Stone Kold Stevie
FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Falls Count Anywhere, my weekly contribution to the ever-expanding world of Internet pro wrestling commentary! In this column, I hope to convey a unique perspective on the pro wrestling fan experience... a "random access" view of the sport. I chose the name "Falls Count Anywhere" because I was looking for a name that evoked the idea of "anything goes" or "catch as catch can", as in this column we'll be looking at professional wrestling from as many angles as possible... with no limits on time or location.
This first column will be quite light on the wrestling commentary because I wanted to talk a bit about the aim of my writing, which stems a lot from my personal experience with pro wrestling from many different eras and countries. I also hope to give you, the reader, a better perspective on the man behind these words... so that we may both be on the same page. Perhaps we won't agree on everything, but at least you can understand from where my opinions take root...
As a lot of American wrestling fans my age (29), my first exposure to the business was growing up during the days of Hulkamania and the World Wrestling Federation. Although I occasionally saw small chunks of NWA/WCW, my earliest allegiance was to the McMahon clan... and old habits are hard to break. I think because of these early experiences I've always been predisposed to enjoying the WWF product more because it always seemed like the characters there were old friends. It's nothing personal against WCW... I guess you could say that since the WWF is my friend, I tend to give it more leeway and forgive it more easily. WCW and ECW are more recent acquaintances, and I tend to be more critical of them... they have to impress me more, but I will give them their props when they do. My experience with the Internet wrestling community is that people like to throw around the term "bias", and label each other as "marks" for particular organizations... so I'm laying it on the line for you right now. I will tend to give the WWF product the benefit of the doubt, and I might come across as overly harsh to the WCW product... I would describe myself as being "slightly biased", although I would not consider myself a "mark" for the WWF...
What I am is a fan of wrestling... and this has developed more recently. In my younger days, wrestlers were like characters from a superhero comic book... and I had guys I would root for and guys I would root against. I would listen to Hogan with rapt attention, the ultimate hero in the WWF... but as I got older and a little wiser, I started respecting wrestlers beyond their gimmick or their affiliation. I remained a fan of Randy Savage or Jake Roberts or Bret Hart despite their "face" or "heel" nature... I just liked their style. And then when I came back to wrestling after a long absence, I discovered that what I really liked was a well-crafted wrestling match... killer promos were becoming the norm, and the spotlight was moving away from the in-ring action, but I noticed that what got the biggest reaction from me was solid performances in the ring... even if the wrestlers involved couldn't give a promo at all!
My eyes were opened when Bret Hart began to feud with a Japanese wrestler by the name of Hakushi... for some reason, I thought Hakushi was great despite his total inability to cut a promo! Hakushi's a heel? Who cares? He could really wrestle! And when he disappeared from the WWF, I was sad... but naively I thought he just disappeared from the wrestling scene. Little did I know what he would signify later...
When I returned to the ranks of the wrestling fans, I had also become an anime fan... "anime" being animated films and television shows from Japan, for those who don't know. Because of this, I was also very Internet-savvy... since at that time the primary source for anime info was on the net. So I immediately slipped into the Internet wrestling community... and that's where I started learning more. What's this ECW group I keep hearing about? You mean there's more to wrestling than WWF and WCW? Japanese pro wrestling? Wait... this Jinsei Shinzaki guy was actually Hakushi? Hmmm... perhaps I should get a couple of tapes off the net and check this out... I heard this Misawa vs. Kobashi match from 1997 was pretty sweet, so I'll get that too... WOW! These guys are amazing!
I think my entire attitude towards pro wrestling was changed by two videos I purchased over the Internet. I picked up a tape of house shows from the FMW promotion which featured not only the former Hakushi but also a group of ECW wrestlers going up against the guys from FMW... and in the same order I got a tape of matches from 1997 in the All Japan promotion, the highlight of the tape being a 30 minute long title match between the champion Mitsuharu Misawa and the challenger Kenta Kobashi. I had no idea what most of these guys were saying, but the wrestling action was like nothing I'd seen before! Incredible stuff that I can watch over and over again without getting bored...
So I started picking up more and more "puroresu" (Japanese pro wrestling) on videotape, and because of this I began to see more of the full tapestry of professional wrestling. Why do I see Ted Dibiase, the guy I always knew as "The Million Dollar Man", in matches on this 1993 All Japan tape? Why are the Funks wrestling for All Japan tag team gold in the 1980's? What are all of these old NWA/WCW matches from the late '80s and early '90s, and why are people saying they're so good?
So yes, I would describe myself as a "mark"... a "mark" for good wrestling. Does it matter what country it comes from? Nope! Does it matter when it happened? Nope! Now don't get me wrong... I still follow WWF and WCW religiously, and most of what we discuss here will revolve around the "Big Two" or the "Big Three" if we include ECW. But my perspective comes from this backdrop... and I hope to appeal to your love of wrestling as well.
Another term I've heard on the Internet is "workrate freak", which could be used to describe me from what you've read above. It is true that longer matches do intrigue me more than shorter ones, and I tend to have more respect for a wrestler with a more complicated or advanced moveset... but some of my favorite wrestlers aren't considered the best "workers" in the world either. So I don't consider myself a freak for "workrate"... I think what I like the most about matches is psychology. If the drama of a match can make me, someone who knows the "inside" of the industry, suspend my disbelief and just plain lose it... well, I consider that a good match!
I don't consider this a one-way street, and I'm always looking to learn more. What do you think constitutes a great wrestling match? What matches are among your favorites? I'm going to discuss a lot of my favorite matches here, both old and new, from countries around the world... I guess I've heard a lot of clamoring on the net about the lack of "good wrestling" on TV here in America right now, and that's the root of this column.
What is good wrestling?
Obviously, I'm going to talk about this from my own experience... and I hope that can be of some benefit to you. Perhaps our opinions are the same, and through a recommendation you can find some great wrestling matches you've never seen before. Or perhaps you have some ideas about what I should be checking out... it's give and take. I'd love to hear your ideas about what I discuss here in the column!
So let me throw out the first question here, and I thank you for indulging me in that personal introduction. I'm going to write more about this in the next edition of Falls Count Anywhere, which I'll submit later this week (#1A)... but I've been reading some discussions around the net about the WWF's "greatest matches". One match which always seems to rank very highly among people is the 60-minute Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, where they wrestle a full 60 minutes without either man being able to get a three count before they go into sudden death, with Shawn hitting two superkicks on Bret to win the WWF Title! It's certainly a great match, but I had the chance recently to view another Iron Man match... although this was from WCW... in 1992, no less! But having watched it I must say it was much, much better than the Bret/Shawn match... why?
We'll talk about that, and the anatomy of a great match, in the next edition of Falls Count Anywhere! See you then!
Stone Kold Stevie