Wrestling Rules

May 1, 2009

I’ve been on a bit of a rant of late. Any of you who listen to my regular bi-weekly radio shows on the Wrestling Observer / Figure 4 Weekly website should be well aware of this, and I’m getting close to the end of my rope. Last week’s Impact show was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back for me and the way in which that show, (and at times WWE programming) treats this business as a joke, has just got me fed up.

I’m tired of stupid sit-com booking, I’m tired of back stage skits, idiotic stipulations, unbelievable and unrealistic characters, inconsistent and contradictory angles, and the destruction and the devaluation of titles, match stipulations, and to be honest the over all importance of winning or losing a wrestling match. I think, with the exception of a select few, those in charge of booking/writing wrestling today have completely lost sight of what this business is based on and supposed to be.

Maybe I’m just too old and bitter but I don’t think so. The last time I checked this was still the WRESTLING business. The foundation of RAW, SmackDown, ROH, ECW, and TNA is still professional wrestling. We’ve admitted the industry is entertainment based but programs themselves are still supposed to be presented as if they were REAL. Fans are still supposed to care about, either positively or negatively, the competitors involved. Those competitors can have colourful characters and personalities in order to be more entertaining, but they are still supposed to be realistic enough and consistent enough for us to believe in them and become emotionally attached to them. And this more importantly than anything else, the wrestling matches, and the results of those wrestling matches are supposed to be IMPORTANT to everyone, fans and wrestlers alike.

To help restore my sanity I’m going to write Wrestling Rules, this week. A virtual Booking for Dummies that I think the writers and bookers of this industry would be well served to observe. This would be the guide I would use if I had creative input or control in any current wrestling company.

The World Title means EVERYTHING: This applies to all titles really but the World Title has to be the main focus of the company. Credibility needs to be restored to the Titles. Titles can not be flip flopped all over the place. Fans need to be able to follow title lineage, and any time the title changes hands it needs to be a significant event. The World Title should only be defended in a 1 on 1 match. You could argue for 3 ways but in that event they need to be elimination so the best man wins and the former champ is always beaten to lose the title. The World Title means you are the best individual wrestler in the company and it should never be on the line in a match where other factors or other people can play a major role in determining who the best is.

Champions do not Lose Matches: If a Champions gets beat what exactly is he champion of. Unless they are getting beat in a non title match that will lead directly to a title shot, the Champion has to go over. If he does lose a non-title match the loss has to be treated like a big deal and lead to something. If you can’t put the champion over in the match DON’T book it. The only exception to this rule is tag team champions getting beat in a singles match, or a singles champ getting beat in a tag match but even that should not be done too often and should lead to something.

Simplify the Product: Not every match needs to have an angle. Wrestlers are professional fighters they can be booked in matches just because it is their job. The angle or motivation for the match is that if they win they make more money and if they win enough they get a title shot. Simple angles can be spun from matches and their results, not everything needs to be a storyline. Fewer segments and focusing on one or two main angles per show will make for a far more effective and memorable program.

Gimmick and Stipulation Matches should never be done COLD: Throwing cage matches, ladder matches, 3 way matches, stretcher matches, etc. out there cold with no build or angle is… in a word WRONG. These matches are supposed to be special and mean something and if they are done for no reason with out any build, no one cares and their value is lost. A prime example of this was the So Jo Bolt – Taylor Wilde match on Impact last week. There was absolutely no reason for that match to be a ladder match. There was no heat or angle building to it, there was no promotion of it in hopes of drawing with it, and there was no time or importance given to it, so it was a pointless 3 minute match that sucked. Those two would have had a better match with out the ladder and fans wouldn’t have had to see a short boring ladder match which only served to kill the value of future ladder matches. Throwing gimmicks and stipulations everywhere on a show in hopes of drawing ratings only waters down their effectiveness, which leads to needing more gimmicks and stipulations in the future, which is a never ending downward spiral that is killing this business. I like to call this the Russo-Effect.

Bring back Managers and Valets: I’m not sure when the people in this industry decided to stop using managers and valets but it was a huge mistake. Some of the greatest money feuds in this business featured managers and valets. I large portion of the Hogan era was Hulk Hogan feuding with Bobby Heenan and his henchmen. Even the Austin era was largely fueled by Vince McMahon who was for the most part a manager type character. The only explanation I’ve ever heard for doing away with managers was that because they did all the talking they got all the heat and the heat needs to be with the wrestler. To this I ask, WHY? Why does all the heat need to be with the wrestler? Is it not more important to just have heat somewhere? There are a lot of workers held back because they can’t talk, and talkers held back because they don’t have the ability or the body. Let’s start pairing the talkers and the workers and as long as they get heat as a unit, everyone wins. Santino Morella needs to be a manager. Let him get heat by running his mouth and then have him hide behind a Mike Knox, or a Charlie Hass. Remember Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman! Now on to Valets. Not every girl needs to be having wrestling matches, and throwing 10 of them out there in 3 minute tag matches servers no purpose what so ever. Valets, like Managers can differentiate and help liven up the individual male talent on the roster. Dawn Marie made me who I was in ECW. She gave me depth and character that I never could have developed on my own. Take the girls who look the part and have the personality and pair them with guys who need an extra something to stand out. You can still keep the Women’s division alive, just do it with the girls who can work.

Maintain Company Integrity: Bookers need to remember that the company is a business entity and needs to be presented like it is both competent and professional. The Company as a whole can not be involved in any comedy bullshit. This is likely my biggest TNA pet peeve, and was also a big concern of mine in WCW (this could be the Russo Effect version 2.0) Matches that are booked and presented have to be something that makes business sense to the company. We can’t have blow up dolls on a pole, plastic Santas as weapons, guys playing on pogo sticks during matches, production crews visiting the “Deep Blue Sea” to interview the Shark family. The over all product, can not be presented as a joke, you can do comedy and have comedic characters but you can’t “Cross the Line” and let the company as a whole come off like a joke. There needs to be structure and knowledge behind the product, management has to be in control, if they are not it hurts the product and also opens up endless plot holes and storyline inconsistencies.

Reduce Scripting of Promos: Guys need to be allowed to come into their own, and find themselves. Too tightly scripting everything dulls individual creativity and will greatly decrease the likely hood of anyone breaking out. Leave the under neither and mid card guys alone somewhat and let them find their own way. When you book and script a guy to be a 2 minute undercard promo that is all he is ever going to be and no one will ever break through and become a star. Finding new Main Event stars is a real issue today and unless guys are allowed to develop themselves and create their own personality they are never going to get good enough to break out of that 2 minute cookie cutting promo that is keeping them in the mid card. Guide and nurture, but don’t out right script. Tell wrestler A the day or week before that he will have a 2 minute promo to cut on Wrestler B and see what he comes up with. Austin 3:16 wasn’t scripted, it just happened.

Well that’s my take, 7 simple rules to follow when presenting pro-wrestling. They are broken all the time in this industry yet I don’t see how anyone could possible argue that the wrestling business wouldn’t be a whole lot better off if they weren’t.

Lance Storm