A blog that used to be about things

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Bowling Notes - 4/12/22

 Week 8? Linear time has no meaning anymore, but we have not yet escaped the dogged grip of relational time. So we wait for a "finals" that has already occurred, is presently occurring. The pins know this truth, and will make sure they get to the destination they were always at.

In "Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything," Graham Harman says "there are just two ways of telling somebody what a thing is: . . . what it is made of or what it does."

Two ways. What does it leave behind? What is it's favorite record? Does it know how to keep a scorecard at a baseball game?

Two ways. Did it remember your birthday? Bring flowers? Look in to your eyes and recognize the emptiness not as a loss but as a path?

Two ways. Will it break a toe or scatter to the wind when errantly left on the floor and later kicked? Will it leave behind a jisei that helps you reflect on your pained attachments? Does it believe any of this matters?

Friday, March 11, 2022

Bowling Notes 3/8/22



 Bushido, I have found out, lies in dying. When confronted with two alternatives, life and death, one is to choose death without hesitation. There is nothing particularly difficult; one has only to be resolved and push forward.

While some say, "Death without gaining one's end is but a futile death," such a calculating way of thinking comes from conceited, citified bushido. Pressed between two alternatives, once can hardly be sure of choosing the righteous of the two. To be sure, everybody prefers life to death; he tends to reason himself into staying alive somehow. But if he comes out alive without gaining his righteous end, he is a coward. Therein lies the crucial point to consider.

Conversely, as long as one's choice is death, even if he dies without accomplishing his just aim, his death is free of disgrace, although others may term it as a vain or insane one. This is the essence of bushido. If one, through being prepared for death every morning and evening, expects death at any moment, bushido will become his own, whereby he shall be able to serve the lord all his life through and through with not a blunder.

- from Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo 


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Bowling Notes 2/22/22

 After a brief delay . . .

Under new direction, the lanes are excitedly oiled and the league is eager to resume. We've all changed and been changed over the past 2 years. Is this even the same league? Are some things so constant as to deny time's dogged progression?

Game 1

Stallings. Hauntings. During practice, the pinsetter unexpectedly lowered right after I released a ball, and these hauntings continued in to the game itself. Where does tradition turn into haunting, and is there even a good distinction between the two? The accumulation of unique  disturbances is all we have to distinguish us from one another, and so we give thanks and/or memories to those disturbances for allowing us to fall into a delusion of self. Therefore, "we" can't even exist without these pains and traumas. But who asked for that in the first place?

Game 2

At some point, if you're going to be constrained by linear time, you should make a decision to leave "the past" in "the past." Experiences make you and may even better inform your present choices, but they are the past and if you're going to make any attempt to enjoy or learn in a present or future moment, then you must make a conscious and deliberate break with past events. Easier said than done, though. The past isn't gone, it's just past, and since it still exists it can still affect us and therefore render itself new again. And what better way to do that than to intentionally draw attention to the "past-ness" of it's present actions? And thus, the pinsetters break and break again. Splits and splits again. Frustrations lived before and lived again and lived.

Game 3

As with any endeavor involving time, endurance becomes an issue. Rhythms that had been turned into sick parodies of themselves were now allowed to regrow, as if one can recreate a "moment." Ample opportunity to "return to form," as if doing so were not a mockery of linear time itself. We have chosen this path "forward" because of the unknown and constant changes it brings. We'll return in death.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Bowling Notes 9/17/2019

Game 1

Everybody except for me is commenting on how slick the lanes are. I cannot dismiss their observations, but why can't I share them? Descartes famously examined this question and came up with his "solution:" I exist but any and all other beings/things in the world may be illusions. Descartes's solution is logically sound on a fundamental level but practically useless. Why, if I alone exist and everything around me is either a creation of my own thoughts or an illusion cast by some malignant force, continue living? When no experience are "real," what is the point of experience? This is where Descartes's reductionism falls apart. Either we have to accept the "reality" of our senses or life has no meaning. Even if we start with just our thoughts, we can build analogies from there and recognize that other 'beings' appear to act and respond to external forces the same way we do, and therefore are also likely to be experiencing the same stimulus that we experience. There is life, in other words. Still, just because there is life outside of our own mind does not mean we all have the same experience or interpretation of experience. What is bitter to one person tastes fine to another, or what are acceptable bowling scores for one team may not be acceptable for another team. And in our shared reality, these were not acceptable scores.

