Before I begin, some of you might be noticing the change in graphical presentation. I’ve decided to abandon the black background/white text format because some of the sites and some of my readers just aren’t finding it compatible with their software and/or tastes. I liked it, but it’s time to bid it a fond farewell.
Anyways, jumping right to it, because my personal life is none of your damn business, I want to talk about something that has been bothering me in the IWC lately.
One of the common misconceptions held in the world of Internet Wrestling Fans is that we, merely by virtue of belonging to this community, understand the subtle nuances of wrestling. It’s a blanket issue, and rather than tackle the whole thing, I’ve decided to talk about my current IWC Pet Peeve.
I’m going to give (most of) you the benefit of the doubt, and skip over the definition of “Ring”. It’s the psychology portent of the term that we’re going to be focusing on.
My current issue with the way the people at large on the internet define the term is that they limit it, cripplingly so, to “Working a body part before putting on a submission.” And it is by this definition alone that great hand psychologists like Kurt Angle and Steve Austin are dismissed out of hand. The do not meet the limited criteria of the (horrendously) under qualified judges.
Ring Psychology is an “Insider” term that has slowly leaked out. No books have provided a real definition of it, unlike other industry terms like “Mark”, “Smark”, “Potatoed”, “Stiff”, “work”, “kayfabe”, “Babyface” and “heel”.
Ring Psychology, whether or good or bad, covers everything that is done in the ring. The whole point of it is to draw the audience into what you’re doing, be it via promo or ring work. The whole point is to sell the crowd on the fact that what you’re doing is, or could be, real. It’s an avenue for the suspension of disbelief. Sure, we know it’s fake, but we want to, at least while we’re watching, believe that maybe what’s happening is legit. It’s not a logical thing, but at the same time, it’s what we want to do with all ‘fiction’ on television. When we’re watching Friends (and I use Friends not because I watch it, but because everyone knows who the characters are), you don’t say “That Matthew Perry sure delivers his lines with humorous timing!” No, you say “Chandler’s a funny guy! Change the channel ass-wipe.” We know that these guys don’t really live in these apartments; we know that Ross and Rachel never really dated, and that Monica is really married to (Former WCW World Champion) David Arquette. It’s a set, they’re actors, and they have lives beyond what we see on that one half hour a week (or now that it’s syndicated, nineteen hours per day). It’s about pacing the match, building the drama. It’s about selling the strength of the Big Show, the fact that the Undertaker is dead, that Austin hates his boss and that Eugene is truly a savant, and not an actor named Nick playing a difficult part. It’s about making a suplex real, a submission legit, and the climax of the match feel right.
I consider a lot of guys that don’t normally make people’s “best workers” list to be phenomenal ring psychologists, not because they share the same skills, but because they know how to play to their strengths and make us enjoy and, in a way, believe what it is that they want us to believe and enjoy.
A perfect example of this is Steve Austin vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania X7, when they met in what I consider to be the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time. Others will clearly tout the Steamboat/Savage class at Wrestlemania 3, Traditionalists will talk about Hogan and Andre, and fans of the technical style will talk about Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, and I readily admit that those are all great matches, worthy of being called the best, depending on your criteria, but for me, nothing tops Austin and the Rock. Both characters were at the height of their popularity, and the WWE(F at the time) didn’t give anything away, and made as really want to see the clash. I still think about the match every time I hear “My Way” by Limp Bizkit, because the black and white videos they played while the theme song was used (the first use of licensed music to promote a match that I can remember), and the way it fit with the dichotomy of the characters. The clash itself was epic, it wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but it was a back and forth brawl, one which swayed the allegiances of the fans in attendance and at home several times as you watched. The finish, with Austin kicking out of the Rock Bottom and the Rock kicking out of the Stone Cold Stunner has caught on for a while as a fad, with everyone kicking out of each other’s ‘devastating’ finishers. So much so, that people forget the impact of it at the time. Up until that point, the Stunner was the end of a match. The move in itself was a great device, as it came out of nowhere and fit the character of Steve Austin very well. People exploded when the Rock kicked out, get a tape and listen to it, close your eyes and hear the call, and then seconds afterwards you can hear the roar of the crowd, a roar of disbelief.
So when people tell me that Kurt Angle is a good worker, but then they go on to say that he’s got no Ring Psychology, I ask them how it is that they figure that. The answer is always the same, he never ‘works the ankle’ before slapping on the Ankle lock.
Since I’ve made my point a little more quickly than usual, I’m going to offer up a bit of a bonus feature to those who would like to read a little more. It’s just a list of guys I consider to be fairly top-notch ring psychologists that you may or may not have considered.
Rowdy Roddy Piper
And lastly, and most controversially,
Next ‘edition’ of the ringside sermon should, if all things go as planned, be the first part in my next (epic) four part series, “The Impact of ECW.”
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