Everybody's lining up for a piece of UCW's new blond muscle hunk, Erik the Viking. First set up against fellow newby Billy Gunn in #313, in #319 Erik faces his second challenge in young and game Michael Hannigan, who's been with the company for over a year. Erik's got the lean and hungry look you are supposed to watch out for, always scheming for trouble, those guys. With his Norseman bloodline, you can be sure he fights till his fists wear down to nubs. In stark contrast to some of UCW's wide-eyed babyfaces (like Hannigan, for instance), Erik looks like a born battler. Even if I spotted the guy at a Hare Krishna Peace and Love Rally, I'd undress him with my eyes and then mentally toss him into a steel cage. That's where this guy would look most at home.
Erik flexes for the camera. Michael smugly mocks him from behind. Then, without a lot of fanfare, the two go at it, Erik starting out strong and dominant, as expected. He throws his whole body into the fight, leaping high in the air to lend his forearm smashes some added force. In no time he's got Hannigan in a Boston crab, moaning, and it looks like the boys may pick up their paychecks and head home early, before the two-minute mark. But toughened after months of hard discipline under his mentor, Axel, Hannigan refuses to submit, forcing the Viking to cook up a new strategy. Pounding Michael into the mat and raking his fingernails down the boy's face turns out to be Plan B. The guy is intense.
Seconds later, Hannigan powers out of a headlock to start spooning up some payback on the new guy. He has his way with the blond for about two minutes, about the same amount of time he was ravaged earlier. This match is complicated. On one hand, you expect a sinewy hunk like Erik to make short work of Hannigan, who's fit but still not hard. On the other hand, he is the new guy, and we expect Hannigan to have the home-turf advantage, having been at UCW for about fourteen months. It's part of wrestling tradition for a recruit, no matter how sharp a physical specimen he may be, to get a welcoming beatdown. This match stays evenly give-and-take for the full 32 minutes. I begin to worry that it's all going to end in a draw. I hate that. But I need not worry.
Erik gets to show off his moves, and he's got some exciting ones. He looks more relaxed here than he was in his debut. He even shows a propensity for the kind of stiff chops and raunchy punishments that UCW has built its reputation on, at one point reaching inside Hannigan's trunks to twist the guy's cock and balls (though, for all the world, it looks like he's stroking them, so I'm holding my breath, half-expecting to see the dawn of a new era at UCW--but, sorry, guys, no breaking of new ground, not today). Erik's really having a good time of it ... or else just asking for trouble, one or the other.
Hannigan demonstrates that all the hard work Axel's put into training him is paying off. Never the most expressive of the wrestlers on the roster, he has nevertheless proved his resilience again and again and, even from the beginning, when Twisted blindsided him at the state park, an instinct for pulling out a trick or two when we least expect it. Even at the last minute of this match, it's unclear whether Hannigan or the Viking will ultimately triumph. Erik desperately wants to position himself as the man to reckon with at UCW. His startlingly cut physique and aggressive competitiveness have already caught fans' attention, whatever the outcome of this bout. Hannigan has never looked as determined to turn the tide and prove himself to be championship material, to pull himself free of Axel's shadow and a year of mostly playing the victim of stalkers and bullies.
Seconds ticking away, and the fight can still go either way. In the end, the glory goes to the guy who's got the greater staying power and the greater drive to dominate and crush. Either way, a star is born.