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Good Trope/Bad Trope


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I thought this might make a good spin-off thread from the wrestling mythbusters thread and the KENTA vs. Nakajima thread over at the DVDVR board.

 

So I'm kinda well established (I think) as a guy with a major narratology fixation. I'm interested in storytelling, how it works on a structural level, how we build on that bare-bones structure in various ways, and the narrative language we've developed over the three millennia (at least) that we've been doing this. Pro wrestling is no different from any other form of storytelling in this sense. I think there's a very bare-bones structure that works, and since Joe Acton and William Muldoon in the 1870's - if not before - we've been building on that structure and fleshing out that narrative language, taking universal storytelling tropes and bits from other genres of fiction and adapting them for wrestling, watching those narrative phrases evolve into new ones, etc.

 

"Good Trope/Bad Trope" is a bit of a misnomer, I admit. Very few tropes are truly good or bad in and of themselves. It's mostly a matter of execution. But some are easier to execute than others. Some have been executed poorly, and for whatever reason, that bad execution becomes popularized to the point that it's almost part of the trope itself. Some tropes are timeless, but some rely on novelty. Some get overdone to the point that we lose our taste for them. So there's room for debate on these. To that end, I thought I'd bring a few up and see how people felt about them, whether they were liked or disliked, why they might fail or succeed, how they could be done better if they're being done poorly, which ones have worn out their welcome, which ones could do with a comeback, which ones we can't do without, which ones are best used sparingly...whatever comes to mind.

 

So, to get the ball rolling...

 

The Five Moves O' Doom

 

Since the main jump-off point for this was the discussion of whether or not Bret Hart was any more or less repetitive than any other wrestler ever, and if that was necessarily a bad thing, I figured this was a good starting point. Basically, I'm talking about the tendency for certain wrestlers to rely on stock sequences that they roll out in most every match they're in - Bret's five moves, Flair's big bumps and the countering of his Figure-Four (and inability to counter anybody else's), Hogan's comeback sequences, that sort of thing. I'm not applying this to individual moves that a wrestler uses regularly, more to extended "scenes" of a match.

 

The Evil Commissioner

 

I'm aware that most commissioners of real sports leagues aren't particularly popular with the fans, but it seems like ever since the "Mr. McMahon" character hit it big, you can't hold down a job in the upper management of a wrestling promotion without being a malicious bastard to your employees. Well, unless you're Teddy Long, I guess. But seriously, what gives?

 

The Finisher

 

A strictly dramatic development, providing a handy cue to the audience that the match is as good as over. Well, unless they kick out, in which case it's a handy cue that the guy is a real gutsy bastard. Of course, this is a generalization. The real efficacy of a finisher varies with time and place. Sometimes it's established as a one-hit kill. Sometimes it's established as the only way to win a match for the most part. Sometimes it's just a prominent signature, one that could feasibly end a match, but has no real guarantee of doing so. And then there are guys like Nigel McGuinness, who's finisher is pretty much "whichever lariat actually wins me the match" or "whichever time I apply the London Dungeon and my opponent actually taps out". Of course, in real life, most fighters' finishers are "whatever I happen to beat my opponent with", and I suppose there could be some merit to that in certain wrestling contexts.

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I'll give it a go.

 

So, to get the ball rolling...

 

The Five Moves O' Doom

 

Since the main jump-off point for this was the discussion of whether or not Bret Hart was any more or less repetitive than any other wrestler ever, and if that was necessarily a bad thing, I figured this was a good starting point. Basically, I'm talking about the tendency for certain wrestlers to rely on stock sequences that they roll out in most every match they're in - Bret's five moves, Flair's big bumps and the countering of his Figure-Four (and inability to counter anybody else's), Hogan's comeback sequences, that sort of thing. I'm not applying this to individual moves that a wrestler uses regularly, more to extended "scenes" of a match.

I don't have a problem with them when done in a way where the wrestler has a logical setup to a big move. Also, I feel the signature spots kind of give you a guidepost to where the match is. While a casual fan may not pick up on this conciously, it works on a subconcious level and can add to the drama when, as mentioned below, wrestler A kicks out of wrestler B's big finish or stops his sequence and adds something different to the mix. Our gut is telling us this should be the end but something happens to change that and it can add to the drama.

