Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Year in Review/2014 Year in Preview: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

Devin Chen: PWG DDT4 2013 1/12/13 &emdash;
All the feels
Photo Credit: Devin Chen

Promotion: Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

What Happened in 2013: PWG said farewell to three mainstays in 2013, two who made their splashes more recently, and a third who has been a staple of the company forever and a day. El Generico, the ebullient masked marvel who made PWG his main home away from home in Quebec… err I mean Mexico, said goodbye to the indies at the first event of the year, the annual DDT4 tag team tournament. He teamed with longtime rival and longertime friend Kevin Steen and made it to the finals before losing to the Young Bucks. After the match, Steen and Generico finally buried their hatchet and embraced. Many feels were had by those watching, whether live in attendance or months after on DVD. Yes, I shed a few tears. Shut up.

The other two who left were Sami Callihan and Samuray del Sol, both of whom were signed to WWE developmental contracts like the aforementioned Generico. Callihan was in prime position to end Adam Cole's reign as PWG World Champion, but in light of his signing, his best of three series for number one contendership for the title was won by Drake Younger instead. He was unsuccessful. Callihan would get one last crack at Cole, whose feud spanned across an entire country and over two promotions at least. They clashed one last time in a 60 minute Iron Man match, which Cole won.

After PWG celebrated its tenth anniversary at the aptly named show TEN, the tide of the company shifted. The Battle of Los Angeles Tournament was the biggest in a few years, and featured name talent from around the country like Anthony Nese, ACH, Tomasso Ciampa, Trent?, and Michael Elgin. However, Cole's Future Shock tag team partner, Kyle O'Reilly, ended up winning, putting the two squarely at odds with each other. While O'Reilly and Cole were long broken up in ROH, in PWG and other indie promotions, they were still pretty friendly with each other. So, their eventual title match would be amicable, right? Well, not exactly.

Devin Chen: PWG Is Your Body Ready? 6/15/13 &emdash;
The end of another era
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
After winning the tournament, Cole assaulted O'Reilly along with the Young Bucks. Candice LeRae made the save, but she got beaten down as well, which drew out Joey Ryan. Ryan proclaimed that no one would push around LeRae but himself, so he intervened on her and O'Reilly's behalf, only to get beaten down himself. Drake Younger and Kevin Steen were both drawn out as well, only instead of Steen fighting against his longtime rivals, he did the unthinkable and aligned with Cole and the Bucks. The group dubbed itself Mount Rushmore and began to reign terror on PWG, and their tyranny has continued unabated until this weekend, where Chris Hero will return to try and wrest the title from Cole. I'm sorry for writing these before promotions hold their final shows of the year.

2013 MVP: As much as Steen, Younger, Cole, or even Callihan were important to the PWG narrative, the co-MVPs of the company had to be the Young Bucks. Would El Generico's final match in PWG worked against anyone other than the Bucks? He already went out against Steen in ROH anyway. Would Steen have worked as a heel there without the Bucks behind him? Hell no. They're the most effective heels in the world, which is attributable to their expert way at walking the line. They don't have bad matches, they don't waste movement, and they're dedicated to the craft. PWG would be a far colder place without them.

What's Going to Happen in 2014: A lot of what happens in 2014 probably will hinge on All-Star Weekend X. I don't expect Cole to lose his Championship, although facing off against both Hero and Johnny Gargano in one weekend is not ideal for keeping one's title. Both guys could conceivably carry a Championship for a company of this stature, but I still believe the money match would be an ultimate blowoff between Cole and Drake Younger.

Devin Chen: PWG DDT4 2013 1/12/13 &emdash;
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
Younger's stature in PWG has grown exponentially since his debut last summer, and I was absolutely shocked that he DIDN'T win the title at any time before the formation of Mount Rushmore. For whatever reason, PWG has pulled back on him, but he's still mega popular among the crowd in Reseda. Unless someone like ACH, Ricochet, or AR Fox catches absolute fire in the early months of next year, Younger has to be the guy to unseat Cole, maybe sometime in the summer after Cole has run through some other all-star type opponents.

