Okay, from what I know about PWG (Pro. Wrestling. Guerilla) they are an Indy fed with a loyal following of fans that runs out of Southern California using a lot of big indy names from ROH, such as AJ, Joe, Punk, Danielson and others. This is a set comprising their best matches through their short history. They are also known to give ridiculous names to all of their shows as a way of keeping the mood light and you feel some of that in the work, that PWG is a very relaxed atmosphere but takes itself as seriously as anyone else. The DVD has good quality and is hosted by some masked joker named Excalibur who looks as tough as Screech.
Now the feel of the matches: the crowds are very small, probably not even 100 people at most shows and the arenas they work in can hardly be called anything close to even a small local armory, more like badly funded high school auditoriums without a drama department. But, you are in close with the action, I'm talking very close- they're are cameraguys on the apron getting you as near the action as possible- it's the closest thing I've experienced on home video that makes you feel like your at the show or even in the ring. Now, of course there's some shitty amateur stuff like seeing the camera man's hand on the ropes or cutting heads out of shots but that's the expectations for a production like this. It's a great way to watch your wrestling- you can see so many little things that you were never able to before. Before the DVD starts, you have an option of listening to the "hilarious and sometimes controversial" commentary by hitting a button; folks, i gave it a listen and I wasn't impressed, so I turned it off and left the ring mic on. It is so much more engrossing to get all the sounds of the ring, the audience and the workers during the matches than to hear two shmucks who think they are the wittiest two dudes making less than $8,000 a year you've ever met. Plus turning the commentators on lessens all the sounds from the matches and that's no good. With that all being said, let's get to the work:
1) Bryan Danielson v. Samoa Joe (The Musical- 04/17/04)- 8
okay the facts are that these are two of the most exciting stars in the world today, and even back in '04. They put on a match like they're at Wrestlemania, both guys laying in their strikes the whole match and with you being up so close you hear the smack or sting and you see the welt. Joe doesn't sell any strike for more than 1 second and you see that too. They have some fun in there, mocking the show name by doing some West Side Story finger snapping.....or were they mocking that Royal Rumble commercial? Anyways, the ground work is all very stellar as well with close ups on both guys just pulling for all their worth on their holds. They do some stuff in the crowd, where it's pretty much like request hour on a lame radio station as Danielson climbs into the dirty stadium seating chair and the fans immediately chant "Ole,ole, ole, ole!" So, Joe switches up from the brawling and hits one of his more famous spots....twice per request.
The pace is really great too because it's not a million miles aminute, take every move in the book don't get hurt at all ROH uses too much, this one was real slow, but it succeeded admirably from the care and time taken to build this into a cool match. Even the usual scientific spots leading into close submissions or near falls were carefully constructed as not to rush through anything- almost like reading a book line by line, word for word several times over to make a great page last longer. The match went to a 30 minute draw and the fans demanded a 5 min. overtime but they did some stupid angle where Ricky Reyes helped Joe beat down Dragon for a moment, cementing the fact that actual wrestling is far more entertaining than some stupid storyline that some geek who watches every Highspot shoot can come up with.
2) Super Dragon v. CM Punk (The Reason for the Season- 07/10/04)- 5
This looks more like a traditional indy show, bad lighting in a darkened building, like putting on a show inside of a cave. You immediately can tell that Punk and Dragon don't hit near as hard as Joe & Danielson, especially after seeing some of Punk's stomps which looked more like Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. This match features a ton of boring ground work, and Dragon doesn't impress me at all. Punk is funny making great comments through the match, like after backdropping Dragon, who's a little portly, screams "Oh, you fat mother fucker!" and clutches his back. The match kicks into another gear in the final act though, and congrats for it. Dragon starts hitting diff. variations on the Michinoku Driver and they're sinister- Punk completely being folded up like your after shower towel. One of these gets the win for Dragon in a mostly underwhelming match that had a great finish.
3) Adam Pearce v. Kazarian (Steel Cage Match-The Reason for the Season- 07/10/04)- 2
Pearce begins with a Shane Douglas-esque tirade in the aisleway, throwing out every profanity in the book to little or no reaction. Kaz comes out and chases him around the ring which is very reminiscent to a Benny Hill skit. There's a crowd brawl for the first 10 minutes or so that goes everywhere, including outside into a Uhaul truck, but we don't really see any of it due to the cameraman lagging behind the crowd. This already flawed match turns into a scene from Cloverfield with shaky camera movements and people's backs clogging up my TV screen. Actually, my mind was just on wanting to see this chump's face, as he palms people's backs saying, "camera guy, get out of the way." He's so lost during the outside brawl, he actually walks away from where the action is to shoot a garbage can commenting to someone in the crowd, "can't see shit." Aren't you getting paid for this, you fucking amateur? Anyways, back to the match: Pearce gets cut behind the ear during the melee and they meander back towards the ring. Now, the cage: You have several guys around ringside holding it in place because every time you hit the cage, it moves and goes past the ring. Did I mention it's held together with large, industrial zip ties? Yeah, that's right, you're in the fucking depths of Indy Wrestling Hell now. Pearce puts some fat douche in front of him so Kaz can't get in the cage, but he belts the tubby shit in the cocksucker in a moment that made me burst out in stunted laughter, causing my nine month old daughter to begin laughing as well. Crap, we gave Pearce what he wanted: a reaction.
