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  1. #1
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    May 2018

    Castaway - with Samuel 'Plan (2/2)

    Last time, we finished with you choosing your book for the island, taking Bret Hartís autobiography. You know as the biggest Hitman fan around here - something youíll probably cede to me now youíve entered your Seth era - you know Iíll have a lot of sympathy for that one. Iíve got a feeling that Bret might feature some more in the second half of your list too, because although I always admired his realism the other thing that I always remember is that Bretís other dream was to be a filmmaker, and thereís undeniably something cinematic about the way a Hitman match is laid out. My guess is that, given your own focus on wrestling as performance art, this is playing right into your wheelhouse?

    You know, cinematic is not a word that Iíve ever really considered to describe Bretís work, but I think it fits perfectly. On some level, conscious or otherwise, I think the Hitman had an understanding that the means to effective storytelling are universal across mediums. His matches would peak and trough and transform depending on the narrative twists, just like any great film!

    And I donít think that was strictly limited to the Hitman either. He was definitely the best at it (until Seth obviously!) but WWE, at its best, is incredibly cinematic, and in a whole bunch of ways. Thatís why, when it came to this back half of my list, I made a very conscious effort to make selections with a single mantra in mind: tell me a story. After all, thatís ultimately why we fell in love with pro wrestling, even if, I think, there is a habit among modern fans to forget that simple fact. We want to be told a story. If Iím stranded for the rest of my life, it was important to me to not just pick matches with real emotional and / or sentimental value but also some that are just great stories that I loved.

    Thatís why Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania VII is definitely coming with me. Cinematic is a great word for it, too. A lot of people find it hammy, a little over the top. I honestly find the frequent criticism of it - being that Warrior kicks out of five Diving Elbows - staggering considering the plethora of matches that get away with the exact same trick these days; not least of all Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania. But itís that OTT nature I love in this instance.

    Itís pro wrestling as high fantasy. Warrior looking up and pleading, lost, to the Warrior Gods that imbue him with his inhuman powers is, to me, a wonderful character moment. Sensational Sherri as the vile succubus feeding off of the Macho Kingís status and success feels like it pre-dates the Paul Heyman / CM Punk relationship by about twenty years. And, obviously, the post-match reunion is a tear jerker, even now, bringing a major character arc of WWEís Golden Era full circle in legitimately emotive fashion. Itís a real fantasy epic; a true romance, I think in more than one meaning of the word.

    I could go into its incredible accomplishments simply as a piece of genre wrestling, and the lasting influence it seems to have had, but itís really the fantasy story underpinning it that made me choose it. I need escapism on my island, which is pro wrestling in its most conceptual form I guess, and nothing is more escapist than the feel good fantasy epic of Warrior and the Macho King.

    Pro wrestling traditionally is often thought of as more of a low fantasy, if you like, one that has broad romantic elements but that is still grounded in the everyday. Dusty Rhodes made an entire career out of the romantic story of the plumberís son who wined and dined with kings and queens. I think that in something like Warrior, we can sometimes forget that a huge part of that success did come simply from switching up those generic conventions. And as over the top as the match might be, in many ways itís still easier to buy than pretty much anything youíll see on Monday Night on any given week nowadays. Anyway, enough of my proselytizing, this is your list, and whatís next on it?

    Sticking with the theme of telling me a story for the sake of escapism, my next pick is one that actually surprised me when it sprang to mind and I found I just couldnít shake it. Itís not a match Iím overly fond of - I think itís rough around the edges, a little over-produced at the back end and a massive beneficiary of an understandably hot audience. Nor are the two men involved anywhere near the list of my favourite performers or characters, and by quite some distance.

    Maybe itís because I love a heist story, especially one with a ticking clock, that has me deciding to take John Cena vs. CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2011. Regardless of my opinion on the match or its performers, there was undeniably something singular about that entire storyline that summer, at least when speaking strictly about that initial chapter. The sense of urgency was remarkable because of the nuances used with Punkís well-known real world frustrations, the Pipebomb promo and the fact his contract ďran out at midnightĒ on the night of the show. And the final visual, of him straddled over the barricade, holding the title with adoration and blowing Vince McMahon a kiss, is one that sticks in the memory. Itís a shame they had to follow him up through the crowd afterwards. It would have been a remarkable lasting image for the Second City Saint ahead of his brief absence.

