A Modest Response

Welcome to the most important A Modest Response so far. If you’ve ever wondered where star ratings come from and why there aren’t set standards, well, this column is your answer.

The Top 6 Ring of Honor Matches this year will be bumped to next week to make room for the new system. Trust me, if you like work rate and thinking about what happens in a wrestling ring, this is your column.

Of course, we also have your links, including a second A Modest Response and a Respondent of Honor who won last week’s contest! We’ll be switching things up this week and be beginning with the section the column is named for.

Over at Not a True Ending, we have review standards for games. This gives us a leg up on other sites who review like EGM and magazines of that ilk, giving reviews based on emotions with no set standard. Our strictly adhered to standards make our reviews stand out and are appreciated by both readers and many game companies. The tough scoring allows for greater distinction in quality between titles that are similar content of different quality. Ultimately, video games are a product and the NATE Review Standards make sure that all games are judged fairly and by the same criteria while allowing the reader to form their own opinions on the product.

What does this have to do with wrestling? More than you might think at first glance.

Dave Meltzer and Scott Keith are the two biggest names in wrestling reviews. Scott Keith recently answered a question on his vaunted star ratings, basically stating that they were guided largely by feeling and consistency. Wrestling is a performance art, not a product, so the same strict guidelines cannot and should not be applied, or at least cannot without acknowledging that in any art there is a huge subjective factor. Within that subjective factor, however, there are certain standards which will produce a good performance by the artist, in this case, the wrestlers in the ring. In rating matches, too long have we relied on merely subjective whims and tastes of the reviewer. We will always have to suffer some of the subjectivity, but to it we can add a set standard of what to look for. Even if it’s only defining what we’re viewing subjectively, it’s still a big step in the right direction.

So, without further ado, let’s hit the categories.

A Modest Response: Glazer’s Pro Wrestling Review Standards: Version 1.0

The Categories

First off, for simplicities sake, scoring will be done using a 5 star system. This system has acquired the power of language, where you say ***** and a certain expectation is set. There is no point in abandoning this, so I will simply rate each category out of 5 Stars with half star variations within (yes, that’s scoring everything out of 10) and then average the finale.

This is not a must use for anyone. I’m merely presenting another option for how to cover matches in ring. This is an absurd level of commentary for your average television match, but for a PPV or DVD release, this should work exceedingly well. If you want to try it out, you are more than welcome, just give credit. If you want to ignore it, well, that’s fine too, and I hope you enjoy the read anyway.

Psychology/Storytelling – The two most important parts of a match are so intertwined that it’s often hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, so it behooves us to handle them together. Often in a match, and let’s use a Ric Flair match for simplicity’s sake, a wrestler will attack the opponent’s leg. This is very basic bodypart psychology. The opponent’s selling of the leg and using less moves which rely on the leg as a base for strength would be further and good psychology, as would during an opponent comeback, or hope spot, Flair kicking at the leg of his opponent to slow them down. Other ways to use psychology and storytelling in a match are by using the cowardly heel vs. the virtuous babyface (Lashley vs. Vince recently, but done far better with pretty much any Flair or Michaels match in which they are heels) or a Power wrestler vs. Speed Wrestler storyline, used to good effect in pretty much any Jimmy Jacobs vs. BJ Whitmer match, Jack Evans vs. Roderick Strong, or Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles. Playing off the history of previous encounters is not necessary, but will add a bonus to this section. The best examples of that are Misawa-Kawada matches, but in America the clear choice is the Joe-Punk Trilogy. Here’s a link to Joe vs. Punk 1, Joe vs. Punk 2, and Joe vs. Punk 3. Please note, there is a lot that goes into storytelling and psychology that will appear in different categories so as to allow for proper differentiation between categories and for the scoring of each important point to be properly reflected in the whole.

So, simplified, here are the questions to ask. What story are they telling in the ring? What psychology are they using to tell their story? Is there proper selling? Are they utilizing the wrestlers’ history in telling the story? Did the climax of the match satisfactorily involve/conclude the story being told?

Pacing/Timing – Pacing is the ability of the wrestlers to move the match along in a satisfactory manner to the crowd. Timing is the ability to do what is needed to advance the story telling or move the structure at the proper time to further involve the crowd. Expectations fit in here since pacing is how you get the crowd involved (well, pacing and the next category). The easiest example of pacing is in a tag match where tag formula is being followed. Does the formula last until the heat is greatest and does the crowd pop for the hot tag? If not, the pacing or timing was messed up somewhere along the line. One of the best paced tag matches I’ve ever seen is in this article, Jay Briscoe and Erick Stevens vs. Kevin Steen and El Generico.

