The Wrestling Opinionalist
How to book a match.
Spoiler Alert: Professional Wrestling matches are pre-determined and no matter how many times you yell “it’s still real to me, dammit” that fact will remain very much true. Modern Vaudeville or Extreme Theatre are more accurate descriptions for this fine business of sports entertainment. The fans shuffle in and take their seats knowing exactly what they are watching. The true art of the business is in how you prepare and carry out these matches in an effort to make it easier and enjoyable for the fans to suspend their disbelief. How great of a story can you tell? How can you pull an audience in? How’s your pacing? What memorable spots have you created? And, most importantly, what’s your finish?
Every promotion has their own style. (Read Jericho’s second book for a simple and solid explanation of WWE-style versus the style of the rest of the world.) Certainly there are many points of view on what makes a match work well. So, in an effort to help the many new faces that join the business every year or the veterans in need of a career refocus or refining, here are some simple rules on how to book your match.
For the WWE:
As you pull up to the venue check the dirt sheets via a stolen WiFi connection to make sure you haven’t been future endeavored. You’re still on the roster, but rumors are circulating that “creative has nothing for you.” Breathe a sigh of relief before you tweet that the dirt sheets don’t know what they’re talking about.
As you walk into the locker room get on your cell phone and apologize to your family for missing the birth of your nephew while your grandfather celebrated his 80th birthday during your daughter’s very special dance recital. Promise to make more family events next year.
Find out who you are working against tonight. If it’s Ted DiBiase, you’re probably going over. If it’s Yoshi Tatsu, you’re on Superstars.
Meet with your assigned agent to see exactly how your match will go and then meet with a former sitcom spec script writer to get your word for word promo. Step aside and memorize all of it because if you mess up even just one beat you’ll be branded as “not ready” and get told that “creative has nothing for you.”
Go to craft services and wait for Mark Henry to finish eating all of it.
After dinner, sneak into a quiet access hallway and shoot a segment for your charming and funny web series. Include some of the other underused WWE talent and beg for a cameo from John Cena. Don’t be sad when Cena says, “Have we met before” despite the fact that you both trained together in Southern California.
Rush to the Gorilla Position a tad late because you were distracted getting the last second script changes to your promo; changes that have erased all of the words you spent hours memorizing. Wait for your entrance cue and don’t look Vince in the eyes as he says, “People told me you were good, but you’re the dripping s**ts. You better show me what you’re made of tonight and not ruin the business like you did last week when you did exactly what the writers told you to do.”
Run out when your music hits. Pause for a second to look back at your Titantron video piece and give yourself credit for making it even this far, but snap back into the moment just in time to take three steps forward and miss the pyro that nearly explodes in your face.
Watch as security takes away a sign or ten from fans spouting your praises with a love for your character that has grown organically.
Cut your promo to a hushed crowd. The promo goes “Bad joke, unclear goal, bad joke against your opponent, talk about last week’s pay-per-view, plug next week’s pay-per-view, fat joke, catch phrase.”
Start the match. Keep it clean, smooth, botch free, and face the hard camera at all times. At about the two minute mark powder to the outside and wait for the announcers to kick it to commercial.
Take it back in the ring and yell your catch phrase a few times. Watch confused as three fans who yell your catch phrase back at you are removed by security.
One false finish. Maybe two if your T-shirt sales are high.
Take it home with one of Kurt Angle’s moves.
Go backstage and have a happy Vince hug you and say, “You’re the future of this business.” Walk ten steps and have Johnny Ace say, “You’ve been cut from the pay-per-view, so we can find a spot for a Big Show versus Khloe Kardashian sumo match.”
Drive 300 miles to your hotel; you’re doing it all again tomorrow.
Show up to the Impact Zone and make sure the company still exists. It does.
Go backstage and make sure that your gimmick and/ or storyline hasn’t changed from last week’s show. Also, check to see what this week’s company theme is, but regardless of what it is you’ll be doing the same thing as last week and the week before and the year before.
Put on your gear and go to craft services. Ask Jay Lethal if he wants more cold pasta or if you can have the rest before realizing that he’s actually working the craft services line. Take the pasta with a sheepish grin because he can out wrestle you, but you still have the gig.
Step out of the locker room to make a “phone call” when you’re actually trying to find out if there is Porky’s-like peep hole into Velvet Sky’s dressing room.
Get your match time and try to figure out what you and your opponent can do in three minutes.
Cut a “cinema verite” promo that proves you went to wrestling school and not acting school.
Get introduced to the ring with the grammatically awkward phrase “introducing first of all” preceding your intro and get the crowd “into” the match they are about to sit through. Pay close attention to the four hot girls planted in the first row. Hope they pop for you when they are supposed to.
Work in at least one really impressive spot that will make fans think “You know, TNA isn’t that bad” before your match is interrupted by a run-in by someone who has nothing to do with you or your current storyline. Wait until another wrestler does a run-in on the first wrestler doing a run-in. After their impromptu match to determine the number one ranked contender to Eric Young’s new girlfriend Winter’s stolen TV championship belt, you can finish your match.
Your finish will be a double count out. Don’t ask why. Just tell the camera “wrestling matters.”
Go to the back and ask the big wigs if they liked your match, but discover that three of the five big wigs have been fired. Try to speak with Eric Bischoff, but get told “unless you’re Jason Hervey or Scott Baio” you’ll have to wait.
Drive to your hotel and wonder if you’ll get the chance to do it again next week.
Pray you don’t get Davey Richards.
For the Independents:
Drive over an hour (one way) to the event location and find the utility closet, unused kitchen, or parking lot that you will be using for a dressing room.
Find your new opponent because your originally schedule opponent couldn’t get the day off from work and/ or post-bail.
Find out your match length and immediately cut two minutes from that. (The show will start late and be immediately behind schedule after the curtain is jerked by a twenty-two minute Fatal Four-Way match between four kids that weigh a buck-twenty five each.)
Make sure you and your opponent work in an unbelievable and impressive amount of consecutive high spots that make no sense, endanger your life, and will undoubtedly look “spectacular” on a tape that will be stuffed into an envelope that reads ATTN: Johnny Ace. Make sure you work in at least one spot in which you leap into the second row of plastic chairs after you yell “move” at least three times to the fans in the front row that have never been to pro wrestling show before.
Go for a suplex at the same time as your opponent.
Have twelve false finishes.
Have one blown spot that sets up the finish with a rookie manager or valet that is working the match because they “always wanted to be in pro wrestling” and just so happen to know the promoter. (If you’re a former NWA champ, give that manager a concussion with a chairshot to the cranium right after the match.)
After you get the pinfall win with your finisher “The Amazing DriverPlex” go into the back and hope no one stole your wallet from your bag.
Hang around with the boys in the back and talk about that one promoter two towns over that failed to deliver on any of the promises he made to you via Facebook which include, but are not limited to, full pay, going over against Low-Ki, and “Bruce Pritchard is going to be watching.”
Ask the wrestlers near the trash dumpster who are smoking pot if any of them have seen your wallet.
Get your pay from the promoter. Twenty-five bucks!!! You’ll have just enough gas money to get back home.
Drove home tired, sore, but undeniably happy because you love doing this and can’t wait to do it all again next week.
Eric Bischoff is right. The irrelevant ten percent do not bring in the money, but they do know that his current product, not unlike his year 2000 product, is too messy, too confused, and too smug to grab a hold of the coveted ninety percent. Making that irrelevance, powerfully relevant.
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