I don’t say this lightly, this match feels like it was wrestled just for me. I obviously don’t think that’s literally true, but there’s small things that make it feel so. For example, I know for a fact that one spot in the match–Nicole getting a kick caught by Dan that she turns into a takedown into an Omoplata–came to be thanks to me posting a GIF of Virus doing a similar counter earlier in the year.
As with all things this great though, it’s rarely something that small that makes it feel so powerful. It would be ridiculous to say that Makabe and Nicole literally wrestled this match for me, but rather that the spirit of it so closely aligns to the things that I really love in pro wrestling. It’s so apart from the norm of what wrestling is now. It foregoes so much of the shorthand that modern wrestling often goes to–the big kick outs, the no selling, etc.–to tell a much more patient and fluid story.
Much of the match plays around whether or not Makabe can ever really get his hooks into Nicole long enough to get the win. In their first match together, Makabe executed his plan to perfection, wearing down Nicole and her leg until he could get the submission. In the second match, Makabe again tries to work the leg, and he’s aggressive enough to be a real problem with only a quick counter from Matthews losing him the match in the end. In this third match though, Makabe struggles to get a proper game plan going at any point. Nicole frustrates him at every turn, keeping up with him in the early grappling, and never quite giving him enough time to let his limbwork settle in deeper in the match.
It feels like Makabe’s forced to move from strategy to strategy in real time, but that keeps him from ever giving each step the focus it needs. He uses the arm work as an initial target, but when the opportunity presents itself, he goes back to the leg work that won him the day in the past. But Nicole feels like she’s eclipsed Makabe in this particular match, always keeping just far enough ahead to stay in the lead. For example, as Makabe goes to her leg, he gets to cocky and climbs the ropes for a big knee drop which he misses. Nicole chips away at Makabe’s own bad leg with kicks, but really only as a means to open up Makabe for bigger offense like a roundhouse kick or her brainbuster.
This match also gives such a roundness and texture to the series as a whole. Outside of Nicole seemingly keeping one step ahead of all of Makabe’s game plans, she also self-corrects in the process. Across the series the Spider German Suplex has cost Nicole dearly, even when she’s able to hit Makabe with the move. In the first match, she tries to follow up with a moonsault only for Makabe to evade and Nicole landing on her bad knee. In the second match, she takes too long recovering on the turnbuckles allowing Makabe to charge right through her bad leg. Here again, we see her pay in her first attempt to hit, with Makabe rolling through the impact this time and dropkicking her knee to begin the leg work. All these failures can’t help but tie into Nicole’s history with Madison Eagles as well. Nicole’s once again stealing from her betters, and paying the price for it all these years later.
That’s what makes it feel so good too when Nicole finally turns the tables on this karma. It’s the brainbuster that’s one of her first big pieces of offense in the finishing stretch. And it has a big enough effect that it allows her to go for the Spider German one more time. This time she does nail it, and she doesn’t waste time either, going right for the cover. There’s a final gasp from Makabe but once she gets her hooks in, she gets the submission victory.
There’s also a million cool counters sprinkled throughout this as well. Even when they’re just riffing together, it’s absolute delight. The intimacy of the setting, the fact that it’s a minor miracle we have this footage in the first place, all these rich details tying into their history together and their larger histories as workers. It’s pretty much everything I want from pro wrestling on this scale. The match feels bigger than itself, but so closely connected to me as a viewer. What an accomplishment in a dark room with a bad camera angle salvaged because the proper ringside footage disappeared.
It really does feel like wrestling made for me.