The Work Of Wrestling
Professional wrestling is an art. The Work of Wrestling podcast is dedicated to exploring that simple truth. Produced & hosted by Tim Kail.
info_outline WOW - EP199 - NXT TakeOver Portland Review 02/17/2020
WOW - EP199 - NXT TakeOver Portland Review Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail reviews NXT Takeover Portland! Topics include: Merging the TV-viewing experience with the live-audience experience. The spectacle of Keith Lee vs Dominic Dijokovic wearing off. The arrival of Dakota Kai, and why she's found her perfect attire. Finn Balor delivering his best WWE/NXT performance to date. Bianca and Rhea delivering, Charlotte accepting Rhea's challenge. The chemistry of the Broserweights. What tag team wrestling symbolizes. How Ciampa/Cole exceeded expectations, and delivered an excellent match. The parallelism of Gargano/Balor & Ciampa/Cole. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Thanks for listening!
info_outline WOW - EP198 - The Road 02/10/2020
WOW - EP198 - The Road The Road to WrestleMania has felt especially bumpy in recent years. Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail wonders why that is, and endeavors to find an answer. His search takes him into the past, beginning at the 1993 Royal Rumble and ending at WrestleMania 17.
info_outline WOW - EP197 - Favorite Things 02/03/2020
WOW - EP197 - Favorite Things Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail returns to discuss a few of his favorite things about wrestling . Topics include: What does he genuinely enjoy about WWE today that has very little to do with the actual content they produce? Despite all his constructive criticisms of AEW, what does he love about Dynamite and what keeps him tuning in every week? What's his favorite thing about NXT at the moment? Who is his favorite wrestler and why? The importance of escapism; the purpose it serves and why it's okay for kids to play video games. Follow on Twitter and Thanks for listening!
info_outline WOW - EP196 - Royal Rumble Review (2020) 01/27/2020
WOW - EP196 - Royal Rumble Review (2020) Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail is joined once again by friend, fellow pro-wrestling fan, and filmmaker Al Monelli to review WWE's latest Royal Rumble! Topics include: The good cinematography of the Roman Reigns vs Baron Corbin Match Bianca Belaire's superbly told Royal Rumble story Al's new arrival!!! What's wrong with Bayley's heel turn? The Fiend's pants Daniel Bryan's greatness Why Asuka vs Becky Lynch, for Tim, was a major disappointment Al loving Brock murdering wrestlers and why he could have watched him toss everyone over the top rope all night Why Tim is cautiously optimistic about Drew McIntyre's victory And more! Follow Al . And Follow Tim and Thanks for listening!
info_outline The New Drew McIntyre Reminds Us To Have Fun 01/23/2020
The New Drew McIntyre Reminds Us To Have Fun Drew McIntyre On Monday Night Raw Seemingly overnight, Drew McIntyre became a guy you'd like to get a pint with. For the past month on RAW, he's been sauntering to the ring as a big, surly, sexy bastard, perpetually grinning, cutting funny promos, counting down Claymore kicks, and connecting with the crowd. If you're a WWE-fan his energy, at long last, is in alignment with your perception of his potential. If you had the good fortune to watch Drew's work as Galloway on the indies from 2014-2017, then you've likely already had this experience. His excellence, for you, isn't merely theoretical (which made it all the more frustrating to watch him play second fiddle to heels upon his return to "the main roster"). Drew was always going to have a hard time returning to WWE, though. His gimmick on the indies was built upon the idea that, fresh off a dissatisfying run in the land of Sports Entertainment, he was going to "take a stand for Professional Wrestling". At the time, this message was incredibly resonant. In 2014, the phrase "Professional Wrestling" was a far dirtier word in WWE than it is today, and a rallying cry for frustrated wrestling fans. Drew Galloway was an early modern example of a wrestler who embodied the ideological divide between Sports Entertainment and Professional Wrestling; how the former fails talent in a way the latter doesn't. His argument was convincing because he'd been through the WWE system, he knew what he was talking about, and every promo and match that followed proved his point. He quietly pioneered, for a new generation of wrestling fans, a creative philosophy that's since been taken for granted: the only way to "get over" today...is to leave. And that's why Drew was going to struggle upon his return to WWE. How does one “get over” when they return to a system that failed them? Furthermore, Drew faced a greater challenge regarding his character’s identity. Flaws in WWE's "star-making" mechanisms aside, Galloway's mission-statement no longer resonates because Professional Wrestling won the argument. Marriage ceremonies, cuck angles, goth stables, and librarians aside, Sports Entertainment has gradually tiptoed into the background. It's not gone (not by a long shot). And it can come back, in force, at any moment. But, for now, great professional wrestling is en vogue. Drew McIntyre stands victorious on Monday Night Raw Almost every week, wrestling fans are guaranteed a five star match from a promotion of their choosing, be it mainstream or streaming. Our community’s interests, tastes, and priorities are less defined by McMahon's goofy mini-movies and more defined by our understanding of Pro-Wrestling's inherent value and versatility. Our hunger for improved quality, both inside and outside the ring, has nudged the business in a positive direction. So where does that macro-growth leave someone like Drew...McIntyre? What stand could he take for professional wrestling that wouldn't feel redundant today? He needed to find another way to connect, to service an overlooked need. And that's exactly what he's done on RAW in 2020. What did he find? Drew