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Overcoming Limbwork


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#1 GOTNW

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 05:51 AM

I see a lot of insistence on there being one correct way of limb selling, while simultaneously a huge number of fans seem to not care about whether or not limb selling is presented in that way or not. The response they most often give is "you're right, but I still enjoyed the match". With all the progress we've made in creating a community where you can see people who are more open to appreaciating the many aspects of pro wrestling that would basically make them expelled from the conventional wrestling discussion circles, I am surprised this idea still perserveres to this day. I really couldn't give a damn about consistent limb selling, and the idea "it used to be sold" and there's some degeneracy in current wrestling might be the most nonsensical of them all. There's basically no difference between Stan Hansen blowing off armwork and Okada doing so-any differences in how you perceive them aren't based on selling, they're based on their character work, presentation and so on. In fact Okada will probably make more of an effort to sell the arm than Hansen did, and both will use the injrued arm to hit their Lariats and go over eventually. I can think of several matches- Hashimoto vs Hase from the 1993 G1, Kensuke Sasaki vs Minoru Suzuki for the Triple Crown from 2007, Misawa vs Hase from 2000, KENTA vs Marufuji from 2012, Naito vs Shibata from the 2015 G1 etc. where the great matches use overcoming limbwork and sporadic selling and no-selling as tools in getting over a narrative in a match. On the other hand, when I think of great matches where there's a dead limb, there's Liger vs Sano, and I really can't think of anything else from the top of my head. Why is this so stigmatized in wrestling criticism? Do most people who complain about, say, a wrestler using kicks after having his leg worked over know it's actually the other leg he shouldn't be kicking with since it's harder to stand on just an injured leg than to wham it into your opponent? Why should wrestlers act like taking three Dragon Screws makes their leg immobilized? In cases like these I'd say wrestlers working a style that some critics would find more realistic/believable would have a completely opposite effect.



#2 Loss

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 06:59 AM

When something gets brought up over and over and over as a criticism of matches across all styles, eras and promotions, you start to wonder if the problem is less in the way matches are worked and more in the expectation of how matches should be worked. Somewhere along the way, we adopted this belief and I think it's become too militant. It even causes some of us to overlook a lot of other great (or not-so-great) things about wrestling. I would rather focus on what matches do right than what they do wrong, and while I am someone who really loves high consequence in wrestling matches, I'm at least willing to see where it goes. I don't think wrestlers need to be up and bouncing around after having their legs dismantled for 15 minutes, but I'm also not someone who begrudges someone for not selling an armbar 10 minutes after it was applied at the start of a match. I guess I have a relativist take on this, but I lean toward thinking we overvalue long-term selling limbwork. In the end, there are probably times when it matters and times when it doesn't, and a lot of that is in the eye of the beholder.



#3 Matt D

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 07:37 AM

I tend to look for meaning in matches. For resonance. For weight. Selling is the language of imparting meaning on actions in wrestling. It's the way to show the audience that something matters. Consistent selling over multiple matches is a big part of that. Symbols are defined over time and that shapes how they are utilized. That said, no two matches are the same and no two stories need be the same, and it is situational. It's not a one-size fits all.



#4 Childs

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 07:58 AM

I agree it's become an incredibly cliched criticism that many of us (I've done it too) whip out selectively to pick at workers we don't like. I try not to dwell on it these days. The only time it still bugs me is when it's obviously the focus of one wrestler's attack throughout the match and then the opponent instantly transitions to running around like nothing ever happened. 

 

That said, I also think wrestlers lean too heavily on the cliche of working a body part when they know it's not going to be essential to the drama of a match. It becomes the default way to pass time rather than a tool for actually building something interesting. 



#5 Boss Rock

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 08:33 AM

I agree it's become an incredibly cliched criticism that many of us (I've done it too) whip out selectively to pick at workers we don't like. I try not to dwell on it these days. The only time it still bugs me is when it's obviously the focus of one wrestler's attack throughout the match and then the opponent instantly transitions to running around like nothing ever happened. 

 

That said, I also think wrestlers lean too heavily on the cliche of working a body part when they know it's not going to be essential to the drama of a match. It becomes the default way to pass time rather than a tool for actually building something interesting. 

 

I think I'm in the same boat. If it's getting consistently worked on for the majority of the match and then the wrestler goes "Nope, I'm fine!", it can be a bit annoying. But like Loss said, I like to focus on the things a match got right rather than wrong. If limb selling gets ignored but the comeback/finish is enough to keep my interest, then it tends not to bother me as much. Although I do have a great appreciation for those who can make the match interesting while still selling a limb. I don't think there's an end-all be-all when it comes to limb selling and really depends on the match and story being told.



#6 Microstatistics

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 09:31 AM

For me, as long as a Wrestler A acknowledges the pain or numbness or whatever of the limb for the short period after Wrestler B has it worked over, that is usually good enough for me. If they want to use that limb to throw strikes (something that is pretty common in Japan), as long as they can illustrate the action hurts, it is usually fine. Of course if Wrestler B keeps going back to the limb, then they need to sell it more. 

