So what makes a great wrestler? Lets open that big can of worms and explore!
Ric Flair says that Mick Foley is no great shakes because he is a stunt man rather than a wrestler. I asked in the last edition of the Future Shock, just how much amateur wrestling background and technical wrestling expertise matters in the total package of being a ‘sports entertainer’. The response was mixed. Here’s my take.
Ric is right in that being a stunt man is not the same as being a bonafide wrestler. But we don’t wrestle any more do we? We ‘Sports Entertain’. Mick Foloey is the evolution, for better or worse, of the wrestling business, much like Ric Flair was in his earlier days. Ric was the glitz and glamour with the volume turned up. Mick is the epitome of extreme sports. Both were trail blazers pushing the envelope.
I have to say as someone who has trained for many years to learn to be a competent wrestler; I do hate to see the backyard style that we often get today. I had to learn technique, poise, psychology, and I still think those things count for more than a splintered table. I understand fully why Ric hates the punch, kick, chair-shot formula, but I do think he is a little blinkered in his down rating of Foley.
Foley, unlike the majority of ‘extreme’, ‘hardcore’ type performers, does have poise, psychology and technique. Foley’s timing is spot-on, his selling is to behold. Flair, on the other hand, although technically competent, has never been the greatest seller. He has one expression for pain, and the same expression for severe pain. It’s the same expression he uses for panic and fear. Flair may be animated in his expression, but he always shows the same animation. I have no problem for wrestlers criticising the ‘trash’ style wrestling we so often get today. What I do have a problem with is everyone using Foley as the head for the criticism. It’s not his fault that he has his imitators, and that it is they who let wrestling down with there ill timed, ill thought out ‘spot fests’ that do nothing except confuse the fans and show the moves up as transparent.
Mick, with his gigantic, epic, bumps has given more heat to a building than a headlock ever could in this day and age. Wrestling moved on. Sure it’s going back to its roots (in its own way) but just as sports got extreme, wrestlers did too. So what makes a good wrestler? Is it having Flair’s ability, as a youngster, to make the most wooden instrument look like a worthy opponent, or is it Foley’s creation of excitement? I assert that it’s a little from column A, and a little from B.
Stunts are great, but you have to build to them. I was never a fan of the ECW style of starting a match at 100mphs only to maintain the pace all the way through. Fans get burned out that way, their lungs all screamed out. No, I assert you need to start with the fans attention and build to the raging climax. Stunts are a novelty – wrestling is the name on the banner. Wrestling does gain benefit from the variety of different styles, and if booked right, all types can be showcased in a way that complements each other – but on the other hand imagine a Flair, or a Bret Hart who could take bumps from the top of Cell’s!? Now that’s what I’d call a wrestler! Or is that Shawn Michaels?!?