McIntyre counts down to a Claymore Kick. Fun. Pure. Simple. Fun. And he's fun to watch because he's having fun. This is a deceptively simple revelation. I was on my way home from work, listening to a wrestling podcast, thinking about how much I've enjoyed his work of late, wondering what, specifically, was so endearing about it. Why was he "getting over" with WWE-fans in a way he hadn't before, even in NXT? Why did it look so easy? Then it occurred to me that one of the largest threads that binds all acts who "get over" is that surprisingly elusive ingredient: fun. Think of New Day, Becky Lynch, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, etc. Each of these acts, in their own way, is extremely fun to watch. We take this aspect of their character & performance for granted because it seems a given, but it's not. It's incredibly difficult to be fun and perform fun given the pressures of show business. It takes a particular mindset and a profound amount of courage to convey that positive, joyous energy to millions of people. If one’s performance isn’t calibrated perfectly, their attempts at fun will read as insincere. These "over" characters represent a wish fulfillment that gets us "regular people" through our days. If it doesn’t seem like they’re enjoying it, the myth is dispelled. Whether they're playing a trombone, celebrating their broken face, raising their eyebrow, driving beer trucks, holding up tiny cups of cream, or luxuriating in their limousine lifestyle, they can do what we can't. In watching and enjoying them, we're subtly (if not overtly) invited into their world, able to ride along with them, high on the vapors of their liberation. In real-life, it's very clear when these performers are legitimately enjoying themselves and their craft, and when they’re not. This magical period usually occurs right after they've "found their voice", and the WWE (ideally) cashes in on their newfound magnetism in the form of a push. Maintaining that energy depends upon an assortment of increasingly complex factors, but once a talent forges a genuine bond with the audience, it's hard to break. Drew McIntyre has found his main roster voice, and it’s rooted in unselfconscious fun. He couldn't have found it at a better time. Consider how absent genuine fun is from our present world. Consider how hungry you may be for uncomplicated fun. For some of us (like me), the world is burning, we’re doomed to water wars, ancient viruses, widespread violence, and the dissolution of democracy. For others, everyone has a stick up their ass, can’t take a joke, is in hysterics over nothing, and insists upon unraveling long-held values for the sake of one's feelings not getting hurt. The only thing we have in common is how much fun we’re not having. Take NXT vs AEW as an example, a lighthearted contest that has resulted in some of the best wrestling this generation has ever seen (the actual takeaway of Wednesday nights). It’s a “war” invented by promotions and wrestling fans who have a financial or emotional stake in it being realized as a war. Someone spray-paints "AEW" and "TNT" over "NXT" and "USA" on a subway advert and it's considered a “shot fired”. Meanwhile, those firing shots in retaliation fail to consider the commonality of graffiti in subways, the tradition of being "worked" in pro-wrestling, and the existence of “guerrilla marketing" in media. Our investment in appearing "right" overrides our investment in the experience of communal joy, mutating pleasure into a self-inflicted mental pain deemed "morally correct". As a result, fun gets sucked into the quicksand of our collective self-righteousness, sincerity, idiocy, and inability to have complicated, often contradictory beliefs & experiences simultaneously. In such times, genuine fun has immense value. We must guard it against the onslaught of our own minds. Drew McIntyre celebrates on Raw. The fun I describe is not the dopamine-infused fun of distraction, nor the fabled "wildness" of one’s twenties. Do not confuse this defense of fun for a "boomer" comedian’s complaints about today's teens and twenty-somethings being “too serious” (as if "fun" is a specific set of self-destructive behaviors prescribed to a particular age-group by way of social conditioning). I'm describing fun as defined by friendship, love, camaraderie, banter, play, mindfulness, discovery, invention, insight into self, and gratitude. Fun that doesn't need to justify itself, concede anything, or adhere to a destructive social construct. This kind of fun is timeless, benevolent, and communal. That's the sort of simple, meaningful fun I experience when I watch Drew McIntyre countdown to a Claymore. That's the fun I had when he "Didn't even drop the microphone!" after delivering said Claymore kick. That fun is just as important now as "taking a stand for professional wrestling" was in 2014. Getting to watch Drew have a good time in his match against Randy Orton made this week's RAW more entertaining, and it helped me forget whatever caused that day's ruminations. His promo after receiving a RKO didn’t just protect his revitalized gimmick. It allowed us to see, in yet another way, how he's enjoying (rather than enduring) his attempt to become WWE Champion. That is especially refreshing after years of watching "disgruntled employees" (e.g. CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, etc), fueled by their legitimate frustration or the anger of fans, seek success out of spite more than hope. Drew's chase for the title, no matter the outcome, isn't a slog through internet angst and unrealized superstar potential - it's an enjoyable adventure undertaken with good cheer and determination. While this model could be applied elsewhere on the card, it does not represent a strict “one size fits all” solution to WWE’s creative missteps. It’s all too easy to take my argument in favor of fun, extract the meaning, and reduce it to “WWE Superstars just need to go out there and have fun...pal!” That is not what I am suggesting. WWE