Comedy in Wrestling: How and When It Can Work
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After my last article on dumb and humorously sad moments in wrestling history (the link for said article you'll find on the last slide), I felt it was appropriate to talk about humour in wrestling.
However, instead of saying that humour has no place in the squared circle, I want to use several examples which show comedy can add something to a wrestling show.
The following slides contain several wrestling related videos which while intended to be humorous, have never hurt the credibility of the promotions, wrestlers and storylines they show.
Instead, they show moments where comedy in wrestling has helped push and get over the wrestlers involved and added something different to the wrestling show.
After all, comedy wrestling and wrestlers do exist all over the world: whether it be promotions like Chikara or comedy wrestlers like Colt Cabana or Santino Marella.
The problem is though how successfully can comedy fit into a modern wrestling promotion? Chikara is a minor promotion which is not for everyone, and wrestlers like Cabana and Marella can be polarizing figures.
Undoubtedly, the image of the world's leading wrestling company, WWE determines how some of the media and non-wrestling fans view wrestling in relation to comedy.
WWE advertises itself as a PG product offering family entertainment with a mix of genres and something for everyone, but with its excessive amounts of talk and comedy skits, is that too much for hardcore wrestling fans, let alone their kid-based audience?
How Do You Balance Comedy in Relation to Matches and Promos?
My ideas on comedy in wrestling have formed around a mixture of my own attitudes towards how wrestling should be, the opinions of other fans like the guys of the Wrestling Roundtable and the opinions of wrestling personalities like Jim Cornette.
Like the guys from Wrestling Roundtable, I do think comedy can be a successful in wrestling in small doses. Also, it should not be explicitly be advertised as part of the product.
As really how can saying that you do not take wrestling seriously change the minds of non-wrestling fans who mock wrestling and attract those wrestling who today feel patronized by wrestling promotions?
Comic moments in action films or even serious films often allows an audience to feel something different momentarily and allows them to let out some form of emotion they didn't expect to have.
But in wrestling, like in a film, if comic moments can go wrong if the comedy is the wrong sort and out of place in the film's genre and is something that the character would not normally do. Like the Peter Parker dance through New York in Spider-Man 3.
Comedy also can allow wrestlers to be seen in different light and to highlight their characters, as I will point out in the later slides.
I was unable to find the Cornette video on comedy in wrestling which was a clip from Kayfabe Commentaries YouShoot series he says comedy can work in wrestling.
Yet, it shouldn't be the sort of stuff that the Attitude Era was built on like sexual innuendos, potty humour and things irrelevant to wrestling and its storylines.
This opinion I agree with partly with due to starting to watch wrestling during the era of "Ruthless Aggression."
Plus, I don't see what's funny about Mark Herny getting oral sex from a tranny or half of the things which DX did. However, sometimes it can work and for certain reasons perhaps as you shall see.
Kane and the Midgets
This first video starts off as something you'd might have thought I'd used for my other article on dumb wrestling moments considering it's a match featuring midgets. However, the main thing that makes this match bearable at first is Sunny as the referee.
It definitely doesn't show wrestling taking itself too seriously with some humorous spots like Sunny leapfrogging a midget. Yet, it's a believable spot and works within the confines of the wrestling match.
What also makes this first part of the segment funny is also it is not exposing wrestling too much as a fake sport. These midgets can wrestle and do things not even done in WWE at that moment like the high spots and Mexican-style arm drags. They are small but they aren't a joke for long.
That is until the next part of the segment when the lights go down and out comes Kane. The midgets and Sunny run to the safety of the announce table.
The segments then made even funnier by Cornette and JR's commentary on the midgets trying to hide behind them and Cornette holding up his signature tennis racket to protect himself from Kane.
It also helps push Kane as the monster character he was by scaring everyone who he comes near. However, at least for me this is not a laugh out loud moment.
It's got good comedy value, but it this video shows how at times a small bit of comedy can really change the pace of a show while paradoxically making you take a heel like Kane as a more serious threat.
Eddie Guerrero in WCW
I know some people believe this is an example of how WCW disrespected its masked Mexican wrestlers, especially given at the time of this segment, Rey Mysterio had lost his mask.
However, this segment shows how humour can not only provide a brief laugh, but also develop a wrestler's character and storyline and get them over with the crowd.