    The match itself I can honestly take or leave. Itís good enough, but it indulges a hell of a lot of modern day bad habits that just rub me the wrong way, as Cena / Punk matches often did. They werenít afraid to take shortcuts. But in context - or memory of context, I suppose, when watching the match back in isolation - it just has a certain kind of tension that you donít get much of anymore. Like I said, itís a heist movie of a wrestling story; like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, only more grounded.

    Itís funny you say that, because Iíve often had the feeling that the strengths and weaknesses of Punk and Rollins are broadly the same, in terms of their in-ring work, so itís intriguing to me that you come to rather different conclusions about the two of them. Iím afraid Iím going to have to be pretty unsporting though, and after throwing that jab move us on before thereís any time for a rebuttal, because the clock and word count is against us at this point. We still have another two matches, and your piece of memorabilia to cover. Letís have another match first. In the last couple weíve had high fantasy and a heist movie: Is there another take on a particular genre involved in your next?

    To a degree, absolutely; stories always fit into one genre or another, right? Itís less related to a film genre, mind, and more to well-trodden ground in the history of the squared circle. It might just about be the best version of its kind, actually, at least in terms of all round presentation and in-ring execution.

    Iíve gone for Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XIX, in a quasi-student / mentor story - itís not quite that on the nose, but the theme is certainly of their similarities to one another, and of Michaels coming to inspire Jericho. Thereís a bitter vibe to it that reminds me of the fetid jealousy Owen Hart felt towards his brother Bret in 1994, and a velveteen fluidity in the way itís wrestled that ensures it remains, in my mind, the only match to ever touch the in-ring quality of Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. I see it as a spiritual successor, in fact. Itís a match that deserves to be discussed among the Greatest of All Time far more, to me outshines anything they did in 2008 five years later and, above all else, tells a story we all know very well better than almost any other occasion in WWE history I can think of.

    Itís the ďEt tu?Ē moment at the end I adore most; Jerichoís low blow to Michaels in the midst of their apparently mutually respectful embrace is delightfully villainous, and wraps the fiction up with a neat bow. It makes it feel more episodic than other matches on this list, but I donít care, itís the storyís crowning achievement, wrapping up the tale of a man shattering a generational mirror because of his insecurities about being inferior to the man looking back at him from yesteryear.

    ...sound familiar?!

    I canít possibly think what you could be referring to, though Iím pleased to see that somehow youíve managed to find a way to take something of our own little LoP history to this island with you! Thereís one more match to come, but that personal note might be a good point to pause and ask what piece of memorabilia you would take with you? Youíve got a fairly free hand on this, though Iíll just remind you beforehand that things that would increase the number of full matches or books you could take wouldnít be allowed. Is there something youíve always wanted, or that you have that you simply couldnít bear to be parted from?

    Itís not so much that I couldnít bear to be parted from it, as it is Iíd love to have it with me. Let me take the long way round on this.

    2015 was one of the best years of my life. I was in my own place for the first time. The WWE Network got released in the UK. I received a long overdue promotion at work. I got the majority of my Batman sleeve tattoo done. My best mate moved into the neighbourhood just around the corner, so we got to hang out more than we ever had before, or have since, so that was awesome. I realised my lifelong dream of becoming a published author when my book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, got released that October. I ended up back on the Main Page here at LOP. Along with all of that, I got to see something Iíd waited my whole life to see - my favourite wrestler win his first ever World Championship in real time. And it was awesome. And amidst all the great things that happened for me that year, Rollins carried that WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the majority, headlining every pay-per-view and burning it down every single week!

    So my memorabilia is something I picked that reminded me of 2015 - one of the best years of my life on a personal level, and the best year, thus far, of my life as a wrestling fan. Itís my absolutely horrific grey and yellow Seth Rollins t-shirt they released in the lead up to Summerslam that year and his Champion vs. Champion Match with John Cena after he broke Cenaís nose on Monday Night Raw; you may remember it, it had the mind-blowingly terrible ďYou Canít See KneeĒ pun plastered over it, ugly as hell, my mate hated it and I loved it!

    Plus, desert island, lots of sun...I anticipate a spare t-shirt would be pretty handy.

    I appreciate a good pun, so I think Iím on your side. When it comes to bad jokes, youíve absolutely got to lean in to a groaner like that! But itís undeniable that wrestling maps on to our own lives in a way that not a lot of other things do, possibly because itís usually year round and almost everybody in it has their ups and downs, in kayfabe or in reality. In a sense, it totally makes sense that youíd pick something that both plays to your own positive memories and to your own favourite. Speaking of which, thatís the third time Rollins has appeared in these columns. Youíve one match left - are you going back to Seth, or do you have a surprise for us?

