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Why there can never be a universal standard


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#1 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 06:22 AM

This is something we've discussed over a number of years now. I've gone back and forth on it over that time, and I think I have now made up my mind (see title).

Around a year ago, some might recall that I drew up these:

CdblBvsXIAAi26l.jpg

These are all things that I still value incredibly highly, but I also recognise that they cannot and indeed should not apply to every scenario or context.

There can't be a universal standard because different times and places have different demands. An audience for an indie show in 2011 expect to see high spots, a certain amount of high impact offense and innovation in the moves; if the match is being billed as a kind of "dream match", then they are going to have expectations of a certain type of epic complete with exciting nearfalls, false finishes down an increasingly hot finishing stretch.

In a different promotion, let's say one from around 2001, they might want to see more weapons, blood, violence and spectacle. Maybe a flaming table or two.

The workers, if they care about their crowds, can only really work towards what they want. So if they want blood, they'll get blood, if they want somersaults, they'll get somersaults.

If the GWE taught me anything it was that it is virtually impossible for fans to value every single style without being a complete relativist. As soon as you put your flag down (as per the image there), and say "these are the things I value", you start to block off what is and is not acceptable to you, and invariably you cannot be neutral on the question of different styles.

In some ways this post is directed at Loss, because I think he has a certain vision of having a truly universal, hollistic view of wrestling that can appreciate any match, any style on its own terms. I question the extent to which that is possible without effectively having no values. How can one be high on things that appear to be diametrically opposed without making significant alterations in what you are looking for? I think of something like Dragon Gate, where flippy-dos are at a premium. I'd argue it is not possible to look at a match from there and something like an old NWA title match with the same head on and like both. You'd effectively need a "Dragon Gate head" and an "NWA head" to get anything out of either. In both cases you need to relativise your values in order to give the thing a high rating. Ricky Steamboat never did somersaults, so if you went into one of his matches with a Dragon Gate head on, you'd probably find them extremely wanting. Some might say, "yes, well, I value psychology and storytelling no mater the promotion". But it seems to me that psychology is not valued at a premium in certain promotions (if you don't want Dragon Gate as the example, pick another), so how can it be fair to attack them for it? And if that IS fair, then it would also be fair to take marks off Steamer for his lack of flips. As soon as you take the step of saying "well, psychology is important and flips aren't", you are making a mark in the sand and a value statement, and all of a sudden you can't really give a "fair" assessment to the flippy-non-pyschology promotion. You're effectively writing off the style.

I don't see any way around this. There can be no universal criteria because every style comes with its own built-in rules and expectations and there can be no truly holistic view because as soon as you define any value you effectively "block off" a style.

This post is directed towards Loss because he and I have discussed this for hours in the past, but anyone welcome to chime in.

#2 Loss

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 06:46 AM

The universal standard is the ability to adapt to the setting, I think. There are endless ways to do that. Wrestlers that can give the marks what they want or expect while still hanging on to some sort of conviction in how they are getting there are pretty cool. More later.



#3 InYourCase

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 07:13 AM

Parv, do you not go into matches with a "____ head"? 

 

In my head, I'd be ludicrous to look at every match from the same perspective. Every company is different. Context matters in every situation. I want something different from a 1985 Ric Flair than I do from a 2016 Shingo Takagi match, and I can still enjoy both to the same degree. 

 

I think there are stylistic preferences, of course. I can look at a lucha match that's hailed as a classic and understand the context of the match, but then still think it's shit. 



#4 Loss

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 07:31 AM

I look at every match the same way. It's just that I'm looking at every match in a more broad way, which is "How are you approaching your audience?" To drill down more than that I think dismisses a lot of good wrestling. So my universal criteria is, "Is this match right for its audience?" Of course there are more factors than that but those are going to vary based on time and place, promotion, audience and other contextual matters. That also doesn't mean that every match that is "right for its audience" is great. But it does mean that's a bare minimum requirement.

 

What do I mean by that? It's not so much a matter of giving the audience exactly what they want or getting the most heat possible. It can be that sometimes, but it isn't always that. It's often not that. Let me try to break it down. Please realize this is a work in progress, not a final statement from me on where I stand:

 

It considers what the audience knows and expects and what the audience has and has not seen before that match, and it manipulates that knowledge, expectation and experience in a way that works. Is that vague? Yes, purposely so. For me, it should also be clear to the person watching with a critical eye that the wrestlers are calling the match and not the fans, but I could see differing opinions on that. You can get into other factors for a match, such as execution, selling, action level, believability and even heat (which I do think is something different than what I'm describing), and those factors are entirely dependent on context in my opinion. In fact, not all of those things matter equally (or at all) at all times.

 

I try not to draw a line in the sand at all beyond that. It's not all that matters and it's not enough to elevate a match on its own. But it's a required ingredient in all great wrestling.



