Photo: @MatthewMacklin

The crowd at The Arena on Suir Road have had a great show. They have just watched the Kings of the North battle The Angels Cruzer in what can only be described as a roller-coaster of a match which saw the return of B-Cool old Gymnasties running buddy Sammy D, who had returned to from the grave after being murder, and the Kings of the North continue their absolute dominance of the Irish tag team scene with a devastating win.

Earlier in the night, they had seen Tomohiro Ishii pick up the win against Juice Robinson in a G1 Climax style marquee match that saw both men bring their A-game to the rabid Irish fans.

They saw the dissolution of the benchmark young stable as More Than Hype defeated Legit 100, bringing an end to the OTT Contender stalwarts and officially passing the torch for the new generation of Irish wrestlers. Through it all, the energy was high, the songs were catchy and the crowd was up, but as the lights went down at the Arena, it became clear that there were holding back. Against a brilliant promo package made by Crooked Gentlemen, the energy in the Arena changes. The crowd has been waiting all night for this. The main event is about to start.

The story of Jordan Devlin can be traced back to 2017 after the inaugural UK tournament where Devlin returned to Over the Top Wrestling as a marquee name with a legitimate chip on his shoulder stemming from the promotions’ use of imports for the main event. “The Import Killer came from a very real gripe that I had with the fact that the main event of these (OTT) shows was always an English guy or an American…competing for our title,” Devlin said earlier this year. Devlin built his reputation in OTT by working against the top names in independent wrestling, taking down talents like Chris Hero, Tyler Bate, and Tommy End before cementing his legacy with an absolute barn-burner against Mark Haskins at Being the Elite.

Under Devlin, the OTT Champion became significantly the measuring stick for as top talent tried their hand against Devlin. Names like Sabre, Angelico, Bate, and Haskins tested themselves against a ferocious and motivated Devlin and were found wanting. Over the course of a year, Devlin—technically sound with a strong-style background thanks to time at Zero1—proved that he wasn’t just a baby version of Prince Devitt and revolutionized the four-year-old promotion. With Devlin at the helm, Over the Top cemented itself as one one of the top European promotions and undoubtedly the top Irish-centric promotion.

Devlin was enjoying his time at the top of the mountain when he stepped into the ring for a special marquee matchup: Jordan Devlin and best friend “The Product” David Starr were set to face off against indie legend Low-Ki and the indomitable WALTER. “…I went a match with WALTER and Low-Ki messin’[sic] around and not one hundred percent.” Devlin said to Angus McNally in the lead-up interview in June. “I was more focused on laughing and joking with one of my best friends than [WALTER & Low-Ki].” In that match, Devlin’s paid for his hubris, tapping out to WALTER’s signature Rear Naked Choke at OTT’s Haven for Monsters. In one fell swoop, Devlin went from invincible to beatable. WALTER proved that the Import Killer could be touched.

In his interview with Angus McNally WALTER grimly warns “The time for the Import Killer is over.”

The 6’4’ Austrian heavyweight WALTER has recently been given the sobriquet “The Final Boss of Indie Wrestling” by internet fans for his dominance of the top indie promotions in Europe and North America. The nickname is apt, as WALTER has all the strength, power and skill like something out of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. It’s not that WALTER can’t be beaten; he can and does lose, but he possesses something that many other competitors lack: abundance.

WALTER has an abundance of strength, an abundance of power, an abundance of technique, an abundance of endurance. WALTER has the same tools a lot of his caliber of performer has, but what makes WALTER such a threat to any championship is that he simply has more. Whatever you throw at him, whatever game-plan can conceive, it simply won’t be enough. WALTER will keep coming forward.

The only men who seem to have continual success against WALTER are madmen with no sense of self-preservation (PCO/Ilja Dragunov) or technical masters who can withstand incredible punishment (Zack Sabre Jr/Pete Dunne). Either definition doesn’t serve Devlin. A great competitor, Jordan can’t be said to possess the technical acumen of someone like perennial rival Mark Haskins or the unkillable will of a Jimmy Havoc. What Devlin possess is an incredible fire that ignites when he’s challenged on his home turf, but with WALTER we see that intensity dim. You can see the concern on Devlin’s face when he checks on Sean McGuinness after his match with WALTER. “WALTER’s no joke,” McGuinness said, sporting finger-shaped bruises from WALTER’s heavy-handed slaps. Devlin sees what fate befalls those who stand before an unleashed WALTER. Devlin questions himself; Am I in trouble?

As the lights go up at the Arena on Suir Road, WALTER enters to a mixture of boos and awe. No one wants to jeer too loudly, lest they catch WALTER’s gaze and be seared. Seconding him is Timothy Thatcher, who had picked up a win tonight against WALTER foe David Starr in a contest that saw Starr ground-down by the force of Thatcher’s offense. RINGKAMPF, the German word for “Wrestling”, comes from a school that prizes a simplicity in performance. The flashiest move in WALTER’s repertoire is a running “Johnny Woo” dropkick. WALTER converses with Thatcher in his corner, confidently going over strategy as the champion comes out second and the crowd erupts.

Jordan Devlin comes out like a fire-breathing dragon, roaming predatorily around the ring like a Gaelic war-king rallying his men for the battle. Beside him, best friend David Starr takes a position at the corner post, ready to offer him council like a senascal. Jordan steps into the ring with an ovation reserve for conquerors and as his name is announced he draws a thumb across his neck as he had done a thousand times before. The bell rings. War has begun.

