The View From Down Here – It’s A Job, Innit?

 There is something missing from the big two wrestling promotions lately. And I have to say I blame Vince Russo for this. But – and I want to make this perfectly clear – Russo only did what he did in this regard to help the mid- and lower- card wrestlers. He did what was right. This is actually one case where Russo was trying to help the boys. And, in that regard, he did it remarkably well. So well that he has almost seen the elimination of the Jobber for Life.

These were the guys who you could trot out on one of the televised wrestling shows to be squashed by the new über-heel, for a tag team to go down to the number one contenders for the straps, or make the Intercontinental or US Champ have a bit of a work-out the week before a PPV. These are the guys who only win against each other or in their own little indy promotions back in Montana or on Victoria Island or in Adelaide. But give them a national stage and they’re counting the lights quicker that you can say, “Gee, that was quick.”

Jobbers all had exactly the same back-story. They wanted to make a name for themselves in the business. They wanted to wrestle. And that is it. I mean, that is about all we ever knew about them. They were there in the ring when we came back from a commercial break, no entrance music, no pyro, the commentators barely acknowledging their existence, due to face whatever bigger name they were due to face. They were only there to put on a good show, help make the guy look good (or just absorb all the stiff shots humanly possible without falling unconscious) and then get pinned or be forced to submit. That was all they did.

There was no reason why these guys were fighting, just that the Jobber needed to try and get that “one big win” to set him on his course to international stardom and all that entails. Sure, some Jobbers had some back stories, but this was more in the terms of a gimmick. We had wrestling garbage-men, pig farmers, hockey players, vampires and everything else. Of course, these weren’t the traditional Jobbers either, as they gained some wins and actually had – gasp! – feuds with other wrestlers. But we still had our anonymous guys come out, never get a PPV payday and just get beaten up.

But then came Vince Russo. And he looked at these guys lower on the totem pole and thought – These guys are busting their arse, and for what? To get kicked around the ring like some number. Well, I’m gonna change that! And suddenly every character on TV had a back story. The anonymity that dominated that lower part of the card was gone. The gimmicks were still there, but now everyone had a story.

This creates a problem. You see, if some one is just there, a name and a face in the ring getting beaten up, the public do not care about them. They are there to do a job, or do the job as the case may be. But as soon as you make these guys interesting, even a little bit, then the public has a chance to buy into them. And the public does not allow those they buy into remain Jobbers forever. These are suddenly characters in their favourite TV show, not just anonymous victims.

When we watched MASH we cared about the main characters. We also had some sort of empathy with the minor characters. These are our names, and our gimmicks. But the Jobbers – the patients who were there one week and gone the next – were just there to push the story line along. Imagine what would have happened if suddenly the writers had decided to give each and every patient a complex back story, with motivations and loves and desires and hopes and dreams. Suddenly it’s not MASH, it’s Days Of Our Lives and it’s a soap opera…

That was what happened with wrestling. The art of the professional Jobber faded as wrestling went from a drama series to a soap opera. Everyone has a home town. Everyone has an entrance theme. Everyone has a signature move. Everyone has a finisher. Every person you see wrestling is designed to, in some way, connect with the audience. Some are still Jobbers to the Stars, but they can no longer be seriously considered as just Jobbers for Life.

So, what’s wrong with that? you may well ask. On the surface, nothing. There are more opportunities available to those wrestlers who have made that audience connection. There are more wrestlers for the audience to connect with. There must be a wrestler for every sort of fan out there. Great. But…

Now every time two wrestlers fight, there has to be a reason. They can’t just be thrown together because one needs to up his win column, while the other is looking for that big break. They have to fight for a reason or the audience will not believe anything about the fighting these guys are doing. That connection will be broken. It’s the soap opera syndrome – everything happens for a reason. Nothing ever happens in isolation.

Everyone needs to win eventually to maintain that connection. It is expected that there will be something in the win side of the ledger. And that means some one else has to lose. And with everyone having an audience connection, then the fans also lose.

These days without a Jobber means a wrestler cannot simply come into the room, showcase his skills to have the public focus on him and him alone, the anonymous opponent only there as, essentially, a crash test dummy. The opponent has as many eyes on them nowadays as the supposed centre of attention. In fact, we rarely have a single centre of attention any more. All wrestlers, regardless of ability or status, are expected to be actors, able to garner crowd responses even when they are not wrestling.

This is important. In the old days, the Jobbers only had to have the look in the ring. They had to be able to hold their own against any variety of wrestling styles, opponent sizes and places on the card, under a mask one week, wearing a borrowed costume the next. But they only had to do that by their selling and their interactions inside the squared circle once the bell was rung. Now every single person is almost expected to be “on” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Even in the indies you get this “everyone matters” mentality. The guy whose job it is to lose all the time suddenly becomes an underdog to the crowds. He develops a groundswell of support, the crowd wills him on, that win is just around the corner, he develops a personality, and the promoters invariably let him (or her) have a win. And thus it kills all their momentum.

Now, I am not saying these changes are all bad. It’s good that every gets a chance. I just feel that wrestling as it stands in this day and age has lost something in the demise of the Jobber, that person who can make anyone and everyone look good and it did not matter who or what they were.

They did their Job and they did it well.

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