You know how when you’re young, there are things you don’t think to question? As a kid watching wrestling, I felt like the shows were always in the same place. Sure, JR or Michael Cole would declare “Welcome to RAW/SmackDown, coming live from (insert city name here)”, but what I saw on my TV always looked the same. A stage, a ramp, a ring, a big crowd of people. Obviously there were changes as time went on, but when I was young I never considered the reality. I never thought about what was outside the walls of the arena.
To me, it might as well have been the same building every time. I guess I liked the idea that this was the wrestling building where all the wrestling happened. Where the wrestlers clocked in and out every week, hopefully they didn’t have much of a commute. As a fan halfway around the world, it didn’t matter to me that these shows were in different cities every week. They were never in my town, that was all I knew. So the wrestling arena became a place out of time for me; it didn’t need to exist in the real world, so it didn’t.
Years of wrestling fandom later and I am all too familiar with the various cities and crowds wrestlers perform for. I’ve never been to Chicago, but if I ever go I sure as hell want to go watch some wrestling with those folks. It never left the back of my mind, though, that feeling like I was always watching the same place week after week. It’s just a cozy thought. That cozy feeling transferred later on, when I found indie wrestling in my teens.
As the internet opened up the world of wrestling I, like many of you I’m sure, dove into it head first. I ate up all the content out there, I adored learning about Ring of Honor, Chikara, and more. El Generico, Kevin Steen, many of the biggest stars of today became my new favourites. I found a new home for that cozy, familiar feeling. A new wrestling arena that really didn’t move, and soon became a warm blanket like the one from my childhood. That place was the American Legion Hall in Reseda, California.
PWG is a special wrestling company. It isn’t like the big organisations, they don’t seem ambitious to grow too big for their shoes. It’s not quite like other indies either, similar in size but larger in scope. There are a lot of great independent companies doing amazing things and giving future stars a home to grow, but PWG feels different. It feels like the place where the future stars go when they’re just about ready for the spotlight. It’s where current stars go to rub shoulders with peers they wouldn’t often encounter, and every year (most years, thanks Covid) it’s where the best go to battle the best.
Anyone who has been anyone in the wrestling industry over the last decade has passed through the American Legion Hall. It genuinely feels like that. When I think about watching PWG through the years I think of Generico and Steen, Colt Cabana, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black, The Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Ricochet, Keith Lee, Drew Galloway, Pete Dunne, Cody Rhodes – honestly I could continue this list for the rest of the article and I still would feel like there are names I’m leaving out.
There was something wonderful about seeing all of these titans in a building that looked an awful lot like my old school’s assembly hall. It was always there, always the same four walls. El Generico pulled down a chunk of the very same ceiling that nearly came off when Jushin Thunder Liger led a parade of wrestlers around the ring, each attached thumb to buttcheek. There was room for everything in that little hall in Reseda. Match-of-the-year epics, acrobatic wonders, technical marvels, titanic hoss battles, and the funniest moments in the history of the sport.
PWG became a homely comfort for me. Listening to Excalibur on commentary, usually joined by one of the wrestlers, filled me with ease. Seeing that wood panelling on the wall and the ancient light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. The crowd small in size, but giant in heart. It all added up to something that brought me calm during tumultuous times.
At this point I’m getting on to the reason why I felt this was something worth writing about, because I think a lot of people find comfort in pro wrestling. Just look around this website and you will see people from all around the world, from all walks of life who look to wrestling for relief, and for an escape. Wrestling is some powerful escapism, real enough to get you invested in real people who live their characters, fake enough to let you forget how the real world works for a little while. PWG is wrestling at its purest, if you ask me. There is no room to let the real world in – we wrestle, we have a good time, that’s it. PWG is a celebration of wrestling, and for ten years the American Legion Hall was the bastion of good times with graps. Pure, unadulterated fun.
More than New Japan, more than Ring of Honor, I think PWG is responsible for me being a big fan of AEW now. There are familiar faces, familiar voices, and the vibe isn’t the same but it’s a similar energy. I still feel the love of wrestling, the belief that wrestling should be fun. Fittingly, this last year when distractions have been more necessary than ever AEW has been run from the same venue every week. Just like PWG, I’ve become so used to the same building every show that it will be weird to leave it. I feel like I’d know my way around Daily’s Place even though I’ve never been there. It’s comforting.
So in that way the greatest thing about PWG, for me, has been passed on. I don’t quite need the escape like I once did, but I’ll never be done with it, and I’ll never forget it. PWG has an awesome new home, and so do I. It’s cathartic to say all this, so in closing I’d like to say thank you. To the folks who made PWG what it was, is, and will be. To the fans who gave them their all, and to an old building in Reseda, California that I’m pretty sure isn’t even there anymore. To all of you, thank you for sharing your home with us. It means more than you might know.