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What did you learn about your fandom from GWE?

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This is a nice little quotation from OJ that highlights some differences between the way he watches wrestling and the way someone like me or Winged Eagle do:

The early part of this reminded me of things I don't like about Hase such as the way he'd dance while he had someone in a hold, or clap his hands and point to the crowd. That sort of thing is a lot more fun when someone like Kyoko Inoue does it. Hase has never struck me as anything more than adequate on the mat and the kind of guy who'd rather do gymnastics on the mat than actually wrestle. I always find that disappointing since he went to the Olympics as an amateur, but it's part of his charm and charisma that I just don't get.




I'm pretty sure on the last AJ Excite show I praised Hase in his match vs. Akiyama for literally doing push ups while he was in a leg-lock. A mat-purist like OJ is gonna think that stuff is all kinds of goofy. A philistine like me though? To me that's just doing a great job of keeping everyone engaged and awake during the mat stuff. Like so much of that rote NJ mat stuff is so fucking boring to me, and Hase is the one guy who will pull out tricks to keep me entertained. I don't care if he's balancing skittles on his nose and clapping like a seal while juggling fire, it's more interesting than a headlock on its own.

I don't really like matwork that is cutesy or intricate or anything like that. I like watching a guy work an arm or a leg, but anything more complex is above my level of understanding of these things. Picture a fairly bright 9-year old and that's probably about my level of watching pro wrestling to be honest. I mean part of the reason I'm so high on Jack Brisco isn't cos he does anything fly on the mat, it's cos he waves his arms like a lunatic when he's selling a basic hold. And also because his matches have pretty solid A-B-C psychology insomuch as you'll get the same bodypart worked over.

Anyway, I think it's interesting to consider the different ways people react to the same stuff. As I've said I respect the way OJ watches stuff, but I can't ever bring myself to care more about matwork than 1. "did this stop me falling asleep?", 2. "is there some sort of narrative throughline to what is being done?" (which is no more complex than looking for, move A: arm, move B: arm, move C: arm) and 3. "okay, when are they gonna ramp up into doing some throws now", which will kick in around the 8 or 9 minute mark, possibly a bit later if I know they are going long.

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I don't get the people who are against showmanship in any entertainment venture. Hase dancing in a submission hold doesn't bother me at all. I've actually seen people do things like that in shoot fights. Whether it is Randy Couture giving Tito Ortiz a spanking while dominating him on the ground or Nate Diaz locking in a triangle choke and flipping a double bird at the camera, showmanship generally makes things more fun. I like trash talking, touchdown dances, bat flips, and anything that adds fun to sports/entertainment.

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This is a nice little quotation from OJ that highlights some differences between the way he watches wrestling and the way someone like me or Winged Eagle do:

 

The early part of this reminded me of things I don't like about Hase such as the way he'd dance while he had someone in a hold, or clap his hands and point to the crowd. That sort of thing is a lot more fun when someone like Kyoko Inoue does it. Hase has never struck me as anything more than adequate on the mat and the kind of guy who'd rather do gymnastics on the mat than actually wrestle. I always find that disappointing since he went to the Olympics as an amateur, but it's part of his charm and charisma that I just don't get.

 

 

I'm pretty sure on the last AJ Excite show I praised Hase in his match vs. Akiyama for literally doing push ups while he was in a leg-lock. A mat-purist like OJ is gonna think that stuff is all kinds of goofy. A philistine like me though? To me that's just doing a great job of keeping everyone engaged and awake during the mat stuff. Like so much of that rote NJ mat stuff is so fucking boring to me, and Hase is the one guy who will pull out tricks to keep me entertained. I don't care if he's balancing skittles on his nose and clapping like a seal while juggling fire, it's more interesting than a headlock on its own.

 

I don't really like matwork that is cutesy or intricate or anything like that. I like watching a guy work an arm or a leg, but anything more complex is above my level of understanding of these things. Picture a fairly bright 9-year old and that's probably about my level of watching pro wrestling to be honest. I mean part of the reason I'm so high on Jack Brisco isn't cos he does anything fly on the mat, it's cos he waves his arms like a lunatic when he's selling a basic hold. And also because his matches have pretty solid A-B-C psychology insomuch as you'll get the same bodypart worked over.

