“It’s super intimidating to look at that list of winners,” Cobb said. 

By Justin Barrasso
September 19, 2018

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Jeff Cobb Adds His Name to List of PWG Battle of Los Angeles Winners

Jeff Cobb captured Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s “Battle of Los Angeles” this past Sunday at the Globe Theatre in Los Angeles.

The three-day tournament took place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, comprised of 24 of wrestling’s up-and-coming stars. Cobb now adds his name to a list of champions that includes Kenny Omega (2009), Sami Zayn (2011), Adam Cole (2012), Ricochet (2014, 2017), Zack Sabre Jr. (2015), and “The Villain” Marty Scurll (2016).

“It’s super intimidating to look at that list of winners, but to be able to put my name in the history books along guys like Kyle O’Reilly, Ricochet, and Zack Sabre Jr., it’s amazing,” said Cobb, who is best known for his work on Lucha Underground as the masked monster Matanza. “I’ve been having a good year so far, and it’s only getting better.”

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla started operating in July 2003, running roughly six shows a year. The promotion made its name on featuring dream matches between independent stars while also introducing fans to wrestlers who were some of the best-kept secrets in wrestling.

PWG has always been known for its tournaments. Their first was the Bad Ass Mother 3000, which was followed by the tag team Tango & Cash Invitational tourney. On Sept. 3 and 4, 2005, PWG struck gold when it introduced the “Battle of Los Angeles” at a Hollywood venue nicknamed “The Sweatbox.” Chris Bosh defeated AJ Styles to win the inaugural BOLA, and Cobb joined the accomplished list of winners by winning its fourteenth edition.

PWG ends BOLA with a survival triple threat match that turns into a singles match after the first competitor is eliminated. The final three—Cobb, Bandido, and Shingo—were trimmed to two after Bandido pinned Shingo. The Hawaiian-born Cobb then defeated Bandido with two of his signature Tour of the Islands reverse-spin scoop powerslams, one of which was from the top rope, to claim PWG’s signature tournament.

“Realistically, for me, I’ve proven everyone wrong who said I couldn’t do this,” said Cobb. “That’s been a huge source of motivation. But I also refuse to settle. I want to challenge myself and get better.

“I plan to take this tournament win and use it to take the PWG title from a very large, fighting champion in WALTER. I want to win that title and keep it the way past champions have. I’ll do what it takes to elevate the PWG title to where it belongs.”

The tournament also featured WALTER, Joey Janela, Puma King, David Starr, and Sammy Guevara. Cobb opened the tournament with a first-round victory over Darby Allin, which included an outrageous F5 on Allin.

“Brock Lesnar does the F5, but I’ve been calling my move the F5000,” said Cobb. “Mine spins a lot more than his.”

Cobb defeated Rey Horus in round two before a 14-second decimation of Trevor Lee in the third round, leading to his return to the finals for a second straight BOLA.

After reaching the finals a year ago against Ricochet and Keith Lee, who are now both signed with NXT, Cobb was entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the main event—and he delivered.

“That experience factor played a big role,” said Cobb. “Last year, I had five grueling matches in three days. Coming into this year, I knew how grueling and tough the schedule was.”

Sunday’s show took place at the same time as WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay per view, but that did not deter PWG—nor its rabid fan base—from attending the 4-hour finale on Sunday night. A trademark of PWG has been its resolution to always keep the promotion different and unique, and the fact that it placed a show against a WWE pay per view—and still drew a sell-out house at the Globe Theatre—shows that they know their clientele.

At 36, Cobb is hungry for success in wrestling. The nine-year veteran has continually improved, making great strides over the past five years, and his desire for greatness is on full display in his matches.

Winning the PWG BOLA adds a distinct flair to Cobb’s resume, and he plans to use the accomplishment to continue to elevate himself in both New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” said Cobb. “Growing up, I had so many close people, and even teachers, tell me I couldn’t do this. But I knew my dream and I know my ability, so I won’t stop reaching for it.”

Kenny Omega Retains IWGP Heavyweight Title in Battle With Tomohiro Ishii

Kenny Omega successfully defended his IWGP heavyweight title against Tomohiro Ishii this past Saturday at New Japan’s “Destruction in Hiroshima” card.

Omega and Ishii share an amazing chemistry with each other. This was their fifth match together, and the 30-minute encounter highlighted their familiarity with one another. Ishii continually stole from Omega’s repertoire, even mimicking the Bullet Club gun gesture before hitting a V-trigger knee to the face of Omega.

An integral part of the story early in the match was establishing Ishii’s strength. While he is only 5'7" and 220 pounds, the “Stone Pitbull” is a ferocious competitor who was consistently one step in front of Omega.

The match put a spotlight on the IWGP heavyweight title, which was clearly the reason for the intense competition. Late in the match, the New Japan cameras zoomed in on a shot of the title belt. An interesting comparison is the way WWE projected the Universal championship during Sunday’s Hell in a Cell main event between champion Roman Reigns and challenger Braun Strowman. Despite that being the match where Strowman cashed in his Money in the Bank contract, the actual championship was far from the top of the priority list throughout the course of the match.

