Thursday Morning Backlash on Goldust, John Cena, Strong Style and King’s Road (Puroresu Primer)

I know it’s late. Blame the Boss (Widro not Springsteen, though come to think of it, feel free to blame shitty ass Springsteen for whatever you like). Here, let’s start with a Guest Spot from Penny, better known as the ShamanofHedon:

Been pondering recent turns of events in my personal life if anyone actually cares why I didn’t give anything to Glazer to post last week. Plus given I wrote my last piece on 3 days no sleep leading me to type Hell in the Cell when I was actually talking about the Elimination Chamber, I wanted to make sure I’d actually, y’know, SLEPT before writing anything this week.

Before I get to ranting, shout to Rey Mundo with whom I will eternally disagree about Celine Dion; I’m Canadian, it is my God-given right to be ashamed of her existence.

Anyway.

So over the past week or so the ‘E has actually pulled off a few interesting things. While I am a little peeved in the stupidity of their advertising department inadvertently giving away the result of Barrett/Cena with ads for Bragging Rights prominently featuring Nexus, I’m amazed they were willing to risk Cena’s vaunted t-shirt sales by pulling the trigger on this, but watching Cena try to live by Barrett’s rules will be interesting.

But that isn’t my favorite development of the week.

Chris Jericho being punted gave him a nice storyline reason for a sabbatical, since pretty much only idiot smarks honestly believe he’s really gone and not coming back. And now we get to see if the audience worships him when he comes back, because towards the end of his current run prior to starting his time off, despite his nigh-flawless ability to get his heart back in a heartbeat, the fans were almost desperate to turn him face.

But THAT isn’t my favorite development of the week.

It’s also gratifying as both a Canadian and a fan of pure wrestling ability to see Natalya Neidhart FINALLY being used in the women’s division. (I refuse under pain of hot pokers piercing my nipples to ever refer to it as the Divas Division), and being allowed to actually put in good work and look good. Nattie in the Women’s mainstream can only elevate it, and it gives me a reason to not use women’s matches as a piss break.

But THAT isn’t my favorite development of the week.

John Morrison is getting a push again it seems, except this time he seems to have finally begun to grasp the minutia of what really made Shawn Micheals great; it was never the flippy spots or the “Holy shit” moments that truly made Shawn legendary, it was the little things. His timing, his selling, his storytelling. Knowing WHEN to pull out the flippy holy shit spots and when to get his ass kicked six ways from Sunday, how to both make the audience sure you’re beaten then pull a win out your ass, but also how to have them willing to bet good money you’re about to win and then have the win stolen from you, THAT was what made Shawn a legend. Morrison, for all the ballyhooed “next Shawn Micheals” talk he gets, has definitely been the Jannetty. He was great for flippy spots to pop the fans, but his selling sucked, his timing was solely focused on spotfesting, and he didn’t tell a story, he just strung spots together. And we all wrote him off as a perennial midcard also-ran. But recently he’s shown drastic improvement. By history alone he should have been at best a third wheel in the Miz/Danielson match, but he actually kept pace, not just through flippy spots, but through *GASP* pacing, timing, and telling a story. I’m very excited to see if his long overdue improvement continues.

But THAT isn’t my favorite development of the week.

What is? Goldust. I’ve been a fan of Goldust since his debut, even as I often criticized some of the places Dustin (well, Russo really), took the character, Dustin Runnels is one of the best the ‘E has on the rosater and I, like a few others on the Pulse, have been wanting them to actually DO something with him for years now. Since he last returned to the ‘E he’s been enhancement talent at best, most notably helping Sheamus fine-tune his act in WWECW before being called up to RAW. Goldust has been almost criminally misusede since his last trip to TNA, which is probably intentional. He was likely being punished for flying the coop again. But the bottom line is that, of everyone on the roster, very few are in Goldust’s league as far as promo ability, heat-magnetness, and ability to consistantly lay out an entertaining match with damn near anyone. When given the ball we KNOW Dustin can outrun damn near anyone with it. And finally, FINALLY, on the flagship show, Goldust is being given something to do.

And it suits him too. What he’s doing with DiBiase makes perfect sense for Goldust. As overtly sexdual as the character acts, the character has always been innately asexual. He’s a cipher, he adapts to the sexual insecurities of whomever he’s paired with to shake them, but that’s all it is. At the root of things, Goldust has always been about Goldust, and what makes Goldust happy. Goldust might make overtly sexualized advances at Ted or Maryse, but there was never any real likelihood he wanted either of them. It made perfect sense that it was that shiny solid gold ugly bling belt that got him all a-flutter, and with his less than subtle amour for the diamond encrusted monstrosity, Goldust is finally in a real program again, being given the ball, and I for one can’t wait to watch him punt it square between the goalposts every single week.