Ring Role/Character – Character needs to be respected in the wrestling ring. A guy should not be a cowardly heel outside the ring, then a monster inside. Also, certain portions of a match will be done to play to a match’s personalities, like much of the Sabin-Dutt-Lethal match. The characters played such a huge role in the story, that while the story was simplistic, the character work needs credit all its.

As for Ring Role, in the 3/2/2007 AMR here’s how I explained Ring Role:

Today, I’d like to discuss ring role. There is surely another way to explain this, but I’ve never come across it, so I’ll be using and explaining my own terminology throughout. Ring role is exactly what it sounds like; the role the wrestler plays in the ring. This is different from both character and wrestling style, although related to both. I’ll explain using famous wrestlers that most are familiar with. Bret Hart, for a time anyway, played a classic baby face character with a technical style in the ring. Neither of these were his role, although both were related. Against a wrestler like Curt Hennig or Shawn Michaels, Hart’s role was a strong/aggressive type. The type of moves he used with this was what made up his wrestling style. He played this role because of his babyface character allowing him to show his strength in the ring against similar sized and skilled opponents. This aggressive role lead him to, generally, be working over a body part, specifically the back and/or legs, which would play a part later. His aggressive/strong role, however, leads to the arrogant heel, as played by his opponents, to take advantage and gain control of the match. This comes into play again with various hope spots, built around the fact that Hart is too powerful an opponent to keep down.

Shawn Michaels, as a face, plays quite a different role. He plays the underdog babyface role. This plays into his cocky character and highflying style. In a match against nearly any opponent, Shawn will start off well and take quite a beating. His hope spots come from his highflying style and the cockiness comes from the fact that he can take whatever an opponent dishes out and make a comeback. Shawn is almost always fighting from behind, but unlike Hart against a like sized opponent, will get offense almost exclusively through counters and combinations. Hart on the other hand, will merely control a match for a time, working over his chosen body part, being the competent technician that his style and role call for.

The role of Hart will change a bit when he is facing a significantly bigger opponent, like Diesel or Yokozuna. At that point, Hart will take on the same underdog role as Michaels, but keep the same wrestling style. Where Michaels’s hope spots and eventual comeback are caused by speed and high spots, Hart’s will still be technical moves focused on the leg or back of his opponent. The payoff will likely be similar, (a full comeback), but the road they use to get there, and the story told on the way, can be altered quite a bit based upon the ring role in combination with the wrestling style of the characters.

Let’s take a look at one more wrestler to ensure you understand what I mean. This time, let’s discuss Triple H as a heel. Triple H plays a dominating heel using an old school style. Triple H, much to the chagrin of his detractors, spends the majority of his matches on offense, regardless of his opponent. Against a smaller enemy, like Benoit, his ring role will be that of a dominating heel. Triple H will, despite a flurry of early offense, nearly always be in control and seem a favorite to win, regardless of booking, making the face seem like the underdog. This is a large part of why he is so respected by other wrestlers. He’s amazingly adept at making his opponent into the underdog and making himself more hated and the opponent more cheered in the process. He does this with an old school style, which is, simply put, beating down on the opponent. He can be countered by the underdog babyface, as all his opponents end up beating, when they play to their strengths, whether they be pure power like Batista or throws and mat work like Benoit.

Ring role interacts with wrestling style to determine what a wrester does in the ring and why. Without establishing this role, or rather, these roles, any style comes off as empty and moves are merely being used and not be applied for a sense of furthering the match and building the story.

Spots – Spots are the big moves in a match. Impressive high spots like top rope moves fit here, even in spot fests if they’re impressive enough, but so do logically built and coherently timed moves. When these two are tied together, you often have something special, like in the TLC matches, but you can have a good, fun match with little psychology to the spots, and that needs to be reflected. Many a Sabu match or an Amazing Red match prove that sometimes, just highspots can earn a high rating, but high spots aren’t needed to have a great match, as Kobashi and Joe showed us. Building to your spots properly using a good structure to the match can earn as high a rating here as a death defying stunt, so long as the structure leading to it works. The spots, however, and how they fit in, where they fit in, what they accomplish, and how they escalate as the match builds to it’s conclusion all contribute to the overall quality of the match and thus stand alone in their own category.

Structure – Here’s what you should be asking yourself for match structure. Were the hope spots properly built into the match? Was it too one sided? Did the way it was built make the match too predictable? If it was predictable, did the story warrant that? Was the formula done well? Was the formula strayed from in any interesting or meaningful way? Did the match build to a proper climax? These are basically the transition elements in a match or, in other words, that which ties the spots together.

