The Reality of Wrestling: Crossing The Line?

Last Sunday, TNA seemed to have finally done something right when Samoa Joe finally won the TNA world title beating Kurt Angle in a shoot-style match that was seen by all who watched it as experimental and something new, all except those who know about shoot-style’s influence on pro wrestling over the past twenty years. The fact that Joe and Angle both incorporate shoot-style into their arsenals makes it no surprise that these were the two to try it out on American soil. The fact that the fans weren’t once again swerved does show that TNA can do something right in their main-event section when it just won’t blink in the proverbial staring contest. However, with Joe’s title reign off to a decent enough start with a great victory speech and rematch with Kurt, the question that nobody asked eighteen years ago with Sting’s breakthrough win again Flair and should be asking with regards to Joe is, “what next?”

P.C. Says: Joe’s title win is overdue, but a good sign for TNA’s future

I don’t care what anyone says, the match was fantastic. The atmosphere, the build, the presentation, the crowd reaction, the action itself, everything was done the way it should’ve been done to make this Joe/Angle match what the others—and any big match or world title match—like it should be: a BIG match. Rarely in America outside of The E does wrestling get a match that not only is like a big match, but is a big match. I believe TNA accomplished this with the Joe/Angle match because of their ability to see a match as bigger than the card it’s on and actually hype it as such. All that was missing was the streamers.

A quick note on shoot-style if I may. I’ve talked about shoot-style on this column a few times, but a lot of American wrestling fans may not even know what I’m talking about, so I’m going to give you a quick tutorial on shoot-style wrestling. Shoot-style is basically the wrestling equivalent of a shoot fight. The main components of shoot-style are submissions, mat wrestling, stiff kicks, and (yes) suplexes. Shoot-style matches frown on high-flying moves and any bouncing off the ropes so as to create a more definite illusion of a “real” fight in a pro wrestling ring. It is the most realistic form of pro wrestling as it doesn’t use the styles that inadvertently expose pro wrestling as a work while at the same time producing a usually entertaining product. Akira Maeda, Kazuo Yamazaki, Satoru Sayama, Kiyoshi Tamura are the main pioneers of this kind of wrestling and who you should check out if you want to see how it’s done, but aside from these men and the promotions in Japan—UWF, UWFi, U-Style, Kingdom, RINGS—that have made a go at running a promotion on shoot-style only, shoot-style’s influence on pro wrestling can be seen on the majority of Japanese pro wrestlers today as well as a growing number of American pro wrestlers, two of which just gave American fans a lesson in the style just over a week ago.

Now that class is dismissed, let’s get back to the match at hand. The main complaint (the only real complaint I’ve seen on this match so far) was the transition around the middle of the match that saw it go from shoot-style only to a pro wrestling/shoot-style mix ending with Joe winning a predominantly shoot-style match with an exclusively pro wrestling maneuver—Muscle Buster. I will acknowledge this as a negative to the match, but it didn’t take away from the match enough to hurt it as the action continued to be solid and the transfer to pro wrestling still allowed both to work off of what they were doing when the match was strictly shoot-style: Angle working over Joe’s leg on the mat and Joe outstriking Angle at just about every turn. The transition is one that would’ve proved costly with most American wrestlers in this type of match, but even in Japan this kind of thing has happened in historically great shoot-style match as even purists don’t like the use of suplexes in shoot-style matches; but they’re there and it hasn’t taken away from the great matches they’ve been used in.

The match likely won’t be around at the end of the year when the match of the year voting begins for two reasons: there are a number of matches already up there and likely will be more, and the match isn’t what people would want in a match of the year. The slower pace, more mat wrestling, etc. doesn’t quite appeal to everyone (as is their right) and for that reason, most people probably won’t include it on their lists in December. Also, the year has started out really, really good for quality matches with Flair’s retirement match, Angle’s string of PPV main-event near classics, Ring of Honor contributing its usual batch of MOTYC’s, and Japan also having a good start match-wise.
I’m not calling it the match of the year, but it will likely make my top 10 come December as I was in love with the match because Joe and Angle turned it up once again and that TNA had the sack to finally take a gamble in the main-event.

Of course with Angle being inserted and making Joe’s first defense a triple threat with Scott Steiner (SPOILER! SPOILER!), it looks like TNA isn’t above tucking that sack back in after letting it drop. Why is Joe/Steiner as a singles match such a bad idea? A non-gimmick, 1-on-1, world title match worked brilliantly in April, so why couldn’t it work as a more full-time thing? If the goal is set Joe apart from the pack to make him THE star in TNA, that should be the strategy considering it is what brought him to TNA in the first place. Plus, these two shocked the hell out of everybody by having a great PPV match back at Slammiversary in 2006, and that was when Scotty wasn’t nearly as motivated as he appears to be these days. I guess that’s the reality of TNA: you take the bits of good you get and brace yourself for everything else. Of course, fucking up Joe’s first title run is an unpardonable sin in my book so Jeff Jarrett, if you have doubts about Russo (as has been rumored to be true), maybe you should do something now.

The Reality is…this could be Sting 1990 all over again. What doomed Sting’s first NWA title reign is the same thing that could doom Joe’s first TNA title reign: a lack of credible challengers. A champion’s drawing power is to a degree predicated on the people he’s defending that title against (this is especially the case in Japan). So with Joe, the landscape isn’t quite as friendly as one would hope: Cage is a face and TNA could run a face/face title match but likely won’t, Sting is always a lock for Bound for Glory, especially if Joe is still champ by then, and King of the Mountain takes care of June’s anniversary show; other than that you have Styles (that’d be a great one), Tomko if people can buy him as a challenger, and that’s about it since they won’t even allow Joe and Steiner to surprise us all again in a singles match. In my opinion, a long title reign is something that would do Joe and TNA a lot of good because Joe’s momentum through his title win isn’t even half what it was around two years ago (a time many including myself cite as when he should’ve gotten the belt). When Joe was given the ROH title, he turned it into a world title and not just another Indy fed’s title by putting on great match after great match and having a few hot feuds along the way. It’s not as if he’s lost a great amount of skill since those days (he almost took home my wrestler of the year pick in ’05, ’06, and ’07), so letting Joe do his thing in the ring and giving him at least something decent to work with in the backstage/interview department would equal one hell of a title reign, one that could finally make Samoa Joe the star in TNA that he was already supposed to be.

PLUGS

Pulse Glazer’s take on two great matches. I may not agree with everything he says, but that doesn’t stop me from admitting that he makes a great point.

Ditch Wrestling. If you haven’t been there, check it out. If you have, you know you want to go back.

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