My colleague Ivan Rushfield wrote his new column Breaking Holds. While this was a great read, his main thesis (and click the link!) is that wrestling fans, as well as promoters, really want to root for the big man and prefer the Conan archetype to any other. He cited several modern examples, but I find this idea to be fraught with logical holes. Welcome to A Modest Response where we’ll go through those wrestlers used as examples and find the holes in Ivan’s arguement. Again, to get the most out of this, be sure to read Breaking Holds.
1. Triple H- Best friends with main eventer Shawn Michaels who always had Vince’s ear at the start. Was continually pushed alongside mega-over Rock character, then married into the family. Big or not, that might have alittle something to do with the sustained push. Let’s not forget that in 04 when he was getting shit responses, the push went nowhere.
2. Jericho is responsible for two of the biggest pops in raw and a ratings pop. First his debut, then his false win on Hunter, and lastly his return. That he was then promptly shunted to the midcard to get into shape is why he wasn’t pushed as hard as he should immediately. You can still make a case that he gets the third biggest pops on Raw despite being stuck in go nowhere feuds.
3. Orton- Second generation stars with that look will get chances, particulaly because Vince spent so much time and money pushing him in Evolution, he’s clearly loathe to see that profit turn to loss. Add in the look and the serpent like quality that makes him so hateable.
4. Batista- see Orton and Evolution push. Add in that Batista proved he could work on top and that at his age there’s no time to move him down the card.
5. Undertaker- one of two men to never leave for WCW. There were tons of huge guys with gimmicks. Taker’s was the one that stuck. If it’s all size and look, why didn’t the others? That taker’s the best big man worker of the past decade and a half probably helps.
6. Kane has, basically, Taker’s gimmick. He’s pushed and reasonably over, but isn’t the worker ‘taker is, so is pushed up and down the card. You’d be hard pressed to say he’s any more over than Jericho and is likely quite a bit less, despite his size.
7. John Cena- great look and absolutely killer on the mic, he moves an absurd amount of merchandise. He sort earned his spot and was around mostly to get squashed and be annoying when Brock was the chosen one, but without a real push above the midcard, he got stupidly over and sold merch like a god. WWE saw an opportunity after Brock was gone and there was a hole for top face, then Cena worked his ass off to get good in the ring and became Vince’s buddy by all reports. There’s a lot of factors, but ultimately it was Cena’s mouth, not look, thatgot him so over.
8. Jeff Hardy- Was he really any less over than Cena during his push? WWE would have had him on top years ago (see the Taker push and Edge’s push), but for his personal demons. Come on, they put him clean over HBK and Triple H more than once. His push was legit.
9. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit- Pushed at the biggest WM so far in the double main event. You can question that Benoit deserved it if you like (I disagree, but we’ll get to that), but was anyone more over than Eddie? He was a ridiculously over face and absolutely despised heel. A true main eventer, despite his size and in his smaller roles, like the Rey feud, he got as much TV time with it as the main event.
Benoit, with no size, look, or mic skill, was allowed to main event and beat all the top guys. This isn’t the only time he was that over as he had roles with Austin, Rock, Triple H, and Angle at various points. Without either the mic skills or look he was more valuable moving around the card, but he got where he was by being the best in the ring.
10. Kurt Angle- What happens if you give Benoit mic skills? A guy the WWE pushes as hard as anyone, main events mania and is champion all the time. You want mimicked wrestlers, Kurt with his catchphrases and mannerisms had it all. If only he hadn’t gone mad, we’d have the perfect example that fans don’t just pop for look….
11. Shawn Michaels – oh, right. Mic skills galore and the ring work and consistency to make Kurt in his prime blush. He’s always a main eventer and always among the most over men on the show. That he doesn’t have a title now is more a testament to his ego being under control than anything else. And he’s small.
12. CM Punk and Bobby Lashley- Want final proof that it isn’t all about size? Lashley was pushed like a god, above all on ECW and then hugely on Raw with the Trump and Vince angle. The crowd refused to buy him or his merch despite a look to kill for because he couldn’t talk or work. Punk is small, but looks distinct, talks well, and can wrestle. The crowd gives him some of the loudest cheers on every show, and when in the ring with DX and the Hardyz, he got the biggest pop. His merchandise moves second to none but Cena reportedly. He loses and his push stalls and he gets one big win and everyone cares again. So, how about that size?