Chris Hero vs Jonathan Gresham
Aurora, Providence, Rhode Island, United States
(reviewed 01/17/2017) The two best wrestlers in the world in 2016 mix it up for the very first time in probably my favorite promotion going today. No way this doesn’t rule on some level. Commentary from Suge D and Denver Colorado helps a lot, as those two are great. Hero’s sheer size proves to be a problem for Gresham and the Octopus knows it, forcing him to bend the big man in all sorts of uncomfortable ways, applying his tremendous technical skill. Still, Hero wasn’t born yesterday and has a ton of grappling ability himself, and while he is frustrated by Gresham, he’s never really overcome. Both men taunt each other, with Gresham slowly, methodically wearing Hero down until the Buckeye is able to employ his striking game. Tensions run high, making for a number of really mean moments from either man, and it’s lovely stuff. After Hero ridicules him endlessly, saying “you look like a fucking boy”, Gresham reverses a suplex into a brainbuster that kicks things into another gear before Hero shuts him right down again. Fantastic selling from the Atlanta native on a countout tease, real dramatic without feeling hammy. Gresham, frustrated by his opponent and frustrated by his own shortcomings, tries to hang with Hero with strikes, but he’s totally outclassed in that department and pays for it as Hero toys with him. Feeling the rush of destroying another man, Hero mugs for the camera, messing around with the fans, taunting his opponent time and again, and his nonchalance lets Gresham go after the big man’s knee again and apply his highflying expertise to turn things around, attacking his arm as well when Hero tries to escape to the ropes. As soon as Gresham changes his game plan up, Hero evens it up again with a great crash suplex that puts both men down for the count. Yanking his opponent to his feet, saying “I’m tired of waiting”, Hero floors the smaller man with an elbow, but a powerbomb attempt gives Gresham the opening to apply more leg work. Hero endures the punishment to his knee, hitting a desperation piledriver that floors Gresham but only further injures his bad wheel. A second piledriver compounds the problem for both men. Both men barely able to stay on their feet, Hero spits in his opponent’s face and lays in a pair of rolling elbows, and somehow Gresham is able to kick out. Mouthing off to the crowd, Hero goes for a Hangman’s Elbow before Gresham slips free and tries to bring him down in a backslide. Hero’s size prevents it from happening, trapping the little man in a sunset flip pin before Gresham neck rolls free and traps Hero instead, earning the three count. It feels a little awkward from execution and also from the fact that this didn’t feel like the planned finish, with the referee counting a little too quickly, but it sort of works for this match, in which the frustrated, world-traveled Gresham is embarrassed by the best wrestler/bully in the world, routinely stuffed and squashed before barely eking out a flukey win. I’m sure it’s not as polished as people would like (myself included, but that’s the risk you run with first-time matchups), but goddamn do I love this match. It plays up to everything I love these two men for, their personalities, their technical and striking skill, their selling, their body language. If not for a strange finish (or really, the general awkwardness in the finishing stretch) and a less-than-stellar Aurora crowd (probably the worst Beyond crowd I’ve seen in years), this would end up real high in my MOTY rankings, probably skirting around the top five. But alas, a few major problems prevent this from being top of the line, and it ends up “just” being very good.