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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Does In Ring Ability Even Matter"
November 9, 2006 by Luke Tobin


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I have been watching wrestling on and off for about 15 years. Being 24 years old now, I know I'm outside of the target audience of the WWE. But I think even the young kids watching these days are sick and tired of the B.S. that Vince McMahon is trying to sell them now. We all know it's scripted...even the 8 year-olds watching for the first time realize that its entertainment they're watching and that nobody is trying to fool them into thinking that the WWE is real fighting. But there is a thing called in-ring ability that the people (person is more like it) in charge seem to have forgotten about.

Sure, the mic skills, charisma, vignettes, and even the looks to a certain extent all enhance the atmosphere of wrestling and make it more entertaining. But has everyone forgotten that the reason people tune in to this product in the first place is the in-ring competition of the performers" In my opinion, the ability to captivate a wrestling audience rests on the ability for 2 (or more) performers to get in the ring and execute realistic looking maneuvers that are exciting to watch, while setting a pace that brings about each WRESTLER (I hate saying Superstar - 'cause some of them suck and don't deserve to be called stars) gaining and then losing the advantage until it culminates in one final exciting flurry that is hopefully unexpected to the majority of the audience.

The top guys right now are John Cena and Batista. Neither of these men can put on a main event caliber match. Each man's move-set consists of no more than 6 or 7 moves that we can all see coming a mile away. Their pacing is always off and they contribute absolutely nothing original once the bell rings (aside form the 5-knuckle shuffle or, as I call it, the homeless man's People's Elbow). What is even more surprising is, despite the fact that their moves are easy to execute and have all been done before, each of these guys consistently blow spots...sometimes in big moments. Everyone remember the Royal Rumble in 2005" This match determines the Main Event of the biggest pay-per-view of the year, and they STILL couldn't get the ending right. The next year, Batista took the first significant bump of his career against Mark Henry, and promptly injured himself and missed half a year.

What I hear from Cena and Batista apologists is that they work hard, are always on the road, and the people like them. What people are these" Triple H did his damndest to try and get Cena over for 3 months and even he, a master at getting other people over, couldn't pull it off. Edge was turned into one of the biggest scumbags in the history of wrestling before the summer, and was still overwhelmingly favored by the crowds during his feud with Cena. The people do recognize talent, and while you can use al the excuses you want for why they react that way ("Edge's home country fans wanted him to win, even though he insulted Montreal""; or "Chicago's got old-school fans that aren't used to Cena's style"" huh""!!) the truth is that you simply cannot fool everybody into rooting for the nice looking guy with the cool catch phrase if he can't get it done in the ring.

And Cena and Batista are not the only ones to work a stiff schedule. Greg Helms has been the most consistent performer on SmackDown, and is still relegated to the Cruiserweight division. Guys like Chris Benoit and Kane have busted their humps for years to try and be the best and are two of the best WRESTLERS in the business, but both have been shelved right back to mid-card status after their initial pushes to give stiffs like Cena, Orton, and Batista huge pushes because their faces look better on a T-shirt. I place Randy Orton in higher regard than either of the current champions, but he is still not a great ring talent.

Even though times change, target audiences broaden, and popular names sometimes go stale with time, the fact remains that the product is based on what goes on in the ring. If the matches are bad, the audience will go running for the hills, no matter how many controversial vignettes and washed up celebrities the creative team can come up with to substitute. I implore the fans not to support talent simply for their attitude or their acting ability outside the ring. Benoit, Kane, Carlito, the Hardys, Chavo Guerrero, Shelton Benjamin, Booker T, RVD, Greg Helms; these are the guys that should be consistently in the main event these days. They have the tools in the ring and, even though they don't all look like movie stars, these are the people that the real fans come to see.

