Why "Slow-Burn" Wrestling is so critically acclaimed in today's modern era
What is 'Slow-Burn' Wrestling? For those who were curious enough to click on this article, 'Slow-Burn' Wrestling is one of the most innovative and expressive forms of wrestling entertainment which features elements from contrasting in-ring styles, such that keen viewers can appreciate how a particular story is being told through a match.
More specifically, the word 'Slow-Burn' itself indicates that this form of modern storytelling does not rush to a conclusion for the sake of a viewer's fleeting attention span. In fact, matches in this category usually stretch for long periods of time.
So the question stands now, "Why would anyone like a slow, drawn-out version of a wrestling match?"
First of all, it is important to differentiate between a 'Slow-Burn' match and a 'Slow' wrestling contest, the latter of which gets boring simply because it moves at a snail's pace without offering any compelling story through its runtime.
However, what makes 'Slow-Burn' wrestling more compelling to watch is the fact that it delves into a wildly fascinating dynamic between the fans and the performers, where the fans understand each and every arc of the match and connect to this display of fascinating storytelling at a higher level of mutual understanding. This brings us to Wrestle Kingdom 13, and more specifically, Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (the main event)...
The story going into this mega main event was that of Kenny Omega looking to move the Japanese promotion into the future, while veteran Hiroshi Tanahashi did not approve of Omega's underhanded tactics and audacious attitude as the IWGP Champion.
A classic story, but what made it better was their showdown at the Wrestle Kingdom 13 itself.
Even if their match wasn't the greatest wrestling contests (of all time) in pro-wrestling history, it was certainly one of the best and perhaps one of the most memorable when compared to the rest of the card.
It is a perfect example of a 'Slow-Burn' wrestling match. Their bout didn't progress rapidly and also did not feature tons of a high-spots (an unfortunate myth regarding non-WWE wrestling, which is not true in this case).
As a matter of fact, as the match went on, each and every spot became even grander, a dynamic which cannot be explained out of context:
#1 The 'Not-So-Mighty' Sling Blade
'Sling blade' is one of the most over-used wrestling moves nowadays. But Tanahashi vs. Omega at WK 13 featured an entire sub-arc around this move. Omega's entire stance on being 'one step further' than the aging veteran was represented via this arc, where 'The Best Bout Machine' executed the sling blade not just because it is an integral part of Tanahashi's move set, but also because he knew it would interplay into several themes running in the background as well.
So when Tanahashi finally executed the sling blade a while later, the fans cheered on as if someone just broke a table. That is one of the many great examples in their match that included several themes by embracing the 'Slow-Burn' tag.
To put this in perspective, this is the same move that Finn Balor performs on Monday Night RAW every week, but it means a whole lot more during Tanahashi vs. Omega at WK13, just think about that.
New Japan is known for Strong Style, and hearing the characteristic 'THWACK' sound gets tiring match-after-match on a consecutive basis. But why does it work in this case?
Of course, Kenny Omega is notorious for using multiple V-Triggers in one single wrestling match. The fact that 'Slow-Burn' contests draw out for long periods of time also means that using the same move over-and-over again leaves the viewers with a tingling sense of uneasy exuberance.
Seeing his opponents kick out of that move despite multiple frantic attempts leave you with excitement, but this joy is accompanied with a sense of concern as well. You want to see them beat the hell out of each other, but at the same time, it would be really unfortunate if it took a toll on their bodies forever...
#3 Tanahashi knows how to work the crowd perfectly
Hiroshi Tanahashi understands each and every inch of his gimmick and therefore, incorporates his characteristics accordingly.
There was a point where the Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling teased the fans that he would break morals in order to put Kenny through a table near ringside. But Tanahashi quickly rolled Kenny into the ring after that short tease, which drew an auditory gasp from fans.
You know that a wrestler has mastered the art of storytelling when he/she can manipulate the fans by integrating a simple sequence into the overall story at hand.
#4 Slow-Burn matches feature a lot of stumblin'
Of course, it only makes sense that all participants involved in a long-format Pro-Wrestling match would have to show signs of fatigue after a point of time.
Both Tanahashi and Omega made sure to include this aspect in their bout (Kenny uses this arc in almost all of his critically acclaimed matches).
An important trick here is that by suddenly breaking out of the fatigue using a series of moves, the fans can't help but marvel at the toughness of the performers. After all, it would be unreal if wrestlers perform at their peak level in long-format matches throughout its entirety.
#5 Both events before and after the match are important, air-guitaring and all
Before their bout at WK13, if one watches closely, then its almost as if The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega foreshadow the night's ending perfectly.
Omega's grand entrance and his choice of savouring the moment as if it were his last, while also embracing with Matt and Nick Jackson showed us that this might be the end of his NJPW run.
But storytelling is incomplete without a satisfying aftermath, and we sure got one during WK13, where the Ace of New Japan genuinely thanked the fans and even got a little emotional towards the end. This was followed by the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion breaking out into a triumphant air-guitar performance, ending the show on a high note...
As they say, every story has to have a consistent beginning, middle and an end...
Through this recent example, I wanted to convey my thoughts on why 'Slow-Burn' Wrestling is the most critically acclaimed modern form of wrestling nowadays. It is an amalgamation of styles from the past and the present such that it breaks through the boundaries of what we think we know about a wrestling match.
It also moves at its own pace, so as to establish key plot points without the wrestlers being forced by anyone to compromise their vision, a situation that is similar to an artistic director given complete freedom without any studio interference to craft an epic.
What is your favourite 'Slow-Burn' match? Sound off in the comments section below!