The first time that JD Drake challenged for the Limitless World Championship, Daniel Garcia proved to be the smarter wrestler. Not the bravest wrestler, Garcia spends most of the opening moments keeping his distance from Drake. He ducks and weaves, getting his shots and getting out of Dodge before Drake could get a flurry of strikes in.
Garcia’s certainly not the strongest wrestler either. Early on, Garcia tries to bring things down to the mat where his technical prowess should give him the advantage. But Drake’s natural size and power comes into play. He completely smothers Garcia on the mat, flustering the defending champion. Later on, Garcia gets tangled in the ropes Andre the Giant-style and Drake completely caves his chest in with machinegun chops.
No, what Garcia had that got him the win was cleverness. Each time Drake returned to a move or a tactic he’d already used, Garcia had already plotted out counters to make Drake pay for his repetition. There’s also his ruthless attack on any kind of weakness presented. When Drake tweaks his knee performing a moonsault of the top, Garcia’s relentless going after the bum wheel. With a little help from Kevin Blackwood at ringside, Garcia’s attack on the leg is so focused and instantly effective that he’s able to eke out the victory despite being physically outmatched in most every other way.
That was in May.
Things have changed since then. Daniel Garcia has skyrocketed through the industry, landing himself bookings in pretty much every major American independent promotion as well as becoming a regular part of AEW television. In that sense, he’s surpassed JD Drake. While Drake has been a bit player on AEW’s YouTube-exclusive shows for quite some time now as a member of The Wingmen, Garcia has had two marquee matches on network television against Darby Allin and has even rubbed elbows with the likes of Jon Moxley and CM Punk.
It’s a pretty perfect encapsulation of where their respective careers appear to be at this point. JD Drake is a fantastic wrestler, yes, but where he’s muscle for one of AEW’s D-tier stables right now, Garcia seems primed to continue going from strength to strength as the year continues.
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That kind of distance between the two men makes their second match for the Limitless World Championship at Limitless Wrestling’s 2021 Vacationland Cup all the richer. This time, there’s additional stakes at play. After Blackwood’s interference cost him in May, JD Drake has demanded that Blackwood be banned from ringside. Garcia has agreed to this, but only on the condition that should Drake lose, he never get a shot at Garcia’s title again.
With so much on the line, it’s no shock that Drake employs the strategy that he does at the start of the match. There’s the opening shot where he gets the jump on Garcia with a vicious chop before the bell—taking advantage of the champion’s gloating. There’s no artful dodging from Garcia this time, Drake’s got his bear claws on the man and he’s thrashing him about from the word go.
Then there’s the next phase of Drake’s plan. After coming off the turnbuckles, Drake immediately buckles to the mat, clutching his knee in pain and shouting obscenities. The referee goes to check on the challenger and throws up an X—a gesture many wrestling fans have come to associate with legitimate injury.
The match comes to a screeching halt with even Garcia looking a bit confused before switching on his heel gears and gloating. This leads to the big reveal that Drake was faking and he burns through some powerful offense that just fails to keep Garcia down. This moment not only plays fans’ knowledge against them (the understanding of the X gesture, the long-documented problem with Drake’s leg), it also acts as a wonderful piece of thematic continuity from their first match.
In this moment, we see Drake trying to play Garcia’s game. He does so by playing an underhanded tactic—perhaps influenced by his time with The Wingmen should we stretch our perspective that far—that directly connects to the way his last match with Garcia ended. It’s a delightful piece of classic pro wrestling storytelling and it also follows its natural conclusion down the stretch as well.
You see, as willing as Drake is to take advantage, Garcia’s also changed. His time on TV, his run burning through the independent scene, have only sharpened and honed his skills. At this point, he doesn’t even need Kevin Blackwood at his side because now his abilities have caught up to his cleverness. Early on, he creates an opening by going after Drake’s ribs and Garcia never loses sight of this. He attacks the ribs from every conceivable angle: abdominal stretches, elbow strikes, dropkicks, even those good ole 12 to 6 elbows.
Drake’s a fighter, a rugged and hard hitting one at that. When Garcia tries to ground him, Drake tries to smother him with the sheer size of his palm. If Garcia creates a little too much distance, Drake’s likely to swat him out of the air with a chop. He also has his overwhelming size and power which naturally provides him openings in crucial times. If his ribs hold up, he’s even able to do something amazing like hit the Drill Bit off the second rope.
Unfortunately, at this point Drake’s running on pure survival mode. His body has been picked apart expertly by Garcia, and Garcia has once again done his homework. When Drake tries to nail a chop feint into a DDT, the champion recognizes the tactic instantly and punishes Drake with a DDT of his own. From there, the result isn’t really in doubt anymore. Red Death locks in the Garcia Lock and Drake has no other choice but to submit.
Both these title matches are excellent but it’s the rematch that truly stands out for me. Much like other pieces of wonderful wrestling, it comes baked in with its own principles and morals. JD Drake, in a bout of desperation, sunk to the level of the more dastardly champion. He tried to play Garcia’s game but simply could not do it half as well. Where Garcia used Blackwood’s interference as a finishing tactic to put away Drake in the first match, here Drake blows his one ace in the hole early in the match. Garcia won by sheer attrition and consistency. He had one plan—take out the big man’s ribs—and he executed to perfection. No cheating necessary, just a wrestler quickly becoming one of the best at his craft picking up a well-deserved victory. Wrestling matches work best when the workers involved know exactly what it is they want to say and few workers approach wrestling with as much clarity and confidence as Daniel Garcia and JD Drake.