1. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson) vs. Phoenix Star & Zokre - B: 3 J: 3
Brian: Opener was a lollipop. Sugary and fun but insubstantial. The opening mat stuff looked more cooperative than a sack race. Crowd had fun but this was just an excuse for excessive aerial spots as we had people flying into the crowd needlessly. I liked the Bucks piling on like a neighborhood football game to get the pin.
Jess: What a shocker, this had more dives than a shady boxing promoter’s stable of fighters. This was almost identical to every other PWG opener I’ve ever seen, mindless never ending spots, pointless opening mat work but I did think the ending worked, and have never minded it as a finish as long as the ref don’t call it.
2. Joey Ryan vs. Chris Hero (1st Rd - Block A) - J: 4 B: 4
Jess: Ryan is grotesque, but I guess that’s the point. This is when Chris Hero worked all his main offense out of a cravat; it’s hard to remember something so obviously pandering to the Internet crowd before imagine the shit he’s going to take from Helmsley and gang over that. Ryan did a lot of kicks in this but I never believed any of them would hurt someone too bad; they looked as effective as kicking a piece of furniture after you stub your toe. I was sort of entranced by this white trash woman in the crowd swaying and dancing to the match, giving Ryan’s valet shit and just being a general eye sore.
Brian: I'd been putting off watching this match as I just saw their 45 min. "Guerrilla Warfare" match last year and had my fill. Yes, that ghetto chick in the crowd, she had more presence than Hero, and I think it was Miranda Cecil Weaks, right, Jess? You remember her. I liked Ryan's Tornado DDT off of the apron, prefer him with this long, mangy hair, once he cut it what little personality he had died with it. At least we had a face/heel structure that made this stand out a bit from some of the more non-descript first round bouts.
3. Roderick Strong vs. Austin Aries (1st Rd - Block A) - B: 5 J: 5
Brian: Strong and Aries was nice, no bullshit wrestling. The ability to watch this sans commentary really was a plus here as you got to hear the sickening thuds, slaps, grunts, etc. I've wrote before about how well these two gel together, this isn't their best artwork, but still palatable to me.
Jess: Yeah it was odd, my dvd copy kept having audio and then the next match wouldn’t; really strange. But yep we’ve seen these guys go at it many times in the past and it’s not that you wouldn’t know from their chemistry but they make every bout seem like it’s their first. This reminded me of a physical chess game, each guy trying to plot around the next man’s move, make their signature stuff count and very little interaction with the crowd, they just put their heads down and wrestled.
4. Matt Sydal vs. Jimmy Rave (1st Rd - Block A) - B: 3 J: 3
Brian: Next match was slower-paced and more mat-based early which I welcomed. Offhand I think '07 is an underrated year of Rave's but he didn't do much of note here to qualify that theory. The thing that brought this down was two insistences of awkward execution that couldn't be undone.
Jess: Very surprised at that as well, and didn’t mind it at all. It was kind of strange, all these matches kind of started like that but this one seemed to push more in that direction for what we saw of it. That and this never actually developed into much. I couldn’t give you a match off hand I’ve really liked Rave in so I’d be no help trying to prove that theory.
5. Alex Shelley vs. Tyler Black (1st Rd - Block A) J: 4 B: 4
Jess: I’ve been a big Shelly fan for a while, his charisma is off the charts, and the guy knows his wrestling. Tyler Black to me is a worm hole of excitement, I’ve never jumped on that bandwagon. There was a lot of exciting sequences here and reversals but this match felt like a mid show ROH bout where I don’t even remember it after it’s over. It had no defining qualities but had a shit ton of nearfalls that never sucked me in. I don’t want to shit all over it because the work they put in was solid and the fans seemed to enjoy it but didn’t wow me. I thought I saw Spot the Wonder Dog creeping down the aisle but he left to go find Joey Ryan.
Brian: I begrudgingly give this a "4". As far as my general feelings on these two, I'm aligned with Jessie, always admired Shelley's execution, and never fully bought into the Black movement. That being said, I thought during stretches of this Tyler looked a lot better (on this night). His vocal selling was so loud that even with the volume turned nearly off I was afraid it was going to wake up my toddler son in his room. Tyler also had some offensive sections where it looked like he was actively trying to go for a victory whereas a lot of Alex's offense seemed to be in a vacuum. The finishing run had the requisite nearfalls but besides one teenaged chick in the crowd obnoxiously screaming and failing her arms in support of Shelley the crowd didn't seem moved by the action.
6. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Doug Williams (1st Rd - Block B) - J: 4 B: 3
Jess: Another mat heavy encounter, and my god does Claudio look weird with hair. They were doing all the European style wrestling where the transitions are smoother than Scott Hall’s hair grease and I dug that. One thing that stuck out was how much of their offense during it was low impact, even an outside bump by Claudio looked like he landed on an embankment of pillows. The Euro uppercut exchanges are always a worthy venture and the clean, unremarkable finish cemented this as decent.
