It seems like every few years, the way that professional wrestling is presented is drastically different than the generation prior. Whether you are transitioning from having all giants to a cruiserweight style, or going from cartoon characters to ruthless agression, things are constantly in flux in the industry. Sadly in those times of change, certain details and intricacies of the wrestling business can slip between the cracks and disappear seemingly overnight.
We aren’t talking about wrestlers themselves, as we know that they have a huge turnover rate in the industry, but rather some of the idiosyncrasies that go along with being a professional wrestler. Wrestling is like an art, and all of the tools that the artists have used for so many years are now sitting in a basement waiting to be used again. However some of the arts of wrestling are alive and well. For example the use of lock ups as a way to communicate instructions during a match is still in use today.
Unfortunately we have been able to find 15 arts of wrestling that have been lost over the years. Some of the entrants on this list may be things that happen occasionally, but should happen more often, and some of them will be things that younger readers may have never seen before. Either way the integration of these lost arts back into the business would only boost the product that we all know and love.
This article isn’t here as a means to bash any current wrestlers, or organizations for that matter. Think of this list as a love letter to the industry, where we talk about some of the things that we miss the most about the old days.
So here they are, the top 15 lost arts in wrestling, and as always feel free to let us know your opinions in the comments below.
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There can’t be a story in the ring without at least one of the wrestlers selling. Sure the WWE has a few standouts on their roster who can sell a move; Dolph Ziggler, Seth Rollins, and Brock Lesnar all come to mind. The thing is, there is a difference between selling a move, and selling during a match; selling a match has become nonexistent in the wrestling world today.
There needs to be selling from bell to bell, and then after the bell, and sometimes into the next week needs to be taken seriously.
14 Protecting Finishers
There isn’t a single protected finisher in the WWE right now. When every match needs to end with three or four false finishes, something is wrong with the storytelling of a match. Additionally when no single move is enough to put down an opponent, it puts wrestlers in a losing situation where they are forced to top themselves constantly.
Think about the fact that the Sleeper Hold and DDT used to be finishers, and now they are some of the first moves busted out in a match. Eventually this could happen with all of the moves we see today if something isn’t done to protect finishers.
How can a bad guy be considered a bad guy if he doesn’t cheat? Due to some PG rules with the management at WWE, and other promotions mimicking their style, no heels cheat anymore. Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero's gimmicks hinged on cheating, and they are arguably two of the greatest performers of all time.
The only way to effectively make the crowd hate the person that you want them to hate, is to give them a reason. This is easily fixable by having the villains grab tights, use the ropes to their advantage, use throw dust in the babyface’s eyes, and all of the old school tactics that have been lost over the years.
12 Not Looking at the Camera
The best kind of match is one where the competitors don’t act like they are posing for the camera every few minutes. Unfortunately as of late, most wrestlers stare right into the cameras that are filming the match, which takes viewers out of the moment.
If they don’t care enough about the match to stay focused on their opponent, then why should we? A master of not looking at the camera is Stone Cold, who literally walked away from the camera in the ring, and connected with the crowd instead of the camera. His method of delivering promos and matches are now far and few between in wrestling.
11 Test of Strength
Although the lock up is still in effect, long gone are the days where two competitors would lock hands and determine who was stronger by having a test of strength. This tactic is a good way for a heel to get heat in the beginning of the match, by dominating the babyface. A babyface is also open for a cheap shot, if the wrestlers really want the heel to look bad. Additionally if the test of strength happens in the middle of the match, it gives the babyface a chance to reestablish control of the match, leading to a comeback.
10 Referee Lifting Arms Three Times
Maybe this is an outdated art due to the explosion of MMA and the knowledge of how submissions actually work, but what happened to a referee lifting an incapacitated wrestler's arm up three times?
Sure we occasionally see someone fight out of the submission when that arm is about to drop for the third time, but why not have guys pass out that way? It would be a shock to the system to see this in the WWE, and could be a nice change of pace. Even the immortal Hulk Hogan was put to sleep at Starrcade in 1996, and he is considered one of the best ever.
