Without prologue Thunder's Arena's new star Lupe makes his debut holding TAK up against the wall in a two-handed choke, screaming repeatedly, "Where is it?" The "it" in question has no antecedent or reference point, but we read Lupe's rage all right: irrational, volatile, sadistic, virile. The unconventional opening of Battlespace 64 is right on the money, as I see it, and it's a perfect entrance for former pro wrestler Lupe, opting for a comeback via the Arena mats. He charges the air at Thunder's garage matroom with a new, lively energy, and if he pushes the company a little closer to the kind of raw heat of pro-style ring matches, that's not a bad thing.

This is a significant game change for Thunder's Arena, for a while associated solely with jokey frat-house hijinks (with quite a few noteworthy exceptions, which I've reviewed elsewhere on this blog). This match is testosterone-fueled, with the added kicker of a deliberately unspecified grudge. TAK looks like this is exactly the kind of match he's been waiting for, and he's up for it 100 percent. Lupe yanks him to one side by an ear and then body-slams his ass to the mat. Having taken on bigger challenges than this, TAK slugs Lupe's chest, winding him, thus gaining his release, and swings around behind the new guy for a full nelson. "First of all," he shoots back, snarling, "I didn't take it! Second of all, even if I did take it, I wouldn't tell you where it was ... get me?!?"

Lupe's captivity is short-lived. Powering out of TAK's nelson, Lupe proceeds to paralyze the blond in a chickenwing-chinlock combination. It's clear by now that the Arena has decided not to go the usual route, that is, not initiate the new hire with a one-sided and humiliating beatdown. Though TAK is hardly his equal physically, Lupe has to fight  every second for his dominant position here, but dominant he definitely is for the better part of this 23-minute battle. His catch-style wrestling body, 6'4", 220#, is in sharp contrast to TAK's  toned gymnast's build, 5'10", 156#, but it's definitely Lupe who's got the edge in power and pugnacity. It's not just hype when the Arena dubs this "one of the best big vs little beat downs this year." It's hard for me to keep up with Thunder's constant output, so I can't speak with any degree of authority, but I'd say this is THE hottest beatdown I've seen in a long while, and if the Arena has produced any that's close to this one in 2013, I'd be damn happy to put it on my wish list.


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