Game 2

Brandon had a pin tilt roughly 30 and then stand back up, and was genuinely hurt by this - this, of course, being nature's indifference to his bowling score. We have all experienced this pain before, and we all process it in our own manner. Is this shared experience what makes us work as a team? Is shared trauma a solid foundation on which a relationship can grow? Will the relationship have anything to bind it together once the trauma is processed and left in the past?

Game 3

The jukebox has come on and exclusively playing Kanye West. Kanye's very emotional yet very egotistical (i.e. cocaine-fueled) songs providing a suitable backdrop for this game. 'Flashing Lights' plays as our game comes together, but what have we lost to get here? We can win this game, we can win this whole league, but what do we lose to get here? What, and who, have we left behind to taste this success? And not even to taste it! To glimpse it, yes, but this is only week 3! We can beat these top teams tonight; we can beat these top teams next week, even, but to think that this immediate moment has to last forever is misinformed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Bowling Notes 9/10/2019

Flamingo Bowl Craft Beer League Week 2

Game 1

Hexagram 32

HĂNG: Duration

The Trigrams

Upper Trigram Chinese characterChên, the Arousing- Thunder
Lower Trigram Chinese characterSun, the Gentle- Wind/Wood

The Judgement

The Image

Game 2

There is a phrase you will here among the broken bowlers, shells of men left damaged by spinning pins and lillies: "pins ain't fallin'." Men that are no longer allowed in more respectable alleys, having been banned for openly weeping far too often, throwing a ball in spite, cursing a god or gods too loudly or just generally having an aura that is not wanted, an aura of fear and defeat. These broken souls know every way to not pick up a spare, and the KNOW it is going to happen to them again. "Pins ain't fallin'" - presented as a truth and accepted as truth among those that refuse to take command of their life. "Pins ain't fallin'" - a diagnosis that stops at identifying the symptoms instead of finding a cause. "Pins ain't fallin'" - a prayer for better days to come, but no sacrifice to persuade an indifferent god. "Pins ain't fallin'" - an excuse, but sometimes, the pins just don't fall.

Game 3

Pins still ain't fallin'.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bowling Notes - 9/3/2019

Flamingo Bowl is trying to start this league at 6:30 PM. I am writing this at 6:28 PM and there are 2 people here from 3 of the 6 teams. Some may sense mutiny in the air, but to us it is freedom. Freedom to wallow in the arbitrary nature of time. Freedom to immerse ourselves in the timeless expanse that is a game of bowling. The practice timer on our lane is now frozen at 18:11 remaining. Through bowling we have escaped the clock's maniacal grip. Through bowling we have escaped time's inexorable march towards death. Through bowling, we are free.

Game 1

Our bowling order has changed this league. The passivity of "has changed" is the most accurate way to describe this, as nobody on our team asked for a change in order, nor even knew one would occur. This new order is momentarily disorienting, which itself is enough reason to move beyond it. It is just one moment in an infinite sea of moments. The rolling ball will shatter this moment, just as it has done to other moments since the dawn of time ('dawn of time' here = 'dawn of bowling'). In order to succeed we must focus on the moment, yes, but not get dragged down by the moment. Enjoy the moment for what it is - a fleeting message received by our various synapses which will fade away into a memory, at best. Be the stream, not the pebble.

This was a game of spares. Second chances. Opportunities to right the wrongs of our past and move forward not with the complete happiness of what should have been, but something close enough. Or is it close enough? Using second chances is important, but in life if we rely on them too much we may come up just a bit short.

Game 2

The sense of timelessness has become overwhelming, almost suffocating. A life of constant "nows" with no past to reflect on and no future to hope for. Just us and the lanes for infinity. This immediate "now" itself encompassing the billions of billions of possible realities. Would you like to see a pin swerve around other pins only to reflect back of the wall and knock them down? Would you like to see a 7-5-10 "split?" Would you like to see a pin slowly tilt 40° and then return, even slower, to its upright position? A thousand lifetimes in each individual moment. "I don't like this" - Richard, to me, as we individually navigate these expanding moments.

