Written by: Arnold Furious
BOLA joined the prestigious ranks of US Indy tournaments in 2005 where instead of selecting the best Indy wrestler to wear the crown PWG opted to go in-house with the winner. Chris Bosh promptly cut an awesome Austin 3:16 promo on beaten Christian finalist AJ Styles. In 2006 they went full out to entertain and put on a great tournament. Several of the matches breaking the **** barrier (although the eventual winner was in-house talent Davey Richards over imported talent, he’s a better wrestler than Bosh). I actually did the whole 3 nights in one review but found I had to keep everything short in order to fit it into one review so I’ll be covering it one DVD at a time this year.
August 31st 2007.
The tournament suffered some serious losses before we even got underway. Bryan Danielson, the then PWG heavyweight champion, suffered a serious eye injury working in ROH. Morishima detached his retina. Sometimes hard-hitting can hit too hard. Super Dragon pulled out (I’m still not certain why) and Chris Bosh retired. He’s only wrestled one match since so that’s one retirement that stuck.
We’re in Burbank, California. Hosts are Excalibur, Disco Machine & Bryce Remsberg.
PROMO TIME Bryan Danielson is here, complete with WHUPASS PIRATE EYE-PATCH, to promise he’ll be on the next show to face the winner of this tournament. Excalibur introduces us to the referees. Rick Knox even gets a chant. Competitors follow; Tony Kozina (a late replacement), Tyler Black, Jack Evans, Jimmy Rave, Austin Aries, Joey Ryan (BOOOOO!), Doug Williams, Susumu Yokosuka, Matt Sydal, Davey Richards (BOOO!), Scott Lost, Human Tornado, Dragon Kid, Roderick Strong, Chris Hero, Necro Butcher, Shingo, Claudio Castagnoli, Pac, Alex Shelley, El Generico, CIMA, Kevin Steen and the debuting Nigel McGuinness.
HELL of a field. So many great wrestlers.
The Young Bucks v Los Luchas
The Bucks, Nick & Matt Jackson, are better known to TNA fans as Generation Me. The luchadores are Phoenix Star and Zokre. They wrestle like its 1995 and this is ECW. Lots of quasi-lucha, silly but well-executed spots and Indy stand-offs. The Bucks are the better team and aren’t lacking in enthusiasm. The Bucks are cool and everything but you can see how green they are here on reversals and such. Star & Zokre are more experienced but haven’t learnt a lot in that extra time. Just more spots. Bucks stack the opponents up and hit a 450 Splash followed by a moonsault for the pile-on finish. **. Some cool spots and they didn’t blow anything but it was clear that this was just the Bucks getting some seasoning and extra ring time. Bright future for them as a team. They’re like the Hardy Boyz circa 1999 minus the experience.
SIDENOTE: There’s a “review” on YouTube and the guy gave this match ****. That’s where I stopped reading but suffice to say the show would have been a blizzard with all those snowflakes around.
BOLA Rd 1: Chris Hero v Joey Ryan w/Jade Chung
Hero varies his offence from goofy lucha to more intense submissions. Joey looks wasted. Joey can’t nip up without help from Hero…and the ref. Hey, I can’t nip up either but I’m not a wrestler. Hero just flips around him because he can. I get the feeling Hero isn’t taking Joey seriously. Which makes him look pretty fucking stupid. Eventually he flips into a position Joey can handle and he throws Hero into the barrier. Not learning from Hero’s stupidity Ryan promptly loses all focus and starts chatting to a chick at ringside. He almost loses because he’s dancing for her (which is a great gif file) and gets rolled up. That about sums the match up. Neither guy is focused enough. But Hero has the bigger spots and that allows him to take over. Hero goes to his usual cravat based offence but Ryan has researched it and is able to counter out. Hero switches up by working the shit out of the midsection. The double stomp is good, the slingshot hilo on the apron is better. The difference? Showmanship. Jade makes the save with Ryan beat. Scott Lost runs in but Hero sees the brass knucks coming. HERO’S WELCOME! It’s over but Rick Knox reverses the decision when he sees the knucks and assumes Hero used them. Which is about the most predictable finish I’ve seen in many a year. **1/4. Both guys seemed unable to get anything going until Hero found his mojo late in the game.
