Adapting MMA

February 19, 2008

I want to debate something this week, but I知 going to have to walk gently as I do not want to offend the man that I知 going to talk about. I have a world of respect for the man I want to discuss this week and consider him one of the all time greats, but there is something that has been driving me nuts for a week or two now and I知 curious what others think, and need to speak my mind. What I want to talk about this week is the Undertakers new finishing hold, because I really don稚 like it and I知 curious if I知 alone in this opinion.

For those of you who haven稚 been watching SmackDown lately, the Undertaker is now using a Gogoplata Choke (a legit MMA choke) as his new finisher. The hold, for lack of a better description, is a variation of a triangle choke executed from your back where you wrap your one leg out and around your opponents shoulder and then back under his chin and then pull his head down across your shin with your hands. To execute the hold you have to use both legs and both hands while lying on your back.

I realize that MMA is getting very popular and I understand the desire to adapt that style into pro-wrestling, but I致e always had a huge logic problem with using 田hoke holds as a finish in pro-wrestling. Even back when TAZ got his Taz-mission choke over huge, I always hated it. Choking is of course illegal in pro-wrestling, and you can argue and debate the 澱lood choke vs. 殿ir choke as much as you want, but unless there is a means by which to clearly explain the difference to your general fan base, it is just confusing to reprimand wrestlers all show about choking and then announce that someone has choked out his opponent for the win.

Even if we put that 田hoke issue aside, this is a poor choice for a finish on so many levels. For starters, any move done from you back is likely a poor pro-wrestling finish. In MMA being on you back is not a bad thing, because you can稚 be pinned, but in pro-wrestling that is the worst possible position to be in. For years, since pro-wrestling痴 inception actually, fans have been educated to the fact that if you are on your back and someone is on top of you, you are in a bad position. Someone as dominant and powerful as the Undertaker should almost never be in this position, let alone put himself in it voluntarily. I remember watching the AWA as a fan and hearing a commentator joke that Nick Bockwinkle (AWA World Champ at the time) doesn稚 even sleep on his back, and I remember thinking that was such a great line because staying off your back is the single most important thing in wrestling.

As a one-time surprise counter (provided the announcers knew what it was and could explain it) I could see this adding a new dimension to the Undertaker. When he used it to defeat Big Daddy V it made some degree of sense. Taker faced with a 500 pound opponent, found himself in a position where perhaps he could not tombstone or choke slam the 500 pounder, and after getting beat down to the ground by one of his biggest opponents yet, had to demonstrate skill rather than his more common power to get the win. This past week on SD he used the hold on Matt Striker and I found myself groaning in disapproval for the first time ever watching The Undertaker wrestle. (Actually I have groaned during other Undertaker matches but I don稚 think it is fair to count matches he had with El Gigante, the man can稚 work miracles).

In my opinion after nearly 2 decades of Destruction, The Dead Man should not have to leave his feet to lay waste to Matt Striker. This should be a brief confrontation where Taker is left standing tall while Striker lays at his feet, closing the segment with a great visual of one man up and one man down. Instead after choke slamming Striker, which has laid out many men to date, me included, he tied him up and rolled to his back for the submission, ending the segment with both men down on the mat, a far less visual image to close the segment; it just seemed so unnecessary, and in my opinion even brought he crowd down rather than up, after the choke slam.

It痴 a poor position visually, takes a fair bit of time to hook in, and isn稚 going to be easy to counter in and out of in big matches to tease false finishes. That doesn稚 even take into account he fact that with Takers incredibly long legs this hold is going to be very hard to properly hook on a wide variety of people, and will likely never be as over as the Last Ride or Choke Slam. I think the old adage, 的f it aint broke, don稚 fix it applies so perfectly when it comes to the Undertaker. Taker is arguably the greatest gimmick ever created as well as one of the best working big man of all time, and has two incredibly over finishes already. I don稚 understand nor see the need to switch his character to that of a submission wrestler. To me The Undertaker is the Phenom, the Dead Man, or even the American Bad Ass, a guy who lays waste to those in his path, not a technically sound submission wrestler who can beat you on the ground. If you are going to play the MMA card, I see Taker as more a Chuck Liddell than a Royce Gracie.

That痴 my 2-cents, I値l be curious to hear yours.

Lance Storm