Working – WWE Style
Any fan who has read articles on WrestlingRamble, or anywhere else on the IWC, will probably be familiar with wrestlers being signed to a WWE contract, either to the main roster or on a developmental deal, and then being asked to work “WWE’s Style of wrestling”. But what exactly is the WWE style and why does the company insist on all their workers having a similar mentality in the ring?
When comparing the in ring styles of WWE performers to that of an independent, lucha libre, or puroresu wrestler, the pace is noticeably slower with more emphasis on psychology and storytelling as well as a lower tone and risk level when it comes to high spots and hardcore matches. The WWE is also rumoured to ban certain moves so that its workers cannot perform them during matches anymore.
To digress for a moment, WWE’s focus on storytelling does not take away from the wrestlers or hamper showcasing the workers in-ring abilities, far from it in fact. Any fan who loves wrestling will have their reasons for doing so, but most will agree that pro wrestling is one of the most unique forms of entertainment in the world and in many ways is an art form that very few have ever truly fully mastered. What makes wrestling so special is that it combines athletic ability with storytelling and therefore is a cross between sport and entertainment. Most matches tell a story, not unlike a film or a play at the theatre. The basic plot of the story will either be of triumph or tragedy, triumph being the face getting a victory and tragedy being the loss for the face to a heel wrestler. Each match will either be a story in its own right or part or a long running storyline or feud, with the aim of the match to portray one or both men in the match in a certain light (a superhuman come-back, an underdog, an evil monster, etc).
The match will then, again like a film or play, contain the ups and downs of the plot before coming to its conclusion and this is where the wrestler’s story telling ability comes into play. The match itself can contain many elements or spots that change the course of the story such as cheating, overcoming the odds, inspirational comebacks, family involvement, the list is endless. A wrestler will get into the ring knowing what they have to achieve, but perhaps not knowing specifically what it will take to get themselves, and the fans watching, to that point. The guys in the ring need to read the crowd and make them buy into what they are seeing. Think of home alone, if Kevin McCallister, an 8 year old boy, had outsmarted 2 experienced criminals without much problem, it would be a terrible movie. But he didn’t, he got caught and pinned against the wall, he looked doomed until he was saved by an unlikely source, old man Moley who we all thought was evil but turned out to be a hero. This simple plot is much like a wrestling storyline and heel turn. If the babyface gets beat up a bit, beats the heel up a bit then wins, chances are the match won’t be a classic. On the other hand, imagine having two excellent workers in a match where the heel is really doing a number on the face and the face is really selling that he is hurt or injured, to the point that the fans think the heel will win. As the referee’s hand is going down for the third time, at 2 and 7/8s the face kicks out, as the heel looks like he has just seen a ghost, think how much more emotion the fans will show. From there a superhuman effort is needed but finally the good guy gets the win, covered in sweat and full of emotion, and the crowd will not be able to hide their glee as quality story of courage, and the will to win, has been told.
Because of this it is clear why the WWE puts emphasis on storytelling but asking workers to alter their style in order to achieve this seems unnecessary, as well as pigeonholing the WWE product. By limiting the whole roster to a similar style the WWE is moving away from what help get the company to where it is today, offering something different for every type of fan. Asking a worker not to execute certain manoeuvres, with the sole purpose of wanting the worker to fit a mould, is unfair on them as well as depriving the fans of seeing what that worker can actually do in the ring. Giving a wrestler boundaries of what they can and cannot do will not help them learn ring psychology or how to ‘work’, it just limits a wealth of knowledge that the worker has accumulated on their journey to this point in their career.
By limiting what arsenal of moves each wrestler can utilize the WWE is making its own product very one dimensional. During wrestling’s (and WWE’s) last boom period, of 1998 to 2001, one quick look at the roster shows that at this point the WWE had a very varied talent pool that consisted of:
Technical Wrestlers such as Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle and Lance Storm
Hardcore Wrestlers such as Mankind
Risk Takers such as the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and Rob Van Dam
Athletic Smaller Wrestlers such as Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero
And ‘WWE Style’ Wrestlers such as Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H and The Rock
This isn’t to say that the entire current WWE roster wrestles a WWE style, workers like Rey Mysterio, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and R-Truth have their own unique styles, but you still read reports that they have been asked by management to stop doing certain moves, or to water down their risky offence. It seems baffling that WWE would scout talent that have been in the business for a years and have carved out their own niche on the independent circuit only to be drafted to FCW and told to scrap some of what they have learned and taught how to do things a different way. The biggest, and most recent example of this has to be Daniel Bryan who was, in many circles, considered the best wrestler in the world while in RoH and on the independent scene. Danial Bryan had travelled the world 10 years, becoming a true master of his craft, yet once singed to a WWE contact he spent a year in FCW before being drafted as a ‘rookie’ on the inaugural season of NXT (ironically being ‘mentored’ by former reality TV star The Miz).
