wrestling / Video Reviews

Beyond Wrestling Greatest Rivals Round Robin 2015 Review

April 20, 2019 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Buff Busick Oney Lorcan Beyond Wrestling Greatest Rivals 2015

The last time on Enter the Beyond I reviewed the most recent Beyond Wrestling one-night Treasure Hunt Tournament event, and that one will lead directly into their upcoming debut as a live weekly streaming show on April 3rd.

But this week I’m going to look at the Greatest Rivals Round Robin, an event from 2015 that features four of the best super-indie stars of the 2010s going at it in a 6 match, one night, round robin tournament.

The four names are kind of stunning when you think of what you’re about to watch: Drew Gulak (current WWE 205 Live stuffy superstar), Biff Busick (now Oney Lorcan of NXT, NXT UK, and also 205 Live), Eddie Edwards (former ROH, NOAH GHC and TNA World Champion) and Timothy Thatcher (European Ringkampf member and formerly the longest reigning EVOLVE champion). Based on the format of the show, these four guys are all going to face off against each other once in singles competition on this show.

There is no doubt that this is one of the best top-to-bottom shows in Beyond history, and luckily they’ve made the whole thing available to watch on their YouTube channel:

First Round: Gulak vs. Busick

These certified rivals had a series of matches across the indies in the early 2010s, including one stand out match in EVOLVE that almost single-handedly started the entire grapple-heavy Catch Point pure wrestling faction/in-ring style that took over that promotion for a few years.

As the first match of the night, where both men and the audience know they will fight three times, the sound strategy being employed (and enjoyed) is to make this one a grappling campaign, hoping they can tie their opponent up or trick them into a loss without having to exert too much energy with heavy strikes or big moves. As a story, that holds the first half together, but as a shared philosophy it leads predictably to a stalemate, and thus they both start to turn up the intensity as the frustration to gain an upper hand, and soon they are trading Fete-echoing chop slaps and jumping off the ropes in what becomes a thrilling back-and-forth chase to the end.

First Round: Edwards vs. Thatcher

What’s awesome about this combination is kind of a geeky hypothesis. I always imagine Eddie Edwards as a real wrestling “nerd”, a guy who would be just as happy sitting at home watching wrestling all day as he would be doing it. But, of course, he does do it (unlike us REAL nerds) and that makes him ultimately similar to a great writer like a Mark Z Danielewski to me, an auteur who knows everything about the craft and tradition of his medium and is constantly looking to push it forward. On the other hand, Thatcher is like a Ryu Murakami, a new age traditionalist and obsessive who lives wrestling and doesn’t think about it as a fan or a business, truly a grappling embodiment of pure wrestling seemingly sent here in a time machine from the ’60s.

So I figured a match-up like this, at this particular moment in time, in an actual Round Robin tournament, would have given them butterflies and creative motivation, thinking about all the things they could do and try together; Edwards the geek savant and Thatcher the grind scientist, testing incubated ideas in a live setting. And this match is pretty much that, non-stop movement, cutting edge combinations and striking, athletic intensity and competitive realism: a true clinic.

Second Round: Busick vs. Thatcher

At first glance you’d think this was an Atlantic Ocean mirror image match, since both guys have the same bodies and posture, looking as if they’re dojo brothers duelling for the favour of their sensei who is sitting on a throne above the ring.

Look, if you’ve read this far and don’t get giddy by the thought of an extended Grecco-Roman knuckle-lock sequence between these two wrestlers, then I don’t know what to tell you. This is like the equivalent of watching Day Three of a cricket match or something, which kind of makes watching a 4-minute WWE TV match like seeing kids jump off a trampoline to dunk Nerf balls through a toy hoop.

Second Round: Gulak vs. Edwards

Edwards has had such an interesting career, and he stands out as the more “prime time” star here, even back in 2015, despite Gulak being the one who went on to more mainstream success as a WWE superstar for the past couple of years. Edwards is a deceivingly proficient technical wrestler, on top of his variety of other skills, from NOAH King’s Road style, indie brawling, ROH super fights, and the IMPACT American faux-heavyweight main event style. So watching his incredible chameleon act morph to adapt to the grinding style of Gulak is a very satisfying yet tricky experience to quantify. Gotta admit, upon re-watching this event I’m re-discovering my Eddie Edwards fandom.

Third Round: Thatcher (0-2) vs. Gulak (0-2)

The battle to avoid last place starts out desperate and sloppy, which is such an interesting out-of-character spot for both savvy technicians. Commentary really sells how humiliating it would be for either to lose here, thus when the flash submission by Thatcher to a twisting knee bar by Gulak occurs with less than four minutes on the clock it was very much like seeing two sluggers throwing unprotected shots after hearing the warning claps with 15 seconds left to go in the 3rd round of a tight UFC fight. Rather than haymakers, these two just were trying desperation submissions and throws from the bell, and thus the quick match was rational and unique.

Third Round: Busick (2-0) vs. Edwards (2-0)

In contrast to the previous match, and logically so, the match starts with a patient stare down, as both undefeated wrestlers calculate the possible offensive tactics required. However, after the lock-up, Busick throws Eddie with a half-and-half suplex to the floor and all that initial caution is thrown out as they battle to the floor and with reckless abandon.

The “Greatest Rivals” subtitle of the show matches here for these two who have a storied history in Beyond, as commentary breakdowns perfectly all the series of matches they’ve had in the past. Including what is one of my favourite Beyond matches of all time – which is also available to watch in its entirety – their one-hour Ironman Match:

With both here historically seemingly on the last night of their “indie” careers before Busick goes to NXT and Edwards’ TNA contract begins stopping talent from working outside shows, the audience seems very tuned in to this scenario. Eddie plays into it for the first time this night, and heel psychology jarringly rears its head in the previous gentlemanly night of fights up to this point. While both New England residents, I think the international status of Edwards made Busick more of the embodiment of the hometown aesthetic here, and he’s fighting to conclude not just a chapter in his local saga but also to time capsule all the great moments of that story for those in attendance to witness.

As an exhausted Edwards taps to the chin-lock submission that brought Busick his clean sweep in the Round Robin, aspirations of pro-wrestling catharsis expel from fan, viewer and wrestler alike, bonded forever in experience as chilling and climatic as any championship.

article topics :

Beyond Wrestling, Jake Chambers