Thursday, May 26, 2011

An Event That Lives up to Its Name: PWG All-Star Weekend Preview

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The Southern California indie scene has a relatively new player in town in NWA Hollywood. They've generated a good buzz and made the rest of the nation aware that there's more to the greater Los Angeles indie scene than Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Granted, it's using a lot of the same players, but with the TV exposure and the more regular storylines, well, it's the new thing.

That's not to say you can forget about PWG. Oh hell no, there will be no way that the elder statesman of SoCal indie feds should be ignored or diminished, and the big reason is that they produce cards like the one starting tomorrow night at American Legion Hall #308 in Reseda, CA. Yes, it's All-Star Weekend again, the eighth installment of their star-studded all-weekend long affair, and this year's proceedings have a lineup of talent that totally makes the fed justified in the name of their event.

You can find the full cards here, but I'll do you even better and preview some of what I feel will be the standout matches of the weekend. When you've got a talent roster of Claudio Castagnoli, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Chris Hero, the Young Bucks/Generation Me, Kevin Steen, Akira Tozawa, El Generico, Alex Shelley, Low Ki, Eddie Edwards, Chuck Taylor, Scorpio Sky, Joey Ryan and Ricochet among others wrestling for you, it would take a lot of aggravating factors for it to turn out to be average let alone bad, so yeah, maybe I don't need to sell you on the matches they have booked, since you could throw darts and create random matches from that lineup. But I am anyway. Why? Because I love PWG and I love writing about it.

Night One, which is tomorrow (Friday), is headlined by two pretty killer title matches. The titular main event is a Clash between Kings. Claudio Castagnoli defends his PWG World Heavyweight Championship. Both Claudio on his Twitter as well as the official PWG preview swear this match will remain friendly, as the two have been nearly inseparable since reuniting in ROH early in 2010. Things can be a bit different in LA-LA Land though, as wrestlers go there to change their images rather than be the same people they are, say, on the East Coast. Is that a guarantee that things will boil over? I can't read it right now, although with all the platitudes going around, I'd say it's a near lock that there'll be some kind of feud coming out of this. That being said, I don't think you could ask for a better Night One title bout than the one that the PWG faithful are going to see tomorrow night. These guys know each other and know each other's limits better than anyone else but themselves. I think this could be a serious MOTY candidate.

The other title match is, of course, the PWG Tag Team Championship match between the Bucks and the RockNES Monsters. While I'm not as sold on Johnny Yuma, the Rock half of the challengers, the NES half of Johnny Goodtime is more than adept at covering for his partner, as he's shown in several episodes of NWA Hollywood, where the Monsters are featured quite prominently. Given that they're in there against one of the best tag teams in the business in a match that should have plenty of heat, I think we have the recipe for what could steal the show or even get the main event slot given how protected the PWG Tag Titles and division on the whole has been. When the Bucks aren't forced to job to Matt Hardy in glorified handicap matches on Impact, well, they shoot fireworks. This match will get time, and I think it'll be really good.

The next two matches are the kinds of dream-type matches that make any PWG card must-see. The first will pit two guys that were riding on top of the world late last year in the big companies only to suffer precipitous misfortunes that ended up benefiting indie fans like you and me (and before you n00bs say anything, re: Shelly, I'm talking more about TNA's bright idea to tease a MCMG breakup, not his clavicle injury). Alex Shelley, still of TNA fame, takes on Low Ki, formerly Kaval, in what will definitely be a hard-hitting match with all the spotlight on it. The last Shelley tilt in PWG I witnessed with my own eyes was at As the Worm Turns against Chris Hero. It was, in a word, epic. Ki will have some big shoes to fill, but if anyone can, it'll be him and his lethal kicks of chest-reddening destruction.

