All Continental Classic 2023 reviews linked here.

I see it now.

Throughout the tournament, I’ve talked about how as talented as Daniel Garcia is, his skills as a babyface feel somewhat incomplete. While one of his most celebrated performances ever, in the IWTV 100 broadway against Wheeler YUTA, sees him cast as a babyface, it’s never something I’d characterize as his strong suit. The introduction of his dance has complicated things even further. Initially just a heat of the moment heel taunt, the dance caught on with the crowd and has no become something actively cheered, while also representing a certain character flaw in Garcia (lack of focus, deviation from his best skills). That makes the dance this real muddled thing where it is both a flaw and a significant factor of what has endeared him to the crowd.

In this match, Daniel Garcia shows me the most compelling picture of him as a babyface yet. It should not be much of a surprise that it’s in working with an all-timer like Eddie Kingston that this happens too.

Let’s start with that damn dance. Through the last year of Garcia including it in matches, it’s run the gamut from smartly applied (or rather, denied to the crowd as a heel) to very cheesy (using it to gut through a Shibata strike exchange comes to mind). Here, we get perhaps the most earnest use of it yet. Kingston has Garcia down in the corner and is absolutely wailing on him and Garcia dances his way through it. I don’t know how sustainable this is moving forward given how specific to the moment this feels. The reason it works so well here is in large part due to the physicality that Eddie’s applying. Those thudding chops, the elbows to the head, he’s beating the shit out of the kid and the defiance from Garcia in spite of that really stands out. It does work too similarly to how many a Danielson comeback operates, Garcia’s using his body to literally channel the energy of the crowd into himself. It’s compelling stuff, and I hope Garcia’s able to find a clever way to recapture that magic moving forward.

Much more notable though is how Garcia makes the strengths of his past ring work come together for him in a babyface context this time around. It helps that Kingston, even as a more babyface-leaning ace character, cuts such an imposing figure. The size disparity means that Garcia feels kind of justified going after Eddie’s historically bad leg with the apron dragon screw. It helps too that his brief leg work soon gets interrupted by an absolute thrashing for Eddie, making Garcia’s cleverness stand out when he’s able to return to the leg to make headway in the final stretch of the match.

Eddie Kingston leg matches are always great but we get a particularly wonderful moment on this go around. Garcia’s leg work pays off after Eddie fights his way back up from eating a big Saito Suplex, only for his leg to give out on him, giving Garcia the opening to knee him in the head and close in. It’s a close call, you can see all the pieces start to come together for Garcia–not only coming in with a plan, but staying present enough to go right for the opportunities presented by it.

Garcia doesn’t really make a mistake at all in this. He goes for the leg when it presents itself, but Eddie’s backfist is a game changer is all. Garcia gets caught and when you get dropped, you get dropped.

What a match. Masterful work from Eddie Kingston in helping shape a match that helps progress his opponent in defeat. It feels crushing for Garcia in the moment, to be eliminated from the tournament, but the road ahead has never looked clearer.

Rating: ****

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *