Friday, December 28, 2012

Say Uncle!











I probably like all styles of wrestling to varying degrees, depending on mood and circumstances. Although sumo, royal rumble, featherweight, and high-flying acrobatic styles typically rank fairly low with me, other factors do often enter the equation and influence my way of thinking about an individual contest, judged on a case by case basis. For me the consistently best, most evocative and most engrossing wrestling is still what I frequently refer to as grunt-n-groan wrestling, finely illustrated in this FWE match from July, pitting local hero Harry Smith, 6'5", 250#, son of the late great Davey Boy Smith, against carpetbagging heel Mike Bennett, 6'1", 220#.

These two men represent the essentials of the grunt-and-groan style--big, swaggering, hot-tempered bruisers with bossy construction-worker guts, a propensity for heavy sweating, and steel-beam shoulders. It's also good that the babyface is a sentimental favorite--son of a legend or a well-liked wrestling promoter (or, conversely, the heel can be the black sheep son of a veteran). Usually the match has the good guy suffering under a physical handicap of some sort so that the announcer can comment on the wrestler's performing a move well, as here, "even with a damaged leg." Very high marks go also to the announcer opining that Harry is capable of killing a man with his bare hands.

Grunt-and-groaner introductions have to include an announcement of each wrestler's weight, just to give heft and bulk their proper respect, but all the preliminaries, including entrances and mouthing off on the microphone, need to comprise no more than 25% of the bout, preferably far far less. At least 25% of the bout needs to happen on the mat, not in the air, not upright on their feet, but knotted and scissored together in a strenuous effort to wring, crush, and stretch each other. In there somewhere, I want at least one instance (preferably more than one) of a wrestler in agony, straining to grasp the ropes and force the release. I like two (though right now I'm thinking three) solid and prolonged instances where the two men are pressed up to the ropes, navel to navel. If that's too much to ask for, then I want the cowardly heel to flee the ring and the babyface to haul him back in by the seat of his britches and a hank of hair. At some point, the heel needs to make a show of sportsmanship and good will, or of even abject submission, only to turn it into a cheap shot. And it all needs to wrap up with a clean, decisive finish, preferably by 3-count after a suitably frustrating string of 2-counts.

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