 

Anyway, I think it's interesting to consider the different ways people react to the same stuff. As I've said I respect the way OJ watches stuff, but I can't ever bring myself to care more about matwork than 1. "did this stop me falling asleep?", 2. "is there some sort of narrative throughline to what is being done?" (which is no more complex than looking for, move A: arm, move B: arm, move C: arm) and 3. "okay, when are they gonna ramp up into doing some throws now", which will kick in around the 8 or 9 minute mark, possibly a bit later if I know they are going long.

 

Yeah, what he said. I also think there's a pretty wide gulf between these various approaches on the mat. You have OJ apparently looking for a pure, amateur approach. That's fine for some, but not something I have any interest in seeing more than in passing. Its why my mileage on shoot style varies so greatly. I may be able to recognize the skill involved but appreciating talent is very different from finding the output worthwhile. On the other end of the spectrum you have some very cooperative matwork in lucha where it literally feels as though they're dancing in the sense that one is leading and the other following. It personally removes all sense of competition and struggle much as the shoot stuff is devoid of the entertainment.

 

And in the middle you have twisting fingers on a wristlock, stomping feet and pulling back on a leglock and small, active signals that someone is working to hurt their opponent and keep you engaged. It doesn't require much movement or even athleticism. But it does require activity. Probably a bit of understanding how to get a reaction as well, but I'm not concerned with the recipe if the meal tastes great. Its not for everyone, but this type of matwork dichotomy has become clearer and clearer the more I've watched. When I started watching older footage there was a point where I absolutely dreaded extended matwork sequences. I truly look forward to it now, when done the right way.

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I've only really hung out on the periphery of this project, but the things I've learnt the most is that what most people consider fundamentally solid matwork is amongst the most tedious stuff for me to watch, and I don't think people pick up on the transitions in matwork they claim is too cooperative. I also think people are unaware of how much more trained in amateur wrestling your classic luchador is than most other styles. I also can't understand why it's okay for someone like Johnny Saint to have a completely choreographed, unbelievable style but not a luchador.

This is going to sound hypocritical given how I mocked the "wrestling must be logical" approach earlier but I've been doing BJJ for the past few months and even with my still shallow understanding of shoot grappling, it's just totally changed my views on mat work. Most long headlock spots, for example, just look ridiculous to me now because all I can think when I see them is "why is he just sitting there?" or "why isn't he trying to force his weight onto the opponent?" And sorry but the obviously cooperative nature of lucha matwork is something I can't unsee now that I see it. It would be great if the guys did stuff that resembled amateur wrestling but what I see is guys clearly letting go of holds and blatantly feeding limbs to do flashy shit that looks nothing like any kind of shoot grappling. I can still like it if I'm in the mood for it but I don't see how luchadors doing cool shit on the mat is much different in concept from US Indy or Dragon Gate guys doing cool flippy shit.

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I've only really hung out on the periphery of this project, but the things I've learnt the most is that what most people consider fundamentally solid matwork is amongst the most tedious stuff for me to watch, and I don't think people pick up on the transitions in matwork they claim is too cooperative. I also think people are unaware of how much more trained in amateur wrestling your classic luchador is than most other styles. I also can't understand why it's okay for someone like Johnny Saint to have a completely choreographed, unbelievable style but not a luchador.

This is going to sound hypocritical given how I mocked the "wrestling must be logical" approach earlier but I've been doing BJJ for the past few months and even with my still shallow understanding of shoot grappling, it's just totally changed my views on mat work. Most long headlock spots, for example, just look ridiculous to me now because all I can think when I see them is "why is he just sitting there?" or "why isn't he trying to force his weight onto the opponent?" And sorry but the obviously cooperative nature of lucha matwork is something I can't unsee now that I see it. It would be great if the guys did stuff that resembled amateur wrestling but what I see is guys clearly letting go of holds and blatantly feeding limbs to do flashy shit that looks nothing like any kind of shoot grappling. I can still like it if I'm in the mood for it but I don't see how luchadors doing cool shit on the mat is much different in concept from US Indy or Dragon Gate guys doing cool flippy shit.

