Editorials

Pro Wrestling Punditry with Charles Lynch

I’ve considered myself lucky to call Charles Lynch a friend for some time now. My family has gotten to know his family, and in this crazy thing we call life my family and I have managed to find another family we actually enjoy spending time with. More people might be familiar with Charles under the moniker of Loss, his namesake on the Pro Wrestling Only message boards that he co-owns. Charles can also be heard making random appearances on the PWO-PTBN Podcast Network. Though he sporadically updates it, Charles has a website where he reviews, or at least offers thoughts, on random wrestling match called The Royal Ramble. On that there social media placed called Twitter Charles can be found doing his thing as @prowresonly.

*As a general reminder, what follows are Charles’ answers to a standardized set of ten questions. This is meant to help gauge the variety of opinion within the larger wrestling community. It’s also done in this manner to avoid any editorializing on my part (outside of minor grammar corrections), and eliminate any opportunities for bias.*

1) How old are you?

“36.”

2) When did you first start watching wrestling?

“The first wrestling memory I have is seeing highlights of Starrcade ’83 on television, so if I had to guess, December of 1983, right before wrestling as we know it now really took off. I was pretty young at the time, and it’s kind of a blur. I remember being sort of into it because I loved Cyndi Lauper and she was in the WWF. I got in trouble when my friend Tim and I drew on Roddy Piper’s nipples on the cover of his WWF Magazine. I don’t really count those early watching experiences because they didn’t do much to shape me as a wrestling fan, nor did they make much of an impression on me, although I always made sure I stopped what I was doing when they would show Gene Okerlund kicking off the WWF’s  (World Wrestling Federation) Rock N Roll Hootchie Coo” video on Saturday mornings.

1988, now that’s when I started getting molded. Barry Windham turned on Lex Luger and joined the Four Horsemen, and that was the single angle that made me a true devotee. My stepdad was a big fan and was watching NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) Main Event that afternoon on TBS, and I wasn’t really a huge fan to that point, but that angle grabbed me. When I think back about why that was, I think it is because of how it was sold. Windham turned, but it wasn’t on to the next issue right away. The rest of the episode had everyone responding to the turn, people like Kevin Sullivan and Jim Cornette who had their own stuff going on that weren’t involved in this story directly at all. That’s why the typical WWF approach of all of these separate, disconnected angles is something that never resonated with me. This got over with me as a viewer at home because EVERYONE sold it and it seemed like a huge deal. Rather than watching the segment that focused on this issue, then that issue, I was watching a true morality play — the line was in the sand and everyone in the company identified with either one philosophy or the other. It wasn’t just that Barry Windham had joined the Four Horsemen. In my mind, he gave the bad guys a victory in the war for our souls.

I remember not understanding so many things, like how Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage could be world champions at the same time. I just assumed one of them had to be lying. The rules of wrestling matches were not immediately explained, and it took some time for me to figure out all of that. I started reading the Apter magazines throughout 1988 and they really sold me on the NWA vision of wrestling since they were so anti-WWF at that point. Of course I later found out it was politically motivated criticism since they had no access, but to me, it was a philosophical argument and I bought it. You might say it’s the greatest work ever perpetrated on this wrestling fan. So I started really seeing the WWF as a clown show, probably more so than I would have if left to my own devices. And I learned that clown shows aren’t respectable, and you’re not a real wrestling fan if you like clown shows. I wanted to be a real wrestling fan.

I can’t say enough for how much the magazines shaped my fandom. I remember seeing pictures of feds I had no way of watching and not understanding that the NWA and WWF were national groups, so I used to think some kid somewhere else probably thought the same thing when they saw a picture of Sting. I really liked Ric Flair because of the suits and sunglasses. I really liked Sting and Lex Luger. So I’d call 1988 the year I really started getting into it where it became a part of me.

I have pretty much stuck with wrestling on an obsessive level ever since, other than a few years in my early teens where I watched more casually for a little while. That coincided with the “dark period” for wrestling, where it was plagued by scandals and popularity was at an all-time low. I always felt that because of when I was born, as I grew up, so did the McMahon-fueled vision of wrestling. When I was a kid, he marketed to kids. When I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was, the WWF was going through its own identity crisis. When I became old enough to buy cigarettes and porn, the Attitude Era began. And when I had to get a grown-up job and be responsible for myself, we entered the stale, safe period we’ve been in for close to 15 years now. As WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) goes, so do I, so I really hope some exciting times are coming in wrestling. It might mean life for me is about to get interesting too.”

3) When do you recall first thinking critically about wrestling?