By Luke Tobin


Jesse Lee wrote:
It seems funny how a ton of internet smarks often claim how "everyone" sees it the same way they do. I don't really like Cena and I despise Batista, but even I can notice how people love these two. I often work around those who don't spend 80% of their time complaining on the internet and are actual athletes (I'm an instructor in a karate dojo) and pretty much all the kids enjoy Cena as well as the three fellow instructors who watch it. I asked them why and they said that it's simply because they like him. To further investigate, I've compared Cena to Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Brock Lesnar, and Stevie Richards. From the kids, I got the common "cool, awesome, jerk, strong, and who"" answers while the instructors simply stated what they liked about each one. To say that everyone or the majority has the same opinions is rather ignorant. WWE won't push someone the audience has absolutely no interest in... look at Lex Luger. The fact is, John Cena and Batista (screw him!) are most likely popular with the majority of the fans. Given the reactions they often receive, it's quite noticeable that a good amount will like them. Benoit's been given a chance and he got pretty much nowhere (which I hate, cause he's my favorite.) Kane's been rumored to nearing retirement, but is still given enough strong roles that can shoot him to the top spot when necessary. Carlito is still young and still learning his craft, don't want to make the same mistake you did with Orton. Chavo will forever be a midcarder. Shelton has no charisma at all and other than ring skills, has no reason to be the head of a company. Booker and RVD have been given their chances and while one got drugged up, the other became "King." Greg Helms is the same as Chavo. The point of being a business man and the point of promoting wrestling has always been to make money. While wrestling will always have its roots on the show (through vessels such as Chris Benoit, Chavo, Greg, and RVD) there will always be those who've proven to be more of a draw at the top (through vessels of Austin, Rock, Cena, and Hogan.)

Also... to place Kane in the same category as Benoit as a wrestler is questionable. (And yes, I do like Kane.)
Antonio otheraccount wrote:
Nice article. I agree with you. Batista used to the best. He didn't like his position on smackdown and the decided to mess everything up in his matches under radar. (I think.)

Chris Benoit and Kane deserve and should be in the main event. Booker T needs to get his gimmick dropped. Edge is good where he is. Lashley needs to carry Smackdown.

WWE is screwing everything up. Theyv'e had good spots, and they are riding on those spots. And they think it'll happen every night. WWE needs to get its act together and bring the "smaller" stars where they actually deserve to be.
Kirsten F wrote:
Although i am a fan of both John Cena and Batista, they are not at a main event caliber when it comes to actual wrestling. I agree that Benoit, Kane, the Hardys, Chavo Guerrero, Shelton Benjamin, Greg Helms are amazing when it comes to in ring ability and should be in main eventers.
Dale Wood - England, wrote:
I absolutely agree about Cena and Batista. Must also include The Great Khali. What is the point of that guy" He can hardly stand up let alone wrestle. So he's big! So what"

And why are WWE obsessed with Hogan" The guy has never been able to wrestle. He's in the same category as Cena. A few crap moves and he wins. Boring! Cant he just retire for good.

The best match of late was between Benoit and William Regal. Wrestling at it's best, between two great technicians.

Lashley is supposed to have been a great amateur. But where is the evidence" He has hardly put together a proper wrestling hold or move. Yep, he's very strong, and can spear with the best of them (better than Edge anyhow), but why doesn't he use proper moves" Because McMahon doesn't like them! Now there's a guy who cant spot talent!
Danny Hayes (UK) wrote:
As much as I 100% agree with your column, as wrestling (dare I say WWE) fans. We have to accept that Cena, Batista etc. sell tickets, as the majority of fans who buy tickets are not the pure wrestling fans(who would love nothing more than seeing matches like Jericho vs Benoit vs Angle at 'Mania 2000); but the fans who enjoy seeing a believeable, good on the mic and bodybuideresque, face defeat an over heel. Us true wrestling fans who were on the edge of are seats for Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart for the IC Title at SummerSlam 91 will have to wait for our next epic(without a gimmick). By the way, i'm english, yet i still have knowledge. And William Regal is not my favourite wrestler. Needs to be said. Thankyou.
Luke Tobin (Original Author) wrote:
Jesse-- I'm sure we're all incredibly impressed that you spend your time with athletes and don't spend 80% of your time on wrestling sites. Though you seem to have responded to more articles on this site than anyone else I've seen, which leads me to believe you do spend a vast majority of time on wrestling sites. Also, the fact that you feel like you have to point out that you're a karate instructor, and actually have some kind of athletic prowess, so we don't think you're the internet wrestling junkie that you really are borders on hilarity. To get to the point though, most of your arguments hold no water.

