On May 9, Southern California's Pro Wrestling Guerrilla held their annual Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament, or DDT4, in Reseda, CA.
Full review after the jump!
There were lots of little stories going into this year's DDT4. The biggest story was that the Young Bucks -- the most hated wrestlers in all of PWG -- had won last year's DDT4 in controversial fashion, and had spent the past several months retaining the titles in very close and debatable contests. The Young Bucks (or Generation Me, as they now prefer to be called) came into the tournament last night having held the PWG tag titles since August 31, 2008.
DDT4 First Round Match/PWG Championship Title Match: The Young Bucks/Generation Me (c) vs. Johnny Goodtime & Jerome "LTP"Robinson
Goodtime and Robinson are some local SoCal wrestlers and PWG regulars since last year. Every time I see LTP I am a bit less impressed, and every time I see Goodtime, I am over the moon about how fantastic he is. He's got a video-game themed gimmick, which may put a lot of people off, but he's just so crisp and everything he does looks good. Plus, he's got a huge personality and abundant charisma, which is often lacking at the indie level.
This was honestly one of the best ~10-minute tag matches you're liable to see. It was really spectacular. It was basically a sprint through every crazy thing these four could think of. The Bucks came out with brand new PWG tag title belts, which on one hand is a great thing, since the old belts were the worst-looking championship belts I have ever seen in any level of wrestling. The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest championship belt looks more professional than the old PWG titles. On the other hand, the new belts look a little too generic, but still, a great move by PWG with the new belts. The Bucks used these shiny new belts to waylay LTP and Goodtime during the ring introductions and we were off and running. The heels took over and briefly got the heat on LTP, but once the first hot tag was made, it was balls-to-the-wall. I'm tempted to call this a bit of a spotfest, but it was much more cohesive than your average flippy-doo, and although it was really insane at times, including Goodtime taking the craziest bump into the crowd that I've ever seen (he was shoved off the top rope and just plunged into some rapidly-vacated folding chairs at about the third row), they didn't do too much. The crowd was absolutely frothing right out of the gate, and they added to the madcap feel of the opener.
I noticed that the Bucks are getting much better at all the aspects of being heels, and in particular, heel champs. They're really starting to put all the pieces together, which is great. Whatever they lack when wrestling as babyfaces is more than made up for with the joy they take in being dickheads.
Generation Me got the win with stereo superkicks to retain their titles and advance to the second round. If there's one thing the Young Bucks are amazing at, it's superkicks. No lie. ***1/2
DDT4 First Round Match: Scott Lost & Chuck Taylor vs. ¡Peligro Abejas! (El Generico & Paul London)
This was one of the matches I was most looking forward to, and it ended up being possibly the most forgettable of the evening. Not that it was bad by any means, just filling its role as the second match of the night with four more-than-capable hands.
Paul London, true to form, came out wearing a Crocodile Dundee hat, 3-D glasses, a serape, and singing along with El Generico's theme song through a small megaphone. (He would use the megaphone throughout the night to taunt his opponents from the ring apron.) London's rap since returning to the indies is that he doesn't care about wrestling, that he's just going through the motions, and that he's fat and botches everything. I'll address all these points throughout this review, but when ring announcer Jon Ian announced London as weighing 210 pounds, London halted him, pleading and saying, "Come on, I'm not that fat. I'm like 190 right now." Ian corrected the announcement, and London removed his serape, pulling a toy sword out of his trunks (and a noisemaker that failed to produce any noise, much to London's utter disappointment), and revealing that he has, in fact, slimmed down from his appearances for DGUSA and at Kurt Russelmania in January.