 

Long term selling is very rare and is usually a bonus when done. Something like Liger selling the arm the whole match and even modifying his offense to accommodate his limp arm is definitely not the norm.

 

What I dislike is a Wrestler getting their limb worked over but on the comeback, it is like it never happened. Because then it is filler and meaningless.



#7 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 04:36 PM

People were much more hung up on this when I first got onto the internet in the late 90s. I think we've broadened our ideas about structure and storytelling. At the same time, it's easy to forget that matches are a 20-minute ad-lib and some work that was in development for years with a lengthy production phase. Workers get a lot of practice at ad-libbing, and all of them have their "fall out of bed" routines, but they still need to think on their feet and it's a credit to most of them that the matches are as good as they are. 

I enjoy limbwork if the matwork is excellent. I don't care much for generic limbwork and working a body part as a crutch. I don't mind if it's blown off so long as there's something else I like about the match like the rhythm or pace but of course I prefer intricate selling. It depends on how long the workers spend on limb work and how much of a focus they've turned it into. If you're going limbwork heavy follow it through to a conclusion. If you're dropping it, leave it behind and never look back. Just don't make it generic and half-arsed. 



#8 SmartMark15

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Posted 02 May 2017 - 04:52 PM

I'm guilty of doing this as my main justification for not like Tanahashi is how he jumps over the top freaking rope every time to hit the High Fly Flow even when his opponent spends AGES working over his abdomen. Then again, there isn't much to him from what I've seen that interests me otherwise. This doesn't mean I'm incapable of enjoying his matches though, his bout vs. Suzuki from 2012 is one of my favorite matches of all time but even in that one, Suzuki's leg selling is what put it over the top for me.

It's not even something I even forgive some workers I LOVE for. Nakamura spent months in NXT no-selling his knees and I was definitely disappointed by that.

But yes, I have let it go at points. I've recently highly rated several joshi matches recently that are notorious for dropping selling.

I think for me, it becomes a problem when it draws attention to itself. With the joshi matches, it became clear fairly instantly that that wasn't what they were going for. But something like Tana vs Nakamura at WK8 for example sees Nakamura selling his knee like crazy while Tanahashi just goes through the motions.

#9 NintendoLogic

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Posted 03 May 2017 - 03:32 PM

There's an inherent conflict between wrestling as simulated combat sport and wrestling as narrative entertainment. A wrestler shrugging off an injury to a body part or working over a limb for a few minutes before forgetting about it might be less compelling from a storytelling standpoint, but it's arguably more realistic. It's up to the viewer to decide which is more enjoyable. Personally, while I would never say that there's only one correct way to sell a limb injury, I do expect some kind of acknowledgment of a lengthy sustained assault on a body part. Part of the problem is the increasingly finisher-centric nature of wrestling. A lot of the time, it feels like anything that isn't a direct attempt to set up a finisher is just done to kill time.



#10 SmartMark15

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Posted 03 May 2017 - 06:23 PM

Was going over my 4.75-5 star list and certainly most of these matches do NOT have limbwork as the central focus of the narrative but certainly it plays a part as a feature. I would, however, like to highlight some examples of matches that attained a high rating from me particularly because of the limbwork in the match:

1) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki 10/12
2) Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA 9/06
3) Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart 3/97

#11 brockobama

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 02:47 AM

That said, I also think wrestlers lean too heavily on the cliche of working a body part when they know it's not going to be essential to the drama of a match. It becomes the default way to pass time rather than a tool for actually building something interesting. 

 

This is the root of the problem for me. As Matt was getting at, selling is one of a couple ways in which I derive meaning from the narrative of wrestling. If wrestlers are already forming their narrative around a structure that I find to be fairly clichéd and overdone, and then one or more of them stop pretending as if the consequences of those efforts matter, then what should I care about what they're doing?

 

Of course, you could flip that logic on its head, arguing that if the efforts are clichéd to begin with, ignoring them isn't so much of an issue, but I guess I'm trying to find something here that I can latch on to.

 

Do most people who complain about, say, a wrestler using kicks after having his leg worked over know it's actually the other leg he shouldn't be kicking with since it's harder to stand on just an injured leg than to wham it into your opponent?

 

I see this argument a lot and while it's very true, I find it funny, because my experience with knee problems (both of 'em) has been usually the opposite.



#12 Wahoos Leg

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 08:16 AM

Limbwork, to me, is a question of proportionality. An armbar 2 minutes into a match that is forgotten a few minutes later... OK.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, Seth Rollins constantly having his bad knee get targeted and then he bounces around doing high spots effortlessly in the same match... not OK.



