This review was commissioned by BeenThrifty over on my Ko-fi account.

As with basically every French Catch match I’ve seen, filled to the brim with some of the coolest and most interesting action from anywhere in pro wrestling history. It’s perhaps the aspect of French Catch that’s talked up the most, but it really can’t be understated how jaw-dropping the technique on display is. Moment to moment, there’s a dozen wondrous things happening to catch the eye. Just creative and struggle-filled holds and reversals and counters executed with an almost effortless confidence and proficiency.

In this match alone, we get dazzling variations on sequences and spots that we’ve been conditioned to overlook. Even if one is already a fan for the more grapple-based side of wrestling, there’s things here to surprise and awe. Whether it be Cesca grabbing his own foot and utilizing it as a bludgeoning weapon or the most beautiful series of snapmare blocks and counters and shifts one is bound to see, the match is jam packed with the sickest shit imaginable.

It’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae of it especially when it feels like treasures being unearthed. The immediate reaction is to GIF a hundred different things, point, and just say, “Is this not the coolest fucking thing you’ve ever seen in your life?”

But none of it functions quite so well without the fundamental understanding of structure and narrative that Cesca and Catanzaro display so well here.

To that end, each individual sequence is also beautifully done and structured. This is pure, textbook problem/solution wrestling in the classic sense that I’ve always pictured when using that term. It’s the patience of grabbing a hold, trying and failing to escape, and then the ecstasy of finally getting out. Just that small added effort of actually showing the failure to escape or counter adds so much to a viewing experience like this as it basically gives us an insight into the wrestler’s own kayfabe struggle. We can visualize their brain working through their bodies as they seek out the most ideal position or leverage point to achieve their goal.

On the face of it, there’s no strict babyface/heel divide here. And yet, this gets genuinely violent at certain points. When those two start throwing some truly gross European uppercuts when the tempers start to flare, it stands up against even the stiffest of Japanese pro wrestling in the modern day.

It’s how they get to those points that feels so rewarding though. The match is a masterclass in pacing and escalating emotions. What starts as a very clean sporting bout begins to escalate as tempers naturally flare and frustration takes over. It never feels like the match switches gears for its own sake, just to get to the next spot everyone’s expecting, but it all just flows naturally as the two combatants respond to the consequences of each action. The shift in the strategies they take also speaks to the effects of prolonged physical exertion as well as their changing emotional states. By the end, things have taken enough of a turn that just bowling one’s opponent over with repeated tackles can be a valid strategy—but one that can still be turned on its head if you go to the well one time too many.

Even that final attempt at the hammerlock by Cesca reads as truly desperate. He’s clinging like it’s life and death, trying to break Catanzaro’s grip to get the maximum leverage on the hold. Meanwhile Catanzaro’s placed in a position of trying to fight his way free without having either hand at his disposal. It’s all core strength and physics as he works his way up into a proto-Sliced Bread #2 for the win.

Amazing stuff as to be expected from this footage. As with the best wrestling, somehow timeless and cutting edge all at once.

Rating: ****1/4

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