Ah, 2009. When one foolhardy wrestling fan and admitted statistical dork decided
to try and keep track of all the matches watched in one calendar year.
There were good times. There were bad times. There were, certainly, matches that
slipped through the cracks.
There was laughter. There were tears — mostly those of boredom whenever Randy
Orton wrestled. Seriously, it’s 2009. Enough with the headlocks.
The final total, according to my inexact math, was 425 matches — with a
year-best streak of 11 consecutive days watching, and 141 total days spent
watching. I’m sure all those numbers are specious at best and I’ll try to do
better this year.
Along the way, I even learned a few things.
What, you say? Read on!
1) I like independent wrestling: Sure, I watch Raw, Smackdown and the
other “big boys” but give me an NWA Anarchy show filmed in somewhat grainy video
quality from a church in Cornelia, Ga., and I’m intrigued. Show me the latest
episode of NECW action
with dopple-ganger gimmicks and countless promos in Bahston accents, and I’m
sure to be amused. Is it just me, or is wrestling even more of a satisfying
guilty pleasure as the production values drop?
2) Independent wrestling drives me crazy: In recent years I’ve become a rather
ardent fan of Ring Of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Dragon Gate and other
promotions of that ilk. However, after watching more old-school territorial
wrestling this year than since the tender days of my youth, certain habits of
the guys that work the “ROH Style” now drive me crazy. This isn’t solely
restricted to ROH — guys in WWE are just as bad — but they can be the worst
The major transgressions?
— Jumping to take a bump before someone makes contact. THIS DRIVES ME BANANAS.
It happens in ROH and it happens in WWE ALL THE TIME. Just watch the next time
somebody on Raw, ECW or Smackdown takes a cross body or a missile dropkick.
Chances are he’s doing a midair Fosbury Flop before his opponent is anywhere
close to him. Zack Ryder, who I’ve grown to enjoy to some degree, is a
particularly noted offender here.
— The same spots, over and over. Stop me when you’ve seen this before. Wrestler
A is near the ropes. Wrestler B charges. Wrestler A flips Wrestler B out over
the top rope. Wrestler B lands on the apron, and nails Wrestler A with a punch
or back elbow as he turns. Wrestler B then goes to the top rope for some sort of
maneuever. Watch a full week of WWE programming (all six hours!) and you’re
guaranteed to see this same spot at least once a week.
— Cutesy hold-for-hold exchanges. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen
it. In short, it’s when one wrestler seems to “let” the other guy reverse a
hammerlock, headlock or some maneuver. Sometimes, the holder will even
outstretch a helping hand to assist the holdee in escaping or reversing it.
“Smart” crowds like ROH applaud these exchanges. Often they drive me batty. It
doesn’t help that I watched a ton of 1980s New Japan stuff at the tail end of
the year. Say what you will about the way that style has aged, but when somebody
like Steve Keirn, Antonio Inoki or Dick Murdoch had you in a hold, then dammit,
you were IN the hold! There was no “Ok, now you’re gonna let me come up behind
you, put my leg here, spin through and put you in a wristlock.” Feh!
I like my wrestling when it’s intense and realistic. Not when it becomes an
exhibition of “look at how many technical exchanges we can do when we help each
3) I have new favorites… or at least, guys I want to see more of.
A quick list, in no particular order.
Mike Quackenbush: Aside from one match against Chris Hero I disliked, and that
was from back in 2004, I definitely want to see more of him and CHIKARA in
general in 2010.
Bill Dundee: Shorty can work! I spent my time recuperating from walking
pneumonia watching 1980s Memphis stuff. Back in that era, Dundee could face
anyone from Lawler to Dutch Mantell to Koko B. Ware and tear down the house.
Stan Hansen: I always want to see more of Hansen, which is ironic since
according to lore he could see very little anytime he was in the ring. Did he
not ever hear of contac lenses? I’m asking…
Mr. Wrestling II: He would have had no chance in the current scene. Here’s a guy
who looked like somebody’s grandpa with the plain white mask, non-sculpted body
and tighty whiteys ring attire. But he could flat-out go once the bell rang. I
especially enjoyed a match between he and Magnum T.A. and the Midnight Express
from the old Mid-South territory.
Undertaker and Shawn Michaels: They had my favorite match of 2009, at
WrestleMania. Let’s just say this. I’ve had friends over to the house for
pay-per-views before. Never has a match earned a round of applause. This one got
a standing ovation — and half of the guys in attendance were workers on the
local indy scene. Tremendous stuff.
4) Dark Helmet was right.
It can be from the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s or the 2000s. From the smallest
of territories to the grandest pay-per-view. Every day, in every way, wrestling
proves the statement of the arch villain from Mel Brooks’ space odyssey time and
“Now you will see that evil will always triumph… because good is dumb.”
Long live the heels, baby.
Back again next year. Hopefully I’ve learned more stuff and haven’t run my wife
out of the house thanks to this hobby… and watched more matches.
And less bad matches.