Friday, January 16, 2009

Smarks might want to step away.....

I spent some time pondering my writing’s direction. I reached one conclusion: I seek out direction a little too diligently sometimes.

Wait, back up and let me explain.

I enjoy writing. I truly, truly love it. But I need something more sometimes. I need a mission. I need a message.

I sometimes neglect sitting down, shutting up and just writing.

So I want to take this back to something I love doing when I sit with my friends and talk wrestling: pick out my favorite matches (as they pick theirs) and discuss why I love them. I’m trying to convey something about fandom that should’ve never been lost and has ended up forgotten: forget the backstage news, forget being a smark, forget being a consummate critic and just enjoy the things you love.

So I won’t apologize for one single match in this list. These are truly my 100 unapologetic favorite matches, including a tidbit here and there explaining the qualities of great wrestling that I feel they exemplify. Most come from my personal DVD library. A few I can’t find anywhere, so I will recall them as best I can from memory. Sometimes, that means I must rely on an unreliable memory and won’t give much in terms of play-by-play.

These will be in order in the most basic sense. I did not rank this meticulously. I will not quibble over precise placement. I don’t care how any of you interpret these matches’ exact respective placements. I will give away one hint: yes, #1 IS, in fact, my favorite match of all time, and probably always will be.

Oh, one last thing: since this is an effort to help me write with more of a nod to thrift, I have imposed upon myself a 450-word limit. That should also encourage getting to the damn point.

So sit back, relax and enjoy a short ride. Here’s number 100.

Chris Benoit vs. Meng (Death Match)
WCW The Great American Bash 1997

Look no further for proof that entertaining wrestling doesn’t need to be one-tenth as difficult as fans sometimes want it to be, or as bookers tend to sometimes book it.

This was a straight-up battle of “Who can take more of a beating?” Benoit was being built as one of the toughest, most vicious, cold-hearted men to ever lace a pair of boots.
Meng….well, Meng was Meng. For the uninitiated, he is most likely honored to be considered one of the few men as legitimately tough as the in-ring savage he portrayed. Watching him was watching a clinic of how to no-sell and make it WORK. The man took endless punishment, seemed to feel no pain whatsoever, and kept the in-ring action brutal and stiff, but convincing.

You didn’t need to suspend any disbelief to believe what either of these guys did to the guy across the ring hurt. Chances are, it probably hurt even worse than it looked.

These two had the kind of feud you could book in any promotion, in the midst of any era in the wrestling business’s history, and it would fit right in. ECW, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Mid-South, WCCW, Mexico, Japan – it would play ANYWHERE at ANYTIME.

So you have two guys well-known for dishing it out doubly as well as they could take it. What could be more fun than turning ‘em loose on one another to see, once and for all, who is left standing at the end? The finish was absolutely perfect: Meng, the unstoppable monster savage, passed out in the crossface. It comes back to why Meng no-selling worked: it further established Benoit’s credibility by not just beating Meng, but making the man pass out. The same finish made the last-man-standing match between John Cena and Umaga at the 2007 Royal Rumble easily the most enjoyable match of their entire program.

It was a wild, violent brawl. And for WCW, it was a rare instance when everything felt completely satisfying from start to finish. If, like me, you loved this match, check out the Cena/Umaga match, anything between the Undertaker and Mankind or take your pick of any of dozens of matches between Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka in either FMW or the original ECW.

1 comment:

JKing said...

I remember this match and yes, it was very brutal. One of the reasons Benoit was always one my favorites was because at first glance he didn't appear to be much of threat. In the era of big men like Hogan, Kevin Nash, or even Meng, a man of 6' and a slightly above average build could be easily passed over. An afterthought. But Benoit went out there and proved the notion of "looks can be deceiving." He might of been smaller, but he could hurt you and hurt you bad. And you know what, it was believable.
Meng on the other hand, well I have to admit I never gave him much credit. Just another big, sloppy foreigner I thought. But then I looked deeper and saw how good of a worker he really was. Forget that he never sold a head shot, it only added to his mystic.
So when these two went at it at the Bash, it was brutal, it was engaging, it was hurty and it was magnificent. Everything it should have been and more.
I agree with you. There isn't always a need for flash or style. Sometimes it is best to just put two men together and see what happens. A few times it will bomb, but everyone in a while you'll end up with a classic to be talked about for ages.
Kudos on the blog.
Mazel Tov.