Did you know WWE has this nuts rule about Raw and Smackdown superstars swapping shows randomly each week called the Wildcard Rule??! Yeah, they've pretty much beat us over the head with that one lately, haven't they? This list isn't about those rules you hear Michael Cole bleating about over and over every week (or hour. or minute).
This is about those secret rules that dictate the wrestling world that are not so blatant. Some of them have persisted throughout the years, inviolate like an ironclad Big Show contract. Others are equally unflinching, that is until the wind changes in Vince McMahon's office and suddenly everything is upside down, the sky is green, Ernest Millers and Roman Reigns living together. Match is Terrible!
10 Don't Talk About Hogan Being Bald
Let's start with a classic. It seems like everybody in wrestling has a blind eye to one of Hulk Hogan's only obvious spots of vulnerability, but it actually is a contractual rule. Hulk Hogan does everything he can to hide his lack of locks, from doo-rags to bandanas, but it's mainly on paper he keeps things under wraps.
In both WWE and WCW, he reportedly had it written that any and all insults deriving from his shiny dome were career killers. You don't make fun of Bollea being bald, Brother!
9 Ref's Pinfall Counts Are 'Legit'
This one is even more baffling in the wake of Money In The Bank, A.K.A Referees Gone Wild, but it's the truth. Currently, referees are instructed to count each pinfall with legitimate integrity. That means looking for wrestler's backs to be on the mat and to interrupt counts no matter how significant the moment.
This year has seen plenty of noteworthy mistakes in this field. None bigger than at Wrestlemania when Ronda Rousey blatantly popped her shoulders up at the climactic moment. The rule is supposed to avoid moments like this and may have done so plenty already, but it's in the books. Jack Gallagher fell foul of a legit count-out on 205 Live recently, so it's still being enforced.
8 Pin Facing The Hard Camera
The classic case of 'we're making a television show, so put the money on camera'. You see it every night but only once you realize it's a rule does it stick out like a sore thumb. Wrestlers painfully adjusting their move-set and pinfalls to satisfy the visual requirements over the physical contest.
Everyone from Cena to Lesnar turning with their opponents on their shoulders to yell at the audience at home before hitting their big move. Guys who forget to do this (looking at you Zack Ryder during your latest tag title loss) get Vince's angry face.
7 Vince's Vocabulary
Speaking of Vince, he's got a very specific list of expectations for his wrestlers and commentators, and he's not budging. He's not just to be called Finn Balor. He's 'The Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things!' or 'The Demon King!'. Seth is The King Slayer, or The Beast Slayer, depending on who he's most recently vanquished.
Assuming he beats Roman at some point he might become The Big Dog Slayer, which has less of a ring to it. The point is that if you don't hear half of the wrestler's slogan from one of their T-shirts, Michael Cole isn't doing his job to Vince's expectations.
6 Pro Wrestling Means No Pronouns
Tying into the last point, if you pay attention you'll hardly ever hear WWE commentators using 'he, she, they' when referencing their superstars. Not without also giving their name or title so you know exactly who is being talked about. This again ties into Vince's preoccupation for exact micromanagement of everyone around him.
You absolutely have to make it clear who you're talking about at all times and do it explicitly. Doesn't matter how unnatural it seems or redundant it gets. If you've written an essay about... Essa Rios, at no point can you just say 'he' and get away with it. Deep cut for all those Essa Rios fan out there! Hi John!
5 Ocean's Eleven Interviewers
I'm sure something like this conversation from Ocean's Eleven is drilled into every interviewer WWE trains. "Always look at your mark but don't stare. Be specific but not memorable, be funny but don't make them laugh. They have to like you and then forget you the moment you're out of sight."
Essentially WWE interviewers need to be invisible and forgettable while standing in front of a worldwide audience on live television. It's no small feat. It's also apparently difficult because Dasha Fuentes was let go right around Wrestlemania and the best anyone can figure is because in a Roman Reigns interview she stumbled over a quarter of a word. Harsh.
4 'Burn Your Tag' Rule
The only mention of this rule on WWE television the last couple of decades was a random throwaway line by Dean Ambrose (whatever happened to that guy?). If you missed that, you might not know the reason so many tag team matches end seemingly randomly with DQs. Essentially, you can only interrupt a pinfall attempt once as the non-legal partner.
Once used, you've 'burned your tag' and another interruption will result in disqualification. WWE doesn't advertise this rule because they both break it all the time, and then want to use it to get out of matches where they don't want either team to lose. If you're paying attention, it's infuriating.
3 Don't Mention It! Seriously!
When it comes to bad PR WWE has become a Fawlty Tower's routine. When terrible news began to come out of Saudi Arabia they nixed all mentions of the country but plowed on with business hoping they'd slip through without stain. When John Oliver challenged their entire employee structure with wrestlers they issued a single low-key tweet and never followed up.
As wrestler after wrestler expresses a desire to leave or that things need to change, WWE sends Stephanie out to assure everyone (especially stockholders) that things have never been better. It's a worrying case of 'head-in-sand' from a company simultaneously craving mainstream attention.
2 With Us, Or Against Us
This could lately be called the 'Chris Jericho Rule.' WWE strives to have a friendly corporate face but make no mistake, they are ruthless when faced with competition. The moment Chris Jericho signed with AEW he was wiped from any tangential WWE involvement.
From no longer having WWE superstars appear on his podcast all the way to his videogame presence in Xavier Woods UpUpDownDown series being edited out. Jericho and any other wrestler who contemplates contrary conduct needs to know this rule.
1 Even WWE Doesn't Know This Rule That They Have Or How It Works
WWE doesn't know it's own rules. This was highlighted at Money In The Bank when the commentary team mistakenly thought that a foot on the ropes doesn't break a pinfall in any No-Disqualification match. Their reasoning is fallacious, but here it is. 'A submission hold would not need to be released in a No-DQ matchup because the referee has no recourse if someone continues the hold. Therefore, that means pinfalls and submissions simply continue regardless.'
The actual rule is that pinfalls and submissions must take place within the ring, defined by the planes of the ropes. Breaking the plane means no fall can occur. Boom! Boy, I really hope someone got fired for that blunder. Or maybe, just get their act together so commentators aren't exposed?