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Eli Black vs Johnny Deep, #499 (UCW)

Here's the problem. If I tell you that the ending of UCW's #499 is a surprise, you'll know that Johnny wins. If I say it's no surprise at all, you'll know that Eli wins. This is a problem because this match is all about its finish, a surprisingly close one, following almost 27 minutes of rugged give and take. Smilin' Johnny puts up one hell of a fight against an opponent who personifies doom for most wrestlers who step on the mat against him.

When Eli finds Johnny in the UCW fight space, he says, "I thought I had retired your ass." Johnny's surprised Eli's still around, too. Eli says he's here just for a workout, but seeing Johnny, as pristinely pretty as ever (though definitely all grown up now), he says he kinda "want[s] to do something about it" and strips off his shirt. The two lock up like a couple of magnets drawn to each other.

This is not the first time these two have squared off. I last saw them together a couple of years ago (#355) in a tag-team event on opposite sides. Shortly before that (#354), they slicked up for some oil wrestling. Depending on how you want to count these things, they have met four or five times before this match, including Johnny's 2013 debut. In none of these matches does the still wet-behind-the-ears Deep put up as tough a fight as this one.

Eli's as cool as ever. He's not slowing down or pulling back as he matures. If anything, maturity has taught him new forms of punishment to practice on opponents. He's always been immaculately fit, but now he's in his best shape ever. Eli's thing is control. He's not a rage-aholic or an outright sadist--though he gives fans glimpses of both from time to time. No, Black is all about containing his opponent, wearing him down, and, as much as possible, making sure he thinks twice before stepping on the mat again.

Having seen these two together before, I thought I knew what to expect. I was two-thirds right and one-third wrong, and this match gives me something I could not have expected--a fierce, strong (though smiling) offense from Deep, and Black.finding himself in one tight spot after another.


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