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How to debate wrestling/art?


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#1 Grimmas

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 11:19 AM

Wrestling like all art forms is a difficult thing to debate with others.

 

Some will claim it's all subjective and every opinion is fine, while there seems to be some objective value (most people will say Flair-Steamboat series are great matches, for eg.). 

 

There has been some arguments in threads in the past where people don't seem to know how to debate wrestling. People seem to get really upset if you feel their opinion is not true, or attack the person or use the argumentum ad populum.

 

So... how should we debate this fine sport/art?



#2 Loss

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 12:03 PM

I'm not sure I know sometimes. I'd like to think all opinions have value and none should be dismissed, but should we really hear someone out who tries to argue that The Great Khali is better than Bret Hart?



#3 Grimmas

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 12:37 PM

I'm not sure I know sometimes. I'd like to think all opinions have value and none should be dismissed, but should we really hear someone out who tries to argue that The Great Khali is better than Bret Hart?

Yeah, it's a big issue. Where do you draw the line too, sure Khali vs Bret is obvious, but what about Negro Casas vs Bam Bam Bigelow?



#4 Grimmas

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 12:49 PM

On the other end of the spectrum, just because something might be obvious to someone, doesn't mean it's true either.



#5 Loss

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:04 PM

Yeah, it's not so much about truth or orthodoxy or anything like that. I just see it as being about the obvious. The Great Khali is not better than Bret Hart. He's just not. The end. So where do you go? How do you not ridicule someone who tries to say otherwise? (I'm using an extreme example to make a point.)



#6 Matt D

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:08 PM

It all depends on how well the person crafts the argument and what evidence is used. I'd listen to any argument, ultimately, but it's about openness and receptiveness. Also a track record over time. If Loss wants to make that argument that goes farther than someone who goes around playing a character or what not. I think it's also about nuance of argument. Things aren't black and white. You can argue that Khali is better than Bret, but if you argue that Khali is better at Bret in every aspect and it's a black and white situation, I'm going to be less receptive.



#7 Loss

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:12 PM

My main issue with that is that I feel like arguments should be about merits, not about the people making them. The post should in theory read the same whether you can see who wrote it or not. Also, some people can spin a yarn and write really eloquently. Some people may have more valuable points to make, but can't express them as well. Do we value substance or style? (Just talking out what all of this means.)



#8 WingedEagle

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 02:57 PM

Its not possible to convince me that Great Khali is a better wrestler than Bret Hart, but it is possible to argue the point respectfully and without looking to simply troll people. Perhaps not everyone can make the case persuasively, but anyone who wants to do so civilly certainly can.  Not get all law school here, but we can all probably recognize when a discussion is no longer about making a point or fleshing out an opinion but rather about making noise and throwing flames.  The question is how quickly you want to cut it off when it arises.



#9 fxnj

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:06 PM

I've always scoffed at topics like these, because it seems to be an open-and-shut case that value judgments, such as whether a match or style is good or bad, are subjective by nature. In wake of seeing how the GWE and the Cageside Seats tournament played out, though, I have adopted a more nuanced stance.

It's entirely possible to talk about a match objectively. There are things that can be empirically observed by watching a match on video that one is entirely open to debate without appealing to value judgments. These would be things like offense, selling, athleticism, crowd reaction, how they filled time, etc.

Trying to tell someone that a match doing one of those things well means it's good is where you run into something akin to the classic is-ought dilemma. It's impossible to tell someone they should like a match based on what's there (or that such things make it good) without appealing to their subjective idea of what makes a match good in the first place. For example, who's to say whether you should value athleticism or selling more?

None of this is to say you can't have debate about wrestling without playing the opinion card. Barring things like nostalgia, the things make a match appeal to our subjective preferences generally correspond with things that can be empirically observed in the match and debated.

