Tuesday, June 26, 2018

So Many Tournaments

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
The time of year when indie wrestling starts putting massive amounts of wrestlers into tournaments is nigh. King of Trios, the Battle of Los Angeles, and the Scenic City Invitational are the usual suspects, and two of three of those tournaments have completed their rosters. Another company, the surging boys from Maine, Limitless Wrestling, will also be putting on some bracketed action this summer, and they have all their first round matches set for the Vacationland Cup. Are you ready for the tournament slate, only one of which doesn't have PCO booked?

The Battle of Los Angeles

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's major summer tournament is obviously the one with the most eyes on it thanks to the promotion reaching supernova over the last few years. Having a mass of celebrities flocking to you, WWE attention, great location, and the attention of Dave Meltzer, who despite being a rape apologist is still the top journalist in the biz, will do that for you. The last few years, people have accused PWG of phoning it in with the BOLA lineup, which I think is insane, given that the company's most interesting lineups have always come around this time of year. However, this year's slate feels even more inspired. Is it that this year is the first time in a few years that it's not coinciding with King of Trios? Is the WWE poach making Super Dragon think outside the box a bit? I don't care about the reason; I only care that they put a killer lineup together.

The first name announced out of the gate was PCO, because if you're going to try and tantalize people, you drop the big bomb right out of the gate, right? PCO, as noted before on this very publication, is the hottest name in pro wrestling in America right now, and PWG jumping on his bandwagon is a move it would have made in 2009 back when it was real cool and not show cool. Of course, one could argue over whether Super Dragon booked him because he read the goddamn room for the first time in forever or because PCO is a tireless self-promoter with a devoted following looking to get him in as many places as possible. I could not care less the reason, and instead will post his latest training video, where he breaks a goddamn bovine femoral bone:
My first reaction to that video was that I hope he had Destro make him some righteous beef osso buco afterwards for protein replacement. The second thought was DAMN.

PCO might have been the big first splash, but perhaps the biggest surprise (at least for those who don't follow the right people on Twitter) was the return en masse of Dragon Gate talent to Southern California for the tournament. CIMA, T-Hawk, and Shingo Takagi will descend upon BOLA this year. CIMA has found renewed cultural relevance with his Oriental Wrestling Entertainment project in China. T-Hawk is one of the DG guys he took with him, which is good seeing as for whatever reason, he wasn't clicking at home with the office. Takagi is still kicking around DG, but he found a breath of fresh air in his career by working the All-Japan Pro Wrestling Champion Carnival this year. He caught fire after his showing there, which is probably why he was the last name announced for the field.

Some of the other surprise names in the field this year are Ilja Dragunov, Jody Fleisch, Puma King, Bandido, Timothy Thatcher, DJ Z, and Darby Allin. Dragunov is the latest from Westside Xtreme Wrestling to make his way over to SoCal. He appeared to have retired, but the Communist combatant came back to claim the WXW World Title at 16 Karat. He's one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the German promotion since the current PWG World Champion, WALTER (who will also be appearing in the tourney this year). Fleisch's comeback on the indies has been well-documented, but his inclusion in the BOLA field is a bit surprising. Still, it'll be exciting to see one of the OGs of indie wrestling, British or otherwise, take a dip in this loaded field. Puma King is a regular in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, but this won't be his first excursion into the US this year. He worked the Chikara/Beyond doubleheader back in the spring, where he put on clinics against Ophidian and Jonathan Gresham. Expect him to do more of the same. Bandido has worked PWG this year, but he's known best for his work in Dragon Gate, actually. His resume is pretty long, and although I'm not that familiar with him, he comes with high marks.

Conversely, I've seen a ton of Thatcher, and his return to PWG is great news. Ever since departing EVOLVE on a regular basis to do a residency in Germany, he's refreshed his career (even though he never really dipped in quality in the ring from where I stand). A little bit of time away has done the trick for him, for sure. DJ Z has garnered quite the following as much for his in-ring exploits as he has for his ostentatious entrance gear and the rap horn that he calls for after hitting a big spot. Allin is making his PWG debut after building up a hell of a reputation for himself in EVOLVE. By combining a Misfits-like aesthetic with a seeming willingness to die on every spot, Allin will fit in well with the lineup of heavy hitters on this slate.

