State Of The Art Realism - Expanding On Wade's Vision Of The Future
For weeks and months now Wade Keller has devoted significant time to talking about a possible new direction for TNA, and for wrestling in general. A world that would take it's cues from the popularity of UFC and have a more realistic approach, both in the ring and out. I agree whole heartedly with this exciting new line of thinking and would like to expand of some of Wade's ideas and suggestions.
Terry Funk has said in the past that if you want to see the future of American wrestling, you need to look to the last ten years of Japan. This advice has proven true on numerous occasions and will prove true again. The last decade of Japanese wrestling has seen all sorts of worked shoot wrestling promotions enter the fray. Granted, they achieved varying degrees of success and are almost all out of business now, but that is probably all because of the Yakuza or something, I don't know, the Torch doesn't report on Japan.
Maybe ROH is a better example of the state of the art future. Frequently hailed by Wade Keller as a cutting edge promotion, ROH has some of the most demanding and knowledgeable wrestling fans in the world. The Dragon Gate six man tag of last year, praised by Torch writer Bruce Mitchell as the greatest match he's ever seen, points to the future of reali...actually that match was pretty unrealistic and wrestled in a style that is influenced by over the top acrobatic lucha libre. Thank God it happened in 2006 and not 2009 is all I can say, because the reality craving fans of the future would shit all over such a match. Maybe a better ROH example would be shortly after Rob Feinstein was forced out of the company. The CM Punk/Samoa Joe trilogy, two guys influenced by MMA, was the first thing to really garner big buzz post Feinstein, and it created a hot ticket DVD that helped the promotion. Wait, those matches were largely based around boring headlocks, and often were not sold as the 80 percent state of the art struggle that a true bleeding edge talent, say an MVP, would do. Ok, Bryan Danielson, there is an example of wrestling's future. Hailed by Torch and hardcore wrestling fans alike as one of the greatest wrestlers working today, his moveset features an MMA realistic influence. He does an elbow ref stop finish inspired by a Gary Goodridge UFC fight, but...one of the first times he used it in a match against Homicide it caused the state of the art crowd to chant bullshit. Ok, but he recently added a cross armbreaker, that's an exciting, realistic hold...but it doesn't get the reaction of his less realistic submissions like Cattle Mutilation and the Cross Face Chicken Wing. Oh and now that I think of it, he also had the very unrealistic Airplane Spin as one of his most over moves a few years ago. Ok, maybe this is a bad example as well, after all, ROH draws small crowds and Bryan Danielson doesn't even have a job in the big two.
Wade's details remain strong though. I agree with him that wrestling should have weight classes for TNA. Some would argue this, pointing to Samoa Joe, one of TNA's top workers who has largely made his name wrestling smaller wrestlers. To them I say, sure it might get a little boring to see Joe wrestle Abyss twelve times a year, but the realism will make up for that. I also agree with Wade that Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio would be good additions to the new TNA realistic style. Some may argue that Rob Van Dam wrestles one of the most choreographed looking convoluted styles in pro wrestling, but to them I say, who else in WWE receives more complaints for accidentally hurting other wrestlers? Some point to Rey Mysterio and would say that the idea of a masked luchador runs counter to the idea of realistic wrestling, but MMA fighter Kazushi Sakuraba wears masks to the ring all the time!
There are some points where Wade doesn't go far enough. Wade believes submissions should be 80 percent real, but to me, when you do something 80 percent real, it comes similar enough to 100 percent real that the 20 percent that is worked becomes highly spotlighted. Wade has already proposed that referees not be in on the finishes so I propose this, don't let the wrestlers in on the finishes either. When a wrestler is legitimately down for a three count, or legitimately submits, or legitimately is in a condition that a referee feels the need to stop the match, the match ends. No longer will lazy behind the times wrestlers like Chris Benoit and Fit Finlay be able to get by on boring chinlocks and the like, they'll be forced to try to apply bleeding edge realistic holds like the rear naked choke or heel hook. Wade mentions that three ways and six man tags should be eliminated, but so should tag team matches. I mean, after all, how much more realistic is 2 vs. 2 than 3 vs. 3?
I also have a suggestion of my own. The six sided ring was innovative, but with a fresh beginning a new ring should be used. Going to four sides would be seen as a step backwards, so I propose an eight sided ring. As well, Lockdown achieves extra interest by having nothing but cage matches, so why not hold every single TNA match in an eight sided cage?
Look at all this, some may read Wade's columns and my column and think "Everyone knows TNA can't emulate an established company like WWE, so why is the solution to emulate another established brand like UFC?" I will answer this with an analogy. You've been struggling running your hamburger shop in this city, you're facing another hamburger shop that's been around for decades. They've run every other hamburger shop in the city out of business, they have far more money to spend and they are the name in hamburgers. Now there's a hot dog place, they've been around for ten years and after getting around a reputation for putting on too many onions, they are now a success. Me and Wade aren't suggesting that this struggling hamburger shop stop making hamburgers, and we're not suggesting that they try to make hot dogs. That would be stupid. What me and Wade are suggesting is that they shape their hamburgers into hot dogs but still sell them as hamburgers.
In this analogy WWE is the successful hamburger shop, UFC is the hot dog place and TNA is the struggling hamburger shop that should make burgers shaped like hot dogs.