The phrase "WWE style" gets used in interviews and analysis. However, I don't think all fans know exactly what it means.
From my time exposed to the behind-the-scenes work of WWE's production in college and time working on the independent wrestling circuit, I've learned about what some of the WWE style is and how it differs from other wrestling companies.
WWE is very particular about music. The promotion has had its own in-house composer, Jim Johnston, for years. Something it likes to do with music is treat it as a story being told. It's the first thing the fans are going to have to experience through a character each night, so the company is very particular about starting off strong with the music.
WWE uses what is known as a sting. It's a term that gets used in music when combined with a production. A sting would be Booker T saying, “Can you dig it, sucka?” at the beginning of his music. When Booker T came over from WCW, he was still using his classic Harlem Heat entrance music, but WWE added the catchphrase at the start of it. That's a sting.
They aren't always a voice track of the performer. Stone Cold Steve Austin has one of the most famous stings with the glass breaking. WWE added the danger siren (that's the best I can do to describe it) to Brock Lesnar's entrance before the hard-hitting beats begin.
You can go through so many wrestlers and you'll figure out what sting is used for them. Not everyone has it, but most do. At least those that have characters who are regularly used and branded. It sets them apart from using the generic rock track that dark-match guys use when they come out to get squashed.
A lot of people hold the belief that the champion comes out last for their match. At one time, this was a commonly used rule in wrestling but not as much anymore for WWE.
Champions come out last and the babyfaces come out last. This is a rule used widely on the independent wrestling scene. Nobody needs to wonder who goes out first. If you're the heel, you go first.
WWE makes decisions on entrances based on television and storytelling. Sometimes it will show an entrance of a wrestler for a match and then cut to commercial. If this happens, it has sent that wrestler out first because it thinks he can help keep the crowd tuned in over the commercial break.
Other times, crowd reaction comes into play. At the most recent Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July, it was the return of Rob Van Dam. He was one of the many participants in his match. You would think since he was returning in Philadelphia, where he became famous with ECW, WWE would hold his entrance last as a sign of importance and build to it. Nope. The company had him come out first. It did it to help set a tone of emotion and excitement. WWE also did it so he had the audience's full attention, with no other wrestlers out there for them to focus on or watch.
Working the Cameras
If you can't work the cameras, you can't work in WWE. There might be 10,000 people in the arena, but there are millions at home.
For the most part, WWE's cameras cut the arena in half. This is a basic principle in regard to what you learn in a video production class.
When you have more than one camera that you're cutting between to capture the same subject (in WWE's case, the ring), you don't want to cross an axis line. To translate into more basic terms, keep the cameras to the outside. Of all the cameras the director will be using to capture what's going on in the ring, they never will cross a certain line. They cut the arena in half. Even when wrestlers are outside the ring, at the farthest end away from the cameras, the cameraman will peak around the ring post to film it but will always keep his back to the other cameras and stay off to the side.
Wrestling style in the United States works to the left. Wrestlers are always moving counter clockwise. They work the left side of their opponent's body. When they get up, they move counter-clockwise and always end up facing the half of the arena the cameras are at. Every time they get into a rest hold, where facial expressions are key, they need to be facing the cameras. It sounds obvious that you would face a camera, but it's easier said than done when you have wrestlers in the ring who are so focused on their match and being safe. But it's important that they learn to position themselves correctly in addition to good work in between the ropes.
Speak Your Line
One of the most important things young wrestlers have to learn and perfect is their speaking. It's vital to making it in WWE and being a major player. You have to be able to cut a promo and communicate if you want to main event WrestleMania.
If you mess up a line that you intended to say, it's human nature to quickly try to recover and keep the sentence moving.
This does happen in WWE, but you also have to be aware of what you were about to say and that quickly moving on isn't always the best thing to do.
Take this segment from Booker T and CM Punk where Booker has some trouble getting his words out.
If you stumble, it might feel weird, but WWE would rather you stop and start the statement over again versus trying to fumble through the rest.
The reason is because producers need sound clips for video packages. Just like a director for a movie, WWE needs a clean read of what you're saying. WWE, for the most part, is live in front of an audience. It might feel weird in front of an audience, especially one that is going to heckle you, but WWE would prefer you get a clear version of a key piece of audio out so it has the recording for recap videos, promotional videos for the match and its many other platforms.
Bigger and Better Ring
WWE uses the biggest wrestling ring. Its ring is 20 feet all the way around. Most independent organizations use 16' x 16' and occasionally some use 18' x 18'. Smaller ring means smaller cost to purchase.
WWE has a bigger ring and a custom design that changed the wrestling market. The customized changes are meant to look better on camera as well as provide better safety and performance. The WWE turnbuckle pads are a softer material versus most other organizations carrying the standard leather and tape turnbuckle pad.
The ring ropes in WWE have more give to them and are made of a different material versus traditional rings have the thick rubber casing. If Cactus Jack was in a WWE ring, he would have never had his ear ripped off in the scenario he did when his head got caught in the ropes.
WWE has a veteran staff of former wrestlers such as Arn Anderson and Dean Malenko. A lot of fans know or occasionally see them still hanging around, but what are they there for?
They fill a role that WWE used to refer to as an agent but now is known as a producer. Although the company made this change, when I speak to some WWE wrestlers, I catch them saying, "agent," so that term isn't dead yet in the vocabulary.
The agent/producer is there to help the wrestler with their match. Commonly on the independent scene, the two wrestlers figure out what each can do in the ring, find out their finish, find out how much time they have and then start planning their spots.
In WWE, there are more factors taken into consideration. What kind of finish are we doing or what kind of story are we telling? Are we doing anything that another match might be doing? You don't want three matches all working the same body part during the heat or all having similar roll-up type finishes.
The agent/producer is there to help coordinate and communicate matches and promo material. They also are a common voice in the ear of the referee and instruct them about the match. All referees end up having more than one match to officiate. The agent/producer can help communicate, both behind the scenes and while they are out in the ring, what is going on in the story of the match or give particular instructions.
All of these factors emphasize the use of WWE's Performance Center. They can help groom wrestlers, referees and even production staff on how WWE produces television. So the next time you watch WWE programming or you go to an independent wrestling show, you can watch and begin to notice more of what separates the styles different companies use.