Sports Entertainment, sorry to keep bringing that term up pure 'Wrestling' fans, is a better descriptive term for the artform we enjoy than many give it credit for. We aren't watching actual greco-roman conflict (though if you do want to watch that, how about those Olympics?), what we're watching is something that as the name suggests, has all the look of a sport but is still entertaining. Now we all know that there are wonderful examples of great comedy wrestlers who can also be serious like Colt Cabana or Grado and even serious wrestlers who can be damn funny like Kevin Owens but what ever happened to the spirit of pure entertainment that wrestling brought people in its 80's heyday (one of many heydays apparently)? Sorry to play Devil's Advocate for 135 words there as actually I don't agree with what I said. The simple answer is that it didn't go away, it just fell into the hands of a more self-aware audience and in the hands of Joey Ryan, became modern art.
So who is Joey Ryan? I hear you asking, hypothetical reader who would start reading an article with a preposterously long title about someone they don't know. Joey Ryan is an independent wrestler, he has worked for TNA, ROH, NWA, WWE and was one of the founders of PWG. He can currently be found on Lucha Underground and has held multiple titles including the NWA Heavyweight... He's the guy that suplexes people with his dick. That's where you know him, don't pretend you know him for his (utterly bloody incredible) guerilla warfare match teaming with Candace Lerae against the Young Bucks, you know him for being the guy who performs tests of strength but with his dick and when he beats the opponents, he YouPorn Plex-es them onto their back. He is the King of Dong Style and that is a glorious thing but I want to talk today about what may possibly be his (and mankind's) greatest achievement: he's a twenty-two time DDT Pro Iron Man HeavyMetalWeight 24/7 Champion.
How to describe the above sentence, well DDT (Dramatic Dream Team) Pro is in many ways, a parody of American wrestling with matches either being ludicrously hardcore brawls, ridiculous comedy matches or both. One of their titles is the Ironman Heavymet...let's just call it the Ironman Title (Editor's Note - Definitely should gone for DDT P.I.M. HMT 24/7, Jozef) for the rest of the article. Imagine if the Hardcore title had been taken even less seriously but not in a 'this title is so pointless that it has devalued itself' more in a 'let's do all the really stupid but really goddamn funny shit they wouldn't let us do elsewhere' way. Over its sixteen year lineage, it has been held approaching two-thousand different times by male wrestlers, female wrestlers, non-wrestlers, children, a ghost, a monkey, dogs, multiple sex dolls, posters, guitars and even the belt itself. On May 21st, Joey Ryan won the belt from Saki Akai at a DDT Pro event in Japan and since then he's taken it to America and luckily for us, the camera's have been filming for every title change.
Now, this is basically a litmus test for how much you're going to enjoy what comes next, here's an incredibly brutal submissions match between Scott Hall and Colt Cabana...
Did you laugh? Yes, read on. No, you can go have a mug of Horlicks and quit while you're ahead. What the Ironman title provides, is essentially wrestling themed sketch comedy. It's what the JBL and Cole show was trying to do but infinitely more enjoyable because it doesn't have JBL or Michael Cole. What's lovely about Joey Ryan's time as controller of the title is that it has been quite clearly an entire careers worth of amassed in-jokes and 'wouldn't this be funny?' ways to finish matches, well, it's odd to call them matches as ninety percent of it takes place outside of the ring, and most importantly, it seems to be just an excuse for Joey Ryan to hang out with his buddies and make fun viral content.
Now I know that nothing that Ryan has done with the belt so far has matched the insanity of the Japan years, there's been no 70 something title changes in a night, no inanimate object wins but that's the thing, Ryan's not trying to match anything that's been done before, he's taken the belt and forged his own lineage. There's a lot of amateur Jim Rosses that are probably queuing up to tell me about business exposal but can you really argue with watching a man freeze time a la Saved by the Bell and then re-maneuver his opponents to attack each other to get the pin and that's not even the only title change of the night as Ryan will then forfeit the title to the audience only for them to 'tap out' to him again. To even attempt to rationalise it is to miss the point. Ryan is a guy who's been to all the major companies and been used as enhancement a lot and he is way more talented than that but what he's showing is that he doesn't need to be. Sometimes it can be fun to just watch him goof around and it really works. I mean this is a title that even managed to make me happy when Santino Marella won it and that takes some doing.
