2. Different styles of work
One of the things I became known for during this project was my defence of Dory Funk Jr from the revisionist view that, contrary to the old received opinion, he wasn't a great wrestler. In some ways, that is profoundly ironic because Dory represents a style of wrestling that that isn't exactly my favourite:
If Vince's vision of pro wrestling was the Wrestlemania moment or if Bill Watts's was a standup American male jock overcoming an evil doer / foreigner / sissy boy, then Sam Muchnick's was the idea of wrestling as a legit sporting contest played out as much in the mind as in the ring.
One could make an argument that it is wrestling in its purest form. You could draw a straight line from the 19th-century shooters through Thesz to Dory and Brisco and Inoki and from them through Maeda and Fujiwara to modern shoot style. One narrative gives you that as the purest tradition.
Now I respect the hell out of the way OJ watches pro-wrestling, but as I've come to realise over the this process, it isn't what I'm about. I can appreciate the game of human chess, but ultimately a lot of the time I find it dull.
The term I've started to use to describe what I value most highly is "baroque wrestling". Stories can be painted using different techniques. I favour broad brush strokes, bold colours and strong contrasts. I've had a go at trying to itemise all of these things.JvK's Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins of Pro Wrestling
1. Big selling that can be seen from the cheap seats, not
mugging for the camera
2. Cool and effective offense, not
spectacle, flippiness or exhibitionism (e.g. Billy Robinson backbreaker good, Rey 619 bad)
3. Grittiness and authenticity not
self-consciousness or knowing referentiality / meta-wrestling
4. Violence, brutality and hatred not
5. Stiffness and snugness not
choreography or "dance wrestling"
6. Natural showmanship, character work and crowd control not
artificially "playing a role"
7. Real heat not
crowds being "appreciative"
It is no coincidence that the times and places that most hit the sweet spot at the cross-section of all of these -- mid-80s Crockett, Mid-South and AJPW 86-90s -- also happen to be my favourite wrestling promotions. Most of the wrestling I dislike tends to break one of these seven broad rules.
I guess I kinda knew these things before the process started, but they were not made explicit and clear nor were they fully articulated until now.