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Universal Constants in Good Wrestling Matches

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World's Worst Man

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Some people say you can't compare different wrestling styles. I say nonsense. While different styles require one to look for different things, there are a number of criteria that are constant in all forms of pro-wrestling. Once that is known, all that is left in order to compare the different styles of pro-wrestling is to decide whether one match does a better job in its genre's specific criteria than the next. This is of course all my opinion, in case the reader is one of those who get offended whenever one doesn't add "In my opinion" at the end of every line they type. So here are four fairly general criteria, that I try to apply to every wrestling match I see.

 

Selling.

 

Without selling, pro-wrestling falls apart. Afterall, how is one able to simulate a real fight, when none of the techniques do any damage? This is perhaps the most important aspect to good pro-wrestling matches, yet so many completely ignore it when it's convenient. Great selling creates drama - One wrestler is getting dominated, only to reverse the tables with a big move. Both men are down, who will gain the upper hand? Great selling creates a greater sense of realism - Thrity minutes into the match, both men are slowing down, showing visible signs of fatigue and damage. Selling is the one of the best ways to make a wrestler or move look credible. It also makes the seller look good, if he can come back after being visibly hurt. Selling is important, and it's a shame that so many fans simply disregard the relevance of it, claiming it's "smarky overanalysis" whenever selling issues are mentioned.

 

Building/Setting Up Spots.

 

Building and/or setting up spots is an important component of wrestling logic. It doesn't make sense for a wrestler to rattle off a bunch of easily blockable/counterable spots, early in a match. The opponent isn't fatigued/damaged enough to be susceptible, so it doesn't make any sense for him to "allow" himself to be hit with those moves. This is where long-term build comes into play. Keeping spots for later in the match, when the opponent is more fatigued/damage, and thus more susceptible to the move. On the other hand, there's setting up spots in the short term. Using strikes or counters to setup a spot. This is generally, not a big problem for most wrestlers. However, there are some who don't seem to get this concept. As an example, without naming names, I recently saw a match where the wrestlers were in neutral positions, opposite one another. One of the combatants simply walked up to his opponent, grabbed him, and suplexed him. I don't think I need to explain the absurdity of that situation. Suffice to say, this is something else that ties into the logic of pro-wrestling.

 

Competent execution.

 

Simply put, making the moves and strikes look somewhat realistic and painful. If it's a brawl, the emphasis is on good-looking striking and creating an illusion of a struggle. If it's a technical match, the emphasis is on creating matwork that doesn't look completely contrived, and hitting moves that look somewhat painful to the opponent, without looking painful to the user. If this isn't present, the wrestling isn't believable. Which then makes the selling seem absurd. Transitions are also something that falls under this subject. Basically, properly changing the direction of a match. The wrestler's swap control segments, the match moves from a "feeling out" phase to a "control" phase, etc.

 

Story.

 

The story of the match. Two men, struggling on the mat, trying to wear their opponent down so they can hit their own big moves. A heel dominating the face, while the face attempts to fight his way back. A larger opponent trying to force his will on the smaller, quicker opponent, while the quicker wrestler tries to use his speed to his advantage. And countless other storylines that are played out in pro-wrestling matches. Without a story, why are they wrestling?

 

These are basically the standards that I apply to all wrestling matches. The latter two topics have their own specific criteria based on what style of pro-wrestling is being used. As long as one doesn't try to apply a specific criteria to every pro-wrestling match, it is no problem to compare different styles of wrestling. And I must admit that there are occasionally times where one or more of the basic criteria are lacking, for perfectly acceptable reasons. I'd rather not get into that now, because it would likely take a lot of time to go through them all. But I'd certainly welcome any discussion about specific exceptions to the rule, or any discussion about this subject period. So there you have it. And once again, this is all my opinion. Just in case one doesn't understand the way online forums/blogs work.

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Superb, GQ. I know you've noted you can be lazy when it comes to articles (and I am too, which is why I more or less dropped off the main site in 2003) but this is the sort of thing that could be a published article on the main site (assuming that whole thing takes off and works out).

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And I must admit that there are occasionally times where one or more of the basic criteria are lacking, for perfectly acceptable reasons. I'd rather not get into that now, because it would likely take a lot of time to go through them all.

 

This, right here is very intriguing to me (and could bring about something more interesting and unique) than what you discussed. I would love to read more on this.

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And I must admit that there are occasionally times where one or more of the basic criteria are lacking, for perfectly acceptable reasons. I'd rather not get into that now, because it would likely take a lot of time to go through them all.

 

This, right here is very intriguing to me (and could bring about something more interesting and unique) than what you discussed. I would love to read more on this.

 

A couple examples. Execution might be lacking late in a match to put over the fatigue/damage that each guy is dealing with. Mind you, in a lot of cases where I've seen that, it seems to be an intentional effort on the wrestlers' parts to make their moves more sluggish. Not properly selling a move would be acceptable in some cases, most notably if the bodypart that is used to do the move has been damaged before. So if one guy works over his opponents arm for most of the match, then a lariat isn't going to be as effective as it would normally be.

 

Building to spots might not be necessary either, depending on the story of the match. If both guys had already wrestled earlier in the night, it would make sense that they would be worn down for their second match, and susceptible to "late match moves", early in the match. I'd imagine a story based around a "first time encounter" could also lead to early, big moves being exchanged, just to put over how neither guy knows enough about his opponent to defend against their offense. And then there's the oft-used "surprise your opponent by hitting a big move early". This works well if that story is actually played up (meaning it's an isolated move, and the body language/selling is right), which you saw a lot in All Japan matches back in the day.

 

Basically, if the wrestling makes sense, and it's clear the wrestlers are trying to infer that logic, it's alright with me.

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The best example of this I've seen was in the opening minutes of Misawa/Kawada on 10/21/92. Misawa grabs a headlock and Kawada immediately does a backdrop driver, which completely throws Misawa off and he has to briefly distance himself to rethink his approach. From there, the match is a beautiful example of good transitions, with each sequence building to the next sequence and that reactionary style being the theme of the match. It's not until Misawa decides to stop reacting and start being proactive that he's able to sustain any momentum and keep things in his favor for any length of time. This also serves to put Kawada over, because Misawa wrestles like he's waiting on Kawada to make a mistake, which he finally realizes isn't going to happen. I've seen many better matches than this, but this is such a great example of taking a relatively simple story arc and getting it over as something elaborate, and it all happened the way it did just because Kawada pulled a big move out of his hat almost instantly.

 

Would you be interested in posting this blog entry as a new topic at NMB? I think it would make a great discussion.

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