Roy Wilkins (c) vs Trevor Lee
No Time Limit, No Disqualification, No Count Out Match for the CWF Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship
Mid-Atlantic Sportatorium, Gibsonville, North Carolina, United States
(reviewed 01/15/2017) I’ve been putting off viewing this match for a long time, and I have no real idea what to expect (outside of the obvious) now that I’m finally sitting down to watch it. Here goes nothing, I suppose. Due to the length of this match, I won’t be giving any sort of play-by-play or a vague summation of events, but rather a series of notes and thoughts on things as they play out.
- Apparently the stipulation of this match is that Trevor must leave CWF Mid-Atlantic if he loses, which is an interesting wrinkle I was not aware of previously that does a lot to explain why, perhaps, this match was made to be so big. He brings a lot of weight to the proceedings during his entrance, real serious and clearly shaken by the prospects of this situation. It rides the line between hammy and compelling, but I certainly appreciate it more than his comedy stuff. It also works well with his look, if I’m honest, playing up to the fact that he naturally looks sullen and upset.
- They start off the match with a lengthy bit of mat wrestling, doing quite a bit of limb work that plays into the rest of the match, allowing either man to quickly cut the other off and regain control by targeting the damaged limbs. Here, early on, they’re milking holds for all they’re worth, but not quite in a boring manner, mostly due to tight execution. Nothing looks weak or phoned in, and likewise nothing looks overly choreographed or dancey.
- Early on, Wilkins’ All Star buddies make their presence in this match felt, interfering a few times, but Trevor is able to combat their interference quite easily in a one-on-one matchup.
- The commentary really, truly helps this match a lot, especially Brad Stutts’ work, noting things that people in the crowd are saying, foreshadowing to future events and elements in the match, etc.
- The problem with setting out to wrestle a 100+ minute match is that you, the viewer, feel it the whole way through. If you’ve been watching wrestling for any considerable amount of time, it’s obvious every step of the way that this match is going long. It’s not helped by the fact that this match got a ton of buzz in the usual circles, so there was no way to avoid knowing how it went down and what it eventually became. It’s not as if I find their pacing or approach to this match bad, it’s just that I’m vaguely aware of how the sausage is made, and seeing it being made isn’t as appetizing that way. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.
- This is a meanderingly methodical match, if that makes sense. An end is being worked toward, with general themes and elements present, but every plot point isn’t predetermined. There’s no way they went out there having planned 105 minutes of spots, and you can tell that, as 80% of this is loose, free-flowing, call-it-in-the-ring action. I appreciate that a lot in this day and age.
- The first 35 minutes or so of this match are an exploration of little things, of introductory offense. Nothing feels like it “should” be putting either of these men away, as it’s all fairly low-level offense. Even the extensive limbwork feels fairly preliminary in nature, building towards greater spots down the line. None of their spots here in the first third of the match are all that explosive, so it doesn’t feel excessive or unrealistic when they survive all of it, but none of it is exactly boring, either. Additionally, once they actually do make their way to a big spot (an STO on the apron, pretty mediocre as far as “big spots” go, really), it feels HUGE because it’s such an escalation from what they’ve been doing for more than half an hour. It also doesn’t feel like an escalation into overwrought Michael Bay-esque mayhem. It’s the most effective use of a relatively simple highspot, quite noteworthy in an era in which those sorts of spots are thrown around ad nauseam. They follow it up with other big spots like a hiptoss into the corner and a penalty kick, giving each spot time to breathe and feel big on its own, and they work as great nearfalls, continuing that sort of pace until the last 15 minutes of the match or so.
- Wilkins is great at applying his environment here, using the ring apron and ropes multiple times to cut Trevor off and regain control of the match. It’s quality heel work, which is of the utmost importance in a match like this that has a good hour or more of a heel beating down a beloved local babyface.
- On commentary, Stutts throws out a curious comment, stating that this is the sort of match that could run the gamut of Mid-Atlantic’s history, as well as wrestling history in general, noting that the early portion of this match feels very much like the mat-based classics of the 1970’s. Later on, as the two men trade shots and submissions out on the floor, Stutts again brings up this theory, saying that they’ve moved on to the wild brawls of the 1980’s. It’s an interesting narrative on paper, but in execution it feels sort of goofy to me, an obvious gimmick, an excuse to have a super-long match. Likewise, having Stutts repeatedly note the transitions between eras feels somewhat masturbatory, like these are just a bunch of students of the game doing their best cosplay of bygone days as opposed to just having a match. It’s not exactly a bad thing, but it’s real obvious and unappealing on some deeper, minimal level, as I’d prefer to see “Trevor Lee and Roy Wilkins as themselves” over “Trevor Lee and Roy Wilkins playing the golden oldies”, if that makes sense. Chris Hero is also a victim of this mentality, as was Bryan Danielson during his ROH title run, which goes to show you that it can afflict even the greatest the sport has ever seen. Again, I can’t say that it’s bad, but it feels odd and gimmicky, and that oddness weighs on me. Thankfully, it seems that sort of narrative is abandoned, or at least less focused on, as the match progresses.