 

Yeah, I can't look at wrestling matwork and think that it looks like anything but cooperative, because I've done some actual submission grappling. Actual grappling is full of little things like wrist control, underhooks, and other things that just wouldn't translate to a worked environment. I've just accepted that it is a different thing, that isn't anywhere close to reality. I remember in Mick Foley's first book he said something about how a front facelock would pretty much win any street fight. No one would actually want to watch someone grab someone's head and hold them down by subtly shifting their weight. The thing that really makes it feel really cooperative is that no one would actually work an actual submission hold. Once a submission is on a fight is pretty much over, there isn't any way of fighting an armbar or a choke for more than a few seconds.

 

Why are people watching wrestling for realism? The thing about wrestling at its best is when they can make you feel like it is real, despite the fact that you never forget that it is not. I don't think that is a matter of realism as much as it is a matter of performance. I love The Empire Strikes Back, and I find myself lost in it every time I watch it, but I never think that it is real. I don't think the force is real, lightsabers are real, or Jedi's are real, but the movie is well done and works for me on every single level. I don't have to believe that things are real for me to buy into them.

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as someone totally outside this project, this thread has been a breath of fresh air for me. it's neat to see some of the most prolific reviewers acknowledging their own shortcomings, given the lack of that in their normal posting.

 

i mean, both JvK and OJ sometimes tend to have a "this shit sucks" tone about them. here it's more like "there's something there but i just don't get it" and that's rad as heck!

 

even though i'm not doing ballots i guess i can give something from my recent watching: my head understands the flaws with high-flying spotfests, but my heart still has a place for them. i've come to watch wrestling in general the way i would watch a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and thus not get hung up as much on cooperative spots or loose offense. i regard kayfabe as completely irrelevant anymore, so "exposing the business" only hurts with me if it's at a level that would look bad in a movie fight scene.

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My taste changed radically. I just voted based on who does things I find emotionally engaging. Clean execution was important to me in the past. It was like it didn't matter at all now. The biggest beneficiary was Giant Baba. I just genuinely love watching the guy. Just found him really engaging and he seemed to love what he was doing in a way I found endearing. My viewing was almost completely visceral. Just a matter of who could pull me in.

 

There are some flaws in this approach that my ballot reflects. Since I was being sentimental while watching. It also made environment more of a factor than it would have been in the past for me. It hurt New Japan guys the most. Since there is something sterile about it. Might be weird way of explaining it but I often felt like it was a crowd I would see in a sci-fi movie or show.

 

Ranking I asked myself a simple question. Who would you rather watch? Combining this with being visceral/sentimental I end up with some unusual names at the top. Names that if high volume great matches are what is most important you will find the names justifiably laughable. A few years ago that is what I would have thought about it. I comfortable with that and as a fan content. I've never been someone that watches matches again. That was required and I enjoyed that element of it. Though it isn't something I plan to continue on with in the future. I thought I would end up being more analytical on 2nd watch but the opposite turned out to be true which was a pleasant surprise.

 

I ended up with a more subjective list than I set out for at the start. Counting laughs and smiles over average star rating was a welcome change. Wish I had more to say while the watching process was going on. I am more of a reader than a writer. Appreciate all the hard work you guys put into this project. Definitely ended up motivated to watch stuff that I wouldn't have without the reviews I read here.

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If purpose is too unknowable and context dependent to be a primary method to analyze wrestling, what does that say about how we value psychology? There is simple no way I know of to even discuss what is usually thought of as psychology in pro wrestling without seeing some greater purpose at work. I don't speak Japanese, and to my knowledge no one here other than OJ does, and yet the psychological genius of All Japan is widely touted here both explicitly and implicitly.

What we actually know about Kawadas actions in a given match is very limited. There is a ton that is unknowable even pertaining to things like selling. Im not as much of a "purposeist" as Matt, but I struggle with the idea that any real wrestling analysis can be done absent some search for purpose at minimum.

I think there are lots of things we can infer from things like card placement.

 

- We know an opener, a midcard match and a main event don't have the same goals.

- We know an NWA title match and a WWF title match in 1985 have different aims.

- We know a match designed to set up a feud is different from a blow off.

 

I think it is valid to talk about purpose on that general level.

 

What we can't know about is intention or specific orders from the back, unless those things are revealed to us in dirt sheets. And even then, we know the perils of that.

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This is a match which took place very shortly after Martel entered the Portland territory. They used up their shot at the NWA champ on the new guy. They pushed that he demanded the match be on TV, and in the weeks that followed, that he demanded kids would get in free to a show, etc. They were obviously trying to get him over.

