Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Feedback of Honor: 24 Hour Party Peacocks

This did more to put over Castle than any match decision could have
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Imagine Dalton Castle plying his trade in the 1980s, coming up in coke-fueled locker rooms, in an era where wrestlers didn't take direction from writers but rather got cues and fleshed them out with improv. The wild-eyed intensity and Mick Jaggeresque peacock walking (he more styles himself after Freddy Mercury, but his execution is more a wealthy man's Jagger from first glance) looked as if they were scooped out of the scene 30 years ago and plopped into the mostly vanilla landscape of Ring of Honor. Which territory? Well, one could take his or her pick. He definitely has a little Randy Savage in him, but he could also be a more flamboyant Johnny Valiant, a Koko B. Ware with human charges instead of avian ones, a less evil Kevin Sullivan. It's not a misfit as much as it's a welcome injection of color.

Granted, ROH isn't the whitebread, straitlaced, athletes-only promotion that its stereotype describes it as. I doubt it ever was, especially if one could read between the submission holds and kicks of expressive, subtly charismatic workers like Bryan Danielson. But a show that features heavy doses of Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, the House of Truth, the Kingdom, and the goddamn Young Bucks can't be considered a gray landscape. But their charisma is one borne of cocky arrogance and testosterone-soaked bravado. Castle's is a little more insane, a little more random, a little more fun. It's a trait that makes him stand out among the crowd.

Going up against Jushin "Thunder" Liger, perhaps the most iconic junior heavyweight wrestler of all-time, seemed a mismatch on the surface. To my utter delight, however, the gaudy-masked legend drank it all in himself. He fully immersed in the utter ridiculousness of facing off against a self-styled "party peacock" with two manservants. The old man, who could use a bit of pampering winding down his career, took full advantage of the trappings, and he showed that he was more than just the big moves and the pretzel submissions. His co-opting of Castle's steez did more to put the Party Peacock over than him laying down ever could.

Wins and losses don't matter for some characters as much as narrative integrity, and what would have been more of a boost for the Castle persona: Liger wanting him some of that sweet party boy lifestyle, or Liger broing out, making some homophobic remark at Castle, and then laying down for him at the end of the match? The answer is simple. When legendary wrestlers put over character archetypes as acceptable parts of the firmament, those younger/less-established guys get more of a rub than they ever could have by a sheer win or a loss.

It's the reason why John Cena is a terrible conduit through which new stars can pass into the upper crust. He doesn't accept anyone's gimmick. He's always talking through that veneer to the "real man" behind the character, always making it about his fictional values of hustle, loyalty, and respect. A grown man in jorts and colorful shirts ripping anyone else's veneer apart is the height of unintentional hilarity for all the wrong reasons.

But Liger's acceptance of Castle allowed the latter to take a big step towards legitimacy. Wrestling is built on networking, obviously backstage, but the connections and approvals that characters give to each other allow the audience more sturdy bonds onto which they can grasp. When a persona as spaced-out and esoteric (at least for Ring of Honor) as Castle's is given a chance to take hold, then the possibilities become endless. No one will ever get the chance to know how he would have interacted with Savage or Sullivan or anyone else from that bygone golden era of characters in wrestling, but if he can inject some extra color and bring out some life in the current ROH roster, then one won't need to look to the golden days for value and worth.