Musings of a Mark #21
June 22, 2009
By: Scott Webster of WrestleView.com
Contrary to my statements throughout the week on the forum boards, I will not be addressing the notion of ?burial? and how it does NOT apply to Matt Hardy as a consequence of this feud with Edge in 2005. I haven?t had a change of heart. I just don?t want to appear a tool that uses his privileged slab of space on the WV home-page to publicly humiliate those whom disagree with him without fear for retort. I?m a nice guy, really...
What is intriguing about these stories grounded in the ?true-felt?, whether it's the legitimate pain experienced from a stiff jab to the eye socket in BATTLarts or the rejuvenated mannerisms of Jericho's adversaries at Wrestlemania 25, is how they re-manipulate that impression and interrogate it throughout the performance. In the 2008 edition of WV's Match of the Year project, I described how the impression of ?true-felt? pain (caused by deliberately connecting strikes) whilst watching that fantastic multi-man BATTLarts tag subsequently got re-applied to the performed aspects of the match. In a sense it made the selling of excruciating pain during submission holds strongly convincing. In the case of Chris Jericho versus the Hall of Famers at Wrestlemania 25, I felt that the ?real? emotion of Steamboat, Piper and Snuka relishing the opportunity to perform once more on such a stage gave their characters? a perceivably motivated desire to silence Jericho. They appeared significantly rejuvenated, giving their characters that added sense of felt significance for the match that ultimately lifted it above mediocrity. There are other examples I could discuss - Flair / Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV; Atlantis / Villano III in 2000; Benoit / Sullivan in WCW etc. ? but they aren?t the topic of this ?Musings...? edition.
That same sweeping of the ?true-felt? seems to occur within the Matt Hardy / Edge 2005 series... I?m not high-up on the details behind this saga (as any anonymous ?Net dweeb would be wise to admit) but the common understanding of the behind-the scenes soap opera are as follows: Hardy gets injured in 2004, requiring surgery. During his recovery it's discovered that his long-time girlfriend (Lita) was having an affair with his best-friend (Edge). Hardy was subsequently released as the ?expendable one?, as Edge was healthy and rearing for a significant push. A slew of shoots, blogging hate-mail and on-air teases followed soon after resulting in Matt Hardy being re-hired; his re-introduction provided through a feud loosely based on what transpired behind-the-scenes. Only ... the lines between ?fiction? and ?fact? (at least, what knowledge of ?fact? we, the anonymous, received) were further complicated; Hardy would initially call Edge ?Adam? and Lita ?Amy?, not to mention jumping them unexpectedly from the crowd prior to news of his re-hiring becoming public knowledge. Such a crafted impression of ?fact? being interwoven into a fiction persists into their matches, and the resulting effect is interesting in its ability to incite questions of what's ?true-felt? and what's performed...
For the purpose of this column, I shall only refer to the two pay-per-view matches (Summerslam 2005 and Unforgiven 2005) as they present the best examples to work with. That's not to suggest the Street Fight (RAW 29/08/05) and Loser Leaves RAW Ladder match (RAW 03/10/05) aren?t worthy of attention. They are, in fact, quite good... though not without flaws. I?ll be posting reviews of those on my blog, in any case. Anyway, onto the matches...
It's a shame the Summerslam 2005 encounter was so short. Foremost the facial expressions of both Matt Hardy and Edge are especially effective in communicating the issues between these two. Edge's body language is more serious / focused than usual, not bothering to taunt or showboat as he approaches the ring. He's clearly breathing deeply to restrain his emotions, which also explains the shaking of his arms i.e. loosening up his limbs, as he doesn?t want them to be stiff / tense. As I?m witnessing this, a thought enters my mind: ?Is this Edge or Adam Copeland?? It's possible to view this series as a medium for venting frustrations between performers (not just characters), so could this possibly be Adam Copeland heavily concerned about what his colleague may do amidst the performance? Or is he simply portraying concern, because that's what his character should be feeling / communicating? A combination of both maybe? Only Adam Copeland knows the truth, but the fact that I?m even bothering to consider whether it's him or the character shows how the re-interrogation of the ?true-felt? can cause an impression of ?legitimacy? in a fake sport. One thing's for sure, it makes me pay attention to what does transpire... Y?know, just in case that aura of concern is ?real? and justified...
Matt Hardy's mannerisms match Edge's, suggesting imminent interaction that isn?t solely concerned with entertaining the crowd. His mouth is agape, the eyes zoned onto Edge signifying that he's not aware of his own appearance so much as keeping his adversary in sight. Again Hardy doesn?t acknowledge the crowd, which is unusual for a face to do, emphasising this ?more-than-just-entertainment? feeling for the match as he tosses away the shirt and rushes to combat Edge. Overall it seems that both Adam Copeland and Matt Hardy are channelling emotions and negotiating them into aspects of this match.
The initial physicality can only be labelled as ?messy?. Both push against the other stubbornly in the lock-up, not a thought paid to making it appear graceful. Indicative of a strong desire to get at each other's throats overcoming the need to enact ?neat? execution? Hardy scrambles to slap on a rear-naked choke, his gritted teeth and aggressive pulling making it seem appropriate within the brawling context. It also brings to mind another questioning of whether he's ?performing? or ?behaving?. The rough strikes in the corner achieve the same thought, not seeming restrained at all. There's looseness about them, sure, but the sound of impact and the velocity of their movement teases an underlying intent to ?rough? Adam Copeland up.
