There are a lot of elements that go into wrestling but there is one thing that a lot of fans can forget: the promotion putting on the show can tell (almost) whatever story they would like. That’s a detail that is so often overlooked and it hurts the product quite a bit. The reality though is a wrestling company can have its wrestlers go to any story they want at any given time.
In one of his many (many) rants available on YouTube, Jim Cornette tells a story of running Ohio Valley Wrestling and seeing his top heel come to a show suddenly bald. The wrestler, Doug Basham, explained that WWE had wanted to see what he looked like bald. This sent Cornette over the edge (again) because Basham was one of his top stars. Cornette’s (paraphrased) response was “Give me two weeks’ notice, I’ll book him in a hair vs. hair match, shave him myself and sell some tickets.”
Now notice what Cornette is saying in that short statement: it isn’t hard to book Basham in a hair vs. hair match even if the story hadn’t been going that way in the first place. Give him two weeks, or probably two TV shows and a show to do the match/shaving and everything will be fine. That’s where things get interesting and where we are going to be looking today.
The fact of the matter is you can put together any story you want, but any one of them requires a little reasoning. In this case, maybe Basham starts bragging about how handsome he is and whomever he’s feuding with says that Basham is so ugly he tried to enter an ugly contest but was told “Sorry, no professionals”. They go back and forth and Basham agrees to put up his hair against whatever the other person has to offer. The match is set in a promo that probably took five minutes total (and that’s if they’re taking their time).
Basham wasn’t too bad either:
That’s where we get into the modern wrestling as we had two stories taking place over the course of the last week or two. Both of them involve character changes, but one of them makes sense and follows logic while the other, assuming it takes place as opposed to just being rumored at the moment, seems to come out of nowhere whether the fans want it or not.
First up is the idea that hopefully doesn’t work: Jinder Mahal getting a big push as a face. Now to make this clear: this is a rumor at this point and not something that has been set in stone just yet. The reason behind the turn would be that WWE still wants to present Mahal as a star in India but since he was a heel last time, the push didn’t exactly work. Therefore, the idea is to present him as a face and someone India could cheer for, meaning a big face push in the United States. So far, the only thing that would suggest this would happen is a promo where Mahal talked about a hero’s journey, but nothing has been made clear yet.
The problem here, assuming this is how it goes down, is pretty clear: why should fans suddenly cheer Mahal after he was a heel for so long? He never did anything to show that he had changed his ways and just suddenly popping up and expecting to be cheered doesn’t work. You have to do something to make the fans care about you, or at least suggest that you have changed.
This isn’t something all that complicated. Have Mahal say that he isn’t the same man he was before, have him make a save, refuse to cheat if he has the chance. There are at least a dozen ways to make this work, but if all they do is have Mahal suddenly defeating heels and acting the same way (albeit maybe less condescending/mean to everyone), it isn’t going to work. That’s not going good, but rather not being as bad. That isn’t a logical change and as a result, the fans aren’t going to buy it. There is no reason to suddenly like someone just because they’ve lightened up a bit and it isn’t likely to work.
Not this, again:
Then we have the other story, which is slightly more based in reality and doesn’t have nearly the same leaps of logic. Earlier this week on Monday Night Raw, Zelina Vega fired Austin Theory from her stable, setting up a big beatdown at the hands of Angel Garza and Andrade. This opened up some questions about what would happen to Theory, who has only been on the main roster for about a month and a half, having been called up as a replacement when Andrade was injured.
We didn’t have to wait long for the answer, as Theory didn’t move from where he was left laying. Soon thereafter, Aleister Black and Murphy were having a match with Seth Rollins at ringside. During the match, Rollins went over to Theory and convinced him to get in the ring and attack Black, leading to another double team beatdown. Theory hugged Rollins, apparently joining his group (in a nearly exact recreation of how Murphy joined forces with Rollins).
As simple of a move as it seems, it is something that makes a lot more sense than the alternative. In theory, the most common move would have been to have Theory start a feud against Garza and Andrade, likely finding a friend in the process. Perhaps even someone who had feuded with the team and was willing to team with Theory for the sake of taking out a common enemy. Theory would be turned face as a result and everything would be fine, or at least as fine as it can work given the pretty flimsy circumstances that set up the turn.
That’s where the logic comes into play. Theory didn’t turn face as a result of the whole thing. Instead, he went from one heel faction to the other. He’s still evil, but now he’s evil for another boss. There is no big jump in logic or character and it makes that much more sense. It’s the kind of change that makes sense without being a turn, which wouldn’t have been right in the situation.
This is more like it:
This is something that could, or at least should, be a much better move for Theory. He isn’t ready for some big face moment in the first place, but keeping him in a heel stable where he can rub elbows with someone like Rollins is a good idea. What matters most though is the fans are a lot more likely to buy it, thereby allowing Theory to actually get something out of the move.
In short, the whole thing boils down to “does this make sense?”. Wrestling companies can come up with almost anything they want to do, but they have to lay the foundation to make the whole thing work. If you don’t have an idea that is going to hold up after the slightest bit of thinking, it isn’t going to survive a few weeks, let alone a long term story.
That’s where WWE, and all kinds of companies actually, run into trouble: they aren’t willing to put in the world at the beginning and it can create problems. All they have to do is come up with some kind of a story to make the story they’re trying to tell logical. It can be something as simple as a few lines in a promo or some kind of a segment, but give the fans a mental path to get where you are. If it works, you might have a new star on your hands. If nothing, you might have Mahal all over again, and no one deserves that.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!