Some of the kids may like Cena and Batista, but the kids, like the older fans, respond to ability more than promos and good looks. It was like that when I was a kid, and it's like that today. My favorites growing up, as well as all my friends, were Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect, and Rick Rude (not a whole lot of techincal ability for Rude, but he could hold his own in the ring and really get people over) as opposed to Hogan, Warrior, and Flair...even though the latter guys got much bigger pushes in those days. If you push the top in-ring talent instead of the "actors", they will get great responses. Every wrestling fan of any age group will enjoy the guys with the most ability. The kids understand the physicality of the craft more than McMahon gives them credit for, and the older fans will respect the way that the WWE isn't trying to insult their intelligence if the best wrestlers are given the big pushes.

Lex Luger got an insane push. He slammed a 700 pounder on a frickin' aircraft carrier wearing the stars and stripes and was booked to win the belt at WM 10 until he got drunk the night before and started telling people, which forced McMahon to change the ending and give the belt to Hart. He was booked to win it in the first place because he looked like a bodybuilder, even though he could not wrestle.

Benoit was one of the most loved champions of recent times because of the matches he could put on. I don't know how anyone can say he got nowhere. It was pathetic that a chump like Orton was the one who knocked him off. Even when they would gack up a great match of his, (Eugene cleaning house to get Benoit the win in an Ironman Match) he is great at firing up the crowd. His PPV match against Kane was one of the best I've seen in years and, though you aparently disagree, Kane is to big men what Benoit is to technical wrestlers. Big guys can't wrestle with guys like Benoit, but Kane is one of the better big men of all time.

You say Chavo will forever be a mid-carder, but whose fault is that" If given a reasonable chance, he could be a main eventer, but he's small so McMahon will never give him a decent chance. Same with Helms. These guys have outstanding movesets and have always put on great matches in their careers, but always at the bottom of the card because nobody gives them a chance.

The fact that you said Shelton Benjamin has nothing BESIDES ring skills reflects my initial point perfectly. In my opinion, that's all you need. The name of the game is wrestling, and thats what people want to see...good wrestling. All the other crap is just window dressing.

As far as being "drugged up" with regards to RVD not deserving to be a champion, morals have never been much of a dealbreaker as far as who McMahon pushes. Look at some of the crap Orton has pulled the past couple years. Jake Roberts, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper...these guys all had well-documented substance abuse problems during their successful careers. Eddie Guerrero had demons extending far beyond smoking pot before he got to hold the belt. So try again.

Booker has been given the belt, but his gimmick sucks and he can really get a crowd involved simply by being his old WCW persona and allowed to get a few wins without cheating.

Sure, not everyone agrees with me. Obviously the people in charge of WWE programming seriously disagree with me. My point was that the industry devalues itself by putting the belt on guys like Cena and Batista because they make it look like anybody with the size and the looks can make it in the business. What they should be doing is rewarding the guys that have given their lives to the craft and have perfected the art of wrestling over years of hard work and discipline.
James Mason wrote:
In ring ability does matter to a certain extent. But the WWE is only gonna hand you the World title strap if you can sell merchandise to kids. I consider Batista & John Cena to be decent wrestlers,but I'd never consider either to be a favorite.. When Batista's working with the right person he can put on a decent match, despite being predictable. John Cena's moves of doom are just a rip-off so he can save himself for the PPVs.

As far as the wreslter you named that should be considered main-eventers, Booker & RVD (well before getting caught with those drugs) are main eventers. Chris Benoit should definitely be at main-eventer status. Hopefully Chavo will get into the main event status but I think he should have a couple of second tier title reigns before being pushed to main event status. The Hardys are over and skilled enough to work main events.

