Right from the start, we have a fast pace with both men exchanging strikes on one another to the point that the pudgy, incompetent Cooper had to (poorly) make his presence known. While that makes it obvious the two do not like each other, it still would have been beneficial to mention that the two have a pretty storied history (e.g. JHalc’s first world championship win ending Razor’s first world championship reign). Obviously with somebody like me grading, I know the two have a history. But if somebody who didn’t know your characters very well were to read this, it takes out a big chunk of the overall story for them.
Moving along though, I enjoyed the action of the match and also liked how you had the crowd flip-flip back and forth, not truly wanting to support either man. The advantage flip-flopped back and forth for both wrestlers, and the detail and selling helped visual the action taking place. Razor reopening JHalc’s stitches and JHalc trying to pay no mind to it was a good touch. The subsequent one-handed bulldog followed up with his second attempt at the snap DDT was also written very fluidly. The following paragraph with JHalc missing the heavily-braced knee drop and instead getting a German suplex into the turnbuckles was another sequence I thought you did quite well. The second attempt at the heavily-braced knee drop was even better, planting it into the back of Razor’s neck and driving his face into the ground, an experience Razor Xtreme knows all too well. The sequence of the powerbomb, pin, and Lights Out with Razor fighting not to be locked in also was a good moment.
The Boston crab that came a little bit after was one of my favorite points of the match. The pain being inflicted on Razor really began setting in at this point, trying to fight his way out and reaching the ropes, only to get dragged back to the center of the ring in an ankle lock. I really like well-done submission transitions and you certainly did that one well. One thing that didn’t confuse me a little bit was the comment of the fans not booing Razor for holding in during a rope break, though they had booed JHalc earlier for the same reason. Razor is supposed to be an absolute dirtbag heel, I wouldn’t imagine they’d take his side against too many wrestlers, even if they weren’t very liked and took cheap tactics against Razor. But I also understand driving home the point that your character isn’t exactly liked by the audience.
Toward the end of the match, I liked Cooper noticing JHalc cheating on the schoolboy and changing his mind on the three-count. The subsequent ending via finisher and clean pin was just fine. Overall the match was a fun back-and-fourth affair that went in many different directions while keeping a solid flow going, and in my opinion got more entertaining the more the match progressed.
While I will admit I’m not usually a big fan of full-sentence trash talking between wrestlers right at the beginning of a match, I otherwise love the way this got started. First laying out that Razor has had a history of falling short against JHalc, quickly getting hotheaded, and JHalc countering every shot Razor attempts before locking him in the Lights Out early. Last week in one of my gradings I said going for a finisher early on in the match is risky because it can disrupt the flow moving forward, but you pulled the spot off perfectly, having JHalc take a risk early and it not pay off. Followed up with Razor locking in a short-lived Royal Throne by catching JHalc mid-leapfrog attempt in the next paragraph was also a great way to set the tone.
You owe somebody an apology right now, Razor. You find Tommy Tickles right now and assure him you’ll never call him Tim again. With that out of the way, this is a wonderful read. The pacing is absolutely spot-on, slow enough to allow for proper selling and description without dragging at all. The move sequences JHalc hits to get on a roll after the Royal Throne was very fluid and logical. Everything kept progressing nicely and I enjoyed when the action spilled to the outside, starting off with the blockbuster from off the apron as well JHalc drilling the snap DDT outside the ring to thwart Razor’s hotheaded intentions. The match continued progressing beautifully, a very back-and-fourth affair that had the selling get progressively better as the match neared the end. The enzuigiri countered into attempted wheelbarrow facebuster countered into a roll-up followed up with a successful enzuigiri was another great spot that you detailed very well and I liked reading. Another spot that falls under that category was JHalc missing the top-rope hurricanrana and chest-planting. Both men really started seeming fatigued around that point and I was starting to wonder where things would go from there.
I also enjoyed a lot of the little comments you threw in there, such as “...he expected JHalc would kick out, but that doesn’t stop him from throwing a fit about it!” That is very accurate for a whiny heel in the mid-stages of a match and minor stuff like that(and the many hilarious comments about Razor having a crush on JHalc’s brother) help add some personality, and you found a great blend to incorporating those types of comments without disrupting the action itself.
The finish, like JHalc’s, was a clean pin off of a finisher, which is a totally sound ending. I definitely liked the build-up to the Royal Vanquish, with JHalc getting Razor up for the RJB before the fatigue/weight difference came into play and dropping Razor back down. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this match. The pacing was magnificent, it was entertaining, and you told a great story.