Here’s how I explained structure in the very first A Modest Response:

This particular article is in response to the Chrononaut’s response to negative reaction to Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe.

Here is a direct quote of what I am replying to:

I’ve been reading some of the feedback for this PPV while putting this recap together and I must say I’m really surprised at the negativity. When TNA signed Angle, the internets were buzzing with the smarkiest smarky smarks moaning that he wouldn’t know enough to tone it down and would probably kill himself in his first match with crazy suplex bumps and high-risk maneuvers. So here we have his first PPV match and those same people are bitching that it was too short and not exciting enough and whatever else… because it didn’t go 30 minutes with crazy suplex bumps and high-risk maneuvers. If the match had gone 30 minutes with crazy suplex bumps and high-risk maneuvers, the same people would be bitching that Angle hadn’t learned anything and would be dead within a month. As I figured from the beginning, TNA and Angle will just never be able to win over some people no matter what they do. I personally enjoyed the visual of Joe vs. Angle and thought they had a great first match together to whet the appetite for a rematch and/or series of matches.

Well, I’m not the smarkiest smarky smarks, and I never worried about him killing himself, so that part’s not to me. My concern is that this is what is passed off as a great match. Suplex bumps and high-risk are necessitated in neither Joe nor Angle’s styles and are absolutely unneeded for a great match to take place. Only one thing is needed for a great match to take place: Drama.

Drama is the building of tension and anticipation in the audience when building to the climax. The old writing class story used to explain drama is two guys sit at a diner talking. A bomb blows up and they die. You have no drama or tension here. The only reaction you can get from the audience is “What was that and why did the author do it?” To create drama, one simple element is needed: the audience must be aware of the bomb. The characters can know or not, but when the audience knows, it changes the entire perception of the scene. Just including drama isn’t enough; however, the drama must build to the climax. That can be done, the anecdote tells us, by introducing a timer that the audience is aware of. Now we’re building towards something. That’s the basics of drama. To get a great drama out of this you can use any number of ideas- have one character know the bomb is there, have their discussion rise slowly as the timer moves closer to the impact, have one of them ask for the check with plenty of time left- and so on.

Now, back to wrestling. Joe and Angle created no drama. The drama present in the match was that that the audience, out of context, brought into the match with their expectations. Once the match began, we get no build, although we know that there is a bomb, no countdown, and an explosion. How we add drama to wrestling matches is generally fairly simple and well known, but I’ll cover it anyway. The first and simplest way to add drama to this match is to add time to it. This alone won’t make a great match, but a longer match allows for, by definition, more time for anticipation to build. This doesn’t mean all longer matches are better than shorter, but that they have the potential to fit more drama into them.

With length adding anticipation, we need a build, or something to do with the extra time we’ve been allotted. What we got was Joe dominating, then Angle suddenly hitting two moves, twice each and finishing off Joe. When one man dominates in a wrestling match, so that it does not become a redundant affair, wrestlers use hope spots, or small areas of the match where the dominated attempts his comeback. This shows that he is still capable of fighting back and keeps the audience aware that a big flurry is coming. Remember, surprise is nice, but you need to build to the climax.

One way a wrestling match will build drama is the working of a body part. We know Angle often finishes with an Ankle Lock, so leg work would be the way he could focus his hope spots to build tension. The Ankle Lock is meant to be deadly, but instead of relying purely on the audience’s prior knowledge of the move, adding it in match brings it to the front of the audiences mind and builds the tension when the move is finally managed.

In story terms, if Angle really can beat Joe so quickly, it makes no sense for Joe to dominate the way he did. If the finish is going to be Angle’s domination on counter sequences, then earlier in the match (earlier in the story) Angle should have been dominating on counter sequences. If we are attempted to make them look like equals, while Angle merely has more dominating finishers and is just a bit better, then a back and forth match is called for. With Joe dominating, a slower build of Angle hope spots was called for. Not only did they not correctly build drama, they also failed to use the proper techniques to build drama within the story they were vaguely attempting.

Explanation of Each Star Rating

A special thanks goes out to Bebito and Lucard, who did the work in putting it together. I’m mostly transferring it to stars.

No Stars – Dud

A dud means the match received no stars. This is usually reserved for straight squashes with next to no purpose. I don’t do negative stars. Anything less than one full star means very slight redeeming qualities in something in the match.

Examples – Erick Stevens vs. Mitch Franklin (Supercard of Honor 2),

* – Terrible

A * match means the match was actively offensive. This is generally the lowest score you’ll see from me if there is an actual match taking place that makes any kind of sense.

