Many people who aren’t wrestling fans are incapable of seeing the appeal of watching people pretend to beat each other up. This has always baffled me, since most all television, even so-called “reality” TV, is scripted. Anyone who has ever enjoyed fiction in any genre or medium knows the advantages of scripted entertainment and storytelling. When the action is written in advance, or when the actors are working together, magic happens that would never happen in real-life.
Only in movies would you ever see tripwires taking down helicopters and overturning semi trucks (like in The Dark Knight) or see a gutwrench suplex used in a street fight (like in They Live).
And let’s face it, real-life fights are kind of boring, but what’s even worse is when fictional programming tries to imitate real life by say, showing two extremely-winded guys biting each others’ hands and kneeing each other in the groin as they struggle to their feet (also like in They Live).
The point is, in the same way that The Dark Knight focuses on the over-the-top action of heroes and villains that, while physically possible, would never happen in a million billion years (rather than on, say, Bruce Wayne sitting on the can or Harvey Dent clipping his nails), pro wrestling, by virtue of being staged, gets to showcase the highly unlikely performances and moves of athletes rather than (Randy Orton excepted) ten-minute-long headlocks or (Bryan-Sheamus excepted) eighteen-second fights ending in a knockout blow. There’s a reason why no one is clamoring for a Best of Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis 5-DVD set (which would probably be just long enough to squeeze in a half dozen matches).
That’s not to say that MMA is boring, but its excitement derives from the fact that it’s real. The athletes are there to win, not to put on a good show. If a guy knocks his opponent out in under a minute, you’ll cheer for him, rather than vow never to watch UFC again for booking such a disappointing bout. But just as MMA fans would never put up with a fighter attempting an Irish whip or moonsault, wrestling fans would never put up with round after round of aimless punching and kicking.Just ask TNA.
Frank Trigg, an MMA fighter who had been hanging around TNA with lookalike Kurt Angle for months in 2008, finally decided to step into the six-sided ring at September’s No Surrender pay-per-view in Oshawa, Ontario. The only catch was that it would not be a standard wrestling match, but rather a fight contested under MMA rules. No pins would be counted; the only way to win would be by submission. Anyone vaguely familiar with the Brawl-For-All will know that shoot fights and wrestling shows don’t mix, so of course TNA had something different in mind: a worked MMA fight.
Hey, I only said it was a different idea, not a better one. And who better to do battle with the MMA veteran than The Phenomenal AJ Styles, who is known for his high-flying moves and acrobatic style, none of which would translate into an MMA fight?
The fake real fight would be contested across three five-minute rounds, as apparently TNA’s bookers were big fans of the fake boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr. T as well as the rounds system of the legendary AWF.
The match started off with Trigg demonstrating that mic skills are not a prerequisite for success in the world of MMA by delivering a rambling, half-hearted promo about how Canada and the Toronto-area sports teams suck. If this had been an NXT contest, he would finish somewhere between Eli “Moustache” Cottonwood and Michael “Genesis of” McGillicutty.
Soon, Styles and Trigg (who was playing the heel, if you couldn’t tell) were tentatively punching and kicking each other. Within minutes, fans were revolting in droves against this “match,” with chants of “We want wrestling” and “This is bullshit.” The announcers did a commendable job ignoring these chants, which was not easy considering that the cameramen kept zooming in on fans chanting to fire Vince Russo. TNA fans, who are known all the world over for being able to identify what is and is not wrestling, were begging for the fight to end, which it eventually did…
…but not before Trigg delivered some Jenna Morasca-caliber slaps (a full nine months before Victory Road 2009!)…
…plus one inexplicable slap to AJ’s butt…
…AJ Styles delivered the only thing resembling wrestling, only to be interrupted by the end of the round…
…and the live feed went out for several seconds and was replaced by porn (which, considering that most people seeing this PPV were simply watching it online anyway, probably led viewers to chalk up the X-rated mishap to an absent-minded stream host rather than TNA’s production crew).
The six-minute spar ended early in the second round when AJ accidentally kneed Trigg in the groin (or the quad). Fans in attendance had a mixed reaction; many were angry with the cheap finish, while the rest were angry about having to have watched the “match” in the first place. AJ then attacked Trigg with a kendo stick in an attempt to salvage the segment.
Now, you might remember that Trigg’s rules clearly stated that victory could only be achieved by submission, and TNA made good on that promise, declaring the match not a victory for Trigg by disqualification, but rather a no-contest in which nobody won.
And I can’t think of a more fitting ending. After all, Frank Trigg was never seen again in TNA, AJ would remain without the TNA title for another year, and wrestling fans were cheated out of ticket money, pay-per-view charges, or minutes of laptop battery life.
The 1-and-1/5-round exhibition was not a contest, and nobody won.