Pro Wrestling Guerilla turned 16 years old this past weekend and during the year it has come of age (in this country at least) I feel it’s time to look at what this company has achieved in its decade and six years on this earth.
It’s a bloody lot.
From a Jewish Centre in Los Angeles to a tiny American Legion post in Reseda, this small company quickly became the hotbed of independent wrestling and the home to see the future now. The place where people such as Frankie Kazarian, Human Tornado, Adam Cole, Davey Richards, The Young Bucks, Kevin Steen, El Generico and many others went from ‘best-kept secrets’ to mainstream breakout stars is now the most recognizable independent promotion on the planet, and arguably the place where my love of independent wrestling fully grew.
I’d seen bits of Ring Of Honor and TNA on The Wrestling Channel here in the UK (only the truest gangsters remember) but it was when I stumbled across the feud between Human Tornado and Chris Hero that opened my eyes to what was out there beyond the world of WWE. It showed that wrestling can be anything; graceful, brutal, hilarious, enthralling. The rabid crowd being so intimate with the ring made a room of a few hundred seem like tens of thousands.
But what moments for me, sum up Pro Wrestling Guerilla? Here are sixteen moments, things, matches and anything else that show what PWG is to me.
1. The Chris Hero/Human Tornado Feud
I can’t start anywhere else, can I?
The feud between Chris Hero and Human Tornado is the most underrated wrestling feud ever. It had every kind of facet of dramatic storytelling you want. Romance, betrayal, a loathsome antagonist, a valiant protagonist, dramatic side-characters that shock you, twists that you don’t see coming and a cathartic ending at Life During Wartime.
Human Tornado had a valet by the name of Candice LeRae (yes that one) who he started treating badly when things were not going his way. This brought out Chris Hero to LeRae’s aid and what began was an epic rivalry which did toe the line (Tornado putting LeRae in the crossface a week after the Benoit tragedy) but was engrossing from beginning to end.
Scope this out if you can. It’s amazing.
2. Mount Rushmore
Pro Wrestling Guerilla really hit its apex around 2013, when Kyle O’Reilly won the Battle of Los Angeles. The former partner turned heated rival Adam Cole and The Young Bucks attacked O’Reilly post-victory, only for Kevin Steen to run out to seemingly make the save. However, Steen shockingly turned on the fans joining the trio to form Mount Rushmore who reigned down terror on the PWG roster.
The four biggest stars in the company joined forces to destroy the company they helped build. It was too late to cheer them all now, everyone was screwed. After a few awesome matches, it sadly finished before it could reach a natural conclusion due to Owens leaving for WWE and Ring of Honor pulling its talents for a period in 2015 but it did lead to one of PWG’s most infamous matches…
3. The Worlds Cutest Tag Team vs The Young Bucks in Guerrilla Warfare
One of the most brutal matches I’ve ever seen and the show that made Candice LeRae. Until then, LeRae was a stalwart of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, working mainly in the mid-card and as a key side-part to the Hero vs Tornado feud earlier in her career. However, her interactions with Mount Rushmore and this subsequent tag title match proved to the world that Candice LeRae was one of the best talents on the planet.
In a brutal spectacle, LeRae and her partner Joey Ryan went to war with Matt and Nick Jackson, with chairs, ladders and hard candies all being used. Then came the tack-laden trainer and the superkick heard round the world. LeRae took one of the most brutal spots I’ve ever seen and came out covered in blood. It was a shocking visual and put the already pro-W.C.T.T. crowd on her side even more. When Ryan and LeRae won the gold, the crowd erupted, and another epic story was written in PWG lore; this match cemented that Candice LeRae is tougher than you.
4. Mount Rushmore 2.0
It’s rare that the sequel is as good as the first outing but when that sequel has Super Dragon in it, you’re off to a good start. Roderick Strong had quickly become the most HATED Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Champion in some time after beating a valiant Kyle O’Reilly. The crowd hated Strong from his head to his shitty little boots. At PWG Mystery Vortex II (one of the best cards PWG ever produced) Strong joined forces with The Young Bucks to attack Candice Le Rae, Johnny Gargano and then Rick Knox. The lights go out and the shocking return of Super Dragon stunned everyone in attendance, joining Strong and The Bucks in the beatdown, even taking out former rival (and legit co-owner of PWG) Excalibur.
Several amazing guerilla warfare matches and not even an injury to Super Dragon could hold them down, with Adam Cole returning to fill the gap. It wasn’t a long time, but it was a great time.
Also, The Young Bucks sold merch during the formation of the faction IN-RING. So you know it’s epic.
5. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks vs Matt Sydal, Ricochet & Will Ospreay
There’s not much to say about this contest from Day Two of Battle of Los Angeles 2016. It’s wrestling perfection. The most athletic, high-octane match in the companies history and the one that put them on the map to the wider world. It was also the match that made Dave Meltzer lose his mind and fall in love with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
6. BritWres Break-Out at BOLA
Across the years of 2015 and 2016, the explosion of British Wrestling being a hotbed was shown to a wider audience courtesy of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. In 2015; Mark Andrews, Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre Jr, Will Ospreay and Drew Galloway entered the Battle Of Los Angeles, with all but Zack making their BOLA debut.
In 2016, it drew even more with ZSJ, Ospreay, Andrews and Scurll being joined by Pete Dunne and Mark Haskins so that one half of the tournament consisted of British Wrestling stars. Now, in 2019 this class consists of a New Japan Cup winner, a two-time Best Of The Super Juniors winner, two Ring Of Honor mainstays and two NXT UK stars; one of which is the longest-reigning WWE United Kingdom Champion in WWE history. So, not a bad class.