There were multiple mesmerizing sequences on the Ishii-Omega emotional rollercoaster, including the spot where Omega flipped out of a German suplex and then followed that up with a V-trigger to Ishii. Omega was more athletic—Ishii will not be delivering a tope con hilo, a front flip dive, any time soon—but every Omega knee strike was seemingly countered by an Ishii fist.

Ishii’s top rope frankensteiner helped convey his own way of being flexible in the ring, and he was believable as he chopped, forearmed, speared, and clotheslined his way to a near-victory.

Omega finally hit the One-Winged Angel on his fourth attempt just past the 30-minute mark for the win.

For Omega, the match showcased his ability to have memorable, emotional matches against vastly different opponents. Omega’s versatility was apparent in his title victory over Kazuchika Okada, and also played a role in his title defenses against Cody Rhodes this past July and now Ishii.

In order for Omega to have a memorable title reign, he needs compelling matches against rivals. Three months into his maiden run with the IWGP championship, he is hitting his objectives.

In other news…

• This past Saturday once again highlighted WWE’s faith in Roman Reigns.

The Universal champion appeared on ESPN’s College GameDay program, crossing over to a mainstream television show in a manner that few in this business can do. Reigns played his college football at Georgia Tech, adding some authority to his role as celebrity guest picker on Saturday.

Reigns wasn’t perfect with his predictions, finishing 6–4. He would have fared better had he not picked his alma mater in a game where they were overmatched against Pittsburgh, and he was guilty of pandering to the live crowd in Texas when he picked TCU against Ohio State, but Reigns showed personality, knowledge, and a sense of humor in his appearance.

Clearly, predictions are not easy. The GameDay panel of Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit all picked Reigns to win his Hell in a Cell cage match against Braun Strowman, but those picks were rendered useless after the match ended in a no contest.

WWE is overflowing with stars. John Cena is making movies in Hollywood while proudly carrying the WWE banner; Brock Lesnar is on the precipice of a heavyweight title fight in the UFC against Daniel Cormier; AJ Styles is one of if not the single best wrestler in the world, and the company also employs big name talent with crossover appeal in Daniel Bryan and The Miz, not to mention Strowman. Big E should also soon be on this list, with his background as a college football player at Iowa and the charisma needed to represent the WWE brand.

But currently, there is no one better to serve as the face of WWE than Roman Reigns.

• Matt Hardy announced his retirement this weekend on social media.

While there is always a healthy amount of skepticism when a wrestler retires, Hardy did mention that his retirement is health-related. If his condition changes, and his injured back heals without surgery, there is always the possibility that he may return to the ring.

[youtube:https://twitter.com/WWE/status/1041371200994336770]

Hardy is currently working backstage as an agent for WWE, but the “Broken” Matt Hardy character is so engaging that WWE creative should consider him in the role of manager, or even as Raw GM in place of the “Constable” Baron Corbin.

• The Briscoe Brothers reached a major milestone this week, surpassing the 1,000-day mark in combined reigns as Ring of Honor tag team champions.

Jay and Mark Briscoe are nine-time ROH tag team champions, and also have enjoyed success in their singles careers, with Jay a two-time ROH world champ, as well as teaming together to win New Japan’s IWGP tag team titles. Their 1,000-day ROH accomplishment speaks to their talent, durability, and presence.

“As a matter of fact, we weren’t even aware we were approaching this milestone,” said Jay Briscoe. “We’re not worried about how long we have had them, we just know for damn sure we’re going to keep them. But, now that it has been brought to our attention, let’s go drink some beer to celebrate.”

When the Briscoes first won the tag titles in 2003 from Special K’s Dixie and Izzy, Mark was 18 years old and Jay was 19. Over the last 15 years, the two have learned a great deal about each other and the business of professional wrestling.

“Doing fancy moves is cool,” said Mark Briscoe, reflecting on the success he has shared with his brother. “But beating the s--- out of people with my brother is cooler.”

Hitting the 1,000-day mark is a rare feat. For comparison, the Hardys have had eight runs in WWE as tag team champions (six reigns as world tag team champs, one as Raw tag champs, and one as WCW tag champs) and their cumulative time as champions is 246 days. Billy Gunn and Kofi Kingston have each held WWE tag team titles for over 900 days, but both have done so with multiple tag partners.

The Briscoes have defended the ROH tag titles in five different countries, and remain grateful for the chance to do what they love all around the world.

“It’s in our blood,” said Mark. “We have multiple pro athletes in our family. When you combine those genes with our love for pro wrestling we knew there was nothing stopping us.”

The Briscoes next defend the titles at ROH’s Death Before Dishonor pay per view on Friday, Sept. 28 against Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, and wrestling fans can expect the same hard-hitting, physical style people are accustomed to seeing from the two brothers from the chicken farms of southern Delaware.

“We have a natural chemistry that has only gotten stronger over our careers,” said Jay. “We feel we bring a level of aggression and cohesiveness that’s unmatched. When the titles are on the line, who the hell is going to beat us?”

• Along with co-host Matt Koon, Vince Russo is debuting a new podcast on Westwood One on October 7.

“Truth with Consequences” will cover specific moments of Russo’s career in great detail.

