WALTER vs PCO
Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center, Kenner, Louisiana, United States
(reviewed 05/14/2018) I know people loved this match, adored it maybe, and that’s part of the problem. Some of my friends and I watched this show together in a little chat room and largely loathed this match, baffled by its glowing reception on Twitter and in the venue itself. We hated the way WALTER was awkwardly, reluctantly fumbling through a control segment, pulling back his forearms and boots and Irish whips in a way we’d never seen before from a man known for his intensity. It seemed like the only things up to his usual level of quality were the famous chops, which themselves paled in comparison to their counterparts in other matches over the last year or two. We hated PCO’s general clunkiness, from his embarrassing early attempts at technical work to tree trunk kicks to rolling elbows that didn’t connect to dives in and out of the ring that were less impressive in reality than they would sound in theory. We hated how the match seemed to have no real direction and how it went on seemingly forever. It would have just been an unappealing match by itself, nothing particularly noteworthy or distressing, if we didn’t seem like the only people in the world who weren’t over the moon about this match.
Of course I recognize that clean execution of moves or a strong narrative isn’t what people like about this match. They like that it’s a crazy old WWF relic standing up to a widely popular ass-kicking behemoth of a man.
Professional wrestling, since its very creation, has been all about outlandish spectacle, being tied directly to the tradition of 19th century carnival sideshows. While it has enjoyed brief periods of uneasy admiration, for the most part wrestling has retained the dirty, untrustworthy, lower class stigma of the traveling circuses that it was born from, the sword swallowers and the bearded ladies finding a common kinship with the wrestling bears and the little people in leotards. PCO is merely the latest in a long line of funny-looking freaks that have, by and large, driven professional wrestling along through the decades. In the oldest sense of the word, PCO is a geek, a roided-up old man biting the heads off live chickens for the amusement of the bemused masses. He’s a geek the same way the French Angel was a geek, the way Gorgeous George was a geek, the way Billy Graham was a geek, the way Dusty Rhodes was a geek, the way Steve Austin was a geek, the way—no matter how many “legitimate” sports credentials he earns—Brock Lesnar is a geek today.
I won’t pretend like I’m above all that, the freakshow side of wrestling. I’m one of the biggest deathmatch defenders around. I understand its appeal, either as sheer spectacle or as a still cruder form of outsider art. Shit, the very fact that I operate a wrestling blog should tell you that I’m not interested in being high and mighty about all of this. When this stupid old man is killing himself for a joke match payday in Jefferson Parish, doing Frankensteiners a man of his size and his age has no business doing, I can’t look away. But thinking about who else that applies to is one of my biggest problems with this match. I look at this crowd and I see hundreds and hundreds of buzzed, bloated people in Bullet Club t-shirts. I see people who in two days will start tossing around beach balls during the WrestleMania main event to show their displeasure. I see people who think of themselves as too good for deathmatch wrestling, too good for the Necro Butchers and the Black Terrys and the Abdullah Kobayashis of the world. Everyone has their individual set of standards and tastes and I try—God, I try—to respect that, but there’s something offputting about the idea that the vast majority of the fans cheering this match on wouldn’t be caught dead watching any other GCW show this year. Even if this was a match I liked, it would be sullied to some degree by this flock of irony-poisoned asshats guffawing at this man’s pain, laughing because they can’t not be laughing at something or someone.
Speaking of which, my other big concern here is likewise tied directly to my love of deathmatches and that’s PCO’s health. For the most part it seems like the veteran came out of this match ok, which is sort of a miracle considering, you know, this match. Even if the guy could still walk afterward it’s hard to see a 50 year old man beaten literally black and blue, to see him crack his head against the concrete going for a moonsault to the floor. It’s hard to hear hundreds of people cheering that on. Recently I’ve struggled a lot with my love of deathmatches and my love of hard-hitting wrestling in general and what that roundabout complicity means, how it ties me to life-altering injury. I think about those three men I listed earlier and how one only recently retired after tapering off a career defined by copious blood loss and devastating head trauma. One is still active in deathmatch main events despite being a shell of his former self. One is currently on the shelf with a serious shoulder injury that’s taken longer to heal than expected, in no small part due to being fucking 65. Significantly older than PCO and having had a significantly busier schedule in the ring these last few years. It’s insane.
That’s why I hate this match. It’s not because it’s sloppy or because it’s a waste of WALTER or whatever. Those are such small problems, barely blips on the radar. What I hate is 1500 people jumping to their feet with joy when a huge man 20 years his junior strikes PCO so hard across the chest that his blood vessels burst. I can’t abide the roar of a supposed smart crowd lusting after the destruction of an old man who doesn’t know when to quit. Like WALTER says before this match, it’s 2018. This shouldn’t be what wrestling is anymore. We should be better than this.