PWG having a show this late in the year has also clouded their plans for the new year. Last year, they kicked off their slate with DDT4, which for my money is the best active tournament in professional wrestling (Missin' u, King of Trios). Either way, the tournament probably won't happen later than March, and that event should be where Mount Rushmore shows the first deficiencies in their armor. I forecast new Tag Team Champions, although at this point, I'm not sure if that team will be the Unbreakable Fucking Machines, the Inner City Machine Guns, or even the team of Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae.

Five Wrestlers to Watch in 2014: Candice LeRae - LeRae's popularity within PWG is the biggest argument against Super Dragon's public opinion of women in wrestling. While her non-title match with Adam Cole was bumped from All-Star Weekend X, I doubt that the crowd will stop supporting her. While having her be the one to unseat Cole for the title would be the best story if told correctly, I think that she'll at least get a hot Tag Title main event in the future against the Young Bucks.

PPRay - In the grand tradition of the Young Bucks and RockNES Monsters, the team of Pretty Peter Avalon and Ray Rosas could be the next big native team to break out and take PWG by storm. Avalon is almost as good a heel as the Brothers Jackson, and Rosas has the kind of reckless abandon and disregard for his own body that would suit him well against big bruisers like Johnny Goodtime, Willie Mack, or Kevin Steen.

ACH - While ROH was busy putting ACH into cooldown matches or facing him off against the same two tag teams at every show, PWG threw him to the wolves in only his second weekend with the company. Fans in Texas, Chicagoland, and Ohio know what ACH is all about. PWG fans and brass seem to have the same savvy, and I can totally see big things for him as a result.

Devin Chen: PWG TEN 8/9/13 &emdash;
Next World Champ?
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
Ricochet - You want a dark horse name for who can end 2014 holding the PWG World Championship? Ricochet is your man. His worldwide stock has skyrocketed in the last two years, and he's been associated with PWG for far longer than I even realized at first. I would pencil him in as the far-too-early-to-tell favorite to win the Battle of Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter, he could end up unseating Adam Cole (or the guy who does end up unseating him) for the gold in the aftermath.

Silas Young - Weird to include a guy who has yet to make his PWG debut, but he's making some waves in ROH. Generally, when someone starts to get big in ROH, they bafflingly pull back to the point where they need some external spark to get going. PWG has been ahead of the curve on countless guys ROH would later pick up the pace on. Young has a great look, works stiff, and has buzz around him from his days hossing around the Midwest. I would be shocked if he didn't get at least a look from PWG in 2014.

Three Things I Want to See Happen in 2014: 1. A full-fledged PWG show at WrestleCon - Touring doesn't make sense for PWG, even within SoCal, because the Legion in Reseda is such a signature place for them (on top of cost addition, etc.). Internet pay-per-view doesn't work for them because the fussin'-and-a-feudin' between Gabe Sapolsky and Joe Koff would absolutely kill any chance for them to have that reach and keep the roster that makes them great. With those riders being mentioned, I still think PWG can export their show viably through WrestleCon.

A lot of what makes the promotion great is the crowd, but if any group of people can come together and replicate Reseda as faithfully as possible without transplanting the entire mass of fans miles east, it would be the mass of hardcore fans gathered in New Orleans (or insert city here) for Mania weekend. SHIMMER provided a good precedent. They'll never leave the Eagles Club on a regular basis, but one show in a marquee area? Their WrestleCon venture worked so well last year that they're doing it again this year. I see no reason why PWG can't do the same.

Devin Chen: PWG All Star Weekend 8 Night 2 3/23/13 &emdash;
The year of Younger in 2014?
Photo Credit: Devin Chen
2. Don't pull back off Candice LeRae - As much as I think LeRae is destined to be the next big thing in PWG, I thought the same thing about wrestlers like Brandon Gatson and Willie Mack who didn't have the stigma from the front office of being a woman. Whatever happens, PWG can't hold back on her. Even if she doesn't hold a single belt ever, she still can't go back to opening match multi-person tags or even worse, away from the company altogether.

3. Lucha libre integration, please - PWG has always had a reputation of being on the cutting edge. One reason has been their willingness to import wrestlers from various places around the globe. Mexico is right next door, and Southern California is a lucha hotbed. The art of lucha may be the hardest to understand and the most mysterious of all the different styles. Combining it within the fabric of PWG could be the best way to educate even more people, replace the gap left by Chikara (even though I would argue the company has never been an avenue for straight lucha), and bring a new wrinkle into what that company has to offer.