Breaking My PWG Cherry

It’s been really well documented here that I’ve had an awesome year when it comes to wrestling. I went to my first Ring of Honor show. I went to my first PPV. I went to my first WrestleMania. I met my favorite wrestler briefly. I was along the rails for an Hideo Itami match. I went to some great independent shows. I was front row for a Jushin “Thunder” Liger match. I went to some very fun WWE house shows. It’s been a year 30 years in the making and I couldn’t be happier; indeed I couldn’t even imagine it happening just two years ago. Yet there was one piece of the puzzle missing:

Pro Wrestling Guerilla. The Battle of Los Angeles.

My friend Mars and I debated. We racked our brains. Would it be possible? Would finances not only allow us to do it, but should we do it (according to our bank accounts, that is). Now, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all three nights. The timing at work would be poor and I already did the WrestleMania thing. I’m sure I could have gotten the time off if I really pressed for it, but I pick and choose my battles very careful. After a week or so of going back and forth, it was decided: we would go for Sunday, the final stage of BOLA. We both have Sundays off and I could get Monday off.

We just needed to get three tickets (another for our friend Joey). And it fell on me to do so.

To explain why it was my job to get the tickets, it’s pretty simple: I normally have Thursdays off. PWG tickets go on sale on Thursdays. I started inquiring to those I know who are regulars about the ticket process, strategies, that sort of thing. They pretty much all said the same thing: just be quick. And really, that’s all there is to it. Be quick with hitting refresh. The day came and I was nervous as could be. See, PWG tickets sell out within like eight minutes normally and this was BOLA. BOLA, guys. I was going to need to get in there within the first couple of minutes. And it’s not like it was just me going: I had two friends counting on me and I hate letting people down. Mars called me from work, jokingly asking if my devices were charged, the internet bill was paid, that sort of thing. I needed the laugh, but I was still a wreck.

The minutes counted down as slowly as could be. Time literally slowed down. Don’t doubt me on this, it’s the truth. I hadn’t eaten since that morning and I was not remotely hungry even though I had made dinner already. Food would have to wait. And then, after wishing everyone on Twitter luck a few minutes before, 8:00 struck and time suddenly sped up again. My heart raced. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Nothing. REFRESH. NOTHING. And then it happened…the page popped up! I hit Front Row and GA for night three. The page took the longest five seconds to load. PayPal popped up and both were sitting there in my cart. I deleted the GAs and changed the 1 to a 3 by the Front Row. It was ballsy, but in that split second I figured I would take the chance. The cart updated. I hit the Buy button…

And the spinner.

Good lord, the spinner. It took an eternity. It just spun…and spun…and spun. Finally: CONFIRMATION! I let out a victorious battle cry that I’m sure could be heard all the way to Reseda. At the very least, I’m sure I drew the ire of my neighbors. I texted Mars. I messaged Joey on Facebook. I tweeted out to the ether: “FRONT ROW!!!” Joey went nuts. Mars called me from work, he was cussing up a storm in excitement. He told me his coworkers saw him go from calm to through the roof happy in a microsecond. I had done it. And I was even happier because of how stoked my friends were.

By the way, the receipt emailed to me said 8:01. The tickets were all sold out by 8:03. So yes: be quick.

At this point, I would like to mention that I apologize if getting front row the first time going to PWG is some sort of snafu. No one there made me feel that way at all, but I wonder about these things. Like, was I supposed to pay my standing room only dues first? I don’t know. Again, my sincere apologies if you, wonderful reader, are riled up about it.

The days ticked by, our excitement only grew. See, to Mars, PWG Battle of Los Angeles is his WrestleMania. He ordered an Excalibur shirt as the Liaison to the Board of Director’s commentary is probably his favorite thing in all of wrestling. I ordered a Pentagon Jr shirt because fuck yeah I did. Finally, BOLA was upon us. We made the trek from Las Vegas to beautiful Reseda, California. After about four and a half hours on the road, quick stop to drop off our stuff at the Howard Johnson (three minute walk to American Legion Post #308), a stop at the CVS to collect snacks and water next door (and a brief encounter with Max Landis there; what the fuck is life?), we had arrived.

To say there was quite a lot of people there in that parking lot would be an understatement. But here’s the thing: everyone was fucking cool. People were sharing food and water, just striking up conversations. There wasn’t any, “Oh, you like that wrestler? Fuck you, you’re stupid” kind of attitude. Sure, there were disagreements, but all done in a civil way. It was really refreshing. It was just a bunch of fans being fans, all euphoric over the idea at being at PWG. I’ll give some shout outs later on.

We were let into the building late. Not a surprise. It’s wrestling, besides WWE, what show ever starts on time? We were patted down before entering the doors to American Legion Post #308 (the nice officer asked me how I was doing before putting her hands on me; I appreciated that, you know break the ice  a little bit first). We walked through the doors, I gave my name and received our tickets. I looked around and saw…

FUCKING CHAOS.