BOLA Rd 1: Austin Aries v Roderick Strong
These two start like they’re being paid by the minute. It helps that they know each other so well. Aries tries to make it about striking but Strong just clubbers him with his superior upper body strength. Strong, the doer of the backbreaker, aims for the ribs to destroy Aries twofold. Firstly to prevent him doing anything and secondly setting up the Stronghold from the other side of the body. When he does go for a backbreaker Aries is ready for it and slips out. A big criticism of Aries here is that as soon as he gets a counter he stops selling. Which is a bit like any number of modern stars (John Cena springs to mind). So he’s soon popping off tope’s and slingshot corkscrew splashes. Excalibur mentions the lack of selling on commentary. It seems like he’s just selected the wrong moves. Something like the discus elbow would be fine as he could hit it AND sell. When he uses dives he needs to run across the ring first and its very apparent he’s abandoned the injury angle. Still, both guys are bringing the effort. Strong tries to do something evil and goes up top but Aries counters into a sunset flip bomb. Aries busts out an awesome counter out of a roll up into the Tombstone. Again, there’s no selling as Aries has time to follow up but Strong just doesn’t bother staying down. The inconsistencies of this match are really becoming frustrating at this point. Aries looks to finish by booting Strong in the head twice to set up the brainbuster but AGAIN Strong isn’t selling and counters into an inside cradle for the win. **3/4. I dig the effort but the selling was irritating me from early on. From one move to the next there was no consistency to it and both guys are usually much better than this. However, I hasten to add, usually because they don’t sell much at all. If anything it was the sporadic selling that hurt it.
BOLA Rd 1: Jimmy Rave v Matt Sydal
Rave looks like he doesn’t care. That’s not a gimmick, he’d just signed for TNA and effort was out the window. Sydal is about a month away from reporting to Ohio Valley and wanted to go out on an Indy high. Contrasting fortunes and attitudes. Of course I gave Sydal no shot at succeeding in the WWE and he proved me wrong as Evan Bourne. Rave works the midsection as the crowd gradually turn on him. Sydal busts out the Tony Jaa love mixed in with lucha insanity. But Rave fucks everything up by bumping moves before they happen. Rave continues to make sloppy mistakes like treating the ropes like an alien entity, falling over in the middle of stuff and looking pretty uncoordinated. Sydal finishes with the SSP. *1/2. Rave ruined this for me. He was all over the place. On the upside he made Sydal look terrific by being so incompetent.
SIDENOTE: I took a moment to bash Jimmy on Twitter after watching this match (not aiming said comment @ him or anything) only for him to reply with “I hate you too, buy my merch”. So I’ll cut him some slack. He had missed some time with an ear injury prior to this and that could explain why he’s all over the place.
BOLA Rd 1: Alex Shelley v Tyler Black
Tyler didn’t make his debut until 2005 but I saw him wrestle in 2006 and he showed tonnes of promise. Shortly after this appearance he debuted in ROH and would become their heavyweight champion. He’s currently under contract to WWE and has a bright future. Back in 2007 he’s a little green but is smooth for someone with only 2 years experience. They work some lovely standing switches into mat counters to complete silence. PWG’s audience suddenly going all Japan on everyone. Shelley gets sick of that and stops until the crowd clap. Shelley then breaks out the mad skills on the mat and I’m aware that TNA doesn’t let him wrestle this way. All that bullshit high flying to pop the idiots in the crowd down in Florida. No offence to non-idiots living in Florida. Of course the silent crowd here would probably vindicate their creative control but that doesn’t make TNA right. I’m actually shocked at how dead the crowd is. So much so I have to switch to the Excalibur commentary again. Tyler gets a spell in charge and shows again that he’s rough around the edges. But its really Shelley who’s to blame for this match not setting the world on fire. He’s the veteran. I think he realises as much and starts to work in spots involving the ropes. Its Tyler who takes it to another level though, hitting a Pele Kick and adding a springboard lariat. Much like AJ Styles…only half a foot taller. Shelley comes back with a swinging DDT to set up the Border City Stretch. After he gets out they speed up again. Shelley goes for the superplex only to be countered into a running powerbomb into the opposing buckle. Counters at speed kick in with Tyler looking like he wants to finish only to get trapped in the Border City Stretch. Tyler even counters that into his own and the fans are starting to bite on him as a talent. The striking gets stiffer and this match has definitely found a higher gear. Shelley wants the shiranui but Tyler counters into the Paroxysm for 2. Tyler goes for the superplex, countered as Shelley wants the super-shiranui but Tyler then counters into an RKO off the top…for 2. How is THAT not the finish? Tyler is slow to follow up, which causes him to get caught in a Michinoku Driver and the superkick gets 2. Ok, we’re going to EPIC here. They’ve killed half of the WWE’s finishers. Shelley then bags the win with a somewhat anticlimactic shiranui. ***1/4. I was like the PWG fans on this one. Not feeling it to begin with. Wondering how Black could compete with Shelley’s range of skills and experience. Then finding myself getting into the match as it progressed. I’m a little disappointed they went with the false finishes in an attempt to make the match better than it was but the countering and chaining was good enough for this to get the thumbs up.
