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Best Ring Psychology

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Okay, I'll admit to swiping this topic from another board, but I'm really interested in what folks here have to say on the topic. I am old, so I remember Johnny Valentine and it's pretty hard to top a guy that could go from hated heel to loved babyface and back in the same territory within the space of a year. I always preferred him as a heel because he just looked like he was there to fuck someone up. That said, let's discuss more modern masters of the craft. Who ya got?

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For me, its hard to ever top Jake Roberts. Whether as a face or a heel he could tell a helluva story by just pointing a finger.

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Daisuke Sekimoto uses the most basic offense that your average Young Lion uses, but he milks every second of the execution. More power guys should work like him.

Edited by LoneWolf&Subs
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I'm using this definition of ring psychology: 

Ring psychology is the art of getting the audience to completely suspend disbelief in regards to every facet of a wrestling match, and to feel the right emotions at the right times.

Unfortunately, to be the old man in the room, I don't see a lot of this in the current wrestling landscape when it used to be a much larger part of the package. Walter and Shayna Baszler are the ones that come to mind right now in that they feel real to me a lot of the time. Pete Dunn was heading down that road but I think he's falling into more of the bad NXT habits as he works guys like Adam Cole.  Cody Rhodes and Moxley are probably the best examples of it in AEW which is good since they are heavily featured acts.

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Timothy Thatcher. Everything that happens in the match makes sense, in terms of everything that has happened so far in the match.

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21 hours ago, Wyld Samurai said:

For me, its hard to ever top Jake Roberts. Whether as a face or a heel he could tell a helluva story by just pointing a finger.

This. For me, it gets no better than Jake. When I saw the thread, Jake is the first person that comes to mind.

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51 minutes ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

This. For me, it gets no better than Jake. When I saw the thread, Jake is the first person that comes to mind.

Jake didnt even need to do much in the ring. His mannerisms and pacing literally did all the work. 

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On 11/26/2019 at 12:53 AM, Wyld Samurai said:

For me, its hard to ever top Jake Roberts. Whether as a face or a heel he could tell a helluva story by just pointing a finger.

I actually found Jake’s matches very boring when he worked face. DDP, and now Orton have the same issues he did. The fans got way too invested on them hitting their finisher. Especially when a match went 15 minutes too long, and the heels needed 5 more minutes just to get heat on themselves for the eventual DDT. But then most times the matches ended on a DQ, or Roberts would be counted out anyway, so Jake would only get a DDT on a superstar heel after the bell rang to make the rest of the match pointless.

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Mick Foley deserves a shout. It helps that he was willing to take ridiculous bumps and potato shots, but it's hard to think of anyone who could generate sympathy and make his opponent look like a tough bastard better than Foley. He really made it feel like you had to earn a win against him, despite the fact that he lost most of his high-profile matches.

Eddie and Regal would be my picks if you're looking for more technical psychology to combine with great story-telling mannerisms and facial expressions, with Bryan being their spiritual successor until about 2015 when he went full WWE.

Currently, I find the NXT UK guys to be the best in this regard. Pete Dunne usually has excellent technical storytelling and uses his finger-bending offense to create some smart sequences. Tyler Bate is wonderful sympathetic babyface. Walter seems like someone who watched every big 90s AJPW match and took the right things away from it. On the US side, the Revival had a hell of a run for a couple years too, but I don't know if that short peak gets them into all-time discussion.

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Ole and Arn Anderson. Entire match focused on one body part. Try getting away with a standard pro wrestling arm bar as a submission now...

Edited by MADCAP
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On 11/30/2019 at 10:27 AM, Rehabilitated Rick said:

Tanahashi is on another level entirely.

Word.

We will tell our kids and grand-kids that we got to watch Tanahashi at his peak. He may be past his peak just a little know but he's still top 5 in the world. A once in a generation talent, maybe a once in a lifetime talent; there's never been anyone else that's been so good for so long.

Edited by OSJ

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I showed up just a little too late, I was going to say Hiroshi Tanahashi and Arn Anderson. 

I don't think I realized "The No Nearfalls Match" was "The No Nearfalls Match" the first time I watched it. Seriously, it was a near-unanimous MoTY  just out of quality, importance and drama but conceptually? It's the finest graduate thesis anybody's ever used a ring to write.

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47 minutes ago, John E. Dynamite said:

I don't think I realized "The No Nearfalls Match" was "The No Nearfalls Match" the first time I watched it

Which match is this?

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On 11/26/2019 at 6:24 PM, Goodear said:

I'm using this definition of ring psychology: 

Ring psychology is the art of getting the audience to completely suspend disbelief in regards to every facet of a wrestling match, and to feel the right emotions at the right times.

