Let’s assume, like we all do, that professional wrestling is based on the concept that wrestling is real and we suspend the disbelief that it’s not. This is understood. So my question to all of those that love clean finishes is this- What do you do with the loser the next week? To answer this question, and since we’re pretending wrestling is real, let’s compare professional wrestling to other fighting genres that are legitimate. MMA and boxing. If you are trying to promote a show, how do you promote a guy that lost convincingly his last time out? Put him in the ring or cage with other losers? And how do you sell tickets to generate interest in getting people to watch two losers fight each other?
Let’s look at the business model provided by Don King, one of the greatest promoters in history over the years. How many times, after watching Don King promoted events, did you scratch your head when the decision was read to the crowd as they responded with a chorus of venomous boo’s? How about the Riddick Bowe-Holyfield series, which included parachuters hitting the ring, and claims of Holyfield having some type of heart condition? What Don King realized is that when you have finishes without definitive answers to the question of who was the better fighter, you have another huge source of income coming your way- THE REMATCH. In professional wrestling, nobody, and I mean nobody, with the exception of the internet pundits who like to judge the match based on their ridiculous star rating system, is interested in seeing a guy that beat a guy clean fight him again.
Look at MMA. Brock got beat by Mir, but only after a contraversial penalty for hitting on the back of the head, which left people wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t have stood them up when Brock had him in trouble. What if Mir came out and beat the crap out of him and decisively beat him? Would you pay to see Brock Lesnar again? How about when a guy beats another guy but tests positive for steroids after the fight? Definately not a clean finish by any stretch of the imagination. Usually the guys that lose decisively, but did a good job promoting their fight, are pushed aside and dropped to the bottom of the card, and that’s if they can get other fights. Losers don’t draw. period. End of story.
Now let’s look at professional wrestling, where the wrestlers have to fight every week. Do you realize how quickly the fans will lose interst in seing a loser on tv every week? Often times, the second the loser walks through the entrance for his fight, people change the channel, because they know what the result is. Boxers and MMA fighters peform every 3-6 months. You can keep the fans interest in between that period of time because you don’t have the answer to the question- Which fighter is better? But in pro wrestling, you’re not afforded that luxury. Since we have to put so much wrestling into a weekly broadcast, you can’t continue to beat a guy clean if you’re trying to promote him for a ppv fight against someone else. The cold hard fact is that wrestling is a male soap opera. Each week is followed with questions that lead you to the next week. People complain that run ins and screw jobs make the referees look bad and the such, but is it better to protect the referees, or the wrestlers? You need to keep the fans from the answer to the question of who is definitively the better fighter. Until it’s time.
There is a time for the clean finish. At the end of the angle. At the ppv. One clear winner and one clear loser. But at this point, the one lone clean loss shouldn’t hurt, if he’s been protected for the weeks and months leading up to this match. It’s easy for the fans to forget one loss. It’s not easy for them to forget a bunch of them. Because there’s so much televised wrestling right now, you can’t continue to give the answers to the questions on a weekly basis as to who the better man is. It’s just a cold hard fact that if you want to see more wrestling, you’re going to see less clean finishes. When you watch the show from now on, don’t pay so much attention to whether the match is going to end in a clean finish. If you do, ask yourself, from a creative standpoint, what would I do with the loser the next week. Don’t forget that pro wrestling is still two grown men wearing bathing suits pretending to fight each other. If you think that actual match should be taken more seriously instead of the storylines, and that is the premise which you suspend your disbelief on, than don’t forget at the end of the day that pro wrestlers punch each other in the face with no sign of cuts or bruising. So it can’t possibly be as real as you think it is.
To summarize my point, let’s look at a recent clean finish that ended an angle, at least I would think. Batista beats Cena clean. So how do you promote the loser of this match? By having him come on tv and shake Batista’s hand and tell him he was the better man. Now what?
*Steve Anderson wrote a nice article recently on finding the fan in you. Good read. Good points. It’s good to see other respectable writers chiming in on the bitter negativity on wrestling message boards. My theory is that people like that are such losers in life because they’re so negative and have no friends because of it, is that they have to retreat to a useless, unimportant life on the internet because no one wants to spend any time with them in real life.
*I’ve had a chance to read the shows for the upcomig three weeks of tv. Interesting stuff with Sting. Should provide some good fodder for the morons on the web that think they know a thing or two about this business.