Name of Power & Other Tropes (or, Bizarro Archipielagos of Pro Wrestling)

Kaizar CantuCorrespondent IJune 14, 2012

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08:  The Celtic Warrior Sheamus leaps towards the Big Red Monster Kane during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

I’m a sucker for fiction, you know. Then again, I guess we all are and have been for thousands of years. Never mind.

I’ve been reading comic books lately. My knowledge of the medium is less than basic, but I’ve been able to enjoy the stories anyway. A good friend was kind enough to recommend a four issues mini-series starring a rather peculiar character named Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery.

I read it. It was really weird. (Those words come from a pro wrestling fan. Your call).

The post-read intrigue led me to some quick research, which in turn dropped me at a peculiar site: In a nutshell, the page is a wiki that deals with the conventional mechanisms of fiction and how authors apply them to diverse media: literature, comic books, movies, television, video games, and, of course, pro wrestling.

Navigating through the pro wrestling archipelago of the site, I stumbled upon a very interesting term dubbed Name of Power.  In pro wrestling, a Name of Power refers to the phenomenon in which a maneuver’s effectiveness is increased considerably when applied under a different, usually custom-made name. In other words, if called by the other name, any wrestling move instantly becomes a more powerful variation of the original.

Why doesn't Stevie Richards' super-kick have the same effect as Shawn Michaels’? Because HBK uses Sweet Chin Music. How come Jeff Hardy’s jawbreaker won’t ever catch a pin when Austin’s does? Because Austin uses a Stone Cold Stunner. Why, in the name of holy, blue hell, is a Common Fireman’s Carry Slam so effective? It’s an Attitude Adjustment—no common thing in it.

The name carries a lot of power. Now, think about that for a moment. Imagine if you could transfer power and/or effectiveness to your actions by just adding a name to them. I’ll wait while you fantasize.

The move not only feeds from its own name, but from the executor’s name too. If you ask anyone who has the best (that is, most effective) Sharpshooter in the history of the business, most will say that Bret Hart does. Any Scorpion Deathlock applied under the name Sharpshooter receives a power boost, but if it is applied by, say, Tyson Kid or Natalia, it is not even remotely as effective as Bret’s. Heck, Mark Henry could use it, and his opponent would hold far longer than if Bret was the one applying the hold.

What’s the point I’m driving to?

Some have come to describe the fictional realm of pro wrestling as a “bizarro world.”  The logic behind occurrences in pro wrestling doesn’t necessarily coincide with the rules of our mundane reality. Then, it is implied that: a) pro wrestling occurrences (feuds, matches, relationships, characters) take place in other realities (yes, plural); b) said realities (which can be a promotion, a territory, a style or pro wrestling in general) work under rules that might differ from one another.

With that in mind, everything...or, well, some things make more sense, even if the quantity is comically small: a wrestler’s sudden loss of ability after the transition towards heel-dom (or losing the mask), the endurance of wrestlers in the independents, the aforementioned powering-up of average moves, referee’s knocked unconscious by a tender breeze,  et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Even the John Cena super-comeback makes more sense now. I can’t describe it accurately, but it is like if a small congregation of Greek gods (or lovecraftian cosmic horrors—you decide) spells out how matches involving John Cena are meant to progress.  

What anyone would call unrealistic, cartoony, incoherent or even (gasp!) fake does not really understand the point of professional wrestling. The business is, among other things, a medium for storytelling. The author models a cosmos with rules (subjected to change if necessary) and then sets it in motion.

Suddenly, the term “WWE Universe” feels accurate because it is a world of its own, but so are the smallest independent promotions or backyard wrestling shows—fictional universes with their own sets of rules crafted (or scribbled) by their creators. Cross-promotional events become inter-dimensional clashes. This combination of realities produces a new set of whacky physical laws.

I can’t deny it. This has changed my perspective on pro wrestling. From now on, I’ll view the business under a very different light and try to reason it using another paradigm.

That does not mean I’ll quit the bitching and moaning that is almost obligatory among the IWC. I’ll keep on with it mostly because I can’t stand good storyline potential being wasted.

Because, you see, in the pro wrestling universe, the only internal element capable of forcing change is the fan base.  Even if the almighty creators do what they please, the survival of their realm depends on others. Fans have the last word over what works and what doesn’t….at least theoretically.