Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) is a wrestling promotion based out of Southern California. Alot of great talent has competed there over the years including Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Rob Van Dam, Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and many more.
They have around 10-12 shows a year, but the arguably the most important one of them all is the Battle of Los Angeles tournament.
The first ever Battle of Los Angeles tournament took place in 2005 and it's been a staple in PWG ever since. The winner of BOLA not only recieves the honor of being known as a winner of one of the most prestigious tournaments in wrestling, they also normally recieve a shot at the PWG World Title which has been held by the likes of Daniel Bryan, Kevin Steen, & Sami Zayn.
The BOLA tournament also has a rep for being a launching pad for the careers of many young stars. One name that comes to mind is Davey Richards. In 2007, Richards outlasted 24 other competitors to win the 3rd Annual Battle Of Los Angeles Tournament. Soon after Richards would became a star in Ring Of Honor which led to him being signed by TNA where he wrestles now. Another success story came in 2008 when Low Ki won BOLA and signed with WWE soon after. That's just one example of what the Battle of Los Angeles tournament can do for a talent. Young or old - it's a huge accomplishment.
That leads us to the upcoming 2014 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. It could quite possibly the biggest one ever. For the first time in seven years, it will be expanding from the normal two day tournament to three days. That means there will be 24 competitors and what a line up PWG has this year. AJ Styles, Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne), & Chris Sabin are all returning to PWG for the tournament along with Christopher Daniels & Kazarian who will be competing in a non-tournament dream match against the Young Bucks on Night 2.
On top of all the big names coming back, international talent Zack Sabre Jr is making a rare appearance in America for the tournament in what will be his PWG debut. Plus Kenny Omega is returning to PWG from Japan on this night as well. Those guys combined with the already ultra talented PWG roster that includes Chris Hero, Kyle O'Reilly, Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Ricochet and many others, will make for one awesome tournament.
Before I get into the tournament matches, I'd like to go through some of the non-tournament matches scheduled to take place.
On Night 1, Mount Rushmore (Adam Cole & The Young Bucks) will be clashing with the newly reunited Chuck Taylor & Kenny Omega and Zack Sabre Jr. Trent? was originally scheduled to be teaming with Taylor & Omega, but is injured and will be unable to compete so Sabre Jr will be replacing him in the match up.
Night 1 will also feature an epic triple threat tag team match in which Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae will be facing Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian and Ricochet & Rich Swann!
Night 2's non-tournament matches are just as epic as Night 1's. On Night 2, we will see the Unbreakable F'N Machines (Michael Elgin & Brian Cage) face the team of the debuting Biff Busick and Drew Gulak. Also as mentioned above, The Young Bucks will face the team of Christopher Daniels & Kazarian.
Now that the non-tournament bouts have been discussed, let's get to the main focus of this article - the tournament itself. In this article I will take you through each competitor in the tournament this year and discuss their past accomplishments in PWG as well as their experience in BOLA. I will also discuss what impact I think each competitor will have in the tournament along with my predictions.
Also, before I get started I'd like to thank @BrianDaBrain on Twitter for allowing me to use his awesome graphics for this article. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter as well as myself @StylesClashx!
So, without further a due, let's take an inside look at the competitors in the 2014 Battle of Los Angeles!
Entrant #1 - Matt Sydal
The first entrant announced for the tournament was Matt Sydal. Most of you may know him as Evan Bourne from his time in WWE. Just a short few days after being released from WWE, Sydal began getting booked for many Indy shows and luckily he got booked for a return to PWG at this year's BOLA tournament!
Sydal is no stranger to PWG as he competed there several times before being signed by WWE. In fact, Sydal competed in both the 2006 and 2007 Battle of Los Angeles tournaments. In 2006, he lost to Kevin Steen in a hard fought 15 minute contest in the first round. In 2007, Sydal made it on step further in the tournament by defeating Jimmy Rave in the first round only to fall to Alex Shelley in the quarterfinals.
This year, Sydal's first round opponent is Chris Hero. It will be an interesting match up as Sydal is known for his highflying while Hero is more of a striker / technical wrestler. Sydal is no slouch in the technical department himself so I'm expecting that side of him to show in this match.
In Sydal's past two BOLA entries, he improved each year. As mentioned above, he was eliminated in the first round in 2006, but made it to the quarter finals in 2007. Can Sydal make it one step further by advancing to the semifinals or even to the finals? It would be one hell of a way to return to PWG, that's for sure.
Entrant #2 - Drew Gulak
As you will notice as this list goes on, the reoccuring trend of this year's Battle of Los Angeles tournament is returns and debuts. It started with a return in the form of Matt Sydal and now we shift to a debut with the second entrant - Drew Gulak.
