Monday, March 14, 2011

No Holds Barred

By Chad Smart

Over the past month I’ve been re-watching all the Wrestlemanias in preparation of a series of blogs that will begin on March 23. One of the many noticeable evolutions during the course of the shows is the rise of the No Holds Barred matches. After watching numerous matches, I’ve come to the opinion the No Holds Barred stipulation is simply a way to fool fans into thinking a match is better than it really is, and conditions them to not appreciate wrestling psychology.

The No Holds Barred Match(from here on simply, NHBM) rose to prominence during the Attitude Era when Steve Austin was at the top of the card after he had suffered a severe neck injury at SummerSlam 1997. I would think a NHBM would put a wrestler at more of a risk for serious injury than a regular match but if you look at the list of wrestler injuries over the last decade most injuries seem to happen performing regular moves. It’s odd how getting hit with everything except the kitchen sink does little damage, but wrestlers can tear quads simply by walking across the ring.

Actually, while a NHBM allows for weapon usage the main component of the match is a lot of punching around the arena. By having the leeway to battle outside the ring the combatants can construct a match void of any real strategy. Instead of using typical psychology to target a body part to wear their opponent down or pull out a strategic counter move, all a wrestler has to do is lay a bigger beating then the one his opponent is laying on him.

Shawn Michals vs. Mr. McMahon NHB Wrestlemania 22
I’m not saying NHBM don’t have a place in wrestling. There are several NHBM that are quite entertaining. My complaint is the NHBM has become a creative crutch to supplement a match that otherwise may not be very good. The side effect of NHBM is fans become accustomed to high spots and senseless brutality and stop responding to basic wrestling.

Thankfully over the past year or two, the use of NHBM has started to be more an exception instead of the rule. WWE has also seen an influx of skilled wrestlers whom are capable of telling a story inside the ring. There’s a big difference between a Randy Orton chinlockaplooza match and a Daniel Bryan technical wrestling lesson. I for one am glad to see the return to pure wrestling.

Maybe I’m just too old school. Or maybe I was spoiled growing up on Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat matches, but the lack of storytelling in the ring has been one of the greatest flaws in wrestling over the last ten years. Granted, it’s hard to tell a story when a typical match on television normally lasts less than five minutes.

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