Both men here put forth great matches that were wonderful to read, with a similar approach of a heated back-and-forth of two guys trying to wear the other down from the very beginning. JHalc had some very entertaining spots with good visual description and selling. Razor had a magnificent pace with good move description and selling. The biggest difference here is storytelling, which I easily give to Razor. His match had the type of feel I was expecting coming in to it, reading a match between somewhat-rivals who have known each other for over a decade. JHalc’s match, while it was still well-written and had some wonderful action in it, didn’t really invest me in the competitors’ dynamics with each other quite like Razor’s did, where I believe he helped make the match-up feel ‘special.’ I enjoyed both matches, but the storytelling advantage and fluid pacing advantage is the determining factor here.
Your winner and advancing to the semi-finals in the Lord Of The Ring tournament… RAZOR XTREME!
I like how the match opened up; no feel-out, no tie-ups, just two guys who had been talking trash to one another leading up to the match going straight for each other’s throats. Michaels attempting the Shattered Teeth Symphony at the point he did was fabulous timing and well-written, adding to it with Troy rolling out of the ring and Michaels mocking him with how close he came to kicking his teeth out in the opening minute. The pace is already off to a fast-start and I am invested in where it goes from here. The next paragraph didn’t disappoint, with Michaels and Spencer getting in a pissing match, allowing the other to fire off chops and trying not to flinch. I am already enjoying the dynamic between the competitors.
What followed for a little while was just a standard, back-and-forth wrestling match. Not much too flashy, but the pacing was good and you could tell it was building up to something else. I think that turning point came at the triple dragon suplex. That was when the action started slowing down a bit and you could start to see both wrestlers showing some signs of fatigue. Shortly after, Spencer hit the Busaiku knee and the way you described the landing had me rubbing my neck in support of David. But Michaels fought through and managed to get Spencer over the top rope and hurt his knee in the process, before crashing and burning on the moonsault to the outside. A great sequence overall that really began to raise the intensity. Spencer pushing the doctor aside so he could keep going to work on Michaels just helped add to it.
I liked the way you had Spencer deal with his knee pain, especially after reaggravating it on the subsequent running knee. I can’t say punching it and yelling at it is going to help matter much, but it can’t hurt to try, Troy! Shortly after, the sequence of the attempted Shattered Teeth Symphonies and Nadirs continually being countered until Spencer hit a Nadir while countering a Predestination was a whole roller coaster ride. As was the shortly-following moment when Troy does a backflip out of a Dragon suplex, for that knee to come back into play and buckle enough for Michaels to capitalize with a STS that I thought was going to be the end of it, but Spencer kicked out. Not much longer a Predestination did the job for good in a nice, clean finish. The post-match stuff was good, I guess, if you like hearing David Michael bully you for a decade of irrelevance…
Overall, this was a very fun match to read. There were a lot of entertaining moments and well-done counters, accompanied by good pacing, good detail, and good selling. I also enjoyed the dynamic between your two characters. There really isn’t much I can think to complain about. There was a slight lull between the opening and the triple dragon suplex, but it got on the right track quickly. Some points of a countering sequence could get a little confusing, but never to the point I couldn’t picture what was going on. A minor thing that I think could have helped was using one of the officials rather than just referring to him as “the referee” throughout the match. It may seem silly and minuscule, but they have some differences amongst them that can affect how you write certain spots. Pretty minor though. This match was a huge step up from your return match in my opinion, which isn’t a knock on that match, but a testament to how much I enjoyed reading this.
Your match started off in a much different way from your opponent’s; that being a handshake offered(by Spencer nonetheless) instead of pouncing on each other. I thought it was hilarious. Who does Troy think he’s fooling? Certainly not Michaels, who refused the handshake, making Troy lose his cool, and capitalized by taking firm control. Michaels, a long-time veteran, sets the tone early on as you would expect, completely neutralizing Spencer until he has to resort to cheap tactics. That low blow was perfect. I loved the whole build up. From Troy frantically trying to escape the German suplex to trapping Cooper against the ropes in the process to obscure his vision, it was all so wonderfully set-up and was detailed so easily to envision. The low blow, followed up with a running knee was an excellent way for the heel Spencer to get the advantage over the veteran Michaels.
I have to say, I am amazed at how fantastic your detail/description is while not overdoing it at all. Reading your match is incredibly smooth, I can almost watch the match taking place move-for-move in my head. I love Spencer’s persona. The way he just shuts Cooper down with a “Jesus Christ. Shut the fuck up.” made me laugh out loud, simply on the delivery alone. That sequence soon after where Michaels’ grabs ahold of Spencer’s wrist and the two exchange strikes for seemingly a whole minute, including a slap to David’s face that Michaels ended up avenging, was superb. My dear God. The food list. David Michaels started shouting food at Troy Spencer. That was about as beautiful of a moment as we could have ever asked for… until Michaels threatened to shatter Troy’s fucking teeth. To which Troy replies by singing some good ol’ Willie Nelson whilst kicking Michaels’ ass. It was all so creative and so much fun to read.
The match is flying by. The pacing is wonderful, with great move transition and momentum shifts. The electric chair turned powerbomb that was so forceful Troy bounced off his back and back up to his feet was another thing that was very creative and I loved the way the whole moment was detailed. The thought of David’s head hitting the edge of the steel steps is gruesome, and the count-out that followed was great stuff. I noticed at one point it was way too long in between the 6 and 7 count and was wondering why. Turns out Cooper was caught up worrying about Michaels’ well-being and forgetting to do his job. That IDIOT. I loved the finish as well, thwarting David’s momentum once again with a couple fingers to the eye and a springboard Nadir, sold perfectly.
I very much enjoyed reading this match. The description and storytelling aspects of it are phenomenal. The pacing and progression were both incredible. Both men were selling the brutal match by the end, and it really helped them both come out of the match looking strong, even in a loss for David. I also enjoy the humor you brought to this, certainly adding some personality but also never to the point you stop taking the match seriously. This was an absolutely fantastic read. I can’t think of anything to critique, aside from it may be a bit out of character for Michaels to actually say “fuck” on TV. He’s always been more of a “freakin’”guy.
This is certainly one of those moments where you don’t want to make either man the winner, because you don’t want either of them to lose. David Michaels had a fast-paced, action-filled match with a really enjoyable dynamic between him and his opponent. Troy Spencer’s pace was certainly much slower, but he told a wonderful story in the process and detailed the action beautifully, as well as holding an advantage with selling. I’ve read through both matches multiple times and I’ve swayed back and forth. I think the deciding factor that comes into play is the personality added. David’s certainly matched the attitude of both wrestlers very well, but Troy reallllly had fun with it, doing things like yelling out food and singing Willie. The added humor didn’t take away from the match, and rather enhanced it in my opinion, and I think Troy Spencer told an amazing story overall with an excellent blend of wrestling and character interaction.
Your winner, and advancing to the semi-finals of the Lord Of The Ring tournament… TROY SPENCER.
Starting things off with an ambush was hands-down the definitive way to go. Easy yet logical heat for Mark and does so much to maintain a fantastic level of consistency considering how the dastardly champion handled the first round of the tournament. Once Caleb started getting some vengeance, the line "Spit, accompanied by some choice words, flies out of Mark’s mouth as his head snaps back" after Spires' running knee strike killed me. Sells the shit out of the knee with so much charm and personality. My first nitpick comes into play soon after, when Caleb goes for a dive to the outside and, as worded in the match, Storey grabs the ladder while his opponent is still in the air, and tosses it at him. Considering the size of said ladder, that one part slightly took me out of the match as I tried to visualize Storey managing to pick the ladder up and hurl it up in the air within, like, half a second. A small change there like "Storey sees his opponent approach the ropes and senses danger, opting to reach over to the nearby ladder in preparation" would've definitely made a big difference, but this remains a nitpick regardless as I loved the idea of Mark using the ladder to stop Caleb in the air, but the execution didn't quite land. But, moving right on, the match continues with a wonderful pace as Storey begins to target the hell out of his opponent's knee with brutal tactics described perfectly. The kneebreaker on the wedged ladder, the irish whip into the steps that forces Spires to front flip over them, just perfectly written with awesome selling. The drop toehold counter by Spires was so good, so easy to visualize that I was almost glad Storey's elbow took the brunt of that impact, as it could've been disastrous otherwise. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place in that moment, as now both competitors were dealing with injured limbs that are very important in a ladder match, and the damage was done in ways that stayed true to both characters' alignments and personalities. Storey sadistically went after Spires' knee after the ladder spot, but the babyface wrecked the champion's elbow through a last-second counter. The storytelling here is just mmm, and it also makes great use of the stipulation as the main tool/weapon was used in both sequences.
