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Brock Hates Wrestling: Of Leaders and Followers

Credit: Joseph Currier

A number of months ago, my very good and very talented friend Quentin wrote about his appreciation of Zack Sabre Jr. That article was meant to be the first of a two-part series on ZSJ, with Quentin writing about why he liked him and with me, later, writing about why I didn’t. Due to some serious problems that popped up in my life during that time, my contribution to that series never materialized, though in part it has become assimilated into this article, which is about Zack Sabre Jr., Timothy Thatcher, and their match together at EVOLVE 79. I hope you like it.


Part I: The Gunslinger

Well, I’m certain that what motivates me is more rewarding than any piece of paper could be.
-Refused – “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine”

Much in the same way that I discovered punk music in my early teens, I first stumbled across the name “Timothy Thatcher” on the deeper recesses of the internet. Late in December 2011, as the various wrestling forums I frequented were discussing the best matches of the year, many people were in agreement that the Sami Callihan vs Fit Finlay match from EVOLVE 9 was the fabled MOTY. Occasionally, a voice from the aether would assert that it wasn’t even the best Finlay match of 2011, that the title instead belonged to a match against a newcomer no one had ever heard about. Though little in the way of evidence was presented, this curious claim stuck with me, planting the seed of that name in my mind: Timothy Thatcher.

There it lay dormant for years as I continued on through college, falling in and out of wrestling as academia and social life and homelessness became more pressing matters. When I’d wander back into the world of professional wrestling every so often, that name would occasionally cross my path: Timothy Thatcher. Little was known about the man this name belonged to. Some said he was British, while others claimed he was simply Californian. There were rumors that he was a recluse, perhaps a lumberjack of some kind. Stories of his training circulated, ranging from origins as a deathmatch wrestler to time spent under the tutelage of Yuki Ishikawa. Nothing seemed definite or even all that believable, as if he was simply a myth, totally separate from the interconnected modern wrestling world. All I knew for sure was his name: Timothy Thatcher.

I was first able to match that name to a face early in 2014, as I slowly returned to watching wrestling full-time after college. Even at a glance, it was easy to see that this was a man unlike any other. Tall, well-built, rugged, self-assured, explosive, Thatcher had many qualities commonly found in a pro wrestler, but behind it all there was something different. It was something in his calculated steps around the ring, as if the simple act of locomotion was a chess game to him. It was something in the way he nurtured an injured limb, like a wounded animal does. It was something in his desperation as a match wore on, as he could feel victory slipping through his fingers. It was something in his eyes. He felt so different from everyone else on the indies, even other technical wrestlers. He felt like a throwback to a bygone era, like a fighter plucked from UWFi or Pancrase, but at the same time he felt like a man all his own. He wasn’t Timothy Thatcher: Billy Robinson ripoff. He was simply: Timothy Thatcher.

Credit: Christine Coons and Coons Photography

 

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Gresham for many years now, dating back to his first forays into CZW, and in many ways he embodies the same ideas that Thatcher does. He is a student of the game, having trained all over the world with the likes of Ikuto Hidaka, Big Daddy Walter, Mike Quackenbush, and Mr. Hughes. His work is not quite so flashy and tongue-in-cheek as that of his contemporaries; he is a thinking man and a thinking man’s wrestler. His every movement is deliberate, his every action precise. He is effective both as an athlete and as a performer. For a few years now, I’ve considered him one of the absolute best wrestlers in the world.

It’s no surprise, then, that when Jonathan Gresham and Timothy Thatcher faced off at Beyond Wrestling in August 2014, they had a match I loved. What’s more, they had a match that showed me just how great Thatcher was and, more importantly, just how great he’d become. For starters, it’s amazing how he’s able to feel sympathetic in this match against a man half his size. He’s also able to match Gresham, who I think is far and away the best technical wrestler in the world, hold for hold without being led along by the hand, actually surpassing Gresham at certain points. In this match, Thatcher’s movements and actions matter. He is effective, not just in the sense of efficiency but also in the sense of efficacy; he is effective at affecting. With these movements and actions he creates drama, drawing emotion from a listless Providence crowd that opens the match chanting for a smoke break.

Thatcher comes across as emotional himself, though without the overblown, hammy theatrics that are omnipresent in wrestling these days. His emotions seem so much more grounded, rooted in reality. They are the sort of emotions we would all have in a match. If your opponent twists your knee expertly, you cry out in pain. If your opponent makes a simple mistake that you capitalize on, you shake your head in bemusement. If your opponent taunts you with a strike or a coy bit of misdirection, you lash out in anger. Thatcher also shies away from the sort of flippant, whimsical crowd interaction his contemporaries delight in. Even when he toys with a woman in the audience here or gingerly pats the head of the referee, he does so with a sort of playful seriousness. In the ring, he is no clown. He is a professional.

