Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Opinion: Every Minus Five Star Match according to The Wrestling Observer Newsletter or This Is Not The Worst Wrestling Article in the World, This Is Just A Tribute.

What makes a minus five star match, a minus five star match? On Dave Meltzer's scale, we can go all the way from the full five stars, through DUD into a minus five star, taking in quarter and half stars along the way, it's a faintly clumsy, unwieldy system (in that way, you could say it's like the title of this article) but it's one that works. I began thinking about this when recently a match at this year's BOLA between The Young Bucks & Adam Cole vs Ricochet, Will Ospreay & Matt Sydal got the full *****. This marks the first five for these performers to the best of my research but also, the first for PWG. It got me to thinking about the flipside of this match, the legendary Los Villainos vs Psycho Circus from last year's Triplemania, the only trios tag match to receive the menos cinco. Appropriately, there are but five matches to receive the -***** rating, I thought I'd take a look back at them and try to see if I can work out, what makes them truly, the worst.

First up we have Moondog Spot taking on Junkyard Dog in the second round of 1985's WWF Wrestling Classic. Moondog throws punches as soon as Junkdog gets in the ring, Moondog pulls off a jumping fist to the chest, climbs to the second turnbuckle, fall on his face, Junkdog headbutts him twice from his all fours position, stands up, does another headbutt and then falls on Moondog and counts his own pinfall. I thought I'd just write this out because it lasts forty-six seconds. It's not even the shortest match of the PPV (that honour goes to Dynamite Kid who dropkicks Ivan Putski as he sings the National Anthem for a three count) but boy is it somehow the sloppiest even in that short time. In the battle of these two dogs, it would seem, from this writer's POV that being one of having never seen either of these two men compete before, it would appear that in wrestling logic, Junkyard Dog's head is made of pure steel because three light head taps was apparently enough to just about kill Moondog. This is an odd one for the start of the list because yes it's dreadful, it has no story, no heel or face dynamics and no impressive performances and the ending makes no sense because if the ref isn't in the ring, why not wait for him, timekeeper? Just wait for him to get in the ring, I can only deduce that the issue with this is that it's nothing, it is literally a nothing match which does nothing for either men. There's nothing to say about it, so I'm not going to say anything more. Moving on...

...To Mr.T at Wrestlemania, no not the serviceable tag match from WM but Wrestlemania II's boxing match with 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper. Thirteen minutes. Thirteen minutes this match takes before in the fourth round, the ref takes a bump, Pipes goes for a bodyslam and some ground n' pound and gets disqualified. Thirteen minutes this goes on before we don't even get a proper ending. The worst part is, this isn't a boxing match, it's not a wrestling match, frankly, what the fuck is it? At least the battle of the dogs had the decency to be a rubbish forty-six seconds. I don't entirely know what to say here as they try to pretend that this is a real boxing match, which is fine in concept but neither men seem willing to put any conviction behind their punches. We're watching two men fail to act like they give a shit for a crowd who would prefer to just watch King Kong Bundy competitively sweat (ComSweatative?) against Hulk Hogan. It's not even a satisfying end to a story, it ends with the two men being pulled apart, trying to brawl to each other and then just leaving. Pipes is a legend of course, very few men from his era have been more deserving of a WWE World Title run and never had one but this was just filler, toxic celebrity ego stroking that tries to write in a wrestling ending to a boxing match and as a result ends up failing on all accounts. It could have worked but it didn't. Actually, maybe that's being too polite.

So our next stop on this magical train through shitland is WCW/NwO Halloween Havoc 1998 (which if you'd like to read more on, subtle plug here) with The [Ultimate] Warrior taking on Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Now the immediate problem with this match is that you have to compare it to the minor masterpiece that these two men pulled off at Wrestlemania 6. Actually comparing those two is unfair, if Wrestlemania 6 was Elvis Live in Hawaii, this was Pop Idol winner Steve Brookstein down his local pub reliving past glories but failing to remind anyone why they loved them in the first place. Neither Hogan nor Warrior are able to in any way go like they used to (debatably they never even could but that's a debate for another day) and watching wrestling's most infamous porn tape take on sport's entertainment's highest profile homophobic blogger try and relive such famous spots as 'dueling bodyslams', 'running the ropes' and 'punching' at half speed is not a pleasurable experience. And just when you thought the match was getting dull, the over-booking starts: this match features interference from The Giant (Big Show), Stevie Ray, Vincent, Horace Hogan and Eric Bischoff who straight up grabs the ref and chokes him but the ref doesn't consider this a DQ but then he also ignores a blatant lowblow from Hogan and oh yeah, Hogan setting his bloody face on fire (actually a tad inaccurate, his face on,y gets bloody from setting it on fire). The main issue with this match is the bad taste in your mouth from how clear it is that they brought back the melting waxworks of Warrior and Hogan to duke it out, just so Hogan could have the ego trip of being 1-1 with Warrior but here's the thing: their original fight, while to someone of modern wrestling sensibilities is ridiculously slow, is full of simple storytelling and easy symbolism of torch passing, this one is so ridiculous it literally has the torch blow up in Hogan's face. Of the three matches so far, this one is easily the most deserving of its full -***** rating.

