We pick up our (delayed) coverage of 2016’s Battle of Los Angeles, with Night Two of the tournament, featuring a much ballyhooed main event… will it live up to Dave Meltzer’s five-star billing, or does it lose something on tape?
The opening match features a replacement, with Tommaso Ciampa replacing Jack Gallagher, who had to miss out due to travel issues.
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Dalton Castle vs. Tommaso Ciampa
Dalton’s got his regular boys with him, and they make the most out of nothing after they build up to a hug, before Ciampa cheapshots Castle with a clothesline. The Boys try to “fan up”, but they both get dispatched, with one of the boys taking the Project Ciampa (powerbomb/lungblower), before Castle nearly shocked Ciampa with a Bang-a-Rang for a near-fall.
Following some brawling around ringside, Castle struts out a dive, only to be kneed to the back and then again to the outside… where Ciampa mockingly struts a faked-out dive himself. A running knee takes Castle off the apron, before Ciampa works over Dalton back in the ring, with a faked out chop from Ciampa somehow leading to a deadlift German suplex attempt for Castle, then a Death Valley driver from Ciampa for a near-fall.
After having done John Cena’s move, Ciampa pulled one out of the Roman Reigns book with a Superman punch for a near-fall, before Rusev-ing it up with a Camel clutch. Castle comes back with some chops, then clotheslines Ciampa off the ropes, before a deadlift overhead belly to belly shocks Ciampa for a two-count as he tried to come off the middle ropes.
The pair trade strikes on the apron, before Ciampa back body drops Castle across onto the other apron, but a knee strike ends up taking Castle to the floor as Ciampa… takes a seat. Ciampa’s taken down with a ‘rana as Castle 619’s himself on the apron as he was thrown in, before a tope takes Ciampa into the second row.
Ciampa gets the ropes to break out of a deadlift German suplex, but Dalton gets it anyway for a near-fall after Ciampa spent too much time on the apron trying to regroup. That got us the second “that was three” chant of the weekend, before a handful of tights gets Ciampa another two count following a reversed Bang-a-Rang. Tommaso goes to the Triple H well with a Pedigree, again for a two-count, before he gets yet another near-fall from a Knee Trembler.
A combination of slaps and a knee lift daze Castle, but he was playing possum, with a Bang-a-Range out of nowhere getting him the win. A really fun opener, plenty of back and forth, and my God, Dalton Castle’s firmly in that Jeff Cobb category of being freaky strong, but underappreciated. Maybe it’s his full time employers? ***1/2
After the match, Dalton and Ciampa hug it out, whilst Tommaso gets some paper tissue to try and stem some bleeding after he’d looked to have bitten himself from the German suplex earlier in the match.
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne
This was a bit of a weird bracketing, but hey, it guarantees another Brit in the second round! This was Dunne’s first appearance in PWG, but he had a lot of fans who seemed to know who he was… as did Mark Andrews, but I’d be willing to wager that has little to do with his TNA run.
Dunne starts by taking down Andrews in a wristlock, which gets reversed back and forth, ending with an Indian Deathlock-like snap back onto Andrews’ arm. A stuff slap from Dunne acts as a perfectly fine counter to an armdrag, but Andrews replies with a prawn hold into a double stomp, before he backflips out of a sunset flip attempt.
After some back and forth, Andrews ‘ranas Dunne to the outside, where he’s met with a tope con hilo. A moonsault in the ring gets Andrews a two-count, but Dunne quickly gets back on top with some repeated kicks to the head. Dunne’s front suplex gets countered into a stunner, but again Andrews can’t keep the advantage as he takes a kick after being trapped in the ring apron.
Dunne DDT’s Andrews from the middle rope for a near-fall, then drops the Welshman with a Saito suplex. Pete starts snacking on Andrews’ fingers, then on his toe, before rolling through into the Trailer Hitch submission. More back and forth leads to Andrews connecting with a Side Effect, but he takes too long climbing the ropes, but is able to recover and connect with a wheelbarrow bulldog.
