Zack Sabre Jr vs Jonathan Gresham
Two Out of Three Falls Match
Fete Music, Providence, Rhode Island, United States
(reviewed 11/29/2016) I guess Beyond/Drew heard my complaints that I thought this match should have main evented Flesh, because it’s the main event here and a 2/3 falls match no less. Fun stuff. I recall really liking this match when I first watched a few months ago, but with how much I raved about the Flesh match earlier, I wonder how this one will fare upon a second viewing. As these two lock up in the beginning of this match, backing each other up into the ropes, there’s an aggression here that was absent in the openings of their previous matches. ZSJ is supposedly the best technical wrestler in the world, and Gresham’s victories have challenged that title. Gresham, knowing that he’s truly the best, doesn’t want to lose the third match and give ZSJ any chance of holding that title anymore. Neither man can lose here, and they’re not friendly about going at it anymore. They trade strikes back and forth, ZSJ really leaning into his blows, knowing that Gresham’s got him beat as far as muscle is concerned but also knowing that he’s got the size advantage. A hiptoss sends both men flying over the top rope to the floor, where they continue to trade strikes. ZSJ grabs a chop and works his way into a mean wristlock, and Gresham returns the favor, shoving his opponent shoulder-first into the apron while trapped in a hammerlock. Gresham backs the man up against the ringpost and tries to chop him, but ZSJ ducks out of the way, sending Gresham’s hand and wrist into the cold, hard steel. Sensing the weakness, ZSJ stacks Gresham’s hand up on the apron and stomps on it, and while Gresham’s selling in this moment is dramatic, it does illustrate his pain adequately. Back in the ring, Gresham can no longer hang with his opponent in a strike exchange, and when he tries to employ his speed to take control, ZSJ kicks his leg out on a springboard and sends Gresham crashing down on his neck. The man is a physical wreck here. Focused for once, Zack goes after the man’s neck, torquing it with his legs, sitting on top of him, stomping his neck, doing whatever he can to wear the man down. There’s no cheeky smile on his face, no joy in his eyes. He’s serious and looking to injure. Gresham hits a scoop slam to free himself from a headlock, but he can’t immediately capitalize on it due to the pain. Sadly, ZSJ sells the scoop slam like it was from goddamn Hulk Hogan, taking his sweet time to drag himself back to his feet. Fighting through the pain, Gresham does what he can to get some offense in on ZSJ, but he can’t get any real momentum going. In a wonderfully smart spot, ZSJ slips free of a short stunner from the Atlanta native, and Gresham sells his neck after sitting down hard on the mat, as the base of the spine is in the pelvis. Great stuff there. ZSJ slaps a dragon sleeper on right away, turning it over into a crucifix pin when Gresham nearly gets to the ropes. With room to run after kicking out, Gresham goes for a desperation springboard moonsault, something of a rarity in his arsenal, and ZSJ easily avoids it, flipping the man over into a European Clutch afterward. Gresham sees it coming, though, and grabs ZSJ in a double chickenwing and brings his shoulders down on the mat as well, and both of them are pinned down as the referee counts to three. The referee tells the both of them that they were both pinned down and have been awarded a fall, and thus are now in the third fall of this 2/3 falls match. Stellar stuff here, wonderful booking. Trying to seize the opportunity here as the stakes are raised, both men go at it with strikes. Gresham attempts another springboard moonsault and misses it again, and ZSJ hits him with a pretty great roundhouse kick afterward for a two count. Some quick reversals back and forth see Gresham go after his opponent’s leg, first with a dropkick, then with a ankle lock, and finally with a straight kick to popliteal fossa (that’s the back of the knee or “kneepit” to you normies). With the state of his neck and arm, he knows he’ll have to focus in on some part of ZSJ and exploit it. He cranks away at the man’s ankle, pretty brutal stuff, and after getting some separation with a rope break, ZSJ pulls his kickpad up to relieve some pressure. Feeling that he’s got this in the bag, Gresham lets him get up on his own and ease his way into a strike exchange, but as soon as ZSJ starts to put some oomph into his forearms, Gresham stomps at the man’s knee to put him down again. The Octopus is not a good guy, after all. Another wonderful spots follows