Example(s)

* 1/2 – Bad

This match is bad, but at least has one redeeming quality usually.

Example(s) – Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg (Wrestlemania 20).

** – Lacking

A ** star match is where things just don’t click. It’s bad, but not offensive. It usually denotes a match that could have been good but was derailed somewhere.

Examples – Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga (Wrestlemania 23), Samoa Joe vs. Homicide (Battle of the Icons).

** ½ – Average

These are our average, run of the mill matches. These are matches that just missed somewhere important, either due to a blown spot, a momentary, but large psychology lapse, or something else entirely. Scott Keith tends to call this Perfectly Acceptable Wrestling.

Example(s) – Nigel McGuinness vs. Jimmy Rave (Battle of the Icons), Delirious vs. Roderick Strong (Respect is Earned), Chris Benoit vs. MVP (Wrestlemania 23).

*** – Solid Jimmy Jacobs vs. BJ Whitmer (Battle of the Icons),

*** range is where solid matches fall. *** denotes, simply put, good, but unspectacular in any real notable way. It means the match did what it was supposed to, but wasn’t overly impressive getting there. Most matches on an average ROH card fall around this rating. They fill the card out with solid wrestling.

*** ½ – Good

These matches are good. They either excel in an area or two or are slightly above average everywhere. This rating is not an insult and means something the workers did was actually impressive.

Example(s) – Homicide vs. Jimmy Rave (Fifth Year Festival: NYC), Davey Richards and Roderick Strong vs. Jack Evans and Delirious (Fighting Spirit).

**** – Great

This is great and memorable. How memorable and special it came across is denoted by anything above ****. **** is a tough score to achieve in general, but it’s quite rare for a match to get above ****, so if it does, you know it’s special. ROH seems to be changing that though. They’re the first American company I can think of that makes putting on **** matches a regular affair, not just one or two wrestlers being especially awesome and constantly tearing the house down. Match of the Year Contenders that all mix together appear hear.

Example(s) – Bryan Danielson vs. Homicide (Final Battle 2006), Homicide vs. Colt Cabana (Better than our Best), Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (Summerslam ’91), Cena vs. Umaga (Royal Rumble 2007).

**** ½ – Classic

These matches are excellent and unforgettable. If you like wrestling and see a match get this rating, see the match. The Match of the Year Contenders that make most people’s short lists appear here.

Example(s) – Low Ki vs. KENTA (Final Battle 2005), Jay and Mark Briscoe vs. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong (Unified), Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XXI), Chris Jericho vs. The Rock (No Mercy 2001).

*****

***** matches are perfection. In a great year we get three. Some years we get none. Any time this happens you have a probable Match of the Year.

Example(s) – Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA (Glory By Honor V Night 2), Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi (Joe vs. Kobashi), Benoit vs. Triple H, vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XX), Steamboat vs. Flair (Chi-Town Rumble).

Stay tuned next Friday, when I will put several famous matches through their paces with the new system!

Respondent of Honor

Only one person got last week’s quiz correct. The question was “What is the link between the titles of the three columns I regularly write at insidepulse.com?” Here’s his response.

Dear Mr. Glazer,

The connecting thread between your article titles appears to be that they
are all literary references:

East of Gotham -> Steinbeck’s East of Eden
The Most Dangerous Gamer -> Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game
A Modest Response -> Swift’s A Modest Proposal

I could not discover any deeper connecting thread, but here is my guess, at
any rate.

Sincerely,
Robert Mackie

Perfect Robert. I’m a teacher and grading at the end of the year is taking up much of my time. Next Friday is my last day. The first Monday after, ROH’s best top to bottom show, Better than our Best will be in the mail headed to you.

Thanks for trying everyone and congratulations to Robert!

This Week on Inside Pulse

Grut’s Raw Coverage is absolutely great, as is that he stopped watching before Vince’s “death.”

Fitzgerald does my gimmick and responds to Brashear’s pro-kayfabe article from last week. The moral of the story is that they don’t actually disagree. Brashear is pro-kayfabe on camera. Fitzgerald is anti-kayfabe off camera. Easy enough and works just like every other form of performance entertainment I can think of.

Look at our first VS. of the week, in which Matt Michaels plays Booker T to Flea’s Triple H. In our second VS. we have Kace Evers vs. Mark Allen in a strange match, read to see why. Lastly, a third VS. will be up sometime today, specially by Big Andy Mac, featuring Guy Desmaris vs. PK.

ECW this week is an hour of my life I’ll never get back. Wake me when Benoit and Punk feud. Blatt also Podcasts on that terrible show.