#5 overbooked

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 08:53 AM

I definitely have a particular "head" for certain types of wrestling, be it lucha or old-school territorial stuff, so that I can accept and appreciate the style, and can forgive or overlook some of the shortcomings or inconsistencies the style has. However, I'm not sure I have a "head" for everything. That might be because certain styles veer too wildly from my worldview of What Wrestling Should Be, or might be because I haven't taken the time to understand the context and internal logic of a particular style.

 

There can't be a universal standard as not only do the times/places/styles have different demands, so do every one of us watching it. There is a unique set of circumstances for each match (who, what, where kind of thing), and a unique set of circumstances for each viewer (are they watching live or 30 years later, what else have they watched, what are their preferences etc).

 

While there is something in wrestling adapting to the audience, I think truly transcendent wrestling does something more transformative, surpassing or challenging the expectations of the audience. That is what creates heat, mark-out moments, riots even, as opposed to the clinical smarky reaction of "That played out how I wanted and expected it to play out". But is hard to quantify an emotional response, and even more so when "audience" can mean "people in the crowd" or "people watching on TV" or "people watching on streaming service decades later".



#6 fxnj

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 11:35 AM

I've long thought the idea that all or most styles are created equal as bullshitty and that OP summarizes the main reasons why. While it's certainly possible to adjust your expectations to match an alien style's internal logic, your own tastes aren't things that can just be changed on a fly. When you conpare stuff like lucha and shoot, even if you can find things to appreciate in both of them, they're just so different that it stands to reason that you'd find one of them generally produces more enjoyable matches if you analyzed them that way. It follows from this that rankings of different matches and wrestlers are really just rankings of different styles. Although it's possible for someone to disrupt things a bit by being especially good at an inferior style, the best stuff from the best style will always be on top.

#7 Loss

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 12:19 PM

All styles aren't created equal but that doesn't mean we can't make an attempt to approach them all with the same mentality. Bad matches can happen in great styles and great matches can happen in "bad" styles, which I suppose is not so different from what you're saying. But anyone who has ever called a match a MOTYC has already made a comparison to matches that come from different styles, be it the intent or not. It's hard for me to think of any widespread wrestling genres that are completely incapable of creating a great match.



#8 peachchaos

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 12:33 PM

Midgets?

 

Are there any great mini matches out there?



#9 Loss

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 12:34 PM

I've seen ****1/2+ singles and six-mans involving Mexican minis.



#10 Grimmas

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 02:12 PM

Midgets?

 

Are there any great mini matches out there?

Lots and lots. Even the WWE had one with WeeLC



#11 gordi

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 04:46 PM

 I'd argue it is not possible to look at a match from there and something like an old NWA title match with the same head on and like both. You'd effectively need a "Dragon Gate head" and an "NWA head" to get anything out of either. In both cases you need to relativise your values in order to give the thing a high rating. Ricky Steamboat never did somersaults, so if you went into one of his matches with a Dragon Gate head on, you'd probably find them extremely wanting. 

 

I don't really see any kind of cognitive dissonance in being able to honestly enjoy widely varied types of pro wrestling. I sincerely love a crazy variety of classical music. I sincerely love a whole lot of jazz. I sincerely love mid-90s indy rock. Within the category of Classical Music, I can absolutely enjoy Beethoven, Bach, Hildegard of Bingen, Charles Ives, John Adams, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Ligeti, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky. That's easily as much variety as watching some 80s Lucha, some Shoot Style, some Osaka Pro, and some ROH.,

 

If there is sufficient time, I can listen to all of the above, and maybe throw in some Built to Spill and Archers of Loaf and Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus all in the space of a single week and I'm pretty sure I'm just wearing my Gordi head that whole time. I think about and process Morton Gould differently from how I think about and process Haydn, to a certain extent... but it's still based on the same mind-set, the same perspective, the same personality. I don't have to change my head.

 

Within just the category of "Beethoven" I can listen to Piano Sonatas, Symphonies, Violin Sonatas, Piano Concerti, String Quartets, Masses, Overtures, and more; from his early, late, and middle periods; in major and minor keys... I can sincerely love all of it (or in the case of a bad performance, dislike it) and all without a head replacement. 

 

It took some time and effort to get here. Well worth it, in my opinion. 

 

I think maybe opinions re the thing: If we are more in love with the "correctness" of own opinions about pro wrestling than we are with pro wrestling itself, it may seem wrong or dissonant to be able to sincerely like Ebessan vs. Kuishinbo Kamen, Misawa vs. Kawada, and Yuki Ishikawa and Daisuke Ikeda vs. Hanzo Nakajima and Naohiro Hoshikawa from an obscure '95 Michinoku Pro show... even though all three are technically examples of one particular sub-set of pro wrestling ("puroresu").