“I plan on challenging Russo and being the voice of the fans,” said Koon. “The show draws inspiration from Conrad Thompson’s successful podcasts, and what drew me to Vince is that he is so divisive.”

Koon also serves as the producer for Thompson and Bruce Prichard’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast and the “What Happened When” podcast with Tony Schiavone. He also co-hosts shows, including “Why It Ended with Robbie E”, but Koon has never worked with someone so firmly intertwined with controversy as Vince Russo.

“We’re going to cover any topic that Vince was involved with that has a large and out-of-proportion hatred about it,” said Koon. “Our first four shows will be Bash at the Beach 2000, Brawl for All, David Arquette winning the WCW title, and the Montreal Screwjob. Vince was the only person on a three-way call with Vince McMahon and Bret Hart, so I want to hear his side of the story.

“I’ll also be challenging Vince, especially on some of the narratives that have gone unchallenged for a long time.”

• A GoFundMe page for WWE Hall of Famer Paul Orndorff made news this past weekend as wrestling fans reached out to give a financial boost to “Mr. Wonderful”.

The 68-year-old Orndorff, whose mounting health issues have been building over the past couple of years, needed $10,000 to pay his property taxes to prevent foreclosure on his home. Orndorff is believed to be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain caused by repetitive brain trauma that can only diagnosed definitively after death, and recently overcame a bout with cancer.

His son, Travis, set up the GoFundMe, which has raised $10,868 over the past 10 days.

“It’s amazing,” said Orndorff from his home in Georgia. “There was always a lot of emotion between me and the fans, so their support means a lot to me. I did it two ways—I did it when they liked me and I did it when they didn’t like me, but I am glad they liked me more than they hated me.”

Orndorff has a long and distinguished list of accolades in the business of pro wrestling, but none bigger than his role in the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden.

“There was a lot of pressure to being the first,” said Orndorff. “If we didn’t do real good the first time, maybe some of the fans would have stopped watching. Maybe there wouldn’t have been a second. I wanted to make it the best there ever was, and that was my mentality for my entire career. I tried to be different, I didn’t want to be like everybody else. I think it worked.”

WWE’s business model has continued to surge since the first WrestleMania, standing atop the shoulders of talented men like Orndorff—who was both beloved and hated during his memorable career.

“When they hated me, it was hell,” Orndorff recalled. “I used to fight the crowd before I even started my matches. It was crazy. Wrestling, it’s all about playing with people’s emotions. You need to be better than just a great athlete, you need to be the best. At one time, I might have been. When I look back, I remember how much I enjoyed it.”

As for the generosity from the fan base, Orndorff remained grateful for the support.

“I’m so thankful,” said Orndorff. “The fans can either hate you or like you, and they either hated me or liked me, but they always remembered me. I’m very proud of that.”

• “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” and co-host Conrad Thompson returns this Friday at noon ET with a look at Unforgiven 2008.

“WWE was in a bit of a downward spiral, and there were plenty of guys injured, with Randy Orton, Undertaker, and John Cena all out,” said Thompson. “Business was trending downward, and the numbers tell the story, especially with this pay per view.”

The card was headlined by a championship scramble for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship featuring Chris Jericho, Batista, Kane, JBL, and Rey Mysterio.

“It was a horrible disaster, and the rules of that scramble were just so silly,” said Thompson. “But the story of the show was what was happening behind the scenes. Ric Flair just left the company after his retirement ceremony, Freddie Prinze Jr. decided he wanted to write creative for the company, and there were a huge amount of layoffs. And the main story of the whole show is the Chris Jericho-Shawn Michaels feud and how it affected CM Punk.”

Up until Unforgiven, the World Heavyweight Champion was CM Punk. Punk was defeated but still lost the title, a casualty to the feud (and politics) of Michaels and Jericho.

“Shawn Michaels had made the ladder match so famous, and he and Jericho wanted to continue their feud with a ladder match,” said Thompson. “But in order to have a ladder match, there had to be something to hang above the ladder–and the thing they wanted was the belt around the waist of CM Punk, who goes on to lose his world title without actually wrestling for it. That showed what the company thought of Punk’s title reign.”

Thompson’s “83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff” also detailed a fascinating feud in this past week’s episode, breaking down the behind-the-curtain problems between Bischoff and Ric Flair.

“In an era where the inmates were running the asylum in WCW, Bischoff decided he was going to make an example out of Ric Flair,” said Thompson. “This is a pissing contest between a guy in Flair who historically had been able to do things his own way against Bischoff, a guy who was saying, no, you can’t do that anymore.”

The podcast does a tremendous job of presenting both sides of the story, with Bischoff even apologizing for some of his actions.

“Bischoff admits that his speech to the guys in WCW–about how Ric was finished, that he was a con artist who was finished, and that Bischoff was going to starve his family—is something he would do much differently if given another chance,” said Bischoff. “Eric was self-aware enough to say he was wrong. That type of self-awareness is not all that common in wrestling, and I really appreciated his honesty and insight.”

Tweet of the Week

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed hearing stories about Andre The Giant. I feel the same way about Jeff Hardy.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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