With WWE SmackDown literally beginning as I type, I must admit that the majority of my day was spent gleefully staring at the LED backlit display of my laptop. My initial internet query early this morning sent me on a somewhat rigorous search for matches featuring Jessicka Havok, TNA’s newest soon-to-debut Knockout. After watching two or three of her matches in the Women’s Extreme Wrestling promotion, I stumbled upon the 2007 King of Europe Cup … and needless to say I was set for the rest of the day.
We wrestling fans often stand high and mighty on our knowledge of “real wrestling,” all the while managing to avoid teetering precariously on the precipice of having to explain what “real wrestling” is. Most diehard fans will readily admit that “real wrestling” tends to reside in organizations that focus more on the in-ring action than it does the promos and backstage vignettes/interviews that explain why said matches are taking place. In that same spirit, “real wrestling” has simple storylines that aren’t necessarily campy don’t cater specifically and strictly to a young audience or demographic. “Real wrestling” highlights the athleticism of the wrestlers, where “styles” aren’t relegated to a specific region or a particular promotion’s standards, and the wrestlers are characters that are controlled by the athletes portraying them and not by a boardroom of writers and executives.
For those fans who revel in “real wrestling,” Japanese wrestling, women-only wrestling promotions, and Mexico’s Lucha Libre wrestling tends to be the most appealing and sought after product. In terms of the world’s two largest promotions, TNA is favored for their “wrestling” far more than WWE. Ironically enough, ROH and their decidedly pure wrestling focused product is rarely mentioned among the internet’s “real wrestling” aficionados.
What strikes me personally as odd is the fact that we tend to relegate pro wrestling and “real wrestling” as being expressed only in the world’s more prominent organizations. We can talk about AAA in Mexico; we can talk about Wrestle-1 and NJPW in Japan. We can even rattle off the names of some of the more notable women’s wrestlers (while haphazardly mentioning the organizations they belong to). We mention how TNA is light years ahead of WWE in terms of the wrestling product, and after that our load is pretty much blown. Our conversation about “real wrestling” is exhausted and we smirk while awaiting the best smarky response that gives us a good enough reason to go off.
We pro wrestling fans must expand our palate beyond what’s easily accessible and reliably pleasing to our “real wrestling” sensibilities if we’re going to be true to this “real wrestling” perspective. With so many promotions operating around the world, it’s honestly asinine to keep “real wrestling” in a nifty and convenient little box that excludes the various styles and athletes globetrotting our planet with nothing more than word of mouth as their main source of promotion.
Having said that I now offer for your viewing pleasure the 2007 King of Europe Cup, four and a half solid hours of “real wrestling” goodness.
I’ll admit to having been in the dark about this series, not coming across it until well into my Jessicka Havok search. The words “Europe Cup” immediately stood out to me, as I assumed (correctly) that the show hailed from the UK and would feature in some form the catch-as-catch-can style that I’m very fond of. I wasn’t let down at all, and was pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar faces wrestling on behalf of several promotions from around the world. The really cool part was seeing these familiar faces presented in a “before-they-were-superstars” fashion wrestling as youngsters not encumbered by the politics and restrictions of wrestling in U.S. promotions for the U.S. market. Wrestlers like Davey Richards and Rhino (current TNA Wrestlers), Chris Hero (former ROH Wrestler and WWE NXT Wrestler Kassius Ohno), Claudio Castagnoli (current WWE Superstar Cesaro), Matt Sydal (former WWE Superstar Evan Bourne), Doug Williams (former TNA Wrestler), Go Shiozaki, Nigel McGuinness (former TNA Wrestler Desmond Wolfe and current ROH authority figure), and PAC (current WWE Superstar and NXT Champion Adrian Neville) are all featured in the King of Europe Cup doing what they do best … wrestling.
The beautiful thing of it all is that each of the aforementioned wrestlers, along with the other athletes appearing in the tournament, were able to mix and blend their different styles of wrestling in lengthy matches that told stories different than that offered by what we know and choose to watch regularly. Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli face each other early in a clinic of technical wrestling featuring two wrestlers who were tag team partners and are very familiar with each other’s styles. PAC wrestles a high-flying style that leads to an injury that has him admitted to a local hospital, only to be brutalized by the begrudgingly vicious lariats of Nigel McGuinness. Go Shiozaki gave Davey Richards one hell of a row with his strong style wrestling, and Doug Williams showcased the brilliance of the catch-as-catch-can style throughout his stay in the tournament.
All of this glowing praise is to say that “real wrestling” isn’t just about being able to watch one ridiculously crazy move after another one or indulging in a product that is subtly different than a product we dislike; “real wrestling” is about being entertained by the story that’s told in the ring through the actions, mannerisms, and facial expression of the athletes that’s supplemented with the commentary from announcers and the stories precluding the matches themselves. There are tons of promotions and archived videos that present the product in this fashion, and we’d be selling ourselves and the business short if we didn’t saturate ourselves with the product that exists outside of our comfort zones.
As such, for your viewing pleasure and what will ultimately be a shameless plug of British wrestling, catch this epic match between British wrestling legend Johnny Saint and David “Fit” Finlay:
And after that, before biting your thumb at Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling promotion as some others have taken a cotton to doing, check out some footage from a few of their international partners: World Wrestling Professionals in South Africa (which, as it turns out, is touted as being the “biggest federation in the Southern Hemisphere), Westside Xtreme Wrestling out of Germany (mentioned also in the King of Europe Cup video from above), and Riot City Wrestling from Australia.
Have fun, and remember: wrestling matters.