Playing the Part
August 28, 2007 by Kyle Guthery

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You often hear people say that some wrestlers aren't good wrestlers and that they shouldn't be where they are in the WWE. Guys like John Cena, The Great Khali, and Mark Henry. Why is it that people accuse these men of not being good wrestlers, yet they continue to receive a push? First, you have to know what the vast majority of people consider to be "good" wrestling. It seems that many fans will complain that someone is not a good wrestler if they are not Benoit-esque. In other words, if you don't have an arsenal of submissions and suplexes, there is a pretty good chance that you will be accused of not being a good wrestler. The problem is that in order to be a good wrestler, you don't have to know a lot of submissions, suplexes, bombs, slams, drops, etc., it all depends on the part you play.

You see, professional wrestling is sports entertainment and, contrary to popular belief, it almost always has been. Just because Vince McMahon didn't call professional wrestling sports entertainment until sometime in the 1980s, that doesn't mean it wasn't sports entertainment, sports entertainment is just a different way of putting it. Professional wrestling became sports entertainment, most notably, back when a man named George Wagner saw a man named Lord Patrick Lansdowne enter the ring with two valets, wearing a velvet robe, and a doublet. From there, George Wagner thought that he could take the idea and be much more over-the-top with it and he did just that. Thus, "Gorgeous George" was born. Wagner grew his hair out, dyed it platinum blonde, and wore bobby pins in it to create part of his look. His entrances became a spectacle that took up more time than his matches did as he would come to the ring to "Pomp and Circumstance", wear a sequined robe, a red carpet was rolled out for him to walk on, and his valet - carrying a mirror - would drop rose petals at his feet. Then, "the Gorgeous One" would remove his robe as his valet sprayed the ring with disinfectant and it wouldn't stop there, the referee's hands had to be sprayed as well. Gorgeous George is the person credited for wrestling getting on television nationally and it had nothing to do with his in-ring ability, but his ability to play the part of the glamorous - yet cowardly - heel. Gorgeous George became the biggest draw in the history of the business at that time, and thus, sports entertainment was born. From there on, promoters realized that to get the largest number of fans possible, there had to be not only good in-ring action, but a spectacle as well.

Professional Wrestling is a business. The main goal of a business is to make money. As an entertainment business, you make money by drawing fans. In order to draw the largest number of fans, it is good to have diversity. By diversity I am not talking about color or anything of that nature (though that helps as well). Some people love the in-ring aspect of wrestling, some people love the theatrics, some people love seeing people get squashed, some people love seeing the fast-paced action of the cruiserweights, some people love powerhouses, some people love seeing giants go toe-to-toe. Essentially, everybody has something that they like and not everybody likes the same thing. Guys like Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle are wonderful. However, so are guys like the Undertaker and Kane. It's also nice to have guys like Big Daddy V, Mark Henry, and Umaga. At the same time, guys like John Cena and Hulk Hogan are great to have around.

What I'm getting at is that diversity is the key and just because someone isn't a "man of 1,000 holds", that doesn't mean they aren't good professional wrestlers. It all comes down to the part they play. Some guys are expected to be giants, some monsters, some high flyers, some powerhouses, some pure entertainers, some brawlers, and yes, some technicians. So now, we will look back to that short list - there are more, but there aren't enough hours in the day - of "bad wrestlers": John Cena, The Great Khali, and Mark Henry.

John Cena

The "five moves of doom" is something people often complain about with Cena. The thing is, Cena isn't expected to do a bunch of moves and he doesn't have to in order to get over with a crowd. Cena is more of the hero character at this point than the brawler he was on SmackDown!, but he also has some of his brawler character left in with some powerhouse-type character thrown in as well.

As the hero, his part is to, basically, get beat down and then come firing back with desperation moves - clotheslines, punches, kicks, and others. To play his part and have a good match, Cena does not have to use submissions, suplexes, or other moves really. He may start the match with his brawler side or his powerhouse side - depending on the opponent - but Cena's matches are generally booked around him being a hero. This leads to "SuperCena". Odd that people complain about him not being a good champion and then refer to him with a name based on a hero - Superman - and that is the part he is meant to play.

You can argue that you don't like his matches, but a lot of other people do which goes back to wrestling being sports entertainment and their main goal being to draw fans and appease the largest number of fans. Cena is as big as he is because a lot of people are entertained by the guy and yes, many people enjoy his matches. He plays the part he is meant to play and that is not the part of an in-ring technician, it is the part, mostly, of the hero. That is why children love him as much as they do, women love him because he is "hot", and some guys like him because they are entertained by his matches - and then there is "that" crowd.

To add to his matches, Cena is really good on the mike - I wouldn't say great, but he is really good. He can get people interested in his match and that is the real point of a promo. I don't think anybody argues with his ability to speak.

