Author: J.J. McGee

I'm an American expat who lives in Japan and spends most of my free time being painfully earnest about narrative, character development, and slippage between kayfabe and reality in wrestling.

January 11, 2018 /

The air is heavy with the scent of rice crackers and seaweed-wrapped rice balls, and I am grieving. It’s February 2016 in Osaka, I’m here for the New Beginning show, and three days ago Daniel Bryan announced his retirement from wrestling. The people around me are nibbling on snacks, chatting about the card in the darkened arena, waiting. Beside me, Dan is bowed over with his head in his hands. He started to get a…

December 18, 2017 /

[Warning for intense bloody imagery in this essay.] Final Battle 2010, the climax of Kevin and Generico’s bloody feud, takes place in the dead of winter, but I watch it many years later in the early spring, when the leaves are that particular luminous green that’s almost golden. (The leaves are important. We’ll get back to the leaves.) The year-long arc, from 2009 to 2010, from Final Battle to Final Battle, is Kevin’s story. I…

November 29, 2017 /

(Quick warning for some bloody imagery below.) Some moments in wrestling are staggeringly momentous, huge enough to fill a stadium with emotion, so titanic that the audience’s reaction becomes itself part of the moment: the Miz winning the world title; the breaking of the Undertaker’s streak. Some are smaller, more intimate, shared with a group of hundreds at a small show or a live event. Some are so fleeting and personal they may only touch…

November 15, 2017 /

Wrestling is repetitive. At its worst, it’s a frustrating experience, full of dead ends and pointless loops, events that pile up without a story to tie them together, jolting along until they merely stop without closure. But there’s promise and potential there, too. Given enough time and patience, some luck and stubbornness and inspiration, you could put all those repeating patterns together into stories that echo and resonate off each other, like bells that never quite…

November 1, 2017 /

There’s a quote by Edmund Burke that I came across in college. For years, a copy of it in careful violet-ink handwriting was taped to my computer, where I would see it every day: Never despair. But if you do, work on in despair. It’s… not the most uplifting of inspirational quotes, I suppose. The bright assertion of the beginning (Never give up! Hustle, loyalty, respect!) is undermined by the resigned weariness at the end:…

October 26, 2017 /

It’s late 2015, Dan and I have figured out how to buy tickets for New Japan Pro Wrestling shows and managed to attend a couple of shows: in the mountains of Gifu, in the sumo hall in our home base of Nagoya. We’ve even become members of the NJPW fan club, which gives us access to perks and better seats. It’s time to finally make our way to Tokyo and the Mecca of professional wrestling…

October 19, 2017 /

“I’m not sure I should watch this,” I say. We’ve gotten home from work and Smackdown is queued up and ready to go. I know Sami cuts a promo on Daniel Bryan and then he and Kevin win the main event together. Everyone on my timeline is thrilled. It’s the storyline I’ve been looking forward to for years. “I mean it,” I say. “I’m really not sure I should watch this.” “Aren’t you happy for…

October 11, 2017 /

To steal and adapt a saying, some wrestlers are born to their characters, some achieve their characters, and some have their characters thrust upon them. Kevin seems to have been born to his character–a cocky, sneering prodigy who happens to be better than anyone else in the room and knows it (Samoa Joe supposedly said of him way back in 2003, “The arrogant little prick is almost as good as he thinks he is.”*) El…

September 28, 2017 /

“Go on without me,” I say faintly.  It’s 2015, and outside the car windows, the parking lot shimmers with late-summer Florida heat.  “Just…go on without me.” “I did not win a charity auction and get us a tour of the Performance Center just to leave you to die of heatstroke in the car,” Dan says.   He has a point, I have to admit.  Still…  “What if I trip over something? What if I say…

September 14, 2017 /

The ancient Greeks used a specific word–kairos– to mean roughly “the ability to choose the perfect moment to act.” They used it, for example, to describe the gift of knowing exactly when to loose an arrow in order to hit the target perfectly. Wrestling is a constant struggle to achieve kairos, because any wrestling promotion is basically an intricate ecosystem of interconnected parts: feuds and wrestlers and venues and dates. It’s like finding the right moment to…