So, I am Kyle Fitta. This is the first time I’ve posted in the editorial section for this website. If you ever used to read fan blogs on here, I’m sure you’ve seen my work before. I don’t really know how much I will be posting here. It is going vary week-to-week. I am currently in college and I’m working, and anyone who has ever done both at the same time, knows how much time they take up.
My title, unfortunately, was too long. And I could not think of a way to cut it down. So, I just figured that I should post the long title in here.
The Amount of Wrestling Moves Doesn’t Really Matter That Much
Many fans out there believe certain wrestlers are good or bad based up how many moves they do. They also believe adding more moves to a wrestler’s repertoire will automatically make them a better wrestler. Both of those statements are not particularly true. Frankly, a wrestler does not need a ton of moves in order to have a compelling match. In fact, there are more important things a wrestler should be able to do than just a lot of moves.
The most important attribute a wrestler needs to be successful is to have good psychology. The word psychology is an insider word that essentially equates to realism. Back in the day, it was something a wrestler needed to have in order to keep kayfabe alive. However, it is still very important today. Psychology is what causes fans to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the story each match tells. Most people know wrestling is predetermined these days, but even so, fans are more likely to emotionally invest into something that feels real as opposed to something that is clearly contrived.
The first level of good psychology occurs when a wrestler stays true to their character. It would not make any sense if a wrestler were a coward outside the ring and the dominant monster in it, would it? In the 80s, Ric Flair was always one to back out of a fight and his cowardice continued in the ring, where he would take every shortcut in his bag of tricks to win the match. On the flip side, you have The Undertaker’s Deadman gimmick; his character was an immortal zombie, so he would wrestle methodically and no-sell moves, all the while keeping a blank expression on his face.
Another example of good psychology happens when a wrestler adapts to whom they are wrestling. Bret Hart was a master at this; when he wrestled against someone like Kevin Nash, a giant monster, he was mostly on his toes, trying to pick his opportunities to attack. But when he faced someone like Curt Henning, an in-ring technician, he would try to outwrestle them. He always wrestled differently depending on his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, no matter the opponent. This added a level of realism to Hart’s matches, as just as if one would in a real fight, he adapted his style to give him the best chance of winning — at least in kayfabe.
Arguably, the most integral part of psychology is selling. To most, the word selling means acting injured or hurt. In actuality, it occurs anytime a wrestler is pretending something is happening to them. Facial expressions, body language, and mannerisms are all critical keys to being a good seller. HBK was impeccable at all three of those key factors. Even though he would act as if he was nursing a bad back by constantly grabbing at it, his sentiments are what truly made him an ever-so-loving, sympathetic baby face. Fans could essentially feel the make believe pain HBK was going through, all because of his amazing facial expressions and body language.
There are two major keys to selling a body part; they are selling consistently and adjusting appropriately. If a wrestler A, for example, works over wrestler B’s arm throughout the match, B should make proper adjustments. For argument’s sake, let’s just wrestler B’s usually spears people with his left shoulder. However, wrestler A is really working it over. Wrestler B should either properly adjusted to the injury by spearing him with his right shoulder instead, or really sell the effects of spearing him with his wounded shoulder. Christian does both particularly well, as he consistently sells his injury and finds different ways to win a match.
Unlike what limb psychology critics believe, the injured body part does not necessarily have to play into the deeper courses of a match. However, a worked over body part should not be ignored once the wrestler makes a comeback. Instead, they should adapt for a while and then do certain things that make it as if they are trying to shake it off, or something to that nature.
The other three important things a wrestler should have are timing, execution and the ability to pace out a match. A wrestler must be on the same page as his in-ring partner. They need to do a good job of communicating with each other. Think of it as dancing. If someone is off rhythm, it is usually going to look bad, no matter how good the other person is. It is also crucial for reversals/counters and sequences to be perfectly timed and executed. Otherwise, the moves look sloppy and ineffective. Bad execution and timing can lead to more serious tragedies than just bad matches. They can lead to career ending injuries.
The pace is all about the speed of the match. Good wrestlers know the precise time of when to slow or speed up a match. It is usually because the good ones basing their match off the crowd’s responses. Adjustments can also be made if the wrestlers are properly listening to the crowd. If a heel, for example, uses a sleeper hold that is not creating any heat, the best thing would be to get out of that spot as soon as possible. But if the move is creating lots of heat, they should leave it in longer in order to infuriate the crowd (in a good way). Daniel Bryan is a good example of all the above; he works a rapidly paced style; paces his matches based upon the crowd’s reactions, and yet neither his timing nor execution are marred because of it. His timing is instead on point while his execution is flawless.
Storytelling and structuring are arguably two of the most important things a wrestler has to be able to do. Simply put, storytelling can make or break a match. Without a story, the fans are going to have a difficult time emotionally investing into a match. In addition to that, the story does three also very important things: it creates drama and suspense, makes the moves being performed matter, takes the crowd on a journey, and keeps them intrigued to see how everything unfolds. Let me tie it into the real world by asking you this question: what classical movie had no plot? Exactly. There are not many, if any at all.
Structuring is about putting a match together. The more traditional (and arguably more effective) way is building it like a pyramid. Think about it: you work from the base, build it up by putting the correct layers conjointly in place until it reaches its crescendo. Mick Foley was great at both these things. He could tell a different, yet compelling story, every time he wrestled. He could also pre-plan all of the big spots ahead of time and understand the best time to do them.
Without these elements mentioned above, a wrestler that performs a bunch moves will still be terrible. In essence, matches that have a lot of moves, but lack a lot of things mentioned above, are glorified spot-fests. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for spot-fest once in a while. They serve their purpose in wrestling. However, they are the LCD of pro-wrestling. They consist of one big spot after the other, and their only real purpose is to get a cheap pop from the crowd. The moves never string together, and the crowd hardly ever becomes emotionally invested into the match. Furthermore, spot fests can actually have a long-term detrimental effect of a promotion if they’re overdone. One time, TNA accidentally trained their audience to pop just for high spots. As a result, the fans would sit there quietly, waiting for a big spot to cheer about.
Ultimately, the amount of moves can help a wrestler or match to a certain extent. However, moves do not make or break a wrestler or match. In fact, there have been plenty of wrestlers who used a limited move set that are considered masters at honing their craft. Additionally, there is a reason NWA early 80s stuff holds up to this day while stuff in the late 90s like ECW’s hardcore matches do not. The point is that a wrestler can have compelling matches even with a basic move set if they do most of the stuff mentioned above correctly.