Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It Doesn’t Matter If You Win or Lose

Sheamus at Wrestlemania 26

Dusty Rhodes would often make reference to the pay window (or, da pay windah, if you wheel) when doing commentary. He was referencing the desire to come out victorious in the match because the winner would receive more money than the loser. This idea has lost it’s meaning now that everyone knows wrestling matches have predetermined outcomes and the wrestlers get paid the same rather they win or lose.  

Besides the pay window aspect, while watching Elimination Chamber, I started thinking about how winning and losing don’t matter to today’s wrestling fans. It’s all about perception and promotion.

Since winning the King of the Ring tournament on November 29, 2010, King Sheamus has one only one televised match. Sheamus won his Elimination Chamber qualifying match on February 1, 2011.  Even though he’s only won one match in almost three months, his position on the upper tier of the card is secured. Sheamus still gets presented as a threat to any other wrestler and usually gets the chance to cut a promo during Raw.

Daniel Bryan after the Hall of Fame ceremony
On the flip side, Daniel Bryan, the current United States champion who has a better win loss record than Sheamus is viewed as being below guys like Sheamus, CM Punk, Big Show and other main event talents.  Some may argue that based on the reaction to the Daniel Bryan/Miz match from the 2/14/11 Raw but I’d counter by saying the fans got into the match because of the quality of the match itself not because of the participants.  Focusing on the presentation of the wrestler, Daniel Bryan is acknowledged as a master of submission holds, but he doesn’t get put on the same pedestal as other superstars. Michael Cole goes out of his way to bury Bryan on commentary. I guess the thought is because Cole is such a shill for The Miz, his condescending remarks about Bryan will help get the fans behind the US Champ. I don’t understand that line of thought, but it is what it is.

Really, when was the last time a win-loss record mattered when it came to the booking of matches in wrestling?  How many Inter-Continental title matches did Dolph Ziggler lose before finally winning the title?  How many matches has Kofi Kingston won and how many World Title matches has he received?  In the same regard, both the New Nexus and the Corre are put over as being threats by the commentators but when was the last time they actually did anything threatening?  The wrestling product is more about the sizzle than the steak.
I should probably bite my tongue because my next comment is probably going to insult the majority of the people who read this blog.  Today’s wrestling fans have a sheep like mentality. At least that’s the only way I can explain the popularity of Randy Orton. If WWE wants to make someone a star, all they have to do put him or her on TV week after week in meaningful segments and eventually the fans will buy into the wrestler being someone they should cheer.  
On the same train of thought, even if a wrestler gets weekly airtime, if they’re not presented as a threat or major league talent, the fans will treat the wrestler as nothing more than filler or a prime time to take a bathroom break before the real stars hit the ring. 

Santino vs. Chavo Guerrero August 2009
Santino Marella is the only person I can think of who sort of straddles my examples.  Santino got weekly exposure but was never promoted as someone who was ever going to be main event caliber material. However, due to charisma, Santino managed to get the crowds behind him. I think another guy who could be a break out star similar to Santino is Zack Ryder. 

Unfortunately Zack Ryder gets less airtime than arena security.  If you haven’t seen Zack’s YouTube channel, check it out and tell me this guy couldn’t be a star based on personality alone.

Leaving WWE and shifting focus to TNA so I can’t be accused of bias, promoting wrestlers is something TNA has yet to learn. Dave Lagana on his I Want Wrestling site had a write up on February 4, about how John Cena has been presented as the face of WWE and had the company revolve around him. In their almost nine years of existence, TNA has failed to build their company around anyone for longer than a few months. Instead of making any of their wrestlers appear as superstars, TNA has a problem of making their entire roster look like wannabes. Whenever they start to promote someone, a former WWE wrestler will show up on the scene and the TNA guy gets told they aren’t fit to lace up the ex-WWE wrestler’s boots because TNA guy never wrestled up north. 

Next time you watch any of the weekly wrestling programs pay attention to how the company presents a wrestler and how the fans react to the wrestlers. Let me know if there’s any wrestler who doesn’t fit into my reasoning. 

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