Gregory Helms is a great wrestler, he doesn't hit you with the same old same every match, but that can work as a disadvatage, because certain signature moves generate crowd reaction. Shelton Benjamin should work on building up his charisma before getting a push. Carlito, isn't quite there yet, he's got some pretty impressive moves, but all of his matches seem kinda predictable to me, I think he should also switch back to that Modified Swinging Neckbreaker. Give Carlito a couple of second tier title reigns and a few more years and he'll be up there. I'm not really sure what you see in Kane, he's entertaining, but he's predictable (this coming from a Kane fan).
Jesse Lee wrote:
Before attacking someone who opposes your opinions, read a bit more carefully. I said I WORKED WITH those who do not spend 80% of their time complaining on the internet. Not that I wasn't one. I do respond to a lot of these columns and many other columns on other sites, I won't like that I am one of those 80% people. I never said that I was an actual athelete, just that I am around them. When it comes to athletisism, I am by far no better than professional athletes. I never said I was an expert on athletes, I was just pointing out that where I worked, I get involved with a ton of athletic people.

Lex Luger was givin a huge push, but he's never gotten such a large push since then. Vince eventually realized that Luger and others (such as Mabel and Crush) weren't exactly what the people wanted to see. This is while he was pushing for others such as Michaels, Hart, Mr. Perfect, and others. He saw the outcome and realized that at this time, the smaller men had the better talent and more reaction. It was also during a time period when he had legal issues to deal with involving steroids, so he pushed for the talented guys to get popular. While it is true that fans could eventually respond to the better wrestlers, the fact is that John Cena gets more response than Greg Helms. Batista received a monsterous response to Benoit (I desise Batista.) General fans outmatch the smarks in many areas. (However, I will be the first to say that Benoit should be the champion over anyone else. I'll also be the first to say that a Benoit/Regal feud would be my sole reason to buy any of their PPVS.)

Benoit's title reign was rather forgettable, which is a terrible thing to say, but true. In his rather lengthy reign as champion, all he did was have matches with Triple H and Shawn while those two were feuding each other. His short two-three match feud with Kane was nothing more than a velocity-valued match compared to the match with Shawn and Trips (I don't buy WWE PPVs.. I haven't since WM17.) His only notable move as champion, sad to say, was him losing it to Randy Orton... who would later lose it to Triple H. During Benoit's entire reign, it was nothing more than Triple H and Shawn with Orton showing up here and there, Benoit just held the belt for a while.

Chavo will forever be a midcarder. A great wrestler can make anything work if the writers get behind it. Obviouslly, the writers are behind Chavo's supposed storyline. It is a crappy storyline and it is a crappy way to show one such as talented as Chavo. However, most fans will now remember Chavo for this terrible storyline rather than his skills. He's had some good matches, but midcard-worthy matches at best. He's been in the company since WCW folded, how many more chances do you need" Same with Helms. While I love Helms and I enjoy watching him, he's not going to be considered "main event calibre" when you compare him to others who get more reaction. I'd hate to say it, but the reason these two are getting as much airtime as they are is due to the roster's terrible shape in terms of star power. (BoD, Batista, and roughly King Booker are the only one's who can draw while the others are growing onto the fans.) Chavo and Helms deserve to be seen weekly, no doubt about that. Though I'm afraid that they won't be anywhere near the top of the card with guys less-in-talent-more-in-name-recognition like Batista and BoD are still there.

When you're the head of the company, you need to relate to the fans in one way or another. You need to let them know who you are, your opinions, and your personality. Today's fans like to see some sort of character into these personalities. Shelton (by himself) will be nowhere at the top simply because although he's a great athlete, so is Benoit and RVD. This takes away what's so special about him, because while is can jump high and he can do all this and that, so can some others in the company. While it is fun to see them compete with each other, it's not what would be considered "main event worthy." If Shelton can get himself a manager and let him talk for him (like Heyman and Brock or Alfonzo and Sabu) then he could possibly make it to the top without anything other than wrestling.

