Yeah, we’re doing this.
Abyss is a big scary monster. Eric Young, BFF to Joseph Park (#thiscouldbeusbutyouplayinandalsohavenoideawhoiam), is determined to bring out then tame the beast, for friendship and science and because they want to shatter my heart into about a million pieces. Last week, EY challenged Abyss to a Monster’s Ball match as an experiment in “getting crazy”, and also to see how many times I’ll accidentally type Monster Balls in a column.
Before we get to this match, we should talk about a few things. Have a little chit chat. Maybe you should grab a nice cup of tea or something. I’ll wait.
As maybe (probably) the world’s biggest Joseph Park fan, this obviously tears me up inside. I like Abyss well enough, but would I rather just live in a world of tracksuits and thinking stumps and something that makes me happy just seeing it? Of course. But I would be foolish if I didn’t point out that this is one of the strongest long-term sequential narratives that TNA has ever embarked on. That said, the roller coaster of emotions I’ve been on for well over a year is…a tough one to suss out for those who may not be as familiar with it as I am.
Let’s go back and look at where this all started. Joseph Park showed up looking for his brother Chris, you know, Abyss. During his search, he determined Bully Ray to be a party to his brother’s disappearance, and took Abyss’s spot in a match against Bully at Slammiversary 2012. Of course, somewhere in there Abyss showed up to warn Joe Park that he was getting too close, but I guess we’re going to ignore the two being in the same place because wrestling. Two months later, Joseph Park finds himself in another match against Bully Ray, but this time breaks out a Black Hole Slam, his brother’s signature move, upon seeing his own blood. Curious, no?
After being kidnapped by Aces & Eights and treated just awfully (mostly by being forced to be in the presence of Wes Brisco, presumably) Joseph Park set a course for OVW to work and train and become a real Impact Wrestler. This is maybe one of my favourite periods of the Abyss/Joseph Park saga, because everything, be it his conversations with Danny Davis, or his first W as an Impact Wrestler, was marked with a sincerity atypical of TNA. While the pendulum of Aces & Eights swung from garbage to brilliant to garbage again, Joe Park remained a stalwart ray of sunshine. Most wrestlers and storylines seem farfetched or inaccessible, but Joseph Park was just a smart, average dude who wanted to be a wrestler and was basically the most adorable human being while trying to accomplish that.
I mean really, look at this picture:
Last May, Abyss came back from…wherever, we’ll say the greasy hair extension factory, to participate in a six-man tag against Aces & Eights. The next week, Hogan attempted to call out Abyss, but only got a confused Joseph Park in return, still completely unaware of where his brother was.
Now, the similarities between the two ranged from the obvious (they look just like each other and Joseph Park can Black Hole Slam people despite only recently learning how to bump), to the more subtle (Joe Park holding his notebook in the same manner Abyss would hold his copy of The Art of War). It’s easy to wonder what Joe Park’s story was for the fact that he had a flipper to replace the two front teeth that RVD knocked out of his brother’s mouth that one time, but that’s little stuff that’s neither here nor there. Or that when he took off his jacket he had all of the same tattoos. But rather than leave well enough alone, people had to pick and dig prove that Joseph Park was a fraud.
Personally I don’t see why you’d want to trade a guy who’s basically a giant teddy bear unless you make him bleed for the guy who’s virtually impervious to pain, is super gigantic, and has a giant board full of sharp nails with a sassy secretary’s name, but I digress.
Bad Influence, during some of the worst work they’ve done in TNA, managed to deal the first emotional blow to us Park Marks. And I mean, with all honesty, for realsies emotion.
It’s not super easy getting a wrestler “over,” to be obnoxious for a second and use that term (who am I, one of the Young Bucks?), and usually wrestling characters get one or two expository segments and then we just accept that’s who they are. Joseph Park was a slow burn. Someone who wove himself into the fabric of TNA; who grew and changed and developed over time, like a real person in a real situation (if that real situation is boy panty fights and suplexes). Obviously I loved him right off the bat, but watching week in and week out, it became a lot easier to connect to Joseph Park. We rarely, if ever, get moments of vulnerability in our big tough strong shouty guys; Hogan and Bully Ray had brief moments and it was some of the best work of their careers. Joseph Park got that all the time. He never stopped. We can say yeah, I guess it’s reasonable that these two fellows are mad that one has a belt and one doesn’t, or yeah, I guess it’s totally logical that AJ Styles just wants to play on his Catwoman bike in his spare time, but the struggles and reactions of Joseph Park were something different. Organic responses, real human emotion. So when Joseph Park is confronted by the reality that his law offices don’t exist, and haven’t for quite some time, it’s not just “I took your briefcase wanna fight about it,” it feels as real as a television program can get. The construct of his life is being torn down around his ears, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s got a life he loves, and just wants to be left to it.
The sadness slowly turns to desperation, as seen here after yet another Monster’s Ball match, this time against Bad Influence:
Somewhere along the line, Bad Influence disappeared as the catalysts for proving that Abyss and Joseph Park are the same person, and Park’s supposed best friend stepped into the role. Bound and determined to prove to Joe Park who he really is, Eric Young embarked on a series of experiments, which leads us here, Monster Balls typo number three.
The match itself is irrelevant: it’s the same as-ultraviolent-as-we-can-get-on-television spot match these things usually turn into. Eric Young spitting a mouthful of thumbtacks at Abyss is insane and a thing no one should ever do ever, but it looked super cool so I’ll give him a brief Best for that before he ripped my heart out and superplexed it.
There’s one more thing that you, fair readers, especially new readers, need to know about me: I *hate* unmaskings. I am an adamant defender of wrestlers who choose to wrestle under a mask, and I think it’s awful and wrong and one of the most prickish things you can do when you out someone under a mask. It adds nothing to the wrestling show, it’s disrespectful to the person wrestling and the hard work that went into the masked character, and spoiler alert you’re a garbage human if you do it publicly. I get unintentionally nauseous when a masked wrestler’s opponent will go for those mask strings (see: a million instances in Chikara that made me cringe). I don’t like it and I don’t want it, and you need to know this so you a) you never do that ever, and b) understand the visceral reaction I had to Eric Young ripping off Abyss’s mask.
Yes, we know who’s under there. But it’s been two years of building up this suspension of disbelief, and making me connect to a character in such a way as to hope all of it is fake, and that first Abyss who showed up during a Joseph Park math would wander back out and everything would get wrapped up in a nice little package and I’d get to keep Joseph Park forever. That’s good writing. That’s good storytelling. That’s incredible acting. And I need to write all of these things out for you because you need to know that the dumpster fire of TNA occasionally yields some treasures, and this one is my favourite. In two years they’ve done something they’ve never even come close to before, and that’s hit that wrestling sweet spot that makes you step back and say yeah, this is a big dumb unpopular sport that makes me feel bad most of the time, but it’s what I love, and this is the perfect example of why.