My favourite wrestling matches of 2021

The shortlist

  • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, January 4 2021, Wrestle Kingdom 15 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Sasha Banks vs Bianca Bel Air, April 10 2021, WrestleMania 37 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri, June 12 2021, Stardom Tokyo Dream Cinderella Special Edition - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • The Lucha Brothers vs The Young Bucks, September 5 2021, AEW All Out 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega, September 22 2021, AEW Dynamite #103 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The longlist

  • Shingo Takagi vs Jeff Cobb, January 5 2021, Wrestle kingdom 15 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Raquel Gonzalez vs Rhea Ripley, January 6 2021, NXT #437 - New Year’s Evil - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble Match - Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, Alicia Fox, Bayley, Billie Kay, Carmella, Charlotte Flair, Dakota Kai, Dana Brooke, Ember Moon, Jillian Hall, Lacey Evans, Lana, Liv Morgan, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Naomi, Natalya, Nia Jax, Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce, Rhea Ripley, Ruby Riott, Santana Garrett, Shayna Baszler, Shotzi Blackheart, Tamina, Toni Storm, Torrie Wilson, Victoria, January 31 2021, WWE Royal Rumble 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Finn Balor vs Pete Dunne, February 14 2021, TakeOver: Vengeance Day - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Io Shirai vs Mercedes Martinez vs Toni Storm, February 14 2021, TakeOver: Vengeance Day - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Ryo Mizunami vs Maki Ito, February 15 2021, AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Riho vs Serena Deeb, February 17 2021, AEW Dynamite 73 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Io Shirai vs Zoey Stark, February 24 2021, NXT 444 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Ryo Mizunami vs Nyla Rose, March 3 2021, AEW Dynamite 75 - The Crossroads - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Darby Allin & Sting vs Team Taz, March 7 2021, AEW Revolution - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Miro vs Darby Allin, May 12 2021, AEW Dynamite #85 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Kenny Omega vs Orange Cassidy vs PAC, May 30 2021, AEW Double or Nothing 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Io Shirai & Zoey Stark vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart, June 29 2021, NXT #461 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • The Elite vs Adam Page & The Dark Order, July 28 2021, AEW  Dynamite #96 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Christian Cage vs Kenny Omega, August 13 2021, AEW Rampage #1 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Giulia & Syuri vs. Momo Watanabe & Saya Kamitani, September 5 2021, NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • CM Punk vs Darby Allin, September 5 2021, AEW All Out 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Yujiro Takahashi vs Kota Ibushi, September 18 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • KENTA vs Yujiro Takahashi, September 23 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Shingo Takagi vs Zack Sabre Jr., September 23 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Becky Lynch vs Bianca Belair, September 26 2021, WWE Extreme Rules 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Shingo Takagi vs Kota Ibushi, October 3 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs KENTA, October 9 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Bryan Danielson vs. Minoru Suzuki, October 15 2021, AEW Rampage #10 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Taichi, October 20 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb, October 20 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs Zack Sabre Jr., October 21 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Kazuchika Okada vs Kota Ibushi, October 21 2021, NJPW G1 Climax 31 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Hikaru Shida vs Serena Deeb, October 27 2021, AEW Dynamite #108 - ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Bryan Danielson vs Eddie Kingston, October 29 2021, AEW Rampage #12 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Kenny Omega vs. Adam Page, November 13 2021, AEW Full Gear 2021 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
  • Adam Page vs Bryan Danielson, December 15 2021, AEW Dynamite #115 - ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Best Thing That Could Happen

I fell asleep watching Japanese pro wrestling last night. The drama around wrestling is jagged and stressful, but wrestling matches themselves—especially New Japan’s long main event style—are balletic and methodical. You can really put a few on and get the same calm as custom white noise. I mean, turn the volume down. The enthusiasm from the commentary track may not deliver the desired sleepy time heart rate.

While I was watching this match, I had a singular thought: what’s the best thing that could happen here? I didn’t particularly have skin in this game. If one or the other performer won,” would that mean anything to me? Not really. I was here for the choreography. A match can end in a lot of ways. What’s the best one? New Japan is a confident place, and nearly all their matches end with a decisive victor. But you know what I really love? A time limit draw.

