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How much "storytelling" is actually the story you as the viewer are telling?


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#21 Loss

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Posted 15 October 2016 - 10:16 PM

When it's there, it matters a lot. A match is more than a match. It's a presentation.

 

I realized after I posted this that this really biases wrestling as a television presentation for cameras over wrestling for a live crowd. So maybe I should temper it a little. That's an interesting conversation on its own that I don't have the slightest idea how to begin.



#22 BrianB

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Posted 15 October 2016 - 10:59 PM

A large component is definitely on the viewer, I'd say. Depends on some things, like how much you import the feud/storyline into the match, the worker's past history (esp. with each other if applicable), the commentary, the typical style of the promotion for this card placement or the type of match you think you're seeing (e.g. streetfights), the wrestlers' individual styles and histories, your judgement of the crowd's reactions and what those reactions mean, and what I'll gently call the viewer's ability to read/judge the action going on in the ring. For me, the in ring action is the most important because otherwise it's like trying to read too much into weak text. I'm sure there's somebody who given enough time would read some brilliant interpretation into trash like 50 shades of grey, but it'd have to be really divorced from the trashy text itself to be even remotely plausible. In other words, context matters and can help make sense of the story you're seeing, but ultimately I think the story told has to judged mostly based on the in-ring itself and how it comes off. That can be informed by other things--e.g. if you're watching japanese matches and the commentators really flip out more than you've seen for other matches in a similar card placement that might mean something; or knowing things like the Macho Man Elizabeth and Sherry history before WM7--but the presentation is the key thing. Where the rubber seems to meet the road is when is it exactly when people go too far with trying to connect the dots of the storytelling.

 

 

TV vs. live might sometimes be a different animal. I'm not sure how to tackle that topic besides pointing out that the presentations can be quite different, which could lead to different impacts and different messages communicated, depending on things like the commentary, editing, and directing.



#23 gordi

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Posted 16 October 2016 - 03:18 AM

I don't really think that it's necessary to make all that much of the language barrier. When I first came to Japan 8 years ago I could barely speak a word and I understood even less... but when one guy came stomping and glaring out to the ring all dressed in black while the crowd booed and minor-key music played; and the other guy jogged out in gold and yellow to a jaunty tune, slapping hands with everyone at ringside; I still somehow managed to get the basic idea. 

 

I particularly remember one match: Tigers Mask vs. Ebessan. A mix of comedy and violence, the kind of thing Osaka Pro excels in. As they circle each other, they are discussing some kind of question, obviously of import to both men. Based on crowd reactions, it is something that is maybe only important to the two of them. Some minor thing. They seem to agree on some particular point. They lock up, exchange holds, break cleanly. The discussion continues. Further agreement, further clean wrestling. Then... a point of contention. They no longer see eye to eye. The crowd is howling with laughter, but the two wrestlers do not find this funny. The match gets more violent. The argument grows louder, and more contentious. Then, suddenly, they manage to find common ground. The voices grow soft and friendly again. Collar and elbow. An exchange of holds. A clean break. In a tone of voice that clearly communicates, "Yes, but..." Ebessan raises one more point. Tigers Mask flies into a rage. Whatever Ebessan has suggested, he cannot accept it. They sprint to the finish, Tigers destroying Ebessan with his biggest bombs. 

 

I could barely understand a word at that time, but I had zero trouble following the broader story. (As it turns out, the specifics were that they were discussing the best toppings for ramen). 



#24 BrianB

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Posted 16 October 2016 - 03:51 AM

I don't really think that it's necessary to make all that much of the language barrier. When I first came to Japan 8 years ago I could barely speak a word and I understood even less... but when one guy came stomping and glaring out to the ring all dressed in black while the crowd booed and minor-key music played; and the other guy jogged out in gold and yellow to a jaunty tune, slapping hands with everyone at ringside; I still somehow managed to get the basic idea. 

 

I particularly remember one match: Tigers Mask vs. Ebessan. A mix of comedy and violence, the kind of thing Osaka Pro excels in. As they circle each other, they are discussing some kind of question, obviously of import to both men. Based on crowd reactions, it is something that is maybe only important to the two of them. Some minor thing. They seem to agree on some particular point. They lock up, exchange holds, break cleanly. The discussion continues. Further agreement, further clean wrestling. Then... a point of contention. They no longer see eye to eye. The crowd is howling with laughter, but the two wrestlers do not find this funny. The match gets more violent. The argument grows louder, and more contentious. Then, suddenly, they manage to find common ground. The voices grow soft and friendly again. Collar and elbow. An exchange of holds. A clean break. In a tone of voice that clearly communicates, "Yes, but..." Ebessan raises one more point. Tigers Mask flies into a rage. Whatever Ebessan has suggested, he cannot accept it. They sprint to the finish, Tigers destroying Ebessan with his biggest bombs. 

