Joe Graves vs. Timothy Thatcher from PREMIER Wrestling 2015
Post Bill Thompson:
Now, that’s how you make a guy matter!
This is a Round Robin Rounds Match in the Embrace the Grind Challenge.
When I write about grappling heavy matches, I often end up focusing on the idea of struggle. The reason for that is very simple: struggle is of the utmost importance to the grappling style. (Editor’s note: #grapplefuck is certainly a struggle.) If there is no sense of struggle, then all the back and forth grappling in the ring comes across like so much fluff. The best of the grappling style conveys a sense of working hard to maintain holds, counter wrestle, move from position to position, and so on and so forth. What I don’t focus on enough is something that is borne out of struggle; frustration.
Joe Graves versus Timothy Thatcher is about frustration, specifically the frustration of Thatcher. Throughout the independent scene, and in PREMIER Wrestling in particular, he has been played up as the premier, pardon the obvious pun, grappler. As the grappling heavy style has caught on, he has been at the forefront, and in many ways he has been put forth as the unbeatable master of the style. When he loses, it’s usually because of elements outside of grappling, not the grappling itself (the obvious exception being Drew Gulak in EVOLVE Wrestling in what should make for a cool storyline). The point being if you go to the mat with Timothy Thatcher, you are in trouble because he will work you over.
That’s not what happens in this match as it is consistently Graves who is one step ahead of Thatcher. It’s not just quickness either, although Graves’ inherent speed advantage is a major aspect of the match. Graves is outgrappling Thatcher at every turn, and Thatcher never truly has an answer for him. The longer the match goes the more both men relay the struggle of their contest, and the more frustrated Thatcher becomes.
It’s little things at first, like him being unable to avoid the counters of Graves. This manifests in Thatcher smirking in between rounds, a smirk that says, “What is going on here, mate?” As Graves continues to outwork Thatcher the frustration becomes physical as when a round has ended and Thatcher kicks at Graves like a baby who’s had his bottle taken away. The ultimate culmination of Graves’ approach to the match is when Thatcher goes all in on an attempt at a submission, and he leaves himself wide open to a nasty Cross Armbreaker from Graves.
In that moment a new emotion enters the fray; struggle begat frustration which has now brought about resignation. Thatcher doesn’t give up, but he stops trying to outright grapple with Graves and turns to throws, the occasional strike, and getting into Graves’ head. None of it works though, because this is Graves’ night. It’s his time to shine, and when he is able to effortlessly pounce on the back of an exhausted Thatcher his plan bears the ultimate fruit, a victory over the premier grappler.
Needless to say the work in between the bells that is put in to tell the above story is excellent. Thatcher goes out of his way to make Graves feel like a main event player on the California indie scene. Graves takes what Thatcher offers him and runs with it, looking perhaps the best I have ever seen him look. Thatcher sells the damage to his arm splendidly, while Graves is just as on point when it comes to ramping up his intensity near the end of the match. Top notch work from both men, though at this point I don’t expect anything less from Timothy Thatcher.
Ending a fun card with a legitimate match of the year contender sure was a great addition to my day. Thatcher and Graves put on one heck of a showing; with Graves seeming like he’s ready to be explode all over the indie scene any day now. I do love me some grappling, and when you give me high quality grappling with struggle, frustration, and resignation that results in excellent storytelling I don’t think I could have more fun watching the pro graps.