Thursday, November 7, 2013

NEW GENERATION ERA PROJECT: RAW REVIEW 10.11.1993

INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH
RAZOR RAMON vs. RICK MARTEL
Vince did a really nice recap of the Battle Royal last week, but you can read my review of it HERE if you're just joining us. Razor and Martel were the last guys in the ring so they're competing for the built here tonight. Vince trying to sell the importance of this match through Columbus day has to be heard:

VINCE(and this is exactly what he said): Well gentlemen, let's not forget that we're celebrating Columbus Day here in the United States. Columbus, by the way, not only was he representing the Queen of England when he discovered America, don't forget, Columbus was hispanic! This could be a great day for those of the hispanic extraction - a great day for Razor Ramon.

All made better by Macho Man pronouncing "Los Estados Unidos".

Razor does some arm work early on that was nice, but it doesn't lead to anything special, mostly because Martel takes over to work over his back most of the match. Martel is totally outclassed physically by Razor but he does a great job of cheating to regain the advantage, while at the same time applying some solid offense to wear Razor down. Some bad guys can cheat, but they can't effectively work a guy to make a crowd believe the hero is in trouble. There's a fun sequence from the Boston Crab that leads to some really spiffy near falls. It's a pretty well paced match, but not really the best work of either guy this year. Still worth watching.

THE HEADSHRINKERS vs. SID PERSON & TOMMY MORRISON
Headshrinkers killing one of the opponents and throwing him to the corner so his partner can tag in NEVER gets old. Not ever. They KO'd Person and then slapped him in the face with their feet to see if he'd wake up. If you're going to squash someone do it like this folks.

OWEN HART vs. SCOTT KING
Owen tools this guy with some flippy stuff. All his stuff looks good and crisp, the highlight being a SICK belly to belly suplex off an irish whip. Owen hit a big missile dropkick before finishing the match with a Northern Lights Suplex - which I wish people did more of.  The only problem with the match was that it didn't seem to flow very well, which is more on how Owen fit his stuff in. Nothing egregious, just a little disjointed.

Bobby Heenan comes in with the most awkward bit of commentary of the night with this line:

"How many kids does Stu...and uh.. what's her name...Fellatio, have?" To which Vince exclaimed "FELLATIO!?" Probably not for the first time.

You can now find King selling Pokemon cards at Flealand Fleamarket, Bowling Green Kentucky.
LUDVIG BORGA ON THE MIC
Borga talks poopoo on America and Lex Luger. Luger comes out and talks about how hypocritical Borga is for bashing the US but collecting a paycheck here. He then tells him to, you guessed it, "Love it or Leave it!", which even Luger said was a trite phrase before he said it. Luger wanted to rassle, but Borga left saying they'll fight when he says they'll fight. Whatever.

ADAM BOMB vs. ROSS GREENBERG
FUCK YEAH ROSS GREENBERG. Greenberg has been tanning up and pumping the iron. He's even added a grimace to his facial repertoire. Sadly for Ross, he's still Ross Greenberg and he flops around like a goober selling pain like a cast member from Troll 2. And it's not even one of Adam Bomb's best performances. The slingshot clothesline looked like ass. So I guess the highlight is Ross Greenberg's developing physique. Sadness.

ROCK N' ROLL EXPRESS vs. DUANE GILL & BARRY HARDY
Are you kidding me?! Not only are the RnR's making their WWF debut but it's against Duane Gill and Barry Hardy?! This is a dream match for me if there ever was one. This was fun and quick, and I particularly like the finishing bit leading to the double dropkick. I really want to see them face the Headshrinkers now. How brilliant would that be watching them get mauled by Fatu, before making the hot tag. I really hope that match happens before they leave again.
I thought this was a new wrestler but it was just a commercial from 1993. Disappointing.

OVERALL SHOW
A good first match, and some decent moments in the squashes. Not as good as last weeks battle royal episode, but I'm excited to see where Razor goes as champion and what they do with the Rock N' Roll Express. The tag division is bursting with talent right now, it's time to throw a couple at each other.


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Importance of Wrestling Commentary

Watch this and read along.



