PWG: Meet This Year’s BOLA Participants

BOLA or Battle of Los Angeles is nearly here. An indie institution, Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s BOLA is basically indie wrestling Disneyland, inviting the best of the scene to compete in three 8-man single elimination brackets, leading up to an Elimination rules Three-Way Dance for the trophy but also, a shot at the PWG World Championship. With twelve first-round matches over the first two nights, as well as non-tournament action, and then the quarters, semis and the final, and The Lucha Bros. (Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix) challenging for the PWG Tag-Team Championships against The Rascalz (Desmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz), there’s a lot to get through and also, a lot of people to keep track of. So we, here at SteelChair, thought you might like a brief reference guide to the competitors of this year’s tournament:

Adam Brooks

The self-styled ‘Loose Ledge’ (for non-Australians Loose=Wild, Out of Control, Ledge=Legend, rad dude. So he’s a Mental Rad Dude. Cleared up?) is quite the name in his native Australia having won singles and tag gold in Melbourne City Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Alliance, Riot City Wrestling & Outback Championship Wrestling but since he’s started picking up steam on the international circuit, he has yet to translate that into actual championship success. Having appeared on 5 PWG shows since his debut, he’s a reasonably familiar name but with a win/loss ratio of 2-3 even with a win over former PWG Champion Keith Lee, it could go either way in success here. On Night One, he faces Rey Horus.

Bandido

For someone so young and so relatively inexperienced, at only 23 and having appeared on his first show on Christmas Day 2013, Bandido has already racked up enough miles around Mexico to hang having already claimed Tag Team gold in Tijuana’s The Crash alongside fellow BOLA entrant Flamita. This will be his fifth appearance for PWG with a singles W/L of 2:1. Look out for his Revolution Fly shooting star forward slam finish as he takes on T-Hawk on Night One and teams with Flamita and Rey Horus against CIMA and The Rascalz on Night Two.

Brody King

Probably a less prominent name than a lot on this list but for the Southern California (SCU) crowd, King’s name means something. A California native and at 31, relatively late convert to the wrestling game having begun wrestling in 2015, King has already racked up enough respect since his PWG debut to have earnt shots at both the Tag-Team and World titles, losing both obviously but still, he could be a good shout for a surprise run. Keep an eye out for his All-Seeing Eye cradle shock finisher as he takes on PCO on Night One.

Chris Brookes

What is there to say about Chris Brookes that Dave Adamson hasn’t already? I don’t know but this is a man whose praises need be sung. A Champion in Fight Club: Pro, ATTACK, Progress, Revolution Pro, Westside Xtreme Wrestling & Combat Zone Wrestling, Brookes is not just one of the biggest names on the British scene but also one with some of the best merch in the business. While he has a solid background in tournament wrestling, having won FC:P’s Infinity and DTTI tournaments, this is his PWG debut. That said, watch out for his Octopus Stretch and Black Mantis Bomb finishers as he takes on Trevor Lee on Night Two.

CIMA

The first of the Dragon Gate invasion force in this year’s tournament, but also the only entrant to previously win the tournament, winning all the way back in 2007 and standing as currently one of only three men to win the tournament but not the title, alongside Marty Scurll and inaugural winner, Chris Bosh. CIMA is the definition of a legend, In his former home company of Dragon Gate, he is one of the few men to hold all five active championships in the company including the Twin and Triangle championships 6 and 12 times respectively and with the work he’s doing with OWE (Oriental Wrestling Entertainment), he seems to to be forging a new legend even now. At 40 years old, he is one of the older competitors but just watch that hold back the likes of CIMA and PCO. CIMA seems a good candidate to put your money on, as I say, he’s only been in two BOLAs prior and he won one and made the final of the other, plus, I’d like to see anyone question the magnificence to the Schwein sit-out side-driver finish that he uses. CIMA takes on Jody Fleisch on Night One and teams with the Rascalz against Bandido, Flamita & Rey Horus on Night Two.

Darby Allin

Darby is probably one of the least notable names on this list, especially to UK audiences, but this is not to his detriment, this is just because many are yet to experience what it is that makes this man special. Allin works mostly out of EVOLVE and over there, it’s amazing to see how this skinny skater boy has taken over the company purely by putting in the hours, taking loss after loss but each match, he’s got that bit closer to succeeding and taking the crowd with him on the journey. With a style that can transition between technical submissions and bouts of aerial action at a moment’s notice, this marks his PWG debut but even with the uphill battle he faces, if anyone can make it, it’s Darby. Allin takes on Jeff Cobb on Night Two.

