Somehow this match escaped my attention despite this being one of the best pairings in wrestling of the past decade. Such is the power of Eddie Kingston that the discourse entirely drowned out this little gem from NXT. And as much as I love Eddie Kingston, this isn’t a match that deserves to be ignored.
This is more of the same from their Great American Bash bout but now with the benefit of having some history to play off of. At the end of their first match in NXT, Thatcher refused to release the Fujiawara armbar on Oney to further his sadistic shooter character. Now, Oney’s pissed about it and we get to see them go at it again. Simple stuff but just enough for these two masters to make something out of it.
Much of the early match sees them chain wrestling for control on the mat. Thatcher appears to have the advantage but Oney keeps up well. There’s a lot of grit and grime in their grappling here as to be expected of these two. Things escalate when both men get to their feet and Oney has the room to start throwing some strikes that Thatcher is quick to try and avoid. It’s around this point that we get introduced to Oney similarly attacking Thatcher’s arm as revenge for the GAB attack. This culminates in a skirmish on the outside that ends with Oney sending Thatcher’s shoulder into the ringpost.
After the commercial break, Thatcher is essentially working with just one arm after Oney wrecked it on the ringpost. His selling is pitch perfect and Oney’s able to mount a little more offense by stringing together strikes and baiting Thatcher into exposing his arm like in the half crab spot. Oney gets so relentless in his attack on the arm that Thatcher gets desperate enough to play dirty. He fishhooks his way out of a Fujiwara revenge spot and even has to go for the tights for the victory here.
An excellent match as always from these two. The perfect escalation of the showcase they had a few weeks ago while introducing subtle more heelish wrinkles to Thatcher’s ringwork without it feeling cheap and forced. Thatcher has been quietly and steadily building an incredibly compelling WOTY case that puts him in the running with some of the all time greats. The race is closer now than it’s been in a long time.