The Great Khali

There are a few different big gripes about Khali: he doesn't sell, can't move quickly, and does too few moves. There are several variations to each complaint, but they are, for all intents and purposes, the same arguments.

First things first, Khali is, by every definition of the word, a giant. The man stands at a staggering seven feet, three inches tall and weighs in at an astounding 420 pounds. As a giant, he plays the part of a giant. A giant is bigger and, generally, stronger than his opponents.

Khali doesn't sell well. Well, as I have said, he is a giant. As a giant, he is much, much harder to hurt. Look at it this way: if you throw a brick at a single brick, it may bust and go flying, but if you throw that same brick at a brick wall, it will have far less impact upon...impact. Likewise, if you punch John Morrison, he may stumble backwards or even fall, but if you punch Khali, he will not move. It takes much more to affect someone as big as The Great Khali. He is the proverbial brick wall. This adds to the entertainment of his matches as his opponents are forced to do things with higher impact in order to bring down the giant and the crowd finds itself rooting for his opponent to hit something big and when they do, it is, well, big. For every time Khali doesn't move, that makes every time he stumbles a bigger occurrence. For every time Khali stumbles, but doesn't fall, that makes every time he falls that much more special. For every time Khali falls, but gets back up, it makes every time he doesn't get back up gigantic. That, my friends, is suspense. Suspense, when you hit the payoff, is very entertaining and very exciting.

Khali is not very mobile. Again, Khali is a giant. His character doesn't call for speed, it calls for power and dominance. Essentially, there is absolutely no need for someone of Khali's size to be doing what only one other giant - The Undertaker - could ever do effectively and that is being big as well as extremely agile. Big Show could move, but only in comparison to the likes of Andre the Giant. Kane can move, but really only in comparison to the likes of the Big Show. A giant's focus is not on speed, it is on power. For another comparison: a lineman in football is not fast, his part is to be powerful. Much like that lineman, Khali's part is all power.

Khali's move set is too limited. Again, we go back to the part of the giant. A giant doesn't have to do a lot to hurt someone. Khali's brain chop is very effective, as is his choke bomb, his big boot, and his claw. Why should a giant be working on his move set anyway? It would be unrealistic for Khali to perform a vertical suplex on someone, where did he learn it? (Going to kayfabe here.) Who went into a gym and taught this giant how to perform a suplex, an arm bar, or a sharpshooter? And why would they? Actually, why would Khali waste his time to learn these things? A giant does not need submissions, just power moves. Khali is far too big to get down on the mat and wrestle with someone. By the time Khali puts someone on the mat it just would not make sense for him to put them into a submission and if Khali could hook someone's head for a suplex, it would make no sense that he would be performing one when he could simply grab them, toss them across the ring, and put his foot on their chest.

Basically, Khali is a giant and he plays that part. A giant does not, really, need to sell. A giant does not need an array of moves. A giant does not need to be able to move quickly. A giant needs to be huge and he needs to be powerful and Khali is just that: huge and powerful.

Mark Henry

Mark seems to be one of those guys who people just say sucks and can't have a good match; detractors don't seem to say anything too specific about why they think he sucks. So, we go back to the whole submissions and suplexes thing. People think he sucks because he doesn't do a whole lot of these (submissions and suplexes). Henry does well playing his part of the "World's Strongest Man" or "The Silverback". His part requires him to be both a monster and a powerhouse. So, Henry goes out and dominates his opponents.

Henry is kind of like The Great Khali in that it is so hard to hurt him. So any time an opponent can get him down, it means that much more. Henry is a heel in this part because he is a major threat to any of the faces, no matter how strong they may be. A fan may think, "Batista's so powerful, nobody can stop him" and then, he goes toe-to-toe with Henry and now people wonder "can Batista beat Mark Henry?" So then, in Henry's matches, there is always this drama/suspense of whether or not the face can overcome his sheer power. The drama that this adds adds to the entertainment level of the match. Matches are, really, all about entertainment whether it is a technically perfect match or not, to be good it has to entertain the people watching.

Lately Henry's just been beating up jobbers, but when he gets a feud going, a good amount of people find his matches to be entertaining and a lot of that goes back to the part that Mark Henry plays, the character he portrays. Henry plays a good part that gets a decent amount of fans into his matches. He may not appeal to everyone, but I know that a good number of people happen to enjoy watching him and it is due to the part that he plays.

Basically, the idea that in order to be a good professional wrestler, you should know a whole bunch of moves is way off base. You do need some in-ring technical wrestling, but professional wrestling, as any other form of entertainment, needs diversity. Each of these men - and many others - adds to the spectacle, the theatre that is sports entertainment.

by Kyle Guthery (View/Submit your feedback here)..

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