There are however arguments against these points on why the WWE should ask workers to work a certain style. Over recent years new styles have started to appear, with the rise of TNA’s X-Division and independent wrestlers developing a faster paced, riskier, high flying style of wrestling, the WWE may simply want to differentiate its product from that of every other promotion. Also, logic suggests that while non-mainstream wrestling promotions can get away with a riskier product, because they are viewed by a much smaller niche market of customers, the biggest wrestling promotion in the world cannot. The WWE is viewed by millions of people around the world and if there are any serious accidents, there will be serious repercussions for the company. Because of this it can be argued that WWE has every right to ‘ban’ certain moves that are considered or proven to be dangerous. Take the piledriver for example. Although I cannot confirm that the WWE has banned its employees from executing a piledriver (although I remember reading this on a news site years ago), I cannot remember the last time I seen a traditional piledriver (only the Undertaker’s tombstone). This move clearly has a higher risk attached to it as it involves driving the opponent’s neck almost into the mat with the weight of two people on top of it, as well as being the move responsible for Stone Cold Steve Austin breaking his neck, and subsequently shortening his career, back in 1997.
There are valid arguments for both sides of the issue, and there is always the possibility that the “WWE Style” is something that has came from years of ‘dirt sheet’ and IWC speculation and doesn’t exist at all, although the latter seems very unlikely and would involve a great deal of coincidence. Some fans will agree with, and enjoy the WWE’s policy and style. Some may have preferred the WWE when the roster contained a variety of different styles. And some fans may wish that there could be a compromise of varied styles in a safe, unique manner. Each fan will have their own opinion. I am a fan and I have my own.
We would love to hear yours…..
Thanks for reading peeps. Leave me some feedback and drop me a line on twitter @CallingSpots
Cheers – Rich x
Interesting column! I think as a company who seeks out talent, they need to mesh the “WWE style” with the wrestler’s own style more often.
Posted before i could even get it out. Each wrestler has a style that they should be able to incorporate into the WWE Style.
A hybrid WWE-approved style that includes the individual workers life long experience is the way it used to be and IMO the way it should be.
Better yet, how about Kofi-style handwalking for everybody…even Khali! lol
Read through the article, and was about to comment, glad I read these comments too because the guys have said exactly what I was about to. Especially the comment about a “hybrid WWE approved style”. While it’s important to get them working to WWE, it’s got to be important to keep the talent comfortable doing what got them to the dance (so to speak). Very good article, look forward to more!
I used to believe, and I’m pretty sure many others still to do, that wrestling progressed from the slower style, to what we have now. Obviously, that’s not the case, when you see matches from Europe, Japan, Mexico, even just WCW, and compare it to the product WWE was putting on at the same time. I get telling a story in the ring, and not just flying all over the ring, but making every move count, but the limitations (more so today) are ridiculous.
Thats what it seems to boil down to – limitations. I find it sad that every match is planned our by the road agents, sorry I mean “producers”. I always called it in the ring and strongly feel that ths should be the case – especially foe the top guys. If a crowd isn’t into a match they need to be able to use their creativity and change what they are doing to get the crowd into it.
I agree about changing with the crowd reaction. Great point!
Wrestling really is a unique ‘commodity’. I think you can call the WWE’s wrestling style a commodity.
The ”WWE Style” is what it is, it’s own style. I recorded some old British wrestling from Movies4Men, and was watching Finley vs. someone whose name I forgotten, the match was so much ‘faster’ from them to watch. They were going out to win more so than tell a story like the WWE would.
Glad you enjoyed it mate. I didn’t know british wrestling was on Movies4Men. Is it world if sport stuff?
Yeah it’s the world of sport on movies for men. I watch it at times too. Great to see how wrestling has progresses from those days into what WWE give us these days.
Yes, as Ryan said below this comment.
Ryan – Imagine Punk and Jericho going at it that fast paste. That’s where those guys would be excellent if there was no story too it. But there is a story, or will be a story behind it in the upcoming weeks.
You know, that’s why I don’t mind the occasional botch. It’s more realistic.
Yeah I definitely agree Ray, seeing Jericho and Punk go faster would be awesome. But I do like how they story tell in the matches, I think if you have two of the best wrestlers in the world they will be able to work faster, maybe not as fast but fast and with a story implemented.