 

I could barely understand a word at that time, but I had zero trouble following the broader story. (As it turns out, the specifics were that they were discussing the best toppings for ramen). 

 

I don't think it's as much a general hurdle so much as it may be a hurdle to something like the Royal Rumble 1992 match, where Heenan is just so brilliant at helping to convey Flair's story throughout the match.

 

That's definitely the exception rather the rule. And I'd agree the more you familiarize with a promotion and/or a style, the easier it is to judge it fairly, but there still is something to be said, imo, for those cases more on the margins where commentary really does factor in something extra into the match. Obviously, for any longtime WWE fans, that's been dead for quite awhile, but I don't see any reason to hold it against any commentors that you can understand and do their jobs very well within the past 10-15 years. I'd also agree with the point that sometimes you can still get some emotion from each announcement call, even if it's in Japanese. I certainly ddn't know what any of the commentators were saying abot AJ back in Japan, but they did communicate and help get over his matches to me, to some degree anyway. I wouldn't compare it to Heenan, but I'd certainly say it was better than lower card WWE background noise.



#25 gordi

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Posted 16 October 2016 - 04:18 AM

Heenan at RR '92 is such a good example of commentary adding a ton to the story. 

 

A lot of Japanese indies, particularly Osaka Pro and Dragon Gate, are really good at cluing newer fans in to what is going on at their live shows.I always appreciate the extra effort they put into that.



#26 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 16 October 2016 - 04:50 AM

Might sound strange but when he's on, Tazz can add some decent insight into a match.

#27 jdw

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 12:36 AM

Damn. I was pretty much saying the same thing five years ago, only in a more assholish way. At least I've been pretty consistent on this one. :)

 

Good lord... I forgot there once was a thread where someone made the claimed that "There is no moral element in real sports" and "There is no narrative element in real sports". :)



#28 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 01:54 AM

The narratives in real sports are made by the media. Even though there are heros and villains in every sport, the actual game is seldom if ever a battle of good vs. evil in the way it's been in wrestling over the years.

The moral element is brought to sports byt the obervers, whereas in wrestling it is an intrinsic part of what is going on when there are clear face / heel divides. This isn't a controverial statement. A wrestling heel is paid to rile up fans and draw boos, and for people to pay to see them get their come uppance. Someone like Jose Mourinho is paid to win football matches in whatever way he sees fit. There's a huge difference between those two things.

#29 Bierschwale

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 01:54 AM

Might sound strange but when he's on, Tazz can add some decent insight into a match.

 

Tazz was genuinely excellent in his original SmackDown run. He did a great job of the Jesse-style "I'm not playing favorites, it's just that the heels do what it takes to win." self-alignment and sticking with it so you felt his interest in both sides during a match. Great at calling moves and explaining why they're effective. I actually like Cole/Tazz & Tony/Jesse for a lot of the same reasons.



#30 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 01:58 AM

Might sound strange but when he's on, Tazz can add some decent insight into a match.

 
Tazz was genuinely excellent in his original SmackDown run. He did a great job of the Jesse-style "I'm not playing favorites, it's just that the heels do what it takes to win." self-alignment and sticking with it so you felt his interest in both sides during a match. Great at calling moves and explaining why they're effective. I actually like Cole/Tazz & Tony/Jesse for a lot of the same reasons.


Yeah, when I reviewed Wrestlemania 19 the other day, I thought the announcing on the matches that were called by Cole / Tazz was much better than those called by JR / Lawler, and that was mainly because Tazz was excellent at talking strategy.

#31 Loss

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 08:09 AM

The narratives in real sports are made by the media. Even though there are heros and villains in every sport, the actual game is seldom if ever a battle of good vs. evil in the way it's been in wrestling over the years.

The moral element is brought to sports byt the obervers, whereas in wrestling it is an intrinsic part of what is going on when there are clear face / heel divides. This isn't a controverial statement. A wrestling heel is paid to rile up fans and draw boos, and for people to pay to see them get their come uppance. Someone like Jose Mourinho is paid to win football matches in whatever way he sees fit. There's a huge difference between those two things.

