David Starr (c) vs Jonathan Gresham
Super Indy 17 Finals for the IWC Super Indy Championship
Court Time Sports Center, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, United States
(reviewed 07/16/2018) What you’re reading now is my fourth attempt at a review of this match. Usually that’s indication of a bad match that I’m trying to power through but not in this case. I spent the first two drafts arguing that this match was either completely eschewing the qualities of classically well-regarded matches or that this match was at its worst when it did play to those existing ideals. Every pass brought me closer and closer to the truth: that this is not, in any sense, a “new” sort of match. In an attempt to drum up a big review for a high quality match, the third draft was an exploration of that idea and one that was needlessly, aimlessly overwrought, drawing comparisons between this and something like Kobashi vs Misawa from 2003.
Nobody’s got time for that shit, least of all me. Let me suffice to say that wrestling does not need to be new to be enjoyable. I mean that both in that older wrestling can be enjoyable and less-than-innovative wrestling can be enjoyable. This falls in the latter category. Nothing these two men are doing here is all that groundbreaking. It’s well within the usual boundaries of a Gresham match and/or a Starr match, as well as the boundaries of traditional technically-based main events. What sets this apart is how these men color between those well-worn lines. Most everything they do here gets time to breathe and reach its fullest effect, whether it’s the battle over a wristlock or the escalation of a big move or the frantic recalculation after a kickout. They fall into some annoying tropes by the end but the vast majority of this 37 minute match is spent on simple, straightforward wrestling based on targeting existing injuries and paying off existing narratives. Starr is the high and mighty outsider who’s managed to momentarily steal the Super Indy title away from IWC regulars. Gresham’s the injured underdog who’s made it to two straight finals without winning the tournament. Very simple ideas. Very familiar ideas, moreover. Nothing fresh, nothing unique, nothing new, but something incredibly enjoyable in its simplicity due to rock solid execution and a steady hand at the helm. It’s hard for me to really express how good this match is without delving into hyperbole or pretentiousness so let me just say that this is easily one of the best matches I’ve seen in 2018 and you ought to watch it.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Shawn/Taker is just as rigidly conventional as this match is. The difference between the two is that Shawn/Taker is breathlessly dramatic where this match mostly isn’t. In rushing to get to the big kickouts where everyone can make silly faces for the camera, Shawn/Taker diminishes the more tangible aspects of their feud and fails to escalate in any meaningful way. This match is the total opposite, where even early headlocks carry a significant weight before building up slowly to huge nearfalls. It’s not perfect but it offers so much more that I can sink my teeth into than Shawn/Taker does.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25