But Al Snow Doesn’t Sell ChairsBy Drowgoddess · · 1 Comment
In Lance Storm’s most recent “Q&A” column, he had this to say:
“Q: Why don’t wrestlers sell anymore? A couple WrestleManias ago, there was a Money in the Bank match where Chris Benoit fell off the ladder, and held his shoulder the entire match. The next day people flooded wrestling websites to see what had happened. Apparently NOTHING, as he just sold it really well. Then in a WrestleMania match between Shawn Michaels and John Cena, Shawn works Cena’s leg for about 2/3 of the match, and Cena makes a come back like as if Shawn never worked his leg at all. Even a kickboxer will collapse with a few kicks to the leg. What happened to selling?
A: It’s an art form getting lost by a generation of workers who have learned their craft doing 3-5 minute TV matches where if you take the time to sell something properly you get yelled at for missing your time cue and going long.”
Wrestling has enough working against it in the minds of the public without throwing in the lack of the most basic concept in any fight – if someone HURTS you, it’s supposed to HURT. The timing on Storm’s commentary was great, as this particular issue has been annoying me a great deal as of late. Why, I’m not exactly sure, but it is. The bulk of what is shown on tv focuses almost entirely on offense, with little to no proper defense. Speaking of hurting, this hurts the wrestlers, as it makes them look stupid and doesn’t teach them how to truly advance in their craft. This hurts the fans, as they can’t connect emotionally with something so clearly “fake,” and care about what happens to the wrestlers. This hurts the product of professional wrestling, as a significant number of people who chide me for being so into a “fake” thing seem to care more about how fake it looks rather than the predetermined outcome. Wrestling does not have to be this way.
People’s Exhibit A: ROH’s “Take No Prisoners” ppv. It airs on Friday, June 12. It was the Saturday show taped in Houston on Wrestlemania weekend. It’s a fantastic show, and you should all watch it. I mention it here because I was in the audience, and the Necro Butcher/Jimmy Jacobs “No DQ” match illustrates my point. This match was disturbing to the point that I actually feared for Jacobs’s well-being. It wasn’t just the spots, and it wasn’t just me. There were several places where the majority of the audience got very quiet, and even the long-time hardcore fans thought that Jacobs had been seriously injured by the end of the match. I know this because the people around me talked about it until the next match started. Sure, Necro was great here, but Jimmy Jacobs sold the hell out of Necro’s offense, and it worked to perfection. If both guys had followed the typical trash can match path of no-selling everything, there’s no way the match would have packed the punch that it did.
People’s Exhibit B: Technically, it’s B1 and B2. TNA’s “Final Resolution ppv from 2005, where the X-Division title was on the line in an Ultimate X match between Petey Williams, AJ Styles, and Chris Sabin. Petey worked over AJ’s arm by pulling it through the metal trusses and yanking it around. AJ couldn’t use his right arm for the last half of the match, and fell from the ropes several times. When he won the match, the place went crazy. The other example for TNA is the “No Surrender” ppv from 2005. Samoa Joe, undefeated at this point, took on Chris Sabin. Joe absolutely dominated for most of the match, and brutally worked over Sabin’s neck and back the whole time. No-selling as an unstoppable monster heel has its place, and it was done beautifully here. However, the few hope spots that Sabin got against Joe were sold well enough that people actually thought that the underdog might pull off a tremendous upset. He didn’t, but when the match ended, both guys looked absolutely awesome and much stronger than when they started the match.
People’s exhibit C: WWE’s recent series of matches between Umaga and CM Punk. Similar to the Samoa Joe/Chris Sabin match described above, Punk sells the bejesus out of Umaga’s offense, and makes Umaga look even more indestructible and badass. Whether Punk can physically get Umaga up for the GTS is a big deal, and he still looks strong for trying, even when it doesn’t succeed. Taking out Punk’s legs or back severely limits his offense, making him th eunderdog worth cheering for, and both guys have looked good here.
Granted, these examples are mostly ppv matches, and the time constraints are admittedly different. That being said, the concept can still be put to good use on tv. Clearly, all three companies can utilize effective selling. Some do it more often and better than others, and some rarely do it at all. The point here is not to bash Vince, Jeff, Dixie, or anyone else. That gets old. The point is that good wrestling is good storytelling, and for a good story to work, someone has to NOT be the invulnerable Superman. Whether it’s the ego and machismo of the talent, the lack of proper training, or the powers-that-be supervising the 3-5 minute tv matches, people involved in wrestling have to realize and accept that without someone looking vulnerable, there is no drama or conflict, and no one will want to watch. The Karate Kid got his backside handed to him for most of the movie, but even my dad was cheering out loud for him by the end. Effective selling isn’t weak or shameful or overly time-consuming. It’s critical. It’s dramatic. It draws people in.
Isn’t that the point?
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You know, perhaps on a subconscious level, this may be the exact reason I thoroughly enjoyed the Punk/Umaga match this past Friday night. Quite frankly, I think wrestlers should be required to watch the complete Shawn Michaels collection. You know how many times I've watched the guy wrestle over the last 20 years and not known whether he was really hurt in a match or not?
Rob Van Dam is another guy. His ECW matches are selling brilliance. He'd take a piledriver and fold up like an accordion, like a guy who was just dropped on his head probably should actually look.