 

The match was made him look strong in very specific ways.

 

It's not some amazing stretch to think that Harley worked the match in the way that he did to help get Martel over, which meant giving him almost the entire first fall.

 

I appreciate it if people think I am somehow creative or deeply analytical but most of the stuff I come up with really isn't rocket science. It's connecting a bunch of not so disparate dots.

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If purpose is too unknowable and context dependent to be a primary method to analyze wrestling, what does that say about how we value psychology? There is simple no way I know of to even discuss what is usually thought of as psychology in pro wrestling without seeing some greater purpose at work. I don't speak Japanese, and to my knowledge no one here other than OJ does, and yet the psychological genius of All Japan is widely touted here both explicitly and implicitly.

What we actually know about Kawadas actions in a given match is very limited. There is a ton that is unknowable even pertaining to things like selling. Im not as much of a "purposeist" as Matt, but I struggle with the idea that any real wrestling analysis can be done absent some search for purpose at minimum.

I think there are lots of things we can infer from things like card placement.

 

- We know an opener, a midcard match and a main event don't have the same goals.

- We know an NWA title match and a WWF title match in 1985 have different aims.

- We know a match designed to set up a feud is different from a blow off.

 

I think it is valid to talk about purpose on that general level.

 

What we can't know about is intention or specific orders from the back, unless those things are revealed to us in dirt sheets. And even then, we know the perils of that.

 

 

Agree with this almost entirely -- there are certain big-picture things we can deduce, but think that's generally because they are clearly demonstrated. If something is subtle, and not built upon subsequently in the match, commentary, angle or match that follows shortly thereafter, I'm wary of drawing any conclusions beyond strict variance, and wouldn't want to use that as a basis for evaluating the participants' intentions or thoughts. All we have is the execution.

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This is a match which took place very shortly after Martel entered the Portland territory. They used up their shot at the NWA champ on the new guy. They pushed that he demanded the match be on TV, and in the weeks that followed, that he demanded kids would get in free to a show, etc. They were obviously trying to get him over.

 

The match was made him look strong in very specific ways.

 

It's not some amazing stretch to think that Harley worked the match in the way that he did to help get Martel over, which meant giving him almost the entire first fall.

 

I appreciate it if people think I am somehow creative or deeply analytical but most of the stuff I come up with really isn't rocket science. It's connecting a bunch of not so disparate dots.

 

Nope, nothing disparate about that. The difference is I might come to the same conclusion without knowing anything bolded above. Traveling NWA World Champion comes to town against local star and puts him over while walking away with the belt. The end. My haziness or dubiousness (spell check says I didn't make it up, but who knows) is where the conclusions come from micro more than macro. But hey, we've all got what works for us and can't expect everyone to see it the same way. As long as we keep coming back its all good, right?

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I'm late getting back to this thread, but I don't think that all matwork has to be deathly serious. I'm as big a fan of tricked out lucha/WoS matwork as I am shoot style. What I don't really like is middle-of-the-road matwork like wrenching on a side-headlock. It seems a lot of people who don't have much patience for matwork find that sort of work fundamentally solid or at least easier to watch. WingedEagle did a good job of explaining why. I'm not really concerned with realism. My point about luchadores is that people often say they're giving up position or dropping a hold when in fact there was a counter there. Whether it's a realistic counter or not is not something I'm qualified to judge, but nine times out of ten they're switching control for a reason. But then I'm not really sure what people are referring to when they mean overly cooperative, the actual grappling or the Dali-like submission holds. From my perspective even when a luchador slaps on a side-headlock, the counter will be more interesting than a Brisco/Funk style pin attempt & back to the side-headlock. I can understand why people are accustomed to that sort of work since side headlocks, etc., are the building blocks of the grappling we grew up on; I just prefer stuff that's far outside that comfort zone.

 

I don't mind workers showboating in holds if I find them charismatic. I just don't find Hase charismatic.

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I was glad a number of people took time to watch some of the British guys and pleasantly surprised that the heavyweights were well liked. That was cool.

 

I've always been down for some WoS but chalk me up as another one who was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the British heavyweights. At this point in time I'm much more intrigued on paper by a random heavyweight match than a lighter weight one. Pat Roach, for example, is a guy who wasn't even on my radar until very recently and I ended up loving him. He'll place well.

