SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
HEADLINE: One hour, 45 minutes, and 35 seconds
NOTE: The full match is below from CWF Mid-Atlantic’s YouTube page.
Saturday night at the CWF Mid-Atlantic Sportatorium, in scenic Gibsonville, N.C., I saw one of the best matches I’ve ever seen in my life. Considering the now seventy-eight year old Master of the Kiwi Roll Abe Jacobs was in the first match I saw live, that covers some ground.
Trevor Lee, currently the TNA X Division Champion, won the CWF Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship from Roy Wilkins by submission in one hour, forty-four minutes, and thirty-five seconds.
Yeah, I know. One hour, forty-four minutes, and thirty-five seconds.
Here’s the thing. It worked.
I knew going in this had the possibility of being a great match. So did everyone else packing the Sportatorium. Trevor Lee, 22 years old, grew up in the Omega Age of Carolinas pro wrestling. He is not just part of the generation (or two) of wrestlers around these parts that were primarily inspired by the Hardy Boyz, his father helped found their Omega promotion. He’s been wrestling for several years, as you might imagine, and while he’s wrestled for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla – maybe the ultimate boutique promotion – the last couple of seasons and is not only X Division champ, but a former TNA tag champ and Global Force performer. (Of course TNA and Global Force are now just other places to start your notoriety, but maybe not make a living yet).
Lee’s home promotion, though, is CWF Mid-Atlantic and their home base is that strip mall Sportatorium. In TNA he’s a part of the troupe. In CWF he has the freedom to push the boundaries of his abilities, knowledge and, athleticism. Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Luke Harper, and Rob McBride have wrestled for CWF. It’s that kind of place. Lee knows he can paint his own picture here and it sure looked like this was his last stand on the home front. The guy is a star, the name of the show was End of An Era (a name that clearly fit the circumstances) and the stipulation was that if Lee lost he would never wrestle for CWF again. CWF’s Brad Stutts had gone everywhere that would have him to make it clear that CWF would uphold that stipulation, no matter what.
I thought Trevor Lee was going to put on one last tour-de-force, only to lose in the end, putting over his great rival Roy Wilkins as a graduation gift, but damn, I wanted to see Lee to win the one championship that had eluded him here. It’s pretty much what everyone in the place was hoping, except for maybe that loud smart-ass heel fan kid who’s always up at the top of the bleachers.
It was Lee and Roy Wilkins, obviously, who were at the core of what made this a great match. Lee, the great challenger and major league prospect who never won that one main CWF Championship and who was clearly not long for the Sportatorium, versus Wilkins the cheating champion with that tough MMA/Pro Wrestling combo look. The word on Trevor Lee has been out for a whole, but Roy Wilkins has the talent and work ethic to be on that next list of PWG/Evolve/ROH/NXT types. He played the perfect foil for Lee here, and why not? CWF has been building this rivalry for a long time. The two already pulled off a one hour no-ropes match several months ago, but who knew they had this in mind?
That we didn’t know that THIS was what we were in for is one of the big reasons Lee and Wilkins (and really, the entire CWF promotion) could pull it off. CWF set the stage by returning from intermission (after three decent preliminary matches designed to set things in motion for later while not sapping the audience’s energy), sending out a clearly emotional Lee first, who made sure to look around to every corner of a packed Sportatorium like he wanted to cement it all in his memory because, well…
Roy Wilkins, the Mid-Atlantic champion, arrived with his manager, Coach Gemini, and his reconstituted All-Stars. The Coach is pure heel, a front-running baseball manager in Tobacco Road basketball country, complete with long baseball socks on his skinny legs and a waterboy named Chappy. Coach got his during the match, and Chappy the Waterboy got it several times.
It began with that big fight feel, the two locking up collar and elbow and bulling each other around the ring. You could tell from the beginning this was going to be epic. Everything was in place for high drama, and everybody worked like the consequences of the match were the most important thing in the world.
It helped that drama tremendously that you didn’t know exactly how long this was going to go. Most falls in a 60 minute time limit matches are always hurt by the fact that the contrived stipulation tells fans that what happens for most of the match isn’t all that important, that really they can sit back until the end of the hour. The CWF crowd jumped for the near falls and near submissions because of that uncertainty about when the match would end, and because Lee and Wilkins took the time and care to sell everything thoroughly. These two even got a pop for Lee popping (and seemingly breaking) Wilkins’ finger early on. Whether it was the meticulous wrestling or the well set up big spots (interestingly enough, the water boy did more flying over the top rope than the competitors) it was the set-up work that made the big stuff resonate.
Five years ago I saw Ring of Honor’s Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin & “Die Hard” Eddie Edwards, & El Generico against Jay & Mark Briscoe & Roderick Strong & “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin go an hour and twenty minutes plus to much less effect, because as athletic as they were, the match was really just one big fast dangerous finisher that wasn’t the finish after another, and in the end the “That’s gotta be it, that’s not it?!?” wore the paying customers out.
Lee and Wilkins worked a much smarter, better paced match, giving the fans time to recover when they needed it.
Sure, CWF bumped four different referees in and out after head ref Brian “Red” Jones set an intense pace for the first hour, and major CWF players like Lee’s Aftermath partner Chet Sterling, Ric Converse, and Brad Attitude hit big match beats, but in the end the match always came back to the wrestling, and to what fans were hoping against hope for – that Trevor Lee would somehow, someway see his way to the championship. That’s what kept everyone in the match, what the fans kept cheering for, and in the end the fans got what they wanted, an emotional celebration for Trevor Lee’s submission victory.
Is one hour, forty-four minutes, and thirty-five minutes too long for a wrestling match? The answer is simple. Pro wrestling is about what works, and this match did. It worked because all the elements to capture CWF fans was put into place beforehand, and then Lee and Wilkins delivered the goods.
(Bruce Mitchell has been a PWTorch columnist since 1990. He hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night at 7 ET with Travis Bryant at www.PWTorchLivecast.com. The weekly two-hour Bruce Mitchell Audio Show with host Wade Keller is a VIP audio staple for years and is part of over a dozen VIP exclusive audio shows that run usually daily or weekly for online members.)