Home > Guest Blog, Kieran, WWE > It’s More Than Just Clotheslines: Why No One Will Make It In The WWE On Talent Alone by Kieran

It’s More Than Just Clotheslines: Why No One Will Make It In The WWE On Talent Alone by Kieran

[Editors Note: The Infamous Kieran comes through and blesses the spot with a unique look at the professional wrestling business we are all so fond of. Usually I would post up pics and stuff, but this is all business right here so I decided to let Kieran’s words speak for themselves. You should already know how this works by now, grab your dictionaries, sit back and relax as Kieran takes a look behind the glitz and glamor of life in the WWE and why the things that happen on-screen are the results of what happens behind the curtain. Kieran, take it away…..]

One of the most common viewpoints you’ll be exposed to when you read regularly about wrestling online is that the wrong guys are always getting the wins they haven’t earned, the TV time they don’t deserve, the pushes they haven’t the talent to justify or the belts that should be somebody else’s. When these injustices are examined and analysed all nature of factors are cited in support of these arguments. Performers are constantly judged on their in-ring talents, their look, their promo skills and their charisma. Their levels of experience and consistency, their injury proneness and their ability to connect with the fans will be reviewed as well their perceived connections with the movers and shakers within the industry. What is regularly omitted from the often exhaustive examinations of the wrestling business we read, however, is that in some ways it is a workplace like any other and the same principles which apply to places of employment across the world will still have an impact even in as unique an industry as sports entertainment.

What we see on screen when we watch the WWE is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the working lives of the wrestlers. Yes, it is by some degree the most high-profile part of their jobs, but it does not exist in a vacuum. We may be able to ascertain a little more about how they apply themselves to their roles through various websites and dirt sheets, but these sources are generally concerned with only the most salacious rumours and spiteful gossip, not the mundane, everyday grind of working life. You won’t hear anything about the good professionals who just get on with their jobs and do what they’re told because this isn’t considered newsworthy.

To listen to the Internet Wrestling Community sometimes, you’d think that in-ring ability was the only criteria which bookers should use in deciding which performers to push. I’m not going to suggest that this isn’t a key factor, but it certainly doesn’t stand alone in this. What does in ring ability tell you about an individual’s character or attitude for example? Every time Vince McMahon makes the call to push one wrestler over another, he is faced with the myriad decisions every employer has to make. For the key position does he go for the guy who has worked hard to maximise his limited ability or the guy who has vast potential but may never reach it? Does he pick the individual who is a fantastic team player and won’t rock the boat or the one who can sometimes stir up a hornet’s nest but isn’t afraid to challenge him when it’s necessary? Reliability versus inspiration, experience versus youthful energy and endeavour versus ability – these are the choices every employer has to make on a daily basis and there are no right or wrong answers here, he simply has to find the best fit at the time.

It isn’t straightforward or simple and it does hinge greatly on the ability to judge character. It is extremely easy to turn someone from an asset into a liability simply by putting them in a position where they may feel out of their depth. Eddie Guerrero, a fantastic performer and charismatic showman during his WWE tenure actually requested to drop his WWE Championship because he didn’t enjoy the pressure that accompanied it. The responsibility of carrying the entire brand on his shoulders and the stress he put on himself to be the best was more than he felt he could handle. The man who won the belt from him, John Bradshaw Layfield, was a far more limited talent, but was better equipped for the high-profile role of champion. A far more confident individual, he was not plagued by the self doubts that tormented his predecessor.

It amazes me that some still attribute the success of Paul “Triple H” Levesque uniquely to his political machinations. I’m sure that his ability to play the backstage game certainly hasn’t hindered his career, but I’m equally sure that when it comes to the main event position on the card he generally occupies he has more than earned it. It is very easy to look on enviously and decide that he simply doesn’t deserve that fantastic spot or those big wins, but the truth is that generally in life you only get what you work for. People who aren’t prepared to put the effort in themselves much prefer to fool themselves into thinking that it’s bad luck or someone else’s manipulations that are holding them back rather than their own lack of application. For all that Triple H has been accused of holding talents down and not putting the right guys over I’m struggling to identify anyone he hasn’t made the correct call on. I remember being outraged when he crushed RVD at Unforgiven 2002, but you only have to look at Van Dam’s conduct when he finally did lift the WWE Championship to realise that he was not a man you could build a company around. Similarly, though it seemed the wrong choice when he derailed Jeff Hardy on more than one occasion, ultimately the Rainbow Haired Warrior’s breathtaking wrestling style and unique charisma proved to be overshadowed by his deep character flaws.

I’ve seen many columns and articles lamenting the idea that, in the WWE, wrestlers are expected to pay their dues and earn their shot regardless of what they may have achieved in other promotions. This has been trumpeted as indicative of McMahon’s WWE-centric view of the universe and a refusal to acknowledge the worth of anything outside his influence. However, I haven’t seen anyone offer the counter argument that in many ways this should be the case. Nobody should be handed anything, if you have the talent why would you object to having to prove yourself? If I were a lower card WWE performer who’d been toiling away in mid card hell for years I would feel justifiably resentful of outsiders parachuted in above me, no matter how gifted they were. As in any walk of life, what you’ve achieved elsewhere is irrelevant, but if you’ve developed the right skills and possess the right attitude then you will ascend as rapidly as you deserve. Wrestling is a business and it cannot afford to overlook bankable talent, it needs to operate as a meritocracy. If someone is good enough and they conduct themselves in the right way then there will be no glass ceiling for them. There is constantly a turnover of stars at the top of the card due to retirements, injuries and sabbaticals, so there is always a market for fresh talent to step up.

