Zack Sabre Jr vs Chuck Taylor – PWG Pushin Forward Back

Zack Sabre Jr (c) vs Chuck Taylor

PWG World Championship

07/07/2017

American Legion Post #308, Reseda, California, United States

(reviewed 09/10/2017) Once you reach a certain level of the American indie scene, you tend to find a distinct lack of stories. Eventually it basically boils down to meaningless matchups that we’ve seen a dozen times already. If there are stories, they’re usually pretty mediocre.

Here we have not only a good story, but sort of a meta-narrative. Chuck spends most of this match with his head down, pacing around awkwardly, half-heartedly trying to initiate lock-ups. When his name was announced before the match, he had more of a grimace on his face than a smile. He’s nervous. He’s out of his element. He’s not used to this sort of matchup. In the five years preceding this match, Chuck only wrestled in 9 one-on-one singles title matches, excluding the two PWG title attempts.

By this point in July 2017, Zack already had 19 singles title matches in the year.

Chuck is completely outclassed here. After failing in February, he’s got no game plan left. He can’t just rush the champ and beat him with a flurry of offense like he did last time. He can’t outwrestle Zack. He can’t apply the strategies that allowed his partner Trent to beat Zack in a tag match back in March because when it came down to a one-on-one match, Zack beat Trent handily. When Chuck tries to set up big spots here, like the chair pyramid on the floor, it gets turned against him. He has no recourse. All he can do is weather the storm, hope for the best, look for his openings. When Zack starts laying into him with strikes and Chuck responds with a laugh and asks for more, it’s his only strategy. When Zack blasts him and Chuck asks “is that all you got?”, it’s all that Chuck’s got himself.

Even when Zack’s not trying, he’s a superior wrestler. He’s incredibly cocky here, spending as much time going after his opponent as he does mouthing off to the crowd or flipping off fans. He easily shuts down Chuck’s attempts at offense, making holds appear out of nowhere. That’s the sort of phrase you see attached to Volk Han a lot, a virtuoso of the highest order, and it’s appeared alongside Zack’s name quite a bit in recent years, which usually bothers me. I tend to find Zack’s magic trick submissions to be flimsy and ineffective, but here? Here it’s effortless and powerful, cementing his place as head and shoulders above Chuck on the mat.

Where Chuck exceeds, though, is in surviving. He takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. Eventually it becomes too much for Zack. After multiple failed submission attempts in which Chuck gets to the ropes to escape, Zack forces a ring crew member to undo the bottom rope before he strangles his opponent with it. Even then, when he locks on the Rings of Saturn and bends back Chuck’s leg for good measure, the Kentucky native is able to get his remaining foot on the middle rope. Next Zack just wallops Chuck with the belt and urges referee Rick Knox to disqualify him, but he refuses. Knox likewise refuses to count the pinfall when Zack then just covers Chuck, on the grounds that Zack just hit him with the belt.

In the end, Zack has no recourse. When Chuck won’t roll over and die, he scrambles for every trick in the book. None of them work. Knox won’t disqualify him for dismantling the ring, for using foreign objects, for low blows. Knox won’t recognize a count out or an unfair pin attempt. Zack has no choice left. Zack must simply wrestle Chuck.

Thumbtacks are introduced. Chuck bears the brunt of their weight. He survives their stabs. When he remains conscious in a triangle armbar, he somehow finds the strength in him to powerbomb Zack down onto the tacks himself, stringing it together with a desperation Awful Waffle.

It’s enough. Finally, it’s enough for him to win.

There’s this moment here where you catch a glimpse of Chuck’s reaction to winning, or more accurately, Dustin’s reaction. The shot is from the floor, where the roaming handheld camera is filming. Dustin’s slumped over Zack, pinning him down to the mat as Knox makes the count. He can’t even cover his opponent fully or hook a leg. It’s all he’s got left to just sit down and lean on top of Zack. But it’s enough. Finally, it’s enough. When Knox counts the three, Dustin leans forward a bit and we can see his face. For the briefest moment, he’s beaming.

There’s a cut to the hard cam up on the stage so we can see the crowd reacting. Immediately they are overjoyed, leaping into the air, bellowing at the top of their lungs. Jubilant for their new champion. Before long we return to the ringside perspective and a shot of Dustin as he’s now slumped against the mat, head down, face turned to the side. He’s still smiling, shaking his head a little against the grime of the canvas. He can’t quite believe it. He can’t contain the absurdity of the moment that he finally did it. Even as the title is handed to him, he laughs at it all. It’s the most genuine thing I’ve seen in a long, long time.

It’s this sort of thing that I love in pro wrestling. This genuineness, this telling of a story that plays a little on real life emotions and situations. It’s not just unloading all the coolest spots you can do in 25 minutes or seeing how many times you can sneak in your catch phrase. It’s a story and a feeling, a place and a time.

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