The Breakdown: Anatomy of an Angle
In wrestling, there are a number of factors that help to determine the caliber of a performer.
These factors include his mic skills, his charisma, his look, his wrestling ability, and finally, his passion for the industry.
However, these factors can all be present in a performer who is treading water, trying to stay afloat in the sea that is the Professional Wrestling industry.
Amongst the most important factors that seem to be overlooked in determining the caliber of a performer is the angles in which he is put.
A wrestler can have all of the traits needed to be a superstar, but if they are not placed in an angle through which they can attain their superstardom, they will most likely not do so.
In wrestling, an Angle is the storyline in which a Wrestler's character will interact with others to form a story. There are any number of possible angles, but they almost all generate from two of the seven stories that can be told by man:
Man vs. Man
In wrestling, a man's storyline is often driven by his conflict with another individual, and it is the most present storyline in professional wrestling today.
There are several examples of this trend; examples such as Triple H and Randy Orton, both of whom were driven by their conflicts against one another.
Triple H, driven to attain revenge against Randy Orton for the destruction of his family, and Randy Orton for the attack on him during his young career.
Other examples of Man vs. Man include Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy, The Miz vs. John Morrison, and Chris Jericho vs. Edge.
Each of these storylines were, and are primarily driven by the interaction of the two characters, more so than by any other conflict.
Man vs. Himself
This angle is a bit less frequent, but is still typically another present factor in the majority of angles today.
A wrestler will be driven by an internal conflict primarily. The primary focus of a Man vs. Himself storyline is to help further develop a character, while also furthering a Man vs. Man angle.
A tremendous example of this angle would be the obsession of Shawn Michaels in defeating The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 26.
After suffering his defeat at Wrestlemania 25, Shawn Michaels became frenzied in his desire to derail The Undertaker's legendary winning streak, which is a clear example of Man's desire to beat another Man. Thus, the angle is partially driven by the aforementioned angle.
However, the true conflict in the angle did not come from direct confrontations between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, but rather, by the internal conflict that arose within Shawn Michaels over the course of the build to Wrestlemania.
Shawn Michael's obsession with his ability to best The Undertaker, and the lengths that he went to were primarily driven by an internal desire to prove to himself that he could, in fact, best The Undertaker on the Grandest Stage of Them All.
Another great example of a Man vs. Himself conflict would be Edge vs. The Undertaker in the build to Summerslam.
Edge became frantic in his quest to defeat The Undertaker inside of Hell in a Cell, seeking to enlist the aid of Mick Foley, before the true internal conflict arose.
From this came the story of a man betrayed by his wife, and driven to insanity by his desire to rid himself of The Undertaker, as well as his fear of confronting The Undertaker once more.
This arose with amongst the greatest character development features in the history of Edge's career, in the form of the insane Edge just prior to Summerslam, and to one of the greatest stories ever told inside of a wrestling ring.
The tale of Edge's psychotic desire to destroy The Undertaker once and for all, and his willingness to do anything to do so, were put on display in amongst the greatest Cell matches of all time.
The remaining stories are somewhat present as well.
Man vs. The Supernatural can be applied to men who were in angles with The Undertaker when he was still casting Lightning Bolts from the ceiling, and other times as well, but it's a bit more of a rarity in today's wrestling scene.
However, while these stories can be simple to write, the purpose of an angle remains to get a wrestler over, which requires the remaining traits of a Wrestler, in emotion, and ability.
Mick Foley said it best when he said, "Wrestlers need good angles, and angles need good wrestlers."
If a wrestler is handed an amazing story, and he cannot play the part he is given, then the angle is still prone to failure.
A man with no mic skills, who is given the role of a man who has to speak a lot will not be able to fulfill the role to its fullest potential.
If a man is given the angle of a wrestler who is working with a mentor on camera to improve his ability, and the man has no affinity for actual wrestling, then while the announcers may sell his ability as ever-improving, it is likely that the crowd will not truly buy into the act.
However, the primary tool in an angle is not so much the other factors of wrestling ability, and mic skills, as it is emotion.
A wrestler must have passion for what it is that he is trying to accomplish with his angle, lest the angle fail.
If a wrestler is conveying tremendous emotion in a good angle, it can make up for a lack of mic skills.
For example, Jeff Hardy was given the mic with a good degree of frequency during the build of his feud with CM Punk.
While Hardy was improving on the mic, his abilities were still limited at best on it, but he expressed such tremendous emotion, that the casual fan still wanted to hear his promos.
An angle in wrestling is amongst the greatest tools in getting over.
How they are written, and the basis for them, are often based on real event, as well as the gimmick that they are given, which is often times drawn from their real life character as well. The cocky, arrogant athlete will typically be a cocky, arrogant athlete.
A great example of this is CM Punk's angle of being the Straight Edge Savior, and his interaction with both his Society, as well as the remainder of the roster.
While CM Punk isn't preaching in real life, his gimmick is an amplified version of his own life style choices, and while he may not preach to the common man on the street, at heart, he does likely feel that being completely clean is the way to improve your quality of life, for anyone who isn't.
In wrestling, the importance of an angle cannot be understated, though it often is not given the credit that it warrants in how far a wrestler goes.
Typically, the wrestling abilities, and the mic skills are played on more, and while good mic skills can make a bad angle work, a good angle with real passion can make a bad wrestler work.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the wrestler, and the angle. The two feed off of one another, and help each other to grow. A wrestler will develop, and become different due to a powerful angle, and a powerful angle will change, and adapt depending on the abilities of the character, and the wrestler himself.
The ancient stories of Big vs. Small, Old vs. Young, and Good vs. Evil are all simply angles. They are driven by the character, or characters, involved in them. With the correct mixture of passion, mic skills, and good writing, a good story can turn into a moment that will last forever in the minds of wrestling fans.
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