Eli Black vs Rico, #498 (UCW)
I've had a couple of occasions to observe Eli Black's star appeal up close. His charisma is most evident in repose, when his body is idle but his brain is obviously at work, concocting who-knows-what mischief. When he's in action on the mat, his speed and savagery are all I notice. But in the interim moments, or in the quiet times before and after a match, he holds my rapt attention no less.
Eli deserves his many fans, not only for his fight savvy and instinctual cruelty, but also for that hard-to-define quality every born star possesses: the power to make the rest of us wonder what's on his mind. UCW new hire Rico is one of Black's most ardent fans. Perhaps it's just part of the scenario's setup, but his professed admiration of the more experienced wrestler strikes me as completely authentic.
Naively, Rico asks permission to punch the uber-heel's abs, which bear a legendary reputation of their own quite separate from their owner's. Rico's request is a bit like asking somebody "May I pet your dog?" though in this case we're looking at a snarling pit-fighting cur. Eli consents, apparently good-naturedly, but you and I both know it's a trap.
I'm surprised how quickly UCW decided to throw Rico to Eli. Since throwing newbies into the deep end of the pool is standard policy for Bodyslam and Axel, I should not be surprised. Rico handles the situation admirably, which is not to say winningly. He's still a little slow in selling his opponent's assaults, but he learns quickly, and he works Eli convincingly, too, proving that he's not just another goldfish for the Piranha-Boy to shred and gulp down.
This is a rich and satisfying fight, though the scales tilt decidedly in Black's favor. I'm never bored by Black, but Rico gives him plenty to work with here. As always, Eli is a wonder and a mystery. Who can blame Rico for willingly stepping into his lair?