What I love most about Thatcher, I think, is his commitment to realism. I don’t always desire true-to-life representations of “real world” fighting in my professional wrestling. Sometimes I indulge in the bizarre, in the magical, in the spectacle. But sometimes, I crave the sort of thrill that comes from knowing just how much it hurts to have your wrist twisted the wrong way, the sort of thrill that comes from knowing how your vision blurs when your skull cracks against the hard wood and steel of a wrestling ring. Sometimes reality is more enthralling than fiction could ever be. In this match, when Gresham twists his limbs, Thatcher shifts his body in an attempt to alleviate the pain. When he covers Gresham, he leans into his pin attempts with all his weight, as if he was actually an athlete trying to win a contest. When Gresham attempts an Irish whip, Thatcher easily reverses the smaller man’s momentum due to his significant size advantage. When he’s got Gresham trapped in the Fujiwara armbar, Thatcher isn’t able to get the proper amount of leverage on the hold because he can’t fully bridge with his legs after Gresham targeted his knee earlier in the match. When Gresham finally hoists the big man up for a German suplex, it’s enough to put Thatcher away because a man of his size is unaccustomed to being dropped on his neck at such a high angle.

These small moments are not entirely accurate to how real world fighting looks and operates, but I find them to be close enough in a sport that retains fantasy even at its most basic level. They’re small details, often inconsequential in isolation, but together they form a greater narrative populated by smaller stories that play out in service of the story as a whole. In a novel or a film or a play, the major plot points are not the only events that take place. So too in wrestling, the memorable high spots are not the only important moments.

Credit: Rob Brazier and Rob Brazier Photography

 

Where does this commitment to realism come from? When so many other people are making good money in wrestling clowning around with little regard to storytelling, why commit to what many view as an antiquated style? The answers to these questions, thankfully, come directly from the man himself. Last August, Thatcher wrote a short piece for Sports Illustrated as part of the site’s Wrestling Week In Review column. In it, he shared his unconventional story of getting into professional wrestling, growing from a reporter covering a story to a referee in training to a wrestler grappling on mats in a tiny garage. Though he was practically tricked into becoming a wrestler, Thatcher’s dedication to and appreciation of wrestling itself ensured that he put all his effort into it, as he says, “out of respect to those who had come before me in the business.” He cites “men who were hard men that wrestled like they meant it” as his influences, naming the likes of Marty Jones and Daisuke Ikeda as well as trainers such as Oliver John, Josh Barnett, and the aforementioned Yuki Ishikawa. He marvels at their ability to make you feel every blow, every hold, every effort they make in pursuit of victory. He is awed by their ability to present pro wrestling in its most simple, base form without outside influence. Thatcher describes them succinctly: “these men were not playing wrestler, they were pro wrestlers.”

From these influences, from these inspirations, comes Timothy Thatcher. The man as we know him is also born from an appreciation of punk music. The way Thatcher sees it, “if everyone liked [punk music], they were not doing their job. It was supposed to make people think differently about music.” He goes on to speak about pro wrestling’s transformation into sports entertainment and how his goal is to make people think differently about wrestling itself, to make people question the institutions and established conceptions of modern wrestling. He admits that he doesn’t mind if people hate him or if they label him a certain way. He has no interest in fame or money. All that Thatcher is concerned with is his “message of struggle”, of “pride and respect”.

Though the real world is rarely so cut and dry, being a complicated web of sliding morality and difficult decisions, I can’t help but be inspired by this sort of idealism. When it’s so easy to give in to the status quo, Thatcher’s dedication to a dead or dying style, to what he perceives to be the truth, is a display of courage and integrity rarely seen in a business such as this. Timothy Thatcher is the true embodiment of an ideal, a man sticking steadfast to his principles, a gunslinger standing tall under the midday sun, hand at hip, ready to draw.


