As previously reported, Braden Charron has crossed over to Thunder's Arena, with two matches in the bag and another (against Batar) on the way later this month. Of the three the one I had the least expectations of was his match against Tak (in Mat Rats 22), but I watched this match via download this weekend and, despite some glitches in the download process (the fault of my weak Internet connection, cheapskate that I am in my choice of providers), I was riveted.
My low expectations had nothing to do with Tak or Braden individually. Braden's BG East match against Alexi Adamov is one of my favorites this year, as is Tak's bruising encounter with Prep in Battlespace 28 at Thunder's. My problem was with the weight discrepancy. Both of Braden's first two Arena matches are against wrestlers he outweighs by about fifty pounds (his upcoming opponent Batar will be a close match in height and weight and I'm looking forward to it). At least in Angel he has an opponent who, although smaller, shares his dense muscularity. But Tak's tall, lean swimmer's build struck me as ill-suited for taking on a hardbody like Braden, even though Tak has a history of challenging big wrestlers (like Dominic, Big Sexy, and even his big brother, Impact).
I was wrong. Physical differences aside, Braden and Tak are pretty well matched opponents. Tak is stronger than he looks, and Braden eventually proves himself as crafty a tactician as Tak. The blond's flippant mouthiness not only nicely complements Braden's stony determination but also adds some voltage to it. In MR22, Tak engages in psychological warfare against Braden--mocking his strong points (his Michelangelesque muscularity) and underselling Braden's most punishing holds, all in an effort to blow Braden's cool and get under the man's skin. If the plan was to make Braden lose control, then Tak both succeeds and tragically miscalculates. Braden indeed loses his cool. Somewhere near the halfway point of the match, he is red-faced and steely-eyed, the veins popping on his neck and forehead. But out-of-control Braden proves to be not so advantageous to Tak as he must have hoped.
Round 1, though hard fought, goes to Braden, whose size and mass gradually wear down and overpower his opponent's quickness and stealth, pretty much as expected. Round 2 shows us what Tak can do, not just because he's smart and resilient but also because he's amazingly strong. It's this round that began to change my attitude about this match and that sets up a pretty astounding final confrontation. By the closing round, the two wrestlers have established themselves as near equals on the mat. Now comes the pounding that determines which of these guys struts away victorious at the end of this unexpectedly grueling 28-minute battle and which is left broken and humbled, nose to the mat.