I was nervous heading into Devlin/WALTER II.
Ever since Foxy’s hand hit the mat last August, declaring WALTER the new OTT World Champion, us OTT fans have been clamouring for the re-match. This couldn’t be the end. We’d seen Jordan Devlin rise from a quiet kid stuck in the shadow of his mentor, to one of the best wrestlers not just in Europe – but the whole world. Surely there’d be a re-match, history dictates so. Every great underdog movie, from Rocky to the epic Lord of the Rings saga, tells us that no matter how hard the hero falls, his day always comes.
But Devlin’s day seemed to escape him at almost every turn.
Just as he had the big Austrian beat at the aptly named ‘Redemption’ event last November, a snake emerged from within. His downfall came at the hands of the one person he least expected it to. His best friend, David Starr. The very man who cradled him as the crowd fell silent after his collossal defeat to WALTER at WrestleRama. The very man who accompanied him to the ring and held his hand so tightly two months prior at a Haven for Monsters. A man who he, no doubt, felt a great deal of love for .. was the same man who cost him the victory of his life. Jordan’s chance at redemption was stolen from him, and Starr was the culprit. Refusing to allow Devlin to have what he himself could never achieve, a win over WALTER, Starr halted Foxy’s three count – pulling the respected ref out of the ring. In the very same arena where the infamous loss occurred, Devlin was dealt another fatal blow.
Devlin spent the next few months pondering this very question, until finally he was face to face with Starr again. By this point, however, the time for asking questions had long passed both men by. It seemed the only way Devlin could truly show Starr how he made him feel that fateful night was to beat him all across the National Basketball Arena, before finally putting him to sleep with – not one – but two package piledrivers. Perhaps this was Devlin, still shook from the events of last November, making sure that there was no possible way of anyone stealing this win from him. After all, it was one package piledriver which seemed to be the deciding factor in what would’ve been a victory for Devlin & Starr over their Ringkampf foes. But now, with his former Killer Product partner in the rear view mirror, Devlin could look forward to one final shot at Redemption with renewed vigor.
Again, I was nervous.
Devlin and WALTER had put on a classic during the Summer. Their bout had the entire wrestling world talking, and placed OTT on the global stage amongst some of the best wrestling promotions in the world. How on earth could they live up to the hype? But more importantly, how on earth could Jordan Devlin, flying the flag for his proud nation, walk into the National Stadium and leave with the title belt that he once cherished? The same title belt he see’s now as more of a curse. For everytime Devlin glances at the gold, his eye ascends to its holder. The living, breathing reminder of his ultimate defeat. WALTER.
As both men make their way to the ring, the air shifts. What was a night of excitement for the Irish faithful turns into one of anxious anticipation. The incredible video package plays, as a hush falls over. We’re subjected to the gut wrenching loss one final time, before being reminded why we all love our Irish Ace so much. As WALTER beats him down and pins him to the mat, the footage shifts to Devlin chasing his redemption once again. But here, his redemption isn’t in a ring .. it’s at the the top of the Wicklow Mountains. Devlin scales the steep steps, curls his fists and prepares for war.
I’m not nervous now.
The air booms with support and cheer as Jordan races down to the ring. Everyone is on their feet, clapping along to the beat of Junkie XL’s Inception track. The beat that has become synonymous with Devlin. The Irish tri-colour finds it way from the front row into Devlin’s arms, and soon across his back.
But this moment of unbridled joy soon turns to one of anger, as the man who’s held the World Title hostage for 7 months makes his way down to the ring. There’s a smugness to WALTER. It’s almost as if he takes pleasure in knowing that, no matter how much he disrespects the most sought after prize in Irish wrestling, he’s still the number one draw in the company. He can’t be stripped of it. He can’t be fired. The only way he can be beat is through the age old means that have defined wrestling ever since it’s inception. Jordan Devlin is gonna have to stop him through pinfall or submission.
As soon as the bell sounds, we’re off without any hesitation. Devlin tries for a package piledriver early but WALTER thwarts the attempt. For a split second, I buy into a quick Devlin win. But it’s not to be. What follows is a decimation of the Import Killer, not unlike what we saw at WrestleRama, but this time, it’s different. Devlin’s training and obsession with where he went wrong shines through, as we see him fight out of a Fire Thunder which proved fatal the first time round. This trend continues as WALTER hits Jordan with every thing he has. Moves that would’ve easily put Devlin down months ago, he now fights out of with little effort. This is a changed man. This isn’t the confidence shaken, crestfallen former champ who couldn’t compete at Contenders the day following the notorious defeat. This isn’t the deflated, lost Jordan who didn’t know how to pick himself back up after his best friend abandoned him when it mattered most. This is a man who knows he represents a nation who has always been the little man fighting from beneath. A country that’s seen it’s fair share of large, brutal oppressors coming in and taking that which does not belong to them. For as much as this match is about Devlin redeeming himself in the eyes of the fans, this is also about Ireland vs The World. This fact isn’t lost on the man who, quite literally, wears the Irish tri-colour on his chest.
All hope seems lost as Devlin is subjected to the infamous Fire Thunder maneuver which spelled his end before. But unlike the Jordan of the past, this isn’t it. It’s not meant to end this way. Devlin kicks out as the crowd erupt. The champ’s tough, glass veneer begins to crack, and he knows it. WALTER scurries out of the ring, grabbing the title belt he’s kicked and thrown around like a plastic toy for months and heads to the back. But on this night, on the Eve of St Patrick’s Day, he doesn’t get away that easy. Because from behind the curtain, Joe Cabray rears his head. The mastermind behind OTT, the lynchpin of Irish wrestling himself makes a rare on camera appearance to order WALTER to get back down to the ring. He does just that, but opts for another quick exit route through the crowd. His smart play is scouted by the beloved More Than Hype, who refuse to let him get away that easily. Now, the walls are beginning to close in on WALTER. Another crack appears. He desperately tries for one final escape, but this time it’s Paul Tracey who stops him in his tracks. One of the men with whom the birth of the now booming Irish wrestling scene can be credited to. WALTER, the brutal oppressor who’s come into OTT on the back of international buzz and who has never treated the company with respect, is forced to do just that by the Past, Present and Future of Irish wrestling all at once. And as this realisation sets in, it’s proven to be too little, too late. Jordan Devlin soars from the top rope and wipes him out. He sends him flying back into the ring, takes one final glance at his army of supporters and hooks him in the Package Piledriver. Planting WALTER, Devlin locks his large, tree trunk leg and shatters the glass veneer once and for all.
When Devlin pinned WALTER in the National Stadium, I felt something I’d never truly felt at a wrestling event before. I felt pride. For years, the scene was dominated with family friendly shows that you’d be embarrassed to tell your mates you were going to. The image of wrestling as being this phoney, pretend sport that only kids liked still loomed large. But now, that stigma is, for the most part, long dead. It’s men like Jordan Devlin, and companies like OTT, who we have to thank for that. With his defeat of WALTER, Jordan Devlin not only achieved the Redemption he had sought for months, but he also showed the entire world exactly what Irish Wrestling is all about. He proved why the Aonghus McAnally coined “Benchmark of Irish Wrestling” title was perfectly apt.
Devlin’s day had finally arrived.
Picture Credit: @mattdagger