Superstars, like any artists, need to find their voice. But, just as importantly, WWE needs to create the conditions, for all superstars, wherein that is actually possible. Then, when that superstar finds their voice, WWE needs to support them with enthusiasm and foresight. That experience of discovery, regardless of a character's particular temperament, is pleasurable. We are witnessing that process unfold for Drew McIntyre, and all we can do is watch, enjoy, and hope for the best. His transformation into Banter King seems like it happened overnight, and that's yet another testament to his skill. In reality, it's taken years of diligent work and commitment to his craft to arrive at this point. He has graciously invited us to participate with the simplest, most brilliant call and response of the past several years, "Three! Two! One!”, just in time for The Royal Rumble, where counting aloud is reason enough to attend. Should he continue on his present course, and should WWE allow him to showcase his charm in suitable segments and matches, Drew will successfully claim his prize and give wrestling fans exactly what they need (even if they don’t quite know it yet). Follow Tim on Twitter and
info_outline WOW - EP195 - Royal Rumble Preview 01/20/2020
WOW - EP195 - Royal Rumble Preview Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail previews the 2020 Royal Rumble. Topics include: Why Brock Lesnar's inclusion is a good thing Who should win the men's rumble Who should win the women's rumble Fantasy booking to WrestleMania Daniel Bryan vs The Fiend Becky Lynch vs Asuka How WWE can use The Rumble to get NXT over And more! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and
info_outline WOW - EP194 - Never Ashes 01/13/2020
WOW - EP194 - Never Ashes This week Work Of Wrestling host, Tim Kail, unleashes his pent up response to CM Punk's "Return". Other topics include: David Starr vs Jordan Devlin for the OTT Championship Effective modern symbolism in pro-wrestling WWE Backstage and how it won't exist a year from now How pro-wrestling (and Tim) have moved on from CM Punk Tim's renewed desire to live "the art life" and find purpose through writing & podcasting And much more! Click here to watch Starr vs Devlin: Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Thanks for listening! Return next week for a Royal Rumble preview!
info_outline Here's How AEW Can Change Wrestling (If It Really Wants To) 01/11/2020
Here's How AEW Can Change Wrestling (If It Really Wants To) Kenny Omega, Matt & Nick Jackson, Brandi & Cody of AEW AEW's second Dynamite of the year featured back-to-back-to-back segments with The Nightmare Collective, The Dark Order, and The Butcher, The Bunny, & The Blade. Short The Librarians joining in to shush an already silent crowd, it watched like a parade of wrestling's worst instincts. Bad timing, awkward delivery, flubbed reveals, cheap attire, hokey gimmicks, authority figures, unclear motivations, and labored narrative reasoning. As this played out, a word slowly came into focus in my consciousness, floating in the dark like bright balloon letters, “MESS!” The Nightmare Collective Interrupts Riho vs Kris Statlander So eager for AEW to fulfill its potential, I've been giving the promotion the benefit of the doubt since I first saw The Creepers crawl on stage. I've been rationalizing the promotion’s mixed messaging, the existence of pre-shows on five-hour pay-per-views, Dynamite’s spotty audio, Dynamite’s WWE-influenced visual language, Dynamite’s WWE-influenced structure, and Dynamite’s general inability to focus on a single wrestler or group with perceptible momentum (Darby Allin, Riho, PAC, Jon Moxley, The Inner Circle). “It’s a new promotion,” I’ve told myself, “give it time.” After the latest episode, Dynamite has had enough time. It must no longer be viewed through "the benefit of the doubt" and, instead, constructively critiqued like any other prime-time television show. I can’t ignore the show’s creative and aesthetic stumbles in an effort to convince myself it’s WWE's antidote, especially when I experienced WWE's antidote, in vivid detail, at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Swearing off Dynamite after one especially bad episode is unrealistic, of course. Proclamations of changing channels and cancelling networks rarely stick because professional wrestling, itself, is fundamentally good. No matter what promotion produces pro-wrestling, it's inevitably going to create something worthwhile because pro-wrestling is a reliably effective art form. I know I'll continue tuning in, and I know I'll enjoy something along the way, but I'll be doing so with a proper understanding of the show's purpose. After three months of dedicated viewership, I see through the alluring fantasy of AEW (that it will save wrestling) to a less exciting reality. Cody, EVP and performer in AEW The word “MESS!” has less to do with the aforementioned unsuccessful segments and more to do with the mind that produced them. The fact that such segments were greenlit in the same stroke as genuinely enjoyable segments is revealing. Dynamite lacks a unifying narrative principle. There is no clear foundation upon which the show’s fictional world is built. As a result, the company's characters, stories, and production values fluctuate wildly from week to week, segment to segment, dependent entirely upon the quality of act being featured. Sound familiar? This inconsistency has been generously defended as “something for everyone”. In theory, that’s a noble pursuit given the variety of wrestling styles and tastes today. In practice…well…it’s not actually in practice. Does “something for everyone” explain AEW’s audio troubles, antiquated gimmicks, inability to book women, and a host of other persistent troubles? The more I watch Dynamite, the less I see a “pro-wrestling buffet” and the more I see a television show struggling to "get things right". When we take all of Dynamite’s positives and negatives into consideration, it becomes apparent that AEW is motivated by something simpler than “changing wrestling” or “offering something for everyone”. Dynamite, in its simplest form, is a show for wrestlers who don’t want to work at WWE. If it has any recognizable unifying principle, it's that. Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho in AEW A desire to not work at WWE doesn’t automatically translate to better, more original television, though. One must still be good at producing TV. More importantly, a promotion’s perspective on professional wrestling must be fundamentally different from Vince McMahon’s if it sincerely wishes to produce something different from Vince McMahon. If the differences are, “Wrestlers should have creative control of their characters, wrestlers should be able to cut bullet-point promos, matches should have finishes more often than not, top-guys shouldn’t need to be big & tall, house-show circuits should be abandoned, Championships should matter,” then you’re going to end up with a different shade of the same color. You may enjoy that shade more, but it’s on the same part of the spectrum. When a promotion doesn’t share WWE’s creative guidelines but it does share WWE’s perspective on pro-wrestling, the result is nothing more than slight alterations to Sports Entertainment's incessant formulas. When a promotion does have a fundamentally different perspective on pro-wrestling, it creates something truly different. "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "good", though. Again, the production team, the booker, and the wrestlers all need to be exceptional at their jobs to produce something equal parts fresh & laudable. But, when pro-wrestling is in good hands and it's built from a different point of view from McMahon's, it can be remarkable. Tetsuya Naito wins the IWGP Intercontinental & Heavyweight Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 14 When pro-wrestling is in unproven hands and it's built with the same point of view as McMahon, it can be hit or miss, but it's not going to change anything. Just look to the closing segment of this week’s Dynamite (a hit). Jon Moxley baited and switched Chris Jericho in a closing promo segment where he had to choose whether or not he’d join a heel faction. Sure…Moxley’s name was Moxley, not Ambrose. Jericho was Le Champion, not Y2J. Improvisational flourishes dotted the scene, reminding us how charming both men are, and what they can achieve when they don't have to answer to a team of beleaguered writers. But apart from the real-world guidelines informing the scene, what was intrinsically AEW about it? Jon Moxley announces that he has "joined" The Inner Circle. Unless you knew you were watching Dynamite in 2020, you’d be forgiven for confusing it for Raw in 2017. It even looks the same. One could argue that Dynamite doesn’t need to be fundamentally different from WWE, or that its alterations to the Sports Entertainment formula are enough. That's fine, but it means AEW's EVPs and owner should start accurately describing their product as a WWE-Thought-Experiment. One could also argue that “backstage segments”, “contract signings”, “closing promo segments”, etc. are all “just pro-wrestling!” Maybe. Or maybe pro-wrestling is an art and arts are malleable, reflecting the needs of the audience and the depth of the artists serving them. Maybe pro-wrestling has been so dominated by one mind for so long that it’s hard for others to see beyond it. Maybe the poor taste and bad decision-making of that one mind has created others who inadvertently share his taste and decision-making style...despite their best intentions. Wrestling fans didn’t turn to AEW to watch a less scripted version of Vince McMahon’s idea of wrestling. Wrestling fans turn to other promotions to cleanse their souls, to see what Vince McMahon has ignored, discarded, or overlooked. That’s the appeal of performers like Riho, Darby Allin, Jon Moxley, and Orange Cassidy. Fans know such characters can't exist in WWE, because Vince McMahon won't allow it. Fans also immediately recognize the talent of these performers (otherwise they wouldn't cheer with such passion) and they want to watch a promotion that shares their intuition, foresight, and enthusiasm. The process by which we’ve fallen in love with AEW's greatest prospects is different than enjoying a less-scripted version of RAW. It’s a process of true discovery wherein the show isn't just, "As good as you knew it could be". Instead it's, "Better than you ever imagined." Rather than rely upon Sports Entertainment’s proven formulas, AEW could rely on the enduring power of discovery. Instead of asking, “What if Vince McMahon gave us what we actually wanted?” AEW could ask, “What does professional wrestling want to become?” I promise you...the answer to the latter question is more interesting, and it will give AEW the foundation it needs. Follow on Twitter and
info_outline AEW Can Do Better Than The Dark Order 01/08/2020
AEW Can Do Better Than The Dark Order The Dark Order Of AEW "We're going to offer a sports-centric product that focuses on the athletes and work." With this , in May of 2019, Tony Khan set my expectations of All Elite Wrestling. I wish I had interpreted that statement as broadly as possible rather than immediately invest in the deeper implications of "sports-centric". It set an impossible-to-meet expectation, ensuring dissatisfaction. So frustrated with WWE and so excited by the prospect of a new promotion destined to be its antidote, it wasn't hard to imagine Dynamite would be everything I ever wanted it to be. All I heard was "sports-centric" and my eager imagination filled in the blanks. That was my mistake, not Khan's nor AEW's. To be fair to frustrated WWE-fans, though, the phrase "sports-centric" is a dog whistle that roughly translates, "Gone are the days of Sports Entertainment bullocks! No hokey crap! AEW is going be serious and respect pro-wrestling!" I'm not suggesting Tony Khan didn't mean what he said. Nor do I think his promotion should be forever judged according