TOSHIAKI KAWADA VS.
GARY ALBRIGHT 10/25/95

There's a simple reason why I like Gary Albright in this match.

He's just like me.

When I watch this match, there's an empathetic connection. Empathy is the emotional effect of imagination that impels me to assume Albright's identity and experience his reactions to the match's given circumstances. It's an emotional involvement that lets us inhabit other people's thoughts and feelings to learn more about our own. Empathy occurs in this match, because in Gary Albright, I recognise a shared humanity. In that moment of recognition, I suddenly and instinctively want Albright to achieve whatever it is he desires. Why? Because as Robert McKee explains, "this character is like me. Therefore, I want him to have whatever he wants, because if I were he in those circumstances, I'd want the same thing for myself."

How is it I perceive Gary Albright to be, "just like me?"

I will try to explain myself as best I can. Gary Albright comes across as someone trying to do his best. I find this provocative and moving. It's something of a shared quality.

Who knows whether this match is a message from one human being to another, or whether Kawada and Gary Albright are men who look at life and put their feelings into matches? Whatever messages a match has for the viewer has not been done intentionally. All kinds of people watch a match; there are also all kinds of messages. If someone sees a message, it is because they're looking for one. So it is with me.

Wrestling psychology is about what "must" go through the wrestlers' mind when they're creating, and their character's mind when they're wrestling. I'm a conjurer and will continue to come up with images about the creative process. Whether they're real or imagined doesn't mean as much as the very human way in which I'm touched.

What they created here stands as something special and lives on as such. The look on Gary Albright's face will never leave me. He has these eyes that look so god damn sorry for everyone. Perhaps it's a core of raw identity or awareness. What I'm writing about is the dream it plants in my head.

I won't describe what happens in this match. I don't think these things can be verbalised. If they could've said it in words, they wouldn't have gone to the trouble of wrestling the match. When people interpret an action, their retelling reveals not the action, but themselves. The meaning of the match lies entirely in the experience of viewing the match. Honestly, I can only hope to articulate my experience: What is it about trying to do your best I connect with?

I believe Albright's character has a chance to attain his desire. Otherwise, I'd sit on the outside and feel nothing. I'm cheering for Albright to win. Not because Albright is sympathetic or likeable (although he is), but because I believe achieving desire is true of my own life. Involvement in a match isn't necessarily altruistic or compassionate. It's about pulling for your own desires. There isn't a person alive who doesn't believe they have even the smallest chance of fulfilling their desires. But as Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Most people fall short of their dreams. The thing about people is they never expend more energy than is necessary, risk anything they don't have to, or take any action unless they must. When faced with the equivalent of this wrestling match in their own lives, most people avoid loss or pain. It's easier to be a person who has neither enjoyed much nor suffered much than to have known defeat at all. But as they say, those people have never truly lived.

What's a more visceral image of expending energy, taking risks and forcing actions than a wrestling match is? It's a metaphor for our lives. We all have our struggles. I'm struggling with a screenplay right now.

Writing is like having something inside you that you can't get out. It's how I make sense of the world. On some level, I share the same impulse as Albright's desire to wrestle. I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else. I'm incapable of doing anything else. But it's hard. What this match does is give me a little bit of hope. It's a reminder that we must risk something we have in order to gain something we desire. At times I forget one of the basic principles that McKee or any other writing teacher will tell you: "Life teaches us that the measure of the value of any human desire is in direct proportion to the risk involved in its pursuit."

This match lets me live a life beyond my own. I'm actively involved and emotionally engaged in watching Albright's character "concentrate all his energy, physical and mental, upon a given object, with unremitting determination, so that he achieves his goal." I'm fully behind Albright's struggle as though it was my own. Empathy demands I share in his loss. Albright's best was tested and wasn't good enough. Suddenly, it's a reflection of my investment. Here I am confronted with limitations. Exposing a person's limitations is the most painfully human thing there is. God knows I've fallen short before.