A Code Red almost gets the win for Andrews, before a Go To European Uppercut from Dunne leads to that release suplex for another two-count. Andrews just about connects with a Dragonrana, which turns into a headlock takedown off the top rope, but he does connect with a moonsault/DDT off the apron as Dunne gets friendly with the floor.
Andrews climbs up top again, but Dunne rolls out of the impact zone and out of the ring, before turning a moonsault off the apron into a tombstone piledriver on the floor. With no kneepads, that has to hurt! At this point I learn that PWG uses a 20-count, which gives Andrews the chance to do the Japan-style count out escape, rolling in at 19… but Andrews drills Dunne with a reverse ‘rana out of nowhere. A second caught backflip leads to a pair of tombstones from Dunne, with the latter – a jumping one – getting a near-fall.
There’s more finger biting from Dunne, who then lays into Andrews with some rapid-fire curb stomps, only for the Drop Dead to be turned into a small package for a near-fall. Andrews tries to follow-up, but he runs into a snap German suplex off the ropes, before countering a second Drop Dead into a DDT. A running shooting star press from Andrews keeps Dunne down, before an enziguiri drops Dunne on the top rope, but Pete’s attempt at a release superplex is again countered into a Stunner.
Dunne tries to roll up Andrews from a missed shooting star press, but Pete had his feet on the ropes – and was caught – before a straight forearm smash flattened Andrews out of the corner. Another Drop Dead was blocked by Andrews, but Dunne caught that and turned it into a release Dragon suplex, and finally nailed the Drop Dead… for a two count! But the bell rang! It’s a two-count that fooled everyone, and the match continues!
Andrews gets dragged off the apron and into the corner, where he bites at Dunne, before a super reverse ‘rana spikes Dunne on his head… one shooting star press later, and Mark Andrews picks up the win in an amazing match. Dunne’s Drop Dead is quickly becoming a bit of a millstone around his neck, given the success ratio, but other than that, this was a superb outing from both men. ****¼
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Sami Callihan vs. Cody R(hodes)
Yep, PWG couldn’t list him as Cody Rhodes. Maybe it was the absurdly pandering BOLA-themed ring gear that annoyed the WWE? Cody had his wife Brandi as a personal ring announcer, and some of her lines, including “he’s the star that left them in the dust” had the Reseda crowd eating out of her hand. Hopefully his match here doesn’t suffer from the same absurdly-high expectations as the rest of his indy career so far.
Callihan aggressively goes after Rhodes in the opening stages, but Cody’s equal to it as the pair stand-off. A pump kick knocks Rhodes onto the apron, where he’s clotheslined down and met with a low-pe from Callihan. Rhodes hits back with a springboard enziguiri then a springboard body press as Callihan ended up on the floor.
We get the missed-chop-on-the-ringpost spot, as they trade chops and strikes around ringside, ultimately ending with Callihan taking an enziguiri off the apron as he looked to run into Rhodes – whom he thought he’d left seated in the front row. A tornado DDT from Callihan takes down Rhodes after both men teased a hanging vertical suplex on the floor, before nearly shocking Callihan with a small package back in the ring.
Cody drops Callihan with a cross Flatliner-come-DDT, before Callihan blocks an Alabama Slam and a Figure Four, but ends up in a Trailer Hitch. A kick to the leg sends a running Rhodes face-first into the turnbuckles, before taking a death valley driver into the middle turnbuckle from Callihan. That looked a nasty bump to take, no matter what.
Rhodes managed to make a comeback, but Callihan reached under the ring for a paper bag of something… and it ended up being a cat mask. Cody replies by getting his old Dashing Cody Rhodes face mask, and we end up with a weird-as-all-hell face to face. A series of back rakes staggers Rhodes, who no-sells a pump kick and returns with an Alabama Slam.
Callihan knees himself out of the Cross Rhodes, and ends up dropping Cody with a package tombstone for a near-fall. After kicking out, Cody countered a second package tombstone attempt, by flipping back into the Cross Rhodes and after drilling Sami, Cody gets the win. Easily the best match I’ve seen out of Cody since his WWE release, but he’s got a long way to break free of the shadows he keeps casting on himself with the Dashing/Stardust references… ***¾
Fenix & Pentagon Jr. vs. Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End)
Well, these are quite the pairings. We’ve got brothers in action with Fenix adopting Pentagon Jr’s black-and-white stylings, and we started with Fenix and End, which wasn’t quite the murder you’d expect given the size difference.
Fenix ducks a kick and blocks a few, before both men catch simultaneous kicks that leave the other hopping around the ring and eventually into a stand-off. “Amiibo” Pentagon tags out to the real thing, who yells some Spanish abuse at Hero, which prompts the latter to tag into the match.
Chris Hero pulls out a step-up ‘rana onto Pentagon, then gets superkicked out of the ring for his troubles. Tommy End gets one too, before he’s biel’d onto Hero, as Fenix adds to the flying as he’s popped-up onto Pentagon, who gets used as a base for a moonsault dive to the floor. Add another one to the “that was nuts” files from this tournament!
End takes a pair of superkicks, a back cracker, a lungblower, a moonsault and a double-stomp for a near-fall as the Dutchman got flattened by the luchadores. The receipts start to come with a knee to Fenix and a forearm to Pentagon, and it’s Fenix who ends up getting squashed with a Hero back senton for a near-fall as End and Hero mounted a comeback. A release suplex with a knee-strike gets End a near-fall on Fenix, and before he unleashes with another pump kick to send Pentagon off the apron and into the crowd.
Hero toys with Fenix for a while, as a kick to the head from End assists a Gotch-style piledriver for a near-fall. Fenix finally gets some breathing space with a cutter to End, then a ripcord roundhouse kick and a German suplex on Hero – something a small guy should never be able to do! Pentagon tags in and clears house with Slingblades… only to turn around into a pair of right hands from End and Hero.
Hero and End dish out duelling pump kicks and forearms, before being caught on the top rope… which ends with a double stomp from Fenix to End – as they were both on the top rope – and then a biel throw from Pentagon into a Tree of Woe-ridden Hero in the opposite corner. End just about kicks out from that, but he had no defence to a stiff kick to the midsection from Pentagon…. The luchadores end up running into each other, as End unloads with a stupid-fast series of kicks, then a spinning knee strike and a German to Pentagon… which is broken up by a kick to the thigh from Fenix.
We end up in a chain of submissions – an Indian deathlock from Fenix to End, a cravat from Hero to Fenix, before Pentagon grabs a kneebar to Hero, leaving Pentagon and End trading blows on the mat. A parade of kicks follows, before Hero’s dropped with a lungblower from Pentagon, then a tope con hilo. Fenix repeatedly elbows out of a waistlock from End, but a log roll leads to a bicycle knee from the Dutchman for a near-fall, then a brainbuster for yet another two-count.
Fenix catches End on the top rope with a springboard ‘rana, which is then followed up with a 450 Splash as Tommy End goes 0-2 in his matches so far at BOLA weekend. Another good tag match, albeit one that for me went a little too long – but hey, it’s not like you’re going to see these four men paired off again for a while, is it? ***3/4
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Kamaitachi vs. Trevor Lee
Another odd bracketing here, with the New Japan-on-loan-to-ROH star Kamaitachi taking on a guy better known these days for his TNA work.
We started with a leaping double stomp from Lee, before a tope kept Kamaitachi down. A baseball slide followed as the Japanese start went flying with a sunset flip apron powerbomb – leaping from the inside out. Kamaitachi misses a running kick off the apron, and takes one from Lee as the frantic opening continued. Lee folds Kamaitachi in half with a backdrop driver on the apron (not recommended, kids!), which somehow started a “USA!” chant from the resident douche in the crowd.
