Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Battle of Los Angeles Field Is Set

Will this scene repeat two years later?
Photo Credit: Devin Chen

Last Thursday, while most of the working world on the Eastern Seaboard was counting down the seconds until the long weekend, the folks at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla FINALLY announced the last eight names for this year's Battle of Los Angeles tournament. Unlike with the first two waves of announcements, the final eight were mostly company regulars, folks whom most expected to be announced anyway. However, the final two names announced definitely had some unexpected value to them.

AR Fox - Fox will join his African-American Wolves partner ACH in this year's tournament. Of all the competitors announced, Fox has the least respect for his own well-being and will definitely be the most likely candidate to reach a mythical 2.0 on the Ziggler Scale.

Chris Hero - Part of me wants to project Hero to win the tournament, and part of me thinks he's reached emeritus status within PWG and will probably end up putting over Michael Elgin in the semifinals. Still, he's a dynamite addition to the tournament. Also, fuck you if you contribute to the body image problem within professional wrestling by focusing on his paunches and wondering aloud whether they'll keep him from getting back to WWE.

Chuck Taylor - Given that his current tag team partner Trent? and fellow East Coast running buddies Drew Gulak and Biff Busick have been announced already, Taylor was a foregone conclusion. He and Trent? already have one 2014 tournament title under their belts in DDT4; will he follow suit with a singles run?

Roderick Strong - Strong may be the least popular and most boring choice so far, but he makes sense. He's the definition of "gatekeeper" within PWG, as he's been around the main event scene without breaking through. His ship has sailed, but he's still a far better performer in SoCal than he is anywhere else in the world.

Tommaso Ciampa - I wonder if Ciampa is a favorite to in the tournament this year. PWG always seems to be a step ahead of Ring of Honor in terms of pushing the up-and-comers, and Ciampa, who got a big boost with his run in the ROH title tournament last year, seems to be stuck in neutral there. Either way, I expect him to have a monstrous showing, as he's the kind of wrestler who thrives in front of the Reseda crowd.

Adam Cole - Cole won the damn thing in 2012, and he's a threat to win it again this year. He has taken over the mantel of singles wrestling big bad within the company, and thus I expect him to make a deep run.

Ricochet - Ricochet's inclusion in the tournament surprises me, not because he's foreign to PWG, but because he's the Dragon Gate Open the Dream Gate Champion currently. DG has shows scheduled in Japan on BOLA weekend, which means either it's going to run without its top Champion, or Ricochet's bound to lose that title between now and August 29. ETA According to Joe Roche down in the comments, Ricochet has lost the Dream Gate Championship, so that is not a concern. Either way, I'm incredibly stoked that he'll be part of the proceedings, as this tourney is littered with the top junior heavyweight talent in the English-speaking world.

Kenny Omega - The final name announced for the tournament is a huge one. Omega has resided in Japan for the last five years for the most part, so any time he comes back to North America is a treat. He won the tournament (and the PWG World Championship) in 2009. His name was definitely one to drop the mic on.

So, 24 of the best independent wrestlers in the world have been named for this year's tournament. I don't think the lineup is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, to be honest. For one, I was hoping Candice LeRae would have been entered and made a deep run into the third day, Joey Ryan or not. Secondly, the closest thing to a SoCal native that PWG has inserted into the fray is Brian Cage. Everyone else is a guest star, which is fine except the company was pretty much built on the best wrestlers in the world coming in and not dominating the scene but creating a unique atmosphere with guys like Chris Bosh, Scott Lost, Ryan, Super Dragon, the Young Bucks, Scorpio Sky, and Quicksilver. That quibble might seem minor, but I'm afraid PWG is losing its soul. Or maybe the company is evolving. I don't know.

However, I can't poo-poo this lineup too much, especially when guys like Zack Sabre, Jr. are being flown in and wrestlers like Drew Gulak, Biff Busick, and Cedric Alexander are being given platforms. Plus, the Twitter account announced that the Young Bucks and Cole would be taking on Taylor, Omega, and Trent? in trios action on night 1. I guess when you can give fans that kind of action, then maybe you deserve the benefit of a few doubts.