January 29, 2007
I had made a comment in one of my recent Q and A commentaries that there are both good and bad politics in wrestling. I’ve since received a few request to clarify and explain that statement so I thought this week I could give a little tough talk about the tricky business of politics in wrestling.
Politics in wrestling is very much like politics in real life. Think of the World Title as the political position the entire locker room is competing for. Every one of us wants to be president, or governor, what ever you want to call the position. Since wrestling isn’t real we can’t just go out and win the damn Title, and there is no definite way of determining whom the most qualified man is, it’s a matter of opinion. This is where the “booker” or “creative team” has to make a decision, who is most deserving of the title, who is the best man for the job.
The “Bookers/Writers” are in essence the voting public. They are one ones who decide who gets in. In politics if you want to be president you have to convince the general public (the voters) that you are the best man for the job so they vote in your favour. In wrestling you have a much smaller voting group but it is basically the same process. If I want to be World Champ I have to convince the “Bookers/Writers” that I am the best man for the job, so when they are in the booking meetings they vote for me and I get the nod.
Politics are never ending in wrestling, and in WWE it is a constant battle. There are far more people than pushed positions so people are always trying to keep the “Bookers/Writers” voting in their favour. I hated politics and avoided them at all cost, but have to admit did partake at some level. This is where the difference between good and bad politics comes in, and again it is just like real politics.
Not politicking would be the equivalent of just putting your name on a ballet come election time and never once giving a speech or printing up a pamphlet or anything. Just show up wrestle your match as best you can and hope they notice you and push you accordingly. This is what I tried to do the majority of my career and it worked quite well until I got to the WWE. In a perfect world this is what the wrestling industry should be. Put the talent pool out there and have the people in charge judge them all fairly and push them accordingly. This is very unrealistic unfortunately because wrestling is so subjective.
Good Politics are commonplace and are again much like real politics. Good politics is self-promoting, selling yourself to the “Bookers/Writers” in order to best push your own case. This mainly consists of pitching creative ideas and things, which show case you in the best light. You convince others you deserve to be pushed, then they convince others and they convince others and if you are successful everyone will be convinced and you get the spot. There is a saying in wrestling that perception becomes reality. If you can make them perceive you as a star you will be treated as one and then as a result become one. I have pitched a few creative ideas (mostly to no avail) so in a sense I’ve partaken in good politics.
Bad politics are the equivalent of “dirty” politics in real life. Instead of promoting your own case you sling mud at others to damage theirs. These are the politics we always read about on the Internet. So and so is holding back this guy. This guy was buried by someone and there fore isn’t getting a push. These are common place too but since most dirty politics takes place behind closed doors you seldom get a completely accurate picture of who is doing what.
To illustrate let’s look at WrestleMania and the WWE Title match with John Cena. This match seems pretty wide open and obviously everyone in the locker room would love to have to spot. There are those out there who don’t politic or don’t have enough connections to politic effectively so they are the guys just sitting there hoping for a miracle. They will never get the spot.
Someone wanting to use good politics would think of a creative means by which to book himself in the match and then start trying to convince others that it is the best solution. Let’s us Edge as an example since I know him and he hopefully wont’ get hot I used him as an example. He thinks of an idea to put himself into the title match. He would then go to anyone he has influence with (writers, agents, co workers, anyone with stroke) if he can convince them that his angle works and is the best solution they will pull for him when the options are discussed in meetings. He could point out that his previous feud with Cena drew strong numbers and that he worked well with Cena so the match would be strong. If he could convince enough people he could get the nod.
If Edge were into dirty politics he would then pitch his case the same way but also focus on burying anyone he felt was an alternative option. He would point out that HBK is a bad choice because face-face matches traditionally aren’t draws; he would also push behind the scenes for Taker-Dave for Mania so as to push not having 2 face-face matches on the show. He could mention that having Cena work with HBK could hurt his popularity if the crowd sides with Michaels. By doing this he undermines HBK’s chances for the match. He would then also want to sabotage Orton’s case and again to be dirty he could bring up past conduct and suspension issues Orton has and try to convince people that he doesn’t deserve the spots as much. He would also try to plant these seeds quietly over time. Stand with agents or Vince during their segments to make subtle comments, like “Gee Shawn looks like his knees are really bothering him tonight”. “The crowd was a little quiet for Orton tonight”. Little things like this can influence people’s judgment when it comes down to decision time.
There is a lot of money at stake for spots like this, which is why politics are inevitable in this business. Very few people excel in WWE without scratching and clawing their way to the top via politics of one kind or another. The old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease is very appropriate in the wrestling business. With so many angles and so many people fighting for them if you aren’t pushing your own case who will. If you have to decide to push Val Venis or Lance Storm and Val Venis sits back quietly and waits for your decision and Lance Storm is constantly there pushing you for a decision, it just becomes easier to give me what I want and have no one complaining than to give Val the spot and have to explain to me why I was left out.