BOLA Rd 1: Claudio Castagnoli v Doug Williams
For those who are fond of the European style, this should be up your alleyway. It’s a different style of applying and countering holds. The counters tend to involve one body part counter balancing another. Both these guys are exceptionally good at taking that style and incorporating enough puro into it that American audiences find it palatable. Its almost a pity this is a first round match where the effort doesn’t seem quite as tangible as it does into the later stages of tournaments. Doug seems to have the edge in pure wrestling terms but the majority of the match is a feeling out process. They’re both doing things just to see if their opponent knows the escape. Claudio breaks out the Giant Swing but then ANGERS Douglas by hitting the European Uppercut. Or Forearm Uppercut if you’re from Europe. “What the hell was that?” asks Doug. He decides to demonstrate how it should be. FOREARM UPPERCUT DUEL! This goes on for a while with both guys countering into backslides and doing reversals off them too. Doug forearms Claudio out of the ring but when he goes for a diving uppercut Claudio meets him with an uppercut! UPPERCUT WAR!! They brawl around ringside using, what else, uppercuts. They even use the ropes on the floor and Doug blocks a running uppercut with an uppercut. Doug gets sick of it and pokes Claudio in the eye. HAHAHA. More uppercuts follow as they uppercut their way back into the ring. Claudio goes all Misawa and hits the UPPERCUT COMBO. Doug blocks and they both hit the KO uppercut. Fantastic. Doug is up first and starts into the knee strikes. BOMB SCARE…for 2. Claudio sees more knees coming and counters into a bicycle kick. Ricola Bomb is countered into the Chaos Theory, blocked into the near falls. Claudio jacks Doug up into the RICOLA BOMB. FREAKISH power there. ***1/2. I got a real kick out of the way they wrestled this BUT it didn’t get interesting until they starting the striking. Still technically good enough to be the best pure wrestling match you’ll see on this night.
BOLA Rd 1: Jack Evans v Pac
Oh, I predict flipping! Which is probably why they go to standing switches to start with. They speed up soon after and Evans baits Pac into running into a handstand kick. Jack is definitely interested in breaking out the flips and hits a somersault double legdrop into the corner. Standing corkscrew moonsault from Pac. Ok, we’re into flipping country. Pac hits a dropsault and Jack backflip sells it, which is ridiculous but I can’t help but be impressed. This is quickly becoming a gymnastic contest. SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP from Jack. They start with some insane reversals. Like flipping out of the Tiger Suplex and then SHIT GETS REAL because Jack NAILS Pac in the face with a flying knee. Flip out of that! Pac is pissed off; HEADDROP GERMAN SUPLEX! Jack did NOT flip out of it because Pac did it too quickly. Which is a riff off the slower and failed Tiger Suplex. Pac gets treed and Jack drops the TONY JAA DOUBLE KNEES. 630 SPLASH! Pac gets knees up on that and you have to believe that hurt both men. CORKSCREW 630! Pac aiming to one-up Jack, except Jack moved out of the way. Again, a bit of a gymnastic display but this is like a dance-off. They then start trading on who can hit the quicker Pele Kick. Pac MURDERS Jack with the SUPERNECKBREAKER and doesn’t even pin! HEADDROP TIGER DRIVER! Jack is dead. And he kicks out. Are you kidding me? CORKSCREW SSP! Holy crap on a crutch. ***. While this wasn’t the best wrestling in the world it was one hell of a high-spot match. A bit like the one Pac had with Trent Acid, which was his International Arrival (and I way overrated at the time because of marking out). If they’d been given longer and had spaced out the big moves this could have been something incredible. As it stands it’s a demonstration of how many moves they can both hit clean. Impressive athleticism. Hard to fault that.
PWG Tag titles: Kevin Steen/El Generico v Dragon Kid/ Susumu Yokosuka
This match starts out weird with the Dragon Gate guys aiming to heel it up, which I don’t get. Yokosuka even chokes at Generico in a chinlock. That all ends when Generico drops Dragon Kid on his head. Of course Steen is a born heel so the champs isolate DK and work him over. DK is far more comfortable in that role as he’s so tiny. Yokosuka get a hot tag and just kills Generico’s knees. Kills them. Knee death. That goes nowhere. Steen no sells everything, much like Gojira; just too big for the Japanese to deal with. They get Generico instead and he gives DK another HARSH bump with a backbreaker. OSAKA STREET CUTTER! DK showing off a Japanese trademark move there. Generico gets outwitted by Yokosuka twice so is thrilled to catch him with the corner Yakuza Kick. Team Dragon Gate use double teams to pick off Generico and he really should lie down for the Exploder off the top. Springboard flipping rana from DK (not quite the dragonrana) and Steen has to save. Basically this wouldn’t be a contest if Generico didn’t keep getting isolated. Steen only really struggles when he misses his own moves. Generico drops DK on his head for the third time in the match. Again, no dice on the pinfall. They run a nice spot where DK is thrown up top only to rana Steen off the top while Yokosuka clocks Generico with a lariat. DK and Steen work a nice counters sequence, which again makes me wish that Steen was in this match more than he was. PACKAGE PILEDRIVER and he throws DK to Generico; BRAINBUSTER. You’d better believe that’s it. ***. Every time I saw Dragon Kid Vs Kevin Steen I wished I was seeing that as a singles match.
Final Thoughts: While there is plenty to like here and a variety of matches its an underwhelming opening night. BOLA does tend to start slowly though so I still have high hopes for the other two nights but this show doesn’t make me want to rush into night two. Its still good and if TNA put this card on I’d probably be gushing over it so we’ll call that a thumbs up.