It’s BOLA time! Well, BOLA time was a few months ago, but you all know how PWG works. This year’s tournament was hella interesting as WWE’s purging of the indies forced Pro Wrestling Guerrilla to dig a bit deeper than usual. It was a chance for a few new names to make a splash and, in many ways, that’s more exciting than watching established stars do their thing.
Rey Horus defeated Adam Brooks in the First Round
Adam Brookes and Rey Horus have taken a bit of a kicking for this match. It’s easy to see why too. They’re at BOLA. The crowd come in with an expectation as to how proceedings will begin, and that expectation requires the wrestlers to kick things off a bit more explosively than with tests of strength.
Although it did look like things were going to pick up, at least when Rey Horus was on the offensive. It didn’t take too long for him to dive over the turnbuckle and I thought we were off. Unfortunately, I was wrong, as Brook’s regained control and slipped into a methodical stretch of heat.
Which wasn’t necessarily awful, it’s not like these men were botching every second move or even producing atrocious wrestling. When Horus did come to life, we got some fast-paced, thrilling action. Sadly, the rest felt like Adam Brooks trying to prove to someone he could work WWE style. I wonder why he would do that?
My contrarian nature meant I came into this wanting to be the person who loved this. I’m not, though. However, I don’t think it was awful either. It was a decent match, that should never have got twenty minutes, but picked up as they headed home. It certainly doesn’t deserve the derision it’s received.
Verdict: Three Stars
Flamita defeated Puma King in the First Round
Puma King was at the centre of some controversy around BOLA weekend as Ryan Satin admitted to knowing nothing about him, a move which infuriated Twitter. This is also my first time watching him, so I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. I’ll admit right now that there are lots of wrestlers I know nothing about, sorry. My family are rightly ashamed.
Jokes aside, Puma King is one of those new names I was talking about, and he got over with the crowd before the bell had even rung. Despite being the king of the pumas, he seems to enjoy hanging from the ropes like a sloth. Who am I to judge? The PWG crowd certainly dug it.
More importantly, this delivered where the opener failed to. It was a combination of Puma King being a cool cat, stiff chops and frantic flurries where all poor Excalibur could do was hang on desperately as he tried to call the action. Sending Puma out for his BOLA debut with a fellow Luchador was the perfect move as they settled into the groove that comes from familiarity. PWG gave him every opportunity to get over, and he took it.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
CIMA defeated Jody Fleisch in the First Round
There was a veteran air to this match, as CIMA and Fleisch started slowly, feeling each other out before engaging in a taunt off combined with some light comedy. It got a few chuckles out of me, but as they followed up by vanishing into a poorly lit crowd to brawl (I have no idea what was happening), it did begin to feel like we were getting more shortcuts than we were wrestling.
When they returned to the ring, they decided it was time to get down to it. Sadly, by that point, it was too late. They’d lost me, and the somewhat muted crowd reaction suggests I wasn’t alone. There were hints of what this could have been, but we didn’t get that. Instead, we had something that was significantly worse than Brooks vs Horus.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Bandido defeated T-Hawk in the First Round
Bandido has seemingly risen from obscurity to stardom in the space of a year and nowhere is that more evident than in PWG. He’s over and another year like this one will see him crowned as the next big indie name.
Despite that, it was T-Hawk who stood out here, mainly because he was chopping the shit out of poor Bandido. Those chops were getting a wince out of me sitting at home several weeks later. Imagine what it must have been like receiving them?
That also played into the spot that saw this match go from good to fantastic. After a long chop exchange in the centre of the ring, these two shifted up a few gears. From there on it was a case of seeing who could come up with the move that would keep the other down for three. Considering the talent in the ring, that was never going to be a bad thing. Come to the final bell, Bandido may have been the one with his hand being raised, but both men came out of this looking great.
Verdict: Four StarsD
Joey Janela defeated David Starr in the First Round
Kicking things off, it looked David Starr’s plan was to out wrestle Janela. Sadly for him, that wasn’t going to work. Mainly because Joey decided he’d murder Starr in response. Dragging him off the top rope he hit a reverse DDT onto the apron in an incredible spot. Fair play to Starr for agreeing to take it and fair play to Joey for not actually murdering him while executing it.
When they returned to the ring, this went into fuck it mode. There were stiff strikes, Canadian Destroyers, Superkicks and enough dives to give even the low-level wrestling grumps a heart attack. I love that shit. If wrestlers want to perform ridiculous moves while slapping the shit out of each other, I will sit here with my pants around my ankles having a lovely old time.
The final sequence somehow outdid all of that. I’m not even going to try to write it down because it will just be a list of moves and that ain’t fun. Needless to say, this was everything that you want from BOLA. A thrill ride of stupidly dangerous action that terrifies as much as it excites. I love it.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Brody King defeated PCO in the First Round
I can only imagine that PCO and Brody King sat backstage watching the previous match and vowing to one-up it. It took less than three minutes for these two massive men to start hitting dives and even that paled in comparison to the way they were chopping each other. There was nothing pretty about this, folks. It was big fuckers going at it.
After all that, I was sitting there wondering how they were going to top it. When you go all out in the first few minutes, what do you do next? Well, if you’re PCO, you hit a Somersault Senton onto Brody while he’s lying on the apron. THEN! You go for a moonsault onto the same spot, completely fuck it up and end up bouncing off the top rope while somehow avoiding instant death. I mean seriously, what the fuck is going on in that nutjob’s head?
Sure, this was sloppy as all hell and no-one in their right mind would describe it as great wrestling. However, it was ten minutes of sheer entertainment. It’s the first time I’ve watched PCO since his WALTER war which is the perfect way to digest him. I don’t want to watch him every week, but I’ll watch him nearly die every six months or so with delight.
Verdict: Four Stars
RINGKAMPF (WALTER and Timothy Thatcher) defeated Ilja Dragunov and Shingo Takagi
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it would be impossible for these four to have a bad match. If this had descended into a twenty-minute chop battle, I’d have gone home happy.
They did a lot more than that, but it still felt like a fight. All four of these men work hard, believable styles that don’t rely on flash to get over. We got a grunty slugfest that saw everyone involved try to pound their opponents into submission.
And that blending of styles was the perfect environment for Dragunov to shine. In what was Ilja’s first time outside of Germany he showed the rest of the world what everyone who has been watching wXw already knew, he makes PCO look like a well-adjusted human being. At one point he blocked a Thatcher Lariat by headbutting his arm. Have you seen the size of Tim Thatcher? That’s not a healthy way to respond to that situation.
It wasn’t only Ilja looking to impress, though, as Shingo Takagi wanted to spend his final days before turning up in New Japan prodding The Ring General. That’s not something I would advise anyone to do. Then again, most of us aren’t Shingo Takagi as he achieved that rare feat of getting WALTER off his feet with a massive Pumping Bomber. He didn’t stay down long, but I reckon that still goes down as an achievement.
The final few minutes were exquisite as the match broke down and bodies started flying. There were chops, John Woos and the sight of a current New Japan JUNIOR getting WALTER up for a Death Valley Driver. In among all that chaos, Beautiful Tim managed to lock Ilja in an Armbar before rolling him into a pin. God bless wrestling.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
It’s BOLA! I know a lot of people will tell you that this tournament is overrated, but I fucking love it. We got cool cats, pensioners trying to kill themselves and more meaty chops than you’d get at meat lovers BBQ. There is nothing to hate about that. BOLA 2018 kicked off with one hell of a show and considering what’s to come, I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year.
Buy BOLA on DVD at: http://www.prowrestlingguerrilla.com/