6/29 Shore's Blog: There is no such thing as "pure wrestling," and if there was, it would not be in ROH
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 6:00pm CT
Members and those of you who follow me on twitter (@the_shore_slant) have by now seen me confronted about my opinion concerning the Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards match at ROH Best in the World. To quickly recap for those not watching ROH--and shame on you if you fall in that category--I felt the match, which was the main event and for the ROH World Championship, was an amazing display of athleticism and wrestling moves, but a pretty poor wrestling match when taken as a whole. To say that opinion is in the minority is quite the understatement.
Most accounts and reviews of the show, including by Dot Net members, have raved about the match. One member went so far as to call it "a religious experience live." The match was even considered for a Five Star rating by the man who created that "standard" (a standard which has since been misused by thousands of fans and dozens of websites.) Numerous people, including peers in the wrestling media, emailed and tweeted demanding to know how I could say such things about that match before proceeding to go into great detail about where I was "wrong" about a subjective statement.
My purpose here is not to re-fight that fight. I have said again and again that none of us are wrong in what we find entertaining, even if we are in the minority. I would guess that most of the people who contacted me about how wrong I was would say they are not fans of country music. Yet country is the number one music style in both number of listeners and revenue. So while I am happy they enjoyed the match, I did not and that's where things will stay no matter how long we discuss it.
But I do wish to address one defense that was made over and over to me, albeit in different words. It is the idea that the Eddie Edwards vs. Davey Richards match was somehow more "real," or perhaps a better word is "pure," wrestling. This idea is absurd for one major reason: there is no such thing as "pure" wrestling. And even if there was, it wouldn't have been that match.
A quick history lesson for those who don't know wrestling's roots. Professional wrestling as it is known today (or sports entertainment if you insist) traces its lineage to traveling carnivals where strongmen would wrestle audience members in legit matches. There was always a plant in the crowd in case no one would volunteer. If the plant had to be used, of course the strongman would not want to hurt his carny partner, so they would "work" the match instead. Somebody somewhere figured out you could do this all the time and never have to worry about your guy losing because it was all staged. At that moment, professional wrestling was born.
Wrestling quickly spread out across the nation as the territory system was born. Partnerships and alliances were formed to share talent and promote "world" champions. This arrangement worked for roughly 30 years before the nationalistic plans of Vince McMahon and the then WWF changed the landscape. WCW was, of course, the last group to ever challenge Vince's model, and the now WWE dominates the wrestling landscape to this day.
When you look back across the wrestling landscape then, a very big problem to the "pure" wrestling argument arises, namely that wrestling has changed so many times there can be no "pure" wrestling. Whatever the caliber of the ROH main event last Sunday, it was nothing like the bouts they held in the carny days. Nor was it like the bouts of the 1950s, or the bouts of the 1980s. It was their style of wrestling, no more or less pure than anyone else's.
But insofar as "pure" wrestling exists, the goal of wrestling from its birth has been to make as much money as possible with the least amount of damage to the wrestlers. That's been the mission of every single promotion in history--though some may argue that promotions like CZW ignore the second half. So as much as it pains me to say it, if anyone can claim the mantle of "pure" wrestling it is Vince McMahon and WWE. You cannot question his ability to make wads of money; and his guys, in general, don't break down near as much as other promotions. Try not to think too hard about how the group with the most legitimate claim to the word wrestling is actively trying to stamp it out. It will only end poorly for you.
Perhaps, though, there is a grander point to be made here. Watch what you like, and like what you like. Unabashedly! But remember that it takes all of us liking different things to make the marketplace of wrestling full and fun to sample. I adore the physicality and old school feel of ROH. And C.M. Punk's promo Monday night on Raw was breathtaking. And would it surprise you to know my favorite match that I have seen this year went about 20 minutes but only had three minutes of actual wrestling? It's true. The Throwbacks vs. Los Ice Cream when CHIKARA came here entertained me out of my chair.
Encourage others to try what you like. And by all means, make your case for what is good. But do not presume to know what is "real" or "pure" about any art. Because like music, wrestling is an art. Unfortunately, also like music there are already too many self-important people who claim to be the final arbiters on what is good and bad. We don't need any more.
Now if you'll excuse me, country radio is playing my song…
Questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @the_shore_slant.
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