While watching NXT and Smackdown over the weekend in conjunction with the readings, I am noticing more and more the structure of the matches and less the emotional content. Like Mark Twain and the river, I've transitioned to the analytical way of watching a match and the poetry is starting to go out of it.
In the fifth chapter of Ole Anderson's Inside Out, he discussed a match where he and another wrestler had gotten too crazy and Vern Gagne was upset because they're supposed to save the high-flying stuff for the main event. While musing on how scientific the first couple of matches on NXT were, I realized that this still holds true today. Even though NXT has a different, almost more chaotic feel than Raw or Smackdown, they're still following these formulas.
In "Actors on the Canvas Stage: the Dramatic Conventions of Professional Wrestling," Gerald Craven and Richard Moseley ruined the illusion of wrestling forever for me by writing out all the dramatic conventions pro wrestling utilizes to engage the audience.
To recap for blog purposes:
1. Blind/stupid referee
2. Special finishing holds over scientific wrestling
3. Disqualification and grudge matches
4. Post-match confrontations
1. Evil wrestler initiates illegal/unfair action
2. Use of props
3. Evil plots that backfire
4. Illegal use of the stage
5. Illegal use of the sub-stage
While the majority of these are really common sense, without ever having them spelled out so explicitly I was able to quite easily suspend my disbelief to watch the match. Upon reflection though, I realized a lot of these are present almost constantly. I cannot recall a tag team match that did not involve some sort of illegal use of the stage wherein the partner of someone in the ring breaks the rules and jumps in too, leading to an all-out brawl (uncontainable because of an inept referee). And sure enough on Smackdown, Big Show, Mark Henry and the Usos were teamed up against Gold Dust, Stardust, Luke Harper, and Eric Rowan, and the whole thing turned into a brawl.
All throughout the program scientific wrestling was downplayed, but during the Divas match, Paige used AJ Lee's special finishing move the "Black Widow" on her opponent Summer Rae, to which AJ replied by stealing Paige's "Paige Turner" and using it on Layla, who was trying to attack Paige. This was received as extremely offensive to both wrestlers, fueling their grudge match.
During the arm-wrestling match between Mark Henry and Rusev, Rusev not only initiated unfair behavior by demanding a rematch with his left hand, he and Natalia tried to play dirty and it didn't work. Even though Natalia blew chalk into Mark Henry's eyes, Rusev didn't win the contest.
In the main event, a tag match between Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns against Seth Rollins and Randy Orton, they (of course) broke the rules and turned it into a brawl again, and Roman and Seth also made illegal use of the sub-stage as they took their fight out into the space around the ring and into the crowd.
I guess I was looking at these as if they happened only every once in a while, as opposed to each convention happening multiple times per match. Now it's all I see, and while I can still enjoy watching wrestling, I am left to wonder whether I have gained most or lost most by studying it.