Editor’s Note: Every day this week, we’ll take you back to one of Dave Meltzer’s top-rated matches of the past year, starting with No. 10. What follows is an edited version of Dave’s writeup of that match from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee
PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night 3 | September 3rd
The best match of the BOLA weekend was an insane match of the tag team of The Monsters, Donovan Dijak and Keith Lee, in a singles match. This followed a tag match between their team and Matt Riddle and Jeff Cobb two nights earlier that was nearly as good.
Lee is probably 6’2″ and 330 pounds while Dijak is about 6’5″ or more and 270 pounds with a good physique. From an in-ring standpoint, he is the most agile guy of his size that I’ve ever seen in pro wrestling, surpassing even Don Leo Jonathan. They have wrestled before and tore the house down in Northeast Wrestling, and many felt they had the single best match of WrestleMania weekend on March 31st for EVOLVE. That really says something when you consider the competition.
This match was ten minutes longer and had the same freaky athletic spots, but had tons more crowd heat than the EVOLVE match according to people who saw both live. It was also said to be far better than their May 20th EVOLVE match. This was their final meeting as Dijak started full-time with WWE in Orlando two days later.
Booked as the third match on the show, they went out there and did athletic spots and power moves with endless near falls. It was a cross between an Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels WrestleMania match and an Ishii vs. Shibata match, except with more spectacular moves thrown in. The crowd got hotter and hotter with each near fall, and when they kept kicking out of moves everyone figured were the finish, they got hotter and did the “fight forever” chants which was not a chant this hardcore audience would do lightly.
Keith Lee pinned Donovan Dijak in 21:41
There were so many insane moves and they kicked out of everything. Very early on, the ring broke, but unlike the night before, it only made things a little wobbly. You wouldn’t even notice it as a fan watching even though these were good sized guys landing hard from off the top rope. I could see it being uneven in spots and heard the spot where it broke, but didn’t know it was a break until after the match was over.
Early on, Dijak did a Fosbury flop dive and Lee came right back with a running flip dive. The rest of the match was filled with acrobatic spots that guys this size shouldn’t be doing: leapfrogs, matching huracanranas, one count kickouts that made the crowd explode, monster big man spots, and big power spots. Lee finally won with his second jackhammer (his finisher) which Dijak had kicked out of earlier in the match. Because the two have a unique chemistry, I guess the idea was to do their best match possible since they knew they’d never have a chance to do this kind of a match together again.
Even if Lee ends up in WWE and they feud, there’s no way WWE would allow them to do this kind of a match unless perhaps it was on a TakeOver show and even then, I doubt they’d let then kick out of so many finishers.
When I compare it with different key U.S. matches, Undertaker vs. Michaels got more out of doing less and were able to sell more because of the advantage of who they were. But this still felt like watching that match given the hot crowd and people buying the near falls so heavily, except the moves were far more spectacular. With Bate vs. Dunne (**** 3/4) or Cena vs. Styles (**** 3/4), those matches were similarly hot, but it was much bigger guys doing far more athletic things. That’s saying something when you talk about athletic things in a PPV main event and compare it favorably to Styles.
As compared with the SummerSlam main event, the advantage of that match is that I can remember the moves and structure of that match today. With this match, it was far more spectacular and blew the crowd away equally as a prelim match with far lesser name stars, but I can’t say the spots were as memorable because there were so many of them. I remember the four-way at SummerSlam better as far as the key points went, but it was a match relying on four guys doing their big spots over and over as opposed to Dijak-Lee where the guys did far more, but with moves I wasn’t as familiar with.
It was two different kinds of roller coaster rides: a great ride on one you’ve ridden since childhood but it still fun vs. a new updated coaster which has a lot more twists and turns but you don’t know it and aren’t as familiar with it.
A key to this match was the physical dynamics. The two have worked together a few times and because they mostly work with smaller guys, there are some limits as far as certain acrobatics. For guys this size, you need a powerhouse base that they usually don’t have. The fact they did this match in a ring that broke a few minutes into the match (there were people under the ring fixing it as the match was going on) made it even more impressive as they didn’t skip a beat. There were people who have been fans for decades saying it was the best live match they had ever seen.
There is the belief, and it was expressed by some after the fact, that wasn’t the kind of match to do that early in the show, and there are questions about kicking out of so many finishers. The reality, however, is this match didn’t burn the audience out for the rest of the show. I could see hating to follow it, and when it was over, I thought immediately that they should have at least taken an intermission.