When I was a child I would frequently have dreams of events that would then happen in my waking life. None of them were particularly noteworthy (one that stands out is walking down the street and opening a bottle of RC Cola to discover that I had won a free soda -  one in six bottles were a winner, as the cap informed) but they did train me to accept situations as they are and not as how I think they should be; to be ready for a discrepancy from the dream. I mention this only because as I watched the pin tilt 40° on its side and then slowly return to its upright position, I realized that I had experienced this very same event in a dream a few weeks ago. I was already prepared to accept this loss and move along. Quantum physics will explain how the moment contained a multitude of possible outcomes, but the dreamstate had already selected.

Game 3

In Asako I & II (Netemo Sametomo in Japanese), Ryusuke Hamaguchi lets moments linger. Nothing is rushed, almost to the point of inertia. When the plot grudgingly moves along, it asks us to consider very difficult questions: Do people deserve second chances when they have hurt somebody they loved? If making mistakes is okay, then why can't we forgive mistakes in a romantic relationship? If we are hurt, why should we have to forgive? There are no answers in his movie, just choices. Whether they are the right choice or not is not important. The choice was made and now life moves along that path.

Hamaguchi's talent is in not even hinting at an answer to any of these questions. Just as the plot moves like a leaf sitting on a pond - sometimes moving this direction, sometimes moving another direction, but mainly just sitting still - trying to decipher "right" or "wrong" among the decisions made in this movie is not going to get you anywhere. They are decisions made by people, and that is all. Which is not to say that they cannot be judged, as we can see a million things that could have been done differently. The point is, they were not, and why should we dwell on that? On what could have been?

Is the third game of bowling a chance for renewal? Or is it better suited for regrouping? Focusing your efforts on improving techniques for next week's game? How far out of winning do you have to be to make this decision? 

The third game of bowling is not a place for questions. We have spent the night attuning our bodies and minds to the immediacy of the lanes. Faltering now because of a dependence on spares, on second chances, is akin to throwing the entire evening in the trash. We made choices (made spares), and now we must live with them. A missed pin or a misstated phrase will hurt, but we must move ahead with this reality we have made. If we are given a second chance to strike the pin or say kind words, then we must take that chance. But we must be diligent to spot such chances, and this diligence requires a focusing on the "now." These are not replays of the past, but different moments, and must be treated as such.

"Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows
how to dwell in mindfulness
night and day
'One Who Knows
The Better Way To Live Alone.'"

- from the Bhaddekaratta Sutta. translated by Thich Nhat Hanh 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bowling Notes - 4/16/2019 Week ????+1 of Flamigo Bowl Craft Beer League

Before practice, Noah made up his missed games from last week. He became worried about fatigue, which is a legitimate concern but not at all what I saw as I watched. I saw a lust for the lanes that flourishes in a competition like this. I saw Spring personified: a whole team's rebirth and fiery passion for victory. We can all feel the change in the weather; the change in the atmosphere. Is that all that is changing? What if everything we knew about our world was changing with it? What if all concepts of normalcy, all concepts of what life is to be about, were also changing?

On April 16, 1943, Albert Hoffman picked up his research on an analeptic he had been working on 5 years prior. He got a bit of the chemical compound on his fingertips. He went home where he:

"lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away."
And so, after two hours of gazing directly in to the chaotic disorder of reality, Albert Hoffman returned to his "normal" life. If only we were all so lucky.

Game 1

Iced by the other team's refusal to appear. This could backfire on them, though, as it gives Noah time to rest his arm. Eventually the opposing team decided to go forward with only two players. We're used to these sorts of games, though. Any delay of pace we can adjust to, and drink to. If Flim Flam thinks they will beat us through a simple delay they have obviously not been paying attention to our attendance in the league. And of course, they do know this. They know that we aren't going to let a 20 minute delay beat us. Travis is smart - he and I went to a Magnet school.No, Flim Flam is going to get us off our game somehow, by coming up with a reality altering concept like BRINGING A DAMN DOG TO THE BOWLING ALLEY?!?!? The appearance of this small toy poodle (??? unsure of the breed) brings a very French Bohemian quality to the bowling alley. 

