Looking back at PWG’s first Guerrilla Warfare match

With Pro Wrestling Guerrilla having announced a Guerrilla Warfare match as taking place at this Friday’s Mystery Vortex VI, there has been a lot of talk and reminiscing about prior Guerrilla Warfare matches on social media. This week will see the 17th such match in PWG’s history, and while there have been many memorable moments in the 16 previous Guerrilla Warfare matches, I wanted to take a look back at the one that started it all. Super Dragon versus Joey Ryan.

PWG’s An Inch Longer Than Average took place on November 15, 2003, and was notable for three things. The event was the first time that PWG drew over 150 fans to a show aside from their debut, CM Punk made his PWG debut as a surprise opponent for Samoa Joe, and PWG’s first Guerrilla Warfare match took place.

The feud between Super Dragon and Joey Ryan actually predated the formation of PWG, with them having faced each other in Revolution Pro and PCW. In 2003 Super Dragon was by far the biggest name in Southern California wrestling while Joey Ryan, while starting to generate a little buzz, was closer to the start of his career and mainly known as a tag-team wrestler. With the start of PWG, putting Ryan in a program with Dragon was a way to help establish him as a top singles wrestler.

Their first meeting in PWG was in the semi-finals of the Bad Ass Mother 3000 tournament to crown the first PWG Heavyweight Champion. In that match, they played off their meeting in a tag match at APW LA earlier in the month, with Super Dragon destroying Joey Ryan but Ryan continuing to fight back hoping for the chance to land a Duff Drop, the only thing that has shown he could top Dragon with in the past.  Finally, Ryan hits the Duff Drop outside the ring, rolls Dragon back in, gets the pin and advances.

Both Super Dragon and Joey Ryan had to be helped to the back after the match. Super Dragon suffered his first loss in PWG, and Ryan being so beat up he would be easy prey for Frankie Kazarian in the finals. The match between Dragon and Ryan would finish third in the 2003 Southern California Match of the Year voting.

In storyline, PWG Commissioner Paul T. ordered a no-DQ, no-count outs, falls-count-anywhere match between the two wrestlers for November 2003’s An Inch Longer Than Average. In the press release announcing the match, they called it a Guerrilla Warfare match. In reality, they came up with the Guerrilla Warfare name before the promotion held their first event.

After PWG’s An Inch Longer Than Average, SCU had two reviews of the event posted. Here is what the reaction to the first Guerrilla Warfare match was at the time:

My review of the match:

Super Dragon over Joey Ryan [31’46]

First let me say this was an excellent match. Now that I got that out of the way let me say that I think it’s being way over rated on the message board. I thought their match from the Bad Ass Mother tournament was overall a better match, though this one may be more memorable in the long run. When people take a second look at it on tape, and are away from the live crowd I think the matches flaws are going to stick out a little more.

Both wrestlers did an awesome in the match, and they really incorporated the use of foreign objects into the match well, never really resulting in the “hit each other with a bunch of stuff to pop the crowd” mentality that is apparent in a lot of hardcore matches in indy wrestling these days. Everything had meaning. The main problem with the match itself was the time it took to set up a lot of the spots. At one point it seemed like it took Joey Ryan a week to get a table into the ring, which kind of screwed up the pacing of the match. Their tournament match went a little over 22 minutes, but probably had near the same amount of wrestling as this one due to the delays. Another, smaller nitpick is that Joey Ryan didn’t blade. It wasn’t all together necessary in the match, but it definitely would have made it more memorable, especially since Joey Ryan is a guy that never blades in his matches, and with no one having seen him bled before, the extra impact would have been there. Another thing I didn’t like about the match, though it has nothing to do with how good the match was, is it’s place on the card, as it was going to be very hard for anyone else on the rest of the show to follow this match.

Enough of the negatives though. Everything else in the match worked, and worked well. The finish came with Super Dragon bringing a guardrail into the ring, and after a move onto it in the corner failed, it was setup in the middle with a ladder and a chair stacked in their too, and Dragon gave Joey Ryan the psycho driver onto it to finish him off. The finish was just insane.