The last match I wanted to highlight for Night One is not El Generico/Ricochet, mainly because if you don't know why that match is going to be awesome, or at the very least exciting if flawed, then you need to jump out of a window. No, the fourth match that I think will knock it out of the park is Akira Tozawa taking on Eddie Edwards. I had always been cognizant of Tozawa, but when I finally saw him live for the first time at King of Trios a month or so ago, the man blew me away with his ability. The Other Wolf is making his PWG solo debut (after making his total debut at DDT4 with partner Davey Richards), and I think he provides a great foil for Tozawa here. Bonus points will be had for this match if Tozawa has the same hairstyle and facial hair for this as he did at King of Trios. All the bonus points in the world will be had if he wears a keyboard necktie to the ring.

Night Two isn't slouching in the match quality department either. The title situations for this card will not be set until Night One is in the books, but all four potential title matches look like the goods to me. First up, Claudio will battle Ki in the titular main event right now, although if Hero wins the title and the Young Bucks retain on Night One, I can totally see the Tag Team Championship match taking the final bow of the weekend. Anyway, this is a classic size mismatch, which worked so well for Ki as Kaval in WWE during his NXT and mostly-Superstars run. The difference is that in this match, Claudio will actually sell extensively for the big-voiced-in-a-small-framed wrestler more than just in token style like Jack Swagger and the like were instructed to do. I expect a very physical, strike-based match with a lot of potential for Ki to bump like a pinball for Claudio's big move offense.

The other potential World Championship match might sound a bit unsure to you, but again, trust me on this one, it should be really, really good. Hero is slated to go against Willie Mack in this match. If you don't know who Mack is, well, he's a great story. He was actually one of PWG's original fans, going to all the early shows in the promotion's history. Then, he went and got himself trained, and now he's turning into SoCal's hottest property. He's wrestled guys like Roderick Strong in PWG and Austin Aries in NWA Hollywood, and now, he has the opportunity of a lifetime to impress the indie world at large, whether it's for the strap or not. Hero is about as big-name an opponent as they come nowadays, and I think that Mack, the guy who has a similar kind of look and style as Samoa Joe had in the indies, is more than game for the challenge.

The first of two potential Tag Title matches is a historic one. Should the Bucks retain tomorrow night, Saturday's match with Generation Next will be for the straps. If you don't know who Generation Next is because you're more of a neophyte indie fan, well, it's Roderick Strong and Austin Aries. Yep, in only their second match after reuniting for the first time in over five years (the first one is Night One against the Cutler Bros., one of my new favorite tag team acts by the way), Aries and Strong may have the chance to capture gold. Honestly, this may turn out to be the best match of the weekend. Bar none. It's must see. Seek out the DVDs for this match, even if nothing else interests you on the card.

Finally, the other potential Tag Title match will pit those RockNES Monsters against the Nightmare Violence Connection teaming of Tozawa and Kevin Steen. First off, can I tell you how much I love their tag name? It's a throwback to the AJPW tag team the Miracle Violence Connection, consisting of Terry Gordy and Steve Williams, and the changing of the first word to Nightmare only proves to perfectly exemplify the wrestling styles of both men. The funny thing is that they kicked so much ass at DDT4 that despite their ruthless heel aggression, they were pretty much got the biggest face reactions of the tournament. Go figure. Anyway, I can't wait to see the interplay between Goodtime and Tozawa here, as well as the sheer amounts of brutish thuggery that the NVC are going to whip out. I have a feeling that this one should be worthy of a classic PWG Tag Title defense should the belts go RockNES' way on Friday night.

As if In-n-Out Burger, the Grill 'Em All Burger truck, the idyllic warm weather year round and the massive amounts of hot women populating the region didn't make me jealous enough of Southern California, PWG takes the cake. If you're there, you need to go to Reseda and buy up a general admission ticket before they sell out, even if it's just for one of the nights. You don't need to be an over-optimist, a PWG apologist or really anything else but a realistic indie wrestling fan to know that your purchase will be well-rewarded, and that All-Star Weekend will more than live up to its name.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Remember you can contact TH and ask him questions about wrestling, life or anything else. Please refer to this post for contact information. He always takes questions!

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