Part II: The Pretender

I saw you on TV
doing a bad imitation of Van Morrison.
And I saw you on TV
doing a bad imitation of a second rate songwriter from the eighties named Morrissey.
I never liked Morrissey,
and I don’t like you.
-The Mountain Goats – “Anti-Music Song”

As I mentioned previously, this article was initially born out of a two-part series in which Quentin Moody and I offered two perspectives on one of the most popular indie wrestlers in the world today, Zack Sabre Jr. If it wasn’t obvious, I was to offer the dissenting opinion in that case, though I should make it clear that I do not strictly hate ZSJ. More than anything, he annoys me with a variety of persistent shortcomings that are present in the majority of his matches. For the purposes of this article, over on my personal blog I reviewed some 50 of his matches from 2016, representing a bit under half of his total matches during the year. Some are bad (or what I think is bad, at any rate), some are fantastic, and most are somewhere in between. So too with his performances in those matches. It’s not required reading for this article by any means, but many of the complaints I lodge here are reoccurring issues I find throughout his matches, and in those reviews I talk about more specific instances of them.

What, then, are my problems with ZSJ? For the sake of ease, I’ll group them into three categories, those being mechanical problems, theatrical problems, and ideological problems. The mechanical problems, I think, are the most obvious. I find his bumping to be comically bad most of the time, whether he’s completely unable to take powerbombs or German suplexes well, landing on his neck on simple front bumps, or flopping around like a wet noodle for an Olympic athlete’s offense. He struggles to take the most basic bumps in wrestling cleanly, which is literally the first thing you’re taught in training. What’s more, his selling is often quite bad, with no subtlety or sense of realism. Usually it ranges from weak grimaces to reclining in the ring, which I find to be lackluster and lazy, but the worst of it is his habit of sitting up and looking at the crowd after taking a big move. While it’s more of a general problem with modern indie wrestling and not solely a complete with ZSJ, he also has a frustrating tendency to not sell or very poorly sell moves off the top rope. Occasionally, his selling is quite brilliant, and I can’t deny that, but far too often it leaves me rolling my eyes, and when your bumping and selling, two of the most fundamental pieces of professional wrestling, are so often poorly executed, it’s hard for me to enjoy your matches.

Credit: Jon Washer

 

What I’d like to call ZSJ’s theatrical problems are a little harder to define, partially due to being a much broader series of issues. Usually, the man has a fairly cocky, self-assured, too-cool-for-school demeanor, popping his collar on the way to the ring, often jaw jacking with fans during matches. While I find them fairly uninteresting most of the time, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that sort of character in theory. Whoever, I think that sort of character is not challenged enough in ZSJ’s matches. Outside of certain bouts (most notably with Chris Hero though also with guys like Ethan Page and Katsuyori Shibata), ZSJ is able to smugly coast through his matches more often than not, deftly swapping between nonsensical holds until his opponent submits more out of confusion than pain. That, I find issue with. Cool cats who don’t have to struggle don’t intrigue me. They aren’t compelling on their own. Watching an aloof twig of a man breeze through matches through sheer force of confidence does not make for good art.

More so than just being how ZSJ carries himself in the ring, this extends to what he does in the ring. Rarely do I feel like he’s actually trying to win his matches. On top of the aforementioned chatting with the crowd, I find that he doesn’t go for pinfalls, he often doesn’t stay on top of his opponents, he constantly lets his opponents recover and get back to their feet (often as a means for a strike exchange, a situation in which he’s mixed at best), and he often simply lays around the ring after spots. You could explain away most of those arguments (doesn’t go for pinfalls because he’s primarily a submission-based wrestler, lets his opponents recover as a show of sportsmanship and respect that he learned in both Britain and Japan, lays around to sell exhaustion, etc.), but in the end, he’s rarely putting in the sort of effort that would make me believe that he’s truly an athlete trying to win a match, and it’s a small factor that weighs heavily on me.

The thing is, he’s not always this cool customer. Sometimes, such as in his heel turn in RevPro and wXw late in 2016, ZSJ snaps and makes rash decisions, and in these moments he shows his true face. He’s actually a hothead underneath it all, a talented but insecure man who flies off the handle when he’s challenged. I find his match with Kyle O’Reilly at PWG’s THIRTEEN to be one of the better examples of this. In this match, O’Reilly’s injured shoulder is heavily taped up and he’s forced to go after ZSJ’s knee in order to have any chance of winning. This frustrates ZSJ, who responds by twisting O’Reilly’s neck with his legs, targeting the nerve and muscle connections between the Canuck’s neck and shoulder, hurting his own knee in the process. Clearly, for a man with as much experience as ZSJ, that move was a bad idea from the start, as it would hurt himself as much as it hurt O’Reilly, and he wasn’t forced to do it out of desperation, having the match solidly in control. While I was initially baffled by this sort of development, I’ve come around on this character work now that it’s begun to appear more often. It speaks to this deeper truth about ZSJ, being called this technical wizard when he’s actually a frustrated young man who is routinely bested by the likes of Timothy Thatcher, Jonathan Gresham, Chris Hero, Drew Gulak, and Jeff Cobb, men with far more technical acumen. Though it’s not as explosive as it is in the ring, ZSJ’s EVOLVE mini-docs also speak volumes to who he is as a character.

