Jordan Devlin vs. Walter (OTT, Wrestlerama 2)

Watch this match here. (Sub req’d, $8/month)

When OTT finally announced they had booked Walter for their June 2018 event, their fans were delighted, and the match was obvious. The world-conquering Austrian versus our boy Jordan Devlin, whose gimmick has been putting down “imports” and banging out a four-star match in the process.

It would have been great, and the fans would have been satiated.

But great wasn’t great enough for OTT. They had NOTIONS, and those notions paid off two shows later at the company’s flagship August event.

With their Wrestlerama 2 singles match, Devlin and Walter produced something special. Concluding, at least for now, one of the most simple-yet-effective angles on the indies in recent memory, OTT wrung more out of a mere three Walter appearances than some promotions have in months of booking. They created something far beyond a one-and-done great match, and told an excellent story that felt distinctly OTT. With the rabid Irish crowd in Jordan’s corner, this really felt like a match that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.

The story of the match was this; a more focused and intense Devlin was able to learn from what previously felled him, but Walter still had his number.

The song and dance routine of Devlin and David Starr in June was replaced with a no-nonsence power walk to the ring. Starr wasn’t the irreverent buddy cop partner, he was an earnest cornerman, and he added to the match in a very real way.

Devlin’s performance as the no-nonsence babyface was perfect. He came out strong early with leg kicks and a taunting feign of a chop. When it was time for Walter to, well, be Walter and lay a beat down, Devlin sold it like it was the fight of his life. His hope spots had a sense of urgency and panic, never quite feeling like he was kicking Walter’s ass, but occasionally feeling like he had him rattled and survival was possible.

The other big carryover from June was the ‘Gojira Clutch’ sleeper, which scored Walter the win when these two met in a tag match. On every occasion, Jordan either countered it or simply weathered the storm. This culminated in the finish which was so perfect I’ve had to re-watch it in isolation a dozen times, separate from the three times I’ve watched this match in full. After a 20 minute war, Walter gets the clutch on one last time and Jordan starts to fade. The crowd are on tenter hooks, rallying for Jordan to power through. In a spot as old as wrestling itself, that I would consider a tired trope 95% of the time, the referee checks Devlin’s hand to see if he’s still conscious. It drops twice. On the third drop, Devlin keeps his hand in the air, looks up at it, and makes a fist, causing a roar from the crowd so impassioned you’d swear the guy just won the whole match.

Before he can start his comeback, before he can even tease a package piledriver, Walter says ‘fuck this’ (at least in my head), scoops Devlin up, and drops him with a Rikishi Driver, or whatever you want to call it if you’re a movez-nerd, and scored the pin.

Devlin learned from his past mistakes; but Walter was still too good. A wonderful story, hammered home by a tremendous post-match segment. A gloating Walter and Tim Thatcher taunt their longtime rival David Starr, who then tends to Devlin, looking precisely as devestated by this loss as a former champion should.

I’ve seen a lot of great matches in my time as an OTT fan, and have a great attachment to them as a promotion and Devlin as a performer. But this was a match that felt like it simultaneously encapsulated everything great about the promotion, while also shattering the glass ceiling of what people think about as a “great OTT match.” It’s a detail-oriented, minimalist classic, where every second is treated as important, and the crowd reacts like the winner’s purse goes straight into their pockets.

With so much left on the table for a rematch (the match very intentionally shied away from any kind of finisher spam), the really exciting thing is considering what they’ll do when Devlin rebuilds himself to try again.

Walter vs. Ilja Dragunov (wXw, 16 Carat Gold 2017, Night 3)

Watch this match here (sub required, €9.99 monthly)

The buzz for this match after 16 Carat was huge. It got ‘must watch’ recommendations from folks who I trust like Alan4L, Allan Blackstock, and other reliable people who are not called A(l)lan.

Naturally there is a ‘live bump’ when it comes to wrestling – an added glow to a match that you only experience when in attendance. Sometimes an okay match is amazing live. Other times an amazing match is slightly more amazing. Luckily, this was the latter.

I was brand new to wXw before I watched this year’s 16 Carat, but the presenation of Walter was masterful — I’m actually fascinated to watch his back catalog of matches there. I know he’s been in wXw for years, so whether or not he’s been this well presented for his whole career intrigues me. He was the big, terrifying monster who looked impossible to hurt and effortlessly violent. Watching the whole tournament helps, but this is also conveyed when watching the match as a standalone. Dragunov is harder to describe; an entirely unique babyface. He’s like what Dean Ambrose espires to be in terms of bizarre charisma, with elements of the Ultimate Warrior to boot. But more importantly, there’s something about him that’s entirely his own that I can’t quite compare to any one who came before him, and that’s special.

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The match was largely Walter brutalizing Dragunov, who wouldn’t stay down, although Ilja did get some good flurries of offence to show he could hang. There was extended sequences of chopping which resulted in Dragunov’s chest turning a hideous shade of purple, and it looked as though it was peeling.

It was a classic match structure, carried by the charisma and presence of both men. It was a tournament final that actually lived up to the three shows that came before it, and that’s rare these days. The tournament as a whole is worth checking out, but if you’re limited on time, night three is a great introuction to wXw with a perfect main event to ensure you’ll come back for more.