WWE 2010 Insight: Pro Wrestling Gimmicks and Popularity
Have you ever been curious of how a character in the pro wrestling industry clicks with the audience in a way that makes them great?
Have you ever wondered why guys like The Rock, Austin, and HBK had so many people behind them, heel or face?
I believe you'll find the answers here, and more about gimmicks and chemistry between character-audience.
But before that, I want to make a special hiatus here to thank the person who made me come up with the idea for this article. On my last writing WWE: The Dawn Of a New Era, Its Beginning and Last Monday Night Raw, a member of the Bleacher Report community named John Lindgren commented regarding a discussion on the difference between Stone Cold and Randy Orton: (and I quote)
"He (Randy Orton) might have the same gimmick as Stone Cold but he is nowhere near Stone Cold's level. The greatest thing with Stone Cold was how easy it was to identify yourself with him; he lives out a lot of people's "dreams" like beating up his boss who is a pain in the ass, drinking on work and doing whatever he wants. Randy Orton's gimmick is that he is a viper that strikes anytime he pleases. He is cold and calculating. Not really something you identify yourself with."
Pure gold, enlightening phrase. John, if you're reading this, thank you!
First of all, let's take a look at some concepts:
Gimmick: a character role that the wrestlers portray, sometimes with personalities wildly different from they own.
Pro Wrestler: an employee, a person just like all of us, with feelings and principles of his own.
Elements of a Gimmick Determining Quality
ORIGINALITY—when something that we haven't seen before comes up, it immediately sparks attention in us. It may be a gimmick, but we love it and almost believe it a real trace of a wrestlers' personality.
Muhammad Hassan: a good example of originality. He wasn't Arab, he had nothing to do with that in real life, but still he was so good at what he did that people hated him, and the WWE Universe always took him seriously.
Nexus: it was something original at the beginning when they first attacked. No heel stable had done such a thing to make an impact before, and that's why they sparked so much interest.
Ted DiBiase: his fortunate son gimmick just doesn't feel right.
ENTERTAINMENT—what makes a gimmick fun and interesting to watch. A character may be original, but after the initial shock is gone, entertainment is needed to keep the gimmick alive and fresh.
Kurt Angle: He was original with his Olympic Medalist gimmick, and his promos were unique, and very funny.
Goldust: very original and entertaining, one of the most underrated, under used, and all the unders that there are in the WWE (except for the Undertaker).
Jack Swagger. He's original with his All American American American American.... gimmick, but he's not entertaining most of the time. People may feel attracted to his character because of originality, but also pray for it to become entertaining.
"Dashing" Cody Rhodes: No one before has done the Metrosexual Guy gimmick, however, he blabbers on and on about how dashing he is, and that doesn't entertain.
Vladimir Kozlov and The Great Khali: original from their countries, fresh faces, but not entertaining whatsoever
SELF BEING—when a wrestler is allowed to be himself on stage, like when doing promos, it creates wonderful things. The real personality of the wrestler comes out, and it shines brightly. Wrestlers on this category don't miss.
Heel Batista: when Batista turned heel and dropped his "smiling good boy" character, even though he did what other many heels have done(justify himself every time he lost, beat his opponent treacherously, etc) his promos were amazing, the best he gave on his whole career. Why? Because he was being himself.
Look at how Batista mocks the people, and how he talks like he is better than everyone. That ain't nothing new in a gimmick, but as he was being himself he clicked on many immediately, to the point that many fans say that The Animal as heel is the best thing he's ever done.
When a gimmick is original and entertaining, it is magic. When it combines the three elements, it is epic. When not, there you have the main reason why so many promising looking workers fail: they try to act as something they're not, and it just doesn't look natural.
So, we just covered the philosophy behind gimmicks and chemistry. I believe there are many more deeper analyses to make about the topic, but here you have the basics and I hope the answers to some present and future questions. Gimmicks are all about chemistry and bonding with the audience. If a pro wrestler doesn't have those, and don't get them fast, they will end just like Mike Tyson.
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