Size Matters: FS Reprint
Sept 03, 2012
I wrote the following for my "Storm Front" article for "Fighting Spirit" Magazine, back in January, and it is being
reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
you should go read it first.
I am writing this month's article on Christmas Eve. I point this out because I'm going to talk about the current champions in WWE and there is a strong likely hood that many of these championships could change hands by the time you read this. The current champions I want to talk about are: WWE Champ: CM Punk (6' 2", 218 lbs), World Champ: Daniel Bryan (5' 10" 210 lbs), IC Champ: Cody Rhodes (6' 2" 215 lbs), US Champ: Zach Ryder (6' 2" 214 lbs).
After reading last month's article about the need for variety in our business I saw a photo of all the WWE Champions together (including Tag Team and Divas Champions). I was dumbfounded by how much this photograph proved my point. If we focus on the four men's singles championships we have four guys who all wear trunks, have short hair, are within two inches of six feet tall, and whose weights vary less than 8 lbs.
That said their relative size isn't what I want to talk about, what I want to talk about is their over all size. I can not believe how much the pro-wrestling industry has shrunk since I broke in. I was billed at 6 feet tall, and 230 lbs during my career; I was (still am) bigger than every reigning WWE Champion today, despite being considered almost too small for the industry, when I broke in, in 1990.
By comparison the respective Champions in 1990 were: WWE Champ: Hulk Hogan (6' 7", 302 lbs), World Champ: Sting (6' 2", 254 lbs), IC Champ: Ultimate Warrior (6' 2", 280 lbs), US Champ: Lex Luger (6' 4", 274 lbs). If we take an average we get an average Champion's size in 1990 of 6' 4", 278 lbs. and in 2011 6' 1", 214 lbs. That is an average drop in size of 3 inches and 64 pounds.
This raises the questions, why, and more importantly, is this change good or bad for the industry? The obvious answer to the first question is the WWE wellness policy. While many critics like to scoff at WWE's drug testing policy, and admittedly it's far from perfect, this comparison clearly illustrates that it is having a big effect. None of the bodies of today's champs can hold a candle to those of Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Lex Luger, or Sting from the 90's. Steroids can't be the only answer however, because steroids don't affect your height and in addition to the 64 pound drop in weight our current guys are also, on average, 3 inches shorter. The fact of the matter is, and I see evidence of this every day at my school, there are fewer and fewer big men getting into pro-wrestling, and when you add to that the decrease in use of physique enhancing drugs, the industry has had to push smaller and smaller wrestler. So that leaves the important question, is this good or bad for the business?
As likely the most outspoken anti-drug guy in this industry's history, you would think my answer would be obvious. Of course smaller more athletic wrestlers on top would be good for business; the work rate is higher, the match quality is better, how can this be anything but a positive step. Well believe it or not that's not how I feel, I actually believe, at least when it comes to our Heavyweight Champions, they need to be bigger. Now I'm not suggesting that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan need to get on the gas and bulk up to 250 lbs, or that they are not deserving of holding their respective titles, I'm just saying that when I watch wrestling and see World Heavyweight Champions who are smaller than I was during my career, I am underwhelmed and I think others, especially casual fans, feel the same way.
I know those who want to disagree with me will point out how guys like Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, George Saint Pierre, and BJ Penn have all drawn huge money as champions in their respective sports, and they are all under the 6' 1" 214 lbs 2011 Champion's average. While that is true I think the key difference is that none of those guys were billed as being the Heavyweight Champion of their sport. Weight classes mean a lot in sport and when you are World Champion in a specific weight class it removes the size issue from the equation. In wrestling the World Champion has always been the World Heavyweight Champion and that leads to certain expectation, expectations that have been built up and reinforced over years. When those expectations aren't met fans can be left disappointed and underwhelmed. I think fans always want bigger and better; they expect every generation of athlete to surpass the one before it and visually, at least, that is not happening currently in pro-wrestling.
Is there a solution? To be honest I'm not sure. One thing I think could be tried is adapting weight classes, and no I'm not talking about the return of the cruiser weight division; I think that would be a mistake. What I would like to see is a Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight division in wrestling that uses the long established 205 lbs weight limit from MMA. UFC was built on the back of a solid 205 lbs weight division and I think if booked properly, when the depth is lacking in the heavyweight division, the 205 lbs guys could headline and carry the sport, without the size expectations of being called heavyweights.
The key would be doing it legitimately and sticking to it; no moving a strong 225 lbs guy, you want to push, down to be the 205 champ, unless the story is he's cutting weight to move down and he actually does cut weight so people can see the difference. Weight classes must be stuck to and Champions in particular should never fight guys outside of their weight class. The commentary team would be key putting over the depth and caliber of each division, and treating the champions in each division with equal importance.
I think this concept could really help a guy like Daniel Bryan who would make a tremendous 205 lbs Champion, and with proper weight divisions he would still be referred to as a World Champion, because he would be the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World. Replacing the IC and US with a specific weight division title would also make it much clearer to fans what that title actually means.
What do the Intercontinental and United States Titles even mean? Punk is the best wrestler in the WWE, Bryan the best wrestler in the World, so is Rhodes the best wrestler in North and South America, and Ryder the best wrestler in the USA. There seems to be a lot of contradiction and over lap with that explanation.
I think my approach would be a great way to feature and push the talented smaller guys without the stigma of being undersized heavyweights. I'm not saying don't push these guys, nothing could be farther from the truth, I just think they need to be appropriately labeled and marketed.
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