This afternoon Mike Bennett told his Facebook friends that his climactic TV match against Lance Storm was "a huge highlight of my career," adding that he is "extremely proud and incredibly grateful for this." Lance trained both Mike and Mike's girlfriend Maria Kanellis, and in what was touted as perhaps Storm's last hurrah in the squared circle, taped late in June and broadcast on August 4th, he does everything in his power to put "The Prodigy" over with the fans. (The match fills the last half of the show, which you can now watch in its entirety here.)
Mike has long been a favorite of mine, even before he hit ROH, and the buzz on the Internet is that, despite a paucity of wins, Bennett ranks among the very best wrestlers at Ring of Honor. His string of spectacular losses against the likes of Eddie Edwards, Jay Lethal, and Caleb Konley has been the most entertaining feature at ROH, in my opinion. Nobody sells other wrestlers' finishers as well as he, and his agonized crawling on all fours to the ring ropes has been the highpoint of many a classic bout. And who else has generated so much heat by flaunting his heterosexuality? His in-ring liplocks with Maria simultaneously arouse and enrage the fans, predictably triggering panic and frenzy time and time again. Lately Mike has only enhanced the esteem in which I hold him by being a vocal advocate of LGBT rights and President Obama's reelection (I do love it when my heroes are ideologically aligned).
Mike, in his late twenties, and Lance, in his early forties, are in all other respects evenly matched here, the third in a trilogy of fights (first in Toronto, then in Fort Lauderdale). The commentators make a lot of the age difference, but this is as strenuous and ferocious a match as I have seen this year. It hits all the right buttons with me--bodies coiled and sweaty, a toe-to-toe slugfest, the heel's usurpation of the hero's signature move, outside interference, tons of cockiness, and a speedy what-the-fuck-just-happened climax. Knowing that early in his career Mike moved to Calgary just to train under Lance makes this epic feud all the more bittersweet ... and, for this gay man and educator, all the more poignant.