This is why I've always been more interested in reading match reviews and trying to gain a new perspective or pick up on details I missed, rather than debating what wrestlers are the best. When you move away from discussing matches to ranking wrestlers, you move away from discussing the objective elements to simply ranking the subjectively most popular styles, as happened with the GWE.

#10 joeg

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 04:54 PM

Now I kind of want somebody to play devil's advocate and make a strong arguement for Great Khali over Bret Hart... I'd listen. But really as long as somebody makes their argument respectfully there's really no wrong opinion.



#11 gordi

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 07:44 PM

My main issue with that is that I feel like arguments should be about merits, not about the people making them. The post should in theory read the same whether you can see who wrote it or not. Also, some people can spin a yarn and write really eloquently. Some people may have more valuable points to make, but can't express them as well. Do we value substance or style? (Just talking out what all of this means.)

 

There can be real issues with *how* an opinion is expressed. Adding "in my opinion.." or "maybe..." to a potentially inflammatory opinion can reduce the chance of fire spreading. Just flat out stating a potentially inflammatory opinion as if it were fact can increase the chance of people reacting angrily.

 

Disingenuously and impolitely stating an opinion that you expect to upset people in an effort to get a reaction? That's trolling, and it does happen here sometimes. In such a case, it can sometimes be difficult to stick to discussing the argument being made. 



#12 cpst

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 08:31 PM

It's a lot easier to compare wrestlers and matches to their peers within a promotion or style than to compare Titanes en el Ring and Battlarts. Even within a particular style, you have to start with an assumed idealized form of that style, and others might disagree with your idealization. Even a particular point like "selling" can't be compared out of context, as overselling can be negative (or at least hilarious, e.g. Michaels vs. Hogan) and underselling is itself a dramatic device.

#13 dawho5

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 07:12 PM

My main issue with that is that I feel like arguments should be about merits, not about the people making them. The post should in theory read the same whether you can see who wrote it or not. Also, some people can spin a yarn and write really eloquently. Some people may have more valuable points to make, but can't express them as well. Do we value substance or style? (Just talking out what all of this means.)

 

On this one I'm not sure.  I go back to when I would listen to co-workers tell me about movies and how this or that movie was really funny.  Then I'd watch the movie and not think it was funny at all.  If a certain person reviews matches and consistently likes matches that you don't it's probably a good bet their opinion is going to carry less weight for you.  It has nothing to do with the validity of their opinion, just more a matter of their taste not at all matching with yours.

 

That being said, the Hart vs. Khali argument is a tough one to swalllow.  Is it safe to say that there are a certain amount of quantifiable factors that have a big effect on how opinions are formed?  I could watch two wrestlers (I'm on disc 7 of PNW so let's go with Billy Jack and Rip Oliver) and tell you a lot about the differences.  Billy is definitely more explosive and probably stronger, as well as really looking the part.  But he's incredibly limited and struggles to stay away from headlocks for any amount of time.  Rip has a lot more tools to work with and seems to know when to employ which tool to it's fullest more often than not.  These are things that it's very hard to argue against, but it's possible to prefer Billy Jack in 1983 to Rip Oliver.  I went with a closer (but not as much as you think) comparison to highlight the more grey areas of the argument.



#14 GOTNW

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 08:06 PM

I would probably sooner (re)watch the most notorious Khali matches than do the same for Bret's. When I last watched some of his stuff (like the Benoit Nitro match, Austin Survivor Series match etc.) I was left with disappointment, feeling they were either bland and too oriented on workrate (in its form-like; executing a backbreaker well.) for me to really care about them or just weren't that great. Whike with Khali the matches are probably more likely to be bad if they were to be good his opponents would HAVE to approach then smartly, structure them around hierarchy, the size difference and overcoming it, which is way more interesting to me than the fact Bret could hit a move clean (it's no wonder he's a big Cody Rhodes supporter).

#15 overbooked

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 06:27 AM

I think the key to criticism and debate is to understand where the critic is coming from. What is their philosophy? What do they like and dislike? You then have a better shot of understanding where they are coming from and engaging with their perspective. There isn't one true view of wrestling, or any other artform.