Gulak has been making waves across the Indy scene over the past few months and that has led to him debuting in PWG. Gulak is an outstanding technical artist who has been creating alot of buzz in 2014 across the Indy Scene competing in promotions such as CZW and Beyond Wrestling.
With Gulak being fluent in submissions as well as being a great technician, what better opponent for him than the PWG World Champion, Kyle O'Reilly. It's going to be a tall order for the debuting Drew Gulak. Not only he does he have to face the World Champion of PWG and one of the best wrestlers in the world, he also has to do so while selling himself to the ruckus PWG audience.
Despite this being a tough task for the young star, it's also a great opportunity. If Gulak puts in a good performance against O'Reilly, he could solidify himself as one of the best in the world today. If he manages to defeat O'Reilly, he would clearly be in line for a PWG World Title shot and what a debut that would be! Gulak vs. O'Reilly is going to be awesome!
Entrant #3 - Trevor Lee
Since that event, Lee has become one of the hottest young stars in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Not only that, he's become a fan favorite as well. His crazy antics and outstanding abilities have went over very well with the PWG audience. Plus he picked up a big win over Kevin Steen at the last PWG show so he has alot of momentum coming into this tournament.
With that being said, he will likely be a favorite to win this tournament because of the way the crowd has taken to him in recent months. Regardless of how far he gets, the fact that we may get to see him face someone the likes of Matt Sydal or Ricochet is enough to excite me.
In the first round, Lee will be facing one of the men he wrestled in his debut PWG match, Cedric Alexander. If that match is anywhere near as good as the triple threat they had a few months earlier, we're in for a treat!
This could be a career making weekend for Trevor Lee. He's already a favorite in the eyes of PWG faithful, but there are going to be ALOT of eyes on Reseda during BOLA and I'm sure Lee will be setting out to impress.
Entrant #4 - Chris Sabin
Sabin is another face I'm excited to see back in PWG. He's had many great matches in the company in the past. His dream tag match with Alex Shelley against The Young Bucks is the first that comes to mind, but on this night, he's going it alone.
What better opponent for Sabin then one of the men who has rose to prominence in PWG while Sabin has been away - Ricochet. This will be a dream match for fans of highflyers like myself and it will be awesome to see this newcomer vs veteran match up.
During Sabin's time away, the Battle of Los Angeles tournament has gained alot of prestige and I believe that will serve as a big motivator for returning veterans like himself to prove that they can still hang with the PWG stars of today. Sabin is a great talent and it will be fun to watch him compete against the new stars of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Entrant #5 - Johnny Gargano
Before Gargano debuted in PWG, he'd been dominating in DGUSA & Evolve so becoming a part of PWG was inevitable for a talent the caliber of Gargano. Last year, Gargano competed in his first ever Battle of Los Angeles tournament and made it to the semi final round before being eliminated by Michael Elgin in an outstanding match.
Last year, Gargano put in a shocking and impressive performance at BOLA, can he build off of that and take it one step further by making it to the finals? The first step to doing that is in his first round match where he faces off with former tag team partner Chuck Taylor. Gargano made his debut in PWG alongside Taylor, but now they are going to opponents and it will be interesting to see how they fare against each other.
With Gargano's impressive performance last year in his first ever BOLA appearance, he is one of my top picks to win this year. The field this year is deeper than it's ever been, but Gargano has proved that he has what it takes to make it to the top. Will he make it to the finals like he came so close to doing last year? Only time will tell.
Entrant #6 - Brian Myers
I'm very intrigued to see what Myers will bring to the table now that he doesn't have to limit his moveset. I have a feeling that just like Trent? blew up when he left WWE and came to the Indies - the same will happen with Meyers.
Regardless of my opinon, we will all find out what Myers is made of when he faces off against AJ Styles in his first round match up. Styles is the perfect opponent for Myers because he's someone who can work well with just about anybody. It will be interesting to see how Myers fares against a returning AJ Styles and how the crowd reacts to him.
As I mentioned before, this is a big weekend for PWG and there we be alot of eyes on this tournament so for a newly released free agent like Brian Myers, this is a great opportunity to show what he can do.
Entrant #7 - Michael Elgin
Elgin has made it to the finals of BOLA for the past two years only to be defeated. He certainly knows what it takes to make it to the finals and how it is to be in such a high profile match so 2014 could finally be the year he puts everything together and becomes the Battle of Los Angeles champion.
Elgin's first round opponent this year is Tommasso Ciampa. This is a match I've been wanting to see for awhile as both guys are stiff in the ring. It will be epic to see Elgin clash with someone like Ciampa and he will certainly be a challenge for Elgin, but it's nothing Elgin hasn't faced before. Elgin is one of my top picks to win the tournament this year based off his past performances.
Entrant #8 - Biff Busick
I haven't seen much of Busick's work aside from one match, but I was impressed with what I saw. He's a hardhitting competitor and so is his first opponent, Roderick Strong. This pairing will make for an epic first round match up!
Busick has the perfect first opponent in Roddy because Strong can have a good match with anyone. With this match, Busick has a big opportunity to make a good first impression to PWG fans and staff.
I'm looking forward to Busick's debut in PWG because of all the buzz he's been creating across the scene in recent months. PWG is one of the hottest companies going right now and I think Busick is a perfect fit. I can't wait to see his match with Roddy as well as the tag match he will be involved in against Michael Elgin & Brian Cage on Night 2.
Entrant #9 - Kyle O'Reilly
O'Reilly walked into the BOLA tournament last year with a good bit of momentum coming off impressive performances at the last two shows against Sami Callihan and Davey Richards respectively. I'd venture to say that he's coming into this year's tournament with that same momentum. He won the PWG Title in May and the roof exploded when he did so and recently he had his first successful title defense against PWG veteran, Chris Hero. That's a damn good run.
Kyle's first round opponent this year is a newcomer, Drew Gulak. For fans of technical and submission wrestling, this is somewhat of a dream match. I've got a feeling these guys will tear the house down and O'Reilly will give Gulak one vicious welcome to PWG.
Based off his past success at BOLA and the momentum he has coming into the tournament yet again, I expect O'Reilly to make it to the finals once again and be a vital part of this tournament. Could the champion take home the trophy for the second year in a row? In my opinion, it's a high possibility!
Entrant #10 - Brian Cage
Cage has put in good performances in every BOLA tournament that he's competed in, but he has yet to make it past the quarterfinal round. He has an advantage over most in the power department, so maybe this year that will lead him to the semi final or final rounds.
Can Cage's dominant offensive style bring him the BOLA trophy? Regardless, I'm sure he will play his part in producing some quality matches regardless of what round he makes it to. Plus his tag match with Elgin vs Busick & Gulak will be awesome as well. Mr GSMI will definitely be getting his shit in during this spectacular weekend of PWG!
Entrant #11 - ACH
This year, I'm sure ACH is looking to take that next step as a competitor by advancing to the semifinal round or possibly even the finals. ACH's speed and agility are what he is known for, but as was showcased last year at BOLA, he is no slouch on the mat either.
ACH's first round opponent is Kenny Omega. The two will face off on the Second Night of BOLA in what will be a barnburner of a match. Omega will be making his return so the crowd will be hot for him plus ACH is a fan favorite already so this is expected to be a balls to the wall match as both guys have similar styles.
Having someone like Kenny Omega as your first round opponent is a tough task, so if ACH makes it to the quarter final round it will be well deserved. But even if he loses, nobody will be able to take anything away from him because he always puts 100% in his matches and I'm sure he will do the same here. Having this big of a match in the first round just shows how big this tournament is. Will ACH's attitude, charisma, and heart lead him to the BOLA trophy? If he can make it past Kenny Omega, I think it's a very big possibility!
Entrant #12 - Zack Sabre Jr.
Some may consider Sabre an underdog coming into this tournament, but in all honesty he has a key advantage over most of the competitors in that none of the other wrestlers are familiar with him. This unpredictability could lead Sabre Jr to the final round of the BOLA tournament.
But make no mistake about it - it won't be an easy road to even make it past the first round as he will be facing off against former PWG & ROH World Champion Adam Cole.
Sabre Jr making a rare appearance in America specifically for the Battle of Los Angeles just goes to show prestigious this tournament has become. I'm sure Sabre will make his presence felt in PWG and his name will continue to spread throughout the USA as one of the top young talents in the world.
Entrant #13 - Rich Swann
Elgin was a tough first round opponent for Swann since he's nearly twice his size so it's no surprise Elgin came out on top. This year, Swann will be facing Candice LeRae in his first round match up. LeRae is an equally tough opponent, but Swann's jawdropping athletic ability could lead him to victory.
Swann has been tearing it up on the Indies for several years now and this tournament is his prime opportunity to take that next step in his career. I expect him to do well this year and definitely play a big part in the shows.
Beyond competing in the tournament, he and partner Ricochet will be facing off against Christopher Daniels & Kazarian and Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae. So whether he makes it far in the tournament or not - Swann will be in some big matches on this particular weekend.
