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Tim Cooke

Spotfests - Pros and Cons

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Is anyone really writing off spotfests? It's a legit question and has become sort of a PWO talking point.

 

I'm very confident that if we took a poll about the amazing Michinoku Pro 10 man tags from 1996, they would be close to universally praised on this board. Schneider started on the internet with his AU MPro blog and featured those matches prominently on his early comps (as well as his later one's when it shifted to Toryumon). Loss, Ditch, myself, Stomper, TomK, Childs, and numerous others that I'm just forgetting to list have all spoken very highly of these style matches before. But context is also important.

 

I never got the DG ROH trios match from March 2006 hype because I had seen that style done better in MPro and better in Toryumon. But then I watched something like the PWG tag from a few years ago with Samurai del Sol, AR Fox, Rich Swann, and Ricochet and thought that was a really strong spot fest that brought something new to the table.

 

I guess I don't like being generally dismissive of a style, good or bad. I watch every hyped DG match these days and walk away feeling numb and cold, but if I didn't, I also wouldn't see the very cool CIMA vs. Super Shisa series that has been happening over the last couple of years. I'm not a huge fan of any of the guys in the PWG tag but they created something really cool and if I didn't give it the chance based solely on names, I would have missed out on a cool match. I'm not a big AWA fan at all, but outright dismissing it would leave a big gap in my wrestling viewing and seeing some solid stuff that just isn't my taste.

 

This probably needs to be moved so it doesn't interfere with the Tozawa talk but figured I would let Will or Loss decide that.

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Is anyone really writing off spotfests? It's a legit question and has become sort of a PWO talking point.

 

Aside from the last response I'm not sure if they are bring written off around these parts. But, in other sections of the online wrestling world there does appear to be the notion that spotfests are subpar wrestling.

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It's like anything else, it just comes down to how much you like the workers. The more people like someone the more forgiving they are. Spotfests can be great. I had a whale of a time watching the No Mercy tag the other day. I just don't want to watch them all the time like some fans do.

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Sometimes I love a spotfest that is completely devoid of psychology or context or anything, but examples are pretty rare -- that random Martel vs. Race match from AWA springs to mind.

 

I also think "spotfest" is too easily and lazily thrown around as a criticism by people in general. As a case in point, Sting / Luger vs. Steiners is frequently talked about as a spotfest devoid of psychology. But personally, I think it tells a good story with The Steiners coming up against two studs as big and powerful as they are and then geting increasingly frustrated as they find themselves matched in strength and offense. I'm higher on a lot of the Steiners stuff from 90 and 91 than a lot of people, because I don't think they are as devoid of storytelling as is often made out. The matches against Doom would be even better examples.

 

Seems like people see a bunch of suplexes and think "oh it must be a spotfest and that means it has no psychology" -- and to me that's lazy reviewing. Psychology / storytelling isn't just about working a bodypart or focusing offense on a certain area. There are many ways to tell a story in the ring and a spotfest is one of them.

 

More importantly, sometimes a spotfest would be the best and most appropriate way to tell that story. Let's pretend for a second that The Road Warriors had to face The Steiner Brothers, would you really want to see Hawk and Animal use hammerlocks and arm bars to focus their strategy on Scott Steiner's shoulder? Don't think so: it just isn't the right context for it. They could probably tell a BETTER story trading power moves with the Steiners.

 

This is not so much a defense of spotfests as it is an attack on what I see as lazy and mostly derivative criticism, which is not much better than someone following a Scott Keith rating without thinking about it.

 

Sometimes some of us are accused of "overthinking", I'm accusing some people (note: no one in particular) of not thinking at all.

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Depends on if "spotfest" is always meant as a pejorative or can be purely descriptive. To me "spotfest" means "a lot of moves, in particular big bombs". "Sprint" means "a short (7=to=12-minute) match worked at a fast pace with some intensity".

 

To me, you can have great spirnts, great spotfests, great technical mat-based affais, great brawls, great gimmick matches ... they are all modes of telling a story and all of them have uses and applications. It's a nonsense to say that one of them is intrinsically better than any other.

 

On the flpside you can have sprints, spotfests, technical mat-based matches, brawls and gimmick matches that are dull, meanandering or fail to tell a compelling story for a variety of reasons.

 

My objection is only to the knee-jerk "it's a spotfest so THEREFORE it has no psychology" line of thinking. As I said, that's basically just lazy.

 

I recall Chad and I had a decent exchange about this when we reviewed that Sting/Luger vs. Steiners match from Superbrawl I. In fairness, Chad did not attack it for poor psychology, but was down on it from an execution standpoint and felt he'd seen a lot of matches achieve what they were going for more effectively, including ones involving The Steiners. I still think it's a great match, personally, that is "made by the context".