This is the part that no one told me about and maybe it’s because nothing can actually prepare you for the first time you enter this place. People were scrambling around finding seats. Wrestlers were in and around the ring, stretching or selling merch. In short: I felt like I was home.

We worked our way around the ring, trying to find seats. We were pretty much the last of the front row tickets to get in there and the place was filling up quickly. We went full circle and we finally settled in the corner by the bar. I’m not sure why we didn’t see them the first time, but there they were, ours for the taking. The thing about being by the bar means dealing with the beer line. Like everywhere else, people were extraordinarily nice and apologize to me since I couldn’t really sit down. I replied to all of them, “No worries. I’m not unhappy.” And that wasn’t sarcasm. I was beaming just being there. I would have stood the entire show if need be. Still, this is just another example of how great the PWG faithful are. And yes, everyone still in the beer line took a knee when the show started to not block the view of everyone sitting.

Excalibur welcomed us to the event, wearing a sling due to the events of the previous night. He would be calling the show with Chuck Taylor. WE RECYCLE! And thus began the third night of the 2015 installment of the Battle of Los Angeles.

Now, you all know me by now. I don’t go in depth when talking about matches. I don’t give a play-by-play, list off moves, or give star rankings. Instead, I give you feelings about matches and/or wrestlers. I’m always about the experience and let me tell you this night was an experience.

Jack Evans: Oh man, I had no idea what to make of Jack Evans while watching him. Truth be told, I was never a big fan of Evans, but that’s largely was because I hadn’t seen enough of him before this. I loved what he did on Sunday. It was different. He got absolutely destroyed by Brian Cage (including a fucking Steiner Screwdriver~!) after stealing the win. Later on, he had a great match with Chris Hero in which Evans went from hated heel to an underdog babyface as he kept kicking out at one back to full fledge dickhead heel by telling us to go fuck ourselves after cheering his effort. Absolutely wonderful. I’m converted.

Chris Hero: Hey, did you guys know Chris Hero ain’t nothin’ to fuck with? Well, it true. It was an absolute honor and pleasure to see Hero in person. Finally. He’s every bit as good as you’d expect. Plus he’s an absolute monster and works like one, too. I loved how he would shrug off strikes. He should! He’s like twice the size of a lot of the others! Knocking elbows with Hero like the Bash Brothers of my childhood made me way happier than it probably should have, but hey, PWG is like Wrestling Disneyland! It’s the happiest place on Earth!

Zack Sabre Jr vs. Pentagon Jr: Now, understand that I was losing my mind the entire night, but my brain went into orbit for this match. It may very well be the best match I have ever seen in person. I, of course, was pulling for Pentagon as I was one of roughly half the crowd wearing a Cero Miedo shirt. The entire crowd went nuts when Pentagon Jr came out. Then a murmur. “He’s facing Zack Sabre Jr!” No way, no way, no way…the music hit and we all lost our collective shit. That’s something that won’t be captured on the DVDs unfortunately due to the music rights, but believe me we blew the roof off that joint. And we didn’t settle down the entire time. Half the crowd was for Pentagon Jr, the other for ZSJ, all loud. I admit, I was a little bullshit about the winner, but hey, if anyone was going to beat Pentagon Jr, I’m glad it Sabre Jr. Just wait until you see this one, guys.

Speedball Mike Bailey: What I like about Speedball is that he’s a total geek. I mean, look at him. Right? But it completely works for him. I found myself rooting for him throughout the night. The genius of fighting spirit! I’m really into the rapid fire kicks as “educated feet” are some of my favorite things in wrestling lore. Also: dirty feet! It’s not Speedball’s fault for that, though: that venue is filthy, but in like the best way possible.

Tommy End: Tommy! Tommy! Tommy fucking End! He just looks badass! That’s what I really enjoyed about the match with Speedball: the complete contrast in how they look. You got the Daniel LaRusso looking dweeb vs this bearded tattooed ass-kicking motherfucker. And I mean that in the highest order of compliments. It worked for me on so many levels. This was my first exposure to End (I know, I know) and I was impressed to say the least.

Matt Sydal vs. Will Ospreay: I loved this match so very much. I feel like it’s gotten lost in the abundant amount of awesomeness. The story they told was really interesting in that it was Sydal that was the veteran trying to slow down the younger, high flying Ospreay; clearly a role we’re used to seeing Sydal in. It was fantastic and Sydal was great in the role reversal in which he worked over Ospreay’s leg throughout the majority of the match. This was probably my third favorite match of the night.

Mount Rushmore 2.0: In a chatroom I was in recently, the Question of the Hour was “What wrestler was the most entertaining that you’ve seen live?” My answer: The Young Bucks. Whether they’re babyfaces that you can cheer your heart out for or they’re asshole heels (like they are in PWG) that you can boo until the cows come home, you’re guaranteed a good show no matter what. Roddy is amazing and I loved seeing him be able to go all FULL FORCE in a match; just balls to the wall ass kicking. This was my first time really seeing Super Dragon and he has this menacing aura about him that I love. It feels like he might actually murder your favorite wrestler. I hope someone kicks his ass for good and that’s great. In a land where everyone is awesome, it was nice to be able to boo at times…even while the Bucks were diving onto fools just eight feet away from me or so.