Yes, Orton has done some unpleasant things.. but not as champion. Jake Roberts has become a terrible waste of his former self, but he still had the get-go in the ring.. and was usually good enough to make it passable. Ric Flair has a huge reputation for drinking every night, but he was always sober when it came time to wrestle. Piper has his fair share of drugs, but he was never champion and he was never a part of the 21 Century's corporate look of WWE. RVD has indeed been given his chances and he took the risk of smoking an illegal drug (no matter how you look it, it's still illegal) on a notable spot to get pulled over and was caught. Vince, wanting to keep his company as clean as possible from the government, took the title off of RVD. While I'm not saying he's done forever, I have a feeling that it'll be a while before Vince decides to allow RVD have the title again. Champions are considered as representations of the company and since this is 21st Century WWE corporation, Vince is trying to use his company as a bad business. It's bad business (with government) if one of your representations is caught using an illegal drug.

I never said Booker was a bad champion. He's actually been entertaining with this "King" gimmick. Fact is, WWE placed the King gimmick on Booker and expect him to become a huge hit. History shows that WWE hates using successful ideas from other companies, so they recycle it into a "WWE version."

To say that Cena or Batista never worked hard is pretty much just an ignorant statement as you claim mine are. Sure, their wrestling skills are horrible and their talent compared to the likes of Benoit, Helms, and Fit Finlay are pretty much embarassing. However, these two (as well as few choice other not-so-great-wrestling champions) have proven that they can draw in seats and generate some form of reaction. Being a champion means you have to carry the entire company (more than 200+ people both wrestlers, ring crew, storyline writers, and everyone involved with the company) in front of not only a live audience, but also in front of an entire country.. even the entire globe. Cena and Batista (god I hate him) have proven themselves worthy of carrying the company. Though I would much prefer Edge over Cena and anyone over Batista, they have been successful in their reigns.

The others... from Chris Benoit to Greg Helms, from Lance Storm to Stevie Richards, from Dean Malenko to Chavo Guerrero are rewarded everyday for their loyalty. They've generated fans whom will follow their every word and have built their own reputations as respectful wrestlers in the backstage area. Being champion isn't everything about being a wrestler.. even Lance Storm said that.
John E. Blaze wrote:
Yes, and no. Anyone can tell you that the WWE is about cash, not wrestling (ironically, it is all I watch). You accuse Cena, Batista and Orton of lacking in wrestling talent, and put Kane with a bonafide legend" Ha!

For starters, You say that Cena and Batista have a 5 moves of doom thing going on, right" Well, people accused Bret Hart of doing the same thing, and he is another bonafide legend! And honestly, isn't the "most electrifying move in sports entertainment" just an fancy elbow drop. Cena, Hogan, Batista, Bret Hart, they all have limited move arsenals so why are they the top guns" CHARISMA! The WWE will push someone based on one of 3 things: power, charisma, and history. And there aren't exactly that many people that can say they have all three, and your friend Kane just barely has one.

In the end, it all comes down to who sells better. The WWE would rather have someone who does a lot of good moves and has charisma (HBK, Benoit, Eddie), but will settle with someone with a few good moves and charisma (Bret Hart, Cena, Hogan), then give the title to someone with a few good moves and barely any charisma (Kane)
Bob toskey wrote:
There is a difference between Bret Hart doing the same 5 moves in a match and John Cena doing the same 5 moves in a match. And the difference is that Bret Hart would use psychology and chain wrestling to set up those 5 moves so the entire match was used to wear down body parts and those 5 moves would be the culmination of the rest of the match. When John Cena wrestles, he uses a punch/kick offence and then hits his finisher. There is no reason why the STFU should make people tap when he does nothing in the match to wear his opponent down leading up to it. Bret Hart would spend the match working on the legs and back of the opponent and then hit the backbreaker and lock in the sharpshooter. John Cena will punch and kick for a while, hit the F-U and put on the STFU. I really don't mind John Cena all that much but if you compare him with Bret Hart on any level you're probably wrong.
Ryan "The Serial Thrilla" Rage wrote:
This is the first time that i have responded on a forum in a long while. This is in response to your comments; yes you, John E. Blaze. Don't you never and I mean ever, say that Bret Hart was someone with a few good moves.
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