(Quick aside/backstory: London was supposed to be a huge part of last year's DDT4, teaming up with Bryan Danielson. At the time the pairing was announced, London cut a tripping-balls rambling promo about he and Danielson being two dolphins in a pod, two bees in a swarm while Danielson looked on and tried not to crack up. The video of this was posted on YouTube and caused such a sensation that PWG printed up "Hybrid Dolphin" shirts. Unfortunately, a week or so later, London suffered a mysterious injury and cancelled all of his wrestling dates for months forward all over the country. When the DDT4 rolled around, London was in attendance, but only seconding Danielson and honorary Hybrid Dolphin Roderick Strong. It was actually a really unfortunate and strange situation, as the video got people insanely hyped to see the Hybrid Dolphins team, but instead London started canceling all his dates to the point that some wrestling promotions dropped him from dates pre-emptively. But anyway, you all owe it to yourselves to check out the video if you haven't seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSh2s_lmthI )
I was there live for London's return at Express Written Consent last year, and he looked to be about a step off. Not so last night, as right off the bat he looked crisp with a hard crossbody, then retired to the ring apron as Generico played face-in-peril for a bit. London was having the time of his life being the partner on the apron waiting for the hot tag, and Taylor and Lost did a good job cutting the ring off and controlling the middle portion of the match.
At one point, London turned on the "siren" feature of the megaphone to distract the heels and make the save. London also took at huge cutter from Lost at one point, coming off the top rope and getting caught. Taylor brought an imaginary grenade into the mix at one point, but ended up getting it stuffed into his own tights and Manhattan-dropped. Taylor's main storyline in PWG over the past year is that he hates El Generico's guts, but that was actually a little lacking here tonight. It was also a little weird to see Lost stuck into a makeshift tag team, but Joey Ryan is out of town and it's a tag title tournament, so what are you gonna do?
Like I said, it was a fun match with London and Generico saving themselves from doing too much until later in the evening, and everyone got a little chance to shine. Eventually Generico hit a Brainbuster and London hit the SSP to get the win for their team and advance. ***
DDT4 First Round Match: The Cutler Brothers vs. Roderick Strong & Ryan Taylor
The Cutler Brothers are home-grown legit brothers who were trained by fellow legit brothers the Young Bucks. They do a fitness gimmick and they have been gathering popularity and momentum for months, despite technically being heels. Roderick has made it to the finals of every DDT4 to date, all with different partners. Ryan Taylor is a new SoCal wrestler who has a great physique but I have yet to see him do anything memorable or special. Taylor played face-in-peril for most of the match while the Cutlers taunted Strong on the apron and double-teamed Taylor or used heelish cheating tactics. Strong finally got in the ring and cleaned house, chopping the thinner of the two Cutlers (Brandon) just a few times, but bruising Brandon's entire chest in short order. It's what Roderick Strong does. Strong hit his gutbuster and the "Sick Kick" but the pinfall attempts were broken up and the Cutlers got the win in short order by hitting Taylor with their double-team spike tombstone, which really is an awesome finisher.
This is the least I've ever seen Roderick Strong wrestle at a PWG show, which I can't complain about, and the match was short, but the first quarter or third of it was pretty sloppy. The Cutlers eventually got the jitters sorted out and tightened up, which boded really well for their next match. I spoke too soon: THIS was the most forgettable match of the night. **1/2
DDT4 First Round Match: The Briscoe Brothers (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. KAMIKAZE (Akira Tozawa & YAMATO)
Team KAMIKAZE is in from Dragon Gate, having wrestled the night before at the DGUSA PPV taping in Ontario. I had heard a lot about Tozawa going into DDT4, but I had not seen him in action. I knew that YAMATO was great, but I have been out of the loop for a while, because he is doing some weird shambling old man gimmick now, with heavy eye makeup and using a broom to sweep up around ringside. I don't know what the hell that was all about, but it was certainly entertaining. Pretty standard Briscoes match, as they used power moves to dominate the match while Tozawa and YAMATO took turns being hilarious. Tozawa would be taking a hellacious beating and YAMATO would just be walking all around ringside with his broom. Whenever a Briscoe would go for a pin, YAMATO would climb up on the apron and lazily yell, "Hey! Tozawa!" as means of an assist. Tozawa was really entertaining and reminded me a lot of late-era indie-circuit Chris Candido, not least because he wrestled a portion of the match with his tights pulled down and his ass exposed. The Briscoes eventually got the win with the Doomsday Device, but the Dragon Gate guys made this match really fun. ***
Intermission followed this match, and the air conditioning was actually turned on in the building, which I believe is the first time I can remember that happening.
