East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why wrestling?

More than any other match, it was Rey Mysterio's and Eddy Guerrero's 1997 fight (at WCW's Halloween Havoc) that made me think of wrestling as an art form: a quintessentially American one, even more so given the participants here are Latino. Like jazz, it's about improvising variations on a theme, only the theme is more or the same for every match -- good guy battles bad guy -- while the variations have only just begun to be explored. This match is significant because of what's at stake: Rey puts up his mask (a shamanist symbol as well as a shorthand identity; its significance in Mexican wrestling is well explained by Mike Tenay on colour commentary) against Eddy's World Cruiserweight Championship. Rey pulls off a series of dazzling spots -- with Eddy down outside the ring, Rey somersaults over the top rope, lands with his legs across Eddy's shoulders, spins around and then flips his legs to toss Eddy head over heels. What makes this match special even among those that hit similar high note is the intensity level: Eddy tearing away at the eyeholes of Rey's mask, while holding together the structure of the match, so that the moves make sense in the story of the match. This is how you make narrative art in the postmodern age.

Other all-time top 20 matches on YouTube are Misawa-Kobashi (Oct. '97), in which Japan's two greatest workers (apologies Kawada-san) go for over half an hour -- and this isn't even their best match of that year; Bret Hart-Owen Hart (Wrestlemania X, 1994, the greatness of this is a little technical and it would help to know some of the backstory as well, but the crispness should shine through); and my favourites from last year, Samoa Joe-Kobashi and Joe-Daniels-Styles.

What's the over/under on how long it'll be before YouTube gets Napstered? Enjoy it while it lasts.


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