This match isn't particularly good or memorable. It's Kerry Von Erich and Warlord filling time for 10 minutes before a count out draw. There's some nice bits to keep the crowd involved and  warm during a big show, which is important in the bigger picture of booking a complete card, but I'm not writing about the match itself. This is about the commentary.

We have a three man booth: "The Anvil" Jim Neidhart, Gorilla Monsoon, and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. A current wrestler, a former wrestler, and a current wrestling manager. These characteristics are important to remember as it gives them "expert credentials" when giving analysis to the action in the ring. Anvil kicks things off by mentioning that Kerry is a "World Class" discus thrower and that he applies skills learned in that sport to one of his moves: The Discus Punch. While fans may wonder how discus throwing translates to a complete competitor, Anvil further explains that the training regimen necessary to launch a discus at a "world class" level, takes a lot of body work to get the proper "torque"  - and Kerry looks in great enough shape to make this claim credible.

Anvil then talks about the size difference, specifically referencing Warlord's legs and how much power they have. Brain and Gorilla discuss his bench pressing prowess and his toughness. They're building up both men as exceptional physical specimens, with very specific descriptions. It's not just "this guy is strong and powerful", it's "this guy can throw an object long distances" - and "this guy can bench press heavy objects not just once, but several times!" The point isn't that these statements are true or false, but that they can be believable. Because our sources are "credible" and because the two wrestlers in the ring look pretty damn impressive physically, we can buy the claims being sold to us.

The lines are further defined by Anvil claiming there to be a difference in being "gym strong" and being "wrestling strong". He's a successful wrestler known for strength, not necessarily physique, so he has credentials to back this up. This kind of talk elevates the "sport" or professional wrestling, as the commentators define character attributes needed to a create a complete wrestler, while at the same time teaching the audience that, while size is important, a smaller wrestler can defeat a larger wrestler, or at least hold his own, because he may be smarter or have a different type of muscle strength. Bob Backlund is a great example of this type of wrestler. He didn't look strong and he wasn't big, but he could dead lift Hulk Hogan off the ground and was WWF champion. So with the help of wrestling history, these claims are backed up. When Gorilla Monsoon sees Warlord run Kerry into the guardrail and utters "I'm glad I retired", he's effectively building up this current generation of wrestlers as not only a breed apart from normal athletes, but a step above the previous generation of wrestlers. That's character building that promotes the wrestlers in the ring and the company that employs them, and it was only four words. Simple and effective.

What's important about wrestling commentary isn't just the calling of moves or stupid jokes, it's creating a world for the fans to live in. This doesn't have to get super detailed, it can really be very simple. At its core, wrestling is a sport in which men square off with one another for money, titles and prestige. The more you work to define that conceit as "wrestling reality" the more the fans can fully live in that world. Even when we know it's fake, humans are generally more than willing to live in a fantasy and get emotionally attached. Wrestling is at a point now where they they think that since everyone knows it's all a show, that they can treat it like it's just a show. Wrestlers aren't wrestling for money or job security, they're wrestling to put on a 5 star match for fans. That's not tangible. And while this world view has produced some nifty matches in the past, it doesn't have the same emotional weight. The more tangibles you can put into a bout, the more attached fans can get to the characters in the ring. Kerry Von Erich and Warlord aren't just having a a dance for fans to enjoy, they're competing for dollars and the chance to move up the ranks and possibly an Intercontinental title shot. Winners move up, losers stay down. In current WWE, this isn't so much the case. Losers can eventually find themselves in US title match, which devalues not only the belt, but devalues all the bouts wrestlers compete in across the board. Gorilla doesn't do it in this particular match but he usually finds time to interject something about purse money in his commentary and whether guys would have to split it if there was a draw. It's not incredibly detailed, but the important specific is there and our minds do the rest.

This concept of money and value pertaining to the outcome of wrestling matches is further detailed by Bobby Heenan, a wrestling manager. His job is, in "wrestling reality" NOT to stand at ringside to get heat. His job is to sign his wrestlers to lucrative match-ups and insure his guys get paid (because that means he gets paid.). It just so happens that the way he insures these victories - cheating - gets him heat. This tangible motivation is something fans relate to, and the more that wrestling characters live those motivations the more the fans can buy into the action. Heenan does this by explaining that he makes sure Barbarian and Haku hit the gym all the time. Of course he doesn't really do this in real life, but we believe in it because it makes sense. He's trying to make good on his investments.

