Chris Hero vs Drew Gulak
American Legion #308, Reseda, California, United States
I’m watching this not too long after taking a look at their EVOLVE match from around this time, so it’ll be fun to see the differences between the two. Likewise, #BigDust is on commentary with Excalibur, the dream team, and they’ll help add to the experience. Pretty sure I was listening to Doug Loves Movies while watching their EVOLVE match because I didn’t want to listen to Rob Naylor for a whole twenty minute match. Anywho. Handshake between the two to start things off, and a bit of a feeling out process at the beginning before some grappling. It’s not quite as extensive as their series in other promotions, and I’m not sure if the Reseda crowd would really appreciate an eight minute grapplefuck session. Gulak is able to mount a comeback and gets a small package for two, and follows it up with a flash German suplex out of nowhere that puts Hero in his dizzy animation, and the Legal Eagle goes to work. Hero fights a gutwrench attempt and tries to get some momentum, but eats another big ol’ German that puts him down and rolls him over on his neck. Gedo Clutch gets Gulak a two and he goes right back to work as #BigDust and Excalibur talk about WAR, the best promotion ever. Gulak hits some headbutts to the torso and Hero fights back with a short jab and is able to hit a sliding boot to put Gulak down, and he follows it up with a big clubbing forearm in the corner and is flipped head over heels when Gulak dropkicks him in the knee as he comes off the ropes. The Philly native continues to work at Hero’s knee, and Hero does well to stay in the game, getting potshots in when he can, but he can’t avoid a kneebreaker and dragon screw. Gulak can’t quite lock in a Cloverleaf before Hero rolls it over and grabs the ropes. Hero mounts a bit of a comeback and goes for a sunset flip, but Gulak rolls through it and locks in an ankle wrench as some asshats in the crowd chant “do some shit”, which infuriates me, and are met with a chorus of “shut the fuck up” chants, which pleases me. Real gross legwork from Gulak here. Hero fights an Irish whip before Gulak is able to eventually whip him off, and Hero does his cool flip over the ropes to the apron, impressive and incredibly scary considering his current size. Gulak won’t let him get any more momentum, though, cutting him off with a headbutt to the torso and a dragon screw in the ropes, a much better one than their dragon screw in their ropes at EVOLVE. Hero powders out, tending to his knee for the better part of a ten count. Gulak meets him with some stomps, but Hero fights back to his feet and punches Gulak’s lights out with a hard right. The Regal Beagle is able to recover first, however, and grabs Hero’s leg, and Hero buries a boot right in the mush. It puts Gulak down, but he’s again the first to recover, and he trades some chops back and forth with the big man, who is able to back him in the corner and put a boot across his face. Hero’s selling here is fantastic, maybe the best I’ve seen this year, real subtle and believable. Gulak gets a boot up when Hero charges at him and goes for it again when the big man tries a second charge, but Hero slaps down his foot and hits a rolling elbow that puts Gulak on roller skates. Hero puts the man down with a body slam and hits a fookin’ moonsault, unbelievable stuff, but Gulak avoids it and grabs an ankle lock. Hero has to fight up onto his hands and use his considerable weight to dive to the ropes, and Gulak’s facials as he pleads with referee Justin Borden afterward are great. Both men shoot a waistlock and fight out of it, and Gulak goes for a suplex and takes a big ol’ rolling suplex crash himself for two. Hero stomps him in the back of the head and plants a rolling elbow in his jaw for another two. Gulak breaks free from a clinch and fires off two standing clotheslines, with the big man staying on his feet, asking for more. Gulak fires off a third, but Hero boots it down and goes for a rolling elbow, but Gulak cuts him off with a discus clothesline. Gulak again throws a line and takes a rolling elbow to the inner elbow and it sounds gross, and then a rolling elbow to the temple. Hero goes for a second and takes a discus punch, and Gulak’s selling afterward is a bit goofy, but being a fan of old school over-the-top selling, I quite like it. He plants a discus clothesline in Hero’s face when he goes for another rolling elbow, and gets a two count from it. Reseda’s not totally into it, with a few dorks booing, but it’s pretty good stuff. Gulak lifts the big man and trades strikes with him, and while Gulak is firing off faster strikes and a higher quantity of them, it’s clear that Hero’s fewer, slower strikes hit harder. Big slugfest back and forth before Gulak kicks at Hero’s knee to get the advantage and fire off a bunch of chops. He goes off the ropes and Hero leaps up at him in almost a leapfrog and comes right down in a pinning predicament for two. Gulak shoots the ankle and grabs the ankle lock right in the middle, and Hero tries to reverse it into a victory roll, but Gulak fights free from the pin right back into the ankle lock. He turns over and hits some up kicks on Gulak, who grabs one and transitions into the Gu-Lock before Hero gets to the ropes. Hero gets a trio of boots up when Gulak charges at him in the corner, fighting through them all, fire in his eyes, and Hero goads him in, grabs the boot Gulak throws, and tosses it down right into a kneelift for a double down. Whopper of a rolling elbow from Hero, and Gulak gets a backslide when Hero goes for the Hangman’s Elbow, but only manages a two count. Hero goes for a magistral and gets a two himself. Pinning attempts back and forth, and Gulak shoots one into the ankle lock. Hero rolls out of it, and Gulak yanks Hero’s boot off his foot and eats a pair of gruesome boots to the face. He goes for the rolling elbow, but Gulak smashes Hero’s own boot into his face and gets a two count from it in a fun spot I’ve not really seen anywhere else. Crowd’s not totally into this, going so far as to chant “bullshit”, but this match, man, is real fucking neato. Gulak slowly pulls the considerable dead weight of Hero to his feet and picks him up in a Tombstone, but Hero reverses the momentum and brings him down in a Tombstone of his own that further injures his knee, and plants Gulak with a textbook piledriver for the win. Great stuff here. Not quite as technically-based at the beginning as their EVOLVE match, but it ramps up in a much more exciting way and ends up being a better, and more thrilling, matchup. Total sleeper on this card, and a match I don’t recall there being a lot of buzz about, but another rock-solid performance from Hero in 2015, and among Gulak’s better matches.