The game is an hallucinatory mish-mash of stimulus and introspection. Equipment breaks routinely. Teenagers show up in the next lane to judge us. This absolutely unpredictable blur of incongruous events is was life is all about. This is what bowling is all about.

Game 2

The first game took its toll. We started this game either stunned by the tumultuous atmosphere or enthralled with the vivaciousness of life in the bowling alley. Either way - pins weren't dropping. It was not a total loss, though, as there were glimpses of success. Fleeting images of a successful game of bowling. Or, were they just hallucinations? Had we fully descended into a lane of madness? The boundary between real and unreal had quickly unraveled during Game 1, leaving us rudderless and full of doubt. The only truth was in the pins.

Game 3

As the games march on we learn to adjust. Adjust to the lane conditions and to the poor conditions reality was in. We just have to bowl. Universal forces were at play, though, and were determined to continue their assault. As the game began, the equipment malfunctioned and continued to malfunction about every other bowler. If a rhythm was our only way of making sense out of this fantastic scene then the bowling forces were determined to keep us senseless. Savage Garden is playing on the jukebox. Irreality continues. THE DOG FUCKING PUKED! We have fully stepped over from normal night of bowling to a George Herriman-esque parody of a seedy bowling alley. Any attempts to reign the night in are beyond futile now. As futile as an attempt to keep a dog in a bag.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bowling Notes - 4/9/2019 Week ???? of Flamingo Bowl Craft Beer League

We are bowling in the Palm Room this week. The floors are slicker and there is a distinct aroma of cleaning supplies along with whatever they were used to cover. The atmosphere is very different from the main room. Separated from the larger crowds, the Palm Room brings out a much more cerebral game. There are not as many people milling around, taking in the sights and sounds of this glorious sport. There is no crowd to show off for. No feedback outside of the pins. In the main room, the crowd can buzz appreciatively about an almost picked up 8-10 split. In the Palm Room, only the lanes do the talking. Your more introspective bowlers appreciate this lack of attention. They relish in it, as there are no distractions. Just lanes and pins. But even the most experienced on these meditative bowlers knows there is danger to this seclusion. The lack of distractions can allow for better focus but can also lead to over-analyzing your mistakes. No outside stimulus to blame a poor roll on. No unexpected sights or sounds to explain a poor release. Without these distractions a bowler is left with no choice but to doubt their approach or their technique. And with this doubt comes The Fear.

Once The Fear gets in to you it can quickly spread through an entire team. Maybe we don't belong in the Palm Room, where the game's every movement is exposed? Maybe we are not the artists we hold ourselves out to be and are instead no different than a dog batting around its favorite toy?

In bowling, every week is a test, but some tests you never get a chance to prepare for.

Game 1

Brandon and Rich were both thrown off by the slicker floors. Noah was absent completely. All of these disruptions to the routine create a perfect opening for The Fear to take root.

Brandon was able to salvage something in the last few frames, but The Fear had definitely gotten hold of Rich. He felt rushed. Pressured. The Fear was with him, whispering to him that his mortality mattered more than the lane ahead of him, providing him a glimpse of an exit from The Fear's grasp, but only if he could get there in time. His game could not recover.

Game 2

Once The Fear is in you, nothing comes easy. The heat that was once a mild annoyance turns in to a sweltering blast, like the hot breath of a gytrash that has marked you as its next victim. The heat begins to penetrate every pore in your body, clearing way for The Fear to root through your memories. Now armed, The Fear knows best how to exploit you, best how to feed. The Fear knows what hopes still linger in your tortured soul and can now present them just out of reach. If only you weren't bowling right now, this could be yours. Rush through this frame, ignore Don Carter's advice for a proper approach. Ignore the hours you have spent perfecting your art. The Fear is now all you know.

