Match #1Tonight, the inaugural TNM Christmas Brawl tournament comes to an end.
It's a story of two paths which couldn't have been more different.
Kenta Sawada won his first-round match against John Lamb with the Uranage and followed it up with Uranage wins over the winner of yesterday's TNM Christmas Rumble, Basher Loadstone, and Hampton Doubleday. Sawada went into the fourth and final round of the group stage in the knowledge that he most likely was going to qualify for the Final Four no matter what. He put up a valiant effort anyway but lost clean to The Bob. The way the tournament was laid out, the #1 finisher of the group round would face the #4 finisher in the first semi-final so Kenta got a shot at redeeming himself against The Bob. And redeem himself he did in the most grueling match of the tournament thus far. Almost 26 minutes into the match, The Bob took the lead, and Sawada knew he only had 19 more minutes to score two falls if he wanted to stay alive in the tournament. It lit a fire in him, and Kenta Sawada took two falls off of The Bob in only 12 minutes, punching his ticket to the final and returning the favor of taking way The Bob's unbeaten streak.
''Gaijin'' Dan Mastriani faced The Bob in the opening match of the tournament and put on an embarrassing performance, losing in only 3:30 minutes. Whatever swagger Mastriani may have come into the tournament with, it had now been replaced with a chip on his shoulder. ''Gaijin'' Dan made short work of Bobby Goodwin with the Shining Wizard in the second round and defeated JL Stinger the same way in round three. Mastriani went into his fourth and final match against Jonny B. Gawdz knowing that he needed a win or he would be going home. A Shining Wizard after 9:35 minutes gave him the points he needed to reach the Final Four - but it was anything but an easy match for him. Knowing that he was only reaching the semi-finals because he had faced the tougher competition in his first three rounds than others who were tied with the same number of points only served to grow that chip on his shoulder. He wanted to make an example out of his semi-final opponent, Luna Rose. Beating her in two straight falls, both ending via Shining Wizard in about 5 1/2 minutes each, did just that.
Will Kenta Sawada's perseverence carry him to victory? Or will Dan Mastriani being hell-bent on proving his loss to The Bob was a fluke give him the edge in this 60-minute Iron Man match?
While Kenta Sawada has sequestered himself in his locker room, meditating and getting ready for his match, Dan Mastriani has a clear - and confident - message for his opponent.
And with that, it is time to go down to the ring and get this match on the road.
60-Minute Falls-Count-Anywhere Iron Man Match
What a war of attrition!
Kenta Sawada and Dan Mastriani fought for over 42 grueling minutes before the first fall was conceded.
This included both men continually working over each others' legs, Sawada scrambling to avoid being hit by the Shining Wizard multiple times, Mastriani barely getting out of a leglock but having the wherewithal to shift his weight to go for a cover while doing so, ''Gaijin'' Dan being hit with the Uranage on the concrete floor and barely kicking out, Sawada being busted open while they were brawling over the entire inside the arena, Mastriani landing an elbowdrop from the second turnbuckle to outside the ring and only getting a two-count, Sawada surviving a Sling Blade onto a chair, Mastriani getting a 2.9 count with the Shining Wizard, Sawada sending his opponent flying over a row of chairs, Mastriani foiling an Uranage from down the arena stairs, Sawada returning the favor and holding Mastriani in a leglock for almost a minute with Dan refusing to tap... but then barely being able to kick out the ensuing cover, and Mastriani finally conceding the longest fall in TNM history after Kenta Sawada finally hit another Uranage after 42:41 minutes.
Both were absolutely exhausted by that point but still had over 17 minutes to go.
Mastriani countered a slingshot facebuster attempt by rolling up Sawada in a small package, only got two and then complained to referee Nick Patrick - with some merit - that the count had been slow. Mastriani was able to prevent an Uranage attempt two minutes later but Sawada softened him up some more with an Exploder suplex, a backbreaker, an armbar takedown, a high kick and an enzuigiri before finishing the second fall with the Uranage in 46:15 minutes. Kenta Sawada was up two falls to nil with only 13:45 minutes remaining.
Fall number three was gut check time. Both Kenta Sawada and Dan Mastriani refused to concede and kept trading near-falls and near-submissions until Sawada landed badly taking a backdrop. Mastriani followed up with a thrust kick to the head, a Sling Blade and hit a top-rope huracanrana. ''Gaijin'' Dan had two options: he could go for the pin and risk Sawada kicking out AGAIN - or he could try for his Shining Wizard and hope Sawada wasn't playing possum. He decided to go big - and it paid off. Dan Mastriani almost took Sawada's head off with the Shining Wizard and got the one... two... three at 50 minutes and 46 seconds. But Kenta Sawada was still up one fall. This wouldn't be good enough.
Both men went into the fourth fall with very little gas left in the tank. The hits kept coming closer and closer. Sawada barely kicked out of a cover following an errant elbow to the face by Mastriani. Mastriani even broke out his rare Space Flying Tiger Drop and followed up by attempting to choke out Sawada with a cobra clutch outside the ring. He squeezed and squeezed but when Sawada just refused to go out, Mastriani let go after over 20 seconds, not wanting to waste precious energy. Something was in the air at this point: Everything little thing they did could be it. Back in the ring, Mastriani barely made the ropes during a Sawada leglock attempt. Sawada followed up with a sloppy clothesline attempt which Mastriani turned into a crucifix pin and another 2.9 count. Sensing the end, ''Gaijin'' Dan kicked the still-downed Sawada hard twice, backed into the ropes and nailed him with one of the most brutal Shining Wizards ever seen, with blood flying everywhere. Mastriani could probably have gotten a five-count at this point. When Nick Patrick's hand hit the mat for the third time at 54:03 minutes, it tied up the match 2-2 with just under six minutes to go.
