After a crazy, hard hitting match, Ricochet would pick up the win, advancing to the finals.

10.) Ten Man Tag – Chris Hero, Chuck Taylor, Rich Swann, Willie Mack & Joey Ryan vs. ROH World Tag Team Champion Bobby Fish, CZW World Champion Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, Cedric Alexander & “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa: ***1/2

Here we have another match filled with guys who had been eliminated in the first round of the tournament, with the exceptions being Joey Ryan, and Willie Mack, who would get signed by WWE shortly after this show (unfortunately, he was only signed for about a month before being quietly released. He never reported to NXT). This match wasn’t as much about the in-ring action, as it was about wackiness and all around insanity. We got it all, from a lengthy slow motion sequence, to a nearly Ten-Man Sleeper Hold, to Chuck Taylor breaking out his signature grenade. In the end, Rich Swann would pick up the victory for his team.

11.) 2014 Battle of Los Angeles – Finals – Triple Threat Match – Johnny Gargano vs. Open The Freedom Gate Champion Ricochet vs. Roderick Strong: ***3/4

So here we are. It’s time for the Finals of the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament. In an interesting note, from what I could tell, most BOLA’s in the past that had a Three-Way Match in the finals were also elimination matches. This one was just a regular Triple Threat Match. Still, this was a really good match. It wasn’t an amazing match by any means, but it was pretty great for what it was. When you get three guys of this caliber in there, it’s impossible for this to be a bad match. Eventually, Ricochet would score the pin on Gargano for the victory, winning the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles Tournament!!

After the match, Ricochet is celebrating with the BOLA Trophy, but Roderick Strong attacks him and breaks the trophy. Despite this, Ricochet still gives a post-match speech, talking about getting into PWG, thanking the fans, and saying that he’ll be the next PWG World Champion, regardless of who he has to beat (naming Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, and even Brad Maddox of WWE, who had been sitting front row for all three nights of the tournament).

Overall: 8.25/10

Usually, the final night of a tournament like the Battle of Los Angeles usually ends things on high note. While this show was really good, it wasn't the best of the tournament, and it had a number of controversial points and a few disappointments. Of course, while you wouldn't know it watching this show, this event kicked off the whole Michael Elgin controversy that saw him lose the ROH World Title just a week or so later. Then, on the show itself, there was the booking situation regarding AJ Styles & Roderick Strong, who were two guys that really couldn't lose. PWG booked themselves into a corner, and the results were unfortunately negative. AJ Styles could have easily been booked to a No Contest against Strong or someone else (maybe Elgin?), or maybe he could have advanced to the finals. If it was a Triple Threat with one fall, he could have not taken the fall. The mere fact that  Roderick Strong, the current #1 Contender to the PWG World Title, was in a tournament where the winner gets a shot at the PWG World Title was one of the most headscratching booking decisions in recent memory. He had no reason to be in the tournament at all. His inclusion was certainly baffling. 

Despite all of that, and despite the screw ups in the opening match by one of the referees (who was later the referee in the Styles vs. Strong match), we still had a really good show. Kyle O'Reilly vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Kenny Omega vs. Ricochet were definitely the highlights of the night. The rest of the tournament matches were all relatively solid. We also have two non-tournament multi-man tags, with one being action packed, and the other being completely ridiculous & funny. Winning the Battle of Los Angeles was just another major accomplishment for Ricochet in what was a stellar 2014 for him. In the end, this was a really good show from PWG, but I wasn't quite as good as Night 2.

Looking back on the tournament as a whole, I thought it was a really good tournament, that had a lot of great wrestling across all three nights. However, certain booking decisions prevented it from being as great as the tournaments from 2012 & 2013. At the same time, that complaint shouldn't deter you from getting these shows. They were all really great. PWG always produces quality wrestling shows, and these three events were no different.

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