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411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Is Wrestling an Essential Part of Our Lives?

June 12, 2020 | Posted by Jake Chambers
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Welcome back to the 411mania Fact or Fiction Invitational Tournament. Yes, this was once dubbed the “Road to Wrestlemania” Tournament, and was all set to finish during Wrestlemania week. The semi-finals were completed, the finalists were set, the wheels were in motion. And then basically overnight the world changed.

All of a sudden it didn’t feel right to go ahead with the statements and angles that I’d planned for months. I even felt kind of gross about the WWE moving forward with their empty arena shows, especially a pre-taped Wrestlemania. That event – and in the past few years that weekend – is such a celebration of the fandom of professional wrestling, and I just didn’t feel the celebratory spirit in pushing through with a Wrestlemania where people literally had to risk their lives to do a half-good wrestling show just to fulfill certain financial obligations.

Now, this is not to say things have necessary gotten better; certainly not in the past week with the ongoing protests over police brutality gripping an America already boiling over with frustration from a seemingly indefinite lockdown, but I guess now the chaos and danger and divisions in the new society have basically become so status quo that it seems fine to bring this competition to a close.

The first order of business is to announce the finalists.

Then we had two power-packed semi-finals, Kevin Pantoja vs. Steve Cook and Jeremy Thomas vs. Len Archibald, both under debate rules (where the Fact or Fiction stance was assigned arbitrarily), and both victors won by narrow margins.

So now I am (finally) proud to announce the two writers who will meet in the finals of the 411mania Fact or Fiction tournament: Steve Cook and Len Archibald!

We’re gonna do those official finals in a few weeks, that’s not what today is. But as a warm-up, I’ve asked them to answer a few non-tournament, general wrestling questions just to help me get reacquainted with their voices before hitting them with the real zingers for the granddaddy of them all!

So let’s see if they guys still have their FoF engines running!

Statement #1: If you were a wrestler, you think you would be one of the best wrestlers in the world.

Steve Cook: FICTION – Even when I was in my physical prime many years ago, I never had anything resembling athletic ability. I wouldn’t be able to do a bunch of crazy dives. I’d likely have a tough time executing the most basic moves and making them look believable. A really good worker would be needed in order to make me look not terrible. There’s also the matter of my look, which would automatically take me off the radar of any major promotion.

My main strength would be my ability to work smart. After watching this stuff for thirty years you kind of get a grasp of what works and what doesn’t. Also, I’d be sure not to work too quickly in order to not blow myself up, which would have the positive side effect of making my moves mean more. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be enough to put me in the discussion of “best wrestler in the world”.

Len Archibald: FACTThe world is on fire. Injustice everywhere. I look down at the world and I feel anger and disgust. But what is anyone doing about it? Who is taking action? Everyone is responsible for the actions in their lives, but I don’t see much of it. Instead, I hope to serve as an inspiration for action…TAKE A LOOK: 6 foot 5, 270lbs of solid Canadian Maple, a more perfect specimen couldn’t have been created if God himself impregnated the sun! So what is this all about? When I was a young boy I watched Ric Flair rule the world as the best professional wrestler in the world and I found my calling. I wanted to beat Ric Flair into submission and prove myself to be the best wrestler in the world. Unfortunately, he is an old broken man and it would be unfair of me to break his back, but I have clawed my way up, building rings, getting my ass kicked, kicking ass in bars and gyms all while studying the old gods: Bruno, Hogan, Race, Austin, Rock, Andre, Taker, Dusty. I have been on a race with myself for one thing and one thing only and I can see the finish line: the World Title. You see, SOME people see this and call it a “belt”. SOME people see this and call it a “championship”. SOME slack-jawed idiots dare to call it a “prop”. This represents an idea, a dream, an ideology that whoever holds it is the absolute GODDAMN BEST THIS BUSINESS HAS TO OFFER AND I AM THE GODDAMN BEST. I’ve done it all – I’ve climbed ladders, I’ve won crowns, I’ve bested tournaments and gauntlets and I’ve bled buckets ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’ve spilled more blood and in this business if you are afraid to get your hands bloody, then BROTHER…don’t try to cash checks your ass can’t keep. Everyone thinks they know what they’re going to get when they step in the ring with me but they don’t know they are about to float in an abyss of pain that is going to be my pleasure to inflict. They have never stared into the void of perfection that is MAX ARCHER.

*That is a promo I once cut in my head when I was WAYYYYYYYYY younger. Basically, I think if I was provided the gifts and means to be a pro wrestler I most likely would have taken a career path similar to Triple H (I KNOW…HATE ME NOW, NAS AND PUFF DADDY) but only because my goal would have been to be completely ingrained and immersed in the industry.

Statement #2: You would rather re-watch your favourite movie over your favourite wrestling match.

