Building the Perfect Physical Appearance for a WWE Superstar
Critics of the WWE have often stated that Vince McMahon and his talent recruitment team are far more interested in body shape than wrestling skill.
This analysis certainly has some grounding as a myriad of muscular failures have blighted the WWE over the past decade. Names like Nathan Jones, Chris Masters and Kevin Thorn have come along with much fanfare, but have failed to make an impact on the WWE Universe and have left the company without a single championship between them.
Despite these failures, there is also an undeniable logic behind the desire to employ wrestlers with that certain bodybuilder shape. The majority of the biggest names in the industry have all shared certain physical characteristics, with the few exceptions tending to gain prominence at a time when talent is short.
These alternatively shaped wrestlers have often been superseded as the top name when a more traditionally shaped star can take his place, even if it is questionable if the newer superstar has more ability.
Accepting the premise that these traditional-looking superstars will eventually rise to the top, even if other more talented superstars could be in their place, the obvious question becomes: What physical elements combine to make a top WWE superstar and why do these elements have such impact?
Although height appears to be a variable element when looking at top stars, (Hulk Hogan was advertised at 6'7" tall while John Cena is comparatively small at 6'1"), there is a defining aspect among all these athletes.
That aspect is that these wrestlers stand just about a half a head (or a couple of inches) taller than their main competition.
This theory accounts for the size differentiation between eras and runs consistently from the mid-80s to the modern day. A rare constant in the ever evolving world of professional wrestling.
Why this extra height is so effective is an interesting and almost unanswerable question. One interesting idea is that the person who is that little bit taller (and often stronger) is the one who is idealized as an aspirational figure.
Admiration for such figures appears to be especially common in young men, who see this person as the leader or, in this case, the natural champion.
Assuming this to be correct, it does beg the question why the giants of the sport, Big Show, Undertaker and so on, are not these leaders. Perhaps these behemoths are just too big so people, especially the young, cannot aspire to be that size and find them intimidating instead.
It would be interesting to see if these figures are more alienating to the fans now than they were in the 80s, where the normalized size of a wrestler was bigger. Unfortunately, that information is unavailable.
What makes this entire idea interesting is that this would make CM Punk, who is considered an unorthodox champion by many, fit the pattern as his main competitors happen to be under 6' tall. This also brings up an interesting question over how Punk would look against Sheamus or Wade Barrett, as we may see in the near future.
It would also account for Shawn Michaels’ rise, as the lack of mid-sized wrestlers in the WWE during the mid-90s and the abundance of giants made him (and Bret Hart) the aspirational figures.
So what would be the ideal height of a wrestler today? The answer is probably half a head taller than John Cena, so roughly 6'3" or 6'4". However, in these fluctuating times that the WWE are currently going through, that could change very quickly.
Despite the common opinion that more muscles means more money in professional wrestling, it would appear that the perfect shaped WWE superstar would not be a freakishly over-encumbered individual.
Of course there have been some very successful excessively muscled men from Lex Luger to Dave Batista, but these men didn’t ever reach the pinnacle where they could say that they were truly their company’s top men.
The most successful individuals have looked athletic and extremely toned but just proportional to their body shape. Of course, Hogan had the 24-inch pythons but on his 6' 7" frame, they were not outlandishly large.
Steve Austin, the Rock and Randy Orton have all shown that the proportionate look will rise to the peak of the industry even when more muscular men could stand in their way.
This trend becomes far more obvious through superstars who went from loved to hated, such as Triple H who rose to prominence as one of these athletic types. Once in the spotlight he became the over-muscular behemoth most remember, but he was a heel and therefore not the face of the company at that point.
Why athletic rather than muscular guys are favored may go back to the idea of aspiration and realistic expectation.
The top guy needs to be on the verge of being unrealistically muscular, as he would not be an aspirational figure otherwise. He has to stay under the boundary of freakishly muscular otherwise the allure of becoming like him is lost.
Arguably, Cena has, possibly unconsciously, suffered from this trend of fans not being able to take to excessively muscular wrestlers. Cena followed the Triple H route of being athletic at first and then hitting the weight room hard, but since he never made the heel turn, his image became untenable.
Obviously there are many other aspects to the John Cena controversy, but it is an interesting additional feature.
Considering all this, the perfect physical WWE superstar for right now would be someone who was a toned 250 pounds.
Probably the most era-dependent aspect of developing the perfect physical appearance for a WWE superstar.
An outdated haircut could put the breaks on the most successful career, yet the right look can transport someone to the top at express speed.
It should not surprise anyone that the military-style haircut worn by John Cena and Randy Orton coincided with America’s mass campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops with a similar style were a constant on the news channels, and some of the goodwill devoted to those fighting men rubbed off.
At the same time, Hogan’s long locks were completely in style with the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling phenomenon of the 80s.
One potential example of a haircut having a negative affect on a career is Dean Malenko, who had all the skill in the world but was never able to make an impression on the masses. His look, which can only be described as "short back and sides," would be perfectly normal in the business world but was dismissed as dull in the showbiz world of wrestling.