to what it isn't. I simply recognize, especially after watching the latest Dark Order YouTube video, that I have a very different understanding of “sports-centric". It turns out AEW is a lot like all other pro-wrestling (which is by no means the end of the world and, in hindsight, unsurprising). It has strengths, it has weaknesses, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s bad…and sometimes you hope no one knows you watch it. The Dark Order falls into the latter category for me. It's a little bit Right To Censor, a little bit Straight Edge Society, a little bit Wyatt Family, and a lot of what professional wrestling doesn't need anymore. They’re a dated, cheesy, black-leather-clad collection of heels who, while not supernatural, move to the lame rhythm of supernatural-wrestling. They’re not helped by the existence of The Butcher, The Bunny, & The Blade and The Nightmare Collective (Brandi, Awesome Kong, a mysterious bald man, et al), two other AEW factions who fit the same description: they wear black, they threaten people but it's not clear why, cut off hair, climb out of "hell" (the center of the ring), and their aesthetic is stuck somewhere between early aughts softcore porn and goth Attitude Era. While The Dark Order's soft reboot as a cult of jobber-incels was inspired, it continues to manifest as goofy skits, cheap-looking costumes, and creative paradoxes (things that should matter on weekly prime-time television). Ignoring aesthetics, and considering only Dark Order's narrative trajectory, we're meant to trust AEW's creative process. We’re not supposed to feel "been there, done that". We're meant to be sincerely teased by The Dark Order, and curious about their true intentions. We're not supposed to watch it ironically, and yet I fear that's going to become the only way fans end up enjoying it (a cynical process AEW must avoid). Not only is it difficult to be teased and curious about something painfully familiar, it's difficult to place once’s faith in a process that, in Dark Order’s case, hasn’t yielded positive results. AEW's unwillingness to give up on The Dark Order is certainly admirable. The attempt to ground them in reality and flesh out their identity via vignettes offered a brief glimmer of hope. Then, on December 18th, they came out from behind the comfort of their vignettes to close an episode of Dynamite. Seeing and hearing them, in the flesh, was a blistering reminder of how inherently antiquated their gimmick is. The promotion's heart may be in the right place, but the promotion's head is making all the same bad sports-entertainment decisions. And that’s where my real concern lies. Before long, the company’s admirable unwillingness to give up on The Dark Order will read as stubbornness. You will like this whether you like it or not, pal! Pro-wrestling fans have had enough of that. If a promotion (especially one that regards itself as "The Alternative") doesn't sincerely consider audience reactions or, worse yet, doesn't comprehend why fans reject an act and then, worse still, quadruples-down on a creative gambit purely out of spite, it's not delivering on a promise for which there is no room for interpretation: to be entertaining. Modern wrestling fans don’t need Dynamite to be everything they specifically want it to be. Not even me, a regular live Dynamite-viewer who has enjoyed more episodes than he hasn’t. Modern wrestling fans just need wrestling to be good. The same way other television is good. What does that mean? It means not grading wrestling on its cooky curve, allowing for cheap nonsense as a result of lowered expectations. It means gradually removing those parts of pro-wrestling that embarrass us: gimmicks, angles, aesthetics, tones, philosophies, policies, and concepts best left to the past. When I see an act like The Dark Order, in 2020, it confounds me. I know the minds who created it have seen the same wrestling I have. And yet, because the act persists, it doesn't seem like those minds also know where it's all going. Short of taking their story in an increasingly meta-direction that gets out ahead of their demise, wherein the Dark Order is revealed to be an example of "terrible-creative" perpetrated on wrestling fans by a rouge EVP, Dark Order will not exist in another year. They're an experiment fans will one day reminisce about with wry “What were they thinking?” grins on their faces. And that's okay. The Dark Order is one iteration of a particular group of performers who will eventually find their way. I’m not suggesting AEW immediately erase The Dark Order and pretend the group never existed. I’m only suggesting AEW accept it and move on when The Dark Order fails. If the promotion truly wants to be an alternative it will embrace the audience's unmitigated rejection of an angle, a gimmick, a policy, or a business decision. And it will do so as quickly as it embraces praise for unscripted promos, win/loss records, and two-hour run-times. Follow on Twitter and
info_outline WOW - EP193 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night Two) Review 01/06/2020
WOW - EP193 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night Two) Review Work Of Wrestling starts The New Year with New Japan! In part two of the 5th anniversary episode of WOW, host Tim Kail critiques the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14. Topics include: Jushin Thunder Liger and the bond all wrestling fans share A plot hole in a tag match featuring "illegal cups" New Japan's camera work The tangly genius of Zach Saber Jr. and Sanada The unexpected outcome of Juice Robinson vs John Moxley for the IWGP United States Championship What was missing from Kenta vs Goto (if anything) The brilliance of Kota Ibushi's performance The ever-reliable vile charm of Chris Jericho Yet another epic main event between Naito and Okada to crown the first ever double-champion The night one review is available now, as well! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Join Tim next week for an all new episode!