 

I think that if we love pro wrestling more than we love our own opinions, it's not at all difficult or jarring to be able to enjoy it in all of it's many shades and colours. Might take some time and effort to get there. Well worth it, in my opinion.

 

Trouble is, it's no fun debating things based on how much we enjoy them. Imposing some kind of artificial framework maybe makes debate easier and more enjoyable... but then it can lead to feeling  a kind of cognitive dissonance when we enjoy something that doesn't fit our framework.

 

That's why we have to choose: Do we love pro wrestling or do we love having opinions about pro wrestling? If we love both, then which one do we love more. If we honestly love pro wrestling more... might be time to ditch the framework, or at least loosen it considerably. 



#12 El-P

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 05:13 PM

Oh yeah, I remember why I used to love when Gordberg was posting a lot back in the days.

 

(btw, just watched the Osaka Pro Super J Cup from 04 and it was probably the best card up and down as far as variety goes from all the J Cups, although no classico like the 94 version or even nothing as great as the best 95 stuff. Some of these Osaka Pro guys I had never seen before were really fun to watch, thinking about MAGMA, Tigers Mask, Murahama, of course the comedy duo.)



#13 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 05:27 PM

Parv seems a bit distrustful of people with eclectic tastes. 



#14 NintendoLogic

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 06:19 PM

I think it's a mistake to say that Dragon Gate or whoever else don't value psychology. Every wrestling match has psychology by definition. It may not be the kind of psychology you prefer or are accustomed to, but it exists.



#15 Matt D

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 06:20 PM

"Distinct detail-oriented, consequence-driven narratives."

 

It's like we're making a resume here.



#16 InYourCase

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 07:12 PM

I think it's a mistake to say that Dragon Gate or whoever else don't value psychology. Every wrestling match has psychology by definition. It may not be the kind of psychology you prefer or are accustomed to, but it exists.

Should note that anyone saying Dragon Gate doesn't value psychology doesn't watch Dragon Gate, because they're objectively wrong if they say that. 



#17 joeg

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 07:46 PM

I'd also argue that the best Dragon Gate stuff, is the gritty stuff, it is the stuff with loads of heat. I can't think of a single wrestling show that I enjoyed more than El Numero Uno 2003. I mean Genki Horiguchi's run in that tournament was amazing, the finals had so much heat. The Dragon Kid vs Kondo match was loaded with hate. I really think that was the perfectly booked wrestling show despite it being in a flippy company.



#18 InYourCase

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 08:08 PM

El Numero Uno 2003 is one of my favorite shows ever. 

 

There have been few matches in recent years with more sound psychology than Shingo Takagi vs. YAMATO from 7/24 this year, fwiw 



#19 gordi

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 10:13 PM

Oh yeah, I remember why I used to love when Gordberg was posting a lot back in the days.

 

(btw, just watched the Osaka Pro Super J Cup from 04 and it was probably the best card up and down as far as variety goes from all the J Cups, although no classico like the 94 version or even nothing as great as the best 95 stuff. Some of these Osaka Pro guys I had never seen before were really fun to watch, thinking about MAGMA, Tigers Mask, Murahama, of course the comedy duo.)

 

Looking forward to your review of the Osaka J-Cup!

 

I think anyone who deliberately watched the Dying Years of WCW and Early TNA and found stuff to love even there... such a person has definitively proven their love for pro wrestling. Perhaps, he has gone too far in doing so.

 

Parv seems a bit distrustful of people with eclectic tastes. 

 

Weirdly, I agree with the OP in that I also think there can never be a universal standard, but I disagree with the OP's reasoning as to why. I can't imagine anyone trying to make such an argument about, say, food:

 

Can one who loves cheeseburgers also love pizza? If he loves cheeseburgers and pizza, can he also love sushi? If he loves sushi, must he choose between inexpensive sushi and expensive sushi? In the world of sushi lovers, can one truly be said to love both tuna and red snapper/sea bream? 

 

It seems ridiculous. Of course the same person can like wildly different things. My five-year-old loves shrimp sushi and umeboshi and matcha popsicles and curry rice. She'll dance to Mozart or AKB or Prokofiev or the Ika Ika Sushi Sushi song. She digs toy unboxing videos and プリンセスプリキュア and Panda Go Panda and Hajimete no Otsukai. She is over Anpanman and Shimajiro... but will tolerate her younger sister watching them. She hasn't had time to develop multiple heads or to relativize her values. She is completely guileless (even more than our two year old) and true to herself. She hasn't yet learned any other way to be. It seems to me the natural state is to like lots of different things. Allowing our tastes to become etiolated is what seems to me unnatural. 



#20 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 02:33 AM

Parv seems a bit distrustful of people with eclectic tastes.


