Isaias Velazquez (c) vs Mustafa Ali
The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, Illinois, United States
(reviewed 01/01/2017) In a nice precursor to their title change later in the year (which seems to be becoming a trend in Freelance), these two face off in the main event of the first Freelance show of 2016. After Isaias riles up the crowd in his entrance and introduction along with his BETA cohorts, Ali sits in the crowd for a moment to start a “fuck that guy” chant, which is cheeky. A surprising amount of dick-based humor wastes a bunch of time, and only seven minutes into this video does the bell actually ring like it’s goddamn WrestleMania. A bit of wristlock chaining leads to a eyepoke and headlock from Isaias and a universal variation. Ali takes control with some armwork (sort of funny seeing as Ali sports a brace on his own shoulder), using it to regain the advantage whenever Isaias tries to get some offense going, and eventually Isaias has to just kick his opponent right in the bread basket to make some separation. Ali evens things up again with a chop in the corner, but when he springs to the top rope, Isaias shoves him into a roof-supporting beam at ringside. As the commentary team runs down Ali’s lengthy injury history, the champ adds to it by driving him into the ringpost arm-first in a wheelbarrow hold. Back in the ring, Isaias does well to sell his own arm as he goes to work on Ali’s, applying a variety of holds and maneuvers. Eventually he takes too long grandstanding to the detractors in the crowd, and Ali hits him with a beauty of a tornado DDT. In return, Isaias sells it pretty goddamn well, really highlighting how disorienting that sort of move is. Ali earns some nearfalls with his usual lucha-flavored junior heavyweight stuff, capping it off with a gruesome Liger Bomb. Isaias, using his ring awareness, briefly evens things up before a delightful technical takedown from Ali traps the champ in a crossface, and Isaias has to once again go after Ali’s eyes and arm to escape. A Deja Vu off the top and fireman’s carry lungblower look to have things won for Isaias, but Ali reverses his pin attempt into another crossface, and only through the combined efforts of BETA dragging their man out of the ring is Isaias able to survive. As the referee admonishes them, Ali uses the opportunity to hit a big dive over the corner post, following it up with a 450 back in the ring for a quality nearfall that the Bottom Lounge bites hard for. A second 450 is avoided, and Isaias quickly slaps on another crossface. Ali manages to roll through it, looking for a backslide afterward, but in a very clever spot his arm gives out, and Isaias uses the leverage to stuff him with a tiger driver ‘98 for the win. Neat match here, in that it’s sort of typical indie stuff, your usual smattering of lucha-influenced, puro-influenced, and WWE-influenced junior heavyweight spots (especially early on with the oh so trite chaining), but there’s just enough smart psychology and sheer fun to make it worth your time, helped along by an appreciative (if a bit overly-aggressive) crowd.