Entrant #14 - Candice LeRae (replacing Trent?)
Originally Trent? was the 14th entrant and scheduled to face Rich Swann in the first round of BOLA, but an injury has made him unable to compete. Enter Candice LeRae.
In that match, she showed the world what the PWG faithful already knew - she's the best women's wrestler in the world and can more than hang with the boys! With that being said, I firmly believe Candice will make it past the first round. Rich Swann is no easy opponent, but he doesn't have the momentum that Candice has going into this match.
With the way she's been competing as of late, I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up making it to the finals or semi finals of the tournament. Either way, it's gonna be awesome seeing her compete against Rich Swann as well as in the big triple threat tag team match on Night 1.
Entrant #15 - Cedric Alexander
In the past year, Alexander has broke out across the Independent Scene by competing in a dream match series in which he had highly acclaimed encounters with the likes of AJ Styles, Kyle O'Reilly, and Johnny Gargano. He's also earned several victories over PWG veteran, Roderick Strong in ROH.
With Alexander having many breakout performances in the past year, this could very well be another one of those outings for him. His first round match is against Trevor Lee, which is who Alexander competed with in his return to PWG in March. The winner of that match could very well go on to the finals of the tournament. Whether Alexander advances or not, I'm sure he will give the fans a match to remember.
Entrant #16 - AJ Styles
As far as the Battle of Los Angeles goes, Styles has competed in the tournament only once, but he made it to the finals in that particular year (2005). That may lead you to think that he might be guaranteed to make it that far this time too, but PWG is very different from what it was back then. The talent roster has much more depth and the company has also found its niche with the amazing atmosphere in the legion hall in Reseda.
That's something Styles has yet to experience, but then again Styles has competed in front of huge crowds for TNA so this will be an interesting return to see. I expect Styles to have a great performance and possibly even make it to the semi final/final rounds of the tournament.
Entrant #17 - Bobby Fish (replacing AR Fox)
The original 17th entrant was the crazy aerialist AR Fox, but an injury has made him unable to compete. With his injury, PWG decided to bring in Bobby Fish. Fish is one half of the ROH Tag Team Champions with PWG World Champion Kyle O'Reilly and will be making his debut in PWG this year at BOLA.
Fish's partner O'Reilly has had great success in PWG the past few years as he is currently the World Champion. You can only speculate whether or not O'Reilly has shared his secret to winning the Battle of Los Angeles with his tag team partner, but on this particular weekend, that would be giving advice to the enemy so who knows?!
Despite being the lesser known member of his tag team, Fish is definitely no slouch in the ring and can without a doubt hold his own. I can't wait to see what Fish brings to the table in PWG!
Entrant #18 - Chris Hero
Not only is Hero a veteran of wrestling general, he's also a PWG veteran. Hero has competed in 5 Battle of Los Angeles tournaments (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, & 2011). In those five performances, he's made it to the finals on two occassions (2008 & 2010). Unfortunately he came up short in both instances losing to Low Ki in 2008 and to Joey Ryan in 2010.
Despite not being a former BOLA winner, Hero's experience in the finals and the tournament in general give him an edge over many of the other entrants. Since returning to PWG last December, Hero has yet to win any big matches which means this is a great opportunity for Hero to turn around his latest PWG run.
Entrant #19 - Chuck Taylor
Don't let that first paragraph fool you though. Taylor is more than capable of playing a big part in this year's tournament. He is easily one of the most entertaining guys on the PWG roster.
Chuck's first round opponent this year is none other than his former tag team partner, Johnny Gargano. Since these two have teamed together in the past, I expect this to be very good considering they know each other so well.
Beyond competing in the tournament, Chucky T will be reuniting with his old tag team partner, Kenny Omega and international superstar Zack Sabre Jr on Night 1 to take on Mount Rushmore in an epic six man tag showdown.
Entrant #20 - Roderick Strong
During those eight appearances in BOLA, Strong has made it to the finals twice defeating the likes of Austin Aries, Alex Shelley, and Joey Ryan to get there. In 2007, Strong was defeated by CIMA and El Generico in the finals while he was defeated by Kenny Omega in the finals of the 2009 Battle of Los Angeles.
Strong has an impressive record in the Battle of Los Angeles, but he has yet to win the tournament. Could this be his year? It definitely would be a perfect time since Strong defeated Adam Cole at the last PWG show to become the #1 Contender to the PWG World Title. Strong then took it upon himself to attack the champion Kyle O'Reilly after his match. That intensity and drive to succeed could very well lead Strong to the BOLA trophy that has alluded him for so long.
