Contrary to popular belief, the best wrestling match this past Monday night did not occur on television. Instead, it took place at the New England Pro Wrestling Academy in North Andover, Massachusetts. “Brutal” Bob Evans wrestled Manchester, New Hampshire’s Todd Sople in a sixty minute iron man match as the second installment of “Iron Week.”
Iron Week is a challenge for some, a happening for most, and a journey for Bob Evans. The concept of Iron Week consists of seven 60-minute matches taking place over seven consecutive days. Evans did this once before in 2009 for six days and this year he would like to break own record. At 40 years old, this is Evan’s second chance to make a lasting impression as time is not on his side. The end game is to make a lasting impression in order to wrestle on the national stage on a regular basis.
In the wrestling business, the most talented guy doesn’t always get the gig as perception can create a difficult reality. In Evans’ case, the perception that he is only a sidekick has become his false reality. He legitimately trained Mike Bennett and boasts like a proud papa regarding the Prodigy’s past, present, and future accomplishments. Evans is extremely grateful for his experience in Ring of Honor and there is no other locker room he would rather be in. Personal satisfaction is something everyone strives for, and while being assigned a part because they feel you are well suited for the job is rewarding, it’s another thing to assume a role because uninformed parties believe that is all you can bring to the table.
Todd Sople is a name that not many people are familiar with outside of New England. If you were to ask people in the area about Sople, you would get a mixed bag of answers with the positive being accurate and the negative being not so accurate. The first chapter of Sople’s seven year career can be summed up as misdirected passion. It’s something that every artist is guilty of at one time or another. Sople will be the first one to tell you that he was considered a joke by his peers in the business. Over the last four years Sople has directed his passion into a more positive and productive avenue. He lost over 80 pounds, worked diligently to perfect his craft and seeks out advice from the right people with a genuine desire to learn as much as he can.
Like Evans, Sople is also fighting the perception of a false reality. There are still those who judge him on his past misdirection instead of the professional he has become. This is why Sople jumped at the opportunity when he was chosen as a last minute replacement to wrestle Evans. For Sople, this was a challenge not only to silence the critics but to help fulfill his mentor’s journey, while making him proud.
Referee Dan Tanaka gives both wrestlers his instructions as he will call the shots inside the ring. Tony S serves as the referee outside the ring and the official time keeper for the bout. The commentating team, Caleb Seltzer and Sonny Goodspeed, get ready to call the action as Dan Tanaka reminds combatants of the following Iron Week rules.
The most falls in sixty minutes wins.
No overtime period and if the falls are even, the match will be declared a draw.
30 second rest period between falls
“The Sprint” will occur at the 50 minute mark where 30 second rest periods are no longer granted after gaining a fall and you may immediately attempt to pin or submit your opponent again.
The bell rings at 7:15 pm as both men jockey for position. Evans won the first two falls by submission and yells “Come on, give me a fight” at Sople which lights a fire under his belt and immediately turns up the intensity as he comes back with a leg lock submission of his own. The painful look on Bob’s face was worth 1000 words as he now has the fight he asked for. Evans taps out Sople to earn the 4th fall and Sople returns the favor with a modified figure four leg lock to win the next two falls and ties it up at three falls apiece.
Submission warfare has enthralled the observers inside the academy as Sople and Evans have victory in their sights and 45 minutes left on the clock. Evans takes the lead by bending Sople’s arm behind his back in a manner that is reminiscent of a trip to the woodshed. Sople comes back with a cross arm breaker and Evan’s rapidly taps the canvas and is in immense pain. The 30 second rest period couldn’t end soon enough for Sople as he locks on a Boston Crab. Evan’s tries to get to the ropes but to no avail and has no choice but to tap. Sople takes some time to bask in his glory but it cost him as Evans comes racing out of the corner with a thunderous shoulder tackle that would have made Reggie White proud and scores the first pin fall of the bout.
There is no rest for the weary as Evans gets Sople’s back and hammers him with repeated elbows to the jaw that force him to tap before he reaches the point of unconsciousness. Evans picks up Sople and is met with a GTS into a forearm called “Epic Fail” that lands right on the money and knocks Bob down and out for a total of 36 seconds which encompasses two pins falls with a rest period in between and gives Sople a 7-6 lead.
Eight submissions and two pin falls later, Todd Sople is winning 12-11 several minutes left and well into the “Sprint”. Referee Dan Tanaka asks Bob Evans if he wants to continue but is met with a loud and angry “I’m alright.” Sople isn’t taking Bob’s word for it and delivers his trademark Senton Splash to take a two fall lead. Evans comes back with an over hand right that rocks Sople, takes him down and submits him twice in a row with a modified STF. Thirty seconds left and Bob keeps the hold locked on and pulls back as if his life depends on it, but Sople hangs on. The grueling bout is over and the official result is a 13-13 tie.
Iron Man matches are not something that every wrestler can do. Even if you have the gas to go sixty minutes, you need the talent and creativity to tell a story that will hold the audience for a long period of time. Sople and Evans held the audience and I didn’t find myself looking at the clock once. They told a unique story in the ring of persistence over resistance as nothing was wasted and nothing was given as both had to work for every move, every hold for bit of every fall. For Sople, the challenge was met and he passed with flying colors and it’s on to tonight’s Wrestlefest VIII in Norwood, MA. For Evans, the journey continues.
Bob Evans lost to Grizzly Redwood 12-11 on Day 1 of Iron Week in a bout that actually went 70 minutes due to a time keeper error. Evans wrestled Julian Starr to a 11-11 draw on Day 3 and lost to ROH TV Champion, Adam Cole 12-11 on Day 4 and defeated Biff Busick 14-13 on Day 5. Antonio Thomas will be the next contestant later this evening and the finale against Vinny Marseglia on 12/1 at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center in Providence, RI.