Grut paging Irony. Irony, Grut on line 2.

Welcome back Mark Allen who looks at ROH, TNA, and the brand split, all of which are now 5 years old. Where you from Mark? We should arrange for you to do a few ROH DVD reviews since you’ve never seen a full one!

Big Andy Mac discusses chants, one of the least interesting things about wrestling, in my opinion. I generally love Andy’s columns, as all regular readers know, but really, we aren’t part of the show. Can we just talk about what happens with the actual performers?

Brashear is a man’s man and so is Regal!

Off Wrestling for a bit before we head back for a second A Modest Response, but please check this stuff out!

Broken Dial editor Shawn M. Smith sat down one day after shoulder surgery with Mary Guibert, mother of the late Jeff Buckley. Ten years have passed since his accidental drowning, but his influence still permeates music so please check out SMS’ Exclusive Interview with Mary Guibert.

Travis, lord of DVD reviews (seriously, call him that, it makes him uncomfortable and is amusing) has a great review of the 40 Year Old Virgin.

If you like A Modest Response and are a gamer, give The Most Dangerous Gamer a try please! Yes, it’s by me. Also, try out my buddy Ryne Sinclair from the same section with the great Parallax Reality.

If you like AMR and are a comic fan, give East of Gotham a try please! Yes, it’s by me. The rest of the section rocks so hard, I won’t even pretend to single one guy out. Just go give it a try and drop me a line!

Column of Honor: Steve Murray who went to his first Ring of Honor show this weekend in Philadelphia and loved it. Go on and give it a read, it opens in a new window and is a very good write up. Since his column is a countdown of the positives, I think I’ll reply here in a nice, neat little list to his ROH related points.

A Modest Response: Views on Murray’s first ROH experience

1. You can be a wrestling fan and not catch ROH ever. But really, if you actual pro wrestling between guys in a ring and solid stories that don’t insult your intelligence, you owe it to yourself to at least try out Ring of Honor. With all the sales ongoing, suck it up and try a DVD once or twice.

2. The big difference between ECW and ROH is, well, honor. ECW fans were largely vulgar, drunk college students. Not to say that ROH doesn’t draw that lot, but it also seems to draw a more educated fan. For example, myself, Big Andy Mac, and Ari over at 411 all write exclusively about ROH and are teachers. In the ring weapons and antics aren’t the norm and even many heels, like Jimmy Rave, behave with some semblance of honor. It’s a similar buzz in the crowd and innovation in the ring to be sure, but don’t go and expect the same thing.

3. Eric actually tried the backstage thing if you read between the lines, but he’s very respectful of performers and their privacy. I honestly have little interest in what happens backstage. My interest is solely in the ring. I also don’t care about gossip for music, movie, or sports stars.

4. Everyone who has tried ROH loves it. Eric S, Scott Keith, Grut, Shawn Smith, and Iain Burnside (column fodder whining aside) have all loved what ROH they’ve seen, but it isn’t just for the hardcore fan. My girlfriend and her sister, who know nothing of wrestling besides ROH, absolutely love it. So do any number of my friends, who are casual fans at best, and their girlfriends. Female, male, WWE fan, TNA fan, old fan, new fan, oblivious to wrestling: I’ve never been to a live show with someone who hasn’t wanted to go back the next time and the time after that and the one after that, and

5. Kevin Steen will likely not make it big unfortunately. He plays a playground bully heel. It’s amazingly effective, but he lacks the size to do it in the WWE. He can also nail a moonsault or a swanton, which is fairly impressive for his size.

6. Can we please as a site put over Jimmy Jacobs some more? He’s just great and creative, doing something no one else in wrestling is with his current emo in love gimmick.

7. The Briscoes’ match could have gotten a higher rating, but with them at this point, you need to deal in degrees. They’ve simply been signifigantly better multiple times and there is no point where it felt like the Kings of Wrestling had a legitimate chance to win. Get “Battle of the Icons,” “Fifth Year Festival: Liverpool,” or “Final Battle 2006” for better, among many, many others.

8. Morishima vs. Roderick will be good to great on DVD. For whatever reason Morishima has a disconnect in person that doesn’t come through on DVD. Just trust me on this.

9. How great was that Danielson vs. Nigel match? Can you say worth buying the PPV for alone? Come on, I know you can!

10. Glad you enjoyed ROH. If you’re willing to travel, July 28 or so Edison, NJ is within traveling distance for you Steve. Hope to see you there!

That’s it for this week. No real news, but be sure to check out my recap of last Friday’s show and full Review of last Saturday’s show. See you all next week!

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