The opening moments of this match are a hope spot. In fact, I’d offer that everything Jordan Devlin does in this match is a hope spot. The crowd wants…needs Devlin to win. They are as invested in his title reign as he is. It’s almost as if the match is actually WALTER vs. the O.T.T audience played by Jordan Devlin by the way they react to each exchange. The first few minutes see Devlin using his speed and agility to outmaneuvering WALTER, pivoting out of a corner after the initial lock up and ducking WALTER’s signature chop.

“Watch the chop!” Starr yells from the corner, keeping low in Puro-style. Devlin takes a single-leg but is stopped by WALTER. WALTER flips him over easy into a half-crab, steps over and goes for a full crab. Devlin twist and wriggles to the ropes like a worm on a hook. When they next stand, WALTER bades him forward and the two exchange with Devlin scoring an outside leg kick that seems to only to anger the giant. For the next few minutes, WALTER seemingly outwrestles Devlin until Devlin defies his opponent through sheer force of will. Devlin is out to prove that size is not the only way to win matches. Unfortunately, for WALTER, size is the way to establish control and pacing. WALTER only moves forward in the matches, trying to cut Devlin’s tight circles.

“Get space!” Starr yells from the corner, but Devlin finds it harder and harder to put some distance between himself and the big man. Their exchanges more and more favor WALTER as a standing switch leads to a whip leads to a big boot. A big slam from WALTER is followed by a big knee, but each kick out is met drags a little more out of Devlin. When Devlin answers back with strikes, WALTER knocks him down with forearms and open hand slaps. Devlin fights WALTER, losing every exchange, but building momentum with every “Han Stanson” thrown. Just as he surges, WALTER powers him up for the cut-off and into the first official hope spot of the evening.

WALTER sits down into a brutal full crab, bending Devlin in half. It’s hard to imagine WALTER sitting on a chair and not hearing the steel wrench just a little as the big man rest his weight on the seat, but with Devlin it feels like witnessing a torture session. Devlin is able to force himself to crawl to the ropes with half his body bent into a capital C-shape. Even while Devlin collects himself, WALTER doesn’t relent. The boot-scraps wouldn’t be out of place in a Puroresu match, but this bout seems as if someone decided to put Junior-era Naomichi Marufuji up against Kenta Kobashi. When Jordan finally hits his springboard cutter, it felt like it was the one good blow he needed.

Momentum is on Jordan side as he follows up the cutter with a Fergal-style double foot stomp. WALTER is dazed momentarily, but he’s able to trade in the middle, slapping Devlin across the face and grabbing his rear naked finish. Devlin goes for the ropes, but anyone who has ever seen a WALTER match knows what follows is two big slaps against the arms to break and a giant-sized german suplex. Anyone who seen Devlin kick a beach ball at PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 knows that if there’s one thing the Import Killer can do, is fucking flip. Devlin control of the match is short lived after this, as WALTER delivers a chop that sounds like a gunshot before dropping Devlin on his head.

Now we see Devlin’s mettle, as a two-count prompts the crowd to chant “You can’t beat him!” As the battle spills out to the outside, Devlin reverses a powerbomb spot into a beautiful corner moonsault. The back and forth becomes hot and heavy. Devlin goes for another moonsault in the ring, misses and deftly lands on his feet just as WALTER shotguns him into the corner with a dropkick. Back and forth, WALTER chops Devlin, Devlin answers back with stiff shots, answered with a Rear Naked Choke by Walter, answered with a headbutt by Devlin, who answers into a suplex and a rear naked choke attempt, only to have Devlin fight out of it.

The ending stretch has Devlin unloading every big move in his arsenal with the exception of the package piledriver. Devlin hits a Yoshi-Tonic on the big Austrian for a two count. Walter springs out and Devlin catches a series of wrist-clutch assisted chops. The crowd feels that the end is near. Devlin cannot hold out much longer. One big chop comes in and Devlin swings under, catching WALTER with a P.K. This is Devlin’s chance! Devlin rolls WALTER over into an O’Connor roll and sits back into a prawn hold, but he mistimes it. WALTER synchs in the RNC, pulling him into a deep sleep. Just as we think Devlin is going to pull it out one more time, WALTER doesn’t give him the chance. He drives Devlin in the mat with a Fire Thunder Driver.

When the three count is actually hit, the crowd doesn’t cheer or boo. There is a silence that blanks the audience like a shroud. Devlin lost? Devlin can’t lose, but Devlin just lost. As WALTER music swells, the crowd realizes what they had just seen. They have seen their valiant hero fight with all of his might, with the full force of the crowd behind him, and still, lose. It wasn’t that Devlin made any critical error. He didn’t lose because of hubris or lack of fire. He didn’t even lose because he wasn’t good enough. Jordan Devlin was the best wrestler in the world that night. Jordan Devlin lost because, sometimes, you can try your absolute hardest, you can do everything perfectly, and still lose.

Devlin stands up, defeated and humbled. “I’m sorry” Devlin mouths to the audience as he walks to the back.  Today, at the Arena on Suir Road, Jordan Devlin learned one of the most valuable lessons any champion can ever learn. He learned that sometimes you, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you prepare, no matter if the whole world is on your back and you feel like you can slay a dragon with your bare hands, sometimes you cannot win. Jordan Devlin’s greatest defeat was not in the hands of WALTER but in the hands of inevitably, in the hands of fate. At Wrestlerama 2, Jordan Devlin went to battle with an agent of doom itself and walked away on his own two feet, to someone wage war again.