Pro wrestling’s best kept secret.
When seeking an alternative to WWE I look no further than Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). PWG is the hottest independent promotion going today, and I’d go as far as to call PWG the basement shows of pro wrestling. You know how people say Louis CK is a comedian’s comedian? PWG is wrestling for wrestling fans. PWG features high action, high impact matches, an appropriate mix of wrestling and comedy, and plenty of in-jokes to cater to every snark on the internet.
PWG has been an active promotion since 2003 and has featured a who’s-who list of everybody in the pro-wrestling scene. PWG has hosted everybody from up-and-coming younger talent to indie scene veterans to WWF stars of yesteryear. PWG’s shows take place at an American Legion Hall in Reseda, CA that can maybe fit about 300 people. Tickets to their shows sell out almost instantly online and fans will wait for hours in line in hopes of getting in at the door. Yet, PWG does not have a weekly TV show and their shows are not broadcast on pay-per-view or internet live stream. The only way to watch them (legally, of course) is to order their DVDs online that come out about a month after the show actually happens. They don’t even do Blu-ray.
PWG’s live shows host a kinetic energy that isn’t seen anywhere else on the indie wrestling scene. Front row seats to the show are folding chairs right against the ring. This means that if wrestlers decide to take the action outside the ring, fans are front and center for it. Beer is served in $12 pitchers making it a rowdy and drunken event, yet fans are respectful to each other and to the performers. Fans are lively and energetic for nearly every match on the card without being insulting to the wrestlers. Sounds like a punk show in a basement to me.
Here’s ACH using the crowd to help him crowdsurf back into the ring, but of course it backfires.
PWG is the antithesis of sports entertainment. Wrestling storylines are abandoned in favor of self-contained stories being told in each individual match. Tournaments and tag teams are big in PWG, and rarely will you ever see backstage skits occur. Factions and alliances will form in order for a group of heroes and/or villains to come together, but there’s no overarching authority figure to drive storylines along. Commentary features one man, Excalibur, with a rotating cast of other PWG wrestlers. They call matches as actual fights and explain why moves and holds are effective into defeating one’s opponent. They don’t talk about what’s trending on Twitter or what happened on Total Divas. It’s all a breath of fresh air for a wrestling fan like me.
PWG shows happen about once every other month. Their shows are about 3 hours long, typical length for a wrestling pay per view, usually about 6 or 7 matches that can go anywhere from 10 to 50 minutes. PWG’s style of wrestling matches will feature a mix of high spots, technical mat wrestling, stiff Japanese-inspired strikes and a little bit of comedy every now and then. I would call them exhibition matches, where the wrestlers seek to outperform each other for the crowd. These aren’t going to be slow burning Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham classics. With a 3 hour show, fans can expect to see a mix of all kinds of wrestling styles on the same show. Ladder matches and fast-paced Lucha Libre have been featured on the same show as European World of Sport inspired technical mat-wrestling matches. The live PWG crowd will react to crazy flip moves as they will to an armbar being reversed into a leglock. Their champion doesn’t main event every show, but he’s not losing matches by disqualification on free TV either.
You don’t see this on Smackdown.
The hype of PWG over the last couple of years has started to catch on with some mainstream attention. B-list actors and actresses like Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine), Ron Funches (@midnight/The Nerdist), Joe Mangianello (True Blood/Magic Mike), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) and Gillian Jacobs (Community) have all gone to PWG shows and have expressed their fandom for the promotion. Ronda Rousey and the Four Horsewomen of UFC (Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir) have also attended a PWG show and even got involved in a match.
PWG has even been featured on @Midnight recently, highlighting their lego and hard candy deathmatch:
Falling on a pile of legos is equally as devastating as falling on a pile of thumbtacks, which will happen in Guerrilla Warfare matches.
Kevin Owens (Kevin Steen at the time) empties a beer pitcher full of thumbtacks onto the canvas.
As I mentioned earlier, PWG has featured everybody with a recognizable name in the pro-wrestling universe. WWE actively sends William Regal to their shows to scout for future talent, and many current WWE wrestlers have performed in PWG at some point. Guys like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Cesaro all cut their teeth in PWG.
Conversely, PWG will host those who have been cut from the big leagues as well. Guys like Chris Hero, Trent Baretta and Matt Sydal may not have made it all the way in WWE, but when they return to PWG they’re treated like big stars from the crowd.
Kevin Owens and Cesaro cutting their teeth in PWG several years ago. This year they went on before Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker at SummerSlam.
To continue on the theme of PWG offering comedy, I really feel like they get it right and that comedy is not used in a cringe worthy manor like something Chikara or WWE would do.
Take this for example.
Mid match, ACH finds a fan in the crowd with a Stone Cold Steve Austin vest on, so Kenny Omega and ACH decide to reenact The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from Wrestlemania 17. It’s a respectful homage they improvised in the heat of the moment and it worked well with the live crowd. Besides this moment, crowds will chant in-jokes at wrestler’s catchphrases and gimmicks from the mainstream promotions they worked in. PWG will be 100-percent serious when they need to be, but when they can sneak in 1-percent of comedy in a winking, breaking the 4th wall type of way, it comes off organic and usually hilarious. Sometimes the referee even gets in on the action, throwing caution to the wind and diving outside the ring onto some wrestlers who have antagonized him the past.
What PWG offers the most to a wrestling fan is something fun. I don’t turn on PWG shows to watch the character evolution of their champion; I watch PWG to watch their champion put on a great 20-minute match and watch it end without any shenanigans. PWG provides a product worth paying for. I’ll gladly pre-order their DVD releases and wait for them to show up in the mail. While I like having the WWE Network, PWG is the alternative I will go to first when I need a pro wrestling fix but don’t want the homogenized PG version WWE offers.
PWG doesn’t do any touring. They stay in Reseda for all of their shows. Someday I’d like to attend a PWG show if I’m ever in the area. It’s a mecca for all diehard wrestling fans.
If I haven’t sold you on PWG yet, watch this:
by Nathan Dimit (@ndimit)