If you know anything about bad wrestling, you had to know, we'd eventually get something from 1999's Heroes of Wrestling. The entire PPV is full of bad matches, weird, sloppy finishes and only one man looking like he's having fun and that's Jake Roberts and he's only having fun because he's at peak drunk. So the match that Meltzer Driver deemed the worst on this particular PPV is the Bushwhackers vs Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik a match in which a Croatian masquerading as a Russian and an Iranian get 'USA' chanted at them for ten minutes as they fight two New Zealanders. In sticking with the -***** tradition, this is a limited offense match. There's forearms, elbows, headbutts and clotheslines. At one point Sheiky baby locks in something approaching a Camel Clutch to add variation. I should give credit to The Iron Sheik actually, he comes the closest to delivering a performance in this match, especially in a stunning sequence where he threatens to leave the match if the crowd don't stop chanting USA, only to decide to come back just before they get counted out. The heels! This match is of interest as time-wise, it's so close to the WWF reunion of the four men at Wrestlemania 17's Gimmick Battle Royal (because the gimmicks and the battle royal rules are 'over the top'. Geddit?) but whereas that was played for laughs, this one isn't even really played. At one point Dutch Mantel on sedated commentary says words to the effect of 'the referee doesn't seem to have seen Volkoff tag in but I don't think he cares'. He's not alone, a dreadful match but one that frankly, if you expected anything other than detritus from this PPV, you really are an unstoppable optimist.

Our final match (luckily) is from Mexican promotion AAA and last year's Triplémania XXIII where Los Villainos (Villaino III, IV and V) took on the Psycho Circus (Murder, Monster and Psycho Clown). The first question I have about this match is what did Hugo Savinovich think about it? We never got to find out because shortly after the match started, his mic cut out and was replaced with a horrendous fucking buzzing noise (the one good piece of commentary Matt Striker provides is suggesting people imagine he's calling a Killer Bees match. A bad joke but y'know, you take what you can get). You know what everyone loves about trios matches: fast paced action, big high-flying spots, technicos in peril from those dastardly rudos cutting off the ring, well instead here we get some half-speed weak slapping, a few sloppy to reckless looking suicide dives and umm, so which team were we meant to cheer for? Was it you, Murder Clown? Were you the hero we dreamt of as a child, Murder Clown? So the crowd are cheering for both the villains and the psycho clowns so I can only deduce that this is like The Undertaker if he took on Sting, they could try and heel it up but no one wouldn't cheer them. Still, this match does have one nearly functioning dungeon of doom spot till you realise that oh yeah, the clowns are actually powerbombing the two villainos holding the third clown, they're trying to murder murder clown (or is it monster? I didn't keep track) so the match eventually ends after one of the clowns goes for the least convincing chair work this side of Horace Hogan (thank you to Matt Striker for pointing out that it was a chair and that we probably knew that. He's a quick one that Matt Striker) but gets distracted by his respect for Villaino III stops him being able to pin him leading to him getting clumsily rolled up. So I do want to use this time to ask everyone - top rope falling headbutts, has anyone apart from Rey Mysterio ever made them look like anything other than them falling and twatting themself on the ring? It looks especially sloppy when you actually miss the other person and the camera angle needs to cover your shit, Mr.Clown. Put simply, this match is a fucking mess but it's almost a beautiful one, of the five matches here, this is the only one I would watch again. If The Final Deletion was the Sharknado of wrestling, all knowing winks to so bad it's good culture (and no, Delete or Decay was not the Sharknado 2: The Second One of wrestling, Sharknado 2 had a cameo from Kurt Angle, Delete or Decay had Joseph Parks) then this match is feasibly the 1959 Santa Claus movie where Mexican Santa and Merlin fight the devil from Santa's spaceship. It's campy, ridiculous, goes on for a bit too long but is occasionally so utterly tone deaf and so bizarre that it becomes oddly fascinating, not necessarily good (definitely not good) but certainly interesting, and for that reason I disagree with Big Dave and give this *****. Just kidding, it's really fucking bad.

So are these the five worst matches I've ever seen (Really with Mr. T vs Pipes, the question is 'was that a match'?)? I mean they are all undeniably awful but it's hard to really see if these are the five worst I've ever seen, I don't know. But is a -***** even a negative thing? On the surface yes, but there are only five -***** matches, at the time of writing there has been eighty-one ***** matches, so really it's in its own way, more prestigious to wrestle a shitsterpiece than a masterpiece. In my exploration of the backside of the wrestling scale, I don't know if I've learnt what makes a -***** worthy of such damnation, what makes it so much worse than a -**** for instance? I still don't know but here's the thing, none of these matches are worthy of anything less than our complete contempt, sure there have probably actually been worse displays of wrestling than these but for what they represent, it makes sense to keep them as the reminders to all bookers - your match could be next. Don't book matches if you don't think they matter, don't try and make people give a shit about fake boxing, don't try to relive past glories if you were possibly approaching past it when you were living them and just don't watch Heroes of Wrestling. So what makes a -***** match? There's a lot of bad wrestling out there but something stood out that made these special. Maybe what we should take away that just because a journalist thinks something, doesn't make it fact (no, that would mean I don't matter and that can't be true) or maybe we should just take it that Dave Meltzer shouldn't have to represent everyone. If he likes a match, that's fine, if he doesn't and you did, it doesn't mean you can't like that, maybe you wanted to watch The New Day drink piss jugs with Jon Stewart, but just be prepared for someone to disagree with you. I want there to be some deeper meaning to this article than 'I dunno maybe some matches are just always going to suck' but really that's all I've got. A really unsatisfying conclusion to an article about matches with weak endings, it's almost like I planned this all along. I didn't.

Words - Jozef Raczka 
Images - James Marston & Jozef Raczka 
Editor - James Marston

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