“The summer of 1997, when I went on the Internet for the first time. A guy named John McAdam had an incredible website listing the stuff in his collection, most of which fascinated me because it never occurred to me that someone would have kept videotapes of the good stuff to air on television through the years. Next to some of the matches, he’d have what appeared to be some secret code like “4 1/2***” and I had no idea what that meant. Eventually, I was able to use context clues to figure out that these were the matches he thought were the best. I’d look at his ratings for stuff like (Shawn) Michaels-(Razor) Ramon in the WrestleMania X ladder match compared to something like an NWO match on Monday Nitro and thought it was interesting that he saw them differently, because as a fan I certainly didn’t. Prior to that, I think because I had fun thinking about it this way, I enjoyed keeping strong personal kayfabe in how I thought about wrestling. I didn’t think about good or bad, I thought about winning or losing. If Hulk Hogan was going to defend the title against Lex Luger at Road Wild, I started thinking about strategies Luger could use to win the match. I may or may not have thought at one point in my life it would be a great business venture to prepare scouting reports for pro wrestlers who were on the go all the time, but needed the tips. I tried to talk about strategy in the first wrestling chatroom I ever went into, where the guy called me a mark and said Bollea would never job for Pfohl. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.

Anyway, back to the McAdam list. He had a tape that included a Flair/(Michael) Hayes vs (Ricky) Steamboat/Luger match. That was the main event of the first NWA house show I ever saw live, so it had a special place in my heart, and not understanding how TV/house show tapings worked, I picked up the tape thinking that it might be the match I saw live. That tape was a catch-all that also had three of the most revered matches of the 80s on it: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Akira Maeda, Lioness Asuka vs Jaguar Yokota and the famous Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu vs Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu tag from All Japan (All Japan Pro Wrestling). He gave them all “5 ***” on his list so I had the added bonus of seeing what the fuss was about. I loved all three matches instantly and later picked up the 1995 Super J Cup because there was a Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho match, and because it was the late 90s and I was on the Internet, of course those were my two favorite wrestlers.

When I started following Internet talk, I got really into discussing the booking and critiquing that, but not so much the wrestling. I think Scott Keith was the first reviewer I found outside of John McAdam. He had a Delphi forum connected to Rantsylvania.com where his readers discussed wrestling, where I posted under the name Uranage. I remember being mad that Rikishi was revealed as the guy who ran over Steve Austin instead of someone who I wanted to see get a push like Chris Jericho, so I posted on the Delphi forum that I would never watch the WWF again. We see how that worked out.

To this day, I’d argue that most criticism of wrestling is more about the booking than the ring work. It’s easy to find commentary on booking decisions after an average Monday Night RAW, but commentary on the quality of the long-term selling or offense or psychology in one of the key matches is a little more rare. I don’t know that most fans care about that stuff, at least not on a conscious level, and I think that’s okay. I also think booking and wrestling go hand-in-hand, so I don’t have a problem with that.

However, I think we all critically think about wrestling. Even those that don’t care do care, because they make value judgments. I remember reading something from someone once where he said that he cared about psychology just as much as the next guy, but sometimes he just wanted to see a fun match that made him feel like a kid. I thought to myself, well, whatever match that was probably had great psychology because they manipulated you into that reaction through their actions in the ring. What he was actually saying was that he wanted to watch and not think about how they got there, but rather just the feelings the match stirred in him. And that’s probably a much healthier way to watch wrestling than the bottomless pit that most of us fell into.

As far as my approach, I tended to go with whatever the general consensus was on matches. If Dave Meltzer gave a match ****, then by golly, it was a great match! It wasn’t until I found people like Chris Coey and John Williams of OtherArena.com who had sort of a counterculture view on what matches were good that I started re-thinking that. I’d also give Tim Cooke a lot of credit here as one of the first people I interacted with the most on message boards who was willing to depart from accepted wisdom. He wrote a review of the Benoit-Jericho vs (Steve) Austin-HHH tag from RAW (the one where HHH tore his quad) that sort of broke down why he didn’t think that was a great match when most people had that in the running for match of the year in 2001. I remember him pointing out that Jericho pulling the referee out of the ring to break a fall really took away from the match for him because that’s not a babyface move, and I thought that was a really interesting point. I started thinking more about wrestling in a different way. A few years later, when DVDs came along and made bootleg footage so much cheaper, I was able to realize a lot more of that promise without amassing any debt.”

4) What is your favorite promotion of all time?

