Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wrestling is a Story-Telling Art: Tag Team Division

Wrestling is a Story-Telling Art: Tag Team Division

This Saturday, November 3rd at Mainline Theatre on St-Laurent, Montreal promotion will be telling a pack of stories in a one night Tag Team Tournament. Here is why you should care:

First of all, it's a great place to see some of Montreal's best indy wrestlers which is to say some of the best indy wrestlers in the world. But even if you have no interest in wrestling, it will be a great way to watch a different kind of story-telling art form in the context of a theatre that normally puts on plays.

And yes, wrestling is a story-telling art form...

When I was more heavily involved in promoting wrestling, I would talk my way on to CBC radio programs from time to time, usually by explaining that I was the promotion's writer. It was a delicate dance of peeling back Kay-Fabe, but restoring it at the same time - of insisting that the wrestlers deserved the same suspension of disbelief that you would give a film or stage actor.

It was the female interviewers who would push the hardest, wondering if the violent nature of wrestling didn't make for a limited canvas. My usual response to that was to point out that I had once booked a wrestling show as a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III to which there was no useful counter.

The next angle most would try would be to try and guilt me over the damage that wrestlers were doing to their bodies in the ring. My counter to that would be to ask if they had taken a look at a ballerina's feet lately, that the pressure of ballet was just as violent to dancer's bodies as wrestling was to my friends.

If wrestling is a story-telling art, as I believe it to be, the place with the best stories to tell is the tag team division. The reason is simple: in every match, you have allies and enemies, friends and opponents, love and hate.

Tag teams allow you to combine two men who are identical (brothers) or completely opposite. They can have styes that clash or complement. They can have personalities that work well together or that grate on each other's nerves. They can be a team that is just starting to gel, one that is firing on all cylinders or a team that is falling apart.

Even within one team there are a myriad of possibilities for telling stories. Throw two teams against one another and the story-telling possibilities are endless.

Even the ring itself works better in a tag team match, especially if there are tag ropes attached to two opposing posts. the idea being that the untagged wrestler holds onto the tag rope, waiting for his partner to tag him back into the match.


Tag ropes were, they are, a natural organic way of helping to tell the story that you are trying to tell in a tag team match. Start with how the two teams hold the tag ropes. The babyface team (the good guys) grips the rope as if it were a lifeline, gripping it in their fist, pulling on the rope as they lean away from the turn buckle. On the other hand, the heel team (the bad guys), if they bother to hold the tag ropes at all, do so nonchalantly and disdainfully. Sometimes they hold the rope in the palm of their hands, sometimes they merely grip it with their pinky finger, and sometimes they only pick it up just as a tag is made. Just by how they hold the tag ropes, the baby-faces communicate their commitment to the rules, how tightly they are bound to those rules, and how fiercely in turn those rules grip them. The baby-face can no more relinquish his hold on the tag ropes than he can relinquish his grip on the rules of fair play. He could let go of the tag ropes, but then he would no longer be a baby-face. By contrast, the heels demonstrate their disregard for the rules and how much they disdain them by how loosely they hold the tag ropes. In fact, their total disrespect for the rules is demonstrated by the way that they pervert the rules by using the tag ropes as a weapon.

Finally, the tag ropes give a dramatic demonstration of the dynamic inherent in most tag-team matches. As the frustrated babyface is straining away at the ropes, he is demonstrating a principle of physics known as potential energy. When you store a book on a shelf, the higher the shelf and the heavier the book, the more potential energy is stored in the book. When the book falls off the shelf that potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. If a paperback novel is on the bottom shelf, you'll barely notice it when it hits your foot, but when the condensed Oxford English Dictionary falls off the top shelf, onto your foot, you might break a toe. This principle of physics is usually understood on a primal level by most people, even if they couldn't explain the math behind it. When the frustrated babyface strains at the tag rope, we, the audience, understand on a primal level, that potential energy is being stored and coiled up like a spring, and that this energy can only achieve its violent release as kinetic energy when his beaten and battered partner finally makes his way across the ring to make the tag. In the same way, our emotions are coiled up waiting for their violent release with that dramatic tag.

Come this Saturday and watch an incredibly talented group of performers wind you up into caring about the stories that they are telling. You won't regret it.

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