Unfortunately, to be the old man in the room, I don't see a lot of this in the current wrestling landscape when it used to be a much larger part of the package. Walter and Shayna Baszler are the ones that come to mind right now in that they feel real to me a lot of the time. Pete Dunn was heading down that road but I think he's falling into more of the bad NXT habits as he works guys like Adam Cole.  Cody Rhodes and Moxley are probably the best examples of it in AEW which is good since they are heavily featured acts.

I second this sentiment. I really didn't like both War Games Matches until Baszler walked in and everything she did looked believeable and had meaning. After that, I found at least the Women's Wargames to be okay.

Edit for elaboration: My general mindset for Wrestling psychology is, that a match and the things done in it should build sympathy for at least one of the two competitors. It shouldn't just be to get your shit in. If your audience has Classic heel v babyface structures imprinted on them, the heel should work as such. Both Wargames failed miserably as such imo. 

The instances that saved the Women's Match for me were (first and foremost) Baszler knowing what she was doing and the turn (which came across legitimately great).

Athletic wrestling can also create sympathy for one and often even both wrestlers, but to me it feels as if it often fails to do so by everyone going all out all the time without taking the proper time to emphasize meaning of the crazily impressive stuff they did. That's why I see most of today's so called MOTYCs as great Athletic Contests with often mediocre to bad psychology. 

Edited by ReiseReise
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11 hours ago, John E. Dynamite said:

I showed up just a little too late, I was going to say Hiroshi Tanahashi and Arn Anderson. 

I don't think I realized "The No Nearfalls Match" was "The No Nearfalls Match" the first time I watched it. Seriously, it was a near-unanimous MoTY  just out of quality, importance and drama but conceptually? It's the finest graduate thesis anybody's ever used a ring to write.

Yeah, Double A definitely belongs in the discussion (for that matter so do Liger and El Samurai, though Liger is quite capable of ruining a match by being "cute".)

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4 minutes ago, OSJ said:

Yeah, Double A definitely belongs in the discussion (for that matter so do Liger and El Samurai, though Liger is quite capable of ruining a match by being "cute".)

OK, my mind is being read because I was going to blurt out a bunch of high-concept match archetypes (before I fell asleep) and I was going to lead with Liger vs. Samurai's big-game squash match from '92, I think. Others! Work the Hand Matches (Kong vs. Hotta), 2-Fall Lucha Matches (Mistico vs. Ultimo Gurrero), Realistic Retributive Violence Gimmick Match (Magnum vs. Tully), The Headlock Match (Danielson vs. Claudio)... I forget the rest. But that's probably best left to it's own thread.

The No Nearfalls Match is the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki, 8/10/12 Wrestling Observer Match of the Year.

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Getting to hear from Arn about his philosophy is amazing and such a panacea to years of Flair dribbling (literally with chaw in mouth) in the most disappointing way about wrestling.

What he said this week was that his goal was always to have a match that made sense. It might be a two star match or a five star match but it'd always make sense.

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I'm going to be unpopular and say Randy Orton.

On a week to week basis he's the overexposed drizzling shits.

On a big show, he delivers. His stuff makes sense. One of the few on the roster that doesn't work the same match every single time (at least in that context. Raw and SD a different story). His big moves still pop a reaction every time and they're well protected. He's put over everyone time and time again and he's always a threat.

I think his match with AJ at Mania this year will age well. People sleep on it as it was in the middle of nearly 100 hrs of wrestling in 3 days across numerous promotions.

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I wouldn't put Orton down as an all-timer. He's more HHH-level, in the sense that he's better than he generally gets credit for and works smarter than average for WWE style. Given the length of his career and level of exposure, he's been in his share of classics, but the haters have plenty of ammo too. In terms of primarily WWE main eventers, I'd put him behind Shawn and Taker, and well behind Foley and Austin.

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9 hours ago, Go2Sleep said:

I wouldn't put Orton down as an all-timer. He's more HHH-level, in the sense that he's better than he generally gets credit for and works smarter than average for WWE style. Given the length of his career and level of exposure, he's been in his share of classics, but the haters have plenty of ammo too.


Do they? Most of the issues people have with Orton seem to be based on things other than his ringwork.

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I'm not sure re: Shawn - both from a perspective that he produced some absolute stinkers ring psychology wise after his return (the entire series with Angle in 05 comes to mind) and his really sketchy selling. Also the over-dramatic over-selling formula he's produced in NXT subsequently.

HHH is an interesting one.  -The whole "everything you just saw for 20 minutes has lead up to this moment of me swinging a sledgehammer at this guy" aspect is a big red mark, as is so many of his matches in the midst of blood feuds failing to bring the hate whatsoever (that never ending 3 stages of hell match with Shawn, the Jericho HIAC, the Orton main at Mania, some of the Punk matches). 

For a guy that was supposed to be a cerebral assassin, there really wasn't anything particularly smart about him.

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