John Morrison. Gail Kim. Yoshi Tatsu. A.J. Styles. Evan Bourne. Triple H. Mickie James. Shelton Benjamin. Jay Lethal. Jamie Noble. Jack Swagger. Sylvester Turkey and Elijah Burke. Abyss. Monty Brown. Christian. MVP. Petey Williams. Sonjay Dutt. Awesome Kong.
These superstars and wrestlers are just a few of the people that have fallen victim to the infamous "de-push."
Pro wrestling fans know all about the de-push. One moment, your favorite superstar is placed in a high profile feud with a red hot gimmick and instantly becomes the center of attention in the company.
One or two matches later, perhaps even after a pay per view appearance, they're returned to staring at the ceiling lights. The next up-and-coming superstar basks in the moment of receiving their push to the top at the expense of the fans' golden boy or girl.
The tears, rants, and threats from fans that follow are nowhere near expressing the totality of our disappointment at the sight of seeing a beloved superstar on the losing end of a string of matches.
How do fans cope with their favorite wrestler's de-push? Without a logical or exact explanation, all one can do is blame the company for not "giving them the ball to run with."
Is this truly the case, or have we been blinded by our emotions to the point where we cannot analyze the situation objectively in order to understand the situation from a different perspective?
Should the blame be placed squarely on the company, or should it be shared between the company and the fans? Do we even realize that our hatred for a company "not knowing how to use him or her" may actually stem from our own ignorance about how he or she is actually being used?
Let's take a moment to really look at some of the issues surrounding a wrestler's de-push. For the sake of continuity and in direct response to your questions from the previous Push Vs. Job piece, we shall use the WWE as our primary example.
I must also remind everyone that with the WWE as our primary example, the wrestlers will be referred to as "superstars," which keeps us in a "sports entertainment" mindset.
Deconstructing the "De-Push"
Before we look at a superstar in particular, we must come to a consensus on what it means to be "de-pushed."
For clarification purposes, the term "de-push" shall from this point on be referred to as buried.
Once again, we consult the almighty Wikipedia for a working definition for the term buried. The "burial" of a superstar is defined as being "the lowering of a popular wrestler's status in the eyes of the fans."
A superstar's burial is also "the act of a promoter or booker causing a wrestler to lose popularity by forcing him (or her) to continually lose in squash matches and/or participate in unentertaining or degrading storylines."
The definition continues, but I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here. For now, let's play close attention of the first part of the definition: "the lowering of a popular wrestler's status in the eyes of the fans."
A superstar's burial is what happens when a superstar has essentially fallen from grace. For whatever reason, their stock in the company is not as popular as it once was in the eyes of the fans.
When we say fans we are talking about the vast majority. In other words, we're talking about the fans that will financially support the company regardless of whether a show or pay per view was "bad" or "good."
In other words, those folks that probably aren't reading this article.
Usually when a superstar is being buried, he or she does the job to another superstar. Using our same Wikipedia source, the job is simply defined as "a scheduled loss." Thus, all superstars will do "the job" to another opponent at any given time in their career. It's unavoidable.
In a later piece, I'll go over the importance and significance of the job in the WWE's current PG Era opposed to the job in the glory days of Hulk Hogan and others.
A superstar's burial comes when they continuously job to other superstars for an indefinite period of time. This is a painful pill for fans to swallow if their favorite superstar is trapped in the confines of jobbing to everyone else on the roster.
Understanding The Burial
Why would a company chose to bury a superstar that was fresh on the heels of receiving a push? Our Wikipedia definition of burial answers that question, but I'll simplify it in my own words.
Again, I believe there are three reasons why a given superstar gets buried after a brief and seemingly successful push:
- Punishment for their behavior in the ring and/or outside of the ring (HHH, Drew McIntyre)
- A lack of connecting with the fans within a given time frame for any given reason (mic skills, wrestling skills, etc.) (Shelton Benjamin)
- A lack of creative direction for the character and/or a surge of interest in and creative direction for another superstar (Yoshi Tatsu)
Now go back to the three reasons for a superstar's push—understanding that a huge push only comes when they fit into all three categories at one time—and ask yourself if that same superstar fits into one of those categories only:
- someone the management wants to push
- someone the fans want to see pushed
- someone who has earned the right to be pushed
If your favorite wrestler fits into the first category while having only one attribute in the second category, then you have a prime candidate for an instant burial.