If you don’t know wrestling, there are sometimes time limits. It depends on the company and the gimmick and what they’re trying to communicate. Time limit draws are usually about frustrations about working within the system. It’s a shenanigan under the rare guise of rule-keeping. One performer is a brick wall, the other a wrecking ball, and it’s about the wall falling in time. Can the wrecking ball get its job done? But that’s less interesting to me than a stellar performance not being marred by having to decide a winner.” How do you pick a winner in pairs skating, between the two people in the pair? You don’t. They sit at the kiss and cry and you judge them together.

Perhaps my favorite finish in any match is from 2001. Stone Cold Steve Austin and HHH have this 45 minute epic in February of that year. They sort of do the Rocky II finish, where they hit one another at the same time. Only, they collapse. HHH falls slightly slower, and he ends up on top of Austin. He wins” the match because that’s just coincidentally how pins in wrestling work (so, so many wrestlers have won” matches after being dragged on top of their opponent by someone else), but it doesn’t matter. The whole point was the performance itself.

As I’m letting my mind wander about this new story, I’m trying to look at it from new angles. I rarely think about the endings” of my stories. I make a few characters and try to follow them through an arc. But maybe I need to have something in mind, and that it should be worth the arc. My stories are usually love stories that don’t work out. There’s no real correlation to winning and losing in my stories. I don’t think those concepts are all that interesting. But I do like ties. It feels like the characters make it across together.

So maybe my story has to involve my characters competing for something that ends in a draw. Or maybe it’s something more emotional. They fight one another and get nowhere. Maybe they’re struggling too hard towards the wrong kind of ending, and they come to realize it was the wrong goal for them. Would that be the best ending? They realign their values. They’re together, focused. Is the best ending just a fresh, crisp beginning with renewed focus? Is it just circular like that. Is that too simple?

G1 Climax Tournament in Notion

I made an Airtable for the G1 Climax tournament last year. It was an interesting experience but it wasn’t really pretty or useful. This year, I tried building a similar thing in Notion. Check it out.

If you use Notion you can duplicate it, or you just can just bookmark it and follow along throughout the tournament. I might fiddle with it to do some cool stats things. I generally don’t care about wrestling stats, but the G1 is neat, man.

Interesting Notion tidbit: if you share a page that has linked data, make sure to also share all the linked pages. If you don’t, you’ll just get a blank set of rows wherever there’s a link.

Today is today, September 9, 2020

I’m reading Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. It’s super quick and definitely makes me want to write like her. But I can’t write like her and that’s okay. I borrowed it from my library and it’s probably in your library too.

Men’s magazine writers are in pure fuck-it mode, it seems. Mac and Cheese for breakfast is insane. It reminded me of a video I did like about breakfast, though. I watched this Johnny Harris video a few months ago and it jostled something in me. I tried a more Japanese-style breakfast a few times this summer and it was nice. I still revert to the laziest possible breakfasts, but occasionally I’ll try to fix my life with protein. It never works.

I watched some phone porn. It’s not even aspirational phone porn. I don’t want an android phone, or anything by Samsung, and I definitely don’t want to spend US$2000 on anything if I can help it. So why am I watching videos like this? Is it just Dieter Bohn’s tech review charm? Maybe. I think I have a sort of tech review inertia. My iPhone XR is only 16 months old, and should last me another 16 months if I don’t drop it on bathroom tiles or try to take a picture with it at 1am on New Years, or try to take a picture in a bathroom at 1am on New Years. Anyways my shit still feels brand new and I’m barely hungry. I wonder what would happen if I turned off all my tech websites for a month? I’d definitely lose out on all those hot takes.

Speaking of, there’s an Apple Event next week. They’re usually pretty fun to watch, but it’s been quite a few of them since they revealed something I actually wanted. I’m an elder tech person now. I want some refinement and I want a think to last a long time. It’s why I bought a Surface 4 and an Apple Watch 5 and a Logitech M720. Those first 719 mice were for beta testers.

The G1 Climax 30 bracket was released. I made my bracket. I’ve got Jay White and Evil winning both Blocks and doing a Bullet Club finale, with White winning back his leader position. It feels right for 2020.

I’m recording a new Fran’s Not Here on Instagram Live at 5:30. We did two of these in the Spring, but Instagram deleted both videos immediately. They’ve since added a feature where you can download the video. Part of it being a podcast” is you need to be able to archive the damn file somewhere.

Wrestlespective - Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena (Firefly Fun House at WrestleMania 36

I was on Jason’s podcast again, talking about a very unique wrestling match.

