Timothy Thatcher vs. Oliver John
June 29, 2013
Wrestling Cares Association (WCA)
Review by: Tim Cooke
I love shoot style wrestling but also know it is a dead style in terms of being relevant in Japan or the US in 2015. The appeal and requisite heat that shoot style was able to draw in Japan was partially based on some of the fans believing what they were seeing was real. As MMA started to gain traction in Japan in the late 90’s, along with other events like the infamous Yoji Anjoh visit to the Gracie Dojo, UWF style was exposed as fake and quickly died off. Even Kiyoshi Tamura’s U-Style revival in 2003-2004 was well funded but couldn’t draw beyond the appeal of Tamura; an appeal that was already tending downward due to lob sided losses in RINGS and PRIDE.
UWF/Shoot Style has never really been a thing in the US. Jerry Flynn and Goldberg worked very quick Americanized matches but it is a stretch to call them UWF style. Low Ki and Bryan Danielson came as close as anyone to working the style, adding high flying spots after 10-15 minutes of UWF style mat work.
I’m not sure I’m willing to call Timothy Thatcher vs. Oliver John as a UWF style match, but it certainly is the closest thing to it in the 2010’s. This match has a 10-minute time limit where pin falls count and count outs can occur after 10 seconds either on the floor or the apron.
They open with John throwing some leg kicks and Thatcher countering. John takes it to the mat and works some impressive grappling from the side mount and mount before trying for a cross arm breaker. John hits a really nice flying leg scissor take down, a worked version of the 12/31/04 Anderson Silva vs. Ryo Chonan spectacular finish.
John continues with palm strikes from the guard, which was probably not a nod to the 5/13/95 Frank Shamrock vs. Allan Goes Pancrase fight but certainly reminded me of it. John hits PRIDE style knees from the side mount and they look very nasty. Thatcher gets an Achilles heel hold but John hits the ropes and manages to hit a nice back drop driver for the first pin of the match. As an aside, one thing I have noticed about Thatcher matches, especially in recent times, is his lack of taking bumps. It’s probably a very smart move from a health perspective but he ate the backdrop driver here really well, so he could be missing out on another dimension to his game by not taking more well placed bumps on a regular basis.
Back down to the mat, both guys continue fluid transitions through their mat work. John hits a Billy Robinson back breaker but hurts his knee in the process, which Thatcher jumps on to eventually tie the match at one fall apiece. During this portion of the match, John also hits a tentative flying guard spot. It wasn’t Tamura level great, but I thought it looked good for a guy who isn’t known this style.
Oliver John bails out for the final 10 seconds and the match goes into a 3:00 minute sudden death. Thatcher hits a roll through from an abdominal stretch and locks on the Achilles leg lock for the win.
This is the best Thatcher match I have seen but Oliver John wins the performance of the night. For a guy who has done a lot of mediocre wrestling with El Hijo del Santo, you wouldn’t expect much from him but he was the glue here and the key factor in what was 11:00 minutes of strong in-ring action.
I’d probably go **** – ****1/4 if I was rating this and would definitely recommend this to fans of either guy or good mat work in general. I guess this fits into the Grapplefuck category of matches, but I’m often confused by that term so I can’t definitively put that in this category. This won’t make you forget Tamura vs. Yamamoto (6/24/99) or Kohsaka vs. Tamura (6/27/98) but it was the best mat match I have seen in the US since Danielson and Ki transitioned away from it by late 2002.