August 20, 2011

PWG’s annual tournament has a lot of things to be excited about. It’s Fit Finlay! It’s two Claudio Castagnoli matches! It’s three El Generico matches! It’s Chris Hero versus Willie Mack! OK, forget about that last one.

Fit Finlay . . . makes a first round tournament match look like a heated war between two bitter rivals.

Claudio Castagnoli . . . tears down the house with El Generico two years before they’d make a habit out of that in Florida.

The Young Bucks . . . make me long for the tag team excellence of any other tag team.


Well, this is far from the ideal way to kick things off. It goes way too long, and is far too lopsided considering the finish. The overall idea seems to be that Mack can do anything that Hero can, which is a fine premise. But, Hero winds up doing about 90% of the work here, and Mack comes out looking like a pretender. It starts with Hero taking things to the mat, and, while Mack provides some clever counters and escapes, he never outwrestles Hero. Hero also throws in plenty of stiff strikes and a huge Lygerbomb, but it all fails to matter. The Lygerbomb isn’t a big deal, since it’s not a big move of his, but Hero could have easily left his elbows, and a good number of other strikes, behind.

Of course, the only things that Mack really has to add are some spots to show how well he moves for his size, a comedy throwback to the Human Tornado, a few big shots of his own, and the backslide finish. Between the fluke finish and the how little Mack showed compared to Hero, Mack pretty much comes out of this looking like he got lucky rather than being the better man.


This isn’t anything deep, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s Fit fucking Finlay! Finlay pounds on Steen, with all the stiffness you’d expect, and Steen comes back by going after Finlay’s leg with all the tenacity you’d expect. Between the stiffness and overall grumpiness of this, you’d think that this was some sort of grudge match, rather than the first round tournament match, and Finlay’s debut in PWG. They work in a few good ideas, like Finlay getting up his knees to block the swanton bomb, and using Finlay’s kneepads to explain why Finlay isn’t damn near crippled from it, and Steen catches Finlay sleeping on the ropes, and yanks him down, and taps him out with the sharpshooter, to make all the leg work mean more than just filler so that Steen had something to do. The only drawback is that Finlay jobbed, so we don’t get to see him rough up anyone else. ***


Overall, this is a much more well-done version of Hero/Mack. The structure is pretty much the same. Claudio controls the bulk of things, and Generico winds up outsmarting him to pull off the upset. But, their work is much smarter. Claudio’s mean streak certainly helps, he tries to break Generico in half with various slams, suplexes, and submissions, and he does it without using, and devaluing, his established spots. Generico’s size and agility gel perfectly with the freaky Swiss strength of Claudio, and the result is that their spots look flawless more often than not. Generico makes the most out of the openings he gets to do his own stuff, so that his win doesn’t look totally implausible, like Mack’s.

The only real marks against this are Generico’s botched rana, which one could chalk up to the punishment from Claudio, and the fact that some of their extended sequences look a little too choreographed, but there aren’t that many of them, and they don’t go for too long. The only one that really pushed the envelope was the UFO into the spinning head scissors, and that worked as a revenge spot for Claudio countering the earlier attempt at the head scissors into a backbreaker. But, most of them come off well, right after the head scissors spot Generico hits a quick boot and tries his brainbuster, but Claudio is far too strong for that, and he counters by chucking Generico to the sky hitting the uppercut. Claudio goes for broke on the Ricola bomb (off the top) but Generico is ready with a hurricanrana. Claudio was ready for that though, and rolled through with the sunset flip, which Generico countered with a high angle jackknife cradle for the upset. It may read a little too drawn out and extended, but they pulled it off seamlessly, and it perfectly played into the story of Generico having counters up his sleeve. ***1/4


The best compliment for this match is that it’s still better than Hero/Mack. If you like stiff strikes, then this is something you’ll enjoy. It’s fun, in a visceral sense, to watch Eddie and Roddy paste each other the way they do, but they’d have been better served by taking the match somewhere interesting. They have a few nice tricks up their sleeve, like Eddie rolling though Strong’s escape attempt, and stay on top of him, and Eddie’s suplex on the apron was a nice revenge spot for Strong’s backbreaker. The finish is also clever, with them going into the super indy finish of a million counters and reversals that lead to a stalemate, only for Eddie to wind up getting the win. But, they’re not always on the same page, so they get crossed up a couple of times. Strong catching the superkick and spinning Eddie into his rolling elbow was nice too. But there is plenty of frustration between those good points, neither of them felt like selling all that much and there are a few flubbed spots (most notably Eddie’s attempt at rolling into the half crab), and finishing the match on the flash cradle negated the idea that they might be trying to build to something with their strikes and their finisher attempts. Their ROH Title change from five months before looks like a masterpiece compared to this.

