Timothy Thatcher vs Joe Graves
In this 2014 gladiatorial exhibition from Premier Wrestle, Thatcher and Graves mix pro wrestling spots into real submission wrestling, and I love the results. The two strongmen spend most of the match on the mat, tearing into each other, working up a sweat, twisting wrists at angles the human skeleton is not built to accommodate, and if the finish is not everything I would want it to be (and it isn't), I feel nothing but happy thoughts about the fifteen aggression-packed minutes that lead up to it.
I wish more companies would adopt this hybrid approach. Movies like Medium Cool and Borat mixed reality and fiction to good effect. Why can't pro wrestling do more of the same, especially since it already straddles the sport/entertainment divide? From what I have read, this is exactly the kind of match pro-wrestling circuits produced in the 1920s and 1930s. Graves and Thatcher grapple freestyle and throw in a few body tosses and punches to sex up the story. For all I know, the two men wrestled for real before showtime to determine how the embellished match should end, the way carnival wrestlers used to do. The crowd gets something that is at once authentic and theatrical, satisfying two levels of involvement at once.
As for the disappointing ending, I agree with EricR at the blog Segunda Caída:
[I]t feels like a friend made you a comp tape and this match was the last match on the tape, and the tape just runs out before the end. So you're just watching this awesome struggle, and suddenly the tape automatically stops and begins rewinding. [...] As it stands, the work is excellent, and you couldn't even call the finish disgustingly bad. It's not like there was a goofy run-in or belt shot or something. This is more of a passively cruel finish. But, thank goodness it exists at all.