I watched Eli Black's sophomore match at Rock Hard Wrestling yesterday. At the startup, Black promises to put Alexi Ivanov's muscles to the test, and Ivanov dopily grins, under the impression apparently that three rounds with the mean-tempered Eli will be just another day in Gorky Park. For two or three seconds I was convinced that Black might go easy on the new guy, but in less than a minute the gangly Ivanov is stretched out on the mat, skin flushed and shiny with sweat, as Eli stands over him, glowering.
Eli has a thing about muscles, his muscles mainly, and maybe the Russian's nicely clipped pectorals are a provocation. He doesn't say. He assumes the attitude of master punisher, explaining key points in the art of dealing out hurt, profusely illustrated, as if he were going over questions in the back of the Florida Driver's Manual. Eli holds forth on his solid "core" as a trained professional MMA fighter, framing his tight abdominals between his two hands, illustratively--and then he slams into Alexi's midsection to prove that the tall rookie, nice as he is in other respects, does not have a solid core to speak of.
"I thought you were tougher than that," Eli states, matter of factly, not particularly disappointed because he has no qualms about trashing a guy who lies down and takes it. "Little girl," he badgers. "I don't know what the hell you came to the US for, man. Tell you what, though, while you're here, let's see how much pain you can endure." Black hangs Ivanov on the ropes like wet laundry. He grinds the man's adam's apple to the rope. Then he uses the new guy's kidney for a speed bag. "C'mon, scream!" Eli snaps at Alexi, irritated by the man's stoic air of imperturbability.
For my part I would like to see Ivanov put up more of a fight. He rouses now and then to deliver some payback to the hotshot American, but as you might expect, since this is Ivanov's debut match, we mostly get a squash job. Lovers of a one-sided match will lap this up, of course, and well they should. Not that there isn't plenty here for the rest of us to like, too--especially Black's constant stream of shit talking and his untiring effort to find a new part of his opponent to bruise. And Eli has a point--though he strikes me as the sort who could not give a rat's ass whether I see his point or not--that if Ivanov isn't going to put up a decent fight, the least he can do is scream his bloody lungs out.
Whether we're seeing a new talent being broken in or just plain broken remains to be seen. What is crystal clear is that Black--who played the punching bag for Jake Jenkins in his debut--is coming into his own as a star in his second showing at Rock Hard. He may be slim, but there's no "twink" in this tattooed roughneck. The man's a brute, twice the brute of three-quarters of the galoots in the major cable-TV promotions. Chalk that up to his MMA credentials or his nasty disposition, either way Eli's on a short track to superstardom. All it will take now is a racking head-to-head against somebody like Ethan Andrews, followed by a grudge-fueled rematch with Jenkins, win or lose, and Black's niche will be fixed in the pantheon of underground wrestling.