The 5 Star Truth: 15,000 Years

Mike Steele


When I stumbled onto a pop up Google Ad while surfing the internet, I noticed that it listed some interesting trivia facts about wrestling. They are as follows:

(1) The origins of wrestling can be traced back 15,000 years through depictions in cave drawings in France.

(2) The first recorded Olympic wrestling match occurred in the Greek Olympics in 708 BC.

Of course, wrestling hasn’t been exactly the same since those 15,000 years ago. Back then there were no storylines. It was man vs. man, winner take all. Obviously there is also a big difference between amateur wrestling in the Olympics and what we know as professional wrestling today. Wrestling went through many stages over the centuries, picking up many contributions from cultures throughout the world, including the Japanese, the Germans, the Mexicans, and so forth. We have always eventually accepted change over time, incorporating women and smaller performers. Just in the last century and a half we’ve seen wrestling come out of the circus and into a more mainstream, world wide medium. Perhaps the biggest change was making wrestling into a predetermined, scripted stage play. To get to the point, I was reading Ric Flair’s autobiography the other day and took note of how he said that Johnny Valentine refused to do moves off of the top rope, believing that it exposed the business too much. After all, in a real fight who would be able to jump around and do flips? The mat wrestler would get the victory every time. I take a much less conservative approach to his thoughts, but share a similar sentiment. If a match is to be taken seriously, a match must look like a real fight, while maintaining the art form that wrestling has become. Unless there’s a gimmick match where everything is supposed to look over done and silly, there is no reason to jeopardize the appearance of the business for extra “oohs” and “aahs”. In this day and age it seems perfectly fine to let the secrets of the wrestling business be common knowledge, learning no lessons from the past. There is a reason that regular tag matches were able to keep the interest of fans for 60 minutes at a time, the wrestlers drew the crowd in. But now it seems that 15,000 years of wrestling history are about to be thrown out the window.

“High spots” are a fairly new addition to the wrestling scene, having only seen elbow drops from the top rope for the most part until recent decades. As the wrestling world constantly changes, we need to be accepting of these new changes, like we are still learning to be with the Women’s division and smaller wrestlers. How ever, there is always a limit. Like women, tag teams, cruiserweights, and the hardcore style, high flying moves should be just a part of wrestling, not become the entire new style of the business itself. Wrestlers such as Chris Benoit and Undertaker don’t use every single variation of suplexes and slams in their matches, so why should Cruiserweights use every single high flying move in the book in every single match? A 7 minute match does not call for a 450 Splash in the middle of no where. Too many high flying moves totally expose the business. No one exhausts themselves and gets their ribs pounded in through a whole match and manages to keep doing flips and moonsaults. If Chris Benoit battles Kurt Angle for 30 minutes and then manages to muster up enough momentum to hit a flying headbutt, that means something. He worked up to that point through the whole match and the climax was loud and clear. A Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle match scenario is a great example of what a match should be. There are basic suplexes and slams, then there are great mat based moves, unbelievable mat reversals and counters, submissions, and maybe occasional high spots attempted to act as the climax. The match follows a great pattern with great build up. When there are too many “spots” in a match it’s hard to have that build up and properly go through the motions of the match. Songs, books, poems, movies, and television shows are at their best when they have a solid build up. But it seems that getting cheap pops these days is more important than substance in a match. Getting to another point, this is where the line is currently drawn between WWE fans and TNA fans. While WWE definitely needs to work on enhancing their cruiserweight division and not be so limiting, they are on the right track with booking solid matches lately. Bobby Heenan himself called Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 21 the greatest match he had ever seen. There have been many match of the year candidates out of WWE, including Shawn Michaels vs. Shelton Benjamin, which had a good balance of high spots, without being overshadowed by them. Kurt Angle vs. Ric Flair was a fantastic old school match as was Chris Benoit vs. William Regal on Velocity. The new age of wrestling should not revolve around high spots, but simply incorporate them. I could say the same for the hardcore division, but that’s a whole different subject unto itself.

When watching Lucha Libre on Galavision I seriously wanted to scream at my television. They did have some talented wrestlers such as Vampiro, Hector Garza, and Psicosis, but they had no idea how to book the matches. They didn’t sell at all, they had at least 8 wrestlers in the ring at once, none of them were taking bumps properly, and it was just an over all mess. To a lesser degree, this is how I feel about TNA. While TNA wrestlers know how to take bumps, and for the most part can sell (just not throughout the match), they are often just all piled into one ring and things just happen and then there’s a sudden finish. There is no climax or satisfying feeling afterwards. Someone performs a finisher and it’s done. While you might say that chaos is good, chaos actually needs to be organized, as crazy as that sounds. Again, I am not saying that every TNA match ends up like this, but that is the general occurence. I am tired of TNA fans putting down the WWE for EVERYTHING that they do. The point of this particular column is not to compare storylines or feuds, but the wrestling style itself. WWE is definitely not conventional but still holds very true to 15,000 years of wrestling history. TNA fans refer to TNA as “real wrestling”. How can about 10 years of the recent high flying fad be called real wrestling when 15,000 years says otherwise? TNA and many indy feds alike are beginning to throw away everything that generations of wrestlers have passed down through the ages. Wrestling is becoming a circus acrobatic show, reverting back to the early 1800’s of being a sideshow attraction. The psychology, build up, and story telling of a wrestling match is disappearing. It seems that the attention span of fans is dwindeling and 4 minute spotfest matches are becoming the welcomed norm. 15,000 years are being pissed away.

(To clear things up, I am not totally biased against TNA. I just used them because they are the biggest promotion using the high flying moves right now. Lately I’ve just been urked by TNA fans insulting WWE when WWE’s booking and storylines have been on an upward swing. I actually WANT to like TNA and will resume watching their product when it hits Spike TV.)

-Mike Steele

twvmikesteele@yahoo.com



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