MLW heavyweight champ Low Ki recently participated in an interview conducted by Chris Van Vliet. The conversation touched on a variety of topics including Low Ki’s voice, a James Earl Jones Lion King impersonation, having to get licensed as a professional wrestler when he started, his career with TNA, why he doesn’t watch the WWE product, and wrestling Eddie Guerrero.
One interesting concept discussed was Low Ki’s differentiation between professional wrestling and sports entertainment. The simple answer is competition.
Van Vliet asked if it is fair to say there is a real distinction between WWE and the rest of the wrestling world. Low Ki replied:
“I think it’s fair, but you also have to take into consideration it’s an entertainment company. That’s the discrepancy between pro wrestling and sports entertainment. Sports entertainment is hiring pro wrestlers to do entertaining things. So, that’s not pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is competition. Pro wrestling is Carl Gotch. Pro wrestling is Jumbo Tsuruta. Pro wrestling is Shinya Hashimoto, Kenta Kobashi, Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody. This is pro wrestling.
What you guys are seeing today is not pro wrestling. Even Ring of Honor, that’s not pro wrestling. These are guys of a lower experience level trying to be entertaining. That’s not pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is competition. So, that’s the reason why there is a distinction between legendary pro wrestlers and then entertainers.”
Low Ki continued with the idea of competition when asked about advice for up and coming wrestlers.
“Learn how to compete. Most of them don’t know how to, because they’re getting in the ring thinking, ‘Oh, this is what I see on Monday nights.’ Okay, then what happens when you run into somebody who has a background? A competitive background.
I wrestled Freddy Yehi last night. He’s an amateur wrestler. That’s a strong boy. He’s a farm, he has that farm strength, and I felt it. And, I know the difference, because I’ve trained with a lot of different people. I’ve trained with Olympians. I’ve trained with FBI agents. I’ve trained with military law enforcement. I’ve trained with a whole bunch of different people. So, to have that reference, that frame of reference, that difference in control and power. Freddy’s a strong boy. What happens if you’re inexperienced but you want to posture and show everybody who you are and run into somebody like Freddy? Who can control you, who can throw you around, turn you into a pretzel.
It’s the old method, like with Danny Hodge, all the Fujiwara, Akira Maeda. All these older guys that in today’s world people would be concerned with, ‘Oh, they’re rough.’ No, those are competitors. There’s a difference. So, I think that is the biggest issue with people entering pro wrestling today, but that’s also an issue you see prevalent on television. If they don’t know how to compete, they’re playing. If they’re playing, you’re going to see it.”
On the difference between being competitive and working stiff, Low Ki offered the following thoughts.
“Working stiff indicates that there’s some lack of control. Being competitive, there’s full control in there. But the thing is, you ever see good Jiu-Jitsu or good grappling? They’re not hurting each other, but the technique is so high level, you marvel at the stuff that they’re doing. And if they decide to actually go in and try to hurt each other, it can happen rather easily. What’s the difference?”
There is a lot to digest in those sound bites. Low Ki has a mix of sound logic and, “It’s still real to me.”
I do have to agree with Low Ki about the feeling of a lack of competition in sports entertainment. Many matches have no consequences for the outcome, especially when wins and losses don’t matter much. Championship matches were often handed out rather than earned, although, WWE recently did away with automatic rematches.
As for action inside the ring, Low Ki is right about how mat technicians bring a different element to the game. Competitive exchanges of true skill can be special to watch. I’m not sure there is enough of that in today’s wrestling world. I enjoy high-flying lucha libre, but it can sometimes feel empty like junk food.
On the other hand, there is a place for many styles. I loved Hulkamania running wild in the 1980s, and I really enjoy Braun Strowman displaying his strength by flipping over limousines. Contrast that with my fondness for the, “Excellence of Execution,” Bret Hart or Dean Malenko. I’m unsure what the best mix would be.
Do you agree with Low Ki’s points? What do you think is the perfect blend between professional wrestling and sports entertainment?