For those who haven’t seen it, it’s sort of a reward for (very) long-term wrestling viewing. Wrestlespective listeners probably got all of it, but newer fans might not have appreciated all the deep cuts in this one. It’s a wrestling match where the moves” are psychological callbacks to John Cena’s career failures. There are other cinematic”-style wrestling matches but there’s nothing quite like this. I had lots of fun diving into this with Jason, and I thank him for giving me a space to unpack it as best as I could.

WWE statement regarding WrestleMania 36

WWE:

In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place. However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5 at 7 pm ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWEs training facility in Orlando, Florida to produce WrestleMania.

Absolutely the right decision, but not one I expected from Vince McMahon. Doing the right thing hasn’t exactly been his thing.

Still, if there’s any public gathering still happening, remember that even WWE fell in line.

Photos from The Summit

Photos taken on the August 10 The Summit” all-women’s wrestling show at the Midtown Event Theatre.

Rosemary

A tender moment

Shotzi Blackheart

Shotzi Blackheart vs Delilhah Doom

Shotzi Blackheart vs Delilhah Doom

Shotzi Blackheart vs Delilhah Doom

Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas

Zoe Lucas

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Zoe Lucas vs Aerial Monroe

Bull Nakano

Bull Nakano

Aerial Monroe

Aerial Monroe

Aerial Monroe

Priscilla Kelly

Lufisto

Lufisto vs Allysin Kay vs Cheerleader Melissa vs Priscilla Kelly

Lufisto vs Allysin Kay vs Cheerleader Melissa vs Priscilla Kelly

Lufisto vs Allysin Kay vs Cheerleader Melissa vs Priscilla Kelly

Lufisto vs Allysin Kay vs Cheerleader Melissa vs Priscilla Kelly

Lufisto vs Allysin Kay vs Cheerleader Melissa vs Priscilla Kelly

Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez vs Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez vs Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez vs Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez vs Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez vs Jordynne Grace

Mercedes Martinez

Nicole Savoy vs Nicole Matthews

Nicole Savoy vs Nicole Matthews

Nicole Savoy vs Nicole Matthews

Nicole Savoy vs Nicole Matthews

Nicole Savoy vs Nicole Matthews

Nicole Savoy and Aerial Monroe

Nicole Savoy and Aerial Monroe, Nicole Matthews in foreground

Nicole Savoy

Nicole Savoy and Aerial Monroe

G1 Climax Airtable, refined

I’ve refined a few of my G1 airtable data. When I made it, I didn’t actually have any real data (since it was before the event began), but now that 3 events have happened, I’ve been able to tweak some things for better viewing.

So, first off, I’m still learning Airtable. Like any software, you need a meaty project in order to figure out exactly what it can and can’t do. The G1 has been awesome for figuring out what Airtable is good for. My workflow has been pretty much like this

  1. Import data
  2. Try to make sense of it
  3. Try to make cool views using the data and some math.

So, the first view that’s of use is the ranking.

It looks like a spreadsheet, but the points aren’t just typed in. The numbers are updated after I type in the winner of the match in this other view. For instance, Match 1” has both performers, but Match 1 Winner” only has the winner (obvs). Once that’s selected, the the number in the win” column ticks up one. The points” column is a formula: wins” *2 + ties” (ties are 1 point). When a match is a tie, I’ll have to manually add in that point. I also might figure out a way to have that happen automatically once a tie actually happens.

I’ve also made a view for recommended matches. This is done manually after each show so I can remember what I thought was actually good.

G1 Climax 29 Rankings

Over the weekend, I created an Airtable for keeping track of the G1 Climax 29 tournament. It was a fun challenge to create. Here’s the first useful view: a ranking of how each performer is doing. This will update after every event until the finals in mid-August.

And here’s the second useful view, showing the results from each night. This will also update after each show.

The Heart is Raw: Empire by the Sea

I don’t mean to be opaque; take that as an apology. When I first wrote this essay, I opted for plain speaking and clear understanding1, and what I saw was a dry truth. Laid bare, easily understood and comprehended, it was forgettable. Obvious. This is the kind if thing that breathes the muddiness of metaphor, whose truth us only comprehended when the reader has to peak their head into the thrush, straining to hear.

I do not have the energy to argue directly. I am a hairy husk in minutes, emptied of ammunition and covered in tears. But because there is an argument, there is the threat of losing, and this is unacceptable because I am a male and she isn’t. I do not grasp that this isn’t against me, a with-us-or-against us. I do not see that she argues for us, because I understand only dichotomies. So I argue against us, even though that’s not what I want. A desperate man with nothing fair to wield will fling the dirty earth. I’ll use my strength, and my guilt, and my silence, and all three hurt her. I will get drunk and accuse. I will feel sorry for himself at her.

