The Art of Wrestling: Random Thoughts

YET ANOTHER CRAZY WEEK

I’ve had a series of small crises to deal with this week. I myself have been fine, but a lot of my closest friends have been going through stuff where they needed to talk to me, get some advice, or vent. So this column is a little late and kind of rushed, and I though that I’d take a break from writing about 2004’s greatest matches to do a little venting myself. Here, then, are three random wrestling topics that have been on my mind this week:

THE PWI 500

Back in the 1980s I used to buy as many wrestling magazines as I could afford on my student’s budget. I loved reading about the wrestlers that hadn’t yet made an appearance on my television. I even had a column in one of PWI’s glossy competitors, a magazine called Wrestling’s Main Event. These days, I only buy two mark mags per year: The PWI Awards issue, and the PWI 500, which lists their editor’s picks for the top 500 wrestlers of the past year. Considering that kayfabe is still half-alive in the PWI offices, it shouldn’t be surprising that their list of the best wrestlers usually has very little in common with any such list that might crop up on the internet. I always find it hilarious when people on message boards react with genuine outrage to stuff like Kojima being ranked 43 spots higher than Kawada or JBL making the top ten while Lucharesu superstar and Triangle Gate co-Champion Milano Collection A.T. barely made the top 250. I guess that complaining about lists is just part of the fun, but I have always felt that the PWI 500 is best enjoyed in a spirit of playful acceptance.

Still, this year’s 500 has a couple of glaring problems that I feel compelled to bitch about.

One of the reasons I always buy this issue is that I love seeing which local Indy guys get ranked, and where they rank them. This year, however, I was stunned to find local promoter/wrestler Michelle Starr ranked at 322. Starr is a tough veteran who has pretty much perfected his version of the Gorgeous George gimmick, and he has played a huge role in keeping the local Indy scene alive for many years. Why, then, was I surprised to see him on the list? I was surprised because, to the best of my knowledge, Starr retired from active competition back in January. This leaves me with the following question: Are the PWI editors too lazy or too time-strapped to bother checking up on Canadian Indy wrestlers, or did they think that a retired Michelle Starr was still better than an active Ladies’ Choice (#335), Aaron Idol (#356), Dropkick Murphy (#365) or Quebec’s Sexxxy Eddie (#415)? Another recently retired local legend, “Mr. Beefy Goodness” Vance Nevada, made the list at #224. It’s all cool, though, as both Nevada and Starr have un-retired since the issue came out, working together with Disco Fury to form a new version of The Glamour Order of Discipline. Starr has already reclaimed the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship. So, God bless the PWI for not checking their facts too thoroughly, and for taking the time to cover my local faves. Now, let’s see Scotty Mac (# 289) and Puma (#179) move up those rankings in 2006!

Slightly more problematic, from my point of view, is that none of NJPW’s New Three Musketeers made this year’s list. In my column last week, I made it clear that I consider Hioroshi Tanahashi to be brightest young star in New Japan. The always-insightful Team ROH member Brad Barnes considers current freelancer Katsuyori Shibata to be the best of the three. I find it disappointing, but not entirely surprising, that neither made the top 500. What really blows my mind is that, on a partially kayfabed list, “Supernova” Shinsuke Nakamura was left off. Early in 2004, Nakamura unified the IWGP and NWF titles by beating Yoshihiro Takayama in a headlining match in the Tokyo Dome. After being forced to take some time off for injuries, he then came back to headline the Tokyo Dome once again in January 2005, against Tanahashi. Once Again, we are faced with a question: Do the editors feel that, by their standards, Lord Zoltan’s run with the non-existent FNW Jr. Heavyweight Championship outweighs Nakamura headlining the Tokyo Dome, or is it that they don’t really bother to follow the Japanese scent too closely?

Still, even if they do a half-assed job of it, it’s great that Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover local and international wrestling instead of just focussing on the North American Corporate wrestling world. Every little bit contributes to spreading the love around. If I’m going to be completely honest, I should admit that it was partly through reading about Chono, Lyger, Misawa and Tsuruta in the early-90s 500s that I got into Japanese wrestling in the first place.


It’s Liger, you idiot! Quit spelling my name with a “Y”!

PRO WRESTLING OR MIXED MARTIAL ARTS?


Why not both at once?

People, like myself, who are fans of both forms of manly and violent entertainment, will face a difficult choice on the first Monday of October. Will we watch RAW’s re-debut on USA and tape Spike TV’s UFC mini-marathon, or vice versa. At this point, I’m actually more excited about Spike TV’s October 3 lineup. How about you? You can cast your vote and have your say here, on our reader forums!

POSSIBLE RING OF HONOR SPOILER!

If you haven’t heard the big news out of ROH this past week, and you don’t want it to be spoiled, you should probably just skip this. I wanted to weigh in on it anyway, and I’m pretty sure most of you will have heard by know (Highlight/click and drag on the following space to read more):

American Dragon Bryan Danielson is the new Ring of Honor World Champion! Anyone who has read this column, or this one, or this one, or especially this one will know what a huge Danielson mark I am. I sincerely consider him to be the all around best professional wrestler in the world today. I think this is great news for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it’s always gratifying when one of your favourite wrestlers wins the championship. More than that, though, I think this was the right move for ROH.

In 2003 and 2004, Samoa Joe went on an extended run with the ROH title, turning it into a world championship by defending it overseas and elevating the belt to the point where it became the focal point of the promotion’s booking strategies. Since Joe dropped the title, it has been used to elevate upper mid carders to Main Event status, and it has been used to give thanks to loyal employees on their way out the door. In my very strong opinion, the best thing for ROH to do with their World Title at this point is to once again elevate it by giving their best wrestler an extended, Joe-like, run with the belt. Danielson is capable of working a wide variety of styles at a very high level with an equally diverse range of opponents. He is exactly the kind of wrestler who can sustain a lengthy championship run by wrestling compelling, entertaining, and original matches with every possible legitimate contender.

Here’s to a dominating two year run for the new champ!

NEXT WEEK

I’ll get back to discussing the Best of Japan 2004 DVD set, with a focus on the final day of the G-1 climax, including a legitimate candidate for Match of the Year.

THANKS FOR READING!