Reviews are a strange thing indeed. There are good reviews and bad reviews, and people don’t generally like reviews even though they do seek them out. Whether to try something new, to avoid triggers, or maybe the reviews find them through friends and family. No matter if you seek them out or not, you will always find a review you think is stupid. Over the last week I’ve been scratching my head at a few wrestling match reviews and reactions. Reviews and reactions where good matches are “ruined” because this guy won it and maybe screws up a persons fantasy booking.
Wrestling is far different than any other form of entertainment and sport because its both. You judge a match both on the athleticism and entertainment. Sometimes a match is good more for entertainment, sometimes because of pure athleticism, the best matches are both. Wrestling matches can be part of a bigger story but seen in a vacuum. Like episodic television that has no over lapping. This why I scratch my head at people who go from “This was a great match!” to “Fuck this match, fuck this company, he should’ve won!” Going from four star to two star over an outcome is hard for me to take seriously. This isn’t a movie, where the ending can screw up a film because a movie is constructed over time. Written and molded, tested, reshot, more edits, then advertised and then released. A wrestling match may or may not have a loose structure before the match starts but no matter how much thought is put in beforehand a wrestling happens when it happens. Things change, things alter, things get adjusted on the fly. Its a athletic showing and happens in the moment. This has been gnawing at me because of two matches in John Cena vs AJ Styles and Minoru Suzuki vs Kazuchika Okada. Three if you count the actual Royal Rumble. Lets look at each three and I’ll give my own opinion on them.
Starting with Okada vs Suzuki, there has been a growing anger at Okada. The current New Japan ace has been a point of contention with Western fans. Using imaginary stats to claim he is not the company draw. Mad that he won the title back from Tetsuya Naito, one of the hottest stars in Japan and abroad, a few months after losing the title. Upset he retained the title against Kenny Omega in their Dave Meltzer rated Six Star classic and what many fans see as the standard setting match of 2017. Frustrated that he’s held the title since June. Okada is being seen by a group of Western fans as not the companies real ace. They see him as overrated. Though, lets be honest, every wrestler is overrated to someone. This of course does not reflect the native audience, which Western fans don’t really understand. The native audience love Okada. They have not turned on him. These fans will point to Naito saying he draws better when in reality Okada draws and draws with lackluster cards, like he did at New Beginnings in Sapporo. The show actually drew a few bodies more than their last major show in the city which was the first day of the event tournament G1 Climax. The next major New Beginnings card which features Naito on top is far better top to bottom card with his hot stable Los Ingobernables de Japon in two premiere matches towards the top. So stats are not their friends. Looking at the match, personally I liked it even though I doubted Suzuki would win and before I saw the show got spoiled.
The match itself, I felt at times too long and I can buy some of the complaints that Okada’s comeback should have been more impactful as he was dominated most of the match. Okada came in and worked from under, playing the part of the underdog. Still banged up from his incredible match with Omega weeks prior. Suzuki, the crafty vet working Okada down with the sickest fucking submission wrestling in the world. I ain’t joking, name a submission wrestler in the field and know they are probably shit to Suzuki. Suzuki is a legit Olympic level athlete, was once an alternate to Japanese Olympic freestyle wrestling team. He helped popularize MMA worldwide by co-founding Pancrease, one of the first MMA companies in 1993. Suzuki is the type of ground wrestler many aspire to be and few come close to. A great wrestler, but also a dickish cheating heel too. The cheating and that one short run in from his stable did little for me in the match, as I did not feel Suzuki needed help. Other than that, his work was impressive as always. Every submission he did looks painful. However, being a wrestling match, sometimes prolong holds do make me antsy when I know that’s not where they’ll tap. As for Okada, he’s actually the ideal wrestler in a lot of ways, specifically if you were the type to scout for WWE. Six foot three, good looking, talented in ring with great spots you can build around. He has specific style he sticks to but adjusts and grows as the match continues. Construction wise in this match, I had some problems. But Okada winning? How is that bad? He’s 19 years younger than Suzuki, he’s shown countless times his resilience and drive to win, and he’s the star. Even if he had lost, you fantasy booker types, why lose to Suzuki of all people?