So the commentators have to define the characters, which they did in the opening, and they also have to define the world, which should come naturally as they call the action. The third important detail is to help tell the story in the ring. This isn't just calling out the names of holds, but understanding the psychology - possibly even more so than the wrestlers in the ring - of what's going on and why it's happening. Why doesn't Warlord fall down when Kerry goes for the sunset flip? Anvil prepped you for it before the match even started - look at those legs. Why did the discus punch not drop Warlord the first time? Because Warlord is not an average man. He's exceptional. Gorilla doesn't just call moves, he explains what they're damaging and explains the longer lasting effects of the holds, by citing the pain he feels in his older age. This not only adds to characters and their personal drama -they're wrestling for money but they're sacrificing long term health for it - but it also gives weight to the holds and maneuvers done in the ring. Every back breaker now means something not only in the short term - this match - but in the long term - Kerry and Warlord's life.

When Anvil talks about Warlord being confident about winning, it's Heenan who says overconfidence can lead to defeat, especially against the Texas Tornado. This is key for two reasons. One, Heenan has been talking smack about Kerry the whole match, so these moments where The Brain compliments him mean a lot, and two, he's preparing you for the possibility that Kerry can come from behind at any moment. The match isn't over, Kerry can still do this. He's actually cheer leading for the guy while bashing him. I point this out specifically because many heel commentators don't quite know how to put a guy over while they're trashing him. JBL is great at it. Go back to his first stint on Smackdown and listen to him call a Matt Hardy match. JBL talks shit about everyone, but when Matt's in the ring he will usually say "This guy is one step away from the world title, he just has to put it together." Then he talks shit about him again.

Good commentary is invaluable to professional wrestling, but it's pretty damn hard to find. Bad commentary can kill matches and make them unbearable no matter how good the guys in the ring are. I could watch the match with the sound off, but then I'd miss out on the crowd reactions and that's pretty darn important to me too. I'd tell some companies that if they don't have anyone good to do it, don't have any commentary at all. Let the wrestlers tell the story on their own until you can find someone to help, not hinder. Commentary is not the place for people to put their goofball friends on so they can make lame pop-culture references and scream cliches they gleamed off a Jim Ross call. The commentator creates the world for a fan to live in where a guy can whip another guy into some ropes and they will, for some insane reason, bounce off them and come running back. They're the ones who make the drama in the ring something the fans want to live through. I could have chosen a great match with a great call, like the 1992 Royal Rumble - but I chose this one to show that even in a match of no importance, Anvil, Heenan, and Monsoon make it have value. Giving seemingly worthless matches a sense of importance, improves the value of the entire card and the promotion as a whole. This is the power and responsibility of the announce team and it shouldn't be taken lightly.

Friday, September 20, 2013

ZERO-1 01:01:2013

So I'm watching stuff from January. Let's see how this goes.
YOSHIKAZU YOKOYAMA vs. HAYATO MASHITA
 Mashita is a Sayama trainee who did some Real Japan and BattlARTs. I know I've seen him before, but I can't remember anything he's really done. He looks really lackadaisical and a little generic in a shooty way. I like his work in the corner, but there wasn't much else for him. Yokoyama made his debut at 21 in 2010. I don't remember watching him back then, but I like where he's at now. For one he's rocking wicked mullet, that is also party in the front with a stubby mohawk deal. This match is worth watching for a bit of neat, somewhat subtle psychology in the finishing stretch. Yohoyama counters a running knee with a running back body drop. Mashita sells the back and walks to a corner to regroup. Yokoyama bull rushes him in the back, tosses him down, and stomps his back again before climbing the rope. Then Yokoyama does a really heavy top rope elbow drop on Mashita's lower back to go into the nice camel clutch submission. It really felt like it came about in an organic way, with Yokoyama noticing he had an in with Mashita holding his back, and then eating it up. It's a cool bit of thought that I really appreciate.

MEIKO SATOMURA vs. YUHI
Yuhi is totally fun with her kicks and springboard business. Yeah she nearly mucks up the springboard dropkick, but it works out in only pulling a nearfall. Both girls have some fun counter submissions, with Yuhi in particularly showing some great desperation in her flash-sub attempts. Definitely a fun match worth checking out with some fun kicky stuff and a nice finish.