    Surprise you, me? My surname is ĎPlan for a reason my friend! I am your friendly neighbourhood Predetermined Course of Action, and Iíd hate to let everyone down with an original thought. So yeah, weíre ending the way we finished, with a little more of the Architect!

    Iíve purposefully avoided just picking a bunch of my favourite matches for this, but Iíd be loathe not to include my absolute favourite Rollins match, and a match that probably sits at number two on my all-time favourites list - his WWE World Heavyweight Championship defence against Dean Ambrose in a Ladder Match at Money in the Bank 2015.

    First of all, to keep with that theme of Ďtell me a story,í this is an interesting one. It plays out a little like a coming of age tale, thanks to Triple Hís pre-match promo with Rollins backstage in which he motivates the champion with a ďShow them!Ē refrain - a marvellous moment that played right into my performance art preferences. Then the match itself, void of interference and weaving in a tangible sense of bittersweet motivation for Dean Ambrose (clarified by a pre-match promo you can still find on YouTube that feels genuinely emotional), watches like a proving ground for both men. To me, this was the match that proved they werenít young stars on the rise any more, but absolutely qualified to become what Roman Reigns two years later would call them: the workhorses that run this business. Obviously, Rollins went on to have a real coming of age at WrestleMania 33, but even as a dark perversion of that ancient narrative I think this Ladder Match is transcendent.

    Now if youíd have told me that one day my second favourite match ever would be a Ladder Match, Iíd have probably laughed in response - a testament to how my fandom for the Kingslayer supersedes any other in my time as a fan I guess! I watched that match the first time and, at the risk of sounding pompous, it was the kind of experience you have sometimes as a fan where you are so immersed in the story being told you forget what room youíre in. My imagination was captured that day, and every time Iíve revisited it since Iíve found myself equally as enraptured.

    I was shocked when I logged onto social media afterwards, and remain a little embittered to this day, that it doesnít receive greater plaudits. I probably shouldnít have been though. One reason I love it so much is that itís a genre reset; it does things the properly old school way, telling a remarkable story with such mind-blowing, tightly woven synergy. Everything was on point that night - the characters, the action, even the camerawork seemed particularly excellent. But because there were so few stunts, because the Ďspotsí were few and far between, it was labelled boring and disappointing by what felt like a majority to me.

    Nevertheless, I view pro wrestling as performance art, and a composition of art is the only description of that terribly undervalued match that I find fitting. Iíve neither time nor words enough to delve properly into my love for it here, or to examine its story in any detail. Iíll simply say that if I consider any match ever close to the perfection of Hart vs. Austin at WrestleMania 13, it would be this one.

    The plan definitely comes into view there Ė I can see youíve clearly thought about how you want to wrap this up. And itís a nice way to end, touching on those performance art and Rollins connections to finish. Anyway, Sam, itís been a pleasure getting the chance to talk wrestling with you and to get inside your head for a little while, and I just hope that the readers have enjoyed it as much as I have.

    Join me again next time when I talk with another Castaway. Until then, from both me and 'Plan, thanks for reading.

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

  2. #2
    People either love me, hate me, or they don't care CanadianCrippler's Avatar
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    May 2018
    Tavistock, Ontario
    Right on guys, even the waiting period couldn't disappoint my expectations of part 2. not much to say other than this is some really awesome work and a great collaboration on both of your partsrespectively.

  3. #3
    Member #25 SirSam's Avatar
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    May 2018
    Really great way to kick off a series I anticipate I'm going to really enjoy Prime Time. All the things I said about the last one regarding the tone are equally evident here and I loved the throwback to your own history as posters here.

    As for the picks, you'll find it hard to get any disagreement out of me for any of these matches or selections. I love the Warrior v Savage match and the elbow drop after elbow drop sequence to me was an inspired choice by the performers. The things that I think set it apart from the finisher kickout spam of some matches now is that it isn't played as a false finish every single time he hits one, if memory serves me correctly Savage doesn't even try to pin Warrior until he has hit all five so there is less blatant emotional manipulation and more an awesome story beat of Savage gritting his teeth and relentlessly following through with what he believes he needs to do to get the job done. It is excessive, but it is an excessively theatrical match put on by two excessive characters.