DDT4 Second Round Match/PWG Championship Title Match: Young Bucks/Generation Me (c) vs. Cutler Brothers
The crowd for this show was smaller than the average PWG show, probably in large part due to the show taking place on Mothers Day. But it was possibly the most animated and loud crowd I've seen at any PWG show. They stayed hot for most of the night. This was a match that they were really hot for, as half of the crowd REALLY wanted to see the Cutlers get their big win, and most of the rest of the crowd was chagrined by Nick Buck's homemade TNA shirt. The Bucks and Cutlers have gone head-to-head in PWG more than any other two teams in the past year, and they definitely had their best match against each other here. The larger of the two Cutler Brothers, Dustin, was waiting for the hot tag for a big portion of the match, and when it finally came, he went absolutely berserk, murdering both Bucks, dumping one of them, hitting a GIGANTIC power move on the other, and then busting out a HUGE tope onto the one outside. It was a crazy jaw-dropping chain of moves and I was really impressed at how much better he's gotten.
There was a big fake-out two-count heading into the climax of the match and the crowd was whipped up into a frenzy. The Cutlers hit their finisher, which was broken up at the absolute last moment in spectacular fashion, and after that, the finish was pretty much academic, as the Bucks hit their finisher, the "More Bang For Your Buck" (fireman's carry slam into 450 splash into moonsault) to retain and advance to the finals.
This match could have died on the vine but the super-hot crowd took this to another level and it ended up being great. ****
DDT4 Second Round Match: Briscoes vs. ¡Peligro Abejas!
When challenged by the crowd to "Man Up", London called attention to his freshly grown-out "chubes", or "chest pubes". Mark Briscoe was hilarious here as he was absolutely no idea how to react to world-class weirdo Paul London. Some lady in the crowd took it upon herself to scream "NAZIS!" at the Briscoes repeatedly for the duration of the match. These are the dangers of aligning yourself with the Confederacy in California, dudes.
The story of this match was the Briscoes taking turns pounding on Generico and London alternately. London takes a masterful beating, and was just getting mauled by the Briscoes out there. It was good that the Briscoes were in the tournament for this match alone, as no other team had a real "tag team MONSTERS" dynamic. The match was solid and refreshing in that the Danger Bees were able to be the true underdogs here trying to squeak out a win. And squeak they did, as Generico ducked the Doomsday Device and grabbed a roll-up for the victory, putting them into the finals. Solid stuff. ***1/4
Non-tournament match: Chris Hero vs. Brandon Bonham
Brandon Bonham's nickname is "The New Guy" so that should tell you something here. Funny thing here: I knew from the press release that it was Brandon Bonham, and I posted to Twitter, "Brandon Bonham", but until the moment Brandon Bonham emerged from behind the curtain, I was expecting to see Brandon Gatson. Between Gatson, Cutler, and Bonham, I think PWG officially has too many "Brandon"s. My vote is for Gatson to be the one to take a hike, particularly after this match.
I wasn't really expecting to dig this match too much, as I hadn't seen Bonham do anything really outstanding before, and it seemed to be a match designed to let the crowd and the DDT4 finalists take a breather. Shows you what I know.
Chris Hero spent the first few years of his career insanely overrated, and has spent the past two years being laughably underrated. He has taken pains to improve his game and evolve his style relentlessly for years, and has busted his ass to work on his look and his in-ring performance and to be taken seriously. I have been thinking highly of Hero for a while, but last night I believe he made his case to be named as one of the top five in the world right now.
The story of this match is that Hero was the veteran who was taking borderline offense at being made to wrestle Bonham. He expected an easy night, and instead Bonham wouldn't go down. It wasn't that Bonham was matching him move-for-move or anything. This wasn't a 50/50 match. Hero would beat the everloving shit out of Bonham, wouldn't get the pin, and would get increasingly frustrated. Bonham would get up and hit Hero just as hard, Hero would land a big move and go back on the offensive, but just couldn't put Bonham away. These two guys just absolutely brutalized each other inside and outside of the ring with chops, punches, slaps, forearm strikes, you name it. It was just a brutal and vindictive brawl where I wasn't expecting one, and sometimes that's all it takes.