Game 3


Monday, July 2, 2018

Jonathan Gresham vs. Martin Stone 1/28/2018

If you are at all familiar with Jonathan Gresham and Martin Stone/Danny Burch, you probably have a good idea of what style of match these two are going to wrestle. And if you don't watch a lot of these two, like me, you should know that you are underestimating just how good they are at this style. Gresham and Stone both wrestle a style that translates well to any situation. They make every move matter and there is always a follow-up move unless it ends in a pin or submission. It's a style that appreciates the basics - headlocks, roll-ups, wrist control, etc. - and because the wrestlers take these "simple" moves seriously it gets them over with the crowd. From what I have seen of Stone and Gresham, Stone tends to use more strikes and Gresham more submissions & pin attempts, which are sort of the two ends of the spectrum of this style of wrestling. So, again, going in to this match I had an idea of what style of match they would have, but they are given the time to let their match build and develop into a classic.

I have not seen any of Jonathan Gresham's matches in Beyond Wrestling. I did not even know he was champ nor that he was aligned with Stokley Hathaway. Hell, I put those two facts in that order by choice but I really don't even know which came first or which was a bigger surprise to the fans. All of this is just a long way of saying that I don't watch Beyond and don't know what Gresham's character is going in to this match, but Gresham is able to explain that character to me within minutes of the match starting. Having Hathaway with him helps, but Gresham is great a playing a sort of Ric Flair champ - the great wrestler that knows how and when to take a cheap shot. The exact mix of skill and cockiness that gets me riled enough to yell at both.

Stone's character is pretty consistent from federation to federation ("bald") but it fits well in to both heel and face roles, and he knows how to work to whatever role he is playing. In this match he is more of a face. He comes in as a threat to Gresham's ability to outwork opponents on the mat, as they show during the first 3rd of the match. Once Stone's ability to keep up with Gresham forces Gresham to use a trick, Stone breaks out of the back-and-forth wrestling work of the beginning of the match and gets mad, hurting Gresham and making the match much more personal. While he is beating Gresham around, this really gets over how serious a threat Gresham's wrestling is as Stone has to use some brutal moves to stay on the advantage. He was not trying to out-wrestle Gresham any more, as he knew that was not going to work, and instead he was trying to hurt Gresham.

The match continues with bigger and bigger moves, the impact getting over by Gresham and Stone selling the struggle of hitting them and the exhaustion after doing so, whether real or staged. The finish is very creative and works excellently with Gresham's character work throughout the match. It's the type of finish that could come across as VERY unsatisfying in a lot of situations but, because Gresham and Stone have been so good at conveying how much every move matters, they are able to come across as desperate and struggling for any little advantage over each other. This style of match does not seem real because it looks like a shoot fight but it seems real because the performers treat it as such.

Postcript: Cagematch.de says this is not a Beyond Wrestling match but is instead a WWR match and is for the Powerbomb.tv title, so adjust the sentences above as needed, making sure to amplify the parts about how I do not watch [appropriate promotion].

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Daga vs. Ricky Marvin 6/17/2018

If I remember correctly this match was billed as a "strong style" match, which is the sort of thing that makes me groan but also I guess if that's what Daga wants let him do it, you know? So, going in to this I was somewhat afraid that we would get the worst of Daga and Ricky Marvin just going along with it. Thankfully, that was not the case.

This match is worked at a very slow pace, but it is deliberately slow and it works great. Both of these guys can hit hard and can even do a flip or two, and they take their time hitting hard and doing a flip or two.Their respect for each other comes out in the work as neither guys wants to make a mistake and give their opponent too much of an opening. Beyond that, the selling is great. The moves keep escalating and taking a little bit more out of both men. On my 2018 match tracker I rated this 4 stars. It would have been higher but the finish is very sloppy, and when the whole match is worked so tight this really sticks out as a flaw.

Maybe I am just being suckered in by the "strong style" branding, but this really felt like an old 90s NJPW junior heavyweight style match. In fact, since they didn't dick around with matwork that goes nowhere this is better than a lot of 90s NJPW junior heavyweight matches.