When John Cena wrestled down in the WWE’s farm system as “The Prototype” he was only one of a handful of top future prospects. The other promising greenhorns included Doug Basham, Damaja (Danny Basham), Rico Constantino and Leviathan (Batista). Cena found himself introduced into the WWE with no more fanfare than any of these others and yet surpassed them all, even the massive Batista who, it should be remembered, in early 2005 was substantially more popular than the Doctor of Thuganomics and was put over incredibly strongly by Triple H on 3 successive PPVs. How did he manage this? Some of it may be down to luck, some of it is due to favorable booking, but by far the biggest factor in Cena’s rise has been sheer hard work. His “Hustle, Loyalty and Respect” may be a cheesy catchphrase, but it is clear that he practises what he preaches and that he strongly believes in it. He’s a good company man, who toes the line, always puts in wholehearted effort and has maximised his talent – every employer’s dream. Of course he’s going to consistently hold the belt, he’s demonstrated that he has the temperament for it and he has Vince’s complete trust. What else do you require from your company’s figurehead? The man behind the wrestling persona and the way he conducts himself outside of the ring are every bit as vitally important to the WWE as the character he portrays on screen.

Conversely, when you look at someone like John Morrison who, despite his evident potential and talents, has failed to break through to the top level of the WWE, you don’t see a man you would necessarily put your faith in. Now the Guru of Greatness may impress with his flashy move set and breathtaking agility but what does it say about him and his work ethic that despite being a relative veteran of the company he hasn’t bothered to learn how to connect the dots between his high spots, or invested any time in polishing his substandard promo skills? Equally, if rumor is to be believed, he is a man who has repeatedly failed to stand up for himself in his personal life. If that is the case, why would McMahon allow the success of his promotion to ride on the shoulders of someone who hasn’t shown the necessary character to fight for the things that matter to him? Until Morrison proves himself to be someone capable of handling the responsibility I don’t see him being given the shot his talent otherwise merits. You can’t say this is a bad call by Vince either, the talent of the wrestler isn’t the only criteria which influences the decision as to who gets pushed, the qualities of the man underneath are equally significant.

It’s tough to be an employer sometimes, it’s tough to manage people and it’s probably even tougher in the WWE where all your decisions will be witnessed by millions of viewers and deconstructed constantly online; but it’s worth remembering that at its heart the wrestling business is just that, a business. As such, when you question storylines, match results and booking decisions you need to be looking at the whole picture; and it may very well be about more than just how well the performer plays his role, it may simply boil down to the question of what kind of man he really is.

  1. Ace O. Hart
    May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Come on Keiran, you’re making my weekly rankings look like they’re written by a 5th grader. Lol, another great article.

    • May 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      I like the no nonsense, straight to the point, sophisticated approach. Everyone got something different to bring to the table and I love that. If everyone had the same style it would get boring quick. That’s why when I wrote on my other site I tried to have a different style for every review. It’s much better to run a site when there is a team element.

      What you’re gonna do when THE INFAMOUS CREW™ runs wild on you?!!!!!!

      • May 20, 2011 at 7:42 am

        And man do I love all the different writing styles and fun stuff we post here. Hopefully we can keep the masses happy for awhile, but we’ve got too many faces on here, someones gotta turn heel.

  2. Capt. Smooth
    May 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    It could just be being in the right place at the right time. There are all sorts of factors. It’s much like life. Great column that makes you think.

    • May 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      Triple H was at the right place at the right time. John Cena was manufactured by the machine.

      • Capt. Smooth
        May 19, 2011 at 6:31 am

        Well, Cena also dressed as Vanilla Ice as a joke. If he hadn’t done that, many were expecting him to get fired.

        • May 19, 2011 at 7:24 am

          Yeah, that’s right. He made Stephanie laugh and it bought him a little time, the white rapper gimmick was born and the rest is history.

          • May 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm

            That was a kick off to the rapper gimmick that was carefully scripted. Triple H really came to the WWE at the best time possible. Without “Kliqing” with HBK and the rest of the guys he would have failed miserably, but now he is one of the most powerful men in WWE history.

  3. Max
    May 18, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Yet another great read Kieran. Now I understand why Jack Swagger will never be taken serious because his wife did porn.

  4. May 19, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I agree with you. Even though I value more the in-ring skills than charisma, I think the main eventers should have both. That’s why I believe Morrison will never be the face of the WWE. The guy is just bland.

    • Capt. Smooth
      May 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      It could be that he hasn’t been given something that will allow him to flourish yet.

      • May 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm

        Equally it’s entirely possible he doesn’t necessarily want to. It’s like any other walk of life, maybe he’s just happy being steadily employed, picking up a good wage and doing his thing. Not everybody wants to be at the peak of their profession, some people are more well rounded and lack the single mindedness required. He could just have other priorities. The world champion is required to not just make a gruelling appearance schedule and promotional schedule but is considered to be representing the company at all times and has to conduct himself accordingly. That sort of pressure and self-discipline isn’t for everybody.

        • Capt. Smooth
          May 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm

          That’s true. Personality is a big part of it.

  5. Lee
    May 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Great read. I never think about the business side of the business and just want my favorite wrestlers to get pushed but its a business like every other business and its all about the money.

  6. May 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Hey guys, make sure you come check out my twin brothers article over at Twintalkwrestling.com. An awesome piece on ideas for a tag team resurgence. Thanks!

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