Also appearing this year are the following: Adam Brooks, Joey Janela, Matt Riddle, Chris Brookes, Flamita, Rey Horus, Brody King, David Starr, Robbie Eagles, Jonah Rock, Jeff Cobb, and Travis Banks. The Battle of Los Angeles will be taking place at the Globe Theatre in Los Angeles on September 14, 15, and 16. Ticket information has not been announced yet.

King of Trios

King of Trios is back from its one-year excursion in the United Kingdom, and it's announced the first ten of its teams so far. As always, it's an impressive and diverse slate, and much like BOLA, it has announced PCO's participation. Well, that's not entirely accurate. Pierre Carl Ouellet will be competing, but not as PCO, the watermelon-smashing, frying pan-bending scion of Destro, but as Jean-Pierre Lafitte, the salty sea dog of the high seas of the late New Generation era of WWE. He will be teaming with an especially weird yet fitting team consisting of Rey Bucanero of CMLL and Katarina Waters, formerly known as Katie Lea Burchill in WWE. They will be looking for the most elusive booty of them all, the King of Trios medals, but they will have some stiff competition.

Obviously, Chikara will provide a bunch of native trios, like Xyberhawx 2000, including the 2018 Infinite Gauntlet winner Danjerhawk and who will have to be the favorites to break the long guest-trio winning streak. The birds of the Internet will razzle and dazzle with their high flying moves, which is in stark contrast to the Regime, this year's Golden Trio. Grand Champion Juan Francisco de Coronado and Campeones de Parejas the Closers will look to grind opponents down, either with the former's superior grappling or the latter's size and brute force. However, they might be outgunned in terms of strength by the science experiments gone wrong in the Proteus Wheel's emissaries of Volgar, Callux, and Frantik. Professor Nicodemus' products of genetic splicing have razed a path across Chikara this season, and Frantik has even taken to cataloging his future victims on Twitter, including some Friends of the Blog. Please don't run afoul of Frantik, guys. The most interesting native trio, however features the returning Princess Kimber Lee taking up arms with her former lactic retainers, Los Ice Creams. Will her resurgency back into Chikara inspire the dairy lads to get on her level? It'll be interesting to see, no doubt.

Another former Trios teammate of Lee's, The Estonian Thunderfrog, returns to Trios with two fauna from his home state of Minnesota. He will descend onto the tournament with Air Wolf and Wildcat. He won't be the only native teaming up with two outsiders. Solo Darling, feeling the strain on her alliances with folks like Travis Huckabee and Fire Ant lately, has brought partners from the South and, well, the past to go into battle. She will team with Aja Perrera and Molly freakin' Holly, who still proved she has "it" and more at the Women's Royal Rumble match. I haven't seen Perrera in action, but I've heard good things. Speaking of all-female trios, two more dynamite teams from the fairer sex are waiting in the wings. While they're named "The SHIMMER Collective," their home promotion isn't the only thing in common, as awesome Aussies Madison Eagles, Shazza McKenzie, and Jessica Troy will look to seize the medals for their country. Eagles has been in Chikara's orbit for almost a decade now, but injuries and circumstance have kept her from becoming a full roster member. While that ship has sailed, she's always welcome back, especially bringing Troy and McKenzie with her. The second all-women's trio comes from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. While I can't tell you a bunch about Miyu Yamashita, Yuka Sakazaki, and Shoko Nakajima, I can say that the buzz around them and their home promotion makes their trio all the more intriguing.

The last trio covered here was also the first trio announced. PJ Black, Fred Rosser (fka Darren Young), and Michael Tarver will reunite under the banner of the Nexus for a weekend. While they've all gone their separate ways since leaving WWE, Black most notably as a high-profile member of Lucha Underground, I'm sure fans won't mind seeing them play to some recent nostalgia. These ten trios and the six more that are left to be announced will take over the Charles Chrin Community Center, also known as the Palmer Center, ALSO known as the Chikara Funplex in Easton, PA on Labor Day weekend, August 31, and September 1-2. Tickets are on sale now via chikaratix.com.

