Despite the knowledge that the WWE is a predetermined drama rather than an actual competitive sport, many fans get the most enjoyment out of the product when they view the action under the illusion that what is happening is real competition.
These fans get behind their favorite superstars by feeling every bump, cheering every attack, and celebrating the wrestler’s win as their own.
Yet it is impossible not to notice some reoccurring patterns in matches. These take the form of strange decisions that invariably lead to the dominant wrestler losing their way, which allows their opponent to rally and start a fight back.
In reality, these are essential transitions that allow performers to change the focus of a match. They are carefully arranged so one star can showcase a side of their craft, until it is time for the other to be given prominence—these are the spots that every WWE superstar must perfect if they are going to master their art.
Here are 5 spots that most commonly lead to a momentum shift in WWE matches.
From Shawn Michaels’ tuning up the band to Kofi Kingston’s thunderclap, one of the most common sights in wrestling is a superstar putting himself in a place where he can deliver his finisher while doing a pose or ritual dance.
Yet the end result of this drama is very rarely a straight-forward delivery of the move and then a pinfall.
More often than not, the opponent uses the time to recover and come up with a plan to reverse the finishing move before it comes. In many cases, this will then lead to a number of signature and finishing moves being attempted as the two fighters try to defeat each other.
Invariably the wrestler who was about to face oblivion becomes lifted by his opponent’s failed attempt to finish him, and starts to counter-attack. How long and how successful such a move is depends on the match, but the signal for a finisher almost guarantees that the match has still some time to run.
The one exception to this is when a superstar's finisher is being highlighted in the current feud that they are in.
Big Show pumping his closed fist before delivering the KO Punch is a great example of this phenomena, especially as the move creates a comparison with Show’s previous two finishers—the Chokeslam and the Colossal Clutch—which also came with a signifier that was first at effective and then became a liability later.
Whenever one competitor lands an unusually complicated or dangerous move before an ad-break, it can be almost guaranteed that the opponent will have the upper hand when the action returns.
Usually a catastrophic collision with the ring post or metal stairs has been the cause of the momentum shift, but any situation where the attacker has harm caused to them can be used as the reason to why everything is different from the last time the fans were able to see the action.
On some rare occasions, the turn around will be delayed until after the viewers have the wrestling returned to their screens. These moments tend to coincide with a limb being damaged—which becomes the theme of the rest of the match.
Oddly, there is also a general trend for the victor of the match to also be the person who performs the notable pre-advert move. Perhaps this is down to these standout moves being performed by the smaller man in the match, who is often the good guy as well.
This is certainly one of the most abrasive ways that a match’s momentum can change, as fans are often unprepared for such a switch. Even though the same trick can often be used more than once in a show, the spot remains effective as the television schedule involves so many advert breaks.
In fact, this spot can be traced back to Mid Atlantic programs in the early 1970’s, so the advert switch is a tactic that will likely always be used by wrestling promotions.
Distracting the referee, so that someone can use an illegal move or item to gain an advantage, is a classic wrestling move that has fired fan’s passions since the sport’s inception.
Most times, this distraction is done by one wrestler’s manager.
Loud, annoying and often more over than the talent that they are supposed to be complimenting, the manager is—and has always been—one of the best ways to swing the momentum of a match when such a move looks unlikely.
One of the more unusual elements of the manager as a cause of a momentum turn is that this figure can be used at any time. Normally a momentum shift requires a certain circumstance to occur, so the additional randomness that the manager provides opens up more creative options.
Perhaps this is why managers have been making a big return to the WWE over the past few years. Their return has certainly added some additional excitement over the years.
One of the easiest ways a performer can stop himself from having the advantage, and gift it to his opponent, is to run full pelt into the corner without making a defined wrestling move.
This allows the attacker’s opponent to lift his knees, or raise a boot, opening up the opportunity for a fight back.
It is certainly one of the stranger sights in WWE to see someone apparently lose their mind and run uncontrolled at their rival, especially as so much of what both performers do is so precise, yet it may be the most naturalistic when performed with a little finesse.
Sometimes people do lose control of their inhibitions in the heat of the moment, leading to silly mistakes. It could be the perfect move to switch the momentum in the match without announcing to the world that the fight is scripted to go that way.
Unfortunately this does not tally with real world events, as the undefined run into the corner looks unrealistic. Still, it is a tactic that will be seen half a dozen times during any wrestling card.
Nothing signals a momentum shift like the sight of a wrestler aiming a chair at the head of an opponent in the WWE. It is inevitable that the performer’s opponent is either going to duck the shot or get a kick to the gut in, and the weapon will then be in the hands of the other man in the match.
This was not always the case. Head shots with chairs were once as normal in wrestling as arm drags, but those days are over.
The WWE had no choice but to change that policy after the Chris Benoit incident, and the follow-up studies on depression and early suicide in wrestlers, made it clear to outsiders that the weapons used in wrestling were having a notable effect on the health of those who performed.