JOEY RYAN/SCORPIO SKY vs. JOHNNY GOODTIME/JOHNNY YUMA (#1 Contenders match for the PWG Word Tag Team Titles)

The only thing that I found myself thinking, as I watched this, was that the four of them seemed to only worry about giving the four semi finalists as much time to rest as possible. The match isn’t worthless or anything, but it seems to go much longer than it needed to. They pretty much structure it by the formula, which is fine, but none of the four really seem able, or willing, to take it out of first gear. Ryan and Sky get a control segment on Yuma, but they’re not exactly the Midnight Express for working a heel control segment. They all could have done a better job of selling and making the spots mean something, a good example is Ryan’s spear to Yuma while he had Sky up for a powerbomb. Yuma jumped right back to his feet afterwards, and the good spot, and near fall meant nothing. Of course, after the control segment and hot tag, the match pretty much fell apart anyway, with no order or structure to it. When the fans are even chanting “Who is legal?” something isn’t right. And, what is with all the flash pins tonight? This is the third match in a row, and fourth overall, to end on a flash cradle.


This is a step up from Mack vs. Hero, but its still miles away from Generico/Castagnoli. Mack actually gets to show off what he can do, by targeting Generico’s back. Of course, it helps that Generico’s bumping and selling is usually good. They have a few good moments, like Mack’s reverse spear to Generico in the corner, and Generico failing to do the backdrop because of his back. But, they’re tainted with stupidity, like Generico pulling off a flawless Blue Thunder bomb a minute later, and Generico blowing off a Samoan drop to hit the running boot and brainbuster for the win. Hey, if nothing else, this doesn’t make Mack look totally useless.


Much like Eddie’s match with Strong, it’s clear that they have a better match in them than this. There’s far too much time devoted to goofy things that don’t take the match anywhere, like the taking turns of pasting each other in the face with kicks, and the comedy of their eye raking. Some of their comedy was OK, like the shoulder tackle exchange that led to Steen’s drop toehold, and Eddie’s failure to do the running stunner because of Steen’s weight. They also have a few nice moments as well, like Steen tweaking his knee on a tumble to the floor, which leads to Eddie’s half crab. Eddie’s counter of the package piledriver into the fisherman’s buster is another good spot. Add another stupid finish to the tally, with Eddie quickly tapping to Steen’s sharpshooter, despite Eddie’s knee not being focused on at all and him being close to ropes, while Steen lingered in the half crab and eventually got the ropes to break.


All things considered, this is a nice match for the Kings to go out on, even with the stupid finish (which is apparently an epidemic tonight). The Kings favor comedy for the first half or so, and it’s nice that the tag champions aren’t worried about looking silly. Once the Young Bucks start their control segment, this starts sinking fast. I don’t want to say they’re the worst heel team ever, but, they’re definitely near the bottom of the list. Rather than get nasty so the fans have a reason to rally behind Claudio and get ready for the tag to Hero, they opt for doing pretty spots (and, yes, the athleticism is obvious) and errantly kicking at Claudio while he’s down. Ryan and Sky had their problems in that department too, but they seemed to at least have an idea of how to get the ball rolling to make the fans care about Goodtime getting tagged in. The Bucks don’t even get that far. It gets better when the Kings are back in control, because, then, the champs know exactly what to do, take huge bumps and sell like death. But, that just leads the umpteenth stupid finish of the night, when Claudio pulls off the UFO and Matt just jumps up and rolls up Claudio for the win, at least he put his feet on the ropes, but come on, even a foul would have worked better. The Bucks retaining with a cheap finish is fine, since it’s the Kings who have the spotlight, but at least put some effort to making it seem a little plausible. Their breathtaking ability to pull out double team spots notwithstanding, I could never see the Young Bucks again, and I wouldn’t mind one bit.

Battle of Los Angeles Final: KEVIN STEEN vs. EL GENERICO

At least this somewhat works for what it is, which is enough in itself to make it one of the better matches of the card. They’ve still got their share of goofy moments, but they work in the context of the match, so it’s bearable. A good example is Generico’s repeated running boots to Steen in the corner. Steen sucks it up and gives Generico a sick grin, and Generico charges in with another one. Steen doesn’t enjoy being kicked in the face, but he does enjoy seeing that he’s turned Generico into a monster. Everything that both of them do is caused by their hatred for one another and their mutual goal of finally winning the BOLA after years of trying. After Finlay and Edwards tapped out quickly to the sharpshooter, it looks bleak for Generico when Steen locks it in, but Generico finds it in him to keep fighting, and eventually get out of it. They also find a way to work in a memorable finish that isn’t completely stupid, Generico goes for what worked before and plants Steen with the brainbuster, but Steen also has it in him to keep going, so Generico amps it up with the brainbuster on the apron, and rolls him back into the ring for the win. This definitely isn’t anything great, it’s really not even good, but it’s good enough to stand out on this show.

Conclusion: Finlay, Generico, Claudio, and Steen bring the goods, the rest is pretty much garbage. You’d think that a show with those four, and Chris Hero, Eddie Edwards, and Joey Ryan would be good, but not this time around.