 

What I guess I've learned is that I am able to get into and enjoy styles that were previously foreign to me, if I take the time to fully immerse myself in them. Familiarity is the key to unlocking mysterious styles, I just had to keep watching until the point where everything that was unusual about it to me became normal, I accepted all the weird stuff as style conventions and went from there.

 

Lucha, joshi, shoot style and puroresu juniors all come under this umbrella. I'm still slowly unlocking them all, but I can appreciate what I've seen.

 

Like I sort of alluded to just before, when this project began I couldn't envision at that moment ranking any luchador or shoot stylist or joshi worker in, say, my Top 50. Not without going through the evolution I've gone through. They'll all be represented much better than I could have imagined in 2014.

 

Funnily enough I think it's American workers who have suffered most with me, there are a lot of key guys who I either couldn't give the time of day, or who didn't grab me enough in my short perusal enough to continue considering.

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I learned that I really don't like stuff from other countries no matter what I try. I'm a WWE/WWF/NWA guy and I think I just need to make peace with that, watch what I like and stop trying to force guys onto my list because of their reputations. Either I would end up rating people I didn't care for due to their reputations (which seems intellectually dishonest) or I could bite the bullet and vote for Hacksaw Duggan and Bunkhouse Buck. I did the latter.

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Don't feel bad, Duggan has a legit case off his Mid-South work and I would have ranked him for sure. I love Golden but I'm not sure I could have put him onto my list but he's by far not the craziest nominee to rank.

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My goal was to make a list that was both soulless and factually correct. I hate every shred of my depleting but still present humanity that prevented my list from reaching such a moment of infallible, objective purity. I also resent the lot of you for being idealistic and alive on the inside when it comes to wrestling, for I am jaded and dead.

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As just a lurker for the most part and a person who really didn't get into wrestling until the middle of the Attitude Era of the WWF, I learned a few things as well.

 

1: Simply enough, there is SO MUCH WRESTLING out there that we as fans are exposed to and yet there is so much more that is out there that can be found, archived, enjoyed, and given out to others to enjoy. YouTube in itself has been an eye opener for me because it helped me to expand my horizon into AJPW from the 70's, 80's, and 90's when I would not have probably been able to watch as much as I have.

 

2: Watching this group of fans just shows me that we have some ties that bind, things that may separate, but that at the heart of things we love the sport of professional wrestling. Whether if it is how we watch it as the analytical fan or just the fan who watches things in awe, we still enjoy different aspects of this crazy hobby/sport/interest.

 

3: For me, it is hard to come up with 100 people that I truly enjoyed or thought were the best because my exposure has been so limited. I haven't been able to just drop what I have been doing in order to watch 3-4 hours of wrestling at a time (which actually does suck because there is an absolute treasure trove of things to be explored). However when I have been able to watch things that have been recommended (like when JvK recommended the Yatsu/Choshu vs Tenryu/Jumbo match from January of 86 to me in another post), I have been mostly blown away by what I have seen. It makes me enjoy everything all over again when being able to look at something that I was not exposed to in the past and to be able to see what others have thought of it.

 

To go along with #2, there are so many people on that list that I haven't been able to watch ANYTHING from and that drives me absolutely crazy because I see all of these recommendations and it almost leaves me with a sense of regret because there is so much more to dive into, but at the same time I really don't want to burn myself out from going deeper and deeper into the worm holes of professional wrestling.

 

Definitely enjoyed it.

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I learned that I like what I like and what I like is 80s-00s US wrestling.

 

I can respect names like Kobashi and Misawa or Harley and Robinson, but they didn't make my list because that respect didn't cross over enough into love.

 

There were a few names where that respect was so immense that it ended up vaulting a guy higher than I thought, like Terry Funk and Ric Flair.

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Another thing I've learned from the GWE project: I will never tire of listening to voters unveil and discuss their top 100 on podcasts.

 

There's been a couple of really good GWE pods released so far and I hope many more are coming.

 

Agreed. Has been great.

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I find it much easier to rank matches than wrestlers.

 

Building on that, I still haven't found a happy medium between quality and quantity of output. A wrestler like Tamon Honda who I absolutely adore but has had fewer opportunities due to his midcard position found himself in a wildly different ranking on each draft of my list.

 

Overall, I had fun but I'm way more excited about the next DVDVR set.

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