And they got their biggest exposure courtesy of PWG. Not too bad.
7. Battle of Los Angeles
I’ve spoken a lot about Battle of Los Angeles in passing but let’s talk about the tournament itself. It is the proving ground for all professional wrestlers on the international platform. If you want to know who will be a HUGE deal in the twelve months, check the brackets for that years BOLA.
Previous winners include CIMA, Low-Ki, Kenny Omega, El Generico, Ricochet (the only two-time winner), Zack Sabre Jr, Adam Cole and Jeff Cobb. They’ve all done pretty well for themselves.
If you want a taste; go and watch the 2016 edition; it’s the most star-studded and my personal favourite.
Speaking of Battle of Los Angeles….
8. The Day Three BOLA Ten Man Tag Team Match
After all the serious wrestling and tournament action, it’s time to let off some steam. What better way to do it than in a big mental ten-man where fuckery is the order of the day. Dress up as cats? Sure. Ten-minute long slow-mo segment? Why not. Ten grown men sticking their thumbs up each other’s asses, one of which being Jushin Thunder Liger? OF COURSE.
It’s the perfect pallet cleanser and the template for every gauntlet and hangover scramble you see at every independent weekender.
9. The rise of Excalibur on commentary
One of the biggest success stories from PWG is Excalibur going from in-ring talent to one of the best commentators in the business. He went from drunkenly recording his comms in post with Disco Machine, screaming ARM DRAG at every move to calling three-hour shows on his own and it being better than some companies’ three-person booths. Insightful, funny and self-deprecating, it’s no wonder he got picked up by AEW to front their play-by-play.
One of the best commentators in the 21st century in my humble opinion. And he is responsible for this….
10. ‘El Generico is a big boy’
Nothing to add. It’s just objectively the funniest thing that’s happened on wrestling commentary.
11. Chris Bosh in general
Chris Bosh was one of the best aspects of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in its early years. From challenging his opponents to ‘suck our cocks’ matches, to his legendary ‘lion cock’ penis punch finisher, he was the most ridiculous personality, coupled with being a tremendous wrestler. The first ever winner of Battle of Los Angeles and a multi-time tag team champion, mainly with his partner Scott Lost, he was a big factor in the early success of PWG.
12. Men of Low Moral Fiber
Chuck Taylor. Kenny Omega. Clicking their fingers. Harassing El Generico. Trying to kick him out of Reseda. All because Chuck Taylor hates orphans.
Complete insanity, and why I love Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
13. The Young Bucks vs. Ricochet & Rich Swann vs. Eddie Edwards & Roderick Strong in a Ladder Match
At PWG TEN, The Young Bucks defended their PWG Tag Team Titles against The Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet and Rich Swann) and the Dojo Bros (Roderick Strong & Eddie Edwards). An absolute heart-stopper of a match that went a 100-miles an hour that somehow topped their previous effort against the Super Smash Brothers and FutureShock at Threemendous III.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but the dive through the ladder from Ricochet and the sunset bomb off the ladder are worth watching in this match alone. A must-see for fans of high-octane, death-defying action
14. Kevin Steen vs El Generico in a Ladder Match
Continuing on the ladder match route, Kevin Steen and El Generico had one of the most brutal ladder matches I have ever seen at PWG Steenwolf.
These two have several spots that will make you wince (and in several cases, commentator Chuck Taylor actively shrieks out in shock). These two literally put their lives in each other’s hands for a spectacle that leaves the crowd in Reseda and anyone who watches at home in complete awe.
I am still waiting for the (sort of) end to the trilogy. We had our Steen/Generico ladder match in ROH, we got our Steen/Generico ladder match in PWG – WWE give me my Owens vs (not Generico, but they are close enough) Zayn ladder match, you cowards.
Complete the circle.
15. The Kevin Steen vs Super Dragon Feud
Kevin Steen really found his voice in Pro Wrestling Guerilla and this feud shows that.
At Uncanny X-mas and the months that followed, a fake Super Dragon attacked Super Dragon, leaving him laying. At Jason Takes PWG, Excalibur reveals himself as the man behind the Fake Super Dragon; leading to him facing Super Dragon in a Guerilla Warfare match. During that match, another Fake Super Dragon appears and attacks Super Dragon. He unmasks to reveal Kevin Steen.
These two then beat the crap out of each other for months on end: stopping each other from winning the Battle of Los Angeles and Dragon screwing Steen out of the PWG title leading to the two having one of the most vicious matches in history, a Guerrilla Warfare match at Astonishing X-Mas.
It’s violence in its purest form, and a tremendous story told.
16. Bryan Danielson wins the PWG Title before leaving for WWE
At Guerres Sans Frontieres, Bryan Danielson received a shot for the PWG Championship against Chris Hero. To many, it seemed like a tokenistic gesture as Danielson was heading off to the WWE and this was his final match in the promotion.
What followed was a 40-minute epic, a match which many call the best pure wrestling match in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla history. The finish was just as memorable as despite the beating Hero gave Danielson, Bryan locked in a triangle choke, and despite Hero powering him up into a powerbomb, Danielson held on for the submission, stunning the audience as the departing Danielson was now the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla champion.
Both guys did alright for themselves afterwards.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla went from six guys giving themselves a chance in Southern California to the premiere spotlight for stars of the present and future to ply their trade. With the AEW’s and NXT’s of this world its star has darkened just a shade, but its legacy will live on forever.
This is Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @MattyID. Thanks for reading!