It won't be an easy task by any means as he will be facing off the with the hardhitting Biff Busick in the first round. Regardless of how far Strong goes in the tournament, I'm sure he'll put in one awesome performance like he always does. He'll without a doubt give Busick a tough welcome to PWG!
Entrant #21 - Tommasso Ciampa
His debut was a memorable one as he nearly destroyed Brian Cage with a brutal powerbomb through some steel chairs. Ciampa definitely made his mark!
Since that time, it's been a rocky road for Ciampa in PWG. He's competed against a wide variety of talent, but has yet to have that breakout performance in the company. Don't get me wrong - Ciampa's matches with Drake Younger and Chris Hero were damn good, but I still feel that the best is yet to come for the Sicilian Psychopath.
Ciampa certainly has the opportunity to have this breakout performance I'm speaking of, as he is facing off against ROH World Champion Michael Elgin in the first round of the tournament. I think we will see the start of a rise to the top for Tommaso Ciampa at the Battle of Los Angeles. He certainly has the ability to do so and I have a feeling he's going to be taking things to a whole nother level soon.
Entrant #22 - Adam Cole
In 2012, Adam Cole began his rise to the top in PWG. Cole defeated El Generico, Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan, AND Michael Elgin all in the span of two days. That's as impressive as it gets. If you look down into the details of it, Cole defeated two current WWE superstars, a current TNA superstar, and the ROH World Champion all in one weekend. Yeah, pretty amazing right?
Since that time, Cole transformed into the biggest heel in the company so he won't have the fan support he had back in 2012, but he sure still has his outstanding abilities that led him through that epic weekend. Can history repeat itself? Will Cole sweep through the Battle of Los Angeles tournament this year like he did in 2012? That's a question that will only be answered in time, but I have a feeling we will see Cole in the finals this year. Whether it's his talent or his Mount Rushmore buddies that get him there, I think Adam Cole will make it very far in this year's tourney.
Entrant #23 - Ricochet
Ricochet's first appearance in the Battle of Los Angeles tournament came in 2010 where he faced off with Claudio Castagnoli (CESARO). Ricochet wasn't victorious, but he put in a memorable performance and created what was arguably the best match of the whole tournament that year.
In 2012, Ricochet made his second BOLA entry and shocked everyone in the process by defeating Kevin Steen in the first round. Ricochet went on to defeat Roderick Strong and advance to the semi finals only to be defeated Michael Elgin.
Ricochet didn't compete in BOLA last year, so I'm expecting a big performance out of him this year. If you notice he's improved with each showing. 2010 - first round, 2011 - didn't compete, 2012 - semifinals, 2013 - didn't compete, 2014 - Fill In The Blank. If the trend continues, Ricochet is set to be in the finals this year and possibly even the winner of the whole tournament.
On top of Ricochet's record in BOLA, he recently won New Japan's Best of the Super Juniors tournament which is a huge accomplishment. Will Ricochet's jaw dropping abilities and recent tournament success lead him to becoming the 2014 BOLA winner? I think so.
With that being said, my pick to win the tournament this year is Ricochet!
Entrant #24 - Kenny Omega
Omega competed in PWG regularly from 2008-2010 and during that time he won the 2009 Battle of Los Angeles which is the only tournament in history in which the PWG World Championship title was on the line. With that being said, he is definitely a favorite to win this year's tournament in his return.
His experience in big match situations in Reseda and past success at BOLA makes him a top contender to take the honors this year.
Whether Omega wins the tournament or not, it's going to be awesome to see him back in Reseda. The crowd loves him and as a fan who keeps up with PWG via DVD at home - I love watching the guy compete as well.
Competitors beware - The Man of Low Moral Fiber is back in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla!
Well ladies and gentleman, if this article doesn't peak your interest in PWG, I'm afraid there's something wrong. This is without a doubt the most prestigious tournament in wrestling and it continues to gain more prestige as the years go on. With this being the 10th anniversary of the tournament, PWG went all out and as always, us fans are going to get three days of the best wrestling on the planet.
How can you watch? Unfortunately PWG doesn't have iPPV's so unless you're going to the event (which is already sold out), you'll have to wait for the DVD's to come out. I've been keeping up with PWG via DVD's for the past year and I'd definitely recommend it. So if your interest was peaked by reading this article, keep your eyes on prowrestlingguerrilla.com and highspots.com as these events should be up for pre-order several days after they take place. And if you can't wait that long, go ahead and surf both sites and look through a massive selection of PWG shows to choose from.
Thanks for reading and feel free to tweet me your thoughts in this article @EthanPWT on Twitter!