You've been reading my music list so far, is that true?

What I will say though is that I'm broadly consistent in insisting that to understand blues you need to do so within the traditions of the blues, to understand hip-hop you have to come at it from within the genre not try comparing it to Bob Dylan or whoever.

This is eclecticism because it leads to wide-ranging and varied tastes, but it isn't universality. I did have a go at making a criteria for that list which can speak across genres:

Spoiler


But even then, by its nature, it is valorising some things at the expense of others.

This process is in the very nature of taste. Taste is defined by discernment, literally speaking "the ability to judge well".

Outkast make the list but Master P doesn't. To even to be able to make that call requires some understanding of hip-hop. But within it I'm still saying "this is really exceptional" and (to the extent I event thought about Master P) "this is pretty generic and not even worthy of noting".

Same for blues guys, same for all the other people on the list. Plus you know I've de facto written off certain styles as being not my thing.

Guess the interesting thing is what happens when you go across genres. I caught a lot of flak for putting Paul McCartney below certain rap acts, but (surprisingly) less so for having him as the top-rated solo Beatle, maybe my argument on that score was convincing, I dunno. But between the lines, it seems to me that the backlash I got on that derived mainly from the fact that some people don't see rap as being important period, or at any rate they consider the entire genre less important than Sir Paul's patchy solo career.

Ultimate question though: how can we really make that call across genres? Can we? Can we compare the rap artist to the bluesman to the jazz cat to the folk singer/songwriter to the punk band?

I can tell you what I did in making the music list: I initially made a number of separate more specialist lists comparing like with like and then on each of them drew a line under who I thought definitely should be making it. After that it got more "touch feel", and a case of "who felt right where". Still I'm not sure that I ever truly made the comparison across the genres. What makes Busta Rhymes good is completely different from what makes Wire good, etc. etc. And I also made some errors along the way (looking back, Art Brut and Girl Talk both probably should not have made it, oh well).

We saw people use some similar techniques during GWE, when they were making lists of Japanese guys, Lucha guys, shoot guys, territory guys, modern guys and so on. And then using whatever means to put them all together.

There is still no universality here. Even though there might be a lot of styles, you are still saying "I'm a puro fan, and within puro this is what I like", same with lucha, same with shoot style, same with territory guys, etc. And there surely comes a point where certain styles just aren't making the list.
 
 

Weirdly, I agree with the OP in that I also think there can never be a universal standard, but I disagree with the OP's reasoning as to why. I can't imagine anyone trying to make such an argument about, say, food:
 
Can one who loves cheeseburgers also love pizza? If he loves cheeseburgers and pizza, can he also love sushi? If he loves sushi, must he choose between inexpensive sushi and expensive sushi? In the world of sushi lovers, can one truly be said to love both tuna and red snapper/sea bream? 
 
It seems ridiculous. Of course the same person can like wildly different things. My five-year-old loves shrimp sushi and umeboshi and matcha popsicles and curry rice. She'll dance to Mozart or AKB or Prokofiev or the Ika Ika Sushi Sushi song. She digs toy unboxing videos and プリンセスプリキュア and Panda Go Panda and Hajimete no Otsukai. She is over Anpanman and Shimajiro... but will tolerate her younger sister watching them. She hasn't had time to develop multiple heads or to relativize her values. She is completely guileless (even more than our two year old) and true to herself. She hasn't yet learned any other way to be. It seems to me the natural state is to like lots of different things. Allowing our tastes to become etiolated is what seems to me unnatural.



I want to bring you back to this and think again about it in terms of food:

This process is in the very nature of taste. Taste is defined by discernment, literally speaking "the ability to judge well".

Let us say at its most basic, taste in terms of food just comes down to five basic "styles": sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami

The novice taster, let us say a two- or a three-year old, might be able to distinguish between these. Often at that age they will like sweet things and maybe dislike bitter things.

Do you see how even in that there is a "blocking off"? Sweet valorised at the expense of bitter?

Let's pretend you have learned to appreciate all five tastes, even without that you surely prefer some sweet things to other sweet things, some bitter things to other bitter things, etc. You start to make judgements and define your tastes. And taste by its nature, as I've stressed, depends on writing off certain things. You cannot say something is good without also suggesting a certain other thing is bad.

Of course, we here are PWO are less like the two-year child tasting chocolate for the first time and more like this character:

https://youtu.be/_ASwLJ2eIEE?t=80

Uvv0SJl.jpg

But surely even he, a master of taste, able to identify any wine in the world down to the precise vineyards ultimately must make judgements that valorises some wines at the expense of others.

The idea of an all-accepting universal palette is completely and fundamentally at odds with the process of making value judgements. You cannot do both. We might be able to like foods of all five tastes, but very few of us would like all foods.




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