The battle between Patrick Donovan and Brad Rochelle that opens BG East's Wrestlefest 2 is one of my favorite matches either man wrestled. Donovan plays the arrogant villain nicely, and Rochelle is the aw-shucks boy-next-door who kicks his ass. Donovan's climactic comeuppance is one of my favorite moments of wrestling revenge and one I will revisit soon, perhaps within these pages. Wrestlefest 3 features several fine matches, but the one that gives me deja vu all over again is Jonny Firestorm versus Austin Raines in the final match.
Like Patrick, Austin plays the preening egotist well. He makes his entrance to universal boos at ringside, and he only worsens the situation by gloating over kicking Christian Taylor's ass in Undagear 13. It doesn't help that he looks like a smart, thin-lipped hipster, quietly broadcasting his superiority to the rest of us with a stiff, forced smile. The two wrestlers haven't even squared off, and already I'm ready for Jonny to fuck Austin up.
Jonny is in fantastic shape here, built like a rocket launcher. (Austin has a pretty build too, maybe a tad too pretty, but Jonny's about to fix that for him.) We know all about Firestorm's sadistic streak. And we know Austin's height advantage means squat in wrestling. As the wiry hotshot taunts Jonny into a posedown, we're licking our chops, waiting for the good shit to happen. Naturally--and quite rightly--the players build up to this moment. Austin starts off promisingly, with a full nelson, but Jonny breaks loose and reverses. Then a little back and forth before Jonny gets Austin's shoulders to the mat and slaps a little of the smug off his face.
What makes this work especially (like Rochelle-vs-Donovan 15 years earlier) is, with the jeers and cheers of the small audience, we see Jonny as the archetypal "local hero," facing off against the "detested outsider." It's pure small-town clannishness, and really I should be above this. It's not right that I don't sympathize with Austin. After all, he's the odd man out here and, as regards muscle and ring savvy, the underdog too. In real life, my lefty values should put me in his corner, not Jonny's. That it doesn't is largely because I'm a Firestorm fan and I enjoy the fact that I'm decidedly biased in his favor--the guy's lovable, what can I say?--and Raines isn't fazed by the ringsiders' contempt for him, so convinced he is of his innate superiority, thus giving me nothing to hang my pity on. He's in the ring with a big fat chip on his shoulder, just daring the local kid to knock it off--and I'm all set to rub one out as soon as Jonny swats that chip right out of the ring.
The boys are smart not to play this as a total squash job (which I usually dislike, except under unusual circumstances). As in Rochelle-vs-Donovan, the arrogant outsider puts in quite a few good moves. He earns our respect. He even earns Jonny's respect. We think he might really be the hotshot wrestler he thinks he is. Or at least much much better than we had assumed. That, however, doesn't change the fact that he's got to get his ass handed to him. No, nothing's gonna change that. And, deliciously, while he's got Firestorm down in an armbar scissors hold, Raines drives some stiff punches to Jonny's exposed abs. Little touches like that whet our appetites for the tasty whipping he's got coming to him later.
Immediately Austin's cheap attack leads to a fiery beatdown in the corner, in my opinion the part of the ring tailor made for comeuppance. Austin breaks loose only by (again deliciously) raking his fingers across Jonny's eyes and then binding the man's arms between the top and middle ropes and smashing the sole of his black boot to Jonny's tender nards. About this time, I'm enjoying the idea (entirely fictitious, I'm sure) that Jonny's whole motive for getting back into shape (more than that, getting into the best shape of his life!) was precisely to beat up Austin--I visualize those long purpose-driven training montages that were essential to every Rocky and Rambo movie ever made. Sweet. (Just the thought of some guy spending months in the gym just to get ready to fight you has to be a turn-on.)
Each man wins a round to set up a Round 3 where everybody is ready to get all riled up, in and out of the ring. As beautifully as Jonny suffers, though, I like him best in full-on revenge mode. Nobody is more creative in finding ways to demolish (and humiliate) his opponent than Firestorm. Of course, the bad blood has built up to such an extent by the end of the third round that the fight goes on to a fourth and a fifth (plus three unforgettable codas). Cheap shots abound, the action intensifies, Austin builds a longer and longer list of crimes he must pay for, and the final six or seven minutes are payback paradise.