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We live in a time where every company, whether you are a large corporation or a small business, fears of being politically incorrect. Every company has sponsors to impress or a customer base to cater towards, which effects the overall quality of the product. In wrestling this is evident by WWE being bullied by watchdog groups and advertisers to make their product more palpable to advertisers and younger viewers. I don't blame WWE for doing this, it is just simple business, and there is more money in conducting business that way. The bigger a company gets the more third parties it has to cater towards. When Ring of Honor was purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting and began broadcasting on their networks, it was a huge win for the company, but for anyone that watched the pre-Sinclair or HDNet days understands that the product isn't as good as it once was. Sinclair has its hands in the honey pot and that has effected the product.
Which brings us to the best wrestling product out there. Pro Wrestling Guerilla began as a company founded by several southern California wrestlers, and over the 12 years they have been in existence the company has stayed that way. Despite the company's rise in popularity, they have not caved into the demands that an expanding company typically does. PWG does not tour, with the exception of the rare co-promotional show, every single one of the companies events take place in the same location, an armory in Reseda, California, in front of largely the same fans. They don't have any form of TV deal and they never post full-matches online. They have a DVD deal with Highspots and that is pretty much it. Because of that, they have no sponsors to cater towards, no corporate suits to impress, no TV networks to deal with, it is a promotion run by wrestlers for wrestling fans. If they want to have The Young Bucks superkick Candice LeRae in the face with a sneaker that has thumbtacks sticking out of it, they totally can. If they want to have a wrestler go on a profanity laced tirade in the middle of the match, they can do so and there would be no real repercussions.
The reason indie wrestling receives a lot of critical acclaim is because of a simple philosophy that surrounds any independent enterprise. Without a big name or a legacy to fall back on, the only way they are going to get publicity and attract customers is because of the quality of the product. Wrestlemania is such a big brand name that it will sell 50,000 tickets before the card is even announced. An independent company like PWG has to turn out a top quality product, otherwise there is absolutely no reason to watch them.
One of the things that makes PWG so great is that they are not tied down to any restrictions on what talents they can bring in. When Ring of Honor first began, it was seen as a hub of indie talent, anyone that was anyone on the indie scene wrestled for them at one time or another. However, since the split with Gabe Sapolsky and the foundation of EVOLVE, ROH is no longer the pinnacle of indie talent. Plenty of top names, like Ricochet, Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor and others have never worked for Ring of Honor. PWG now owns that title, everyone that is a name on the indie scene comes through Reseda at one time or another. If there is a new wrestler out there that is making waves, you can count on PWG to bring them in. Mike Bailey is tearing up Eastern Canada? He finds his way to PWG. Trevor Lee is breaking out in North Carolina before he is old enough to drink? He will make it to PWG.
But PWG wouldn't be anything special if it wasn't for the matches being just so damn good. PWG will give 20 minutes not just to the main event but to any match on the card. You never really know which match is going to turn into an instant classic, such as last year when The Young Bucks vs ACH and AR Fox took a random tag match on the middle of the card into my 2014 Match of the Year. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla is perhaps the only promotion that employs nobody that is a below average worker in the ring; they never have someone in there just because they have "the look" or because they used to wrestle in WWE.
PWG also does a tremendous job of diversifying their matches. Their best event this year in my opinion was the second night of the annual tournament, "The Battle of Los Angeles." On that show, they had a comedy match between Jack Evans and his tag team partner Angelico. There was then an excellent mat battle between Chris Hero and Timothy Thatcher, followed by a lucha libre tag match between Aero Star and Fenix vs Pentagon Jr. and Drago. There was then a huge upset with Mike Bailey defeating Drew Galloway and the main event was a wild street fight (called Guerilla Warfare in PWG) between the heinous Mount Rushmore 2.0 and the team of Trevor Lee, Biff Busick and Andrew Everett. No other wrestling promotion is putting out matches that are that diverse and of that quality on the same card.
If there is something negative to say about PWG, it is that the crowd can take itself a little too seriously. The crowd is great for the most part, as they are hardcore fans that understand the product. But sometimes they get a little too cute with their chants and are under the impression that they are as important to the product as the wrestlers in the ring. Normally they are very good, but sometimes they can hurt a match instead of helping it.
If you are looking to get into a new wrestling product, particularly an alternative to either WWE or TNA, you can't do much better than PWG. Pro Wrestling Guerilla is an example of how wrestling can be taken seriously, but can also be presented with a wink to kayfabe. Anyone that listens to the splendid commentary of Excalibur and his rotating cast of color commentators understands that they don't always follow the traditional rules of wrestling, but they also pay attention to the golden rule in wrestling: watching the shows should be fun. And no promotion has more fun than Pro Wrestling Guerilla.
You can follow Jesse Collings on Twitter @JesseCollings