What happens when my best isn't good enough? It's one of my greatest fears. A fear of failure that at times leads to self-doubt, indecision, second-guessing myself, being afraid to make mistakes, and refusing to accept that somewhere, somehow, I'm going to make a bad decision. Matches like these question how much you want it. How much are you prepared to risk in your pursuit? The greater the value, the greater the risk. Would you risk so much that if you failed, your life would never be the same again?

There's a Japanese belief that profound vital forces reside in the Hara ("Belly"), and that from there all the individual's physical and psychic forces emanate. When you think about what Albright must tap to convey the disappointment of his loss, it's no wonder I so often look for the real person beneath the work. This match is as visceral as anything I've ever seen. Gary took me far; I wonder how much of this match's feeling came from deep within the belly of his own humanity. Wrestling is a life-defining focus. If you capture a moment from this match, what does it tell you about that person's lifetime?

When you wrestle a match, you create the illusion of conflict arising from the elements of one's nature: mind, body, emotion, but the reality is that that antagonism of being is ever present in the creative process.

People say Gary Albright is no good at what he does. People can be cruel. I don't think anybody needs help being self-critical. That's why we have that innermost self-awareness that watches over everything we do. The conscience that grills us when we get things wrong, and lets us be on those rare occasions when we get things right. The easiest way to prevent failure is removing yourself from situations where you might fail. Gary could've listened to that deep observer inside himself taunting, "Don't go out there Gary, you'll screw it up." Thank God he didn't. This match reminds me that you have to learn when to listen to that inner guide and when to ignore it. Albright must've accepted that working this match was something that might not work out, but what was he going to do? Give up? Not even try? He went out there and trusted himself and his opponent. He listened to his instincts and ignored the rest. He believed in himself and made choices. People like me come along and give those choices value. Never let us forget the heart that went into those choices. No, he wasn't the best at what he did. But does that mean he had nothing to say? Watch the earnestness with which Albright moves in this match. It's obvious he's doing something he loves.

On this night, he found his voice in the ring. Like a cry that gives life, I hear the call. Your mind might not react the way you anticipated. Your thoughts may not be as quick as you expected. Your body may not react as imagined. Your emotions will betray you. But you're always your own worst enemy.

It's hard to step back and accept the inherent limitations of human creative powers. No matter how hard a human being might try, we are ultimately incapable of creating something that is absolutely perfect. I guess the hardest part about any creative pursuit is accepting that you're bound to let yourself down. Who knows if Albright was happy with his performance, or proud of this match? When it's all said and done, you create something for someone else to do something with. Perhaps what you felt lives in them, perhaps not. What inspires me is the sheer will behind the act of creation. Wherever it may come from.

I know how hard it is to create, and I think we take it for granted that wrestling is just wrestling. Sometimes these people dig deep and give something of themselves to make it work.

It's so easy to be in awe of Kawada in this match. It seems as though his character has the will and capacity to pursue the object of his desire to the end of the line, to the human limit. Story (and wrestling) is not about middle ground, but about life lived in its most intense states. The audience senses these wrestlers' limits and wants them reached. They instinctively draw what McKee calls a circle around Kawada or Albright and their world, "a circumference of experience that's defined by the nature of the fictional reality." This line may reach inward to the soul, outward to the universe, or in both directions at once. Kawada is a wrestler with vision, who can take their stories to those distance depths and ranges. I see his matches as an X-ray on inmost feelings such as longing, fear, shame, desire, loneliness, pain, and hate. I truly believe his best matches indeed penetrate the soul. But it's important to acknowledge that a lot of what I see in this match is my passion.

Wrestling works like this for me: project two images on top of each other. The spaces where the images fuse are where I find my connections with a match. The feelings that come out of this space are what I try to channel back into my own work. Creation comes from something that is never directly seen, heard, or touched, yet we know and feel it. When I watch this match, I feel life speaking to me. It's a call to believe in myself. And I know that in everything I do, I need only be still and know.

Credit:
Bob McKee's STORY: Substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting.

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©2001 by the author