THE BEAUTIFUL THING PRESENTS:
AN ONGOING DISCUSSION OF PRO WRESTLING PSYCHOLOGY
This week’s question: Should different wrestlers use different psychology?
The last few columns in this series have all generated a wide variety of opinions. Not this week’s. It’s pretty obvious that what works for Undertaker and what works for El Hijo del Santo are two very different things. As both Jerad and Andy point out below, the same is true of The Hulkster and The Crippler. I’m sure all of us could come up with a dozen such examples without breaking a sweat.
So, why even bother asking the question?
I’ll get to that at the end of this column.
This week’s guest contributors are all members in good standing of the Internet Wrestling Community, and I’d go so far as to say that they all rank in the 98th percentile of the World’s best wrestling fans.
Benoit: Whatcha gonna do, BRUTHA?
J.D. Dunn: J.D. Dunn: Absolutely. Jim Cornette once said of
Batista that the WWE would make a ton of money off the guy but he couldn’t go out there and bump around for people. He would have to be a monster. Good call, Jimmy Corn. Likewise, if you look at a Rey Mysterio match, he’ll usually trick his opponent into chasing him, duck between their legs, springboard off their back and all sorts of other spots to contribute to the storyline that he is the Earl Boykins of wrestling.
If everyone used the same psychology, it would look like wrestlers were run through a meat grinder and all came out the same (see the X-Division and very early RoH).
Brad Barnes: Would a guy like Necro Butcher use the psychology of a Bryan Danielson? The answer would be no, as well as if the roles were reversed. A lot of brawlers will use their weapons to tell a story, while technical workers use many different types of psychology (eg: working a body part and historic psychology).
Vinny Truncellito: Yes, different wrestlers SHOULD use different psychology. One might win matches by getting into his opponents’ heads pre-match. Another might be a submission specialist who always breaks down an opponent part by part. It helps to differentiate between the grapplers.
Big Andy Mac: Of course different wrestlers should have different psychology. Would it make sense to see Chris Benoit “hulk up” in a match? No it wouldn’t. It might be super entertaining and comical but it wouldn’t make much sense. That is a basic example, I know, but it still holds true. Rey Mysterio should not be trying to use powerslams and spine busters to weaken his opponent, it just doesn’t look right. Likewise, Big Show shouldn’t be trying 619s, ranas, and moonsaults, although I would pay big money to see it. A better example is, Big Show should not be working leg and arm submissions since it just doesn’t fit his style and size.
Jerad Moxley: Hulk Hogan was a master of top face psychology. Wonderful at understanding what his job was in the ring, how to engage the crowd, how to set up and execute payback spots, how to take advantage of his opponents gimmick etc. Chris Benoit doing Hulk’s psychology would be stupid it’s not his position in the company nor does it look believable. Not that Benoit couldn’t borrow certain things from Hulk like payback spots, but as a whole his ring character is totally different and so he should play a different role in his matches.
Mathew Sforcina: An entire show of people working the leg would be boring. You need different stories to fill out a show, although the show can have an overriding story.
So Why Bother…?
Pretty much everyone understands that it makes sense for different wrestlers to use different psychology. So, why do I consider the question to be worth asking?
When I read match reviews, it sometimes seems like the reviewer has forgotten this basic fact.
It’s arguable that, for example, Toshiaki Kawada has been pro wrestling’s greatest master of the art of ring psychology since the death of Jumbo Tsuruta. Kawada’s best matches combine believability, story telling, and crowd involvement at the highest levels. The thing is, however, very few wrestlers in history have been capable of working like Kawada, and most wrestlers would be foolish to even try. Everyone knows that, but it is still common practice to criticize wrestlers or matches by comparing them unfavourably to Kawada classics.
Even when people don’t go that far, it’s not hard to think of examples where Giants are criticized for working a lumbering style, bodybuilders are criticized for relying too much on power offense, brawlers are criticized for working out of control, or high flyers are criticized for stringing highspots together. Sometimes such criticisms are justified, but often they are the result of a writer having too narrow a definition of what comprises good ring psychology.
Sometimes it’s fair to accuse Kenta Kobashi of no-selling, but when he is demonstrating his awesome fighting spirit, then he is using the right ring psychology for his character. Biker-Taker should probably sell more, but the Undead Zombie ‘Taker should be able to just sit up and continue no matter how much punishment he’s absorbed. It all depends on their character.
We’ll get more deeply into this next week, but there is more than one reason to work an arm. Sometimes you do it to set up a finisher. Sometimes you do it to take away an opponent’s offense. Is it bad psychology when Ric Flair spends 20 minutes working an opponent’s arm only to finish him off with the Figure Four Leg Lock?
Tune in next week, and we’ll see if we can’t answer that question.
By the way: I AM SORRY THE COLUMN IS LATE AGAIN THIS WEEK
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Thanks for reading!