While I can appreciate this layered character work, it also frustrates me, partially due to how rarely it appears, but mostly due to how it seemingly flies over the heads of most wrestling fans. I don’t see ZSJ heralded as this great character in wrestling; people call him a technical wizard or vote him en masse as the best technical wrestler in the world. He’s not actually a smart wrestler (at least in the ring; I can’t and won’t speak to his intelligence as a human being) or a particularly great technical wrestler past a mechanical level. He just simply does moves that have correlated with smart wrestlers and great technical wrestlers in the past, and that creates a Pavlovian response in the masses that leads them to believe that he’s the second coming of Rollerball Rocco.

More often than not, I find ZSJ to be the dullard’s idea of a thinking man’s wrestler, the lowest common denominator of technical wrestling. And the thing is, he’s so much better than that. He obviously has a tremendous amount of skill, not to mention loads of charisma, creativity, and intensity. Time and again, he has some of my favorite matches of the year, but he also has my absolute least favorite matches too. All of his matches should be great, or at the very least good on some level. He should be someone who I consider to be the best wrestler in the world. But he simply isn’t half the time, and I can’t help but think it’s due to factors such as his selling, his bumping, and his spotty character work. In an era in which there is a lifetime’s worth of wrestling available at the click of a button, ZSJ’s inconsistency is far and away his greatest weakness.

Credit: Harry Aaron

 

Finally, we arrive at what I’ve described as ZSJ’s ideological problems. Even more so than my theatrical issues with the man, these are fairly vague and tenuous though still important in my mind. Firstly there is the issue of ZSJ’s origins and influences. He’s sort of a unique performer in that his extensive experience in the British and Japanese wrestling scenes have created something of a blend of both styles. Each of them being wildly different styles even in terms of technical wrestling, with British grappling often being more comedic and exaggerated in the spirit of light-hearted competition and Japanese shoot wrestling being far more aggressive and strike-heavy, the blend is sometimes an awkward one, especially when combined with the entirely-too-self-aware amalgamation that is modern American indie wrestling. When the comedic and the deadly serious are combined with a healthy helping of tongue-in-cheek pandering, I find the end result to be a poor representation of the original influences, and no amount of clever namedropping in your list of finishers will fix that.

Being that his influences are so awkwardly combined, one may argue that ZSJ lacks a clear creative voice. He lacks Thatcher’s “message of struggle”, Hero’s art of knocking people out, Gulak’s philosophy of competition. ZSJ himself would identify his style as British wrestling, which he describes as wanting “to bend things that shouldn’t bend in the wrong way.” While there is clearly more to a style than that, I feel that this statement encapsulates my feelings regarding ZSJ’s work as a whole. Instead of creating drama through escalation, through emotion, his goal is simply to bend limbs in funny ways, to slap on a variety of wacky holds and peculiar submissions instead of, you know, wrestling. Moves for the sake of moves instead of moves for the sake of a moment.

Of course, there’s nothing really wrong with that. Some people do just want to see moves for the sake of moves, and even if I disagree with the artistic merit of that opinion, those people still have a place in pro wrestling. After all, as ZSJ himself states, “pro wrestling is for everyone.” It’s certainly a message I believe in and it’s one I believe ZSJ believes. But therein lies the rub. If Zack Sabre Jr. believes that wrestling is for everyone, why, in the last year, did he compete for a company whose founders and operators are so close to the Trump administration?

In our discussions, Quentin has pointed out that I’d probably be friends with ZSJ if we had the chance to get close. I can’t say I disagree with him. We both relish in a very dry sense of humor. Politically, we seem to match up closely.  He’s a vegan and I’m a fat straight edge kid trying to be better, so I’m sure we’d find common ground there. We seem to like at least some of the same music. Plus, he’s buds with one of my favorite wrestlers ever. Although we may differ on the culinary merit of corn bread, we have a number of arbitrary things in common, which is all you need for a friendship, right? But of course, there’s the WWE thing. I understand that sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for your career. Believe me, I do. Less than four years ago, I was eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in gas station bathrooms. I understand why someone would take good money over a moralistic or artistic high ground. I understand why someone would take the publicity or use the opportunity to get a better deal somewhere else. But increasingly, I find it hard to look at those people the same way afterward when so much of what is wrong with the world right now is tied to people who are pals with Vince McMahon.