    In regards to the Jericho/Michaels match I think I would say that where that one match is better than their '08 feud, that story is better overall than the leadup to the Mania XIX match. Maybe it is rose coloured glasses because it was when I was first getting into wrestling but I just loved Jericho at that period.

    Looking at this and the other column as a whole, I think the thing I like most is the positive, celebratory tone they had. So often we get wrapped up in what is wrong with wrestling and while those discussions are fun and make for great content, there is nothing as refreshing as a piece that reminds us exactly why we love wrestling. This was exactly that, a reminder of the good things in this industry and a reminder of why it is so fun to be a wrestling fan.

    Great job Plan and Prime Time.


  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    May 2018
    Color me surprised that you didn't take Hart/Austin from WrestleMania!

    I guess that's where this concept differs from simply "your 8 favorite matches". It applies a different layer to how one chooses. Anyways, really good read here, guys. I think it's time for me to rewatch the Fatal Fourway from '97 and the Rollins/Ambrose ladder match.

  5. #5
    The Brain
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    May 2018
    Great finish to the beginning of what should be a really fun series here. A few thoughts on the matches chosen:

    I, too, love Savage/Warrior, and consider it something of a miracle, or at least a triumph of storytelling, that there is a Warrior match I can appreciate on such a high level. I do think if Michaels had hit five consecutive superkicks only for Taker to kick out, you'd have the same critique though. Wrestling logic is that consecutive moves multiply the damage, as opposed to spacing them out as they did in HBK/Taker. But I digress, still an awesome choice and I agree it worked well in the context of the match. The post match is one of the greatest character moments in wrestling, though real life tries to derail the good feeling for me a bit nowadays.

    Love the choice of Punk/Cena. To be honest I love the match itself, I think it's filled with brilliant little things which make it that much better, but what puts it above and beyond is indeed the story and the atmosphere. Nothing has really come close this decade to that kind of raw energy, except maybe some of the stuff with Daniel Bryan.

    HBK/Jericho is a joy in any form. I'd have to think on it hard if I prefer this match to some of their 2008 stuff, but you really can't go wrong. Again, I agree that the post match is a wonderful bow on the story they told.

    Didn't catch that ladder match, but I'm sure I will at some point. Will be interested to compare my thoughts to yours!

    Very enjoyable, thanks to Pete for facilitating!

  6. #6
    Senior Member 205 Clive's Avatar
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    May 2018
    You know, I get the plaudits that the HBK Y2J program in 2008 receives. It's a really gritty and serious blood feud which stood out from the pack. But in my humble opinion, their program leading up to Mania 19 is a much better story.

    HBK, a seasoned veteran at the time, has someone who has been compared to him throughout his own career in Jericho. And Y2J is so consumed with jealousy that he can't even be a gracious loser when all is said and done. Just so happens they had a great match in between that and really helped that Wrestlemania be my favourite PPV.

    Loving the format of this series and am counting down to the next installment.

  7. #7
    Administrator Prime Time's Avatar
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    May 2018
    CC - Thanks sir, you're too kind. Glad you enjoyed.

    Sam - thanks again. I'm not too familiar with the '08 Michaels and Jericho feud (or at least with the matches) so I feel like I should watch them to get an opinion on it. That tone you mentioned is something you can expect to see continue. One thing I'm not going to be doing is dwelling on what I think of anyone's picks, or trying to argue with them about it. These things are about the guests and why they'd take what they picked, not about me and why I might not. That's a conscious choice on my part.

    Skul - yeah, the format does have that little interesting tweak. Like, say your favourite two matches of all-time are two NXT Revival tag matches. But if they're the only eight matches you can ever see again, do you really need both of them? Maybe you'd rather hit all eight of your favourite wrestlers once? It's a slight tweak but one that does make it more intriguing, I think. Thanks for the feedback.

    Mizfan - This is tremendous feedback because it's spot on. Going in depth with 'Plan on the matches and then a thanks to me for facilitating, which is really all I do here. A bit of linking and that's that. I actually have the easiest job in the world in these. But yeah, I don't think anyone is really going to be surprised that 'Plan put together a decent list are they?!

    Clive - Wrestlemania XIX is your favourite PPV? Interesting. I remember feeling very let down all in all.... but no PT, we're not dwelling on the negatives here! Positive! Positive!

    Thanks for the kind feedback. I'm hopefully looking to do these semi-regular though obviously it'll depend on other people's schedules, so while I hope you won't have to wait too long for another installment I can't promise anything just yet!

    Thanks to everyone who read and/or replied to one or both parts!

    "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

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