Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Monday, May 16, 2016

PREMIER XI: Embrace the Grind Tourney 11/28/15

PAS: I reviewed the Tetsujin Shoot style tourney from England earlier this year and this is sort of the US version of it. A promotion in Northern California ran a three man round robin tourney focusing on grappling, the matches were in rounds and had three judges giving scores. I like all three guys and thought it would be worth checking out.

ER: Premier always has grappling based matches, but this was their first actual time addressing the style as such. It also has arguably the worst name ever for a wrestling show. PRIDE Man Fest might actually be dethroned. I didn't even want to risk googling Embrace the Grind. But the Premier show I went to last year in September (PREMIER X, sadly not online as it had a cracking Graves/Thatcher match that would certainly make the 2015 MOTY List) was one of the most fun shows I've been to in a couple years. I wish I could attend them more but their shows are *just* far enough away from me to make it inconvenient to attend. But I do love their product, and I love how into it the crowd gets when it's easily a style that a traditional pro wrestling crowd could turn on.

Joe Graves v. Jeff Cobb

PAS: This was really fun. Graves looked great his transition between leg locks are arm locks were really cool, at one point he put one a totally plausible looking shoot figure four leg lock. There was much more of an amateur wrestling base then a Jujitsu base in the grappling which makes sense as Cobb was an Olympic wrestler. Cobb is at his best as kind of an athletic freak suplex machine, sort of a lost Polynesian Steiner brother this kind of real mat based match tamps down what makes him special a bit. Last round was especially exciting with Cobb smacking Graves with his big headbutt he rushes him to finish Graves off and gets clipped in the knee, which Graves jumps on. Loved that Graves move, such a great out of nowhere transition. Match goes to the judges which I didn't like, it didn't really have a finish, and even though the mentioned a ten point must system, we never got scorecards. Don't think this tourney needed this gimmick, and if you are going to do it, you should at least have countdowns, time clocks and scorecards.

ER: Joe Graves is legit, and Cobb gets to show off some of his incredible amateur based throws. I think the rounds really hurt this one as almost every round ended moments after a neat twist had happened and some drama was starting to build, and the end of rounds killed it each time. First round ended with a hot kneebar reversal that looked to be going somewhere, and the third ended with an awesome battle of wills as Graves maneuvers somehow into a plausible shoot figure 4 (was excited to mention that right when it happened and saw it was the first thing Phil jumped on as well) while Cobb suffered through it but also lock on a heel hook. So you had two guys in an awesome Frye/Shamrock battle where one has a rough figure 4 on his hurt knee but it may get dropped due to the heel hook...but then the bell rings. With no countdowns or anything it was impossible to build to any natural excitement, they just always acted like an immediate match cooldown. Still both guys are awesome and the great spots were there. I love Cobb's pro wrestling suplexes, but his amateur takedowns and throws are even better. Watching Graves try to do a go behind and seeing Cobb just pop his hips into a mean belly to back takedown, or seeing Graves try to tie up and Cobb just grabs him in a head and arm butterfly suplex, really makes you appreciate Cobb's close range power. Graves is a guy I know little about, don't know who trained him, where he started, where he typically calls home. I first saw him in Premier against Thatcher and instantly dug him, later saw him pop up occasionally on that weird Paragon fed out of Vegas, but really haven't seen him a lot outside his work in Premier. He's strong and always seems to know exactly where he's headed during a mat scramble. All his work on Cobb's knee built nicely and it felt like that joint was just going to pop when he was bending Cobb's calf back against his thigh. It feels like only a matter of time before Graves is recruited by Evolve/WWE.

Jeff Cobb v. Timothy Thatcher

PAS: These guys had a fun match against each other a couple of years ago, and a match I found from Utah, but otherwise they have been circling each other without matching up. They missed each other in the APW KOI last year, and unfortunately this is more of a tease then a great match. Cobb comes in limping from the previous match, and they have a first round of solid but unspectacular rolling, it was fine, but felt very much like a warm up. Early in the second round Thatcher gets a scissor take down and twists the leg for a tap out. Felt abrupt which is fine for this kind of match, but I still want to see Cobb and Thatcher really go at it.

ER: This really was a cruel tease. The first round rolling was really good, I liked little things like Cobb kneeling on Thatcher's arm, but yeah the second Thatcher targets Cobb's knee the match ends. I know these two have wrestled plenty of times, but only a couple have made tape which is just inexcusable in 2016.

Joe Graves v. Timothy Thatcher

PAS: This was excellent stuff and well worthy of a final. The final went five rounds instead of three and they worked a nice pace right into the final round. Thatcher is so good at infighting, throwing kidney shots from the mat, cracking fingers, twisting ankles. Graves also looked very good he really does some interesting transitional things on the mat. I loved how the match got chippier with some shots thrown after the bell. Liked the finish too, with Graves countering an armbar, into a half nelson choke which Thatcher tried a bunch of different counters out of before finally tapping. Graves feels right on the level of Thatcher, Gulak ect. and really should get a shot at a bigger stage.

ER: Really good final that was longer and added more striking and heel dynamics than the previous matches. Graves comes off strong and does little things like neutralize guys in a sort of hogtied fetal position before pouncing into his next wear down hold. Both guys' grappling is on point and the struggle through some of this has to be exhausting. We get both trying to work the other's arm, and Thatcher starts to lean towards dickish by kneeling on certain parts of Graves while trying to work a hold. We see him kneel on his arm, even kneel on Graves face to maneuver into a go behind into a crossface. Graves starts taking apart the arm and Thatcher gets pissed, kicking Graves well after the bell. Things get more heated after that and we get some grounded knees to the chest, a standing exchange where Thatcher suckers Graves into a single leg, and both guys getting their arms bent behind them at angles that terrify my tennis elbow. Both guys move through reversals and counters so naturally, no guy has to dangle a limb out there for the other to pick up on a signal, felt like a gym sparring session that turned into something more serious, like Oliver Reed and Alan Bates' fight in "Women in Love" (but with much less penis). I think I preferred their fight at PREMIER X, as even though much shorter (about 11 minutes if memory serves) it had proper build and was go go go. But it's tough as I was there live which often can kick a match up several notches. Hopefully we get that one hitting YouTube eventually.

***Graves/Thatcher was good stuff, and an easy choice for our 2015 Ongoing MOTY List. Check out the tourney, and check out some other Premier stuff (they have a lot of their shows uploaded). ***

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