Regardless of whether or not Spires had planned to go after a specific body part, he does so anyway, showing shades of a much darker side to him as he uses the ladder to destroy the champion's arm. After the failed attempt at capturing the title, Spires' agility is highlighted as he saves himself from disaster, as I was almost expecting him to be sent out of the ring and through the wedged ladder on the outside, but whether it was due to luck or environmental awareness, Storey's Kneeded Assistance sends him crashing into the barricade outside, which still sucks, but is way better than going through a ladder. Brilliant burst of energy from the champion here. The sequence that follows with Spires choking the champion out ON the ladder was a brilliant visual. Storey opting to freefall along with the challenger was about the only thing he could've done here apart from getting choked out, but it still wasn't enough as Spires maintained his grip over his opponent, forcing him to resort to some good ol' fashioned eye poking. Spires still refusing to end his offense here was a surprise, but considering how pissed off he is, I could see him tapping into enough adrenaline to continue his offense. My second nitpick comes into play here, however, as Spires took the brunt of the fall, and by the time he was good to go and continue the attack, Storey should've probably been back to his feet by the time Spires was getting ready to lift the ladder up before using it to set up his suplex. I felt like Spires had taken the brunt of the fall off the ladder + had his eye almost gouged out by Storey, so when he recovered from that, went over to the ladder, picked it up and waited for Storey to get back up, it felt a little weird that the champion was still down. Maybe a little more description to truly hammer home how exhausted he was from almost getting the life choked out of him. But again, it was paced wonderfully and written in a way where it's super easy to visualize that it was still a blast to read, but I had slight issues with the logic behind this sequence.
After the brutal counter in the corner, Storey positioning the ladder to climb it, but stopping to give his opponent one good stomp to the side of his head so he can climb up in peace killed me. So petty, yet so fitting. Everything from here is pure quality and paced wonderfully. The moment when Spires decides to lowblow the shit out of Storey had me feeling a little mixed on it at first, but having read both matches several times, I grew to love this moment for a few reasons. First off, this is a no DQ match. While a lowblow is, y'know, quite the low blow, it's still perfectly legal, and Spires does it to get some payback + a nice nod to Machado. Second, I tend to dislike seeing babyfaces resort to underhanded tactics, but part of the story in this match is Spires showing off his mean streak, and he mainly does it after being provoked. So all in all, it makes sense for Spires to do it and serves to further the story being told in the match that highlights the challenger's ability to tap into a more sadistic side if it is needed. Storey recovering shortly after to deliver a mid-air MAS was quite possibly the moment of the match for me by that point. So impactful and perfectly sold.
We finally arrive to the match's finish. Storey trapping Spires under the ladder before going for the climb was great. I almost demand to see this sort of spot happen at least once in every ladder match, as it makes complete sense to prevent your opponent from just getting back up and halting your attempt to get the gold. However, this spot was used to service the subversion of expectations when the challenger managed to power out of the predicament he was in, sending the champion flying out of the ring and crashing directly through the ladder on the outside. Great pay-off to the ladder that's just been sitting there, waiting to assist in the actual death of one of the two competitors in the match. Logical finish to a very exciting match that took so much out of the challenger with a badly injured leg and a swollen eye.
An absolutely explosive start to the match as both competitors are like "fuck this", deciding to immediately grab the ladders. Storey's plan doesn't go the way he wanted it to, as Caleb quickly takes control. The following belly-to-belly suplex was so well written and just so sickening when you take a moment to visualize it, which is easily done thanks to the descriptive yet to-the-point execution. That one and a half foot ladder? Sickening. We need to ban that ladder, someone can get seriously hurt, and that someone is Mark Storey thanks to the agile Spires using it to land an impressive mid-air Encore. Once again, the writing here is so damn solid and so easy to visualize. Shortly after, the sequence involving both Mark and Caleb doing their best to suplex the other on the outside was good and had me on the edge of my seat as I read through it. The pacing here was a tad too fast for me, as I found myself struggling to see the action in my head, but by the time I went through the match for the second time, I could easily visualize it and I loved it. Storey getting irish whipped towards the ladder only to jump onto it and springboard with the Hypersonic Collision was just delicious. Wonderful creativity on display here, further cementing Storey's environmental awareness. And damn that Mark Sanction, what a biased asshole.
The pile of ladders created by Storey only to lead to his death thanks to Caleb's non-cautionary Caution was so good. I love spots like this where the dastardly heel sadistically sets something up, only to eat shit and pay for it shortly after. The following Vagary spot was a bit hard to visualize, even through multiple re-reads of the match, as I wasn't sure how the superkick could cause the ladder to knock back into Caleb's face, unless he was holding it vertically in front of him. This may be nitpicky, but I felt like this sequence could've benefited from some more descriptive writing. How was Spires holding the ladder? Was he holding it horizontally and looking to use it as a battering ram or was he holding it upright? Where did Storey superkick the ladder? That could've definitely made it much easier to visualize. This, however, wasn't an issue with the table spot. Goddamn the writing here was excellent, with Mark tucking his knees to his chest and darting them down to land Descended Upon Thee. The pure force behind the champion's offense was beautifully written and made for a brutal visual as the table just exploded, shortly followed by the saddest moment in this match. RIP Mark Sanction's laptop.