Suzuki and his stable were ran out of Pro-Wrestling Noah where their dominance further hurt a company that has lapsed in popularity. Partly because of dumb booking decisions but why mimic the invasion angle in New Japan even if they had once been an everyday part of their roster. Sure, maybe bringing them in and having them lose three out of fur matches was overkill but did they really deserve to come in and win three titles in their first challenges? Also, where would Suzuki go? The title ultimately has to be contended between Okada and Omega a second time, either before July’s Long Beach shows or at those shows. Suzuki would be a cup of tea with either Okada getting the title back or Omega beating him. Sure there are a lot of NJPW shows between now and then but NJPW is not like WWE, that belt is defended on big shows and not even all the time. Realistically there are only three Heavyweight title matches between now and those July shows. Two for sure, the third depending on the winner of New Japan Cup. That winner might choose to challenge for the IC title instead. At most Suzuki gets one successful defense, just a road stop before the big story. So once again why? I get wanting Suzuki to win, I do, he’s excellent. Yet Okada won, and thats fine. Him winning should not have been that big of a knock against the match.
On to Cena vs Styles which was, as far as I’m concerned, an excellent match that was just a notch or two below their amazing Summerslam encounter. However Cena, the longtime company ace, finally went over. Didn’t surprise me as Styles was 2-0 in singles matches, 1-0 in triple threat matches, and as far as I can tell has only even been pinned by Cena in a trios tag match. That’s an impressive record. How many wrestlers can say they went 2-0 with Cena in singles before Cena got his win back? The thing is Cena elicits strong reactions in people. I remember clearly seeing Cena win 2013 Royal Rumble because I was at Buffalo Wild Wings. There was a negative response to his win, some guy walk out and didn’t return until the main event was part way in. Lets remove the ending, which was in itself an homage to the ending of their Summerslam classic, was it good? Were you on the verge of giving it those five stars? Then why shrink it down anything less than a three? Why say you’re going to cancel your WWE Network subscription over a single match? The PPV had several matches, there is going to be a pair of PPV’s in a months time before Wrestlemania. WWE is providing all this, but the ending to a single match that you liked up until the end is enough to not only dismiss it but to cancel a network you probably enjoy watching?
This also played further into the Royal Rumble itself with Randy Orton winning. More accurately Roman Reigns coming in at 30. People don’t like Reigns, I do, but either way you cut it he lost. So his being in the match is pretty mute in my opinion. I understand people wanted a big surprise, they didn’t get it, and they took it out on Reigns like it was his idea. Blame Vince. Orton winning, I can see complaints on. He’s won it before, they could have given it to someone new, they did not. Here’s a question-if you take away the last half minute-is it an above average rumble? If so-why knock it? Oh, because Orton won. I’m not Ortons biggest cheerleader but the Rumble itself is the star of the match. The match is good or bad regardless of who wins. Its good or bad because the journey to the end. Having a anti-climatic ending happens, having a wrestler who the viewer dislikes win is always a possibility, that’s the rumble for you. Its the lay out and construction that determines if its good or not. Bad reviews about where people were placed or missing opportunities between wrestlers is far more legit reason to complain in my opinion. My biggest beef is the fact WWE did not of anything between Jericho and Goldgberg. Obviously that might be too WCW but its a wasted moment with me. I thought the opening six minutes were lackluster too. These are my biggest complaints. I liked how they handled Braun, a wrestler I’m not sold on. The Lesner, Goldberg, and Undertaker stuff came off better than I expected. Since I like Reigns, no problems with him eliminating Taker. I see Vince using Reigns to troll WWE fans and personally I love it. I say that as someone who thinks Vince McMahon should retire. As someone who does not have interest in watching the day to day shows.
Ultimately one of the sticking points tends to be Orton vs Cena at Mania. At first, I rolled by eyes. The prospect of that match does nothing for me as most of their matches do nothing for me. It does not effect my opnion on cenas match or the Rumble itself because I’m use to outcomes not fitting my personal taste. Its wrestling after all. Look, I like Cena-it took years but I do. I think Orton can be good when paired with the right guy. These two I don’t think work well. Fantasy booking, okay, not a good marquee match for some of us even though Cena is still their biggest draw and merch seller. Even though Orton apparently still makes them good money. It makes sense to some degree but this is WWE, and you should know by now things change and quick. This is not New Japan where they advertise a Heavyweight title match and then deviate for the sake of deviation. WWE loves throwing wrenches and we have two. AJ Styles wanting the title back and Elimination Chamber. Do you think Orton is really having a one on one at Mania? I don’t. You can do your fantasy booking and change this up because it will be incredibly surprising if this turns out to be a one on one. So once more lets look at Cena vs Styles and Royal Rumble, were the good in spite of the fact the guy you didn’t like win? If the answer is yes-then they were good matches.
Its okay not to like a good match. That’s fine. Its about recognizing its a good match, stating its a good enough match, then letting your bias slip in afterwards. Stop letting the bias and initial reaction sour an overall opinion because then you have a bad review that people can’t take seriously. Is the wrestling match good regardless of who won? Yes or no.
Why am I even writing this? Wrestling fans are all about the hyperbole.