Steve Cook: FICTION – To be honest, I’m at the point in my life where I’m trying not to re-watch too much. I’m trying to find things that I haven’t seen before, as I realize my time on Earth is limited & I probably shouldn’t spend it watching the same stuff over and over again. Life is short. Try to give other stuff a chance, you know? 

In that vein, if given the choice between my favorite  wrestling match and a movie, I’ll go with the wrestling match because it’s shorter. It takes away less time from other things I’d like to focus on.

Len Archibald: FICTION – As I type this I am figuring this out. Dammit, Jake and bravo, this is a mindfuck for me. My favorite movie of all time is The Godfather and my favorite match of all time is Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. They’re both absolutely perfect in my eyes and I have watched both more times than I can count in my lifetime. So if I had to choose one? I’m Michael Corleone in Sal’s restaurant thinking about how my entire universe is about to change and a blood-soaked Austin refusing give in. I have to flip a coin. Okay, this parallel universe version of myself prefers Austin vs. Hart. But who knows what another alternate reality holds?

Statement #3: Pro-wrestling is an essential part of your life.

Steve Cook: FACT – I scoffed at WWE being declared an essential business some weeks ago just because Florida’s Governor got a huge payday. Anybody with a sense of what really matters in society would be perplexed at the idea of pro wrestling being more important than many of the industries that had to shut down during the beginning of the pandemic. It’s definitely been strange seeing wrestling continue without crowds while sports have remained shutdown.

However, I do find that pro wrestling does provide a valuable service for me. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the ability to lose myself in a different world, where things aren’t quite as serious and depressing. If I didn’t have something like wrestling to take my mind off all the things going on in the world right now at least for a few minutes, I don’t know where my mental health would be. Nowhere good, I’m sure.

Len Archibald: FACT – This is a pretty easy fact for me. I was introduced to professional wrestling when I was five and I never looked back. I’ve attended three WrestleManias, dozens of Raw and Smackdowns and attended more house shows than I can count. 411Mania is the first place I check every day because I want to be aware of what’s going on in the business. I wear my fandom on my sleeve, making stupid videos with my wife brandishing shirts celebrating Kofi Kingston, Becky Lynch, Chris Jericho and the nWo without blinking. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life writing about pro wrestling, I could go on, but this would just become an endless wall of text. If wrestling wasn’t essential, I wouldn’t be here! 🙂

Thanks guys, great stuff, and we all look forward to hearing you go toe-to-toe in a couple of weeks.

However, I can no longer name this tournament for the “Road to Wrestlemania”, and that’s not just because Wrestlemania is long over.

411mania had a tragic loss recently, one that I still haven’t fully recovered from and I’m not sure the soul of this site can ever be the same. As we all know, Larry Csonka passed away much too suddenly and too young a few weeks ago.

Larry was the voice of the site, with a body of reviews and commentary that created a steady critical stream that so many followed and trusted across wrestling companies and countries. His vigilance and drive for analysis of wrestling matches and events was truly unmatched. So many fans, writers and wrestlers look at pro-wrestling differently now because of the hard work he put in over the years, whether they even consciously recognize it or not. This is a man who should never be forgotten.

Therefore, I’m dubbing this the Annual Larry Csonka Memorial Fact or Fiction Tournament and hopefully plan to do it right here at 411mania every Wrestlemania season for a long time to come.

Like most of the writers who have contributed here for the past 15 years, I was picked by Larry to do my first column series back in 2008, Wacky Wrestling Theory. At the time, I guess what I was doing was “controversial” to some because it seemed to generate way more negative and violent feedback in the comments section than the other columns at the time, and I asked Larry often if I needed to make some changes or something, and he never once told me to do anything differently.

For a writer that is incredibly rare. To have the editorial freedom to explore your writing without constraint, especially for someone with no name value or background, it was wild and made writing for 411 one of the most unique and creative experiences of my life.

The most thrilling email I got from him was just a couple of weeks into my column, when he asked me to take part in my first Fact or Fiction. I’d loved ready that column every week and couldn’t wait to get involved (it was probably even part of my motivation for applying to write here in the first place). Every time over the years when I got that invitation, whether early Tuesday morning or late in the week when someone dropped out, I would put everything aside and write something together that would make sure to get me invited back. I probably spent more time on those columns than anyone would want to admit, but I loved it!

And even when I started doing a weekly Fact or Fiction column, I’d always expected Larry to come back and do a regular version again, and I could have a wacky one off to the side. That never happened and I didn’t get to do another column for him again.

And that’s one of the most heartbreaking aspects of Larry’s passing for me, that he never got to say goodbye. The man loved stories, he loved matches that told good stories, and part of that – of course – is a great ending. We can only imagine how powerful his farewell column (or likely columns) would have been, or how he would have appreciated to see the outpouring of love and respect for his work from so many who wanted him to know how they felt.

Larry, we miss you and we’ll never forget you. FACT!

If you haven’t yet, please think about donating to the GoFundMe set up for Larry’s daughters.