This match also featured one of the most brilliant punches I've ever seen in a wrestling match. Bonham was on the top rope and Hero popped him right in the face with a right hand that sounded like a gunshot. He stomped on his own hand to pop his knuckle back into place and then landed a big power move. Hero's right hand was useless for the rest of the match, as he even re-injured the hand hitting Bonham with a chop. The finish came after Hero hit another desperation right fist to the face, dazing Bonham and allowing Hero to hit a second Hero's Welcome for the pin. I'd have to see this again, but I think it may have been match of the night. Check this one out. ****
After the match, Hero expressed disappointment that he has been the number one contender for the PWG title since losing it to Bryan Danielson, but has not received a world title match and it has changed hands twice already. But he swore to reclaim the title, and that he would be happy to give Bonham a title shot.
DDT4 Finals/PWG Tag Team Championship: Young Bucks/Generation Me (c) vs. ¡Peligro Abejas!
Bucks came out and told London and Generico that they could be the winners of DDT4, and that they'd take a countout loss. Referee Mike Knox said no way, that the match would be decided in the ring. The Bucks walked to the locker room anyway. London and Generico dragged them back and the match began.
After an initial pier-six brawl that featured a big plancha from London and London getting Irish whipped into the ringpost for a king-sized bump, the Bucks got the heat on Generico for a good long while, with whatever Buck was on the apron running over a few times to attack London and knock him off the apron so Generico wouldn't be able to tag his partner. London and Generico bumped and sold like maniacs here, and the crowd was amped through the roof. This absolutely had a big-match feel and all four guys looked about as good as they ever had. The only thing London did that didn't look great was a flat-footed mushroom stomp to Nick Jackson, who had bent over for a back body drop. And it only didn't look great for a second, until you realized what an insanely high jump that is for London to be able to do that. In fact, London looked amazing here, busting out crazy offense and dives and never missing a beat. If anyone has any doubts about Paul London in 2010, check out last night's DDT4 when it hits DVD.
At one point, London dropped Nick Jackson on his head and knocked him out cold, and Knox had to act like Nick had kicked out, which enraged the crowd, since at last year's DDT4, the crowd felt that Kenny Omega and Chuck Taylor had been robbed of a tag title victory over the Bucks under similar circumstances. The Bucks then took another powder to the back to recover, and were again dragged back by London and Generico. The Bucks nailed London with his own megaphone to try to get a DQ loss and keep the titles, but Knox again refused. The Bucks slapped Knox and went for a clothesline, but Knox ducked and rebounded with his annual flying clothesline, leveling both Bucks.
The crowd was on their feet and screaming as the Bucks broke up a pin on a brainbuster/SSP combo. They stayed there as the pin was broken up following More Bang For Your Buck. Generico broke up the pin after London ate the stereo superkicks. Both teams threw out everything they had, until finally Generico hit the top-rope brainbuster and London hit another SSP for the win. The crowd exploded as the Bucks' tag title reign came to an end. ****
After the match, London cut a long promo about how it meant a lot to him to win titles that meant more than "politics and dick-sucking" and he asked the crowd to applaud the Young Bucks because he "knows something about long tag title reigns". He also put over PWG and El Generico huge, and spoke from his heart about how much he loves wrestling here, and that he promised to all the PWG fans that he will work his ass off, and that we will once again see the wrestler we knew before WWE "killed him". Based on London's performance from last night, I believe him.
And if anyone hasn't seen the London and Kendrick shoot interview yet, you absolutely need to. Check out this trailer and tell me you don't want to pay to see this: http://highspots.tv/london-kendrick-shoot-interview-preview/
Paul London may be the best thing about professional wrestling right now.
DDT4 was a lot of fun. One to check out for sure.