Besides, that corkscrew suplex he laid Teddy out with was absolutely sick wasn’t it?

Get back to your real life, the bar is closed.

And now, something old is new again, my Primer to Strong Style and King’s Road.

Strong Style and King’s Road are the two main styles of wrestling in Japan, particularly in the 1990s. This isn’t intended as a comprehensive explanation of each, but should serve as a primer for those who wish to understand these types of matches.

Strong Style was the main focus of New Japan Pro Wrestling. The style is based on quick transitions between wrestlers, but slower build and focus. A strong style match will feature a long breakdown of a bodypart during counterwrestling that will go back and forth. The “story” as such, does less to play into the finish as it does to establish wrestling as an alternative combat sport, different from judo, boxing, etc. Antonio Inoki (and later Hashimoto) would face many men from different combat sports in order to prove wrestling strong style was the superior. The finish to a match which featured leg work might not actually feature leg attacks as such, but would rather flow from the “game of human chess” elements and what is established earlier as an individual’s strengths.

Shoot style is something of an evolution of this. Where Strong Style is still clearly wrestling, they use the ropes and such, it’s merely more realistic. Shoot style eschews wrestling tradition far more notably, getting rid of running the ropes and uncontested slams and suplexes. The worked shoot is essentially a shoot match that tells a story. No selling is done, beyond what is realistic. Strong Style instead is wrestling that attemtped to ground itself in reality. UWFi (Takada, Funinami, etc.) is often considerred the height of Shoot Style, while late Inoki and rising Hashimoto would be the most important Strong Style.

King’s Road is a far deeper performance that eschews realism for depth in storytelling. The main characteristic of King’s Road is building upon a story begun years before. Every wrestler in every match is continuing both their own story and the story of King’s Road as a style. This naturally, eventually became untenable. Here’s how it worked- Each wrestler has a tier of moves, weakest to strongest, and major signature moves, including numerous finishers. The story is built around two things. First is the progression from weaker moves to stronger moves. Kenta Kobashi might begin with his usual chops against Honda for example, but Misawa would warrant a spinning chop far sooner as Kobashi must break out higher offense. Honda, to defeat Kobashi’s regular chops, would need to go to a lot of his higher tiered offense to counter signifying that Kobashi is higher ranked and more dominant. To stop a regular chop, Misawa wouldn’t need more than a simple elbow. Were he to do anything else, it would build up a story of Kobashi getting ahead in the match and a totally different strategy and story would emerge. This is due to learning from spots.

Each wrestler has a series of spots and counters. As guys wrestle more and more and the style evolved further and further, these became almost absurd in length and brutality, as rising to new heights and coming up with new twists on series of moves from years before became the norm. This would lead to a constantly heightening drama with long combinations, tons of very close near falls escalating to the pin, all by one wrestler as he steps his game up while weakening the opponent. To add to the realism lost by this highly dramatic style, intense stiffness and head drops became the norm. Naturally, over time, this devolved into a “who can do more moves” at the end of the match, with regard for the epic individual and King’s Road storyline waning and instead the teiring of moves overtaking it in their balance of importance. Kobashi is often blamed for this, though it isn’t his fault. Misawa and Kawada, along with Kobashi and Taue, were the masters of this style. To see the story, one should usually start with the first match in the style- Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Tenryu from 6/5/1989. There’s stuff important to the story before then, but that’s where you have to begin if you want to check out the style since it’s nearly impossible to see everything. This was All Japan’s signature style in the 1990s, with an NWA/Strong Style hybrid being worked earlier.

Tsuruta, by the way, is likely the best wrestler ever. He worked Strong Style very well occasionally, notably in the 80s with Choshu, Tenryu and others but was in many of the best ever Flair-Steamboat style NWA matches ever during the 1970s with Billy Robinson most notably. In the early 90s he was the very best at King’s Road before injuries and age robbed him of that ability, meaning he masterred all three of the major, difficult styles of the world during his time wrestling while basically invented the most artistically expressive, King’s Road, and being a former Amatuer Champion, being excellent at the Strong Style realism as well.

Check back out yesterday’s Morning Backlash on What Goes into a Match and last night’s Will-Time on the Return of Chris Jericho. See you all tomorrow with my Bound for Glory Preview!

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