info_outline WOW - EP192 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night One) Review 01/06/2020
WOW - EP192 - Wrestle Kingdom 14 (Night One) Review Work Of Wrestling starts The New Year with New Japan! In this 5th anniversary episode of WOW, host Tim Kail critiques the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 14. Topics include: How helpful New Japan's commentary is, particularly with regard to the history of Jushin Thunder Liger Kenta being the strongest member of Bullet Club The likability of Juice Robinson The joy of New Japan Moxley (and why Tim is just going to have to accept Moxley's attire choices) The athletic majesty of Will Osprey How a fan's metric for judging "best wrestler in the world" is informed by what style is presently popular The clearly defined characters of Naito and White The way Okada and Ibushi told a story almost entirely through facial expressions And much more! Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and . The #NJWK14 Night Two review is available now! And join Tim next week for another new episode!
info_outline WOW - EP191 - TLC Review Holiday Special! 12/16/2019
WOW - EP191 - TLC Review Holiday Special! Work Of Wrestling returns for a Holiday Special review of TLC! First, host Tim Kail shares his thoughts on pro-wrestling in 2019, from AEW to WWE to New Japan. Then, he dissects every match on the main TLC ppv card. Topics include: The joy of watching wrestlers you can trust to deliver A detailed analysis of Alestair Black vs Buddy Murphy, and why it was the match of the night Why does the WWE not want a finish between The Viking Raiders and The O.C. especially when it clearly doesn't care about either team? Why Baron Corbin going the in-ring route of Randy Orton is not a good idea. The days when good-guys were bound by a common morality, and interceded on the behalf of the innocent. A detailed analysis of Firefly Funhouse Bray Wyatt and the good & bad of his match with Miz Asking: "Who is this Rusev/Lashley match even for?" The hits & misses of the main event, something feeling "off", and how a bunch of wrestlers fighting in a pile doesn't do much for The Royal Rumble. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and Read Tim's latest article and find out why he's embraced "watching wrestling as a critic": Enjoy the rest of your year, one & all! Catch you in 2020!
info_outline Watching Wrestling As A Fan (Not A Critic) In 2019 12/09/2019
Watching Wrestling As A Fan (Not A Critic) In 2019 Rusev, Lana, and Bobby Lashley on Monday Night Raw Since the middle of October, I’ve been watching wrestling as a fan. Not a critic. No podcasts, Facebook posts, or articles on the subject. Just occasional Tweets, some of which get deleted as quickly as they’re unleashed because the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” plays in my mind afterward. And while I do have some nice things to say, they’re so few and lacking in passion that I’m not inclined to say them. What I’ve discovered in watching WWE and AEW “as a fan” the past few months (the way wrestling’s staunchest defenders would have me watch), is that wrestling television just isn’t very…good. Not “good” in the way I’d judge any other weekly television show, at least. Jon Moxley in AEW This will come as no shock to most longtime WWE fans. AEW fans are likelier to bristle at this idea because Dynamite is more watchable, fun, good-spirited, and consistently entertaining than RAW or SmackDown. But, after the initial glow of the first few weeks faded, I started watching Dynamite as yet another wrestling show plagued with its own set of nonsensical problems. Because I so desperately want to love every episode, when Dynamite fails, it stings tenfold. I’ve certainly not given up hope. It's so new and I'm happy to give it time to iron out some of its kinks...I just wish those kinks were new. As a wrestling fan, I just never know if I’m going to get an amazing tag match between The Young Bucks and The Lucha Brothers or an overlong, goofy skit that I struggle to literally hear. The end result is a dissatisfying experience, which is no different than what I get when I watch “that other place”. Speaking of “that other place”, I always know exactly what I’m getting on RAW & SmackDown: the same creative stagnation and systemic failures, interrupted by brief flashes of hope that are just as quickly extinguished by yet another terrible booking decision. The Fiend in WWE So, after watching wrestling like a fan for a few months, I’ve come away asking, “How is this any better?” If anything, it's been worse. And this is coming from someone who WWE & AEW actually caters to - not someone who they claim to cater to and don’t. Perhaps this is just wrestling, I often wonder. Perhaps wrestling inherently doesn’t lend itself to the kind of consistent quality I can easily find on HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and, most recently, Disney Plus. Perhaps due to wrestling’s hodgepodge construction - a blend of improve, skit, theater, and athletics - it will inevitably be hit & miss within the confines of any television presentation, be it one or five hours long. Perhaps the only way wrestling can ever be “actually good” is when viewed in its natural habitat: live at the theater, gymnasium, studio, or arena. Clever as that explanation seems, I’m inclined to think it’s an excuse born out of years of unnecessarily terrible television. We want to like wrestling, after all. It makes sense that we would stretch our brains into a pretzel to make it "okay" to like it. The idea that in order to fully enjoy wrestling we have to fundamentally redefine our evaluation of “good” and grade wrestling on its very own little curve is, itself, disrespectful to the art. It’s true that we evaluate artistic mediums according to their particular set of principles and established structures, in addition to a broader understanding of “quality”. For example, you don’t judge a Taylor Swift song according to what makes for a good episode of Law & Order. Music and television are different mediums and present different aesthetic considerations. But both may achieve their desired emotional responses using the tools of their respective mediums, and so both may be judged as “good” or “effective”. But does that mean I’m supposed to judge pro-wrestling with an understanding that