“That’s a tough one. I don’t think there’s a particular promotion that can capture everything great about wrestling. BattlARTS in many ways comes closest because it was such an awesome hybrid of styles, but their crowds sucked too much of the time. I’d probably go for time periods. I really love 1985-1988 JCP (Jim Crockett Promotions), 1984-1987 Mid South (Mid-South Wrestling), 1990s All Japan, 1997 WWF and 1992 WCW (World Championship Wrestling). Early ARSION was also really fun, as was JWP (Japanese Women Pro-Wrestling Project) 1.0.”

5) Who is your favorite wrestler of all time?

“That’s a tough one too. I don’t really have a favorite wrestler now as much as I have favorite matches. I’m a guy who has favorite songs, not favorite bands. I have favorite movies, not favorite actors. So I guess I’m consistent in my output focus. I care more about the finished product than the ingredients. I don’t really care how they got there, which I suppose would make me a really bad math teacher. I think in a way I’ve outgrown the idea of having a favorite wrestler. Great wrestlers have bad matches and bad wrestlers have great matches.

If I think about who I always pop for, probably Mae Young, as silly as that sounds. Seriously, who can’t love a tough-as-nails elderly woman? Her run in Power Pro (Power Pro Wrestling) as Shawn Stasiak’s “mother” is something everyone should see. She actually faked a heart attack in one match to gain the advantage, prompting the announcer Cory Maclin to indignantly claim that she made us think someone stole her nitroglycerin pills.

I was really into Luger’s title chase in the late 80s and early 90s as a kid. More recently, I was really into Daniel Bryan’s journey to WrestleMania XXX. I marked out like I rarely have when watching some 1994 USWA (United States Wrestling Association) where Buddy Landell agreed to team with Brian Christopher to face Doug Gilbert and Tommy Rich at Mid South Coliseum because he loaned Doug money to replace a fan belt on his truck and Doug never paid him back. “It’s not the $30, it’s the principle!””

6) What is your favorite era of wrestling?

“Looking at wrestling as a whole, I think every era has its advantages and disadvantages, but from an aesthetic point of view, I really love 80s wrestling. For TV tapings, JCP would often run these tiny buildings full of fans that would lose their minds over Ricky Morton or Dusty Rhodes and it was an amazing sight to see. The WWF was evolving into what it would eventually be and I like the uneven aesthetic. There were definitely healthier periods for the territories, but the VCR made it possible for us to actually enjoy lots of them and get the hype. Even in their dying days, there’s so much good stuff worth seeing. And I like the international scene too. I wish we had more lucha libre footage from the 80s, but I enjoy what we have. Japan was great because so much change seemed to happen in the wrestling style from the beginning of the decade to end. And All Japan Women (All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling) from a match quality point of view was probably better in the 90s, but there was a youthful exuberance about the whole thing in the 80s that has yet to be recaptured by any company. So yeah, sign me up for the 80s.”

7) What is your favorite style of wrestling?

“I tend to like matches that are worked like world title matches. A lot of people will know what I mean by that, but in case they don’t, I mean slow starting with a steady build to an exciting crescendo at the end. The matches given time. The matches that start with matwork and feeling out — it doesn’t have to be anything fancy even. I like matwork. I’m not really a high flying guy, but I do love fast paced wrestling, especially when it’s done in a smart way like the Michinoku Pro (Michinoku Pro Wrestling) guys could do it in the mid-90s. I hate forearm trading as a rule. If each individual shot was sold for all its worth, I’d probably be more into it. I used to like chops, but the “whooing” has killed it. I really hate any wrestling where the crowd is doing the Bobby Heenan “OHHH!” after every highspot because it’s a clue that wrestling has become too much of a stunt show.

I still think it’s possible to garner a more emotional reaction, by the way. It’s just that it happens so rarely. People who claim the cat is out of the bag are apologists for bad booking. Nothing has been more heartbreaking to me as a fan in the last few years than the (CM) Punk-(Jerry) Lawler cage match on Monday Night RAW a few years ago, which saw Punk give an inspired heel performance and Lawler do his thing while fans in the front row either texted or stared into the abyss. I think just blaming that type of thing on the times we live in is convenient, but it’s also the easy way out. People invest in things that are worth investing in, provided they are part of a larger presentation that is worth investing in.”

8) What are the elements that make up a talented pro wrestler?

“This is so wide open, because I do think wrestling is a form that has ideas of greatness that are in direct conflict to each other. As Niels Bohr once said, “the opposite of one profound truth is sometimes another profound truth.” If I tried to come up with something that all the greats have in common, it would be tough, but I’d say it’s probably that they understand their audience and that they always want to have the best match possible. Some people will talk about wrestlers understanding their limitations, and that has always seemed patronizing to me, like “Yeah, if these guys understood themselves as well as I do, they’d be great.” It’s a bit egocentric. But I do think a wrestler understanding their own strengths and weaknesses is important. And I should clarify what I mean by “best match possible” — I don’t mean every wrestler should be trying to have a five-star match every time out as much as I mean having the most enjoyable match possible that is right for the position on the card and larger booking context.