David Starr

David Starr didn’t have the strongest start in PWG after his (I would argue unfairly) much-maligned match with Fred Yehi back at Mystery Vortex but if there’s anyone who can make a strong second impression, it’s the Jewish Cannon. The man of 1000 nicknames has made his name off a work ethic to rival El Ligero’s and a level of consistency to rival almost anyone. Bringing with him an intense, technical style with elements of shoot-style, Starr might be the sort of man who can be relied on to carry a company but at the same time, he is currently at 1:3 in PWG and even if he did win, in 20 matches, Starr has never beaten WALTER. Then, WALTER’s never had to deal with the Trapped Arm Bob Fossil piledriver. Starr takes on Joey Janella on Night One.

DJZ

No-one in this tournament is more deserving than DJ Z. Z, a mainstay of Impact’s X Division for the longest time has been quietly working away, building up one of the best portfolios of anyone on the US Independent scene and while he has had titles to show for it, he’s never really been given the opportunity to shine as fully as he should. This could be an opportunity for that to change. Quite amazingly, considering he’s been active since 2003, this will be Z’s PWG debut and frankly, a long overdue one as his fast-paced, aerial technique is a perfect fit for classic PWG style. Watch out for Z busting out a 450, a 630, heck, he might decide to do a 720 just because and frankly, he’s one of the few men I’d imagine could do something like that and pull it off in such a way as to make it look easy or should that be, E Z? DJ Z takes on Robbie Eagles on Night Two.

Flamita

You might remember him as the Jaguar-masked kid who appeared for a few matches in Lucha Underground, you might know him for quickly picking up a reputation as a high-flyer few can match be it in AAA, Dragon Gate or Progress, overall, you might just not know him but believe me when I say he’s one to watch. At only 23, Flamita is one of the tournament’s youngest competitors but considering he has been competing in the ring since age 14, you’d be hard-pressed to call him inexperienced having held titles in Dagon Gate, The Crash and currently holding the Progress Tag-Team Championships alongside fellow tournament competitor, Bandido. Flamita made his PWG debut in last year’s BOLA, losing in round one to the eventual winner, Ricochet. Will Flamita take to the skies and fly straight through to the final? Who knows but watch to see what happens and if a few 450s and Codebreakers get dropped as Flamita takes on Puma King on Night One & teams with Bandido & Rey Horus against CIMA & The Rascalz on Night Two.

Ilja Dragunov

If you don’t know Dragunov by now, there is never a better time to educate yourself.  Primarily working out of Germany’s wXw, the same company from which we draw PWG World Champion, WALTER, Dragunov is only 24 years old but is probably already better at wrestling than any of us will be at anything. Hailing from Moscow and accompanied by a Soviet March from Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Dragunov was your classic heel who was just so entertaining he had no choice but to become face, so he became the biggest face of the company. This is not just his PWG debut but his first match outside of Europe but what better way for this all-rounder to make a splash? Watch out for some lethal lariats and cannonball rolling headbutt takes on Shingo Takagi on Night Two & teams with Shingo Takagi against Ringkampf on Night One.

Jeff Cobb

Big Jeffrey Cobb is a former PWG Tag-Team Champion, a former Lucha Underground champion in his Matanza Cueto guise, an Olympian and almost certainly, the best wrestler to come from Guam. At age 36,  Cobb only began (pro-)wrestling nine years ago after his amateur wrestling career was winding down and as a big man capable of outgrappling people, suplexing three men at once and pulling off a standing Shooting Star Press, he immediately took the wrestling world by storm. Think early-Lesnar meets early-Kane meets early-Taz but possibly better than any of those three. Cobb previously held the tag titles as part of the Chosen Bros along with the newly signed to NXT, Matt Riddle. In light of Riddle’s signing, a singles-focused Cobb could be a good shout to win the entire thing as Cobb is currently 7-2 in singles in PWG including making the finals of last year’s BOLA which gives him a pretty good pedigree. Keep an eye our for that big Tour of the Islands spinning strongest slam as Cobb takes on Darby Allin on Night Two.

Jody Fleisch

First, there was Dynamite Kid, then there was PAC, after that there was Will Ospreay but somewhere in between Dynamite Kid and PAC, there was the nearly man of British high-flyers, a man who’s finally getting his due, Jody Fleisch. 38 years Old, 5″5, 154lbs and hailing from the London metropolis that is Walthamstow, Fleisch came up through the ranks alongside the likes of Doug Williams, Nigel McGuinness & Johnny Storm but unlike his more grounded company, Fleisch was born to fly and fly he did, appearing not only in England but for the likes of Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling & Michinoku Pro Wrestling. This is not actually his first appearance for PWG but it is his first since 2006, where he competed as part of PWG’s European Vacation tour, losing both times. On Night One, he faces CIMA in an encounter between two men of such hybrid style that I’ve no idea what could even happen. Still, it’s probably going to be good. You can quote me on that.