hokey shit is a part of pro-wrestling? That’s the implication of grading weekly wrestling shows on their very own little curves. The Librarians in AEW It’s okay if it’s sometimes stupid and bad because wrestling is inherently sometimes stupid and bad. While some reading this may respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”, I’m still not there, even after years of watching as both fan and critic. A part of me still believes wrestling can be good in the same way other shows are good. I can’t think my way to a state of mind where the illogic, self-congratulatory idiocy, and sexism of the Lana/Rusev/Lashley angle isn’t profoundly unwatchable television. This is what accounts for my persistent hesitation in admitting I’m a wrestling fan to anyone (notice I used the word “admit”). When I see Lashley and Lana locking lips on stage or Kenny Omega lifting tiny weights or I hear Lawler’s problematic cracks on commentary or I can’t even hear Chris Jericho or I’m told to follow a wrestler on Twitter to really get a sense of their gimmick, I’m just embarrassed. I’m embarrassed by wrestling’s low opinion of itself and, by extension, wrestling’s low opinion of me. I don’t believe I should have to make peace with the fact that WWE and AEW are allowed to be objectively poor from time to time, so that I’m then able to have a subjectively pleasant experience. This is not the same realistic philosophy as, “Everyone has a bad week from time to time”. This is the unrealistic philosophy that wrestling somehow exists outside every logical metric for evaluating art. I also wonder, why is this such a widespread view? Vince McMahon of WWE Wrestling is erroneously slotted into the “it’s so bad it’s good” sub-genre of entertainment. This is one of the many reasons it doesn't evolve. I’d be more inclined to accept the idea that wrestling is “so bad it’s good” if it was actually good at being “so bad it’s good”. But, more often than not, weekly wrestling shows are just plain bad - as in fundamentally not entertaining in any capacity. Further preventing wrestling’s ability to successfully attain the status of “so bad it’s good”, is how often it's “so good it’s good!” Wrestling fans are forced to frame each moment of a wrestling show in their mind according to a set of values that justifies its existence. If a segment is stupid...well that's just the stupid segment tonight. If a segment is great...that's the make-good for that stupid segment earlier. While wrestling fans are more than capable of navigating this ever-winding quality-dynamic, I contend it puts undue strain on their fandom. There is no: I'm sitting down to watch wrestling because it's good and I like it and this is going to satisfy me from start to finish. The medium, as reflected by those in charge of it, very much wants to have its trashy cake and its gourmet cake and eat them simultaneously. And it expects fans to just be okay with that - to allow for it and even defend it. This is reflected in every weekly show’s inability to strike a consistent tone or level of quality. This is also reflected in a fanbase of diverging perspectives: some of whom genuinely enjoy the hokey bullocks and believe its intrinsic to the art, some of whom suffer through the hokey bullocks so as to get to the goods, and some of whom represent a mix of the two. Then there are all those people (the majority of wrestling fans) who just aren’t watching because they’re tired of being embarrassed. Cody "smashes" a throne with a sledge hammer in AEW This is what I’ve learned over the past few months of watching wrestling "the way I’m meant to”: it’s actually less fun. Watching as a fan, at thirty-three, makes it even more difficult to justify watching when wrestling so rarely respects my intelligence and my emotional investments. So, for me, in 2019 and presumably beyond, the only way to consistently watch weekly wrestling television…is as a critic. Watching as a critic allows us to supplement the lack of weekly wrestling’s creativity with our own. It allows us to engage our mind on any level, in a way the shows naturally do not (or can’t for longer than a few weeks). We’re free to fantasy book, deconstruct angles, and offer our takes with a wider community. This allows us to connect with…anything. Ideally, it wouldn’t be this way, but wrestling has created these circumstances by failing to deliver what fans need. Consider the end of the quality-spectrum that successfully slots into the “so bad it’s good” sub-genre (E! celebrity docu-series, reality TV competitions, Bravo franchises, CW teen-melodramas, etc). All of these shows actually deliver their promised experiences. Even if such shows are graded on their own curve, they consistently offer a unified fanbase exactly what that fanbase seeks. Wrestling does not do this. Real Housewives fans don't threaten to #CancelTheNetwork when an episode doesn't deliver. They just discuss what happened on the episode...because it did deliver. When TV gives the audience what they want, it doesn't leave room for doubt. It doesn't result in social media campaigns or outrage - it just inspires fun dialogue and good ratings. SmackDown's new set after transitioning to Fox The wrestling medium has not considered the affect of its “sometimes wrestling is just stupid” ethos. It’s considered even less how that concept is at odds with its other deeply held belief, “Don’t disrespect wrestling by calling it fake.” Wrestling has failed to reconcile these contradictory philosophies, all the while failing to realize which perspective is more beneficial to its longterm health. The idea that “sometimes wrestling is just stupid” is rooted in the past. It’s rooted in wrestling’s insecurity, a holdover from a bygone era when wrestlers had to ("for a shoot") beat up a fan who challenged the legitimacy of their “sport”. It’s a perspective that’s completely out of step with an entertainment landscape offering instantly accessible excellence and highly personalized experiences that satisfy diverse audiences. "Sometimes wrestling is just stupid" also assumes that wrestling fans believe in kayfabe. We don’t. So when wrestling is just stupid, it’s not as though we think it's an accident. Pro-wrestling would be wise to consider that, to question the value of “popping the boys”. If it doesn’t, it risks playing to a house of empty seats.