Brian: I was actually having fun watching this but it was about as substantial as a package of fruit snacks. The opening mat stuff early was made better by having the audio option of no commentary to distract from the grappling. The lack of audio kind of hurt the trading of strikes, though, as the European uppercuts were connecting so light you could have called them "Whitney Cummings".
7. PAC vs. Jack Evans (1st Rd - Block B) - B: 5 J: 5
Brian: I may be rating this a tad high but I was pleasantly surprised this wasn't a pure adrenaline fueled collection of spots. Granted, both guys got to break out some aerial artistry, but that wasn't all we got. Evans was doing a lot of flashy kicks, not all of them landed clean, but kudos for the creativity and an element of his game I think he should utilize more. I thought PAC was doing a pretty decent job in the selling department, nothing you'd show the guys at a wrestling school and tell them to jot notes on, but you could tell he was cognizant of it. Out of the cool spots and bumps my favorite was probably PAC pulling Evans' legs out from under him on the apron and Jack bouncing off the hard apron nastily. My biggest complaint was PAC did a spot where he sat Evans on the top turnbuckle then did a springboard catching Evans in a neckbreaker, Jack fell right on-top of his skull, gruesome bump and got a great pop, really felt like it should have ended there, then he even did an Alfonso Dantés' suplex for good measure, but Evans kicked out. PAC climbed up and hit British Airways for the victory.
Jess: No, you said it all here, this didn’t have a “big match” feel per se but did have an energy before it started, knowing both guys aerial prowess and think it lived up to that. The apron bump was kind of a bump to get to the next stage of the match, wasn’t lingered on but still was one more little perk in this fun bout. Evans did that for a few spots when you thought it was over, one of the most devastating things that can happen in a match (in my opinion) is a guy getting his knees up on a splash from the top and that happened here with a 630 but it wasn’t really sold as seriously as I thought it should have been. But the flying kicks and air time was a fun treat, felt like they were doing a match inside a Bounce Zone or something.
8. PWG Tag Titles: El Generico & Kevin Steen vs. Dragon Kid & Susuma Yokosuka - J: 4 B: 5
Jess: Over the weekend, I watched the film “The Next Three Days.” Being a parent, I instantly connected with the idea in the film of this child being left motherless and the isolation and helplessness of the father. The film is a wild ride that strung me along and pulled on my heartstrings throughout the whole 261 minutes of the film. I hadn’t felt that anxious or nervous watching on on screen character in a while. As I often do nowadays, I went online to read people’s thoughts and critics’ reviews. A lot of them were not favorable. Many critics thought the way Crowe transitions into sort of an action star role in the second half of the film was unbelievable at best. But, I disagree, not necessarily that their judgement of the events is wrong but that it didn’t work. And the reason is, it was all setup so well at that point, the viewer (myself) was able to discount belief (after all, it is a movie) and go along for the ride because I was already invested emotionally in the outcome.
We’ve said it over and over again, a wrestling match is a piece of art, or can be. Just like any good movie, or book, there’s an artform to how you craft your story. And broken record again, I feel like I’ve seen this exact match so many times before and I always harp on it. The whole first 10 minutes was just guys wrestling in a bubble; didn’t lead to anything, didn’t establish any story, just kind of for the sake of filling time. Then you get to the big bumps and guys are taking these ridiculous superhuman bumps and series of moves to kick out and rebound right back up. Steen takes a super hurricanrana late in the match, which was spectacular, nope that didn’t end it. Dragon Kid, who literally weighs probably 100 pounds, takes a crazy amount of punishment near the end, and kicks out of most everything. The athleticism was there, the crowd was loving it but I’m so burned out on this style.
Brian: I read terrible reviews for that film, man, and not a big Crowe guy so not sure when (or if) I'll see that. This match, though? Not bad. Back in 2001 I was borderline militant on in-ring execution, structure, etc. but in the last year I've harkened back to youth and a lot of times look at the bigger picture: who's going to win, how, and why? It's simple enough but on that alone (when done well) I can get as pulled into wrestling as any other form of entertainment. This wasn't a revelation or anything; I've seen enough really good stuff from its participants to not put this all the way into the recommendable category, but still liked it. Generico and Steen, well okay, mostly Generico, took everything the DG boys had and made a late rally. I loved Steen breaking up the pinfall after the Dragonrana by shoving Yokosuka into them. Crowd was going nuts for the finishing stretch and all the nearfalls. Big win for the home team and nice way to end a fairly flat show with a happy ending.