Part III: Surely This Will Be the Last


La Boom was buzzing on that chilly February day. EVOLVE crowds are usually characterized by their quietness and less-than-impressive size, but there was something in the air. You can feel it as ZSJ makes his entrance, bouncing on his feet, soaking in the adoration of the cheering mass before him. It’s all a little too perfect. ZSJ, the baby-faced hero, so suave, so composed, so beloved. Thatcher, the stone-faced villain draped in black, conniving and sweet-talking manager at his side. Even as the crowd chants “next world champ”, it all seems a little too perfect, as if the reality of the situation couldn’t be as obvious as this. There’s a scarf around Thatcher’s neck, reading: die matte ist heilig. The mat is holy. Sacred, hallowed, inviolable, venerable. For both these men, the ring is their place of worship.

In hindsight, it all seems so obvious. After Riddle failed three times to defeat Thatcher, and after ZSJ finally bested Hero in an EVOLVE ring, it was only a matter of time. Still, in the days and weeks leading up to EVOLVE 79, nothing seemed certain. While all the momentum in the world was behind ZSJ, Gabe made his whole career on keeping the belt on stale champions for far too long, and as much as I love Thatcher, he certainly fit the bill.

Thatcher’s scowl is almost cartoonish, a daring bit of humanity from a performer usually so reserved. His descent into villainy over the months leading up to this match was a sight to behold. Defending his title against all comers, relinquishing it in essence to prove his own worth, I could question few of his actions or point fingers. But all the same, Thatcher was a changed man. Gone was the inexplicable force of nature that defeated Drew Galloway nearly 600 days before, replaced here by a much angrier, much more malicious being.

The bell rings. Thatcher peers at the crowd that boos him, exploding toward his opponent after wiping his nose in disgust. ZSJ sees it coming, meeting him with a series of uppercuts. They trade blows, swinging wildly, neither of them quite in their comfort zone on the balls of their feet. ZSJ attempts a guillotine but Thatcher frees himself in the mount, driving a fist into his opponent’s ribs. The crowd boos him and his face distorts into a wicked sort of grin. He takes pleasure in their hatred. He revels in it.

It’s hard to tell why exactly people turned on Thatcher, namely because I never did myself. My favorites tend to fall prey to Gabe’s mega-long title reigns. First there was Joe, then Nigel, and then Thatcher after him. I have sympathy for them when cheers turn to boos and then to groans. But more than that, people truly hated Thatcher. I think part of it was his part-time commitment to wrestling, something that clashes with the modern fan’s desire for more more more more. Injury spells and European excursions did little to help that sentiment. Likewise, the meteoric rise of Matt Riddle did a lot to sway minds. People didn’t want boring old Tim Thatcher as champion, they wanted a meme, they wanted the personification of snapbacks and sativa. Moreover, it’s hard to deny that Thatcher’s own work had diminished in 2016, though I would blame that more on booking than anything. Whatever the reason, the very same people who celebrated this fresh face on the scene mere months before began shouting for him to be taken from the mountaintop and dashed against the rocks.

Credit: Scott Finkelstein and Get Lost Photography

 

Neither man can find the advantage early in the match. Thatcher twists at his opponent’s ankle and knee, but quickly ZSJ does the same. Frustrated, they begin slapping each other across the face. ZSJ is able to briefly take control, first targeting the champ’s knee, then his neck, then his arm. Thatcher frees himself with a back suplex, folding his opponent in half. He clutches at his jaw, thumb digging into his own cheek as he glares into the rows of fans chanting for his head.

Desperate isn’t quite the right word for ZSJ here, though it’s close. His cool confidence has vanished, replaced by a mad scramble at any footing he can manage. He grabs at the champ’s ankle, frantically grasping for his fingers a few minutes later, clawing for something, anything. Despite his efforts, he remains under Thatcher’s massive boots. The big man toys with the audience as much as with his opponent, cupping a hand behind his ear as they boo him, posing in the middle of the ring as if to welcome their disdain. Shutting down a brief comeback attempt, absorbing a kick to his forearm in the process, Thatcher regains control of the match with a snug headlock. He stares directly into the camera’s aperture as he tightens his grip, brow heavy, eyes dark, hints of a smirk forming across his lips, almost daring the viewer to hope.

