One of the things that went unmentioned in my BOLA reviews were the idea that I don’t buy the Kevin Steen turn after months of feuding with the Young Bucks and being on the side of Rick Knox for literally years. Steen attempted to answer these questions before his first match on commentary. While the Best Friends were wrestling Rich Swann and AR Fox, Steen’s essential defense was “If you can’t beat’em, join’em.” PWG will get away with this because of who they are and the fact they only run one show a month. The wrestling was still very good on this show, but there were a couple disappointments and a very pleasant surprise.
I’m not going to bury the lead. Joey Ryan and Candice LaRae together were in my favorite match of the night. This might be the biggest upset in the four and a half years I’ve been writing reviews for Pro Wrestling Ponderings. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given the Young Bucks were also involved, but this was a compact, exciting affair that nearly caused me to believe Ryan and LaRae could win the titles. The first move of this match was a double ballplex by LaRae, and they kept at it for 13 very fun minutes. This was my favorite match of the night and probably in my top five of the year for PWG. Joey Ryan even broke out some dives on this night. The other important aspect of this match was Rick Knox was the referee as per the orders of Excalibur at the start of the show after Mount Rushmore ruined the ending of BOLA and then declared global warming to be a work. Knox reluctantly counted three after More Bang for Your Bang. If Ryan is in tag matches, he’s more palpable. LaRae is someone who’s stepped up her game up in recent months. Not gonna lie. I think these two teams should do a rematch in a few months, or perhaps the DDT4 final, and give these two the titles. Ryan and LaRae seem to work as a team, and if it means Ryan isn’t wrestling goofy singles match, they can tag up forever.
There were two other matches involving Mount Rushmore. Kevin Steen won what amounted to an extended squash over ACH. I understand what they were trying to accomplish with this contest with Steen just being the biggest jerk in the world to someone who is already so over with the PWG fans. An A for effort despite some remaining issues. ACH did get a number of hope spots, and if nothing else, this wasn’t slotted in such a place where it needed to be a spectacular match. Also, Kevin Steen in tassles will never make me not laugh. Also worth noting Steen beat up ACH with two more package piledrivers… to cheers.
The main event of the show is sure to be controversial given its ending. Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly for the PWG world title was about so many things. These two are former tag team partners in both PWG and Ring of Honor. They’re both two of the top stars on the independent scene now and have improved so much. And did I mention Cole has been champion for nearly a year while O’Reilly has been one of the hottest stars defeating Sami Callihan, Davey Richards, and then winning the 2013 Battle of Los Angeles. These two were having a good 30 minute main event until all hell broke loose. Out comes the Young Bucks. Out comes Steen. F-Cinq and Cole retains. A match that should have been hugely important is reduced to a cog in whatever long-term plans PWG has. Not every match needs to end cleanly, but interference in wrestling matches should be done for a purpose and for the betterment of the participants. O’Reilly gets a visual tap-out on the champion, loses directly because of the F-Cinq hit on him, and look who gets the next title shots. Johnny Gargano cuts the show ending promo and will get a match on night two of All-Star weekend. Chris Hero gets a shot on night one. If O’Reilly gets a cage match or a match with Mount Rushmore banned from ringside, I’m willing to buy the argument that the interference at least made sense. But this is PWG, a company that basically runs 12 PPVs a year and that’s it. If this is how shows are going to end from there, then they’re every other professional wrestling company. I severely knocked down my main event rating because ultimately all the work they put in meant nothing. O’Reilly and Cole should have been the climax of a huge year for both men. As is, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by what happened.
One of the other big stories on this seven match card was that everything got a lot of time. All but two matches received at least 15 minutes. Johnny Gargano and Roderick Strong was the second longest match on the show and I feel it met expectations. Can’t say Strong’s work in Ring of Honor has been exciting, but I consider that an indictment of the promotion and less on him. Strong can go through the motions and is still good enough to have good matches. He’s arguably one of the most consistent performers across the landscape, which is why a match with the new flavor of indie wrestling made sense against Johnny Gargano. I very much enjoyed what I saw from both men. I could argue to shave a few pointless early minutes, but the ending flurry was pretty amazing. Fast and furious is the best way to describe the action. Not only was this a quality match, but it got Gargano a much needed win in order to justify his earning a world title match on the next set of shows. Great acton all around.
