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"Building a Wrestler (Or How to Get Someone Over)"
By: Matt R-W
I’ve seen recent tweets about different wrestlers and why they aren’t clicking in with the audience, for one reason or another. Take for example Mojo Rawley. WWE are giving him some form of push at the moment with the on screen time he has had, but the crowd aren’t fully buying it. Jinder Mahal had the ultimate rocket strapped to him and WWE tried to get him over, but that fell flatter than the Shockmaster’s debut. So today I’m looking at different categories that could be applied to any wrestler to ensure that they get over with the crowd.
This is crucial. If a wrestler has a strong and consistent gimmick then they will be able to get over with the crowd. Masks are great to build up a character, outlandish gimmicks such as Undertaker are great too. The main problem comes along when gimmicks are rehashed / reused in the same way. Some people aren’t happy with the current Becky Lynch gimmick being similar to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s gimmick. The creation of the gimmick traditionally is created by the company - John Cena’s original gimmick was that of semi-robot persona known as The Prototype. WWE soon changed this and he became the Doctor of Thuganomics on his main roster debut. This is an area where talent going from NXT to SmackDown/Raw suffer, as their gimmicks either don’t translate into an arena with 10,000+ people in it who don’t know them or their gimmicks are botched into what is needed to fill time on SmackDown/Raw, but that’s an area to talk about another day.
I know WWE get a lot of flack for changing the names of wrestlers, but there is a lot of stock in a name. Mojo Rawley doesn’t exactly sound the most heelest, but works great as a good guy. Similarly, Jinder Mahal works for a heel but not a face. The name of a wrestler, how they are billed when they enter the ring, gives them an extra presence. Want a wrestler to have an upper class feel? This can be done easily by extending their name out during the entrance (think Alberto del Rio and Triple H’s original Hunter Hearst Helmsley gimmick). Making the name memorable is also key - the more memorable, the more like it is to be chanted out by the crowd.
The FinisherAny move can be a finishing move. DDT? Finisher. Clothesline? Finisher. Dropkick? Finisher. The Finishing move can make a character come to life. Case in point - The Rock. The People’s Elbow was just an elbow drop - not hard hitting, not massively impactful, but it finished people off. The Pedigree is a modified facebuster (double underhook). What makes the finisher is that no-one else uses it. That wrestler then becomes known for that move. It’s very hard to come up with a “unique” move now in wrestling, but if a character is being built up then let them be the only one to use a particular move. It then becomes special and part of the wrestlers character.
This is an obvious one. If a wrestler isn’t on TV then they aren’t going to be able to get fully over. Yes, Social Media is becoming a large part of talent getting the fans up (see: Zack Ryder, Becky Lynch for examples), but TV time is King. Getting on the TV, whether it's a match, a promo or backstage skit, means that the wrestler is being seen by a large audience. This is worth its weight in gold. How the TV time is used though is crucial - there is nothing worse than wasted TV time.
Communicating with the audience can be done with in-ring talent or via a microphone. Being able to cut a promo (or using a manger to cut if for you) allows words to become actions. Some say that Becky Lynch is on the up due to her promo skills in the ring. The Rock is arguably one of the best promo deliverers the business has ever seen. Being able to make that connection with the crowd verbally can go a long, long way in getting people behind a wrestler. The usage of a manager is an art form which is underutilised in WWE - you’ve only got Lesnar and Lashley who use theirs regularly. You can then go the complete opposite end of the spectrum from managers and go for silent wrestlers, or even look at the extreme case of Kaientai, who had their promos dubbed over the speakers in the arena.
There is a lot of underutilised talent in WWE, but the same can be said for pretty much any promotion. Yes, there is only a finite time of TV that can be booked. Yes, PPVs have a run time which needs to be adhered to. But if talent needs to get over, then they need to have consistency and time. Time to get over with a crowd - Stone Cold, The Rock, Seth Rollins - these are characters that weren’t built over night. They had time, they had investment and then they were able to soar. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither can a wrestler.