 

Might this be true in wrestling also? The media within wrestling, inasmuch as it's a separate entity from the in-ring, usually works hard to contribute to that narrative. Jim Ross has talked about heels bailing to the outside as "running" while babyfaces bailing to the outside as "regrouping" being instilled in him by Watts, among other things. You see things like Hogan getting the second entrance, even as the challenger, because he is the babyface. I get what you're saying, but in the end, the morality is manufactured in both mediums. We've talked a lot about Hogan being an asshole, but because he's cheered, he's the good guy. Maybe the wrestlers are more overtly playing into it in wrestling as part of a bigger, more aligned manipulation, but that's in fact the whole point. Much like athletes aren't specifically looking to create drama and have exciting games, wrestling is an attempt to manufacture the natural emotion that comes from sports. The morality in wrestling is entirely relative -- what's right is always just what's popular.



#32 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 08:46 AM

Let's take two specific scenarios:





Asking in earnest: What is difference between these two things?

#33 jdw

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Posted 18 October 2016 - 01:36 AM

The narratives in real sports are made by the media.

 

The narrative of Manchester United gunning for a 19th League Title to pass Liverpool wasn't made by the Media. It was made by Fact, by comments between players of the two teams, and by the fans of two teams. The Media just followed the obvious storyline.

 

Little different from United's question for the Champions Cup / Champions League in the 90s. None of us fans needed the Media to tells us about that one. We lived it.

 

There are countless other ones. You're being silly here.

 

 

Even though there are heros and villains in every sport, the actual game is seldom if ever a battle of good vs. evil in the way it's been in wrestling over the years.

 

 

They are regularly about Good and Evil. Fans of teams think their rivals are evil. The whole EPL hated Chelsea and Man City "buying titles" and thought it was an evil perversion of their game, including United fans who obtusely ignored their own team outspending everyone else in the 90s and early 00s until Petro Billionaires bought Chelsea and then City.

 

Fans other than United Fans (and his national team fans) thought Roy Keane was an evil player. We tended to think he was a nutter, but he was Our Nutter.

 

Don't ever try to tell Barca and Madrid fans that El Clasico isn't a passion play of Good vs Evil, or that the other side isn't Evil. They would laugh in your face.

 

Again, this is as silly as it was all those years ago where I seem to recall you admitted eventually that you were stone cold wrong due Henry's return.

 

 

The moral element is brought to sports byt the obervers, whereas in wrestling it is an intrinsic part of what is going on when there are clear face / heel divides.

 

 

Every Home Team is the Face to their Fans just like Jerry Lawler and Kerry Von Erich were to their Fans. In turn, Alabama coming to town is every much the hated Heel to those Fans just as much as Ric Flair coming to town as the NWA Champ.

 

Well... except that Bama is hated *more* by those fans than Flair. In turn, Face Bama in the friendly confines of Bryant–Denny Stadium are more beloved Faces to their Fans than Hulk Hogan on his best day.

 

This is all obvious stuff to anyone who has passionately followed both Real Sports and Fake Pro Wrestling.

 

 

This isn't a controverial statement.

 

 

Controversial isn't the word you're looking for.

 

Insane.

 

And "is" rather than "isn't".

 

 

A wrestling heel is paid to rile up fans and draw boos, and for people to pay to see them get their come uppance. Someone like Jose Mourinho is paid to win football matches in whatever way he sees fit. There's a huge difference between those two things.

 

 

 

That has nothing to do with silly claims that "There is no moral element in real sports" and "There is no narrative element in real sports". Or to pretend that there aren't Heels and Faces in sports.

 

Seriously, slow down and recall what you felt when this happened:

 

jdw, I take it all back.

 

I marked out like fuck when Henry scored tonight.

 

Just amazing scenes. The stories like this are why we watch sport to be honest.

 

 

Saying that Real Sports have great storylines, great heels, great faces, narratives, morality plays doesn't mean that wrestling can't have them as well. They are not mutually exclusive, nor does the fact that we can see and enjoy/love them in one mean that we can't see and enjoy/love them in the other.

 

Basketball season is about to start. I have more than a dozen storylines in my head that I'm looking forward to see how the turn out, and have a total knowledge that many more will spring up as they always do in every season.

 

Which is little different than heading into the Rumble and pondering storylines that will playout from there to Mania.



#34 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 18 October 2016 - 02:04 AM

I still maintain the narratives in sport are made by the observer -- stuff happens and you put the story together yourself -- whereas in wrestling the narratives are written from within. It's the simple difference between there being a booker / writer and there not being one.

