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"Working Hurt" and/or "Coasting"...

Posted by MJH, 01 March 2010 · 310 views

The guys over at WrestlingKO published a list of their Top 100 Wrestlers for 2009 and one of the points raised (amongst many it must be said - these lists always bring forth a myriad of opinion) was Shawn Michaels' abscence (on a list that featured, amongst others, Jerry Lawler [68], Bill Dundee [67] and, of course, Mark Henry [36]). Now, of course, as one of the seemingly few Shawn fans around on the internet (and, no, I don't think he's remotely in discussion for "Best Ever") it's par for the course, he's in that "Holy Trinity" of internet hate with HHH and Kurt Angle. Naturally I think it's a ludicrous suggestion that there're 100 better wrestlers working in the world right now who, all things considered, are better at it than Shawn. But one of the reasons raised, aside from the usual knocks on the guy that we've heard a million times before, was he "coasts" most Monday nights on Raw. As it happens I would agree with that, although I'd suffix it by saying that Shawn sleepwalking through "face in peril" is as good as most guys doing it at their best, and between adding his age into the equation for sympathy which he's used effectively for a couple of years, I'd wager he still is one of the best at it.

As for the knock on coasting itself, I mean, in Shawn's case he's in his mid-forties, already having came out of his initial retirement eight years ago, being all set to've retired two years ago, and been physically broken down for years. God knows how many painkillers he takes before an average match, never mind the upcoming WrestleMania main event with Undertaker (whose in a similar situation himself). I have absolutely no problem with him coasting, indeed I have no problem with any wrestler coasting, certainly when they're good enough doing so to have a solid enough match.

"Jumbo Was Lazy" is a famous debate where no one seemed to but in and say "so what?". Now if we take 1991 as an example, and obviously I realise the argument raised by Meltzer dated back earlier, working a house show six man w/Taue & Ogawa against Misawa, Kawada and Kikuchi. First of all he doesn't really need to do much anyway, and second of all he'd been wrestling at that point a few years shy of twenty, the majority of which as a main eventer which meant him working longer, and working many more big matches, than most. The style hadn't taken its toll on an early-forties Jumbo that, say, Kobashi's had taken on him by the time he reached that age, but if all wrestlers have a set x amount of bumps they can take in their career, I'd personally see Jumbo save them for the big matches, title matches, the inevitable (before his illness of course) big changing of the guard to Misawa. Whether Jumbo was lazy or not means very little to me because when it came time to deliver, he delivered. Would you really sooner see your NFL team bust their ass for 16 regular season games, finish in a high seed, but be too worn out and hurt to capitalise on it and get knocked out in their first playoff game?

Wrestling's littered with guys who worked too hard 24/7 (and it's an admirable and positive trait, I'm not diminishing the effort whatsoever) and cut their careers short. Misawa died in the ring, should've retired years ago, but if we take Kobashi as the example (and he's still going albeit not totally). Watch the first month of 1993's TV for All Japan. He works a set-up tag opposite Taue (it might be two), to set-up a singles match with Taue which'll determine (and in turn set up) the #1 contender for Misawa's TC at the February Budokan. In that initial tag match, setting-up the set-up match, he takes a fucking powerbomb on exposed concrete. Even Foley saved that for a months-off injury angle. I'm not diminishing the effort - Kobashi's a slam-dunk pick for my personal Top 5 All-Time at least - but God...

Perhaps it's hypocritical of me, getting excited about Shawn/Taker knowing how tough it's going to be on them physically in their state, but you can defend that on the grounds of it being a WrestleMania main event (and it should go on last), that'll make a lot of money for both guys (it might even be Shawn's retirement match). But I certainly don't want to see the guy taking big bumps every week on TV. I'm perfectly OK with the WWE implementing a "safer" level of working, the scheduling they have is crazy enough to begin with. I'm perfectly OK with wrestlers taking it easy when they can, and saving their bodies for the bigger shows and prolonging their careers. I know in their position I'd try and get away with as much matwork as possible, taking rolling bumps/front bumps when possible as opposed to flat back ones, and I'd take a longer career for myself over being unable to walk without assistance from middle-age.

June 2018

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