Zack Sabre Jr vs. Marty Scurll: And this would be my second favorite match of the evening. I had seen a version of it on YouTube a while back, but this was light years better and I totally dug that YouTube match. They first started with silly Johnny Saint sort of grappling and tumbling that I loved. It was mostly comedy, but the skill and technique involved was astonishing; not to mention a lot of it was legitimately funny. They got more serious after a while, of course. It was a long match, which I know is a complaint from some, but for me it was so different from everything else on the card that it was quite the novelty and it really stood out from the rest of the pack. All three ZSJ matches were completely unlike the others and he’s just so smooth in everything he does. Party Marty is kinda the best as he’s extraordinarily entertaining in the ring and he’s a great wrestler, too.

Ten Man Tag: CIAMPA!!! Like everyone else there, I lost it when his music hit and it was so cool to sing along to “Psycho Killer” with everyone. I’ll also join the legion of others in calling Drew Galloway an absolute star. How WWE missed the boat with him, I’ll never understand (but TNA seems to be doing something with him finally…let’s see how they screw it up). My chanting along with the “5MB” chant was not me being ironic; if you know me, you know I LOVED 3MB. Fun match overall, nice cushion before the main event: the slo-mo bit was the most pure fun I’ve ever had at a wrestling show…besides that one thing that one time.

And The Winner Is: Zack Sabre Jr! I thought the main event was good, but you could tell there was mental and physical exhaustion going on in the crowd. It was a long night and it was the third night for mostly everyone there. Plus the heat! Now, standing outside wasn’t bad (I live in Vegas), inside could have been soul sapping if we weren’t all combining into one like the wrestling fan version of The Guardians of the Galaxy. My glasses fogged up pretty much the entire night; Pro Wrestling Guerilla: Action So HOT, It’ll Make Your Glasses Fog Up. The AC WAS on, by the way, but with that many bodies, it wasn’t going to do much. But I’m not complaining, I would go back in an heartbeat. Plus I found one of  the coldest spots in the venue…and no, I’m not giving that away. Sorry!

Mars: As stated before, BOLA is Mars’ WrestleMania. He went last year, but was standing in the back. This time he would be sitting front row! Except it got even better for him. See, some strings were pulled and Mars was able to go up on stage. The drawback is that you have to be silent, but he got to listen in on Excalibur doing commentary. Again, this is pretty much his favorite thing and it was a dream come true. He also got Zack Sabre Jr to sign something which may or may not be legal; either way, it’s fucking rad. Wrestling, guys.

Shout Outs: First of all, thank you to Mars and Joey for accompanying me on this crazy adventure. It was a blast and I can’t wait to do it again.

Special thank you to Mark, Justin, and Aubrey for all the advice on getting tickets and about the venue in general. I would have been completely lost without them. I also got to break bread with Justin at Denny’s afterward. Good convos there. I think. Right?

To Eric and Jose, thanks for being super cool and for the added advice: make sure to grab your chair before the boys dive.

Super rad meeting fellow Straight Shoot alumni Chris and Dustin. I had a great convo with Chris about the greatness of Tommy End and just how special the venue is.

To the rest of the PWG Faithful: thank you for being so very nice and welcoming to a guy breaking his American Legion Hall Post #308 cherry. You all were so sweet; you did the equivalent of taking me to dinner, taking things slow, and then cuddling afterward. As someone that’s socially awkward and tends to get just a tad overwhelmed in new situations, everyone I had an encounter with welcomed me with open arms, so by the end I was chatting up whoever wanted to talk some wrestling. The beer helped, of course. But yeah, I honestly can’t wait to go back. Let me know if any of you beautiful, crazy fuckers come out to Vegas for anything…like the next ROH Anniversary Show perhaps? Hint hint!

Sorry if I left anyone out. It’s been way harder trying to piece together the blur that was Sunday night August 30, 2015. And no, I didn’t drink much at all, thank you!

Pictures: I did not take a lot of pictures there. I was too wrapped up in the moment during the show and it never really occurs to me try to get a picture with a wrestler or any of the many friends I met up with there. In fact, the one I took with Mr. Aubrey Sitterson came about because Mars asked if we wanted a picture together while we were shooting the shit. Again, it just doesn’t occur to me. What pictures I do have, you can find here.

And In The End…: As you read in the beginning, I’ve basically had the best wrestling year I could ask for. This trip to Reseda is the icing on the cake. I had the best time at PWG that I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to back and as quickly as possible. American Legion Hall Post #308 is a truly special place to see a show. Not only is the wrestling amazing, but I can’t say enough how great the fans are there. If WrestleMania feels like going to a show with 80,000 of your closest friends, then going to a PWG show feels like going to one with a giant family; a family which I feel like a distant cousin of, but one that will always welcome me back. Once you’re there, you’re one of them for life. I’m actually very proud of that.

Until next time, PWG: Don’t ever change and always recycle!