Eddie Guerrero was a great wrestler, but could also talk and he had a great personality which made him stick out from other wrestlers. Eddie Guerrero's character in WWE and WCW was for the most part a cheeky wrestler who wasn't completely serious and did anything to get what he wanted.
From what I know this was after the Latino World Order had fallen apart and Eddie wanted revenge against those who had left the group willingly.
This segment involved Eddie getting WCW security to de-mask each of the Mexican wrestlers to find out who has stolen his wallet. Every time a wrestler reveals his identity, Eddie's reaction is priceless and comic gold.
Whether Eddie complimented the wrestler saying he was too good looking to have a mask or screamed and asks if they'd been in a fire, his reactions highlighted his character and helped fans to connect regardless of his wrestling skills. It also pushed along his storyline with former LWO members.
However, the segment does not hurt the credibility of the masked wrestlers. In Mexico for a masked wrestler to reveal his face is the ultimate act of disrespect. Yet you never see their faces, only the back of their heads.
And while Eddie's reactions are funny, how does telling the fans these wrestlers are ugly or good looking going to effect how the crowd favours them, considering these guys still wear their masks to wrestle?
It's the sort of humour where the joke although at the expense of these wrestlers, it does not affect how the fans see them or how they are being pushed. Unlike comic segments today like having Hornswoggle pick up and hurt Tyson Kidd.
"Attitude Era" Humour
While I might not have liked everything from the "Attitude Era," it did have several skits that were truly classic and are remembered for all the right reasons.
Instead of choosing a well known skit and segment like the Rock's "This Is Your Life" segment, or Mick Foley and Steve Austin visiting Mr. McMahon in the hospital, I've picked a short clip from GTV which shows Val Venis commenting on the size of Big Show's trouser snake.
Similar to the previous videos it helped to not only provide a quick laugh for the audience but also characterize Val Venis as a comic pornstar with sex and genitals on his mind.
It also shows as well the need really for heels to be the butt of the joke at times due to their nature as the wrestlers the fans hate, yet without hurting their credibility in the long run.
Segments like this could also be used create a long-term fan reaction to the heel. Whether it be via a catchphrase, chant or pose, like when fans chanted "You Suck" at Kurt Angle, it would only help to get the heel over as figures fans love to chant against.
The clip also shows how comedy which is relevant to the time can help wrestling. The comedy skits and segments used in the "Attitude Era" where often crude and related to sex.
Yet it helped gain interest in the WWE because it was partly ground breaking and taboo, and partly reflected the wants and needs of its audience.
Comedy at this time was important as a way to draw in and sustain the WWE's audience. However, this brand of comedy, like the comedy that appears in wrestling today, does not suit everyone.
So comedy in wrestling can itself become a way of alienating some fans as it has done today with WWE's PG brand of humour.
DX Invades WCW
Although the only version of DX I got to experience was the watered down late-2000s version with HBK and Triple H reliving their glory days and I didn't enjoy all of their skits, this one especially sticks out in my mind for one reason.
The fact that this was something which fans had never seen before and had never imagined possible.
This stunt was truly ground breaking and controversial and again funny, because it was one company mocking the other and letting the fans getting involved, too.
Also what makes it so funny as well is that they invaded to get back Kevin Nash and Scott Hall and thereby poked fun and used a real-life friendship as a way to make fun of WCW.
While wrestling is of course a sport built around fictional feuds, those that are based on real-life events and relationships at times seem to prove more interesting and intriguing.
Comedy was an important part of this segment as a way to mock the competition and for WWE to assert themselves as the superior wrestling show, but it only serves it seems as a small part of what made this segment great.
Comedy Involving Pop Culture or Little to Do with Wrestling
TNA often for me strikes out most of the time with their choice of skits and backstage segments. Yet a few years ago this series of skits done by Alex Shelley under the guise of Paparazzi Productions with Kevin Nash and TNA X Division wrestlers was one of the funniest things I had ever seen.
What makes it seem odd on this list though is that it has really very little to do with wrestling. Instead this parody of American Idol with Kevin Nash, a drunk So Cal Val and a fake Big Dick Johnson, which pokes fun at reality TV and racism in what seems almost surrealist sketch.
I think what this example highlights is really that wrestling doesn't always have to take itself too seriously and can get away with funny non-related wrestling sketches, as long as they are actually funny and in (supposedly) good taste.