Kamaitachi breaks the count but walks straight into a choke on the middle ropes, before Lee throws him from corner-to-corner. It’s all Trevor Lee here, as he worked away on Kamaitachi, cutting off the sporadic comebacks before a step-up ‘rana knocks the American down. A missile dropkick gets Kamaitachi a near-fall, before we end up with a shoulder charge through the ropes that knocked Lee into the crowd.
That’s followed up with some high flying, as a senton dive sent both men into the front row, but after they returned to the ring, Lee regained the edge with a rope-hung DDT, then a Twist of Fate on the ring apron as someone played up his ties with Matt Hardy. Kamaitachi hits back with a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, before catching Lee up top for a wheelbarrow bomb off the top rope for an ultra-close near-fall.
A missed double stomp sees Kamaitachi fall into a German suplex for a two-count, before Lee takes some superkicks, and then a Meteora for another two-count. That’s followed up with a top rope Meteora from Kamaitachi, but another stomp misses as Lee gets the feet up, and almost wins it by reversing a cross body into a slam. Lee ducks a kick, and hits a stomp of his own… but just gets a one-count as Kamaitachi popped up once more, but he walked into a knee strike, then a package driver for the win. Another solid match, but this felt a little lighter than the rest of the tournament matches so far today. ***¼
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Cedric Alexander vs. Mark Haskins
Alexander came into BOLA on the crest of a massive Cruiserweight Classic-shaped wave, but Haskins had a lot of backers going into this match too.
After a typical back and forth opening, Haskins grabbed a headlock to keep Alexander grounded, but after working free, Cedric took down Haskins with a dropkick, then a PK-style kick for just a one-count. They quickly escalate into chops and uppercuts, before Haskins rolls through some headscissors and smacks into Alexander with a single-leg dropkick.
Haskins works over Alexander in the corner, before leaping over a charge that sent Alexander to the outside, and in prime position for a faked out dive… and then a tope suicida from the Brit that actually connected. A slingshot dropkick keeps Alexander down, before a kick to the thigh – that almost looked like a foul – took down Alexander once more. Mark goes to a wristlock, but Alexander clubs his way free, before a forearm sends Haskins loopy, and into place for a PK-through-the ropes and then a leaping tope con hilo that took both men into the second row.
A springboard lariat from Alexander gets a near-fall, before he misses a springboard roundhouse, only to connect with a high-angle Michinoku driver for a two-count on Haskins. There’s resistance from Haskins as he blocked a German suplex, and eventually hit a short-arm clothesline for a near-fall on Alexander, before a knee strike and a diving Meteora got another near-fall for Haskins.
Alexander replies to an armbreaker with an elbow, but Haskins quickly replies with a roll through into a Sharpshooter. Haskins releases, and gets pushed into the ropes for a near-fall from a roll-up, before a snap brainbuster from Alexander gets another two-count. After Cedric got distracted by someone in the crowd, the match degenerated into a series of slaps and forearms, before another roll through from Haskins leads to a Samoan driver. From the kick-out, Haskins rolls through into the bridging armbar, which forces the submission as Haskins gets into the second round. Add another good match to the list from this tournament, which shouldn’t be too surprising given the roster of guys involved! ****
Battle of Los Angeles 2016, First Round: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Matthew Riddle
Riddle has taken to wrestling like a duck to water, even if the bulk of his work until recently has been in EVOLVE – another group that gets little press from certain quarters.
O’Reilly rips off the KT tape on his shoulder early on, as we start with some grappling – something that was in both of these guys’ wheelhouses. The early grapples led to no clear advantage, but it did get an appreciative applause from the Reseda crowd, before both men take the other into the ropes… but O’Reilly’s dirty break ends up with an instead receipt, and then some ground and pound. Riddle counters an armbar with one of his own, sending O’Reilly into the ropes and to the outside.
After returning to the ring, Kyle lit up Riddle with kicks in the corner, before Riddle countered with a springboard dropkick that took his foe to the outside. Back inside, Riddle takes his chance to stomp away on O’Reilly, but a big boot cuts him off as the Canadian tries for – and gets – a kneebar. Riddle breaks via the ropes, but he’s immediately locked in a figure-four with a kneedrop for extra torque, before a series of forearms rock Riddle.
O’Reilly works a wristlock, then an armbar to keep Riddle down, but the former UFC fighter works free and launches a brief comeback, before a leg sweep sends him right back to the mat. Kyle turns a backdrop suplex into a kneebar, and keeps hold of it as Riddle rolls for the ropes, but a series of heel kicks force the move to be released. Riddle fires back with a Pele kick after catching a kick from Kyle, but again he’s dropped with a forearm as this again descends into a striking battle.
A deadlift German suplex is sort-of no sold by O’Reilly, who then returns the favour, at least until a bad shoulder forced O’Reilly to stop… and earned him a Fisherman’s buster from Riddle. That’s followed up with a series of rolling gutwrench suplexes from Riddle, before a set of curb stomps leads to a triangle choke from Riddle, which O’Reilly tries to counter out of. Riddle turns it into an armbar, but O’Reilly flopped into the ropes for a fortuitous break.
More kicks target Kyle’s wounded shoulder, but O’Reilly returns fire and sweeps the leg again, only for a Regalplex to be turned into a guillotine. O’Reilly countered that with a standing sleeper, then a capture suplex for a near-fall. From there, we get an ankle lock that Riddle kicks away from, before a lariat knocks down Riddle following some double big boots. But Riddle kicks out at one! Then falls into a brainbuster for a two-count… then a triangle sleeperhold which Riddle counters back into an Anaconda Vise stretch, but O’Reilly rolls back and Riddle ends up getting pinned whilst keeping the hold on. A nice finish to a match that could really have gone either way, but you got the sense that it was going to be an unpopular result, given how it all panned out… ***¾
Will Ospreay, Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Adam Cole & The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson)
So, this is the fabled six-man tag that Dave Meltzer controversially gave five stars to based from his live viewing. Let’s see if it’s true, or whether it’s been inflated by the so-called “Young Bucks Tax”…
Cole and Ricochet started, with the latter’s flipping out of a wristlock earning him a spit in the face. The insane flippy-do’s continued as Sydal slingshotted himself in to a ‘rana, before Ospreay’s springboard forearm finished clearing of the ring. Triple superkicks knock the Bullet Club out of the ring, and the first dive gets botched as Sydal gets caught in the ropes and misses the entire trio. A pair of Sasuke specials from Ricochet and Ospreay save the situation though, before three superkicks from the Bullet Club team knocked the faces off the apron.
We get triple apron powerbombs from the Bullet Club, and then they lead to the Kenny Omega Terminator dive, as triple topes connect, before we go back to Cole and Ricochet in the ring. A flipping neckbreaker from Matt Jackson gets him a two-count, before Nick gets taken down with a forward roll into a DDT. We’re back to Ospreay and Matt, with a corkscrew rana taking down the Young Buck, before Ospreay bounces off the ropes to take down both bucks with a reversed armdrag.
Cole runs in to drop Ospreay with a superkick after he had fended off the Bucks, who then follow up with a baseball slide dropkick and a tope con hilo… with Cole then faking out a dive over an upside down Matt Jackson. Instead, Cole slams Ospreay, and hurls him into the corner as a Ric Flair bump in the turnbuckles went a little awry, with Will almost landing on his head.
Ospreay mounts a comeback to Nick Jackson, but Matt gets tagged in so he can hit a load of flipping cartwheels and handsprings… then a back rake. Yep, this crowd has had too much to drink, and I suspect a lot of it has been mixed with Kool Aid. Yes, the Young Bucks act is good, but that level of reaction for a throwaway spot in an otherwise meaningless six-man? We’re firmly in Young Bucks absurdity here people…
The Young Bucks tilt the ring a few times with some rope running, but they end up kissing each other as Ospreay pulled Cole down as he was in a camel clutch, before a handspring double back elbow knocks down the Bullet Club trio. Ricochet comes in to DDT Cole, then uses the Bucks on each other for a wheelbarrow facebuster, then a corkscrew brainbuster… but there’s no cover, just chants.
Ricochet tries for a Benadryller, but instead takes a pump kick before Sydal comes in as the former IWGP Junior tag champs hit a standing moonsault and shooting star press at the same time for a near-fall. For some reason, Ricochet sold a kick to the head from a back body drop by flipping backwards and landing on his head a la a reverse ‘rana, whilst Sydal dropped Cole with a ‘rana, then both Bucks with a single ‘rana. The “Here It Is Driver” (pumphandle driver) gets Sydal a near-fall on Cole.
Cole pops up Sydal to avoid a top rope ‘rana – a counter that sees Sydal crotch himself on the top rope and flip back into the ring awkwardly – and then we’re back to the Young Bucks stuff with an apron DDT on Ricochet. Sydal takes a PK from Nick Jackson and Adam Cole, before a buckle bomb/double superkick keeps Sydal down, as he and Ospreay are then drilled with draping rope-hung 450 Splashes for a near-fall.
Sydal was set up for a Meltzer Driver, but instead he countered it with a legdrop-assisted reverse DDT and a jawbreaker, before tagging in Ospreay, who lays into Cole with forearms… but he gets kicked in mid-backflip en route to an ushigoroshi for a near-fall. Cole lays into Ospreay with some mounted punches, something that Ospreay countered by fellating Cole and delivering a Cheeky Nando’s kick in the corner.
Ricochet flies in out of nowhere with a tope con hilo across the corner to the outside, as a reverse ‘rana from Sydal spikes Cole. Ospreay follows up with a corkscrew diving kick, before Ricochet’s 450 splash earns a near-fall as the Young Bucks break up the pin. Despite having being landed on by a dive moments earlier. Ricochet follows back with the Northern Lights suplex, but the roll through into a brainbuster is cut-off with a pair of superkicks as Cole retaliated with the Last Shot (suplex into an over-the-knee neckbreaker).
Sydal and Ospreay add in some more superkicks, then a reverse ‘rana from Sydal, a standing Spanish Fly from Ospreay, before Cole tries for the Panama Sunrise on Ospreay, only to be taken down with a leaping ‘rana from Sydal. And pause for breath! Sydal misses a shooting star press as we get more superkicks, then the Panama Sunrise on Sydal… More superkicks cut off an Ospreay springboard, and then get used for a Doomsday Device takedown on the floor.
Ricochet catches a Dragonrana from Nick Jackson, but misses a Benadryller and instead takes an assisted Indytaker for a near-fall. At attempt at More Bang For Your Buck gets cut off as Cole takes a pair of high kicks, and we get yet more superkicks en route to a Meltzer Driver attempt, but Ospreay cuts that off with an OsCutter in mid air. Okay, there’s a genuinely awesome spot in this sea of moves that have blended together!
Ricochet reverses the tombstone after all that as a Shooting Star Meltzer Driver takes down Matt Jackson… and we end the match with a trio of shooting star presses as Ricochet, Ospreay and Sydal take the win. That match, was definitely something. Absolutely not five stars on video, but I could see why you could be talked into going that high live… especially when the crowd chanted “five star match” at the end of it. ***3/4
So, as a match, it was something. They packed a LOT of moves into this – and at the risk of sounding like a Lance Storm/Jim Cornette type, moves don’t translate into a great match. A lot of this bled together into a massive video game-style spot-fest, with selling to match. Way too many superkicks, way too many flips and a chronic lack of selling up until the finish just made this an exhibition rather than something trying to be a sporting contest in my eyes.
Overall, night two of this year’s BOLA was a really good show. It’ll be up there with the show of the year awards, but for me, it’ll probably just miss out. Then again, when you have an eight match card with every match going above *** (for me), that’s no bad thing… Our review of the third stage will follow, but with two DVDs and thirteen matches, it’ll be a while before that one pops up!