Editorials

Pro Wrestling Punditry with Liam Byrne

Liam Byrne steps into the question and answer circle this week. For those of you unfamiliar with Liam’s work, do yourself a favor and get acquainted. I’ve been following Liam since I first came across him on the Pro Wrestling Only forums. Liam has a writing background and that shone through quite easily in his posts. It was only natural that Liam would find outlets for his long form style of wrestling opinions. He can be found writing opinion pieces for The Tag Rope magazine and website. At TV Time Limit Remaining Liam puts his focus on TV wrestling from 1986 as well as reviewing PROGRESS Wrestling in chronological order. If you visit The Indy Corner Liam will be present as well, mainly covering the United Kingdom independent scene. If you want even more of Liam’s long form opinions he also writes for Kayfabe Today. Last, but not least, look Liam up on the Twitter machine, @tvtimelimit.

*As a general reminder, what follows are Liam’s 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?

“29 – turning 30 in May this year.”

2) When did you first start watching wrestling?

“I don’t remember a specific time as to when I started watching wrestling. I didn’t have the channel hopping experience that a lot of people would have had, where they turn the channel and see a wrestling match or a promo and be hooked. Strangely enough, I remember wrestling figures in my life before I remember watching wrestling. However, WCW (World Championship Wrestling) used to show on commercial TV over here on a Saturday afternoon, just before Baywatch and a show with UK celebrities called YouBet. I would have been 7 at the time. The only real action I remember from this time period is Steve Regal as a face and the Arachnaman gimmick making a fleeting appearance. By the time I was 8, I was in a position to watch World Superstars of Wrestling, which was dubbed NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) on Eurosport..”

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

“If I’m being honest, it is probably only since last year. As with other hobbies I have, such as reading, I’ll be able to tell you whether I like something or don’t, but often wouldn’t dig much deeper than that. However, as I decided that I wanted to pursue writing about wrestling as something to do in my spare time, I naturally began to develop a more critical stance on what I watch. In some ways, I’d argue that it has made me enjoy wrestling all the more – it is fun to consider the way that matches are constructed to create meaning, just like in a great novel. I also feel that I enjoy wrestling more insofar as I don’t often feel that I come away from a match thinking I’ve wasted my time. I can normally take something from it, even if it is a sense of what NOT to do.”

4) What is your favorite promotion of all time?

“It is the boring answer, but it would have to be WWF/WWE (World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment). Wrestling is so inter-connected with my childhood, and WWF was the promotion I watched the most growing up. When we got Sky Sports, it allowed me to watch Monday Night RAW on a Friday night, whilst TCM (the Turner owned channel) would broadcast Monday Nitro. My Dad, my brother and I used to watch them both, before often grappling about the front room (inevitably losing to my Dad more often than not). Even though I had equal access to both of the big promotions at that time, all of the big storylines, angles and wrestlers that I remember come from my affiliation with WWF. The toys and VHS tapes I was brought before I had access to the TV shows were all WWF, and it coloured my judgement in the Monday Night Wars – I wanted WWF to win. I may be able to go back today and look at old Mid-South (Mid-South Wrestling), or follow new promotions such as PROGRESS, but they can’t match up to the amount of time invested in a product during such an impressionable time. I’ll still try and watch the PPV matches and check out the Monday Night RAW results, though I generally consider myself not much of a fan of the current product.”

5) Who is your favorite wrestler of all time?

“This is a difficult question, as my relatively passive and uncritical nature up until now means that I don’t have a selection of dates or matches that I can talk about when it comes to wrestlers that I like. That being said, I’ve always defaulted to one answer, and he is the closest I have to the channel hopping moment I mentioned earlier. Jushin Liger. Watching him as an eight year old, I knew there was something special about him – the strikes, the flying, the power moves. He wore the coolest outfit as far as someone my age could be concerned and, considering the talent in the promotion at the time, was in so many exciting matches. The best thing about Liger is that he was at the top for so long, and had to reinvent himself several times in terms of his repertoire, that there is always new stuff to discover. Within the past couple of years, I watched heel Liger in NOAH (Pro Wrestling NOAH) feuding over the tag belts, whilst also checking out the feud with Naoki Sano, both areas of Liger’s career I’d never seen. The guy is dynamite as a face and a brilliant dick heel – either way, he engages you like very few others can.”

