As someone who fancies themselves a creative person, professional wrestling used to be something that I loved. I can’t say that I have a “love” for it today as it is far from what it used to be, but one of the reasons I had a love for it was because a writer can see his dreams or ideas manifested in “reality,” without being confined to any particular premise. For example, a writer of The Walking Dead is, to some degree, constricted to writing around zombies. With that said, while any storyline in professional wrestling does, in the end, have to be settled with a wrestling match, it does seem that a writer is unlimited in his ideas (or at least should be). Any story a writer wishes to tell, whether it be a relationship story, a story about a tyrant or an overbearing boss, a mental health story, or the classic story of the hero’s journey, can be told without restriction.
My love of professional wrestling was just that – the idea of unlimited creativity. I never truly cared about who “went over.” Yes, there were certain characters that I related to and wished to see their stories evolve more than others, but I never cared about who won the scripted fight. In fact, a lot of the time, I would find myself skipping toward the end of the match. “What’s the finish?” All I wanted to know was if the story would continue or not or if the characters would be moving on to new stories. Also, I understood that the “championship belt” is an important part of the “show,” but it matters not who has it. The belt exists as a prop or object that the rest of the characters sort of “hover around,” let’s say, but the belt’s “job” (which would be the writer’s job) is only to carry a perceived prestige. You could think of the belt as “Pride Rock” from the Lion King. We don’t think of Pride Rock immediately when we think of the Lion King, but if it were not to exist, the movie would be missing something crucial to the story.
One of the reasons, among many others, why wrestling is not as popular as it once was is that the audience knows the finish to a match before it even begins; therefore, the easier it is for the audience to turn the channel. This is a failure on the “booker’s” part. Ideally, you want the audience bereft of any idea as to who will go over. However, this particular post is not a dive into the audience’s mind but rather one into the show’s writer. What happens if the writer finds himself in a predicament where he (or she, internet, relax) hasn’t a clue himself as to who wins the predetermined, fake fight?
I posed this question to Vince Russo, former head writer of the WWF (in the days when it was worth watching), who, as far as I can tell, is a genius as it pertains to writing professional wrestling. Of course, he would deny any claims of genius in any other avenue, but I digress. Wrestling fans have always wondered what would occur if Sting and the Undertaker ever locked up. It’s a tough call. Many people love Sting; many people love the Undertaker. Almost everybody loves both. How would you book the finish to that match with the knowledge that a large portion of people will come away disappointed? Vince, in reply to this question, responded with a very simplistic answer: “Simple. Don’t book the match. Don’t head down either path if you don’t know which way to go.” Well, Sting and the Undertaker never had that “dream match,” as the marks would say. Perhaps, that line of thinking – that no logical, creative decision could be reached – would explain why it hasn’t.
This is not a “blog” about professional wrestling, as you all know. I’ve illustrated the “Sting vs. Undertaker” paradigm because I believe there is a psychological takeaway. “In the rooms,” I often hear people speak about “doing the next right thing” or “what is the next right thing to do?” How do we know what the next right thing to do is? What is good (or right) for one may not be good for another, no? We certainly know what the next wrong thing to do is, don’t we? Something inherent pops up when we are about to do the wrong thing – our consciousness comes into play. A lot of the time, I do it anyway, but let’s just move right past that. The point is that anyone conscious knows what’s wrong, not necessarily what is right. What about when we have no idea what to do? Do you know what one of our greatest weapons is, but which I (and likely most of us) fail to use? The weapon of time, the weapon of nothing. Keep our hands out of it. “Don’t book the match!”
There is a sort of questionnaire one must pass (or should pass) before doing anything. It goes as follows: 1) Is what I am about to do going to hurt others, and 2) Is what I am about to do going to hurt myself? If the answer is no to both questions, go for it. Ironically, this ties into any professional wrestling booking or writing decision. Something like, “Is the finish to this match (story) going to hurt either character?” Well, if the answer is yes, that one of the commodities of your television show is
going to be hurt by the outcome, the match should not be booked unless, going forward, there is something greater planned for the surface-level “loser.” The professional wrestling writer and the individual in this thing called life should be looking to achieve the upliftment of everyone that surrounds them as well as themselves. Unfortunately, I know that I have “buried” people far too often. That is bad booking, Josh.
I suppose what I am suggesting is for us to live life as if we are the writers of our own television show, which, to some degree, is exactly what we are, pending your stance on free will. Let us not only put ourselves over, but also let us protect and push all the characters in our show, not just the ones we like, and let us keep the audience hooked – and for that matter, ourselves, for life can become tragic when we are not interested in our show. Life can be a real dark place when we are drawing “Rampage” numbers.
(For the record, I’m putting the Undertaker over Sting. Easily. Taker didn’t need to undergo fourteen different character transformations (or however many it took Sting) to get over and stay over. Oof. That was a shot. I just buried someone after talking about not burying people. Trash booking.)
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