this, as Gresham drives ZSJ’s knee down to the mat with a grounded dragon screw, but in the process he lands on his own neck and hurts himself. Seeing his opportunity, ZSJ grabs the smaller man by his neck and cranks his head sideways until Gresham fights him off and makes him pay for it with a stomp to the knee. Great stuff. As Gresham continues his onslaught on his opponent’s leg, ZSJ does what he can to fight it but to no avail. His selling here is quite good, some of the best I’ve ever seen from him, and when he makes a brief comeback he can’t put the weight he usually does behind his uppercuts. Knowing that he can’t bridge with it, ZSJ just tosses Gresham back in a wheelbarrow tiger suplex and Gresham just fucking EATS IT, coming down hard on his head and neck in a sick spot. ZSJ goes for a running European uppercut to follow it up, but his leg gives out on him and Gresham strikes, diving in for a dropkick. Deftly, ZSJ spins out of the way, revealing that he was only goofin’, and swings for a PK. Gresham ducks out of the way, but like one of Stan Hansen’s old lariats, ZSJ doubles the momentum back for a short penalty kick to lay the man out. A big ol’ butterfly suplex puts Gresham down on his neck again, and ZSJ follows it up the “ankles on either side of your opponent’s neck and twist” spot, hurting himself in the process. Dammit man, do something else if you know it’s gonna suck for you too. With a burst of speed, Gresham finally connects with the springboard moonsault, following it up with a shining wizard and a half nelson driver, but it only earns him a nearfall. He turns a victory roll into a figure four but can’t quite get it locked in, and ZSJ buries a slap in the man’s ear to escape. Gresham goes for the in-air backslide when ZSJ rushes him, but ZSJ rolls through and stomps the man’s neck, following it up with a real sick Liger Bomb. When Gresham kicks out, ZSJ effortlessly turns it over into the Young Boy Killer briefly, but bafflingly turns it into a sunset flip after a few moments. Free from the move, Gresham rolls out of the pin attempt, springs to his feet, and double stomps down onto ZSJ’s knee. He goes to follow it up with the figure four again, but ZSJ sees it coming and brings him down into a small package, and even though he doesn’t get the victory, it frees him from the hold. Gresham folds his opponent in half with a German suplex, and ZSJ does the same right afterward with a dragon suplex. Fired up, Gresham charges in and is met with a rough chest kick, but kicks out of it at one. He fires back with a big clothesline and a deadlift bridging German suplex, but ZSJ likewise kicks out at one. Both men collapse for a double down as the crowd cheers them on, chanting the promotion’s name. Knee to knee and nose to nose, both men, exhausted, trade blows back and forth, targeting the knee and neck, and ZSJ gets very aggressive with some stomps to the point that the referee backs him away and starts a ten count. Gresham, dizzy but not dead, struggles back to his feet and is met with another running chest kick, a standing penalty kick if you will. ZSJ goes for another, but Gresham reverses it into a dragon screw and locks in a figure four, though again he can’t get it in all the way as ZSJ fights it, pushing his opponent’s foot off his ankle. Doing whatever he can to free himself, ZSJ goes to town with slaps, smashing his hand repeatedly into Gresham’s neck, trying to flip them both over to reverse the pressure of the hold, but to no avail. Gresham, after suffering the torture of the reverse figure four for a moment, is able to flip back over and lock his foot in place to complete the hold, and when he really cranks into it, ZSJ has no choice but to tap. Another fabulous match between these two. Not quite as visceral as the Flesh match, but probably more psychologically sound, and it tells a better story in the end, wrapping up this stellar trio of matches. Normally I’d decry a rivalry ending 3-0, but in this case, it totally works, with these two top-tier technical workers trying to prove who was the better man between them. In the end, Gresham proved to be the better of the two, though Zack’s ego doesn’t want to accept it, and when Gresham makes a big emotional speech and asks the man to shake his hand, ZSJ refuses at first, walking out into the crowd. After a moment of consideration, though, he returns and embraces his opponent, his equal, and raises his hand. Awesome ending to an awesome match and an awesome series. Usually I don’t like to use that sort of word to describe things, but here, it is completely validated. You NEED to see this match.