PCO vs Joey Lynch
Scenic City Invitational Tournament 2018 Semi-Finals
Soddy-Daisy High School, Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, United States
(reviewed 08/22/2018) As is often the case I was thinking about other things as I watched this match. In particular this match had me reflecting on the Grave Consequences match between Fenix and Mil Muertes from Lucha Underground season one. Three years ago I got really into the show, like a lot of wrestling fans did. It felt so different from everything else around. I loved that it combined elements of pulp fiction, horror, and the trappings of lucha libre, things I already enjoyed. I loved how compact and effective it was in its delivery. I loved that it was simultaneously sleek yet grimy, earnest yet clearly fabricated. I loved that it produced matches like Fenix vs Muertes, which felt dangerous and thrilling in a hyperreal way.
This match shares a few superficial similarities with Fenix/Muertes. Both feature a young highflyer taking on an older freak of a man more known for his work under a different name. Both feature a number of crazy feats of athleticism and harrowing risk-taking. Both feature an appreciative crowd uniquely representative of a certain niche in wrestling, a certain culture, a certain part of the world. Where this match loses favor in my eyes is in how it represents wrestling moving in a certain direction.
Somewhere along the way wrestling became about laughing at someone instead of cheering them on, or confusing the former for the latter. This isn’t by any means a new phenomenon, as I covered in my PCO/WALTER review, but in recent years it’s felt so much more widespread than I recall it being previously. Along with that we’ve started to revere the surprising and the shocking above all else, to an unsustainable and unimaginative degree. Maybe most dangerously of all, wrestling has increasingly become about a petty form of tribalism in which the only thing that matters is being in the know, being in on the joke, being opposed to whatever those other people are doing and thinking and enjoying.
More than anything else PCO’s resurgence feels indicative of this, to me. When I watch his matches I don’t see appreciative fans as much as I see people pointing and laughing at the limping ogre with a stiff neck and a mortgage to pay off. When I watch his matches I don’t see compelling stories as much as I see shit being thrown at the wall, which is cheered on regardless of whether it makes sense or even looks all that good. When I watch his matches I don’t see open minds as much as I see a concerted rejection of sincerity in favor of shock value and maybe a bit of nostalgia, an embrace of spectacle only as it relates to how it appalls the Others.
When I watch this match I see bits of something I would or should enjoy. It reminds me of something like Fenix/Muertes, a melodrama of violence and struggle, but it gets the finer points all wrong. You still have a valiant young man trying to make a name for himself, trying to survive in both the literal, immediate sense as much as in the theoretical, long term sense. He does things to himself that are frustrating to watch as an incriminated fan but on some level knowing that his body can still take it (for now) only makes you cheer harder for his eventual victory. The same isn’t true for his opponent, though. The unstoppable, unfeeling monster is replaced by a 50 year old man who is clearly so very stoppable, so very feeling. No longer is he a cartoonish depiction of evil to be struggled against by the hero but rather a thing to be laughed at as it staggers to the ring and flings itself against wood and steel for your amusement. This match removes any desire to see good overcome evil or even to see superior athleticism or strategy win out in the end, replacing it with the gluttony of watching people burst blood vessels and give each other concussions simply because it makes you laugh and it makes dear old mom and dad squirm. It’s the shell of a thing I love without the heart inside. Or maybe the heart’s in there, somewhere, but it’s been beaten past the point of recognition by nervous, cackling middle schoolers desperate to get their kicks in, desperate to divert attention to someone else before they become the object of ridicule.