9 Time Limit/Draw
Now, this isn’t to say that every match needs to be an Iron Man match that lasts for an hour, but why not give matches a 10 minute time limit? It literally changes the dynamic of the match by providing a third option for how a match could end. With the time limit, wrestlers performing on a weekly basis will not look weak for losing their matches via draw, as neither wrestler took the victory. This is how promoters were able to stretch out wrestling programs in the past, by having time limit draws, which eventually would make the grudge match draw more money.
8 Patting Down Wrestlers
This is sort of a combo with cheating and keeping kayfaybe (soon to come), but during a huge match, referees used to pat down the gear of both wrestlers to check for foreign objects. It would always make the match seem more serious when both competitors would stare each other down while the ref would check their boots and tape. Utilizing the pat down in big money matches, where the feud has been filled with the heel cheating, would certainly be believable and increase the tension at an event.
Kayfabe is a term that is used to refer to the protection of the inner workings of the wrestling business, similar to the way magicians protect the magic behind their tricks. Kayfabe died in the mid 90s but was very effective in creating a mystery around the wrestling industry, specifically in regards to wrestler returns and results.
Kayfabe would be the hardest art to revive, as the social media aspect of our culture changes the dynamic of how wrestlers behave compared to their counterparts in the previous generation. However if there was a way to bring kayfabe back from the dead, the entire industry would benefit.
6 Planning Ahead
Way back before the days where Raw would get rewritten a few hours before showtime, there actually used to be a plan of where storylines were going in the long run. Jim Ross, Vince Russo and Jim Cornnette have all stated on their respective podcasts, that Vince McMahon used to sit down with his small creative circle and plan out storylines months in advance. By knowing where the characters and product were going, there was never a scramble to give a top guy something new to do, as his story was already plotted out.
If you can’t work the stick, you probably won’t last in the world of wrestling. In the past not everyone was a good promo person, but rest assured that if they couldn’t talk, they had a manager who could talk for them.
Granted some of the reason that the promo is such a lost art is due to the fact that today wrestlers must follow scripts and are reprimanded for improving on their own. The full development of a character can’t be reached without an effective promo, which is why many wrestlers today are one dimensional.
4 Traveling with Old Timers
Wrestling is a brotherhood, with a long storied history of veterans passing down information to rookies during long car rides from town to town. According to his podcast, Steve Austin learned the most in his early years from riding with Rick Rude, and just listening to him talk about in-ring psychology.
Every “old timer” talks about how the business has changed, and this is one of the driving forces of the watered down product today. Even if the WWE or TNA wanted to do this today and institute a rule they couldn’t, as both companies are extremely young right now.
3 Calling a Match in the Ring
When two seasoned performers have worked enough matches to have a mutual respect for each other's talent, they can call a match in the ring. Today, most matches are choreographed for hours, and written out to every detail. Having a match this way stifles all creativity that can be produced by a wrestler. By calling it in the ring, wrestlers are thinking on the fly and reacting to the crowd, effectively putting on the show that the fans want.
For all intents and purposes, there is only one show in town; the WWE. Since investing in the Performance Center, the WWE has effectively put a choke hold on the feeder system of the indies, meaning that most of the wrestlers of the future will only know the WWE style.
In previous decades, wrestlers would have years to figure out who they were by traveling to different territories and developing their character in front of different crowds. If their act got stale, they could move to another territory and put a new twist on it and fans would be none the wiser.
With so much television time now, once you are in the minds of the fans, it’s hard to get away from the gimmick that they know.
1 Using Jobbers
Jobbers are wrestlers who lose...a lot. WWE doesn’t have jobbers at this point in time (at least not officially), so they book most of their talent with a 50/50 win loss rate. Meaning that when they need someone to get crushed by Brock Lesnar, or if TNA needs someone to be thrashed by Bobby Lashley, it is usually a low-card guy with some name recognition.
By having main roster talents lose in these types of matches, it lowers their value when they eventually win a match, effectively lowering the value of their low-card opponent. By using dedicated job guys, a promotion can ensure that all of the characters they invest in can be protected.
Side note- The Hardys, Mick Foley, Edge, and Shawn Michaels were all dedicated jobbers for the first few years of their career, and they are all doing okay.
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