 

The Evil Commissioner

 

I'm aware that most commissioners of real sports leagues aren't particularly popular with the fans, but it seems like ever since the "Mr. McMahon" character hit it big, you can't hold down a job in the upper management of a wrestling promotion without being a malicious bastard to your employees. Well, unless you're Teddy Long, I guess. But seriously, what gives?

I don't get this one, either. The Evil Commissioner has taken the place of the old school manager but it's not a good substitution. Even when there are babyface commissioners (other than Teddy Long) they are usually portrayed as incompetent and in over their heads. The Evil Commissioner flies in the face of almost all the story telling logic. If you can make the babyface jump through all these hoops to get the title off of him, and you do, why not just strip him of it in the first place? I would like to see a return to the wrestlers having specific managers that can cheat and connive with an overseeing Commissioner being the voice of reason and the voice of the fans.

 

The Finisher

 

A strictly dramatic development, providing a handy cue to the audience that the match is as good as over. Well, unless they kick out, in which case it's a handy cue that the guy is a real gutsy bastard. Of course, this is a generalization. The real efficacy of a finisher varies with time and place. Sometimes it's established as a one-hit kill. Sometimes it's established as the only way to win a match for the most part. Sometimes it's just a prominent signature, one that could feasibly end a match, but has no real guarantee of doing so. And then there are guys like Nigel McGuinness, who's finisher is pretty much "whichever lariat actually wins me the match" or "whichever time I apply the London Dungeon and my opponent actually taps out". Of course, in real life, most fighters' finishers are "whatever I happen to beat my opponent with", and I suppose there could be some merit to that in certain wrestling contexts.

This goes along with the above "Five Moves of Doom". I think it's a good thing for pacing and, when well established, really can get someone over. If a finishing move is built up and well established, a wrestler kicking out or breaking it can really have a big impact on a match and for the wrestler himself. One of the problems with not having squash matches anymore is that, other than a top few guys, finishers aren't over. Setting an expectation and delivering on it 80-90% of the time makes those times when you go a different way much more special.

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The Five Moves O' Doom

I don't really have a problem with things like this, so long as it makes sense in the context of the match. Look at Edge's reverse X-Factor spot that he always does for a two count. It's not like he grabs the guy at does it, it comes when he ducks a big swing or avoids a lariat, so it makes sense for him to do the move. It's when guys do stuff for seemingly no reason at all other than to do it or to have it backfire (like Flair off the top) that I'm not really a fan of.

 

The Evil Commissioner

I'd credit nWo Bischoff for this more than McMahon, and Bischoff was actually doing the sort of things that Jkeats was talking about. The Outsiders "lost" the WCW Tag Titles several times and he'd simply give the titles back to them. I think it's been overdone over the last five or six years, but I don't think it's such a bad thing. And it's not like the evil authority figures don't get their comeuppances.

 

 

The Finisher

This is a big part of what separates pro wrestling from the legit fighting, it's supposed to be a performance. It's such a big part of wrestling. Can anyone picture an Alien movie without the alien bursting out of someone's chest or a Die Hard movie without explosions and gunshots? It's certainly something that could be done, but it wouldn't feel quite right and the fans of those movie series would complain. I don't think finishing moves are a huge stretch from that. Finishers are something that are very much anticpated by the fans because it's a sign that the end could be near and their favorite could be winning.

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In terms of finishers, I like wrestlers who have multiple moves that can finish a match. Not a big fan of wrestlers who only have one believable finish, like the Sweet Chin Music or the Pedigree.

 

I think finishers always having to end matches in WWE is a marketing need. WWE used to sell "Master of the Crossface" shirts for Benoit, which are a tough sell if he's not ending matches with it decisively.

 

But one thing I do miss that doesn't exist as much in modern wrestling is flash pins: reverse rollups, inside cradles, etc.

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In terms of finishers, I like wrestlers who have multiple moves that can finish a match. Not a big fan of wrestlers who only have one believable finish, like the Sweet Chin Music or the Pedigree.

 

I think finishers always having to end matches in WWE is a marketing need. WWE used to sell "Master of the Crossface" shirts for Benoit, which are a tough sell if he's not ending matches with it decisively.

 

But one thing I do miss that doesn't exist as much in modern wrestling is flash pins: reverse rollups, inside cradles, etc.

