Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Guerrilla warfare…

Ever since I was introduced to the wonderful world of independent wrestling there has been one company I’ve always meant to check out but never got around to, and that changes now. The Southern California-based, active wrestler-owned Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) promotion boasts a roster of phenomenal athletes and takes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to the business. Their incredible and affordable 3-disc collection called PWG Sells Out: The Best of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Volume 1 was my introduction to the fed.

TODAY’S ISSUE: My first look at PWG.

Like CHIKARA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla ensures top-notch wrestling no matter what zany antics surround their product, including oddball show names like Kee_ The _ee Out Of Our _ool!, Taste the Radness, and Free Admission (Just Kidding), tournaments called Badass Mother 3000, the Tango and Cash Invitational and the Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament, along with their oddball officials like the Commissioner of Food and Beverage or Junior Senior Referee Patrick Hernandez. For a fan who favors the in-ring product and talented performers working longer matches and being allowed to showcase their true skills and abilities, a company like PWG provides a fantastic viewing experience, regardless of any silliness added in just for fun.

I admit my appreciation of PWG came after two significant bumps in the road. Being a self-admitted ‘completist’, I popped in disc one and started at the beginning. The match commentary was an additional option and not a default setting, which I found quite odd, but I chose to enable it because watching pro wrestling without commentary (unless you’re there live) is like watching a silent movie. You can see the action of course, but it just feels like it’s missing something. Good commentators skillfully fill you in on back history between opponents, explain the nature of the company and enlighten the viewer on the names of unique maneuvers like Super Dragon’s “Violence Party”, which a new viewer would never know, and I truly appreciate that aspect of the total performance. Try watching an hour of NFL action with the television on mute and you’ll see just how much color the announcers add to your viewing experience.

However, watching the DVD with the commentary enabled turned out to be a very bad decision and nearly turned me off to the entire product. Co-owners Excalibur and Disco Machine provided the commentary and they obviously think they’re hilarious, but their annoying style and discussions of bodily emissions are nothing less than insulting to the guys busting their asses in the ring. They rarely took the action seriously and talked mostly about unfunny nonsense. That is not how I like my pro wrestling. My initial impression was that with some more traditional, normal commentary, PWG could be one of the best indies in the U.S. The matches on this set are so good, hard-hitting and exciting, yet the silly commentary which PWG itself refers to as (in)famous draws the viewer’s attention away from the action inside the squared circle. This is never a good idea for a wrestling promotion – you want your fans to be able to focus on your wrestling. More on PWG’s commentary later.

The second huge setback for me came in the very first match as two of my favorites, American Dragon Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe, faced off in what is surely a main event dream match on any independent card. But then it happened. These two former ROH champions, extremely talented guys who are both known for their intensity, started… um… West Side Story dancing in the middle of the match! What? It was at a show called “PWG – The Musical”, so I guess they felt compelled to do a little snap-strutting face-off then play it off and get back to the business of serious wrestling. Wow, between the awful commentary and this stupid spot, I was just about to toss the entire set out the window, or return it to the mysterious benefactor who sent it my way in the first place. I had high hopes for PWG after reading Big Andy Mac’s review that originally piqued my interest in the set, but so far I was not happy.

Thankfully instead of giving up on PWG altogether, I took another approach. Looking again at the amazing list of matches featuring such outstanding performers as AJ Styles, CM Punk, James Gibson, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Kevin Steen, El Generico, Davey Richards, PAC, Adam Pearce, Jack Evans, Roderick Strong, CIMA, and the Briscoe Brothers, I decided I couldn’t throw in the towel that easily. So I put the set aside for a couple of weeks, allowing the bad taste of the horrible commentary and Dragon and Samoa Joe as Jets and Sharks, to slowly fade from my mouth. Last week I watched about four more matches on the first disc with the commentary enabled, allowing it the opportunity to grow on me.

The commentary did grow; it grew more annoying than before. Somebody must be telling these guys they’re funny. Although I was really enjoying the wrestling action, I was dumbfounded by the stupidity of the announcing until I finally realized why it was an option and not the standard setting. PWG ownership knows their product is better with no commentary at all than with Disco and Excalibur acting foolish, which is obviously recorded just for their own kicks. So I turned off the irritating announcing and watched the next few matches in peace, listening to only the bump of bodies upon the canvas, the sounds of strikes landing on skin, and the reactions of the crowd. Now I was truly able to digest the great in-ring action without having to endure the co-owners hamming it up. From that moment on it was like an entirely new DVD set.

For example, without the distracting commentary all I saw was an amazing match between AJ Styles and James Gibson, two incredible performers who can really go between the ropes. I didn’t care that the name of the show was “Guitarmageddon”, a ridiculous title if I’ve ever heard one. If PWG likes that sort of stuff but keeps providing excellent matches, I can live with it. After all, I’d rather endure a goofy show name to get great matches then endure tons of sportz entertainment just to wind up watching short, boring matches featuring giant slugs and too many “power-based” wrestlers like WWE and TNA provide. If that’s the trade-off I need to make as a wrestling fan, it’s a no-brainer.

So my advice to you is this: if you’re a wrestling fan who seeks solid in-ring action performed by athletic, talented grapplers who move fast and strike hard, PWG is a fantastic alternative to the sub-par matches on television today. Forget the ridiculous event titles, ignore the horrible commentary and enjoy the matches for what they are – performances by highly talented wrestlers who obviously love putting on a show and who work hard to entertain their customers. You couldn’t ask for more than that as a fan. There are nine hours of quality wrestling action on this set and when you consider a typical WWE or TNA ppv costs $40 and provides less than three hours of content (and most of it is merely decent), the $15 price tag on PWG Sells Out makes it a steal.

While the DVD is ironically sold out on their own site, copies are still available at Highspots and Amazon. I strongly urge you to give PWG a try and this 3-disc set is the perfect way to familiarize yourself with the unique product that is Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day.” – Thornton Wilder

The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Monday morning on Pulse Wrestling.

Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

Norine Stice steps out of the Country Kitchen and away from her usual real-time SmackDown! coverage to bring you a blow-by-blow Survivor Series report. Speaking of the Thanksgiving tradition, how did our experts fair in their predictions? Check out the Rasslin’ Roundtable to find out who the prognostication champion is.

Late of the UK, analyst extraordinaire Iain Burnside takes a look at Christian Cage’s future and the possibility of AFTRA influencing WWE performers to unionize. Will Christian return to WWE or remain with TNA? Will McMahon’s “sports entertainers” be allowed to form a union? Post your thoughts and discuss.

Paul Marshall dissects TNA Wrestling in Total Nonstop Weekly.

Everything you need to know about ROH is right here in Ace Glazer’s Ring of Honor Weekly and John Wiswell’s Cult of ROH. This week, Wis provides a fantastic analysis of company woes in one of the finest ROH columns I’ve ever read.

Puro wizard David Ditch takes a look at Steve Corino’s return to Zero-One Max in the latest edition of Puroresu Pulse.

Mickey Rourke has earned rave reviews so far for his portrayal of a former pro wrestler in the film The Wrestler, coming to a theater near you on 17 December. After suffering a career-ending heart attack, Randy “the Ram” Robinson is trying to put his life back together, including seeking one more match against his biggest rival, portrayed by Earnest Miller. Check out the trailer here.

Finally this week, more retro looks from IWC icon Scott Keith. First up is Scooter’s look at Part Four of The Essential Starrcade, beginning the countdown of the top 10 matches from WCW’s granddaddy of them all. Next comes another peek inside the WWE 24/7 vault, World Championship Wrestling – August 9th, 1986.

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