Sawada was a bloody mess at this point. Mastriani put him in a cross-face chicken wing submission right away but Sawada made the ropes. Mastriani tried a dragon suplex but was kicked low and Sawada followed up with a running power bomb and made a bit of a comeback before Mastriani dumped him unceremoneously in countering a double underhook suplex. With a smirk on his face, ''Gaijin'' Dan locked on the dragon suplex but just as he was about to launch Sawada in the air, the man from Japan sandbagged him, threw another backwards kick which hit Mastriani low, turned around and hit the Uranage to win the fifth fall at 55:51 minutes. Sawada was now up again by 3-2 falls.
Mastriani took it to Sawada right at the beginning of the sixth fall. Sensing urgency, he hit a back fist and tried to put Sawada away with the cobra clutch. Nick Patrick asked Sawada if he had had enough... and it was as if that question had turned the lights back on. Sawada shook his head emphatically and finally managed to break the hold with an armdrag takedown. Sawada mounted a babyface comeback which was cut short by an atomic drop of his causing Mastriani to collide with the referee. In the ensuing chaos afterwards, Mastriani took control again while replacement referee Andrew Thomas sprinted to the ring. As ''Gaijin'' Dan applied the cross-face chicken wing again, you could see the life drain out of Kenta Sawada's face. He barely made the ropes, Mastriani wanted to go for the kill and transitioned to the cobra clutch. Sawada was still too close to the ropes, though, and managed to reach them one more time. As Kenta Sawada was on one knee, Mastriani took aim, sent his heel into the side of Sawada's face with a roundhouse kick, ran into the ropes and landed the Shining Wizard before collapsing onto his opponent for the pin. At 58:25 minutes, Dan Mastriani tied the match at three falls each with only 95 seconds remaining in the match.
Sensing the urgency of the situation, Mastriani staggered right back to his feet, landed an STO, a running (well... barely) front dropkick and a rolling kick before trying to put Sawada away with a double-arm DDT, which Sawada managed to escape with a backdrop. With 18 seconds remaining, Sawada hoisted ''Gaijin'' D up and delivered a running power bomb but couldn't get the three. Sawada climbed to the top rope on wobbly legs, hoisted his arms into the air as if he were the ''Macho Man'' and landed a beautiful flying elbowdrop onto Dan Mastriani with four seconds remaining. Nick Patrick hit the mat once, he hit it twice - and then Dan Mastriani's shoulder shot up at the very moment the one-hour time limit expired. When he could have most likely been saved by the bell, Mastriani once again showed his fighting spirit by defiantly refusing to take the easy way out.
After 60 hard minutes of combat, the score between Kenta Sawada and Dan Mastriani was three falls apiece, and since there had to be a winner, the match entered Sudden Death where the next person to score a fall would win the final and the tournament.
Both competitors mobilized their last bits of energy and picked up the pace one more time. Bleeding heavily, Sawada landed a thrust kick that caused Mastriani's head to snap back and his eyes to roll back into his head - but he refused to go down. Sawada ran into the ropes and landed a flying clothesline that took ''Gaijin'' Dan off his feet and he went back to the top rope one more time. He thrust his arms into the air and it was clear he was intending to finish this now. He leapt into the air, shifted his weight to the side with his elbow pointing down at Mastriani's sternum. But at the last moment, ''Gaijin'' D was able to roll out of the way, causing Kenta Sawada to crash and burn. This initiated a final back-and-forth sequence with Mastriani ending up getting the better of it. As ''Gaijin'' Dan locked Sawada's arms behind his back for a tiger suplex, Sawada kicked him low once more, causing Mastriani to wince in pain. Sawada climbed to the second turnbuckle and launched himself at Mastriani feet-first but only hit air. ''Gaijin'' Dan had seen him coming and while the back of Sawada's head hit the mat, Mastriani had staggered back into the ropes. We all knew what was coming. As Kenta Sawada tried to get back up, all he could see was Dan Mastriani's knee approaching, then hitting him in the orbital bone - and that was the last thing he remembered. Kenta Sawada's flame had been extinguished. Nick Patrick hit the mat once, twice, and on the way down for the three-count, you could tell he hesitated momentarily, half expecting a last-second kickout, as he had seen so many times during this match. But it wasn't to be. As Nick Patrick's hand hit the mat for the final time, everybody in the audience realized they had witnessed one of the best and most brutal matches in wrestling history and a worthy final to the inaugural TNM Christmas Brawl tournament.
At the 1:01:38 mark, ''Gaijin'' Dan Mastriani ascended to legend status. He had gone from a heartbreaking loss to the Bob in the tournament's opening match to coming back strong and taking one of the finest competitors in the world, Kenta Sawada, to his limits and finally breaking him in the end.
Tonight we celebrate the winner of the inaugural TNM Christmas Brawl tournament, ''Gaijin'' Dan Mastriani.