Gonna Make You Sweat
Austin Tyler vs Erik the Viking, Match 551 (UCW)
If I had the money, this would be the custom match I would have ordered. Sweat, fighters with meat on their bones, hair-yanking, figure-four chokes (plural, as in not just one), all of it threading through the video like dah-dah-dah-duh through a Beethoven symphony: Yeah, somebody's been reading my mail all right. For eight years, off and on, Ringside at Skull Island and UCW have been like one heart beating in two chests. It's like we can finish each other's sentences sometimes. Or so it seems when I see a match like Austin Tyler vs Erik the Viking. I've loved a lot of matches over the years, but this is the first one that, with eerie exactitude, incarnates the sights and sounds of my 12-Kleenex fantasies.
To top it all off, Erik plays a dangerous game of just-asking-for-it ... and with a pro wrestler of Tyler's talents, you get what you ask for. Comeuppance is my bread and lube, naturally, and the design of this match, while not casting the Viking outright as a bad guy, presents him as at least suffering from a severe case of hubris, tempting fate or, to quote Nancy Sinatra, "a-messin' where you shouldn't've been a-messin.'" Soon as Erik laughs off Austin's promise to "school" him, I hear the first iteration of dah-dah-dah-duh. It's not that Austin completely outclasses Erik. That wouldn't interest me, since I love give and take. But Austin outclasses Erik enough that when the Viking, chuckling like a cartoon villain, fondles the pro wrestler's family jewels, despite being warned not to do that, I know things will not go well for our Erik.
Retribution comes fast in the form of a kneecap-busting leg lock, delivered by a pair of legs (Austin's) that look like they can crack open carburetors. But Erik's not licked yet, and there's plenty of fight left to be fought. Perspiration makes a dramatic appearance about 14 and a half minutes into the fight. And in a matter of minutes we're talking Max Ryder-grade sweating. I am in heaven.
Both wrestlers are at or near the top of my list of personal favorites, not just for their good looks but also for their moxie on the wrestling mat. As I'm sure I've said elsewhere, the UCW fight room has become the most iconic space in underground wrestling; its air of intimacy and confinement gives every fight grit and gravitas it might not have otherwise. The 30-minute struggle between Austin and Erik fills the space with echoing grunts and moans and an overall tone of entrapment and merciless chastisement. No UCW match this year, easily its most momentous year yet, has seeped into my subconscious as quickly and deeply as this one. This is a fight that will live in my dreams.