The turn against Thatcher is only one of myriad ways in which the general wrestling fanbase and I differ, and yet, I can’t help but think that this one difference is special. Perhaps it speaks to the disconnect between who I want Zack Sabre Jr. to be and who I fear that he is. Perhaps it speaks to my disconnect from a fanbase more concerned with buying shirts about putting fascists in armbars than protesting and organizing against fascists, a fanbase more concerned with talking about “graps daughters” on Twitter than making wrestling more inclusive and safe for the people around us, a fanbase more concerned with paying their $9.99 a month than giving their money to a much worthier cause.

Hope comes in the form of a flurry of strikes from ZSJ, sending Thatcher down with a mighty kick across the chest. An octopus stretch and armbar give further promise, as does a German suplex, but the challenger isn’t able to capitalize immediately, allowing Thatcher to reverses his fortune and apply the Fujiwara armbar for a few agonizing moments. A lone voice from the crowd shouts: Thatcher’s garbage. The man replies with an outburst, “I’m f—ing winning!” The lone voice is joined by dozens more in a chorus of boos. After his momentary tantrum, Thatcher pays them no mind. He is winning, after all. He glances at ZSJ as a smile creeps across his face, exposing twisted and chipped teeth. His mirth nearly costs him the title; ZSJ rolls him up with a pair of pin attempts that come dangerously close to three.

A wild kick to the chin and another across the chest send the champ reeling. ZSJ dashes across the ring, launching himself into a triangle armbar as La Boom chants for Thatcher to tap. Behind them, on the stage, a child dances for joy. In response, Thatcher scrambles for the moves that have won him these matches before: Fujiwara armbar, kneebar, lateral press. ZSJ finds it in himself to escape all three, landing on his feet when Thatcher attempts the Saka Otoshi. The crowd rises, thunderous, as he applies the octopus stretch. Thatcher fights it, using his size to his advantage, and ZSJ responds with a series of elbows to the side of the head, kicking at his temple when Thatcher pries apart his legs. Once more Zack Sabre Jr. applies the hold, La Boom rallying behind him as he twists back one arm and then the other. Lenny Leonard incorrectly attempts to name the move. “Hurrah!” he begins, as Thatcher collapses under the weight of his opponent. “Another year, surely this will be the last…”

Thatcher taps. La Boom explodes. ZSJ spills from the ring and into the front row of fans as Lenny Leonard drones on about “the inexorable march of progress”. Like the promise that pro wrestling is for everyone, I want to believe in those words. I want to believe that things will get better if we work together, if we come together. But more and more, those words ring hollow against my ears.

Credit: Danny Baxter and The Danny Baxter Photography

 

Last week, I wrote about the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret Hart match from WrestleMania 13 and how it relates to my feelings on unity and morality in wrestling. I wasn’t totally pleased with the piece before I put it out, as I’m never fully happy with the work I do, but being on a deadline with the 20th anniversary, I put it out anyway, hoping that my clumsy appeal for peacemaking would inspire even the faintest glimmer of understanding. By and large, it did just that. Far and away, it was my most read and most shared article on this site yet. I received more positive feedback than I ever would have imagined. I also received a great deal of negative feedback, valid criticisms from friends and people in this community that I look up to. How could I celebrate Austin’s struggle against the establishment when he himself was a product of that very same establishment? How could I endorse coming together with people who by and large have no desire to make wrestling a better place for anyone but themselves?

I’m not here to complain about people not liking my articles, nor am I here to apologize for faulty arguments I have made in the past. I’m here to talk about Timothy Thatcher and Zack Sabre Jr., and in a way, I’m here to talk about myself. After all, many of my complaints about ZSJ are simply my projections onto him. So much of wrestling writing, after all, is projection of some kind. In turn, wrestling operates as a means of storytelling, in which it is a reflection of our feelings and struggles as viewers and as human beings. Though wrestlers are usually exaggerated characters, performers playing to the cheap seats, the most obvious kinds of actors, they are often, still, based on reality. They are based on people like me, people like you.

When I see Thatcher, I see a man of resolve, of conviction, a man of principle. When I see ZSJ, I see a flawed and imperfect man, a man who wants to uphold an ideal but gives in to his doubts, a man who wants to believe in unity but finds himself so disconnected from those around him. When I see Timothy Thatcher, I see a reflection of who I want to be. When I see Zack Sabre Jr., I see a reflection of who I really am.

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