Joey Janella

Honestly, by now, if you don’t know the Bad Boy, I feel sorry for you. Equally, excited because you get to experience a modern independent phenomenon.  At one point know mostly as ‘that guy that John Zandig threw off a roof’, Janella has really in the past few years, in no small part down to his legendary pre-Mania Spring Break shows, re-invented himself as an indie wrestler of fine stock, capable of playing heel and face equally comfortably and demonstrating a classic indie-styling, capable of adjusting his moveset to a variety of styles from deathmatches to catch-as-catch-can encounters. Plus, he one time fought the Invisible Man in Blackpool. Janella in PWG has one of the most even singles records with 4-4 including a first-round loss in last year’s BOLA but don’t count him out just yet if for no other reason than he also has lovely hair and I’d like to see WALTER try and match him for pure hair-based loveliness.  Janela takes on David Starr on Night One.

Jonah Rock

As well as the Dragon Gate trio in this year’s BOLA, the other recurring inclusion is that there is some of the best of Australian in the tournament as well. Where you have the wily tactics of Brooks, the athletic Eagles, here, we see the pure, bombastic, big-man brilliance that is Jonah Rock. 29 years old, 5″11 tall and 275lbs of pure brutality, Rock goes into the tournament with an imperfect record in PWG, having lost his debut against Zack Sabre Jr in the BOLA first round last year, he has since then racked up five wins and three losses overall but coming very close to winning the title in a massive encounter with WALTER and Keith Lee. Jonah’s stock has risen enough in the past year that you can expect him to be a major threat to the tournament as a whole. Watch out for his massive Frog Splash as he takes on Sammy Guevara on Night Two.

PCO

Pierre Carl Ouellet is 50 years Old, 6ft1, 245lbs, only one fully working eye, a former WWF & WCW Tag-Team Champion as part of the Quebecers and quite unexpectedly, the hottest thing in Independent Wrestling in 2018. Since he defeated WALTER at Joey Janella’s Spring Break II, PCO has been on a tear of the US scene so it only makes sense that with WALTER sitting at the top of the PWG mountain, that this would be the tournament to debut PCO here. Working something of a 90s AJPW style, PCO is as comfortable with Strong Style as he is with busting out some delightful high-flying moves. Also, he’s very happy to bleed it seems. He takes on Brody King on Night One and just wait and see if this now 31-year veteran still busts out split-legged moonsaults.

Puma King

Of all the participants in this tournament, Puma King represents the one that I knew the least about going into the tournament, having worked predominantly in his native Mexico’s powerhouse, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, at 28 years old and an 11 year veteran, he’s your classic lucha guy, expect a lot of flips and cool tricks but also arm drags, probably. As a complete unknown for me, this could be your surprise hit of the entire tournament, then again, he could also not. Maybe what this shows you is I need to educate myself a bit more. King takes on Flamita on Night One. Expect good Lucha Things.

Rey Horus

You may know this man better as El Dragon Azteca Jr but know that even outside the realm of Lucha Underground, this man is someone to watch. Performing something of a hybrid style with a Lucha energy but also something of an MMA edge and credibility to his striking, Horus has been something of a low-key favourite in Reseda since debuting for PWG in a losing effort against Sammy Guevara, putting on strong performances against the likes of Trent?, Flamita & Penta El 0M. Currently, at 3:6 in W:L, Horus seems an outside bet to win the tournament but with his varied moveset, he could very well eke his way to the semi-finals. Horus faces Adam Brooks on Night One & teams with Bandido & Flamita against CIMA & The Rascalz on Night Two.

Robbie Eagles

Let’s put this simply if you don’t know Robbie Eagles, you don’t know about the best that Australian Pro Wrestling has to offer. Eagles, hailing from Melbourne, AU, is something of an everyman, capable of busting out technical mastery, strong-style battery and high-flying aerial goodness. The former brother in law of Madison Eagles, the only independent wrestler to top the PWI Women’s list, Eagles is no slouch himself, racking up titles all over Australia, though even with his decade of in-ring experience, he is yet to transition it into international success. With three PWG matches and no wins under his belt, Eagles is another outside bet in the tournament. Still, let’s see if he can drop a few Ace Crushers and earn his place amongst the indie greats as Eagles takes on DJ Z on Night Two.