However, these segments were random five-minute sketches that appeared every week and while funny every so often, you could not really build a wrestling show around too many of them.
Also although not strictly wrestling related, these segments did help build up X Division wrestlers like Jay Lethal who then successfully became "Black Machismo" (until the gimmick became overused and outdated) and introduced guys like Austin Aries into TNA for his brief run in the company.
So while a random skit, it still acted to push and create storylines.
Comedy in Promos
When it comes to comedy in wrestling, the best examples often seem to be in the smack talk used by wrestlers in their interviews and promos to discredit their opponents. But when thinking about comic promos, the first person who comes to my mind is The Rock.
As I've already said, comic segments and skits have helped define certain wrestlers characters and helped get them over with the audience. But when it comes using comedy as a tool to grab the attention of the fans, the Rock's interviews surely are some of the best examples.
The video above is a compilation of some of the Rock's best segments, including tormenting the Coach and other interviewers in a way that was never done before and hasn't been seen since.
The Rock's character was and is very much still viewed primarily on his ability to work the crowd with his mouth and his presence and created a generation of upset parents whose kids have told them to "shut the hell up" or "it doesn't matter what you think."
His catchphrases alone have transcended the wrestling world and to some degree become part of popular culture. Clearly then comedy in the Rock's routine helped immortalized him as one of the greatest of all time.
However, the Rock is no comedy wrestler. His ring character has mainly been of a egotist who believes he is the best in the world and proved it in the ring.
While comedy played a part in how he spoke, it didn't really seem to influence or define his move-set or his presence unlike others.
Comedy in Promos and Wrestling Today
Today in wrestling there are many examples of wrestlers who are defined by their use of comedy. The best known one to most fans I assume is Santino Marella.
I have to admit while at times I don't find him that entertaining, he does come up with some brilliant stuff like insulting Stone Cold. Even going as far as to say that the director of the Condemned should have used real guns in order to actually kill Austin.
Santino always seems to get a reaction whether as a face or a heel and he knows how to work the crowd with his mouth as well as in the ring at times.
However, can a comedy wrestler ever be taken seriously enough by most types of fans? Also would a comedy wrestler ever be considered seriously enough to hold a world title?
If you watched all of the Wrestling Roundtable video from the second slide, you will have heard their discussion of these questions and my conclusion is pretty similar.
In the case of someone like Santino, although he is over with much of the WWE audience it seems, his style doesn't seem suited to being a world champion.
I expect some backlash for the comment considering the limited move sets of say a Cena or Orton, but what moves or other attributes does Santino which have which make him comparable to those guys?
While some think Orton is just a robot and Cena a cardboard cutout of Superman, they have and are presented as more complicated figures. Also they are serious wrestlers.
Santino's main role on Raw it seems is as comic relief and to be used in skits. While he has won the IC title, I doubt he will ever reach the main event level unless his character develops and becomes less about the comedy.
I don't know enough about other comedy wrestlers like Colt Cabana to past judgment on them but it seems at least for web-based wrestling fans, these comic wrestlers don't fit in with the type of wrestling they want to see.
The Future of Comedy in Wrestling and Conclusions
The picture pretty much sums up how I believe in practice comedy wrestling will be used in mainstream wrestling for the foreseeable future.
While comedy in wrestling can be used successfully and to some degree has been used at times successfully (depending on your viewpoint) in wrestling history. For the WWE comedy becomes another way to highlight why they are entertainment and a variety showcase.
And for wrestlers like Santino and Cabana or those who wrestle for Chikara, it seems they may never been accepted fully into the world of wrestling due to the way they are marketed and the way different types of wrestling fans think.
The problem is seems is that the type of comedy they provide is too in your face and "this is who we are and what we are" style which is off putting for fans who like me want a more serious and traditional product.
Thanks for reading. If you liked the article feel free to comment with your opinions and ideas and maybe check out some of my other articles which are listed below. If you liked it so much, why not like this article and become a fan.
Staying in the Closet: 10 Reasons Not to Admit to Being a Die-Hard Wrestling Fan:
Decoding the IWC, Part 2 Miscommunication: What the IWC Really Means and Is:
Wrestlemania 27: How An Event Was Defined By Its Dark Match:
Thought In Five Minutes: The Potential of Tough Enough: