The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
Does Size Really Matter?
The Kingfish Arnie Katz talks about the role of physical size in the pro wrestling show, some behind-the-scenes stuff about the site and a zero-risk chance to win cash this coming Sunday.
Promoters, wrestlers and fans have long debated the importance of physical size in professional wrestling. Some point to the marquee value of the really large guys, while others claim that big clumsy wrestlers turn off more fans than they inspire. And questions about the dynamics of the big man-small man program never seem to die away/
After thinking about all the wrestling I’ve watched, both now and in my dim youthful past, I’ve come to the conclusion that size is one of the most decisive factors in the wrestling show and that the way a promotion handles size is crucial to its success. WWE, TNA, the original ECW and the current revival of ECW have all made fundamentally different decisions about how to handle the size differential.
Let’s go promotion by promotion and look at their approaches:
The promotion has always banked on the heavyweights, going as far back as you want in the Vince McMahon Sr era. There was even an inter-promotional war in which a New York area promoter tried to push lighter-weight wrestlers against the titan who worked for WWE. The elder McMahon stuck
Vince McMahon Jr, as a body builder, does what might be expected: He goes for the biggest, most muscular guys he can find. He will hire awkward men like Great Khali because WWE believe that the public buys the super heavyweights and will not accept the lighter performers. WWE operates under the premise that a good big man can beat any “little man.”
WWE does less with its most physically talented wrestlers than any major promotion in history. Instead of building up the under-200-lb. guys, they use them as enhancement workers to put over the mid-card musclemen. You’d think the popularity among WWE fans of such smaller stars as Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero and Evan Bourne would tell them something, but they’ve operated 50 years without hearing it.
WWE also has a problem in the Women’s Division, where Beth Phoenix towers over the field of cutie-pie challengers Everyone looks so puny beside her that her matches don’t generate much heat. My solution would be to move Victoria over to RAW. The physical contrast would make for terrific visuals and both women wrestle well enough to provide some excellent matches.
Paul Heyman’s promotion of yore is still the best idea for marketing lighter weight wrestlers in history. The ECW idea was simple: Don’t have super huge guys so that the smaller performers don’t look like midgets. When Rhino was in original ECW, his “big man” act looked great, but the same character seemed foolish in WWE, because Rhino was smaller than more than half of the roster.
WWE’s version of ECW is somewhat more open to smaller wrestlers – in WWE terms, anyone under about 6’1”, 220 lbs. – but the WWE’s traditional reliance on the big guys has increased since the start of the revival.
The introduction of Kane and The Great Khali showed that sometimes size can be an advantage and other times a detriment. Kane, a pretty decent worker, knows how to perform a match against a much smaller man like Rey Mysterio so that the small man looks credible. The program worked well and did not suffer from BCS. (No, not the Bullsh*t Championship System that causes controversy in college football. This is Beaten Child Syndrome, where it looks like the bigger man is abusing a small child.
The Great Khali cured the problem with a move to Smackdown and a shift to babyface. He can fight the show’s monster heels.
TNA, perhaps because founder Jeff Jarrett is smaller than the WWE average, has tended to focus on somewhat smaller men. The promotion also doesn’t sign lumbering giants who can’t work.
This has a tremendous upside for both TNA and its fans. The fans don’t get nearly as many slow-moving slugfests, It also makes it possible for guys like AJ Styles to look credible despite his stature and gives Rhino and Abyss the leeway to play “big” which wouldn’t have nearly as much impact of they were in WWE.
Right now, TNA has the most effective size strategy and WWE has about the worst. Too many WWE matches feature a monster and a middleweight – and that only works when the big man is exceptionally mobile and the smaller man isn’t one-third his size.
That’s it for today. I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to everyone, fans and pros alike, in the pro wrestling community. I’ll be back on Monday with a new column. I hope you’ll all join me – and, please, bring your friends.
— Arnie Katz