It’s the Christmas season and that means a lot of people are going to be focusing on gifts (which does at least tie into the more important part of Jesus’ (look him up, as I hear there’s a good book about him) birth). Since I’m kind of a Christmas freak, that sounds like a good place to bring wrestling, which is where we’re going today. This week we’re looking at wrestlers focusing on their in-ring gifts, which unfortunately has become a bit more complicated than it needs to be.
Back at Wrestlemania XIII, Shawn Michaels was doing guest commentary for the main event between Sid and Undertaker. As tended to be the case with almost any of his matches, Sid was wrestling a power style, which was not the most in-depth in the world. However, as Michaels pointed out, the power had gotten him all the way to the WWF Title, so why would he switch things up now? The power was his gift, and that is where we are starting today.
One of the common criticisms that you will hear from some fans is that a wrestler isn’t very good because they can’t do certain moves. There is this rather annoying theory that a wrestler’s skill is determined by the amount of moves that they can do in the ring, which is about as far from the truth as you can get. Being able to do more moves is flashy, but it has very little to do with the quality of a wrestler’s abilities.
An important factor to remember is that ultimately, save for some power and high flying moves, the vast majority of wrestlers are capable of learning and using just about any move around. With a bit of practice, Kofi Kingston could learn to throw a heck of a German suplex and Jon Moxley could figure out the running knee into the LeBell Lock. These wrestlers are (mostly) well trained and have access to some polished in-ring workers who could crack open the Big Book Of Moves and teach them whatever they need. That isn’t the point though and that’s what I’m getting at.
What matters instead of being able to put together a match that makes sense and works for the wrestlers involved. In some cases, ala Bryan Danielson, it would be rather logical to put on a showcase of different moves, as Danielson is seen as a master technician who has all kinds of experience in different disciplines. That isn’t going to be the right move for everyone though, and that is where the changes come in.
Instead, the idea should be for wrestlers to play to their strength. What might work for one might not work for another, and it would be flat out ridiculous to see some wrestlers go in a different direction. How ridiculous would it be for the Big Show to work on the leg to set up a spinning toehold or for Rey Mysterio to brawl like Steve Austin? It goes against what they are better suited to do, which is what we’re going to be looking at today.
Let’s look at a rather prominent current example in the reigning WWE Champion Big E. Now, Big E. has a certain set of skills that not everyone is going to be able to claim: he’s roughly as strong as a small elephant and has more muscles than a decent seafood buffet. You don’t find wrestlers like Big E. very often and there is a certain style that would make sense for him.
Thankfully, that is exactly what Big E. does most of the time. It makes all the sense in the world for him to use a power style and that is what you get. Big E. uses the natural power that he has to throw people around, including a finisher that involves picking them up, putting them on his shoulder, and then….well then dropping them down on their face, which might be a weird way to go, but the lifting them up is what matters anyway.
Big E. is a great example of someone who (at least primarily) plays to his strengths (pun intended). He doesn’t bother with a bunch of submissions or high flying, but rather goes out there and powers people around as few others would be able to do. Fans looking at him are going to look straight at the crazy muscular physique, and expect him to be out there using them to his advantage. It makes sense, and that is one of the reasons he has been as successful as he has been.
Now with that out of the way, there is another level that a wrestler can move towards, and that is what Big E. has done. In addition to, and often amplified by, his power game, Big E. throws in some splashes and that spear through the ropes. They’re still power based, but it’s more build around using his size/muscle, and therefore weight, to his advantage, thereby offering a bit more variety.
What makes this style work a bit better is that it branches off from Big E.’s more logical power game (or his gift in this case). It is something that still makes sense for Big E. to do and makes things feel that much more realistic. By taking things in a slightly different yet still connected direction, it makes him that much more versatile and lets him branch out a bit more. That kind of adaptability is rather important, especially with someone who is likely to be in a featured spot on the card more often than not.
The combination of the two styles is a great example of Big E. sticking to his natural gifts and making it work as a result. While he has gone out of his way to get better and more well rounded, he hasn’t strayed away from what made him work in the first place. There is nothing wrong with spreading your wings and getting that much better, but it isn’t likely to work out very well without what made someone successful in the first place. Sticking with what worked in the first place is the kind of thing that can be forgotten in a hurry, which often creates a lot of problems in a hurry.
The gift doesn’t have to be in the ring either, as some wrestlers get by on their abilities with a microphone. While he might not be the most popular, there are very few wrestlers who have been as successful with a microphone in recent times than Maxwell Jacob Friedman. He certainly can wrestle a good enough match if he gets the chance, but ultimately, it is the talking that is going to get him wherever he needs to go.
Sure, Friedman could learn to do all kinds of things in the ring or fight his own battles, but it wouldn’t make sense for someone like him to do that. Fighting is what Wardlow, someone paid by the rich Friedman, does best, so why mess with a formula that works? Friedman talking to get under people’s skin and then being able to back it up in the ring works very well (see also Roddy Piper for a more classic example), as seen in his bigger pay per view matches. Ultimately though it is all about the talking, because that is what he does best.
There is nothing wrong with learning a new style or becoming a more well rounded in-ring wrestler. At the same time though, the wrestlers you see are in place for a reason. They have figured out something that works well for them and ultimately they should not be straying that far away from that base. You are seeing gifted wrestlers on more than one national television show and they are in that spot for a pretty good reason (at least most of the time). Let them do what they do well and more often than not they will be able to put on a good show. For wrestling fans, that is the gift that keeps on giving all year round.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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