For instance, if I know someone watches wrestling for the kitsch, camp and daftness then I'd start to get why they might favour Khali over Hart.

#16 CapitalTTruth

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 08:49 PM

I have sort of three types of responses here.

 


First, I  value a few things in contexts like these, just generally. I teach and these are things that I try to keep in mind when I am directing conversations in class or navigating controversial topics.  

 

- Asking question

Example: Using our Hart vs Khali example, I would be more receptive to conversations that asked questions about each wrestler or what there differences might say about wrestling or wrestling fans

 

- Making perspective/background clear (not constantly, but when it is necessary - even if it is in one's profile)

Example: Piggybacking off overbooked, knowing what type of fan someone is, what they are into, how they got into wrestling, etc, would help me understand why someone might like Khali more than Hart and I am sure there are people who do prefer the big man.

 

- Not ignoring negative analysis, but encouraging positive analysis

Example: You probably couldn't have the Khali v Hart debate without talking about negatives, but I would be far more interested in someone willing to engage what both did well or at least what they thought they did well, which would tell me as much about what they thought each was bad at as anything.

 

- Comparing perspectives rather than arguing points

Example: Why tell someone they are wrong if they think Khali is better? That won't really accomplish much except devolve everything into a series of defensive and offensive statements about what types of fans matter and so on.  Im more interested in how someone's perspective is different than mine. What are they seeing that I am not and what can I share to help them like Hart more.

 

- Attending carefully to headings and framing or opening posts (if that stuff is made for combative conversion it is really hard to get out of that)

Example: I wont lie. I would click on a thread that started with "Khali is better than Hart", but I wouldn't expect much good about it. Rather I would be more interested in a thread that framed it as a comparison. Avoiding overusing value statements and really thinking carefully about WHEN to use them. I am not saying you can't judge value and use those statements, but they are overused and derail conversations quickly.

 

 

 

As for scope, I personally not really against outlandish perspectives, as long as they are nuanced and detailed. I'll listen to just about anything, especially if people are at least trying to be careful and nuanced.  To me, talking about wrestling is more about opening up doors and encouraging people to watch and like more wrestling.  Sure, I like having spirited debates, but those shouldn't be the rule, especially when talking to people that you don't know really well in a medium that removes nonverabals. There is just so much stuff to block meaning and make combative stuff not work.

 

Example: If someone said Khali is better than Hart and they framed it well and argued their point I would be happy to hear that out and even engage it. I may not respond becaue I am not sure its something that will be that meaningful to me, but I might, depending on how it is argued.  If people are being detailed and taking their time to make such statements what does or does not get traction - what is or is not worthy of our time will be dictated by responses and what is interesting. That is arts of all forms ebb and flow through popular and niche discourses.

 

 

Finally, I really think the main thing when talking about art (where standards are not necessarily completely subjective, but are so very flexible and malleable) it often comes down to people taking personal responsibility to not derail conversations. That isn't just not trolling or taking a minute to explain your opinions/analysis; it is also engaging posts in productive way. I just think generally speaking people know the kind of thing that will sink a conversation and often those are the things that suck is in.

 

Example: Lets say our Khali vs Hart conversation started up and after a few posts someone comes in and says "Hart was boring as watching shit harden. Khali sucked but he was better than Hart" or "Hart was the worst WWE/F Champion of all time" or "Khali was a joke".... well forget those posts. It isn't going to help anything. I am not saying you need to write a novel, but we know when people are trolling or posting something dismissive and not only should they not really do that, but others should be willing to ignore it and engage interesting conversations.

A lot of this is stuff I mostly see here. I think generally speaking this is and has been a place to engage wrestling as an art, but of course there are times things get off the rail. That all has been beat to death elsewhere; I just mean to say I think this has been a space that has privileged much of this. I am not saying everyone needs it together or anything.






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