I've been watching a lot lately--at this point in the summer my only responsibility is a geology course so I've been spending a lot of time studying wrestling performances. I watched ROH Wrestling at the Gateway yesterday. It's a short show, about fifteen minutes over two hours, and a relatively easy watch, although it's the definition of a passable ROH show. Whenever they run a town for the first time, you can expect it to be moderately good throughout, but with a bigger show the following night nobody was trying too hard to impress. Kenny King vs Kenny Omega opened, both guys have loads of potential, and usually put on fun matches. There was a tag match that featured Luke, formerly of the Bushwhackers, who didn't look too bad; his selling is decent, he's just too old, so his timing is off, i.e. taking a delayed bump through the ropes off of a Rhett Titus dropkick, etc. There was an Ultimate Endurance tag team gauntlet, didn't feel like much effort was exerted beyond mere physicality, some decent shots, etc. but most of it felt mailed-in. Brent Albright continues being one of my least favorite ROH workers. There's a tag with Ace Steel and Necro Butcher (guess the CZW invasion has been forgiven) versus Jacobs and Delirious, again, not top-shelf stuff in regards to storytelling, but a handful of floor bumps, okay brawling, etc. Aries vs. Black was good, but I like them more in '09 when the roles have been reversed, Aries is incredibly more fun and entertaining as an asshole, eccentric heel now, and Black never really felt like a genuine heel then. Their match had some of best executed moves, from a technical standpoint, but felt too much like an exhibition with neither having strong characters like they would later. The main event is Lynn and Danielson vs. Claudio and Nigel, not a lot to say about it, pretty consistent performers but again, this felt like them demonstrating to a new town, as the match itself didn't ever develop into anything too compelling outside of guys' signature spots, etc.
I also watched both the June 13 and 20 episodes of ROH on HDNet. I thought the finish on D-Lo vs. Jay Briscoe was insultingly cheap--why'd Brown make his TV debut by leaving ringside mid-match to retreat? Bobby Fish from NOAH looked good (especially his selling) in a tag outing getting squashed alongside Silas Young by Steen and Generico. Jerry Lynn vs. Chris Hero was the best thing off of the 6/13 show. The 6/20 show didn't do much for me, thought Omega vs. King was good, and the main event of Roderick Stong vs. KENTA was also enjoyable. I could kind of see why so much of the 'net harps on KENTA, though, his facial selling is almost non-existent even though he eats more brutal shots than most guys in the business today. Still, this served up the stiffness in spoonfuls, which is especially refreshing for an American TV show. Next up on the ROH front, I'll be screening Motor City Madness '09 and Steel City Clash.
I watched the first season of The Matt Hardy Show last night. Fuck, this was all sorts of bizarre, in a mostly fun way, although some segments dragged. There's a variety of skits, some tend to be Jackass-like in nature, like egg fights, electrical shocks, homoerotic pandering, etc. I also liked the goofy movie-like segments, reminded me of if I'd had a camcorder back in the early-'90's, although these guys are considerably older, which makes it sort of weird, but watching Matt and Jeff play like kids, pretending to be trolls, acting out spontaneous scenes, etc. is amusing. There's also some more "mature" stuff, like some segments on Matt's girlfriend, who's outrageously hot, and Matt's reenactment of the night he found out Lita was having an affair with Edge, which is a lot more explicit than the version told on their WWE commercial DVD a few years ago. Them having a party and drinking with Shannon Moore and some other OMEGA guys gets a little tedious. Matt comes off like a big, fun-loving kid, but with an ego and slightly skewed angle on reality, and Jeff, damn, he comes off like a released mental patient that's on the verge of either building a rocket to fly to the moon or blueprints for the ultimate orgasm/sucide. Shannon Moore telling the Hardy's dad to fuck a dog, and later, how he sticks a washcloth up his ass when he masturbates is enough to make any fair-weather fan run screaming.