There has been some discussion on Twitter lately about pro wrestling as an art, centered around the melodrama of Gargano vs. Ciampa and the Omega/Ibushi stuff in NJPW. While I think that wrestling incorporating dramatic storylines is fine, wrestling itself is what makes up the medium of pro wrestling. It can incorporate drama (or comedy, or horror, or whatever), but at it's base if pro wrestling is an art (and it is) then the art is pro wrestling. This is the sort of match that shows wrestling as an art, as you don't need to know any back story going in to it. There is no story going in to it. Two guys are having a wrestling match and it's fucking awesome.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Lucha Underground Season 4 Episode 1: El Jefe

Lucha Underground returns after a lengthy hiatus with what has to be one of the most wildly uneven television shows ever produced. I was planning on writing about this series, but what is there to really say about a show that features one match that is bizarrely edited so as to erase any sense of drama or cohesiveness? Luchablog has a few gifs of Fenix and that is all that needs to be seen from this 30+ minute match unless you are some sadist that wants to see Chavo Guerrero not only erase the stipulation of what was pushed at the time as a very important match but also get featured as a top guy in this promotion. This felt like one of those weird episodes of Monday Night RAW when half the roster gets stuck on the other side of the planet because of delayed flights. The crucial difference is that this is what Lucha Underground chose to return with after a year-long break. Pentagon and Son of Havoc had a few fun spots, Mil Muertes is always fun to watch, and we had the apogee of Matt Striker's commentary when he simply says "Pizzagate," without any connecting commentary, upon seeing a slice of pizza. As a fan of the previous 3 seasons, I was looking forward to writing about this show every week, but when the previous sentence sums up the entire hour-long episode I am left to wonder how long I will be able to stick with writing about this show, much less actually watch it.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Caristico, LA Park vs. Fenix, Penta 0 M 3/21/2018

This match is great but what else could it be when you get 4 of the best wrestlers in the world and have them just beat the hell out of each other for 15 minutes? The Lucha Brothers really work great when they are put up against a popular team as it allows them to lay in stiff shots and take their time milking the beatings. Fenix has the flashy offense and the huge bumps to compliment the more deliberate sadism of Penta. Caristico is still one of the best at taking these beatings and timing his comebacks perfectly to get the crowd involved.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, I was thinking about how Penta has been losing mystique as a singles wrestler over the last year or two but still ends up really high on my (and other's) year end list, and then today's WDKW dropped with Dylan talking about the same thing. The problem with so many Penta singles matches is that his offense is not particularly flashy or impressive, and so when he gets his comeback spots they are somewhat disappointing. Not only that, it's not particularly fast-paced and does not flow together. Thinking about his best singles matches, his offense works there because it really is a rudo-style offense that works best when cutting off a tecnico or perhaps methodically picking them apart. The flow and pacing of tag matches is different and it allows for Fenix's much flashier offense to get those comeback spots, with Penta filling in the gaps. It's even better when the opposing team is over with the crowd, as it is here or as it was in the match vs. The Besties from last year, as that is when Penta can use his same offense to beat down a babyface until the crowd is dying for their comeback.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Poseidon, Fantasma del Espacio, Super Angel vs. Cat Rocker, Guerrero del Inferno, Guerrero Lee. Ruleta del Muerte for hair or mask. 2/18/18 Club Apolo

No, I did not watch this match ONLY because the luchador named Cat Rocker is in it and that name entertains me. I also watched it because Poseidon is okay and I love the aesthetics of Club Apolo and yeah it seems likely somebody will bleed all over the place.

Apuesta matches are often out of control and bloody. While this is toned down in CMLL, AAA and the indies continue to have matches in this style, and this match definitely carries on in that tradition. While only a few guys bleed, Super Angel comes out wearing a white mask and ends up looking like a cherry tomato before the match is halfway over. Blood alone cannot make a wrestling match good, but when a guy bleeds to amplify the violence they are receiving and to help emote their exhaustion it can really help a match, and that is on display here. 

This a Ruelta de Muerte, which means that when a luchador makes a luchador from the other team submit or pins them, the victorious luchador is eliminated from the match. So, this means that if you "win," your team is going to lose a member and (maybe) be short-handed. Nonsensical rules are endemic in lucha libre, so not only have I made peace with this I can appreciate when a match is booked to make sense within those rules, and this match is. I don't know enough about these guys to know what was going on prior to this match, but I can presume that the teams are either friends of some sort or share an animosity to the opposing team. Either way, they want their team to win, and a quick victory that leaves your team shorthanded is not going to help that, so this match does not have a pin or submission attempt for at least 20 minutes.

The match starts with a rudo beatdown that feels neverending but not tedious. In fact, the beatdown continues so long that I began to believe the match would just turn in to an extended squash (sort of like Lesnar vs. CM Punk at Summerslam) because indie lucha just does weird things some times. Almost immediately as I thought this, the tecnicos make their comeback and I am completely engrossed in their success. I don't know if the timing of their comeback will work for everybody, but it hit at just the right point to really draw me in to the drama of the match and rooting for their success. This is not a fast-paced match by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, since the match is built around two very long control segments to start, the pace slows as the segments go on, allowing the desire for the other team to make a comeback (the crowd is surprisingly pro-rudo, cheering very loudly for one or both of the Guerreros) to simmer and build until it explodes into actualization.

The tecnico segment mirrors the rudos control segment, both of which were fun brawls all over the arena. It's not the wildest brawl but these guys are working stiff enough and whatever shortcomings exist are made up, to me, by the timing of the spots and comebacks. After about 20 minutes (at least, I was not paying attention to the time but this video is 1 hour long and I don't think there was much  more than 20 minutes of non-wrestling at the beginning and end of the video) they all end up back in the ring, and begin to try to win falls. It starts with each guy taking turns putting submissions on, only for another guy to come in and break it up and put on their own submission. This is fun, but what really makes it work is how vicious the submissions are. These guys are really wrenching these holds in and making it look like they really want to win, if just to take break if nothing else. This exhaustion continues throughout the match (which I am sure is not entirely being worked) and really helps with the pacing and setting up spots. 

The match may go on a bit too long, but the crowd is rabid and the workers milk it for everything it is worth. Again, the work is nothing that will blow you away, but these guys get every ounce of drama from every move in a way that draws me in to the drama of the match. And again, there is a dude named "Cat Rocker" that is wearing leopard-print shirt and pants.

(The match does not start until about 10 minutes in to the video if the 1-hour timestamp is daunting.)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Rey Pantera Jr. & Hijo de Rey Pantera vs. As del Espacio & As del Espacio Jr., mascaras vs. mascaras 01/14/2018

I don't know who these guys are, but I will watch most apuesta matches I come across. These are often the biggest matches of a wrestler's career, so you're unlikely to come across anything but the best performance and effort out of the wrestlers involved. Since these matches usually come out of some fairly heated feud you often have a hot and lively crowd helping the match along. The matches themselves usually vary between brawls and completely out of control brawls, so the wrestlers are generally allowed to use blood and any other tricks to put the match over the top and if none of this seems to work you can always just turn the match off.

So yeah, I don't know anything about these guys (although I have seen the dad Rey Pantera a few times) but like I said I will watch most apuesta matches I come across but one with these familial elements involved sounds even more fun. In much of the world, sports play a huge role in familial relationships. While the relationship is changing, playing sports and watching sports is still a huge aspect of masculinity and also a prominent avenue for men to form relationships. The scripted nature of wrestling allows it to portray family relationships far more than happens in "legitimate" sports, as wrestling has the freedom to not have to rely as heavily on actual skill. And so wrestling not only fills this cultural role of something for a family to enjoy together, wrestling can explore family dynamics in the medium. Families are often paired together based on nothing but blood, and when these relationships turn sour they can be even more vicious and hateful than other relationships falling apart.

Why am I rambling on about wrestling playing up family connections? Because it plays a huge role in this match. The whole match is based around two rough brothers taking on a father and son team where the father is older and maybe a step slower than the Panteras and the son is clearly younger and less experienced than the Panteras. 

The video starts with Rey Pantera Jr. coming to the ring while a live band plays. Eventually we see that Hijo de Rey Pantera is in this band! It's a very minor thing, but I absolutely love when wrestlers are involved in their own theme music and even more when they play it live, as it is so self-indulgent but if they are playing a cocky, flashy character (like Chris Jericho, Juventud Guerrera and the Panteras here) it adds so much to that obnoxious aura. Who is more insufferable than a member of an okay-at-best rock band than a member of an okay-at-best rock band that is also a pro wrestler?

