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[2019-07-07-PROGRESS-Chapter 92: Entertaining Friends] WALTER vs Ilja Dragunov


paul sosnowski
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I really need to go back and watch this because I'll be honest, on first watch this was my favorite of their matches and on the very short list of MOTY candidates for me (I currently have it at #1). I loved how they used Walter being sort of this slow turning heel(ish) champ that will do anything to keep his belt, but didn't make him look weak or scared really (which is sometimes the case). I thought Ilja's offense looked as good as it ever has here. Even for the most intense dude in the world this stood out as a high energy performance. They built the momentum such that i genuinely got lost in Ilja grasping at every last straw to win the title. I really like that they finished it with just murder lariats.

Granted, I was maybe having a libation or two and I'm often a very generous fan in those instances.  Regardless, I didn't really see this get a lot of hype after and it blew me away. I can see a scenario where I go back and realize it wasn't the best match oft he year so far, but I'd be floored if it wasn't still in my top10.

 

Updated: Ok, so I watched it again and I'll still say its in the top 5 matches of the year. In my head I had conflated a spot or two from the Eddie Kingston match the night before, but this is still really top notch stuff. I also didn't remember how much I liked the over-the-top facials and movements from both men in this one. It felt very early 80s or even late 70s in terms of that. I also really loved how Ilja being one of the few people who has Walter's number played into how the match went, with Ilja having success early and being able to reverse and anticipate and even survive the just bear strength of Walter better than others. In all, this is right up there with my favorite Walter matches. He has produced probably 5-7 ****3/4 matches in in the last 3 years or so for me. It is an example of Walter not leaning as much on the chops and pure physicality (which can also be great), but getting involved in a chess match where he uses those things a little more strategically to make his opponent look even better and build a different sense of drama. The ZSJ match from Pumpkin Spice Progress about a year ago is very much in that same vein and it is why they are probably my two favorite Walter matches.

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