And now, here's a controversial paragraph, in which I explain why the YouPornPlex might be the most important move in Sports Entertainment. Now bear in mind, I'm saying Sports Entertainment not Wrestling here but honestly, it just might be. You see, the YPP (a wonderful example of time saving efficiency in acronyms here) is something that makes no sense as soon as you think about it, in fact, it doesn't make sense even before you think about it - penises just don't work like that. First off, clenching your genitals won't hurt the hand around them unless you're able to generate superhuman strength focused into them (with Ryan, I can almost believe this) and then why does swinging it make the person do a flip? You know why? Because it's the only natural ending to the situation. I mean if a man grabs another man's privates, the most interesting escalation is for the privates to fight back and from there on for the privates to win. It is utterly stupid and ridiculous but then so is the entire medium. Honestly, I'm not even going to get started on Chikara and the Ants, I just want to talk about The Undertaker. He's wrestling mortician who became a necromancer who became the ultimate evil who became an angry biker. He can control lightning and despite being so old he takes as many bumps from his own hat as other wrestlers, we still apparently believe he could beat anyone. This is apparently less ridiculous to you than a suplex delivered via phallus? The YPP is a move that is representative of the more colourful elements of wrestling and is a love letter to other ridiculous elements. A finisher or a signature move isn't always the biggest move of the match but it should always be one that means something: when Scotty 2 Hotty did the Worm, when Santino did the cobra, when The Rock did any of his finishers, it's not so much that they were actually good or effective moves, it's that the crowd recognise them and is excited, it's why we refer to The Rock as The Most Electrifying; he might not be the most technical but he sure is (sorry) fun to watch (Editors Note: Maggle?). The YPP achieves this because it is something that in a straight fight would never happen but in the world of Sports Entertainment, it makes perfect sense but even more than that, it shows a willingness to play with new ideas, no playing with himself jokes intended here we're all grown-ups.
The YPP is the finishing move for an advanced, knowledgable audience. By removing the attempts to feign reality, Ryan is able to create something more immersive as he makes the audience implicit in the developing of their own insular reality, even to the point of allowing the audience to win the title from him. The YPP is the audience's move, it's for wrestling fans because we know how matches are meant to work and the YPP isn't meant to and to the outside world, probably doesn't. It is post-modern wrestling, aware of the rules that govern it and willing to not so much break as re-form them for a new purpose. It's in the same spirit that Ryan can lose a belt to his tag partner Larae in a dream or his fiancè Laura James can be pinned by their cat only for Dolph Ziggler's brother to trade the belt from said cat for a treat. These are not things that would happen in a non-scripted reality but in a pre-determined one, why shouldn't they? I know this phrase is old hat by now but rules are made to be broken but also you can't break the rules until you've learnt them and learnt to respect them. Ryan is now 36, he's been around for enough time to see how the rules work and how to respect them so frankly, I think he's earned the chance to break a few of them.
All in all, this opinion piece could have been seven words: "Go to Joey Ryan's YouTube page. Enjoy." All the Iron Man Title in the USA 'matches' are there and where else are you going to find seventy five title defenses that last you about an hour in total? Wrestling can be art and art has to evolve. When I wrote in my second article here about comedy in wrestling, I wanted to try and make it clear that wrestling can be funny as long as it's humour evolves with time, even if you're pitching your programme to the youngest viewer, your sense of what makes good comedy doesn't have to be Stephanie McMahon throws up all over Vickie Guerrero. Good comedy in Sports Entertainment should be the same as good wrestling in Sports Entertainment, it works because the audience believe it and it tells a story. There are few people more entertaining on the modern scene than Joey Ryan, he puts his all into everything he does and as a result, he's made a comedy belt matter, if anything, it now matters far more than the Hardcore title it was parodying in the first place. As of writing this, Ryan is on his twenty-second reign as Ironman champion, here's hoping he can keep going as break the record for most reigns. He has about two hundred to go but I have no doubt he can do it.
Written & Video Content - Jozef Raczka
Pictorial & Editorial Content - James Marston
Video Credit - youtube.com
Picture Credit - cagesideseats.com