As can be assumed, most superstars tread this dangerous line on a regular basis. Some teeter towards superstar propulsion, while others flail helplessly to maintain their balance on the edge of obscurity.
While several superstars serve as perfect examples of this concept, I'll only look at a one superstar to further the conversation. Evan Bourne stands out as an immediate candidate for a case study.
Bourne is an exciting superstar that most fans arguably want to see pushed, but it cannot be ignored that his size plays against him on the RAW savannah.
When I say size, I don't mean the fact that the WWE has a fetish for muscular men. I mean that most of the roster is bigger, faster, and stronger than him. You can only play the "small underdog" card for so long, especially if your chemistry with larger superstars is off.
Besides, that's Rey Mysterio's gimmick. Gimmick infringement is a serious offense in professional wrestling. Notice how MVP didn't start doing Shelton Benjamin's Paydirt finisher until after Benjamin was released.
It wasn't too long ago when Bourne main evented on RAW right next to John Cena, and even scored a convincing win or two over champion heel Chris Jericho. Within the blink of an eye, Bourne disappeared from TV for a few weeks and returned to his JOB Squad duties.
What did Bourne do to deserve a burial? It's not so much what he did than it is what creative didn't do for him.
Bourne is really known for his athleticism and innovative moves, but he's placed on the WWE's flagship show where all of the company's top veterans play. Once Bourne was traded to the show, he was doomed to fall by the wayside just by virtue of the show's status in the annals of pro wrestling history.
There are and were plenty of stars he worked well with and could have had great feuds with, but the WWE's RAW creative team probably thought otherwise. Don't forget that the WWE is about making superstars.
While Bourne's wrestling abilities may be incomparable, his skills on the mic and connection with the vast majority of fans could stand to be questioned by WWE superstar standards.
If any of those standards were lacking, then Bourne could've been easily overlooked by the RAW creative team and WWE management.
For whatever reason, Bourne was allowed to taste the main event alongside John Cena. It seemed as if he was on track to becoming a new breakout WWE superstar. The first nail in Bourne's coffin came, however, when he was overlooked for a spot on Team Cena for Summerslam 2010.
Take a quick glance at all the individuals who actually made it on Team Cena. Compare the careers of those individuals to that of Evan Bourne.
We can safely say that Bourne should have been on the team and that he rightly earned his place on the team, but can we really say that he did more to earn that spot on Team Cena than those that ended up on the team?
Keep in mind that fans have argued that John Morrison, Bryan Danielson and R-Truth deserved pushes as well. So, would it have been appropriate for anyone of those individuals to have been replaced with Bourne?
After passing on Bourne for that momentous opportunity, the RAW creative team had nothing else for him. Thus he's buried and ends up doing the job to two Smackdown superstars on RAW last night.
So even though Bourne has a solid crew of fans behind him, he's yet to really cross over into WWE Superstardom and appeal to the majority of fans outside of his die hard internet supporters.
Add that to the fact that the creative team really has nothing for him, and that the Nexus/Sheamus-Orton/Danielson-Miz-Riley feuds take extreme precedence, then Bourne qualifies hard for a nice, tasty burial.
In closing, I'll allow Sulayman H.'s explanation from the previous Push Vs. Job piece explain succinctly in one paragraph what I couldn't in an entire article:
"With Evan, he was well on his way to flirt with the upper mid-card from him calling out Edge all the way upto the MITB pay-per-view but then the focus was shifted to the Miz and the only possible explanation for Evan's vanishing act was to make way for building up the Miz although we can argue till we're slightly blue in the face that there is enough TV time to accommodate both but as the internet darlings will tell you, the Miz has become a pet project of McMahon's and has thus more weightage (both literally and figuratively)."
I look forward to your rebuttals and comments. Also, please keep watch for the Sheamus edition of Push vs. Job, coming soon to your living rooms, cubicles, and parents' basements.
Class dismissed, you can now go and play.