Joker vs Axel, Match 567 (UCW)
UCW has been talking about getting a ring for as long as I've known the company. Fittingly, two ex-champs with ring experience inaugurate it - who also happen to be the current wrestlers who go the furthest back with UCW.
I'm pleased to see the guys aren't giving up mat action. A good 80 percent of the match consists of grappling at the center of the blood-red mat, with moderate use of the ropes, mostly to break a hold. About a third of the way into the 29-minute fight, Axel crooks Joker's leg around the bottom rope for added stress and punishment, having just given the knee a perilous workout in a figure-four leg lock.
Weaponizing the ropes is a more satisfying employment than using them as springboards - though I'm not opposed to top-rope leaps and Irish whips as dramatic punctuation. Still, grappling and punching and slamming and hurting are the four main components of my idea of hot pro-style wrestling. Everything else, in my opinion, is garnish.
It's a bit of a surprise to see Joker extending his hand to Axel first, honoring their longevity with the company and their long (and bumpy) acquaintance. Let's not get carried away in the moment and start calling it a friendship. More surprising, he doesn't kick Axel in the nuts in the middle of the handshake. (He does, however, throw him to the mat in the middle of a "friendly" hug.)
The action is give and take - and friendlier than I expected, even considering the high-spirited way UCW wrestlers like to cause pain. My favorite part is Joker's corner work on Axel, however hurried and, in typical heel style, played to the camera.
I will probably need some time to get used to the idea of a ring at UCW. I love it and yet I'm also peculiarly sentimental about the old fight spaces. One thing I'm certain of is that, once the new wears off, this crew of bad-asses will find uses for the squared circle I've never seen anywhere before.
Visit UCW here.