The match starts out with straightforward back and forth wrestling, but almost immediately guys start diving out of the ring (and into seats) onto guys that are not immediately involved in the match. It's not the wild brawl that some indie apuesta matches turn in to, but it is a bit wilder than a standard match. As the match continues, the roles mentioned above start to become clearer as the Panteras not only work together as a team better (as they have likely been working as a team for some time now), but there is a really cool segment early in the 2nd fall where the Panteras get Espacio Jr. outside of the ring between them and Espacio comes running over to help his son, only to get double-teamed himself. 

The first two falls of the match are over pretty quickly. I'm not a huge fan of this match format but it is so prevalent now that I've gotten used to it. And although I think it is annoying it does work to some extent. One thing people seem really confused or annoyed by in lucha (and really all wrestling) is when a ref ignores blatant rule breaking, as happens in this match. I guess these are the people that NFL and MLB are courting with their recent attempts to turn their sports into byzantine rule interpretation while athletes look on. The idea that a ref (or any ruling authority) can let things slide in the name of a greater justice seems alien to them, but that is exactly what happens in lucha. Refs, like anybody else we invest with authority, can choose to let nominally illegal activity slide if they think strict enforcement will lead to a result nobody wants (i.e. a disqualification finish to end a blood feud) or if they simply don't care. Wrestling is just a mirror of our real world power struggles. There is no escape from them.

So the first two falls of this match are burned through pretty quickly to get us to a third fall where the Panteras quickly take advantage of the ref's discretion. But, since this is wrestling, the Espacios aren't simply crushed under this corruption but make their comebacks. And these comebacks are great. Like any good babyface, they show they can get just as wild a rough as the Panteras, delivering sick chairshots and Espacio Jr. hits some giant dives out of the ring. The pacing may drag a bit, but I think they're just milking the crowd reactions which are not being recorded very well. At some point the entire crowd is out of their seats and cheering the match on.

The work in the match is good, but there are little moments that really bring out the character stuff, like As del Espacio racing back in to the ring to help his son pin whichever Pantera it was that he just hit with a big move. This all leads up to what is one of the most dramatic and emotional finishes I have ever seen. I don't like to describe specific spots when talking about a wrestling match because so much of the enjoyment of a match can be tied in to seeing these things evolve organically within the match. That said, the end of this match involves each team trying to submit the other, and eventually this gives way to a crazy chairshot sequence where they are trying to prove who is tougher. Again the different male relationships of brothers vs. father and son come in to play, and how our roles as protectors or respectors (of the toughness/manhood of another) of each other. We saw early in the match Espacio getting seriously hurt when he rushed in to protect his son. Would you do the same thing for your father, if the roles were reversed? Would you expect a different outcome? 

The emotion and drama at the end of this match is unparalleled, and this is two teams of guys I have never seen before! Imagine if this was a feud you had been following! I can't imagine a better blowoff to this type of feud or match, and unless wrestling in 2018 is absolutely phenomenal (I hope it is!) this could easily end up being my match of the year.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2017 MOTY Countdown #13: Hechicero vs. Satanico

Maestro matches are one of my favorite match style in wrestling. Since lucha title matches do not focus as much on mat wrestling and holds as they used to, the maestro matches are the most consistent place to see that style of wrestling. And since that style of wrestling does not rely on athleticism as much as it does precision, you still have wrestlers in their 60s putting on some of the best matches of the style.

Hechicero's role in maestro matches is great. He has been wrestling since 2001, which is a long time to normal people but when he is in the ring with other maestros he may as well as be a child. He can wrestle that similar llaves style, and will, but he is also substantially younger and stronger than the other wrestlers in your standard maestro match, and he is not afraid to bully his way around the ring. 

So, here is Hechicero one-on-one against Satanico, who is almost 70 and has been wrestling since 1973. It starts off with both guys working each other on the mat, and Hechicero is not afraid to use his size and strength to overpower Satanico consistently. However, he is never able to put Satanico away and has to keep getting rougher and rougher. This is exactly the same match format Satanico has been using for 40 years, and it still works in 2018 with him as the tough and stubborn veteran rather than the tough and stubborn asshole rudo. Hechicero instead plays the bully that is willing to escalate the violence to break his opponent. Despite this, Satanico keeps hanging in there, showing that he can get just as wild. This match is just a great example of this simple story with excellent pacing and selling from both guys.