The drama behind Storey's ascent to the top of the ladder was fantastic. It did feel a bit rushed in execution, but the message behind it was loud and clear as the fans were firmly against him, hoping for the challenger to run in and prevent the champion from retaining. And boy does the challenger stop the champion's ascent. That damn short ladder. Just the visual of the tiny ladder jumpscaring the champion and forcing him to hang on for dear life killed me. Caleb struggling to powerbomb Mark was just great, aiding in selling the impact from the earlier table spot while also making Storey's landing on the ladder outside of the ring a little more brutal. I was definitely expecting Caleb to go for the title at this point, but he had other plans in mind. Unfortunately for the hopeful Spires, Storey has a bit of life left in him as he dodges the dive, causing a sickening impact that leaves its mark on the challenger. Once again, the following spot did so much to truly prove how creative the champion can get with the Kneaded Assistance to the ladder, sending it sliding into the challenger's chest. This spot, in comparison to the one where Storey superkicked the ladder Spires was holding earlier on in the match, is a good example of this one being much easier to follow and visualize. Described to perfection every step of the way, yet not feeling too overdone where it harms the overall pace. Easily my favorite spot in the match. Everything from here is paced wonderfully, and the makeshift ladder jail by Spires is, again, very creative, but it doesn't end there. Mark quickly creating a bridge with another ladder was great too, prompting a Facial from Spires that may be the most brutal one he's ever landed, busting the champion open in the process.
The finish. Oh god, this finish. So. Damn. Good. Storey coming away from this war as the victor while also eating shit was a fantastic call, as it gives the crowd the satisfaction of seeing him suffer while also maintaining his heat thanks to his advancement in the tournament. Fantastic heel work here. The line "Mark’s face is a Salvador Dali surrealism painting as his blood-covered, tear-soaked face has shock, agony and euphoria scrawled across it as he bends holding his crotch with one hand and the XWA Omega Championship with the other" just ended me. That right there is the kind of perfect charm that accompanies your descriptive, wonderfully paced writing that I always look forward to. Mark's double-layered plan to lowblow Caleb was also pure genius, as he knew that his opponent would not fall for it. Wonderful stuff all around.
Another very tough decision to make here, as I thoroughly enjoyed both matches submitted for this main event. On one hand, Storey's match was filled with personality and a wonderful back-and-forth pace between champion and challenger, but Spires' match had the edge in the more descriptive, detailed writing as well as fantastic psychology behind specific key body parts being targeted that made the ladder match more difficult to win for both competitors. Storey's match also had something similar, but I felt the selling in Spires' match definitely had the edge there. However, Storey's match had some of the funniest moments I've read in a match in a hot minute, and it wasn't funny for the sake of being funny, but also served to further Storey as a despicable man who'd go to any lengths to succeed. He gets his comeuppance but walks away the winner at the same time. The things that truly hold Storey's match back for me are, unfortunately, the feeling that it's slightly rushed as well as some spots, while creative, not being executed in the most descriptive manner. Spires' match, on the other hand, when compared to Storey's, is written to near-perfection when it comes to selling, descriptive writing and overall wonderful pacing. Both matches had fantastic finishes, but once again, despite my love for both and while I slightly lean towards loving Storey's a bit more, Spires' finish was solid in every way and did not feel rushed at all. The overall psychology as well as execution of the match's storytelling were both very tight and beautifully paced, never feeling like a slog to read through. The great pacing also applies to Storey's, but that pace there definitely falls a bit short when directly compared to Spires'. In the end, I love both matches here, and I absolutely adore both competitors' writing and I really hope we get to see them against each other sometime in the near future as the chemistry between the two characters is unreal. However, for the reasons I've listed above...
Your winner and advancing to the semi-finals in the Lord Of The Ring tournament… AND NEW XWA OMEGA CHAMPION IS CALEB SPIRES!!!
Caleb (JHalc vs. Razor Xtreme, David Michaels vs. Troy Spencer)
Rufus (Caleb Spires vs. Mark Storey)
Things heat up in the annual Lord of the Ring tournament as we head into the quarterfinals.
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