The in ring stuff didn't impress me at all. You had a bunch of elements that would seemingly work but here they just felt like overkill. You had a double massive blade job, long ground work periods that went nowhere, more Pearce cursing and some near falls near the end with less heat than the Abominable Snowman's nutsack. In one of the goofiest spots of the match, Kaz attempts a Spanish fly on Pearce which looked sloppier than a Steak n' Shake waitress. You can only imagine Pearce's subsequent sell on the move. Kaz hit some good looking piledrivers near the end when Pearce was kicking out of everything, and I enjoyed those two moves more than anything else in this stinkhole combined.
4) Christopher Daniels v. Jack Evans (Free Admission (Just Kidding)- 11/10/04)- 4
This one was using crowd interaction a lot in the early stages. Evans was really playing up his 8-mile hip hop character by flipping out of snap mares and telling the crowd he "served Daniels." Daniels was getting a kick out of the antics but kept the wrestling on the mat for the first portion, seemingly making a choice not to go high risk at all. This would have fit into a ROH show midcard slot very well, with both guys doing what they do best fairly competently. Daniels kept a lot of it grounded, with Evans taking to the air quite a bit, including an outrageous 450 splash to the outside where he landed on Daniels feet first. Daniels hit a tilt a whirl backbreaker with 5 successions in a row without dropping Evans in a very impressive spot. Other than that, this was decent wrestling and the styles went together nicely but not a ton of crowd heat unless for a big spot and the finish was just kind of there.
5) Super Dragon v. Samoa Joe (All Nude Revue, 02/12/05)- 5
OH MY GOD!!!!! So I"m sitting here watching this Joe v. Dragon match and there it is: The sign I"ve been waiting for , the banner that read my soul like a tawdry novel, hanging majestically in the background of the arena (which was more like a corner of an arena tapered off): FRANK & SON CARDS & COLLECTIBLES SHOW! OMG! I don't know where it is, what the fuck it is, or how I get there but I need to be there when the doors open up and the smell of sweating fan boy drifts out. I need to stare at overpriced maquettes and sci-fi porn mags until my eyes bleed. I need to.....I need to review this match.
The crowd started out molten hot, just popping for every spot, including Dragon bum rushing Joe from the bell. I liked this match because Dragon wasn't the slow pansy he was against Punk, here he took it to Joe, belting him with forearms throughout the match, just cracking the big Samoan with them repeatedly in the jaw. The place they were in was well lit and aesthetically pleasing, yes, even Frank's big banner. Looking closer at the work, I saw Joe's facials a lot of times and they looked real fake to me, and he was breathing heavy from early on. Dragon setup a move at one point and forgot how to lock it in and just stood there, kind of working it out in his head. I think the strike exchanges were the star of this match, even though all the spots themselves were fine, the strikes from both men looked deadly and realistic. The end of the match was a real downer and hurt the score, they did one of those dumb countout finishes based off the first Rocky movie where Dragon makes it back in as Joe falls down at 20 (yeah, they do a 20 count here and in several of the matches they really play up the danger of being coutned out.) Then, another momma's boy in a red super dragon outfit comes out to pounce on the winded Asian fatty before being saved by nameless babyface.
OH, Frank end this madness and reveal thy location of thine eternal card & collectible show?!?! The suspense is killing me!
6) AJ Style v. Samoa Joe (All Star Weekend 4- Nov. 12, 2006)- 4
No doubt about it these two have had some classics in the past- this certainly wasn't one of them. The whole tone of this match was off, starting with the darkened arena; it felt like some shady convenient store where 2 aisles of halogens don't work. Anyways, AJ started off strong, i mean like Strong Guy strong, just picking up Joe left and right and giving him big power moves. This felt wasted, as that could have been a much better built up spot for later in the match. Then, they went to ground work for a good portion of this match, sprinkeled with some crowd brawling and outside dives, going into the finish which was a Styles Clash pinning Joe clean in the middle of the ring. A lot of things felt off here and this didn't deliver the strong type of match these two usually do.
7) AJ Styles v. James Gibson (Guitarmaggeddeon, June 11, 2005)- 6
Interesting clash of ring styles here while both men don't even crack the 6 foot height mark. Gibson, I believe, is one of the best scientific wrestlers of the new millenium, meaning the last 10 years. Just watch his methodical approach to this match, slowly turning and bending AJ in different ways, working and grinding against his legs and elbows and neck in a great display of puro technique. AJ did a little mat wrestling himself, but he realized he needed his high flying and high impact arsenal to throw off Gibson. AJ was definitley getting the best of the strikes, just blasting off forearms like Nolan Ryan pitches into Gibson's head and side of neck area. Their chemistry was on, as to be expected, and Noble's fluidity kept a lot of AJ's indy roots of wildness at bay. He didn't overly bump like a crazy man per usual here either, Gibson keeping him mostly on the ground so as not to go that route and it worked as an effective wrestler v. arielist type match. Styles Clash clean again and that's the match.
This was a disc of high's and low's. This mostly felt like an ROH show in dingier arenas and without half the fans. Some good matchups throughout (save the abysmal cage match) but nothing quite captured the spirit and raw feel of the Joe-Danielson match, and definitley not the impact of everything they did in it. PWG ain't bad though.