First, I feel the need to apologize for missing the last two months. Last year I had promised myself that I would set aside time to devote to these columns, and in the last month of a very busy and exhausting semester, I failed. Be that as it may, I am not wholly ashamed of missing those two months. I think I needed some time to ponder the direction of this column, so I gave myself some time to just watch wrestling (in between studying for my Ph.D. Comp Exams) without the (self-administered) pressure of meeting a deadline with a column. Ashamed or no, I do apologize to any readers (if there are any!) who look forward to my columns or find them even slightly thought provoking.
Now, in those two months, I considered what I really want to spend my monthly allotment doing in these columns. Last year, I usually used it to try to craft a short argument about some dimension of professional wrestling, attempting to point out the limits that fans impose upon themselves, limits that keep them from really thinking and enjoying what they watch. For instance, one month I critiqued the idea of ?passing the torch,? pointing out that this narrative convention has actually never been a part of professional wrestling and that?to some extent?it is antithetical to its business model. Fans expecting aging wrestlers to ?pass the torch,? then, are waiting for something that isn?t going to happen. The creation of a main eventer does not follow a formula; it has to be an accident produced through a variety of interbombarding factors.
In 2010, I don?t really want to focus on these sorts of columns anymore. Rather, I just want to share a bit of the joy that professional wrestling brings me each month. This seems a bit simpler, more sincere, and a better use of my time than trying to argue with fans about how they might enjoy wrestling more.
With that said, I thought I?d share my thoughts on two things I found particularly entertaining in the last few weeks: (1) the 8-man tournament at TNA’s Against All Odds PPV and (2) the opening match between Rey Mysterio and CM Punk on the 2/12/2010 edition of Friday Night’s Smackdown.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
I cannot say that I really expected big things from TNA. However, their Valentine’s Day PPV really came through. They did not produce a blow-away show, and there were certainly some stinkers in the middle of the show, but I think that what we saw was a major step in the right direction: a SIMPLER direction. Although the booking last night practically came from a 101 textbook, the crowd completely bought into it, and because of that I came away feeling satisfied for the first time in a long time.
So what was different? Clean wins. Very little shenanigans. I mean, how much simpler does it get than Mr. Anderson putting down Kurt Angle (who pretty much needs to get run over by an 18-wheeler these days) and Abyss in order to put that much more significance into Pope’s kick out of the Mic Check? Fans might complain that they knew Pope would kick out, but given the crowd reaction I?d say that the booking had a clear direction and went straightforward in achieving that direction. The matches themselves weren?t quite what I had hoped, but the care that the bookers are taking to build up personas and characters should mean happy things for us if they can keep their writing consistent in order to stay away from the conventional Russo-esque overbooking.
The backstage segments came across really well too, particularly the segments involving Joe and Bischoff as well as the segment in which Hogan warned Bischoff to call his match down the middle. This was such a perfect use of Hogan: given how central he has been on television, scaling back his character but emphasizing his superiority to Bischoff really came together to paint a picture that made SENSE (something TNA has struggled to do for several years now).
So what’s in store for us as TNA moves to Monday nights? Hopefully, if they can keep the booking solid (and simple!) and the matches watchable, we might have actually have a rebirth of the Monday Night Wars (though it’s too soon to tell).
REY MYSTERIO VS. CM PUNK
What a fun match. Rey Mysterio proved why he’s probably the best wrestler in the world right now (which is almost becoming a commonplace these days), but more importantly, I think, CM Punk showed me (definitively) how many miles this Straight Edge Society gimmick can actually have. After several months of redundant and repetitive promos last year, I think taking the ?creepy turn? has worked wonders (as it did for Randy Orton). CM Punk not only showed that he’s progressing in the ring (selling the hard kicks that Mysterio delivered to his leg early in the match, but subtly so as not to deter the match into a narrative involving his leg injury), he also added little things, particularly to his ring entrance and to the post-match beat down.
Kneeling down, handing his Slammy to Luke Gallows, screaming his ?Clobbering Time!? catchphrase, reaching out for Serena’s hand, confidently nodding to his minions prior to the bell, touching his forehead to Rey’s. All these little details are the stuff that make a character worthwhile to watch, something that pervades everything a character does without making every minute monotonous. Add on to these little things the subtle things he includes: keeping his injured leg away from Mysterio when locking up, sneaking in some short headbutts when in close proximity, and all the while selling the damage without doing the clich?d ?hold my knee and wince in pain.? Instead, he stretches his leg, hops only once or twice after delivering a kick, but all the while keeps his attention disciplined (as his character should be) to either attacking Rey or berating the referee for counting slow.
The rest of the match is really a thing of beauty, even when they start running through signature and conventional spots (the missed baseball slide drop kick, the springboard cross body, etc.). The counter from the GTS into a simple hurricanrana after Mysterio avoided all the interference that threatened him really pleased the crowd and felt like a satisfying ending to a fantastic match. Tack on the fact that Punk eats Mysterio’s offense better than Jericho did in their MOTYCs last year and that we get some really eye-popping spots (the back suplex on the apron comes to mind, as does the sliding drop kick that followed up on that spot), and we get what may be my favorite match of the year thus far . . . in what has already shaped up to be a good year.
Back to the creepy. How awesome is it that Luke Gallows PUT Mysterio on Punk’s shoulders while Punk was kneeling? I mean, ?carrying one’s cross?/crucifixion gestures often seem cheesy and overdone . . . but that was plain awesome, especially after Punk slithered over Mysterio yelling, ?Rey! I can save you, Rey!? I think this gimmick has legs, people . . .
Simple things. Happy things. I think I?m going to try to focus on such things this year . . .
Until next month (I hope!) . . . take care!