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June 2016: Synchronized Wrestling

A lot of legitimate sports have entertainment versions. Take competitive swimming and synchronized swimming, for example. In Olympic-style competitive swimming there are several swimmers who train year round, follow strict diets and basically turn their bodies into machines to gain a competitive edge over other athletes who are doing the same. Leading up to the event and during the competition there are strict guidelines and rules for competition that must be followed. However, with synchronized swimming, although you have to be athletic and entertaining, whether you win or lose depends on someone’s opinion rather than your performance against your competitor.

There are also lots of other examples of this in the world of sports, such as karate’s kumite (competitive full contact sport karate) and kata (exhibition of skills) versions, competitive ice skating and figure skating and if you really want an obscure reference, how about roller skating and roller derby? So, why can’t professional wrestling also have its own “entertainment only” version or exhibition version?

I picture the product something like this: two wrestlers cut a promo, make their entrances, have their match and are then given scores by former wrestlers, who are judges, based some kind of criteria. Each judge could give, for example, a score of a maximum of 10 points and the performers with the best score, win.

A scorecard could something like this:

Promo skills: 8/10, 9/10, 9/10

Entrance: 5/10, 7/10, 6/10

Match quality and execution: 10/10, 9/10, 10/10

Overall score: ___, ___, ___

I mean, aren’t we basically already doing this? Once a month WWE puts on a pay-per-view (WrestleMania, SummerSlam etc.) and later you can hear reviews by Steve Austin or Jim Ross on their podcasts, right? I’ve even done my own reviews on The FightBox Podcast.

Let’s face it, professional wrestling, as it was known from the late 1800’s through the mid 1980’s, is dead. “Sports Entertainment” is here to stay, for the foreseeable future, but the product has evolved to a point where everyone who is watching it is already fully aware that the matches are a work, and they’re only watching a performance. So, why do we still insist on trying to suspend disbelief? My theory was always that if you present it in a real enough way, you can still suspend disbelief, but watching some of the matches today, it’s quite clear that the wrestlers in the ring are not trying to do that. They are only trying to impress the crowd with their athleticism and move set, to garner applause by performing complicated routines of tumbling, throwing and flipping. In fact, this whole blog was inspired by watching a single match - Richochet vs. Will Ospreay from New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Best of the Super Juniors 2016”.

Ricochet vs Will Ospreay - BOSJ 27.05.2016 przez mr-jester

As far as this “style” of pro wrestling goes, it simply doesn’t get any better. It would be almost impossible for any two other wrestlers to top this performance. These are obviously two guys who are in incredible physical condition and are capable of doing things with their bodies that most other human beings would never be capable of. Their timing, execution and pace of the match is absolutely flawless.

However, this is not professional wrestling, it’s “synchronized wrestling”. Professional wrestling is (was) Dory Funk Jr. vs. Jack Briscoe.

These are two guys who are portraying a legitimate sporting competition and who would literally live every moment of every day pretending that it was in fact, real, in order to keep the illusion. However, the landscape of professional wrestling has evolved to the point where the fans at home have almost become the judges, giving scores to the performances of the wrestlers in the ring and as a result the wrestlers have begun pandering to this kind of audience, working for the “this is awesome” and “holy shit” chants rather than striving to suspend disbelief.

The idea behind synchronized wrestling is to push the limits of kayfabe farther than they’ve ever been pushed, to actually give the fans what they really want, and that is total control over the real winners and losers of the match by voting on whose performance was the best.

Besides the format I already suggested of industry experts watching and judging the performance in an Olympic-style format, there could also be a fan interactive version where the people from home vote on who gave the best performance.

There are so many spin-offs you could have as a result of this idea as well. How about “Wrestling with the Stars” instead of “Dancing with the Stars”? You could also do it in a “Got Talent” kind of way as well where the judges watch live and have the power to give you the “X” if they don’t like your performance. The options are seemingly limitless

I’m sure there are lots of old-timers out there who would blow a gasket if they heard this idea because that’s not the kind of wrestling they were brought up on, but even if you watch WWE nowadays, it’s not that far of a stretch. Even Lucha Underground is a completely different way of presenting the sport within the realm of a science fiction TV series. Besides, I’m sure the competitive ice skaters don’t look down upon figure skaters, do they? The Harlem Globetrotters are super talented in their own way, aren’t they? When they come to town, I’m sure even Kobe Bryant wants his picture taken with them. So, why should pro wrestlers look down on synchronized wrestling? And hey, even if it doesn’t catch on in America, for sure there will be a market for it in Japan, right?

I say take this over-produced, over-choreographed, no-selling, fan-pandering, Cirque du Soleil style of professional wrestling out of realm of professional wrestling and put it where it belongs - in a completely different genre of sports entertainment.

What did you think of the Richochet vs. Will Ospreay match? What do you think about the idea of synchronized wrestling? Would it work? Leave a comment on our Facebook page or send me an email and let me know. If anything, it’s great to see so many people talking about independent wrestling again. Cheers!

- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)


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