This was a quarterfinal round match in the 2017 Battle of Los Angeles.
During an era of American pro wrestling with an inexcusable absence of heated and well-done feuds and storylines, all that fans can really latch onto are great matchups that appear in several different promotions. The freshest and most intriguing of all these modern indie rivalries has been the one between Donovan Dijak and Keith Lee.
This series of matches has not just had an incredibly consistent high level of in-ring quality, but it has far more importantly served as the defining introduction of these two wrestlers for a lot of fans and established them as two of the most exciting and fun workers going today.
The rivalry between the two of them, as we’ve come to know it on the indies, finally came to an informal* end at the 2017 Battle of Los Angeles.
*The lack of distinct closure is one of the marks of the modern American indie “feuds”
And what an end it turned out to be.
The match essentially had three recurring ideas throughout. For starters, this was going to be a match about throwing bombs and not about nuance and subtlety.
The second idea was that this rivalry had progressed to the point where each guy rarely passed on an opportunity to show up the other.
The final idea that was Donny D, on his way to the WWE, clearly wanted to make sure he got the “W” in their last match and acted rather dickishly sporadically throughout this final encounter.
The physical content of the match was mostly made up Keith and Donny using their biggest movez against one another. They threw out their biggest high spots. They did not hold back on their finishers. And they lavishly employed the “kickout at 1” spot.
That last aspect will easily be the most contentious component of the match. it’s an easy thing to dismiss out of hand and critics would be well within their right for doing so. That idea is way overdone in pro wrestling and many wrestlers have effectively killed it due to inappropriate usage.
These two mostly earned it though. They had a long rivalry together, and they decided to go all out with the kickouts on the biggest stage of indie wrestling. You cannot really blame them for that, and you cannot deny that it was incredibly effective with the live crowd (and a crowd that is prone to only caring for wrestlers when they are singing, dancing, and cosplaying as Attitude Era acts).
It also played well with the idea that Lee and Dijak were continuously trying to one-up each other throughout the encounter. Any moment where they could display their superiority over the over was grasped, and all those moments added to the overall intensity of the bout.
The last aspect of the match that needs to be discussed was the manner in which Dijak conducted himself. This was set to be his last match on the indies and could easily be his last match with Keith Lee ever (because WWE is weird). From the jump, he clearly had no intention of playing the nice guy. He was here to win, and he was more than fine with cutting corners to do so.
It made for a nice twist on their general match structure, made Keith Lee more sympathetic in his larger journey throughout the tournament, and paid off wonderfully in the final sequence of the match.
Dijak was on the metaphorical ropes. Keith had built up enough momentum that he had a decisive advantage. Dijak managed to pull out their matching tag gear from their one-night tag team from two nights earlier. He tried to say, “Let’s finish this as partners!”
If played straight and without irony, it would have been an incredibly forced and ham-fisted moment. These two did not disappoint though.
The moment Keith went to put on the gear, DIjak kicked him in the face. That was all the spurring Keith needed to put Dijak down for good and end their celebrated rivalry for the time being.
This was a fitting sendoff for Donovan Dijak, a damn fine ellipsis on the Dijak/Lee rivalry, and one of the most exciting wrestling matches on the indies of 2017. (****1/4)