6) What is your favorite era of wrestling?

“This is a difficult question, as the obvious answer would be 1997 and the Attitude Era/Monday Night Wars. Yet…in spending time looking about the territories, and exploring other promotions from other time periods (as well as how badly some of AE stuff holds up), I feel like I want to say another time period. The problem is that they are often eras I remember fondly for one promotion – early 1980s for Mid-South, 85-86 for NWA (National Wrestling Alliance), 1992 for WCW – that it is hard to really champion them as a favourite. Having the opportunity to watch two big promotions battle it out, with the twists, turns and wrestling (sometimes incredibly awful wrestling) on offer during 1997 was a wrestling fan’s dream for 11 year old me – I know there are better time periods, but I can’t talk my way out of this answer.”

7) What is your favorite style of wrestling?

“Over the years, I have enjoyed the hybridisation of the European wrestling style with the mainstream/independent US style of wrestling. William Regal is legitimately one of my favourite wrestlers of all time, and his use of the Euro style probably best highlights how a style as technical in terms of its holds and strikes could be used outside of its origins effectively. If you go to any UK independent show today, or even watch some of the bigger stars on the US independent scene, there are elements of that European style mixed in with more showy elements that tend to engage me when used well – unfortunately, this is not always the case. Give me knees, elbows and joint manipulation, and you’ll find me a happy man.”

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

“There are lots of features that make up a wrestler that can be considered talented (athleticism, a good gimmick, charisma, etc), but I’d like to focus on two key ones that I occasionally think get lost. The first one is knowing your role. What I mean by this is that you need to wrestle in a way that accentuates what you have that makes you unique and interesting as compared to the other hundreds and thousands of wrestlers out there. It always pains me when wrestlers seem to tack on moves to their repertoires seemingly because they are the moves du jour than any real benefit to their move set. Know what you are good at and use it. The second thing is knowing when to show ass. Not in the literal sense, of course, but too much of modern wrestling is built around creating parity between the two opponents, especially on the independent scene. What’s wrong with heels uncool, occasionally looking stupid in the process, and cheating to prosper? The latter of those concepts is the only thing a heel has to do these days it seems, forgetting the importance of the former two.”

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

“Make me care and entertain me. If you put on matches that I want to watch, then I’ll watch you. I’m not a hard man to please, and there are enough talented wrestlers out there who wrestle across the country (both US and UK) that there is always something happening of interest somewhere. To some extent, with the proliferation of streaming websites and my waning interest in the WWE, storylines don’t even bother me too much anymore – it is all about the action in the ring, and whether it delivers from bell to bell.”

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

“A difficult question. I fear somewhat for the concept of the 24/7 global wrestling promotion – how the WWE could step back from that a little, yet still survive, is a little beyond me. What I do feel is that the internet has given a great platform for smaller promotions that, as long as they don’t overreach, can trundle along fairly contentedly offering fans wrestling. PROGRESS have already spoken about the death of the concept of wrestling on UK television recently, and to some extent, I think they are right. Why pass your product over to someone when it is easier to stream it and sell it yourself?

There will be a lot more cross promotion. That isn’t much of a leap into the dark, as it is already beginning to happen a lot. The saturation of the product makes that necessary, as even in places such as the UK, were we are talking about a raft of smaller promotions, there is a danger of running out of novel and interesting matches to sell to your audience. The ability to bring in people from Japan and Mexico is a sellable concept and will be for a while yet. In some ways, it wouldn’t be a million miles away from the territory days, except on a global level.

UK wrestling won’t be as popular, but will maintain some level of interest unlike the darker days of the mid to late 2000s. It is a hot product at the moment, but things tend to go in cycles. This time, however, you have a lot of fans who are of an age where they have disposable income and were made fans during eras of wrestling globally that were exciting and memorable – I know fans who will watch it until they drop dead, I’m sure. This will keep at least enough interest to maintain a selection of the better UK independents, with wrestlers who aspire to be the next Marty Scurll or Will Ospreay filling up the cards.”

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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