I’ve been in enough arguments to know when I’m building walls. My opponent argues with logic and reason, and so I find myself in a barracks full of dynamite, gunpowder, and gasoline.2 I kick sand in her face and run away. I tell her she has hurt me when she hasn’t. I grab her arm, which is strong but not like my arm, and tell her to come along. I have had enough with her argument and I am putting my foot down, as if that’s a thing I can do, as if I’m not a weak and feeble abuser with no spine or scruples. As if every single little thing is about me. I use the dynamite. It wipes out a year in our life.

The walls are built with institutions. Have you ever thought, for a single solitary moment about my responsibilities to my employers?3 I grab for history. I hold onto what I can. It’s movies, sometimes. A clip with an example. It’s how a man acts. It’s how we are supposed to be. I am better than the last guy. I am an improvement. I am nicer and more understanding and when times are good she finally feels like she’s with someone who gets her. But then I exhaust myself trying to keep up. I stay awake too long. I don’t sleep. There are not enough hours in the day to remain my best self and continue to be the man that once impressed her, might continue to impress her.

She was once a girl behind a counter. Then she was a girl sitting one seat ahead of me on a streetcar, looking back, asking me where I’ve travelled. We have both been to California and so we keep talking, and then one day she’s a girl sitting on my bed, leafing through the books on my nightstand. Then, she is a girl in my photographs, and on my couch, and in my bed, but now her fingers are in my hair. She is a girl in my life, increasingly, overwhelmingly, completely. I am in her life too. I am a boy she wants more of. I am a boy she wants to make plans around.

Except now I’m a boy who sometimes makes her afraid. I have a temper and I am not as imaginative or alive as I used to be. My jeans are marked with the things I pocket. I am not new to her, but also myself. I used to surprise myself with what I could do with an evening and fifty lousy bucks. She has to try more and more to see through my walls. She is the wave crashing. She wants to get through.

I am describing a decaying. With every argument I lose, I feel less like myself and more the man she has to settle for. One day she will see me and know it is time to go. I will not have it in me to see the sun. And then she will leave.

I want meditation and medication and Mary Shelley to help temper the monster in me. It is wound tight from a mixture of perceived and real failures from the past, and how I fear the perceived and real failures of my future. It winds tighter because I have no belief system. I have a lot of trouble accepting the meaningless of the universe, and I’m exhausted by hope. I fear the next liar to come into my life might get the better of me. You’re right, I will say. You were always right.4

I fight with my love for ground that doesn’t exist. I don’t know what I hope to gain by being so obstructive. A win is a win. It shouldn’t matter who was in the right. But it does, in the moment anyway. All I can hope is I’m in the right place at the right time, and I am mindful that she wants what is best for us, and that is essentially what most relationship arguments are about. But this is not a summation that comes easy, or at all. It is an unrealized truth that has to emerge slowly, after more mistakes, more hurt feelings, more leaps from high places. I hope this realization doesn’t come after one too many.

Because as of today, my walls are too high. I have built my empire next to the sea, so I can laugh from my throne as my enemy drowns.5 I come into arguments with a battle plan now, and I see her as an invading army. She’s coming to tear me down. She’s coming to tame me and fix me and make me better. She’s coming to improve and change and alter, to pick away. To simplify and remove. To curate. To organize my life until it works. But she’s not winning. I am getting worse.

This is a thing that befalls men. It is not that there is a monster in us waiting to get out, but rather a cloying for a past that never existed. With every argument for our future, we step further from our own expectations, and feel the tug of loss. It isn’t rational, and it isn’t fair, and it isn’t easy to explain. This isn’t even about men and women, and my struggle here isn’t real but imagined and exaggerated. Half of these things were lies, but they helped. I’m sorry if this was difficult, but it let me get to a crystalizing moment that wouldn’t have occurred without writing it out the way it is. I had to pull together a raft of lies in order to arrive at something outstandingly true about myself. But it’s something I can’t tell you. I’ll need a whole other raft for that.


  1. Maltese Falcon, 1941.

  2. The Dark Knight, 2008.

  3. The Shining, 1980.

  4. Daniel Bryan, Raw, December 2013.

  5. Bray Wyatt, Raw, February 2014