Scenic City Invitational

The fourth annual Scenic City Invitational is back with yet another stellar lineup of regional greats, and yes, PCO is booked for this one too. He was the last name announced, but he's far from the only hot property OR blast from the past. Joining PCO is an illustrious list of the best established and up-and-coming wrestlers. Fred Yehi and Nick Gage lead the pack for different reasons, obviously. Yehi, a product of the Georgia wrestling scene that the SCI celebrates, is fresh of a residency in EVOLVE and has jumped to Major League Wrestling. His frenetic style of grappling and telling people that they're in trouble should take him far. Gage, however, is South Jersey, born and bred, and also perhaps the most celebrated American deathmatch wrestler today. While they match PCO in star-power, it's 2 Cold Scorpio who provides the biggest simultaneous blast from the past. Scorpio is no stranger to the indies nowadays, as he's worked with Chikara and Dragon Gate USA in the past. He will no doubt provide some nostalgia without lacking the energy needed to bring the room alive.

The rest of the field is pretty much a perfect mix of the Southern and Midwest scenes. AJ Gray, one of the biggest breakout stars from the last year or so, will take part and probably has to be considered a heavy favorite to win the whole thing. Cain Justice put together a hell of a rookie year in CWF Mid-Atlantic last year, so he comes in with a ton of buzz. Gary Jay of Submission Squad fame has settled into a niche of grumpy old ginger striker since the group's quiet dissolution over the years. Joey Lynch is probably the closest thing to a hometown boy the tournament has, while Cyrus the Destroyer, while also local, feels more like a nasty ol' juggernaut than a feelgood favorite. Curt Stallion's blown up from Texas all the way across the mid-southern states, while Mance Warner has become one of the Ohio Valley's premiere deathmatch guys in short order. Jake Parnell will break out from the Viking War Party to try and claim some hardware, while Corey Hollis is as close to a SCI veteran stalwart as you can get. Finally, Darius Lockhart is a guy whom I don't have as much a read on as the others above, but he'll have a lot to prove in this field.

Gunner Miller, the 2016 SCI winner, and Kyle Matthews were both announced for the tournament, but both had to drop out for injuries. It's a shame especially for Matthews, who made his intentions that this was his last year in the business known earlier in the calendar. No less, they have been replaced summarily. Miller's replacement is Kerry Awful, the tatted crazy carnival barker who has gotten some national shine in the last year working against Moustache Mountain with his tag partner Nick Iggy. Matthews hand-selected his replacement, Ike Cross. I don't know much about him, but if Matthews hand-picked him to replace him, he's gotta be somewhat good, right? If you want to get in on the SCI action, head to Soddy Daisy High School on August 3 and 4 in Soddy-Daisy, TN. If you want tickets, hit up Dylan Hales on Twitter.

Vacationland Cup

While PCO is working Limitless Wrestling this year at the actual Vacationland Cup event, he won't be participating in the actual tournament. However, that doesn't mean this nine-wrestler tournament won't be worth your time. Limitless has become a solid second promotion-in-command in the New England area behind Beyond Wrestling, and this tournament slate is evidence why. The tournament is set and so are the matchups. The first contest is the only triple threat of the tournament, and it features three homegrown stars: Danger Kid vs. Alexander Lee vs. Aiden Aggro. I don't know much about anyone in this match, but hey, the local guys gotta get some shine too, right? The second match features Christian Casanova taking on Ashley Vox. Vox has improved by leaps and bounds since her debut in Chikara a couple of years back. Again, Casanova is a local guy, but his finisher is called the "Fedora Frogsplash," so my guess is he's probably a really good heel. Match number three is a contrast in sizes, as the veritably insane AR Fox will go up against New England's resident HOSS, Josh Briggs. I'd keep an eye on this match as the one of the entire tournament, because I bet Fox will bump real stupid at least once, and it'll look both awesome and horrific. Finally, in what should be the technical showcase of the night, JT Dunn goes up against David Starr. This match is more than just the star vs. star match; Dunn and Starr used to be a regular tag team in New England called The Juicy Product. Then Starr went to Europe and Dunn formed Death By Elbow with Chris Hero. Either way, that match also ought to be a beaut. If you want to go, well, VIP and front row tickets are sold out. But you can make your way to the Westbrook Armory in Westbrook, ME on July 27 with general admission tickets.

Of course, these won't be the only tournaments going on this summer, but they're probably the four most notable. Indie wrestling tournaments are so fun and are great ways to intro to some great talent, especially this year with BOLA bringing in some fresh faces to the North American continent. Do your best to catch one or more of these big events.