#13 GOTNW

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 07:12 AM

Honestly if you work over a limb for an extended period of time ending the match with a submission on that same limb sounds like a disappointing finish. You'd have to either upgrade your submission (kinda like TJ Perkins did against Ibushi in their great CWC match) or have the limbwork include a different type of attacks, maybe more ramming the limb into stuff and striking at it than using so many submissions that target that specific limb, and if using them have the opponent constantly block/evade your biggest one in order for the finish to be satisfying. Considering the main even styles that are in vogue now love milking submissions, it makes perfect sense they would opt to just have the recepient of the limbwork come back and win.



#14 Bierschwale

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Posted 16 May 2017 - 10:06 AM

I want matches to more often have the inverse build than the traditional one with limbwork, where it's instead a secondary measure and it's used after trying to just win without an explicit strategy, like something that's a card in your backpocket, and when the limb should be weaker from just the regular action of the match.



#15 Microstatistics

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 10:52 PM

I thought of some matches that could be used to indicate the different kinds of limb work and selling and/or their roles in matches :

 

Jushin Liger vs. Naoki Sano (8/10/1989): A match that revolves around limb work and subsequent traditional selling of the limb. This is of course the famous Liger's injured arm performance where he sells the pain and damage from start to finish, barely uses the arm and even alters his gameplan and offensive approach as a result.

 

Mick Foley vs. HBK (9/22/1996) & El Dandy vs. El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas (12/6/1996): Matches where limb work and selling are a segment of match and play a part in the narrative but aren't the main focus. Their opponents destroy their legs for a while and they sell the damage terrifically for a short period after but they stop after a while as that plot point fades away as the match progresses.

 

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi (1/20/1997) and Shinya Hashimoto vs. Kazuo Yamazaki (8/2/1998): Examples of fighting through the pain selling. Kobashi kills Misawa's arm and Yamazaki kill's Hashimoto leg but the two aces insist on repeatedly using those limbs for offense but express that it hurts everytime they do. This kind of selling is usually tricky to do properly and it depends a lot on the wrestler doing it and the perception of the viewer (biases play a role here).

 

El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas (9/19/1997): An example of what I feel is poor limb selling. Rewatched this recently and while still think it is a classic, Santo's leg selling disappointed me greatly. Casas works on the knee a bit including a violent looking splash but Santo pops up immediately throwing kicks with that leg and running around with no problem, displaying no ill effect. The lack of short term selling or no/very minimal acknowledgment of the pain renders the limbwork pointless and that part of the match as filler. That is when "blowing off limbwork" bothers me.

 

In essence, there are multiple ways to "correctly" sell a limb. It depends on the narrative of the match and the wrestlers involved.



#16 stro

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Posted 26 May 2017 - 01:23 AM

What I'm really, really sick of, it it was very prominent in HHH/Rollins and Okada/Suzuki, is leg work that guys OVER sell so much that when they start their comeback, it's essentially no selling. Since all of their signature moves are things that require jumping or using your knee for a neckbreaker/tombstone, Rollins and Okada both did the literally can't walk thing half way through the match, but then minutes later were hitting all of their signatures that require them jumping OVER someone's head, or climbing up to the top rope and jumping an extra 10 feet in the air. It's a reliance on having to get your shit in that really gripes me.

 

If a fighter injures their leg, they're not going to keep throwing head kicks and attempting triangles. They're going to switch up their game plan. If a basketball player hurts his leg, he's not going to keep doing giant dunks or fancy footwork. Or, let's take it out of sports: If you're in the gym and you do something that hurts a body part to the point where you can't use it, you aren't going go back and do that lift again in a few minutes because of adrenaline. That's not how that works. You don't blow your knee out on the squat rack, slap it a few times, then go back to doing squats. Of course, all of this could be alleviated by

 

A. Not over selling so early into a match or 

B. Not being afraid to not get your normal shit in and change it up for the sake of storytelling

 

This also taps into my other big pet peeve right now of guys being too hurt to hit their finisher, yet hitting it anyway a few minutes later. The most recent example I have is Roode/Itami, where Roode couldn't hit the DDT because of the work on his shoulder (which wasn't his lifting arm to begin with so that shouldn't have stopped a DDT anyway), but then went on to hit 3. Itami couldn't get Roode up for the GTS due to leg work, does it without a hitch a few minutes later. In the case of both, they've had multiple finishers in just WWE that they could have used in those situations. Roode could have gone for a figure four. Itami could have gone for one of his 70 strike variations. But they're stuck to the rigidity of signatures/finishers instead of challenging themselves and the audience to do something different.

 

It's something that's really been hampering my enjoyment of wrestling recently and I don't know why. Just a sudden "wow, I'm sick of this formula" since it happens literally everywhere in every promotion.



#17 Jetlag

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Posted 26 May 2017 - 04:32 AM

It's become a cliche, another box to tick off in the "This is Awesome" checklist, just like the shoot headbutt which everyone is doing now. Clueless wrestlers gonna be clueless.






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