Neither seems too concerned with applying wrestling holds or moves, or even establishing a coherent pace to draw in the crowd. That's a good thing; it's not about the crowd. The characters only care about beating each other to a pulp. Maybe it's the same for the performers... There isn?t attention paid to structure. Hardy never leaves Edge room to recover or escape, always pursuing the fleeing enemy at every attempt. There's no searching for weapons and/or setting up of complex spots (an unfortunate flaw of the similar hatred-based narrative featuring Matt and Jeff Hardy quarrelling recently). Hardy just wants to pound on Edge indefinitely.
The reckless abandon displayed by Edge's Spear through the ropes, sending both crashing to the ground below, signifies the motivation to grievously hurt the other that fuels both combatants. No matter the self-sacrifice required. Jim Ross sums up the environment admirably: ?Someone is going to get seriously hurt before this one is over.? Via its conclusive moments (Hardy bleeding and concuss) and its progression (the wild brawling, solid haymakers ? there's a beaut after the Spear, before Hardy blades), I feel this small performance achieves that impression.
Earlier I wrote that the match's length was unfortunate, but maybe its purpose as a medium for venting frustrations demanded it. They should let it out, but not have the opportunity to MURDER each other. I think, considering how Matt Hardy ended up beaten and bloodied, the length of this match did cause those murmurings of ?buried? to arise. I still disagree however, as Hardy only ended up in such a state due to a lucky counter. He dominated the match, and beckoned Edge to bring it even despite his blood loss. He was still conscious when the referee ended the match. In the end, the match made a great point of Hardy's emotional irrationality becoming his downfall, but also his fighting spirit and toughness.
Onto Unforgiven 2005, and its rather excellent Steel Cage offering... There's a multiplicity of emotions conveyed by Matt Hardy upon arrival: wandering eyes shifting between Edge and the cage highlighting concern; their watery quality suggests lingering internal pain due to the betrayal of his friend and girlfriend; the loosening of his shoulders communicates that, despite the emotional torment, he's prepared to engage in battle with Edge; his snarl-like gritted teeth signifies the rage felt inside. As you may perceive, there's a possibility that a number of these emotions portrayed are produced by an intersection of the ?true-felt? and the performed.
However there's a distinct fictional feel applied to this particular match, regardless of the few moments where the ?true-felt? seems to emerge. Take, for instance, Edge's body language. He portrays weariness of the cage environment, stopping to regard its presence prior to entering. The lingering stare shared with Lita layers their interaction with concern ? the care shared for another plus reassurance ? although I wouldn?t describe Edge's body language as ?fearful?. After all he did emerge from Summerslam technically victorious, albeit lucky. He's tentative about the environment, investigating his surroundings upon entry, but his movements ? firm approach of the ring, unchanged expression of confidence (smirk, lowered gaze) ? convey confidence. Were this Adam Copeland, and not Adam Copeland depicting ?Edge?, I?d expect the confidence to be downplayed and perhaps an uneasiness to layer his body movements. In other words, his trademark broad wicked grin wouldn?t be as pronounced as Hardy's entrance music blares over the sound system...
The common elbow tie-up is ?messy?, with both pushing the other about the ring without relinquishing their grip a la Summerslam. It soon degenerates into a brawl, with early attempts to utilise the cage being foiled. Due to the seeming merger of ?true? circumstances into a kayfabe narrative, the strikes adopt a particular feel of ?realism? every now and then. The one punch that knocks Edge loopy could?ve been ?real?, for example. Hardy shakes his hand in pain (plus grimaces) adding to impact impression.
Overall I?d argue the Steel Cage match has a far more structured progression, as opposed to the much shorter pay-per-view match the previous month. As such, it takes upon a more fictitious aura leaving less ?evidence? of the underlying ?true-felt? than at Summerslam. There's a strong dualism between Edge and Matt Hardy: Edge attempts to escape unless he has an overwhelming advantage, Matt Hardy never tries to leave the surroundings. Regardless of whether or not the ?true-felt? is contained in this narrative, Matt Hardy still expresses appropriate emotions whilst wrestling. They appear performed, but his primal screams and gritted teeth still convey the anger he's supposed to be feeling.
The match contains a number of allusions to Summerslam, reflecting and building upon them as the performance progresses. For example, it's another fortunate counter (for Edge) that renders Matt battered and seemingly concuss. He doesn?t blade this time, but Hardy's groggy selling - loose limbs, distant gaze, agape mouth, stumbling, desperately flung misguided punches etc. ? creates the same impression of the injury sustained at Summerslam. This time round Hardy fights on and ultimately turns the table on Edge, busting his enemy open. The final stretch of the performance witnesses Matt Hardy overcome two Spears, two distraction plots by Lita and his aforementioned injury before nailing a conclusive spot to seal the victory. Credibility much? This time it's Edge crawling up the ramp bloodied and beaten.
Obviously the Steel Cage encounter has a far more developed narrative ? affirming the idea that Summerslam was about the performers venting frustrations than providing a quality showing ? with Adam Copeland, in particular, appearing to be more attuned to his character than the ?true-felt?. As such, although I?d argue against Summerslam being labelled a poor match, the Steel Cage would undoubtedly be the more entertaining clash.
That concludes another ?Musings...? edition. Hopefully I?ve provided some food for thought about how the ?true-felt? operates when interrogated into a performance. Pay close attention to the mannerisms and actions of performers in feuds supposedly based on ?real? events (Foley / Flair), or even performances that manipulate legitimate feeling occurring during the match ? the pain delivered in BATTLarts or even the fear for Rhino and AJ Styles? safety during the first Elevation X match in 2007 ? and try to decipher the ambiguity behind the performed and the ?real?. Or simple sit back, enjoy and ignore my super nerd musings. HA!
Til next time,