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From watching a lot of Toryumon/DG stuff from the 2000s, I can say that "spotfest" can cover lots of ground as a term. And there is certainly a variability in quality within spotfests. The 3-team, 9-man tags from 2002 are okay and have plenty of cool stuff you hadn't seen before in them. Then the 8/30/04 4-team, 12-man match really hit on all cylinders and was one of the best spotfests I've ever seen. There was certainly a story behind the rivalries in each match and the way they played out seemed to come from that. But they were spotfests. Another match that comes to mind is Ibushi vs. Ishimori from DDT on 4/5/2009. For a spotfest (which it was) it had some stuff that did tie all of it together even if it wasn't always strictly adhered to. To me, it's a pretty general term to describe a style of working a match. I don't care for them compared to other working styles, but there are those who do. There is a very large amount of stuff that can fall into that category and to write it off because of that is a mistake.

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Just working a spotfest doesn't tell a story. The Steiners and Road Warriors are roided up power wrestlers so they do a spotfest where they trade power moves isn't a story. It's just a match with a series of moves that starts from a beginning and builds to a conclusion, but there's no real story in there.

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Just working a spotfest doesn't tell a story. The Steiners and Road Warriors are roided up power wrestlers so they do a spotfest where they trade power moves isn't a story. It's just a match with a series of moves that starts from a beginning and builds to a conclusion, but there's no real story in there.

Well it depends on how they work it.

 

The story could be something like "here are two big dominant teams, used to overpowering their opponents with high impact offense, but neither of them has have faced a team like THIS before!"

 

Early portion of the match. Hawk hits something big. Ooooooohhh. Scott Steiner hits something big. Oooohhh. Hawk answers. Scott comes back. Hawk is taken aback. Both guys think about tagging out.

 

Commentators put over how this isn't quite what either team is used to.

 

Maybe rinse-repeat that with Rick and Animal to drive the point home.

 

What now? They start ramping up some intensity and even a little bit of desparation. Maybe we can move away from parity and one side gains an advantage for a while.

 

The point is, this has been a spotfest so far and there's a clear narrative and story being told. How *isn't* there?

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In general, spots are a tool. If they're a tool well used to tell a complete, coherent, consistent match, even if they're rapid fire and there's little room to breathe, great. That's a good match. It's very hard to make anything mean anything in a match like that though since, unless you're dealing with a huge multiman match, there's no time to actually sell anything in a weighty manner. It takes very talented wrestlers and very clever layout generally. It's possible; it's just hard. A match like that can be entertaining and not actually any good. Everyone likes watching explosions. They don't take the place of actual substance though, even if they can be used as part of a total whole to create that substance. They just don't substitute for it inherently.

 

To me, in a good match, moves have meaning and that meaning adds up to something even more meaningful. Can that happen in what I think to be a spotfest? Sure. Is it hard as hell? I think so.

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Spotfests are best when they are able to get the cool stuff over. Moving on too soon (or not moving on soon enough, for that matter) can break the entire rhythm the match has going and take something away from it. I think doing a great spotfest-type match takes more than just athleticism. It also requires timing and a sense of peaks and valleys. I think that's the big difference between the good ones and bad ones.

 

There have been too many good balls-out moves-based matches to write them off completely, and I totally agree with Tim's first post. The cool thing about wrestling is that there are so many ways to do it that work.

 

I have yet to meet a wrestling fan that doesn't like Michinoku Pro glory days stuff, and rightfully so.

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Yeah, and in those MPro tags, there was certainly a story being told. It may have been basic (Sasuke and his boys vs. those KDX punks with no respect), but it was enough that a lot of the rapid fire stuff worked just fine. And they definitely had a sense of when to let something breathe and/or create a valley. That doesn't mean the matches were not spotfests, but that there is a way to make that style work.

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Just working a spotfest doesn't tell a story. The Steiners and Road Warriors are roided up power wrestlers so they do a spotfest where they trade power moves isn't a story. It's just a match with a series of moves that starts from a beginning and builds to a conclusion, but there's no real story in there.

Well it depends on how they work it.

 

The story could be something like "here are two big dominant teams, used to overpowering their opponents with high impact offense, but neither of them has have faced a team like THIS before!"

That's not a story; it's a situation. Situations are part of stories but not stories in and of themselves. If that was enough story for a wrestling match you could argue that almost all matches tell a story since wrestlers usually have motivation for disliking each other or wanting to win. You could almost guarantee that the Steiners and Road Warriors would not take that premise and work it into a story. They're not the type that seem capable.

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I'm in the Parv boat on this one, and I think that we're too narrowly defining spotfest and story/narrative. There are also some important elements that can go into a spotfest that are being glossed over. Across the board every art form has the style versus substance debate, and it's frustrating to engage in that debate at times. Art is malleable, and categorizing a spotfest as strictly "this" or "that" limits what the performers may have been trying for or even what they may have accomplished. I certainly do think a straight spotfest can tell a story without relying on selling, limb work, and the like. It all depends on the performers and how effective they are at spot placement, construction, execution, and flow.