Sammy Guevara

A late addition to the tournament replacing the injured Travis Banks (though it’s all up in the air as to whether the WWE UK-signed Banks would have been allowed to compete anyway) but really, Guevara deserved to be here anyway. Guevara is plain and simple, one of the leading lights of fusion high-flying style fusing his aerial antics with a cocky brilliance that allows him to excel as an athlete while never letting the audience forget, he’s only doing it to prove that he’s better than them. If there’s one other thing you need to know about Guevara, it’s that he’s one of the few competitors in this year’s tournament to not only compete in a previous tournament but also make it beyond the first round with a strong 6:2 record in PWG but it is worth noting that those two are in the quarterfinals of the previous tournament and in a championship match against WALTER. Even with this previous loss, Guevara has genuine star power and at only 25, still plenty of time should he not succeed here. Guevara takes on Jonah Rock on Night Two.

Shingo Takagi

Shingo Takagi is a former bodybuilder who, at age 21, became pro-wrestler, in the 14 years since he has held 4/5 major titles in Dragon Gate including their main title 4 times, the GHC Junior Tag titles in Noah, the ROH World Tag Team titles, he’s won wXw’s 16 Carat Gold Tournament, and has beaten BxB Hulk in a Hair vs Hair match. Not bad going, all-in-all. Considering by wrestling standards, 5″10 and 212lbs isn’t exactly towering, Takagi still represents the best that powerhouse wrestling has to offer with his devastating Kurt Angle meets Lariat-style moveset posing a serious contender for tournament winner, this being his big return to PWG, having not competed for the company since 2009 but his last match was a victory of a former PWG World Champion in the form of El Generico. Watch out for Fisherman Drivers aplenty as Takagi takes on Ilja Dragunov on Night Two & teams with Ilja Dragunov against Ringkampf on Night One.

T-Hawk

T-Hawk, sometimes known as Tomahawk T.T. is your final part of the Dragon Gate Invasion, though with T-Hawk and CIMA both being more associated with OWE these days, I don’t know whether I should still keep calling it that… Only 28 but already with 8 years experience under his belt, has already held tag gold in the Gate with the likes of BxB Hulk, Flamita, Eita, Shingo Takagi & Akira Tozawa. He was an integral part of one of the more underrated contenders for the Match of Last Year as he was the last standing member of VerserK in their match with Jimmyz under Losing team must disband rules. As important as he was in that match, he is far more of a tag than singles star so it will be interesting to see how he handles his PWG debut and also only his 10th match in the USA. Expect that classic blend of technical wizardry with powerhouse moves and maybe even a few Night End tilt-a-whirl BT bombs as T-Hawk takes on Bandido on Night One.

Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher is, to many these days, probably best known as WALTER’s tag partner but let no one be under any misapprehension, Thatcher is no-one’s sidekick. Still to date, the longest running EVOLVE World Champion, Thatcher embodies the spirit of what Ringkampf means in that he brings a sheer spirit of will to everything but also, an element of respect for those who are willing to step up to his level. Despite his canniness with a Fujiwara Armbar, Thatcher seems to be an outside bet since his debut, Thatcher has won only twice in front of the Reseda faithful and not since 2016 but never let it be said that big Tim isn’t prepped to prove us all wrong. Thatcher takes on WALTER on Night Two & as part of Ringkampf, faces Shingo Takagi & Ilja Dragunov on Night One.

Trevor Lee

A late addition here, replacing Matt Riddle, but one who if you’ve been following PWG, Impact or companies like CWF Mid-Atlantic, you’ll be familiar with. The ‘Carolina Caveman’ Trevor Lee is one of the most tenured members of this tournament’s line-up having been with the company since 2013 and having previously won the DDT as well as the Tag-Team Championship, this could very well be Lee’s year having made it to 2016’s final (though eventually losing to Marty Scurll) and he’s certainly someone who would have an interesting and potentially very good match-up with WALTER. Take note of his Small Package Driver finish as he takes on Chris Brookes on Night One.

WALTER

Who is WALTER? WALTER is der Ringgeneral, WALTER is one-quarter of Ringkampf, WALTER is your current Progress, Defiant TV and PWG World Champion, most importantly, he is legitimately one of the best, if not the best, Big Man Wrestlers in the world. Coming on a long way since his Big Daddy Walter days, WALTER not only holds himself like a champion but carries himself with respect and that carries through to how he treats his opponents though that is not to say he won’t cave your chest in with chops and lariats. Obviously, WALTER carrying the title into the tournament means he stands a good chance of going far but then, no previous title holder has actually won the tournament (though Chris Hero was meant to, thanks to some politik from Low-Ki…). Still, anyone thinking that such a thing should be taken for granted, they haven’t seen WALTER yet. WALTER takes on Timothy Thatcher on Night Two & as part of Ringkampf, faces Shingo Takagi & Ilja Dragunov on Night One.

PWG: Battle of Los Angeles takes place September 14-16. You can find more information here.

Photos by The Ringside Perspective. You can find him here, here & here.