Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Chain Match

I'd just like to post my thoughts about the chain match we watched between Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper. When I think of older matches from the 70s, this is not the kind of match that comes to mind. A more appropriate match that I would think of would be something like Dusty Rhodes against Harley Race - which, interestingly, seemed like a slow methodical match from the viewpoint of someone who's a fan of a very fast-paced modern product. However, this chain match at Starrcade was interesting because of how violent it was. I would've never expected to watch a match from this time period where the bloody violence was escalated to this point. Yes, it wasn't a hell in a cell match, but you could start to see the beginnings of the level of violent matches that still are used from time to time today.

The difference is that these two put on a terrific match that made sense. It was methodical with the violent moves that were used, but I would much rather watch matches like this one than watch a high-paced ladder match with four tag teams just flying around without any real reason other than to draw a "holy sh!t" chant from the fans. This match between Piper and Valentine is a solid blueprint for drawing fans in emotionally with a story that makes sense. I loved how the commentators kept talking about Piper's ear injury before and during the match, and then emphasizing that it was making it hard for him to keep his equilibrium throughout the match because of it. I think the way the commentators were selling the match would have made it easy for someone who didn't know who the characters were to really get into the match and care about who won. I don't think the same can be said about the ladder match we saw on the first day, where telling a story seemed to take a backseat to wowing the crowd with amazing (and very dangerous) moves.


Sam Ford said...

Carolina, interesting points about the wrestling style of the various matches we watched. What sets Valentine and Piper aside from the Brisco/Funk match we watched, or the Race/Rhodes match, is that it emphasizes the type of brawling that has become increasingly popular in the American pro wrestling style. What may not also surprise you is that the last two matches were aired out of order--Piper/Valentine was from 1983, at the very end of the "territory" era, while the Rhodes/Race match was from the 70s.

Although to say that bloody brawling was not normal for this time period is not exactly true, either. As you saw, Race/Rhodes ended with some bloodshed for Rhodes, and Terry Funk had gotten bloodied as well. We're also going to see plenty more of the Sheik, who was known for always cutting his opponents open, etc. But I think Piper/Valentine was one of the best of these types of brawls in wrestling history, along with Austin/Bret Hart from Wrestlemania XIII, which we won't be watching in class but is considered by some to be the greatest of the Wrestlemania matches.

Hopefully, the performance did establish the reason why Gordon Solie was considered one of the best commentators of all-time, particularly in trying to lend the legitimacy and logic of the type of contest he called in Brisco/Funk to the chain match.

Rob said...

The match definitely had a lot more emotional pull on me than any of the matches we've watched so far, and I think it points out how significant the backstory and plotline of these wrestlers is.

I feel the backstory went a long way in making the violence palatable. It was so heavy and distasteful that in the context of a normal competition, I don't think people would have liked it. However, in the context of the backstory, you could really get into how brutal Valentine seemed as a character, and enjoy (and feel justified in enjoying!) the moments when Piper got back at him.

In the matches we watched on the first day of class, I said that the backstory felt significant in understanding the match, but I think that this really drove home how the backstory can work with the violence to pull you in emotionally for me.

Also, the bit with the ear was very interesting...

I think it made the violence feel more real with the constant suggestions of permanent damage or loss of hearing from the announcers, and contributed to the brutality of Valentine's character.

I'm still gathering my thoughts on the ear thing, but I definitely feel it added something quite significant to the match.

X P said...

I definitely liked this match more than the other matches I saw from the 70's... Like Carolina, I also thought the dog collar match was from the 70's and I was really confused how they could have such a high intensity and violent match at the same time as the Rhodes/Race match. The two matches are totally different.
I'm really curious to know how the same audience for the Rhodes/Race match would of responded to the Piper/Valentine match. Would they of been overwhelmed with excitement or would they have been horrified with all the violence.
As a side note, does anyone know when wrestlers started to use razors to cut their faces during matches? I'm jsut curious to know in which era this actually started.

katejames said...

I had a hard time watching the chain match. But I'm the girl who watches scary movies through the cracks in my fingers. I guess what's really interesting to me about this match is how it fits into the 'fooling the audience' efforts. It seems that when a match gets this violent, when there is real blood dripping down someone's face, it becomes a lot harder to call 'fake'. I don't like it more (I actually don't like watching really violent matches at all), but I bought it more. I agree that the ear backstory helped, and it made it 20 times worse to see it get bashed in over and over. So is gore the way to credibility? Or maybe gore plus a really great announcer leads to legitimacy.

One last thing about the chain match-- as far as props and weapons go, it does seems that this chain was not being used to its full potential. In a match with no rules and such an effective weapon, someone should be dead at the end. So maybe this detracts from all that credibility that the blood created in my eyes...

Alex Maki said...

Really good match, saw it on the Born To Controversy DVD that WWE put out a couple months ago on Piper.

Ismael said...

Like many of you, I didn't expect to see a match like this since I thought it was also from the 70's. I don't think I have ever seen a match quite like this, though. I've seen matches where wrestlers were tied together by the arms, but the fact that they were tied by the neck had an added sense of danger. My first thought was that they could really injur themselves if they weren't careful. In my opinion, it was very much ahead of its time. I think that if this match was shown today, it would be as, if not more, popular as it was in 1983.

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I was rather taken aback by the chain match, for the same reason as the earlier ladder match: I had no idea people actually did these things in real life. Environmental hazards are a staple of every fictional superhuman fight to the death, of course--and, at this point, wrestlers have to be thought of as superhuman for suspension of disbelief to be maintained--but seeing it live is, well, disconcerting. Not necessarily in a bad sense; just a sort of "audience at a magic show" feeling when you see things that you know, rationally, are impossible, but damned if they don't look real.

My cultural tastes are, by and large, extraordinarily violent, but I'm a pretty timid person overall, and over the years I've become highly attuned to the signifiers that mark off fantasy violence from the real stuff. Some of the matches we've watched play with the signifiers very effectively, and when that chain gets wrapped around someone's head, it freaks me out...but then the victim seems largely uninjured by an attack that should have partially blinded him and/or crushed his trachea, and the relief I have over the violence is quickly overshadowed by how profoundly unrealistic it is.