Everyone loves an underdog story. Especially in wrestling, the medium has been built on a string of successive underdog stories, dating back from Bruno Sammartino being the underdog from a different country, who had to fight through not knowing the language in his formative years to become a hero to the masses to Daniel Bryan’s ascent to the top of the wrestling world, the underdog is woven into wrestling’s very soul.
If there was ever a promotion that personified being underdogs, it’s Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (from here onward just referred to as PWG, the name is tricky to spell) often through it’s own choice to be an underdog, it is not a promotion that you’ll find working towards a TV Show, or trying to break the mainstream, that’s not their style, not how they like to play things, they like to play things by their own rules.
Pretty much from Day One, the companies welfare has been banked on DVD sales, seeing as they’re still around nearly 15 years later, that strategy seems to work as PWG DVDs of their latest events are sought after from the minute they go on sale, in fact your author recently procured all three nights of last years Battle of Los Angeles, as well as other 2016 DVDs, but I’m just one person, for a company to put their success behind DVD sales, they must be strong, and people aren’t going to buy DVDs that are under par, so for years PWG has been a hotbed of talent and great matches, stretching back to the early days, some of the earliest Kevin Steen vs El Generico matches can only be caught on PWG DVDs, you won’t find them launching their own streaming site. Such is the unique appeal of this company.
The company debuted in California in 2003, founded by six Southern Californian wrestlers (namely Disco Machine, Excalibur, Joey Ryan, Scott Lost, Super Dragon and Top Gun Talwar) and the first scheduled main event of the first card was AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe (Joe had to pull out through injury and was replaced by Frankie Kazarian), so you could say they set the bar pretty high. the caught the eye of wrestling fans and press by giving their shows over the top names such as: Free Admission! (Just Kidding), Black Cole Sun, Steen Wolf and Kee_ The _ee Out of Our _ool! (Which is interesting to type). Behind the outlandish names they established themselves as a place were solid matches were fought, and later established their yearly ‘Battle of Los Angeles’ as a go-to tournament on the indy scene and such names as: Davey Richards, Adam Cole, Low Ki and Kyle O’Reilly can lay claim to winning the now prestigious tournament, in recent years, it’s been a place where indy wrestlers can catch fire in the US, due to their large DVD sales it means more exposure, in recent years these have included two top UK names Zack Sabre Jr and Marty Scurll, the former of which is the current World Heavyweight Champion of the promotion and the former the most recent BOLA winner.
In the earlier days it had a hand, along with ROH, in building future stars, names like: Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, El Generico and Kevin Steen have passed through the doors of PWG, many of which have held titles in the promotion.
Part of the promotions charm is the colour commentary of Excalibur, which is as outlandish as some of the show names, this along with an Adam Pearce vs Frankie Kazarian feud for the Heavyweight belt won them a great fan base in the California area, and as time went on that fan base grew, as DVD sales grew parallel to this; due mainly to the ever growing internet community talking about them, within a year the company went from putting on shows in front of 150-200 fans to putting on shows in front of nearly 500, such was their popularity.
Nowadays, PWG keeps some of it’s unique tropes, and some new ones, like naming shows after recently deceased celebrities. Also in 2005 the inaugural Battle of Los Angeles took place, in case you’re wondering Chris Bosh beat AJ Styles in the final, which in retrospect could be seen as the wrong result, this was followed in 2006 by a European tour.
What of PWG right now? Well it’s widely considered to be a premier independent promotion, as previously mentioned its BOLA tournament is considered one of the most sought after trophies in the indpendent wrestling world, in 2016 it drew names like: Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, John Hennigan, Zack Sabre Jr, Cody Rhodes and Kyle O’Reilly as well as a whole host of new to the US British talent, like Mark Haskins and Pete Dunne. It’s still got it’s outlandish nature, existing on live event and DVD sales, while still running the same place in Reseda, California, to top it all off Dave Meltzer named PWG ‘the best wrestling in North America’. That’s PWG in a nutshell, long may it be as outlandish and as brilliant as it is.