When we dream, there is no narrative or story, it's just lots of random fragmented images hitting you. But you wake up and automatically put it into a story, because we can only think in those terms. You could see sports as just one swirling ball of contingency and chaos which we make sense of through the narratives we weave together. Some of them are natural or self-evident like you said, others are less obvious, others still debatable. But it's still constructed post-hoc. The stories around sports are closer to news and history -- stuff happens and then we report it (news) and make sense of it (history).

All I'm saying is as simple as: wrestling is written so it is a narrative form whereas sports is not written so it is not a narrative form. And I'll maintain that. Comes down to the entire notion of something being authored or not authored.

#35 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 05:19 AM

You already explained that it's human nature to look for the narrative in everything (even dreams) so it doesn't matter whether the narrative is intended or not, humans will look for it. Therefore, it doesn't really matter if it is scripted or not. 

 

The difference between sport and wrestling is that sport is tribal. This weekend the All Blacks play the Wallabies in a match where the All Blacks could break the record for the most consecutive wins by a top tier rugby nation (18 wins in a row.) If you're an All Blacks fan you love the All Blacks and loathe the Wallabies. If you're a Wallabies fan you hate the All Blacks and support your boys. Obviously, that's a generality, but the basic idea is that on any given weekend two tribes go to war. In classic US pro-wrestling you're taught to hate the heel and root for the baby face. That only works in supports if the babyface comes from your country or city. The closest thing we have in wrestling to the tribal mentality is the rudo and tecnico fans at Arena Mexico and even then the rudo fans are a small percentage of the overall audience. 



#36 brockobama

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 06:40 AM

Couldn't you argue that territory wrestling had tribal elements? Cheering for your local heroes, booing the evil outsiders, wanting to see the traveling champion from far-off lands dethroned by your hometown guy, etc etc. Or does it not work because you're still taught to hate the heels regardless of where they come from?

 

But even outside of territories, you see similar situations with invasion storylines in old school NJPW.



#37 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 06:51 AM

I'm currently writing a book on morality and ethical decision-making. Partly, I'm drawing on something called Moral Foundations Theory, which argues that moral intuitions are somewhat like taste receptors on the tongue, there are six of them to which we are predisposed to a reaction. I'll just drop them in here:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one."
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
We think there are several other very good candidates for "foundationhood," especially:
6) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor. We report some preliminary work on this potential foundation in this paper, on the psychology of libertarianism and liberty.

Interesting to think about from a wrestling perspective.

#38 Loss

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Posted 19 October 2016 - 08:45 AM

Also interesting to think it in terms of my own values, both personally and in how I approach wrestling. I think I value #2 to such a high extreme that maybe the other categories don't have much impact on me at all. It's why I tend to shoot down any thoughts on wrestling that can't be applied to all wrestling. Because fairness is such a core principle for me that drives how I look at everything.



#39 overbooked

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Posted 20 October 2016 - 09:03 AM

Interesting theory, and you could apply those moral intuitions to most pro wrestling storylines I reckon. It reminds me of the Seven Basic Plots theory.

 

However, the moral intuitions are still ripe for interpretation or differing responses over time. Take Authority/subversion - there's that old cliche that one man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. You can quite easily cast the face as authority or as the one doing the subversion.

 

Even within that framework of intuitions you are dependent on the relation between intention, failed intention (getting the wrong thing across, or something else across, inadvertently) and the individual's ability to decipher the intention, to tune out those failed intentions, and not bring their own baggage to it and thus their own narrative. With so many variations between production and consumption it is hard to be binary about these things. There are several touchpoints where the narrative distorts. There are also several ways to play with those assumptions and toy with the consumer, which is one reason why wrestling is so great.



#40 G. Badger

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 11:03 PM

I think modern wrestling in the States forces the viewer to adhere to the story that is being told through commentary, interviews, back stage crap etc. It really removes the viewer's ability participate through use his or her imagination. It has been presented a "soap opera for men" for awhile now.

Older wrestling in the US was obviously not a 'product' like it has been for the last 20+ years. The commentary was limited and story arcs simpler by comparison so, the match the is allowed to breathe. The narrative is allowed to unfold organically. The viewer is left to fill some of the dots.

We can see this in the Indy's on occasion and is very true for puro or Lucha...at least for those who don't understand the languages very well. There is so much up to interpretation and invention and may be why many of us enjoy these styles/promotions. It gives us more to think about and more to discuss...




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