Robby Deming’s review of the match:

Super Dragon over Joey Ryan in a Guerrilla Warfare Match

Holy Fucking Shit! That about sums up my feelings about this match. In everything that I have ever seen, this was hands-down the best hardcore match that I have ever seen. I have over a page of notes on this match, so its impossible to go thru it all but I’ll try to hit the highlights. For starters, I’d like to commend these guys on the way these used weapons, as there was a great build from spot to spot. They also didn’t just come out to blast each other, but they incorporated weapons in rather fun ways. Here’s some of the notables: Dragon locked in a hanging surfboard type thing and then stomped Joey’s face into a chair on the mat, Dragon hitting his Violence Party with a chair instead of fists, Joey ruining Dragon with a chair shot to counter an attempted Tope by Dragon, fun stuff with ladders (suplexes and footstomps), Joey killing Dragon’s arm when he attempted one of his infamous lariats (which Dragon sold like a million dollars), Joey bouncing Dragon off of a table with is Duff Drop, Dragon putting Joey through a table with his Senton (Table was bridging barricade and ring), to the absolutely most devastating finish ever. Dragon planted Joey with a rather brutal looking Psycho Driver onto a pile consists of a table, ladder, and steel barricade. The crowd was into this one the whole 30 minutes or so it lasted, with crowd momentum changing spot to spot. The finish illicited a “Holy Shit” chant from the crowd and a well-deserved standing ovation to Joey and Dragon. Match of the fucking night, and possibly match of the year. WOW. I almost feel bad for supporting such violence as this, but it was truly incredible. Lots of appreciation to Joey and Dragon for this one.

The bitch about having such a stellar match like Dragon/Ryan is that it kinda killed the rest of the card being that it was the semi-main. Coming back from intermission, people were still in awe over what they had seen in the previous match, and weren’t quite into anything else the rest of the night. It’s a shame because the last three matches on the card were very strong showings that could have benefitted from a hotter crowd.

The first Guerrilla Warfare match would end up finishing eighth in the 2003 Southern California Match of the Year voting.

The match did its job and helped to elevate Joey Ryan as a legitimate singles wrestler in PWG even in defeat, something they would really build off of a couple of years later with Ryan having a long reign as PWG Champion. Their feud actually continued past this match, and about a year later Super Dragon and Ryan would meet in an ironman match that went over 66 minutes.

This first Guerrilla Warfare match was the beginning of what would become a staple in PWG over the next 16 years. Joey Ryan and Super Dragon set the bar that every Guerrilla Warfare match since has had to meet.

Here is a list of all the previous Guerrilla Warfare matches in PWG (compiled by W. Ryne Hall on Twitter)

1. Super Dragon b. Joey Ryan, 11/15/03
2. Super Dragon b. Scorpio Sky, 3/27/04
3. Excalibur b. Super Dragon, 5/13/05
4. Super Dragon b. Kevin Steen, 12/16/05
5. Human Tornado b. Joey Ryan, 1/13/07
6. Chris Hero b. Joey Ryan, 7/31/09
7. Danger Bees b. Cutlers and Young Bucks, 7/30/10
8. Appetite for Destruction b. Young Bucks, 12/10/11
9. Adam Cole b. Kevin Steen, 12/1/12
10. Drake Younger b. Sami Callihan, 3/22/13
11. Adam Cole b. Drake Younger and Kevin Steen, 8/9/13
12.World ‘s Cutest Tag Team b. Young Bucks, 7/26/14
13. Roderick Strong b. Kyle O’Reilly, 12/12/14
14. Super Dragon/Young Bucks b. Biff Busick/Andrew Everett/Trevor Lee, 8/30/15
15. Chris Hero/Mike Bailey/Joey Ryan/Candice LeRae b. Roderick Strong/Adam Cole/Young Bucks, 12/12/15
16. Chuck Taylor b. Ricochet, 1/13/18

About the Author

Steve Bryant
Fan of Godzilla.