info_outline WOW - EP190 - Season Finale 10/14/2019
WOW - EP190 - Season Finale The 2019 season of Work Of Wrestling podcast comes to a close in fitting fashion, with host Tim Kail examining this fascinating year of wrestling, and then taking a deep dive into SmackDown's move to Fox and AEW's second episode of Dynamite.
info_outline WOW - EP188 - John Macy 09/30/2019
WOW - EP188 - John Macy Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail is joined by his old friend John Macy to discuss the forthcoming exciting week in professional wrestling! Topics include: The significance of SmackDown moving to Fox and what it might mean for RAW's status as "The A Show" What WWE can learn from the Marvel Cinematic Universe Jon Moxley and CM Punk being two sides of the same coin, with Moxley's contributions to pro-wrestling being judged more favorably by history Women's Wrestling, and how to ensure WWE doesn't use the main event of WrestleMania 35 as window dressing What John's looking for from AEW as he heads into Dynamite with a clean slate and a pure point of view Why The Fiend may turn out to be WWE's greatest card to play in this game of wrestling with AEW And much more! Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and
info_outline WOW - EP187 - Rob Bennett 09/23/2019
WOW - EP187 - Rob Bennett Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail is joined by his friend Rob Bennett to discuss all things modern pro-wrestling. Topics include: Rob & Tim's WrestleMania adventure in April - how they prepared and their advice for fellow fans Jon Moxley's podcast with Chris Jericho Moxley's performance in New Japan AEW's connections to WCW The impending "Wednesday Night Wars" NXT's bright future The Fiend and "The New Kayfabe" How to write The Universal Title off television Is it possible to create something genuinely new? And much more! Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and
info_outline WOW - EP186 - Clash Of Champions Review 09/16/2019
WOW - EP186 - Clash Of Champions Review Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail reviews Clash of Champions! Topics include: Why it was a mistake to move the King of the Ring finale to RAW What made the Braullins team-up unique and contrived at the same time Why Bayley running for her life was perfect How The Revival finally got to be The Revival on the main roster The problematic potpourri that is Sonya & Mandy vs Alexa and Nikki Miz & Shinsuke putting on a better match than they ever needed to Sasha Banks oddly earning sympathy WWE's mixed messages Why Kofi vs Orton must never happen again Roman Reigns' perfect power bomb sell Why Strowman needs to be preserved How the main event's finish made both wrestlers look weak Why Tim still doesn't have faith in WWE's booking of The Fiend, even though he's starting to have faith in the character. Music by Ben Holland whose album "In Use Day And Night" is available on iTunes. Visit for more details and follow Ben on Twitter @BenBenHolland. Follow WorkOfWrestling on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and
info_outline WOW - EP183 - Ospreay vs Ricochet Revisited 08/26/2019
WOW - EP183 - Ospreay vs Ricochet Revisited Work Of Wrestling host Tim Kail takes a trip down recent memory lane to revisit the stellar New Japan match Ospreay vs Ricochet. Only this time he's bringing along Granny Franny for a fresh, upbeat perspective. Tim & his mom discuss what's so special about the match, why it's so entertaining & effective, and why it's every bit as worthy of praise as any hyper-realistic portrayal of pro-wrestling. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and
info_outline WOW - EP181 - King Of The Ring Preview 08/17/2019
WOW - EP181 - King Of The Ring Preview WWE just released the brackets for the forthcoming King of the Ring Tournament and it has Tim hyped! In a bonus, surprise episode he previews the brackets, picks his winners, fantasy-books angles, and makes a new star, all within WWE's already established narrative framework. Follow on Twitter @WorkOfWrestling and