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Field Notes: A Tale of Two Matches

Enjoyed a wonderful professional wrestling PPV last night, AEW’s Forbidden Door .

This show, in case you’re not familiar with professional wrestling, featured wrestlers from Japan’s New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) promotion and the U.S-based All Elite Wrestling (AEW). First held last year, it’s even now considered one of the top wrestling shows of the yeah for the wrestling industy in general because you don’t get to regularly see the sorts of matchups they can create with this one-night-per-year mingling of talent.

Sort of like how the World Series and All Star Game were before Major League Baseball instituted interleague play.


Two of the night’s matches gave me a good reminder of an issue in storytelling.

I was really looking forward to the Kazuchika Okada vs. Bryan Danielson main event. Danielson has been one of my favorite wrestlers for the last couple of decades since I first saw him grappling and throwing himself through the ring ropes in the early days of the Ring of Honor promotion (lots of great memories and stories from those days). Okada, I’ve really enjoyed the work of his that I’ve seen, which is harder to get than just turning on AEW any of the three nights per week that it airs. I used to be able to see NJPW on AXS TV, but without that or a subscription to NJPW’s streaming service (anybody else suffering from streaming fatigue?), the best I can usually do is see what NJPW is posting on YouTube and see what people are saying about it all.

Thankfully, afterwards, I wasn’t disappointed by the match. It was a really good match, highly technical, between two accomplished masters of their craft. The main theme of the match was that we might find out from this match who the unabashed best wrestler in the world was (regardless of the fact that both promotions’ world heavyweight champions had defended their titles earlier in the show).

But I did find something missing, which I had found in the match that took place two matches before that.


I’m not a huge fan of Kenny Omega. Kenny, a huge pro wrestling star in Japan, got his first major mainstream U.S. exposure as AEW took shape several years ago. I just never really took to him. Or to his crew, the Elite. Some wrestling fans will want to put me into one box or another, that they do or don’t like, but Kenny just isn’t my cup of tea, so to say. That said, he’s still really good and there’s a reason he’s been around the top of the card in AEW, his current backstage vice present position, notwithstanding.

Will Ospreay falls into the same category as Kazuchika Okada for me. His largest American exposure has been the times he’s wrestled for AEW and I’m sure he still does smaller, independent shows, but I haven’t even been to any wrestling show in person in a number of years, let alone smaller, independent one. Still, if you’re more than a casual fan, you’ll come across his work online and he’s as good as advertised. But don’t hold your breath waiting for him to show up on Monday Night Raw.

In the shows leading up to Forbidden Door, they did a pretty good buildup for this match. The short version of the story:

Wrestling stalwart, Don Callis (also known in his WWE days, many moons ago, as The Jackal), had been Kenny Omega’s manager and father figure until Don recently turned on Kenny and aligned himself with Ospreay .

There was at least one beating to go with the betrayal. Insults hurled. A formerly tight relationship rent and discarded.

Tonight was to be the big showdown between the two. Kenny’s title on the line; his opponent, his father figure’s new protege.

It looked like they were out there trying to kill each other during the match. They both bled. Ospreay broke part of the announcers’ table with Kenny’s face. Weapons were introduced.

I got pulled deeply into this match, despite not just not having any rooting interest going into the match, I was pretty full of apathy for it. Kinda like how I’ll be when I watch that Bears/Chargers Week 8 Sunday Night Football game later this year.

But what grabbed me wasn’t the dazzling physical spectacle. Nor the gory violence aspect of it. Or even the the familiar trope of the manager coming down to ringside to distract the referee long enough to slip his guy a weapon.

All of those were there, but the best part of the whole thing was that what was familiar was that this was a story about loss. About somebody trying to hold on to something. Kenny, who had been injured for a long while, trying to hold on to a title. While trying not to lose to someone who had replaced him in the world of his father figure, who had recently turned his back on him.

Wrestling can be soapy. Wrestling can be campy. It can sometimes be plain bad. But it can also hit on good stories, ones about things that matter to the people who inhabit them.


That’s what was missing from the main event.

In the promo video, Danielson is heard saying that once he defeated Okada, he would be known as the best in the world and that Okada would be known as the second best. He did have snark in his voice, as a heel would do, indicating that there was something inherently bad about not being the best. But in the grand scheme of things, that really wasn’t painted as something bad. In this case, number two is still better than the World Heavyweight Champion of either AEW or NJPW (IWGP).

Stakes. Something important that the character might lose or might miss if they lose.

Okada losing didn’t mean much.

Kenny losing meant not just losing his IWGP (NJPW) U.S. Championship. It meant losing it in all of the ways one can lose to someone who had just betrayed them. He could get a title back, a belt back, but it might be harder to get back the way you felt before that person stabbed you in the back and got to walk away with something important to you. Better to try not to let that happen in the first place. But he didn’t. So, hopefully he’ll try to get that back and who doesn’t love a good revenge story?

This was a good reminder that sometimes, a writer can write the best sentences, craft great dialogue, describe locations in the best detail, and even give characters great desires and objectives, but sometimes, the story can fall flat without something at stake if the character(s) don’t get what they want. Danielson and Okada crafted great sentences and imagery, but in the end, the loss didn’t matter. Perhaps they’ll do a rematch and in that one, getting even with Danielson will mean something more for Okada and give us more to hold onto.









































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