A four way match involving Drake Younger, Tommaso Ciampa, Brian Cage, and Anthony Nese felt more like a car crash than a wrestling match. Ciampa is likely going to kill someone in one of these matches based on what happened in BOLA and even here. Methinks he needs to calm down. This was entertaining for the time given. I’m not sure why Younger won unless he’s being positioned for another world title match early next year. Lots of moves here and minimal resting leaves me a happy individual. I would have hated this if it went for much longer, but the tone and pacing felt appropriate given who was involved and the fact that it was a four way match.
There were two other tag team matches as I guess the company believes the division needs replenishing in lieu of no Super Smash Brothers or Dojo Bros. B-Boy and Willie Mack won an entertaining but ultimately longish opener over Ray Rosas and Peter Avalon. Some comedy mixed in with solid wrestling. I don’t think this needed a double heat segment since the idea was basically that B-Boy and Mack’s size gave them a significant advantage. Mack can learn a lot from the veteran, and his style might lend itself better to tag team wrestling. He looked quite good here, and I hope this team gets more bookings. Avalon and Rosas have good chemistry too, but I’m not sure they’ll ever be viewed as anything but a comedy jobber team. Still, I think the opener accomplished what it needed.
Another new team appears to be the Best Friends of Chuck Taylor and Trent? as they defeated Rich Swann and AR Fox in a very entertaining little spotfest. Not sure I buy Taylor and Trent? as best friends (where are there credentials?) but they can be a fun team. Based on the style they both seem to want to wrestle, tag team wrestling might suit them. Trent? is adjusting to independent wrestling well and has become a solid performer on every show he works. Taylor also seems to have found new motivation with the passing of Chikara. AR Fox almost a wrestled a safe match as compared to his usual insanity, but he succumbed to the Awful Waffle. Taylor on a winning streak in PWG? Strange times.
Calling a PWG show the “worst” of the year probably isn’t even fair at this point. Matt Rushmore was not my favorite show of the year, but I still ended up giving two matches four stars and enjoyed every other match from an action standpoint. My recommendation isn’t as strong as it would be for BOLA, but this is still a worthwhile purchase. The one complaint you won’t have is that matches didn’t get enough time to develop.
-Taped from Reseda, California
-Commentators: Excalibur, Roderick Strong, Johnny Gargano, Kevin Steen, Rich Swann, Chuck Taylor
-B-Boy and Willie Mack defeat Peter Avalon and Ray Rosas. B-Boy pins Rosas after the brainbuster/17:29/**3/4
-Kevin Steen defeats ACH by pinfall after the package piledriver/18:23/***1/4
-The Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent?) defeat AR Fox and Rich Swann. Taylor pins Fox after the Awful Waffle/19:25/***1/2
-Drake Younger defeats Brian Cage, Tommaso Ciampa, Anthony Nese . Younger pins Ciampa after Drake’s Landing./12:03/***1/2
-Johnny Gargano defeats Roderick Strong by submission with GargaNo Escape/24:02/****
-The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson)(w/Kevin Steen) successfully defend the PWG world tag team championships over Joey Ryan and Candice LaRae by pinfall. Bucks pin LaRae after More Bang for your Buck/13:20/****1/4
-Adam Cole successfully defends his PWG world title over Kyle O’Reilly. Cole pins O’Reilly after Steen hits F-Cinq/29:55/**3/4
For more information on PWG and their upcoming shows, check out PWG’s website. To buy this and many other PWG DVDs, check out Highspots. Below is a list of contact information for both the website and me.
Contact Pro Wrestling Ponderings!