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?