Keynotes and Keyholds – On Entrances, or, The Importance of a Good First Impression (Edge, Eddie Guerrero, JBL, Daniel Bryan…)

On Entrances

Or, the importance of a good first impression

Edge’s promo on Smackdown last week, while powerful from start to finish, was particularly memorable for the way in which it worked to demonstrate how very important well-produced wrestler entrances are to the audience, to the performers, and ultimately to professional wrestling in general. Adam Copeland clearly loved his entrance to bits. It was evident each and every time he stepped out from behind the curtain to the furious strains of Alter Bridge, swept through the smoke, straddled the ramp and signalled for those trademark fireworks – all the time with a look of absolute joy on his face. As he explained, no matter how tired he felt, that entrance always put him in the mood to perform, and understandably so: it was always a wonderful spectacle. Of course, Edge’s own potency as a performer made the entrance special just as much as the pyrotechnics and soundtrack did, but as a method of presenting his character to audiences old and new, that is, as a way of making him instantly recognisable, it was absolutely perfect.

At some point I will no doubt dedicate another column to analysing several specific entrances in order to demonstrate how the entrance mechanic, when properly produced, can act as a powerful storytelling tool which contributes to an on-going narrative and assists in character development. For now, however, given Edge’s demonstration and the continued internet buzz surrounding Sin Cara’s trampoline entrance, it seems timely to comment on the role of the professional wrestling entrance in general, and how they fit into the bigger picture that is the wresting business as we know it.

We all have our own favourite entrances, and they undoubtedly constitute a vital part of what makes professional wrestling what it is: a performance. Theatre practitioners will tell you that on stage, one’s entrance is as vital to the overall performance as anything else that happens on stage. The audience notice entrances – the very act of walking onstage draws gaze, and so the impression that one makes through one’s conduct and commitment upon entering is of the utmost importance in establishing one’s character. In professional wrestling, as in theatre, a performer’s entrance is integral to the show. Entrances perform several vital functions, such as, on a basic level, interacting with or energising the audience (R-Truth’s audience response-focused rap is an obvious example). Others work on a more subtle level, and are designed to pick up a certain amount of slack when it comes to entertaining the audience and the in-ring action may not quite do the job by itself (such as JBL’s limousine / showers of personalised money prior to his athletically-limited bouts). Indeed, there are those fans to whom professional wrestling entrances and pre-match theatrics are, or were initially, much more compelling than the in-ring action. Vince McMahon has a point, like it or not: “entertainment” is now much more important to the growth of his business than “wrestling”. WWE has done wrestling very well for decades now, but as technically gifted as Daniel Bryan and Evan Bourne are, the entrances of Edge, Undertaker, Triple H and Batista are much more likely to hook casual fans than any single wrestling clinic could. Similarly, although Eddie Guerrero was one of the most impressive in-ring performers of all time, if I wished to convert a non-fan then I dare say that Eddie’s low-rider entrance would prove more immediately efficacious than one of his lucha classics against Dean Malenko or Rey Mysterio.

Wrestling purists may sniff, but Edge’s promo on Friday was a welcome reminder that in professional wrestling, pre-match spectacle is every bit as important to the fans and the performers as in-ring athleticism. In fact, more and more now the presentation of the former is vital to the success of the latter. I would argue that to watch WWE or TNA (a company that, lest we forget, does not even have a “W” in its name) purely for the wrestling when the business has changed so much over the last ten, twenty, thirty years, would be akin to watching House purely for information on rare medical complaints. At a time when dedicated fans are more concerned than ever about the direction of the wrestling business, it will prove sagacious to remember that we have in actual fact been celebrating “entertainment” for many years now, and a change of marketing strategy does not spell the end for the athletic contests that we love. On the contrary, WWE’s rebranding may be what is needed to draw in new fans and encourage the business as a whole to flourish in new and exciting ways. It is thus no surprise that even when looking back at a career replete with outstanding matches, the one thing that Edge chose to celebrate most prominently was his iconic entrance. I don’t think that anyone complained.

Class dismissed.

 

*Extra credit*

1)         What trades do you think we’ll see in the Draft next week? It would be no great surprise to see Sin Cara switch places with Rey Mysterio, even at this early stage in Cara’s WWE career. I think by now that it is fairly obvious that Cara needs time to adjust to the WWE style, and Smackdown, more forgiving of botches due to the fact that it is pre-taped, would be a much better environment for him to do that rather than on Raw where his every mistake is in the spotlight. I have no doubt that the man is obscenely talented, but at the moment nerves or sheer misfortune have dogged him. Conversely, Mysterio would be well suited to Raw, given his safer style and ability to make others look good almost without trying. Furthermore, the shorter, less strenuous matches on Raw would be much kinder on his body.

 

2)         At the risk of infringing on Chantal’s gimmick, I do hope that CM Punk isn’t growing his hair again. The short, slicked-back style that he’s been modelling since he lost his locks to Mysterio last year suits him, and makes him look much more like championship material. On a related note, I sense that Ziggler’s new look is a work-in-progress, and while it doesn’t appear all that new and interesting just yet, he certainly needed a look that didn’t scream “mid-card”. Is short brown hair the answer? Possibly not. For now, however, I am curious to see where his restyling ends. On this subject, does anyone have any wrestler gimmick changes / re-stylings that particularly stick in the memory?

 

3)         Did anyone notice that, on the video posted on WWE.com of the Smackdown locker room paying their respects to Edge after last Tuesday’s taping ended, Johnny Curtis made a special guest appearance on the far right of the at the top of the ramp? I may be mistaken in this, but I believe that this untelevised appearance marked Curtis’ first since he won NXT Season Four. Does anyone have the foggiest what happened to his prize – a WWE Tag Team Championship shot with R-Truth? I initially assumed that the higher-ups were waiting until Wrestlemania was over before pulling the trigger on Curtis’ first push, but now I’m beginning to suspect that he’s been forgotten – especially now that R-Truth has turned to the dark side. Curtis must be incensed, considering that while he has been absent from television for a month now, Season Four runner-up Brodus Clay has been on every episode of Smackdown (and several Raws) since season four ended.

 

4)         Speaking of R-Truth, the jocular exchange between he and John Morrison was the worst opening to an episode of Raw in recent memory. I can’t help but cringe whenever JoMo opens his mouth. The heel-turn segment, however, was easily the best thing that Truth has done since returning to the WWE (even if smoking in public properties IS illegal in Britain). I strongly hope that he is added to the WWE Championship match at Extreme Rules.

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