Being follicly challenged does not necessarily hold back a superstar’s career, as Stone Cold proved, but there still needs to be an effort to make the wrestler’s head look unique. Austin polished his to the shiny finish that everyone remembers, for instance.
Of cours,e Hogan has gone with the balding look for the past 20 years and been successful with it, but that is unlikely to wash in the fashion-conscious present day.
Choosing a haircut for the present day is an interesting challenge, but a good option would be the slightly shaggy surfer look. Edge had that image for much of the past decade, but his retirement 18 months ago has left that style open to be used in the near future.
To a large extent, tattoos are a subject of personal preference to the WWE viewer as they will have their own personal thoughts and feelings towards body art.
However, it could be reasonably argued that a few instantly recognizable tattoos are the best way to sell yourself to the WWE audience, and that they would be the best way the hypothetical perfect physical specimen could emphasize his assets.
From Rock’s "Brahma Bull" to Lesnar’s skull, that singular image can be taken and used to create an identity that sticks in the viewer's mind. Developing a well-rounded persona that incorporates notable body art is often a major step towards stardom.
Many superstars, such as CM Punk and Tensai, have lots of tattoos but there has to be an abiding image among them that can be concentrated on for this tactic to be effective. Punk has the famous Pepsi logo on him which has been used on several occasions, but Tensai’s warrior prints have no discerning image that can be used to identify him.
An absence of tattoos can also work, but only if that makes the wrestler different. Several of the younger members have no tattoos, or at least few noticeable ones, so that tactic is not really an appropriate tactic at this point.
A singular image that can represent a wrestler is a great way to sell them to the WWE universe, and branding that image onto skin can only emphasize the logo more.
All sorts of attire, both in and out of the ring, has been successful throughout the years so pinpointing an exact look is never going to work. However, certain concepts can be identified, and these principles can be applied to make a wrestler’s appearance as perfect as possible.
The first thing is that it does not matter what attire a wrestler begins in, but it does matter to obtain a consistent image once a certain look has caught on with the fans. That image is what the WWE audience holds onto in their heads, and is used to instantly recognize a wrestler once he arrives on the scene.
Drastic wardrobe changes are only really applicable when a wrestler turns from good to bad or vice versa. Triple H went from his panted, T-shirt DX look to the suits that characterized his heel role, but returned to the original look when a face once again. Obviously, this was before he became part of the establishment where suits are a must.
For a superstar to really make it big, the attire must be consistent in look but actually change regularly. This is partly down to advertising revenue, but it also means that the superstar is identified with an entire look rather than a particular outfit.
John Cena has been hugely successful with this replacement clothing gimmick, going from red to green to pink over the last couple of years.
An even stronger example of someone monopolizing an entire look is Rey Mysterio, who has done such a good job of becoming synonymous with the mask and jumpsuit look that he has had to partner with Sin Cara for the second man to become accepted.
Never finding that signature look, or being stuck with a look that fails to become more than an afterthought, can really slow a wrestler’s career path. Both R-Truth and Kofi Kingston are sufferers of this affliction.
So to complete the physically perfect superstar, the wrestler must first get a signature look and then claim the whole genre to themself. This is then the perfect approach from a purely physical perspective to launch a wrestler into superstardom.
According to the logic utilized throughout this article, the perfect appearance for a WWE superstar right now would be a 6'4", 250-pound surfer with few notable tattoos and a style not used by anyone else.
So that is the task for anyone who wants to be the next big thing in the WWE.
Obviously this article has purely focused on the physical appearance of a proposed perfect WWE superstar.
There is so much more to a WWE wrestler than looks, and if they were all that mattered otherwise Lex Luger would be considered the greatest of all time and Mick Foley would never had been allowed in as a fan let alone as a world champion. So however physically perfect this hypothetical wrestler may be, he could be a dud like so many who have come before.
In fact, many of the superstars used as examples in this article have never fulfilled all the categories mentioned; even so, they were the leading light in their company. For instance, Austin’s black shorts could not have been more plain and so he never had unique attire. The point behind this piece was to theorize the perfect appearance of a superstar and that has never, and probably will never, be achieved.
Each fan also has their own preferences to how they would construct their perfect star, so some of this would not run true if their favored choice had lucha libre tendencies or would have stared in a different era for instance.
Finally, and most interestingly, this is only really viable for today’s WWE. As seen in the shift from the 80s through to the current day, the perception of the perfect superstar changes.
Nobody would or did accept Steve Austin as a champion in 1995, yet he was a megastar by 1998. Chris Jericho spent almost the whole of the Monday Night Wars as a lightweight workhorse, but as the giants retired around him his size and shape became acceptable for a champion. Arguably Bobby Lashley came along 5 years too late, and was seen as a big wrestler instead of meeting that golden spot.
The perfect-looking superstar is something the WWE always wants to have. It is the ultimate goal when matched with wrestling ability and great charisma. It is unlikely to ever happen, but it should always be reached for.