- Intent is important, or rather, being unaware of a creator’s intent is important. Feeling the heavy hand of the creator is distracting from any match, or any piece of work in any other medium. Things are meant to unfold naturally, and exposing your hand too early as a creator/wrestler can be detrimental. One of the many downsides of enjoying an art form for a long time or being a critic of any variety is being made aware of how things work, seeing the intricacies and minutiae of creation, understanding how and why things do or do not manage to please an audience. As opposed to enjoying things as they unfold, noting quality and shortcomings as they appear, watching a match like this that has such clear intentions is different, as I’m judging the execution of an ideal rather than how engaged I am in a performance. Regardless of whether or not I knew beforehand that this match went 105 minutes, understanding the pacing of the first 10 minutes would make the intention of these men clear, and it fundamentally shifts how I approach watching this match. As the match progresses, it becomes more and more about the noteworthy, abnormal length as opposed to the narrative of Trevor Lee giving it all he’s got to remain in his home and claim the title he’s never been able to win. This is a major systemic flaw with matches that go this long, and I certainly feel it here.
- One of the problems with modern wrestling, especially in the American indies, is aspiration. Guys try too hard to have great matches that they forget how to have good matches along the way. Fundamentals are forgotten. Drama and excitement are the only qualities people (workers and viewers alike) care about, ignoring any foundation underneath, which creates situations in which things that are made to feel huge end up feeling empty and lifeless due to a lack of buildup or forethought. People jump right to the third act and extend its length so that we don’t feel the rise and fall of the previous acts. This match isn’t exactly that, though the aspirational intent of these two is felt heavily, as I’ve stated. This match is very straightforward and simple, laying a foundation before building bigger and better things later on atop that foundation, making for a compelling, exciting, and mostly realistic match even though it is fundamentally excessive.
- Trevor’s fire as he fights back against the full forces of the All Stars is incredible stuff, with the commentary team and Gibsonville faithful EXPLODING with joy as he runs through all the baddies. The nearfall that follows it, with Trevor trapping Wilkins in a small package before Coach Gemini attacks the referee to break it up, is one of the best nearfalls I’ve ever seen. Even knowing that the match was far, far from over, I bought into the finish because of how it was crafted by everyone involved and how the crowd was buying into it as well. Fabulous work there.
- 70 minutes in, it’s sort of amazing how into the match the crowd still is, and how into they remain until it ends.
- I don’t mind the copious amounts of run-ins in this match, partly due to the fact that the All Stars inserting themselves into the match was established early on, but mostly due to the fact that we get massive amounts of wrestling along with these run-ins, so none of it feels cheap. Additionally, the actual action that constitutes the run-ins is great, and the crowd pops big for everything, so it’s hard to hate any of it.
- The second ref bump in this match is fucking awesome. Dude bumps and sells better than most wrestlers I’ve seen.
- They don’t bring weapons into this match until 80 minutes or so in, using them effectively when they finally introduce them. The kendo stick stuck in the top turnbuckle pad is notably great, a real gruesome spot that makes for an unconventional comeback.
- Trevor takes a blue thunder bomb onto a pair of open chairs, stacked one atop the other so the legs of the top chair stick up in the air, in one of my favorite kinds of CRAZY, GROSS, STUPID bumps. To the credit of both men, they place the move about as well as you possibly could, making it feel and look far more brutal than it actually is.
- This match features some of the best exhaustion selling I’ve seen since matches like Samoa Joe vs Low Ki.
- Coach Gemini breaking up the small package driver nearfall is great stuff. Both of the nearfalls that he breaks up in this match are top-tier, really awesome use of interference.
- Even as they transition into the typical sort of spotfest finishing stretch, these lads let individual moments breathe, more akin to a crashing tide of spots than an endless, continuous waterfall. The density of spots isn’t so high as in similar excessive indie matches, but due to that, each individual spot feels much bigger.
- In the end, Trevor traps Wilkins in the STF, Coach Gemini’s own move, and the champ has no choice but to tap out.
As far as excessive matches go, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than this, rivaling some of my favorite Dragon Gate spotfests, the best King’s Road bombfests, the most dramatic WWE soap opera main events. It’s probably the smartest-worked dumb match I’ve ever seen, if that makes sense. That doesn’t make it /perfect/ per se, but it sure as hell makes it great and well worth your time.