Build/storyline— I think bunch of Internet fans do not care about how the story is because they are all about “work ethic”; however, I like a good story to go into a match. I think it helps the match with the storytelling because wrestling is almost like a movie. It needs a start, middle, and an end.
So with that being said, I think you need a proper story to build up the match. In addition to that, it must make sense. If you are building up a story that these two people have extreme heat with each other, and then in their match—they wrestle a human chess match, it does not make much sense.
It works the other way too. If you are seeing who is the better of the two, and both men are scientifically wrestlers and they start just brawling and beating up each other with weapons—it does not make that much sense; therefore, it is bad storytelling. The build can hurt the match too.
When I think of a match where the booking hurt the match—it would have to be Cena-Edge-Big Show. The build was so bad and silly; it made the match feel that way. Another example I would like to use is Sonjay Dutt vs. Jay Lethal. They wrestled a fun, innovative ladder match, but because of the illogical, silly booking; it hurt the match and it was hard to take serious.
A match that helped because of the build was HBK vs. Jericho from Unforgiven 2008. Not only was it a great match, it was a great feud, and it helped the match add drama. A match that also comes to mind, that is recent, is Jericho-Rey at the Bash. They did an excellent job building up the match by the story and their previous matches.
They did a good job of building up Rey’s mask and they also did a great job of getting the crowd into it, and making them guessing because of them throwing them off by doing reversals and counters of moves that should be executed.
Psychology/Storytelling—This word gets thrown around all the time, but I do not think people really know what it means. Psychology simply means realism. Psychology is the main reason a match succeeds or fails. If a match has good psychology than it will not fail, but if it doesn’t the match most likely will not be good.
Psychology needs to be of course believable. So if a giant is facing a cruiserweight, they could tell a David vs. Goliath story, not the cruiserweight beating up the big man for most of the match. Good psychology would be the small guy trying to wrestle a smart match–by not getting caught in big moves and trying to hit n’ run so he does not get caught. That would be a sign on good psychology. A man that was truly great at psychology was Bret Hart. He could work a different style of a match with anyone no matter their size, height or whatever, and make it convincing.
Another thing that goes with psychology is selling. Selling is simply selling a move properly to how much you think the move would feel like in real life. A person who could sell great was Mistuhara Misawa.
He simply knew how to sell everything because of his great psychology instincts. He knew how everything should look when being sold. His golden rule was always when he was in doubt, he would bump his head.
He was a genius of selling. Another great seller was Mick Foley. If you think Mick Foley was just a stunt man, like Ric Flair says; you have Foley screwed up. Foley knew how make everything look real. He had great facial expressions and body language that would make you really think he was hurt.
He knew how to make everything look real and like he was really in pain. A great example of his beautiful selling was his match with HBK @ Mindgames 1996. He not only was selling one injury, he was selling both his finger and knee, which leads me to an actual great piece of psychology: HBK working over Mankind’s fingers because him knowing about the mandible claw, but back on topic; most people cannot sell one injury properly, but Foley could sell two. He was a great example of selling.
In retrospect, psychology is adapting to the style or size of a wrestler—and telling a believable story with them, and selling was making everything look real to fit in real life.
Pacing/ Timing— These are very relevant to make a match good. Pacing is telling a story of the match at an acceptable manner, which makes sense. A good example of pacing was Flair-Steamboat.
Flair would beat down Steamboat methodically, and Steamboat would try to speed of the match by being fast. Timing is doing moves that move the story to the next step, and being on the same foot as your opponent.
A bad example of timing is Shelton-Burke- Punk. They were all off, and were having terrible communications; therefore, there was lot of botches, which was because of the bad timing. A good example of timing would be AJ-Joe-Daniels at Unbreakable 2005. They were not just on the same page; they were on the same word.
Everything they did was perfectly timed to the point where it almost look like it was a movie rather than an actual match. They didn’t miss one spot and they did a great job of sequencing the match. They also got the crowd into the match, which is a great example of pacing and timing.
Another great of pacing and timing was Steamboat- Macho Man. They were on the same track, they were properly setting up the next parts of the match, and they got the crowd into it, and finished the match at the hottest part of the match—and it, of course, received the biggest pop of the match.
Characterization— People sometimes do not care about this, but I think it needs to be added in a match. If a wrestler plays a chicken heel outside the ring, but once he gets in the ring—he is looking dominate and getting clean wins over people—it is poor characterization.
A good example of characterization was Ric Flair.He played a bronzed guy that thought he was better than everyone, but once someone out of the ring confronted him, he would run or have his buddy’s help him beat them up.
So, he played a chicken heel in the ring by trying to take an advantage every way he could. He always tried to make his opponent look good, which would end up making him look good. It is why he made so many wrestlers: he did everything a heel ought to do. It was simply good characterization.
Undertaker was good at characterization too. He would always have a blank expression on his face because he is dead. It would not make sense really if he were to actually really “feel” pain. So, he did a blank expression, which was his character. An example of bad Characterization was the MITB at WM 23. Everyone was virtually out of character. Randy Orton was hitting RKOs on everyone, while he was playing a chicken heel. That is not a good example of characterization.
High Spots— High Spots have a big impact on a match in a good and bad way. Spots can be describe as chocolate, it is good to eat, but too much will make you sick. Spots are great when they make sense according to the story.
If they do spots with no meaning, then they are irrelevant. If they build up the spots—they will have more meaning and be remembered. Jack Evans can be a good example of over-kill. He is a great athletic wrestler, but when he does so many flashly spots again, again and again—nothing stands out as a great moment.
Why do you think when Undertaker jumps over the rope, it gets a bigger pop than Jack Evans doing his finisher? Undertaker’s jump over the rope is not over-exposed, and is done once in awhile; therefore, it has way more meaning.
Jack Evans does it on an occasion, and it loses its credibility. High spots can also fall under the category of pacing and timing. If you can properly get the crowd into the match, and at the hottest part of the match they do a huge spot, it has way more significance.