 

Innovation and inventiveness aren't indicators of a great match by themselves. Just because a team can do a 450 Splash Spike Tombstone Piledriver doesn't mean there's value to the move. However, inventiveness and innovation can be a great boon to a match and that's often the case in spotfests. One of the reasons I'm so high on the Hardy Boyz versus Edge & Christian from No Mercy '99 (as well as their series of gimmick matches in general) is how they were inventive and innovative in implementing their spots. Nothing they did felt shoehorned into the match, rather the spots they were hitting felt natural and like they flowed from what came before. From that presentation a story arose, and I'm not sure if the wrestlers intended for that story to be present, but it's still there and it's a damn fine story.

 

The reason I made my initial statement is because I do believe a great spotfest is just as great as a great brawl, great mat based match, great garbage match, and so on and so forth. Wrestling isn't just one thing, just like movies aren't just one thing or books aren't just one thing. Substance isn't always needed for something to be great, sometimes all that is needed is tremendous style.

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The issue with spotfests is that they are most prone to being massively overrated compared to other styles. Something a bit more restrained and coherent, like a focused technical match or a hate-fueled brawl, is more likely to hold up. A spotfest *can* hold up, but many don't. Ibushi/Ishimori referenced above is an example of one that I dislike because the overriding goal of Get Everything In forces logical selling to take a back seat. We get to see their respective movesets plenty over the course of a year, and it would have been a nice change of pace if Ibushi had been hampered by the limb work rather than working it like all his other 50/50 juniors spotfests. But because they Got Everything In, bam, MOTYC for a bunch of people.

 

Summer popcorn action movies can be fun. Sadly, too often it seems like the goal is a set number of CGI effects to wow the overseas audiences to whom such things are still relatively novel. I had a blast watching The Avengers and other surrounding Marvel movies, even though none of them are powerhouses of plot or characterization. On the other had is dreck like the GI Joe and Transformers movies, which manage to make '80s toy infomercial cartoons look like masterpieces. Yet the latter still rake in hundreds of millions in ticket sales by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Same principle as spotfests: they attract a lot of attention but often overshadow much better efforts.

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I've always hated the term spotfest simply because, despite claims that's it's simply a match built off big spots lacking in the storytelling department, I've never seen it applied to much more than matches heavy on suplexes and high flying. I don't see much of a difference between what DG tags and most of the lucha maestro stuff I've seen sets out to do, but I don't see the latter referred to as a spotfest that often. There is also the fact that since wrestling viewing is inherently subjective, any semblance of story will be created by the viewer, so stating it as self evident that a match has no story is ridiculous.

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I think some people are operating on a different definition of 'spotfest' because to me it's always been an inherently negative term; a match that focuses on having a lot of cool moves without making them feel meaningful. A match with a lot of cool moves that feel meaningful isn't a spotfest. The most obvious feature of a spotfest is not selling anything, but I think the "big moves punctuated by laying around" trope, seen in e.g. the Cavernario vs. Rey Cometa hair match is even more annoying. It comes off as a

superficial attempt to add drama to a match.

 

I can enjoy a good spotfest because I do think cool moves have an immediate value even if they aren't structurally meaningful, but I don't think I'll ever see one as a great match.

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I have yet to meet a wrestling fan that doesn't like Michinoku Pro glory days stuff, and rightfully so.

 

*raises hand*

 

Sorry, small men doing gymnastics does nothing for me.

 

I've always hated the term spotfest simply because, despite claims that's it's simply a match built off big spots lacking in the storytelling department, I've never seen it applied to much more than matches heavy on suplexes and high flying. I don't see much of a difference between what DG tags and most of the lucha maestro stuff I've seen sets out to do, but I don't see the latter referred to as a spotfest that often. There is also the fact that since wrestling viewing is inherently subjective, any semblance of story will be created by the viewer, so stating it as self evident that a match has no story is ridiculous.

 

Funny you should mention that. I was watching Dean Malenko vs. Norman Smiley the other day, and I don't know what you could call it other than a mat-based spotfest. I don't think matwork for its own sake has any more merit than high spots for their own sake.

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I'm pretty happy with my sum up earlier in the note. That covers a lot of my philosophy on wrestling more succinctly than I've manged before.

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I've always hated the term spotfest simply because, despite claims that's it's simply a match built off big spots lacking in the storytelling department, I've never seen it applied to much more than matches heavy on suplexes and high flying. I don't see much of a difference between what DG tags and most of the lucha maestro stuff I've seen sets out to do, but I don't see the latter referred to as a spotfest that often. There is also the fact that since wrestling viewing is inherently subjective, any semblance of story will be created by the viewer, so stating it as self evident that a match has no story is ridiculous.

 

The match that comes to my mind isn't a juniors match or a Dragon Gate match, it was Raven vs. Saturn from a PPV in 2000 or 2001 (I think). No heat. Just two guys going back and forth exchanging spots getting their stuff in. they gave the crowd no reason to care but everything was executed well as I recall. Still, for a wrestling "psychologist" like Raven, it was embarrassing to watch.

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