Featured image by Allie McPhetridge
First reviewed here.
In so many ways, this match feels like an epilogue to the year ACTION Wrestling had in 2022. It’s the blow off to a rivalry that ran all through the previous year as well as a defacto farewell to Anthony Henry being an ACTION regular. In hindsight, everything about this feels much more like it’s a putting a ribbon on the company’s strong year prior, and a bit of a rebuilding phase would soon follow. It almost feels unfair to have this kick off the year–it feels like a peak of not only ACTION, but US independent wrestling as a whole for 2023.
But alas, those are just the tricks that time plays.
This is astonishing. The main concept here is that it’s a no holds barred match with the ropes taken down from the ring. Priest and Henry do an excellent job of putting over the inherent threat of that early. In that sense, they work the opening moments similar to another great gimmick: the no ropes barbed wire match. Both have similar ideas built into them, so the first few moments play out around evasion and adjustment as both guys try to find their groove and rhythm in the unfamiliar setting. Much like a no ropes barbed wire match too, the first big bump feels like a such a big moment, and it’s given a little extra spectacle here too. Priest sends Henry stumbling out into the front row, and Henry’s hesitation trying to right himself leaves him open for a big dive from Priest. Hell yeah.
From there, they’re able to maneuver the match towards the more gimmicky aspects. Luckily, with two guys like Adam Priest and Anthony Henry at the helm, it so rarely feels phony and tacked on as it can in other gimmick matches. Everything feels like a natural extension of their impulses in the moment, reaching for things that are close by, never getting too cute with set ups and hardware. Just mean, meat and potatoes stuff like whacking a running opponent’s leg with a chair or suplexing each other onto the concrete. Perhaps the highlight of the match for me comes from Adam Priest full-strength hurling a chair from one side of the ring all the way across to Henry on the other. Just beautiful weapons work that’s captivating in both brutality and swiftness.
The effect works so well because of how damn near mechanically perfect these two are. On any given night, working a straight up match, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone working as clean and snug as both Henry and Priest do. Given the room and space to apply those rock solid fundamentals to something grander and more ambitious, and the results are about as thrilling as one might expect.
It’s not without flaw. The finish really is the only stumbling block here. The table set up, getting the ladder in place, it’s the only time the fight feels like it stops in service of a spot instead of the spots serving the fight. But it’s incredibly easy to forgive when it leads to such a spectacular final moment, one that allows the match to naturally end right at its peak.
Once Priest leaps off that ladder, it’s mostly downhill for the indies from there.
IS IT BETTER THAN 6/3/94? This one’s actually closer than you might think. While there’s a lot here that I’ve often sought out from 6/3/94 conquerors (tight runtime and mechanically snug grappling), it doesn’t quite have the emotional heft of the King’s Road classic. It’s sort of weighing the balance between the emotional stakes of the Misawa/Kawada match against the pure, raw construction and execution of something like this match. I feel like that on any given day I’m liable to flip-flop between these two options, but then I think that 6/3/94 might have been cooler of Kawada hucked a chair at Misawa’s face from across the ring. ACTION takes the win for now, but try asking me another time, and who knows?