MINEO FUJITA, YUKI SATO, & TRAVIS BANKS vs. CRAIG CLASSIC, MENSO~RE OYAJI, & BIKUMA
Okinawa Pro Representing! The early comedy stuff with Menso~re was fun and energetic, but everything got less and less interesting as it went on. Lots of nut shots. They'd also take inopportune moments to work the crowd during up tempo stuff. Like with Bikuma's DDT. Sato should have just pushed him off at that point. Didn't get to see much of any of the gaijin. So nothing much of interest here.

KOHEI SATO, RYOUJI SAI, KAMIKAZE, & ONRYO vs. SHITO UEDA, YUSAKU OBATA, WILL GIBSON, & JESSE WILLIAMS
There's a cool gameplan here with Sato's team deciding they want to cut the ring off on Obata and quadruple team him a lot. Obata's character is fiery and hard headed, just the kind of guy who'd think he could take on four dudes on his own. It works out for them for the most part. Ueda is the guy they want to keep out of the ring, as they show no fear towards the gaijin wrestlers. Jesse Williams is kind of awkard and hasn't totally figured out how to use his size and Will Gibson is completely clowned by Onryo during their segment. The ending is a nice call back to that and what they'be been building on. Ueda is already illegally in the ring trying to help out Obata, and Obata who's hurt pretty bad tags out to Gibson. Once the ring clears leaving the two legal men, it's, yep, Gibson and Onryo. So after some counters Onryo sneaks a pin on Gibson for the win. It's not a great match, but the story is there, and there's some cool moments between guys like Kamikaze(who I'm normally not into) and Obata, as well as some nice work from Sato and Ueda.

AKEBONO vs. JASON NEW & JO KYUNG-HO
Bono clowned these little dudes pretty hard, no selling nearly everything. I liked their spunk and charisma. Kyung-ho's gear looks Jeff Hardy-ish, which was made complete when he decided to go for a Swanton Bomb towards the end of the match. And it looked ridiculous since Akebono was really far away for that type of move. The best part of the match was when Akebono seemingly lost his shit on Jason New after a slap. Decent squash match, but I'd really like to see New and Kyung-ho against some guys at their own level to see how they can piece stuff together.

After the match Daichi Hashimoto, who was supposed to wrestle Bono on this show but was injured, slapped the big man in a little face off. Then Atsushi Onita showed up and revealed a video of his henchmen (Bad Boy Hido!) talking shit to Bono's wife and two sons at a restaurant They goaded him into signing a contract for a death match. It's a cool story and I really enjoyed Akebono getting super pissed off.

INTERNATIONAL JR. HEAVYWEIGHT & NWA WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
TAKUYA SUGAWARA (c) vs. IKUTO HIDAKA

Wasn't really feeling this.Despite a couple of neat sequences, this didn't have a good rhythm and I don't feel like it really built up the anticipation of someone losing. It just kind of felt like I'll do some stuff. You do some stuff. Then just don't get up when I pin you. Just not a particularly engaging story that made me care about either guy. Kind of a let down, even though I wasn't expecting a whole lot.

SHINJIRO OTANI & MASATO TANAKA vs. JAMES RAIDEEN & DAISUKE SEKIMOTO
I really dug the first chunk with Otani getting worked over. It was fun to see him start out hot and then after some Raideen chops he becomes an old man fighting to survive. Lots and lots of chops in the first half which I was fine with. It got a muddled sometime after Tanaka's hot tag, but was enjoyable overall. I feel like Raideen is a weaker version of Joe Doering. He's not bad, he just doesn't have much personality, other than big dude who hits people. He's got a good look, and he's solid in the ring, he could just use a little more character to make himself larger than life. Everyone else was good as usual.

OVERALL SHOW THOUGHTS
As is my usual Z1 experience, there's some good stuff and there's some bland stuff that keeps it from being a great Japanese company.There's a lot of guys who are just a hair past generic, showing you just enough personality to frustrate you that they don't show more. Sekimoto, Tanaka, Otani, Kohei Sato, and Obata are all good roster members, they just need something or someone to give them a little bit more edge. The women's match is probably the best with the opener, main event, and 8 man tag being other matches worth checking out.