COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Interview with PWG BOLA card designer Brian Ubben

By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles Specialist


Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles is arguably the hottest ticket in independent wrestling year in and year out. It should be no surprise, then, that a limited edition trading card set from PWG’s 2016 Battle of Los Angeles has become white hot with collectors of wrestling trading cards.

But designer Brian Ubben never thought the cards that he modeled after an old WCW set would demand the kind of attention – and money – they do now. The cards were handed out for free, but complete 28-card sets are now selling on eBay for upwards of $150, with single cards selling in the $8-$15 range.

“I didn’t realize how much of a demand there was going to be or how much value they would have,” Ubben said in an interview with the Torch. “I started realizing it BOLA weekend, when people were offering money for them. I settled for pitchers of beer.”

Ubben, who has attended 67 consecutive PWG shows, has used his talents in graphic design to create artwork of individual wrestlers over the last two years. He was scouring the Internet for a vintage Dusty Rhodes T-shirt when he stumbled upon pictures of the 1991 WCW Premiere Edition trading cards from Impel.

“It suddenly hit me that this would be a perfect concept to use for BOLA,” Ubben said. “Initially these were just going to be online graphics to spread around, but Chris Smith (@one2follow) reached out to me saying he’s a fan of PWG and of my work and offered to print them.”

The 2016 PWG Battle of Los Angeles trading card set is comprised of 28 cards: one card for each of the 24 entrants in the BOLA tournament, and four “secret” cards of Super Dragon, Excalibur, Mount Rushmore (Adam Cole and the Young Bucks) and Legion Larry. Each card has a color photo on the front – most by photographer Mikey Nolan (@Mikey_Nolan) – on top of a bright yellow background with red confetti shapes splashed all around. The four “secret” cards were designed with different colors so that they stood out from the rest of the set.

“I love that throwback, off-centered ‘90s look with all the weird shapes and colors,” Ubben said of the design. “I thought it would evoke some nostalgic reactions from people, which it did.”

The 2016 PWG Battle of Los Angeles set includes a card for each wrestler who competed in the tournament in September. This includes WWE signees and other wrestlers who appeared on WWE shows recently, including Jack Gallagher, Chris Hero, Mark Andrews, Pete Dunne, Tommy End, Zack Sabre Jr. and Cedrick Alexander. The set also includes top British wrestlers like Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay and Mark Haskins, Ring of Honor’s Dalton Castle, Lucha Underground stars John Hennigan (Johnny Mundo), Jeff Cobb (Matanza Cueto), Fenix and Pentagon Jr., along with cards of Kamaitachi, Trevor Lee, Jushin Liger, Matt Sydal, Riccochet, Cody Rhodes, Sami Callihan, Kyle O’Reilly and Matthew Riddle.

Ubben, who collected Pokemon cards as a kid, distributed the four “secret” cards much the same way rare Pokemon cards were distributed.

“When the first Pokemon (movie) came out, there were exclusive cards you could only get by buying a ticket to the movie,” Ubben Recalled. “There were four cards and I remember wanting all four. I had to trade with a bunch of kids before the movie started to get all four, and I did.  This experience gave me the idea to have the four secret cards in the BOLA set that I didn’t reveal until the weekend of BOLA itself. 

“I saw people trading to get the secret cards they wanted most and that just warmed my heart. That’s the kind of experience I wanted to recreate from trading Pokemon cards as a kid and I achieved that.

And, Ubben added, “the most sought after card was Legion Larry.”

Smith printed 150 BOLA sets. Most were given out to fans who attended the BOLA shows; Ubben kept some for friends and fans who couldn’t make it to the show.

Ubben’s personal favorite card in the set is that of “Space Cat” Sami Callihan, which features a unique photo from Mikey Nolan – and a special cameo.

“That picture with him sitting on that dude’s lap drinking beer next to Dave Meltzer with my boy Skits throwing up the ‘W’ in the background – there’s so much going on in that picture,” Ubben said. “It’s awesome.”

This was Ubben’s first trading card set, but it won’t be his last. He’s already designed a Queens of Combat trading card set, and has plans for next year’s BOLA event as well.

Follow Brian Ubber on Twitter @BrianDaBrain; a link to his portfolio is available on his profile. More of his work can also be found at

PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply