Greg DeMarco offers his thoughts on a controversial question in the world of pro wrestling: Do Wins And Losses Matter?
Professional wrestling is based on the carnival act of staging a fight, originally in a boxing ring, and challenging members of the audience to pay for an attempt to knock the big act off, with the promise of winning back a larger portion of money for a win. Eventually someone would win, but they were also part of the show. It was all about the work–from day one.
But wrestling (minus the “pro”) also has its Olympic roots, as a true competitive sport. In the 1896 Olympics, Carl Schuhmann pinned Georgios Tsitas on the second day of their match, as the first day saw them grapple for 40 minutes before the match was suspended for darkness.
There were five Olympians total in this open weight competition, with Schuhmann scoring the events only pinfalls in both of his matches. Schuhmann was a gymnast, by the way. The four matches in these Olympic games were contested with Greco Roman Rules, but there was no time limit and no scoring. The two non pinfall “finishes” saw one wrestler retiring from the match, and the other ended due to a shoulder injury.
While completely different in nature, scope, and presentation, both of these early wrestling examples shared one common thread: Wins and Losses Mattered.
Wrestling, the professional variety anyway, evolved from its carnival roots to start staging multiple matches, not using audience challengers or plants. Matches were still staged, but the stakes were changed. At first the biggest stake was a championship, with other stakes usually coming in the form of… you guessed it… wins and losses!
The carnival roots still held strong, since early champions tended to be a champion you had to overcome. Fans traveled miles and paid good money to see championships defended in the main event, and men (and sometimes women) battle for wins and losses on the undercard.
Boxing also had an influence on early wrestling, as early boxing was more of a fight. The earliest written rules of boxing that I could find reference to was in 1713, and they included headbutts, chokes, throws, and even eye pokes! Boxing obviously changed, but it established the idea of rankings, championships, and the structure of a card. Wrestling (and later MMA) would take this format on.
But even in eras we are old enough to remember or read/watch, wrestling was still about winning and losing. Even when personal issue was added in as a stake, in the end you got your revenge by making your opponent suffer a loss–not being set on fire, buried alive, being sacrificed to the Gods, etc. Granted, those things are still losses, but they weren’t deemed necessary.
Something else came to the forefront as professional wrestling progressed–it was really a form of entertainment. While being presented as a sport, it was selling because it was an entertaining one.
Again, WHAT HAPPENED?
Well, this answer is easy: Vince McMahon happened. Or more accurately, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Vince McMahon had to fight to get into the wrestling business, but you also have to understand why he fell in love it to begin with. When his father took him to his first ever show, he didn’t fall in love with sport. He fell in love with the characters and the showmanship- the larger-than-life characters. “Larger than life” is in his own words, and that’s why it’s so often used to describe the ideal WWE Superstar.
It was Vince McMahon who had to make a balloon payment to his dad and his business partners, a payment that if he missed even by a day, would have meant Vince lost everything. WrestleMania was the gamble that allowed Vince to make that payment. It was seen by 19,000+ at Madison Square Garden, and over a million paying normal ticket prices to watch on closed circuit television.
What made WrestleMania different? Spectacle. Liberace was the timekeeper for the main event. former Yankees manager Billy Martin was the ring announcer. Muhammad Ali the referee. The Rockettes performed in the ring. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T won the main event. It wasn’t built–or sold–on competition. Wins and losses really didn’t matter. It was built on larger-than-life characters performing in a larger-than-life spectacle.
And it allowed Vince McMahon to fully own what would become the WWE we know and love (love to hate?) today. Pushing wins and losses aside allowed the the business’s most powerful figure to take full ownership of the business’s most powerful entity.
Dammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnnnnn man! That is a huge statement to swallow!
Let it sink in: once Vince McMahon put on an event where wins and losses took a back seat to being a larger-than-life spectacle, the business took off. Once Vince has his moneymaking model, the rest of the business was ripe for the picking. Vince couldn’t have gone national–thus running in others’ territories–without a larger-than-life spectacle. Without Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Roman Reigns. As Vince himself has said, they “broke the mold.”
Once Vince McMahon created Sports Entertainment, there was no looking back. It was about performing first, winning second. Pro wrestling became a show, but more importantly it became about the show. And in some parts of the story, the show would be about Vince McMahon.
The regional territories couldn’t compete with Vince McMahon, and most of them died off. Killing the territories wasn’t Vince McMahon’s intention, but it was a byproduct of his success. He bought a lot of his competitors, paying them handsomely in the process. Others refused to be bought, and that decision was usually futile. Vince McMahon, using Hulk Hogan, had changed the business, and they had to change or get out.
So…do Wins and Losses matter?
Wrestling is a show. The wrestlers in the ring are telling a story, and the best stories have a stake that the performers–and the audience–are invested in. That stake is the biggest part of the story. Sometimes that stake is a championship (or the quest for a championship), other times it’s a personal issue. Rarely do two wrestlers stand face-to-face in the center of the ring, with an invested crowd hanging at each movement, with the main stake simply being a win. And the match is rarely judged on the stake, it’s usually judged on the performance.
That is the biggest way the wrestling business has changed. At their simplest form, wins and losses do not matter. The result of a win or a loss is the true stake, although there are plenty of times where a winner loses in the end. That’s part of the story.
But the importance of a win–or a loss–can be built into the story. It can be sold by the promotion…the performers…the announcers…the fans. It’s a simple principle: the stakes matter. If wins and losses are the stakes, then wins wins and losses matter. When the stakes are something else, wins and losses don’t matter.
That’s why I have coined the phrase that I maintain today: “Wins and Losses don’t matter–except when they matter.”
Good Reads On The Chairshot
- Eric has more details on IMPACT Wrestling’s move to the Pursuit Channel, which is going to be a big 2019 story
- Could DIY work as a heel tandem?
- Lots of great feedback on my Supply & Demand article–thank you!
- Cook discusses Big E vs. Daniel Bryan, and I must say I’m on board with 100% of his ideas in this one
And that’s it for today’s blog post! Thank you for reading the 7th Daily DeMarco–here’s to many more!
Greg DeMarco’s Three Stars Of The Night: WWE Raw (3/18/19)
Who delivered the biggest performances of the night on Raw?
Greg DeMarco brings the Three Stars of The Night back with the March 18 episode of WWE Raw from Chicago!
Raw was live from Chicago, on the Road To WrestleMania, and it seemed like the perfect night to revive the Three Stars! I mean, it’s a mega city for the company and a very important Raw. I figured the entire roster would step up in a huge way. I was wrong…
But we did get a packed WWE Raw, including Kurt Angle’s opponent being revealed as Baron Corbin, Beth Phoenix officially returning to the ring, and the heat being turned to 11 on Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins. Now, it’s Three Stars time…shall we?
The Third Star: Leo Rush
I know people find Lio Rush annoying, and it means he’s doing his job. In reality, he delivers in a big way on a weekly basis, making Bobby Lashley more relevant and usually putting in a great in-ring performance. This week was no different, especially when he was selling for Braun Strowman. Bobby Lashley also let it happen to Lio Rush, which is another way Lio delivered–letting Lashley’s character develop even further. Hate on Lio Rush if you must, but he continues to enhance Bobby Lashley’s entire act on a weekly basis.
The Second Star: Elias
Few people have a better grasp on their character than Elias (Alexa Bliss being one of them), and he’s gotten it to a point where it’s effortless. To me, that means we may see a big push coming for him after WrestleMania. In this segment he delivered a strong promo, interacted brilliantly with Alexa, got the desired reactions out of the crowd, and perfectly foreshadowed a WrestleMania interruption that very well might be John Cena. Count me in as walking with Elias.
Honorable Mention: Paul Heyman, Alexa Bliss, Ronda Rousey, and Sasha Banks
And now… a distinction usually reserved
for the top performer of the night …the first star!
The First Star: Seth Rollins
If there was any question who has taken up the mantle of leading WWE Raw, it should be answered now. Seth Rollins delivered in a big way on Raw. Last year he carried things as Intercontinental Champion, and I think he’s more than ready to be the Universal Champion. I look forward to seeing his run, with opponents like Drew McIntyre waiting in the wings after WrestleMania.
But can I put in for a Rollins vs. Batista program post-WrestleMania? Please? Nothing would make me happier than seeing Big Dave put Seth over before heading back to Hollywood.
In hockey, a game’s “Three Stars Of The Night” represent the top three performers of the night. For more clarification, I defer to this Pittsburgh Gazette explanation:
“The tradition dates to the 1936-37 season, when Imperial Oil became the principal sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts and was seeking a way to promote one of its products, Three Star gasoline. The idea of doing so by selecting the top three performers in a particular game purportedly came from a Canadian advertising agency.
Many clubs do recognize the player with the most three-star selections with an award or trophy, usually in conjunction with a corporate sponsorship, at the end of the season (or sometimes, each month). All six Canadian franchises, for example, have an affiliation with a well-known brewery.
The NHL keeps track of its own Three Stars Of The Night selections, but that is done on a league-wide basis. The league employs a system that awards 30 points to a first star, 20 to a second star and 10 to a third – a running total can be found on the league’s website – but it does not present an award based on them.”
In hockey tradition, the first star represents the best of the three, but all three are considered to be receiving a high honor.
Greg DeMarco’s WWE NXT Star Ratings & Review (3/13/19 edition)
Two great matches, and three great storyline developments. That’s good TV!
Greg DeMarco takes you inside a blockbuster edition of WWE NXT as we have the semifinals of the Dusty Classic and more!
We have quite the edition of WWE NXT here, with three major matches and almost no filler! NXT sometimes finds themselves in a rush to get to Takeover, but in this case I’ll take it.
Dusty Rhodes Classic Semifinal Match: The Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler, with Jaxson Ryker) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) – ***1/4
- Moustache Mountain have to be two of the most likable wrestlers on any WWE brand. You can legitimately imagine hanging out with them at a bar (where they will drink you under the table).
- This tournament is tailor made for The Forgotten Sons, who could be huge with a win. Granted, the same can be said for The Street Profits and Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner–all who lost in the opening round.
- Ryker putting Blake’s foot on the rope to break up a pinfall is so old school–I love it.
- Still wonder why this can’t be Blake & Murphy on the main roster.
- Led by some heel shenanigans, The Forgotten Sons win and head to the finals.
#1 Contender’s Match: Io Shirai vs. Bianca Belair – ***
- Side note: Shayna Baszler on commentary is fantastic. “One’s a nobody from Japan, and the other I’ve already beaten.”
- Shirai and Belair, along with Kairi Sane and Mia Yim, are revitalizing and basically reloading the NXT Women’s Division.
- Belair is a great example of a “fighter,” a WWE character who isn’t a face nor a heel, and it works. Shirai, of course, is a mega-babyface. I don’t need to tell you Baszler is a heel…and one of the best in the business.
- Great match was going before Baszler got involved, bringing Kairi Sane out as well. It all made sense, and I am fine with it.
Side Note: I kinda love Dominik Dijakovic trying to fight Keith Lee in a Performance Center ring. When you want to fight someone–when it’s become personal–it doesn’t matter where. Nice touch.
Dusty Rhodes Classic Semifinal Match: Black Flash (Aleister Black & Ricochet) vs. #DIY (NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) – ****
- DIY wearing matching tights, and having a new Titan Tron video is such a great touch.
- Ciampa clutching Goldie while looking at Gargano, who “knows what he’s doing” is a level if deep subtlety that you just don’t see anymore. That’s Ole Anderson level shit.
- I do need to point out that this is typical for WWE tag teams, meeting the requirements of Patrick O’Dowd’s Vicious Cycle Of WWE Tag Team Booking.
- It wasn’t that long ago in WWE where this would have been the obvious TV main event two weeks before Takeover Phoenix.
- Ricochet looking at Aleister Black as to make sure it’s okay that he’s sitting next to him in the ring? Another great touch.
- Tommaso Ciampa applies the best chinlock in WWE today. Yes, this is a real thing. Randy Orton would be proud.
- Actually, Ciampa has stolen a good bit of his act from Randy Orton. Don’t @ me.
- Gargano gets hurt, and Ciampa has to go it alone. This, of course, is a throwback to Takeover: Chicago, when Ciampa got hurt…and we all know what happened there! (Ciampa turned on Gargano.) It’s coming.
- It took two finishers after a 2-on-1 advantage to pin the NXT Champion. That’s how it should be.
- Black Flash wins, and they’ll face The Forgotten Sons in the finals. If you know anything about WWE booking, you know this ends up. #SaveTagTeamWrestling
- The post-match developments with Gargano and Ciampa were nothing short of brilliant. I am not mad that Ciampa ended up hurt, at least in terms of the storyline. I’d give the show ending segment five stars, easy. A small detail is Ciampa tossing the NXT Championship–something he’s obsessed with–aside for it, showing that he has one obsession bigger than Goldie. Gargano’s smile when he stopped Ciampa’s turn–brilliant.
- The whole thing–brilliant.
I know we don’t get Gargano vs. Ciampa at Takeover: New York, and I am okay with that. They can revisit this down the road on the main roster. For now, I see it as a satisfying ending.