I liked TNA for the most part last week. I liked seeing Tara get the gold, treated it like an authentic moment, and hopefully they'll allow her to do some good programs as a champion. I enjoyed Styles/Daniels vs. Morgan/Nash a lot. It was nice to see Homicide return, albeit in a two-minute match that he was in afterthought in. The main event wasn't much, Jarret's histrionics are laughable, Foley is in terrible shape, and Angle can only do so much. I'll be downloading next weekend's Victory Road '09 pay-per-view. I've got a ton of other stuff on tap, a bunch of '09 stuff from Japan I've finally managed to burn off of my laptop and get on DVD, some FIP discs via Adam, the Powers of Pain set he got me, continuing work on our NWA/WCW Power Hour '90 project, and some misc. shows like WWF Royal Rumble '90 and recent Chikara.
Besides finishing the Schneider comp on Sunday and UFC 100 party at Adams on Sat., only thing i've seen is most of Raw last night. Enjoyed the women's match, not just because of the obvious scantily clad outfits they wore, but specifically the sequence between Gail Kim and A- Fox and Mickie doing the Val Venis DDT sell. Seth Green promos, take 'em or leave 'em, thought he played off the wrestlers fine. The Jericho- Mark Henry moment was pure cheese, but it was really enjoyable, Jericho also bumped big for Henry afterwards. I'm up to the main at this point.
A lot has been said about the importance of moves, and other aspects, in regards to the quality of a wrestler, or match, etc. I've been thinking about this lately. I've always considered wrestling great because it's a marriage of acting and athleticism, or movies and sports, etc. Thus, I watch a wrestler as I do an actor in a movie, or performer on a stage during a play; I watch their eyes, facial expressions, body language, etc. things that resonate their humanity in me. For me, a good wrestler is one who has engaging performances, one that "stays in character" if you will, even during transitions and lulls, while out on the apron in a tag bout, etc. Those are the wrestlers who suck me into what they're doing, it's a craft, one that which those who excel at can weave rich tapestries of story and emotion into something as seemingly base and caustic as a wrestling match. I tend to prefer the acting side above the "flashy moves" side of things. You can have an un-athletic guy, like Andre the Giant, who can't really move around much or do big spots, but can manipulate a crowd and still have memorable matches. You can also have a guy that can do fancy, flashy moves, like many backyard wrestlers, but have no idea of context or how to elicit a reaction from a crowd. So, crazy, breathtaking moves and good wrestling isn't mutually inclusive, or, I'd rather have a guy who has a simple set of moves but can get a crowd into a match than a guy that can do all sorts of flips and dives but not connect with an audience. Here's an analogy I came up with earlier today while driving: let's take a painter and compare him to a wrestler, what's important is the finished work of art the painter gives us, not the brushstrokes that went into it, similarly, what's important in a wrestling match is the overall story it told, not just the movies (i.e. brushstrokes). Sure, I still dig a crazy dive to the floor, a spine-tingling suplex, and so on, but as I've matured as a student of wrestling I've grown to appreciate all elements of what makes a truly great performer.
A lot of good points here; i find i've relegated myself back to my youth when watching. Back then, it was very simple things that would stick out to you, as you say a high impact move or dive at just the right moment. Besides your painter analogy, which makes sense, one thing I would add to that, is some matches may still contain a moment or two that you really dig that ultimately may not save a failing match or stick out like a sore thumb in a classic. I've started looking at matches like food, or more like recipes. Just like a canvas before a painter, it's blank, empty, with a recipe, you start with basic ingredients, decide what you can throw in, what goes with what, what will bring out the best in the dish. In a match, you can decide the pace, the slow and fast spots, the near falls or the high spots. The creativity you can use in creating this match is limitless, and there's certain formulas or recipes that have been time-tested that you know work, and we see stuff like this all the time, certain comedy spots, the dive spots, the tower of dooms, all that stuff that works really well for a reaction up until it's been done to death, then of course it doesn't seem to mean much anymore. As I've said before, one of the most important parts of a match is the finish, which in a meal is when you eat what you have made, to see if all the hard work was worth it. The finish in a lot of cases is the final deciding factor of this match, the last impression of the in ring work, so it's very important.
oh but as I was saying taking your example of Andre, physically years deterioted him, but like a good football coach, he has a playbook that he can use, things he knows work, whether on defense or offense (which in wrestling could also mean heel and face) and he doens't need to do 60 dives outside or shooting stars. That's one thing that's so cool about wrestling is the massive variety of characters and body types that exist within it. Makes the sport so much fun to watch!