Capt – Definitely!! We can all admit that some botches are just HILARIOUS, some are just damn ugly but I’m not one of the guys who will say, “fuck sake, they ruined that spot”. I don’t think botches are necessarily an awful thing. If I was a wrestler and I watched the match back, seeing that I made a botch, I would analysis it and improve on it. Botching is sometimes the only way wrestlers can improve.
Plus, you have to consider that they’re rubbed with oil before each match, so it has to be fairly slick.
Quick idea for a column. If wrestling never existed, what can you picture people in the business doing for a living?(real person or kayfabe, it doesn’t matter)
Here’s one: Morrison would be fighting crime at night.
I recently watched the Jeff Hardy vs. Undertaker Ladder Match from RAW and I thought that was an amazing match. The storytelling in that match was so great. Undertaker had beaten Hardy up so much that it made it very exciting when Hardy made his comeback. And Hardy didn’t pull a Cena by forgetting to sell his injuries and win the match. Hardy made you believe he MIGHT win the match but then Undertaker was able to squash the comeback which was the logically outcome. I was thinking that I don’t really see matches on RAW like that any more.
Also I loved the CM Punk vs. Umaga match from Judgment Day 2009. Great match because it made sense and felt real. Umaga was bigger and stronger so he had a better performance. Punk was able to take Umaga down a few times because Punk was a better wrestler but Punk lost because Umaga was just too strong and big. Today, they would have had Punk get beat up for 15 minutes and then win by hitting a GTS out of nowhere.
Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/IxJGNbHPTbM
think it’s down to this “WWE-Style” that WWE are doing so bad just now.
I think the WWE style is good, I love the story telling that they sometimes show, other times sort of ignore such as Cena matches where he gets beat up and turns into superhuman doesnt tell an interesting story to anyone.
I love that in this day and age, hope I don’t sound too old saying that; I’m only young damnit! But I like that we can choose what to watch. We don’t like WWE we still often watch it anyways but we can have that choice to start watching or focus more on other promotions such as TNA or RoH. I will always watch WWE, and probably will never quit watching it. I sometimes watch TNA (mainly cos I see the Asian Sensation Gail Kim haha!) and I would sometimes watch RoH too! I think TNA is similar to WWE, but also bring something different to the plate such as the X Division. & I think RoH is different from WWE a lot.
It’s good that as wrestling fans we can dictate what is on our TV wrestling wise, but personally I prefer WWE’s style… Minus superhuman Cena/Orton
Like I said, great read! 🙂
I don’t really care about people going “superhuman”, because I just take it as the wrestler being in the zone.
Also, remember when Orton and Cena had to take on the whole RAW roster? While they did “bury” others, it was fun to see RKO’s everywhere! And when Cena threw Cody into one. Damn!
You have a point. I guess it’s just opinion more than anything. For me, I can’t stand when Cena or Orton turns into the unstoppable forces from Vince McMahon’s ass. But like you said, it could just be them being in the zone.
Orton has a problem with burying the rest of the roster. Did you see what he said in an interview a week or two back?
I heard about it, but he is right. There are only so many of those “big time” guys right now that it’ll take time to build other up.
”You know, that’s why I don’t mind the occasional botch. It’s more realistic.” – Very true, good point.
Make my cash prize out to “Capt. Smooth”. Thanks.
Remember when WWE bought WCW and several of the WCW guys tried to merge into the WWE’s style? Some just weren’t able to cut it, and it just looked brutal when they worked together. Guys like Benoit/Booker/Guerrero did great at least.
Great article. I can understand, to a certain extent, why WWE tones down the style of some of their performers. In the case of C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan, both guys utilized (on the indie scene) a very stiff and technical ring style which could have possibly gone over the heads of he casual WWE fan who prefers big spots with simple in-ring storytelling.
And just to add some food for thought, the following is a line from Wrestling Observer Newsletter founder/editor Dave Meltzer regarding Karl Gotch, the legendary technical wrestler from the 60s and 70s. It makes you wonder if many of the higher ups in WWE feel the same way about the ringwork of their technical performers:
“Gotch impressed the wrestlers with his style, and he impressed some of the fans. But for the majority of fans, his quickness and chain wrestling, doing six or seven fluid but complex moves in succession as opposed to do one simple move and get a pop, went over their heads.”- Dave Meltzer, WON, August 15, 2007
Even in the WWE style, Punk still has great matches. I don’t think Daniel Bryan has been able to showcase his true potential inside the ring due to being matched with opponents like Big Show or Mark Henry. I greatly respect the latter two, but their styles aren’t exactly the best fit for a performer like Bryan. He’d be served much better against guys like Orton, Rhodes, Jericho, Swagger, Punk, Ziggler, Mysterio, etc…