September 30, 2012
I've got a bit of a wrestling lesson/rant for you today. I've been meaning to write about this for a while but I never seem to have the time. Well thanks to my dog waking me up absurdly early this morning I find myself with some spare time so I figured I best get to typing.
There were originally two things I wanted to cover in this article but I started with the first one and typed over 1000 words, so I had to come back and edit this introduction. I will in fact only be covering my one leading pet peeve in wrestling today, and I'll try to get to the other at a later date. My goal today is not to just complain and rant, or point out that I know better. There are no doubt times during my career when I've made the same mistakes I'll be pointing out here. I always appreciated advice throughout my career, so my hope is that the following advice will help others tighten up their game as well as stop people who are starting out in this business from copying and imitating prominent bad habits.
Before I get into specifics I want to be clear I am not implying that those in our industry who make the mistakes I'm about to point out are bad workers. Don't be a troll and run out to tweet or blog that Lance Storm says so and so is a bad worker. We all make mistakes; we all at times get sloppy. I have little doubt that is you search YouTube you will be able to find instances of me doing what I'm about to complain about. My point is that we all need a quality control check now and again to keep our game tight and if bad habits become too frequent they get imitated and become the norm and the quality of our business dies a little bit. We all owe it to ourselves and the business we love to preserve the true art of our business as best we can, by try to do it at the highest level possible.
My big bone of contention today is with pin falls. This is worse in WWE than anywhere else but it is running rampant everywhere in my opinion. My problem with pin falls today, or rather with how guys are executing pins falls today is that everyone is always hooking the leg. This may sound like a good idea at first and it may even be mandated in WWE, but I believe it's a bad idea and more importantly it's leading to everyone making a far greater mistake than not hooking that leg in the first place.
Let me deal with the "always" issue first. I believe the words "always" and "never" are two of the worst words that can be used when giving instruction. There are exceptions to every rule and I frequently tell my students that if someone is telling you to "always" do something or "never" do something they probably don't know what they are talking about. Universal uniformity just makes everything dull, because if everything is the same, nothing stands out. Not every pin fall in a match is the same, some carry much greater weight than others, or at least they should. If we hook the leg every single time, how do we put emphasis on certain ones we want to mean more? How do we make fans bite harder on the real important near falls if every cover looks the same?
I believe this problem was first created by announcers. Announcers have to talk about something and more often than not on a cover, where the leg is not hooked; they pull out their ace in the hole, "He should have hooked the leg" like that is somehow the secret formula to winning a match. This dumps all the blame for the kick out on the guy making the cover, rather than putting praise on the guy kicking out, for kicking out despite having his shoulders held to the mat with great force by his opponent, not to mention that it puts far too much importance on one small element of a pin attempt. How many times have we all heard, "He should have hooked the leg"?
If there is a mandate in WWE for guys to hook the leg, this is probably where it came from. Someone no doubt has heard the "Why didn't he hook the leg" line so many times they started asking themselves, "Why aren't these guys hooking the leg?" and decided not hooking the leg makes things look "fake" because if you really wanted to pin your opponent, you'd hook the leg. I contend that this is preposterous and if announcers would tell a different story we would all have a different view of the situation.
If we really want to present our matches as real and put some substance into what we do, not every pin fall even needs to be an attempt to win the match. I've often viewed and treated pin falls as a measuring stick when working. In the middle of the match going for a simple pin is a way to test and judge how beat up or fatigued my opponent is. If this were real, and that is how we are supposed to present things, would it not make sense to do a simple lateral press in a match just to see how strongly or how quickly your opponent kicks out? This would be a means by which to judge our opponents awareness and help us decide if he is in enough trouble that we could try riskier more high impact moves. There is a lot more to ring psychology than just hooking or not hooking the leg.
Even if you don't want to get into things that deeply, focusing so heavily on hooking the leg has led to a much bigger problem than just uniformity. While almost everyone is hooking the leg now, they seem so focused on doing so almost no one is bothering to cover the shoulders any more. With a new focus on making covers "look" better they have in fact gotten so much worse. I constantly see guys grabbing legs while lying across their opponent's stomach leaving the shoulders completely uncovered, and it drives me crazy. What if announcers started pointing out that if the guy would have just put some weight on his opponent's shoulders, you know the things we are trying to pin to the mat, the guy might not have been able to kick out by just lifting his arm. I fear we are focusing so much on one individual aspect of the pin, the leg, that we are neglecting the single most important element, the SHOULDERS.
I'm reminded of a story I often tell my students, which happened in Hanover Germany in 1993. Larry Cameron & Anthony Durante (ECW's Pitbull #2) were wrestling Dave Taylor and Tony St. Clair. Dave was taking one of the falls (European Tag Matches were 2 of 3 falls) on Anthony, and Anthony who was always concerned about looking strong, specifically asked Dave to hook his leg on the cover because he didn't think it looked believable for Dave to pin him without hooking his leg. I will remember Dave’s response till the day I die. Dave Taylor looked Anthony (who was much larger than Dave) right in the eye and said, "I'll pin you for a shoot, and I won't touch your F--king leg". I love Dave Taylor!
My point isn't to hook the leg or not hook the leg but more to make believe able covers first and foremost and hooking the leg is but one small aspect of what may or may not make a cover look believable. The point of a cover is to pin your opponent's shoulders to the mat and that is where our focus should be. Pinning a man's shoulders to the mat can be accomplished countless different ways and not all of which involve hooking the leg. Furthermore this is a team effort and if announcers can point out the positives in what we do and not the negatives in what we do, fan's perception of what we do will be a positive one and that perception will become their reality, and we all win.
Food for thought,
Which pin looks better?
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