I sometimes see people writing off disappointing WWF house show matches from the 80s — as one example — for not being very good because they weren’t trying to have a good match. Well, if they weren’t trying to have a good match, does that mean they were trying to have a bad one? And why wouldn’t they want to have a good match, and if so, why would that be some admirable thing? If you look at something like Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat in Toronto in February of 1987, six weeks before WrestleMania, for my money, that’s as good as any match in the history of that company, and it happened on a house show that was only televised locally. The greats are the ones that rise against the norms of the time to produce enduring work when patterns and history and setting and conventional wisdom say they shouldn’t.”

9) What is most important to you when it comes to spending your time with a pro wrestling product?

“Wins and losses that are important. Wrestlers presented as worth caring about from the top of the card down. That doesn’t mean booking a million undercard angles as much as it means giving some focus to the undercard. Good wrestling matches, although those are so common that they aren’t really remarkable on their own. I’d love see the great promo make a comeback. It’s weird that we’re in the era of guys who would have grown up on Steve Austin and The Rock and promos have become such an unimportant part of wrestling relative to the in-ring work.

I can watch and admire good wrestling in front of tiny crowds with people applauding or developing clever chants to get attention and amuse themselves. But I’ll never truly love it because it’s incomplete. This is probably unfair of me, but I think I do have the mentality that how good or bad wrestling as a whole is right now is based on how good or bad Monday Night RAW is. I’ll still seek out and likely enjoy the other stuff that comes out that receives praise, and right now, we seem to be in a good era for that. But the top indicator of how healthy wrestling as a whole is will always be how good the matches are on Monday Night RAW and how invested the crowds are on Monday Night RAW.

If you want me to explain my idealist version of wrestling, it would be a major league company with great booking, good promos from guys that sound like real people, big crowds that are hot, good matches every week and a heavy focus on long-term continuity.”

10) What major changes do you see in the pro wrestling landscape ten years from now?

“I see less caring about history. For a while, WWE was releasing old school footage left and right and the hardcores were eating it up. Now, getting a big number of people to subscribe and get excited about NWA Classics 24/7 is so much more of a challenge than it should be. WWE also threw their pay-per-view library up on the Network so carelessly without any type of “tour guide” that I can see it being overwhelming for new fans.

I do always want there to at least be a path for the obsessives among us to catch up on key stuff before they jumped in. That doesn’t mean that future fans need to stay consistent with our view of what’s good and bad. But they at least have a starting point that they can either follow or rip up and start again. I feel like we used to see a ****1/2 match and talk about it for weeks, and now we see it and it’s forgotten about quickly. Great matches have become disposable in a way that I don’t really like, because everyone is just on to the next one. I don’t see that trend stopping and I don’t even think I’m above it. I mean, I went through over 1200 hours of 1990s footage in less than five years, so of course I’m not above it. Still, what happens is that the *** and ***1/2 matches that are good and worth seeing and even getting excited about end up overhyped in an attempt to just get others to watch them. At least I think that’s what happens sometimes.

Outside of the critical bubble, I see wrestling becoming more and more of a niche thing. WWE better be preparing for a post-TV rights era, because I think that’s a golden goose that if it’s not completely gone will no longer be feasible to prop up the company by this time in 2026. I’d like to see matwork get over in WWE and for them to give the wrestlers more freedom to follow their instincts on promos and in the ring. I’d also like to see more playing to the live crowd instead of the cameras. I think not doing it is so dumb, because guys who are over with live crowds come across so much better to viewers at home. WWE sees their philosophy as religion, and that’s a place I’d rather not see any wrestling company, because they are guaranteed to miss out on some things that would be good for them and for us.”

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

About the author

Bill Thompson

I am the almighty Bill Thompson, father of a little girl, husband to an awesome wife, a paramedic/firefighter, and a fan of the Chicago Cubs. I've been writing about wrestling for some time now. You can find me writing about great matches at Blue Thunder Driver, or matches people have suggested I watch at Random Match Generator. I write about free matches legally available to watch online at Free Pro Wrestling and am a contributor to the Cubed Circle Newsletter. I'm also the Senior Writer for the magazine/website The Tag Rope. I'm happy to be on the Wrestling with Words ship, and have I mentioned I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs? Cause I am, like huge, as in they are my #1 priority. Just making sure we're on the same page...

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