SMALL PACKAGE!!!SMALL PACKAGE!!!

 

unfortunately, Loss...SCM and The Pedigree, and (by, God) the STFU (I actually hate myself a little more every time I type that) are still waaaaaaayyyy over.

 

 

The evil commissioner I don't have a problem with...the fact is, viewers don't like a good guy on top...it gets stale quick...the viewer wants to watch the good guy chase the top, but ultimately want a bad guy in charge.

That is why so many people turn heel after they win the belt also...a good guy chasing the championship is fun to root for...but a good guy WITH the Championship just gets boring.

 

Plus, the whole concept of anti-establishment has the average person feeling that CEO's and upper-management are indeed evil...you'd usually have to be pretty cutthroat to get into a position of that power

 

 

my two cents

 

-J

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I have no problem with mega over finishers, and in Cena's case, he at least also has the STF. It's just hard to buy nearfalls in HHH or HBK matches if they're doing anything other than teasing a pedigree or superkick.

 

I think the inherent problem with heel GMs and owners is that it creates the image that the company in charge of producing the wrestling you're watching hates you and is constantly out to screw over your favorites. Yes, there probably is some truth in that, but why promote it? It's also a very stale concept.

 

And in using Vicki Guerrero as a GM ... I have no problem with her as a character, and she's improved a lot and is a heat magnet. But what qualifies her to be GM? Does she have some kind of track record, or knowledge, or something that granted her that position?

 

And GMs who constantly get outsmarted because they sign things without reading the fine print and don't pay attention to the show they're in charge of is second only to wrestlers shown arriving in a limo halfway through a show as the most annoying thing ever.

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I think the flash pin is awesome when it used as exactly that...a flash pin. It happens so fast that the wrestler on the receiving end is taken by surprise and the match ends quickly. The problem with the rollup is it became a cop out as there would be an entire match and then the finish would come and not have anything to do with the match itself. I don't want to see 15 minutes and then a roll up pin...at least if it's not connected at all to the match.

 

Steamboat was really good at implementing these and not making them feel like a cheap win. The Wrestlemania III match where he reverses the bodyslam into the small package was a good example of this.

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Guest The 3H's

And in using Vicki Guerrero as a GM ... I have no problem with her as a character, and she's improved a lot and is a heat magnet. But what qualifies her to be GM? Does she have some kind of track record, or knowledge, or something that granted her that position?

She was Teddy Long's understudy

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A slight digression, but this site is amazing. Thanks for sharing, Bix. A lot of these tropes are things my friends and I have recognized. Ex: "Hollywood Homely" is something we always call the "glasses and ponytail effect", in which a hot chick is told to us to be ugly just because she has glasses and a ponytail. . .

 

They have good comments about rasslin, too. I like the quote from JR about how it seems that they WANT people to use those weapons that always seem to be kept under the ring.

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A slight digression, but this site is amazing. Thanks for sharing, Bix. A lot of these tropes are things my friends and I have recognized. Ex: "Hollywood Homely" is something we always call the "glasses and ponytail effect", in which a hot chick is told to us to be ugly just because she has glasses and a ponytail. . .

 

They have good comments about rasslin, too. I like the quote from JR about how it seems that they WANT people to use those weapons that always seem to be kept under the ring.

 

 

Of course we had Stacy Kiebler as Miss Hancock who literally removed her glasses and let down her hair to signal her Change to Hotness.

 

 

The "Badass Grampa" might be the most pro wrestling of all of those. You don't see old timers in "real sports" go out on the field and perform in a way slightly reminiscent of of their primes while the crowd chants that they still in fact got it.

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A slight digression, but this site is amazing. Thanks for sharing, Bix. A lot of these tropes are things my friends and I have recognized. Ex: "Hollywood Homely" is something we always call the "glasses and ponytail effect", in which a hot chick is told to us to be ugly just because she has glasses and a ponytail. . .

 

They have good comments about rasslin, too. I like the quote from JR about how it seems that they WANT people to use those weapons that always seem to be kept under the ring.

 

Yeah they do a funny bit on that in that movie "Not Another Teen Movie". I always though the women were just as hot, if not hotter, WITH the glasses on.

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I miss flash pins to a degree, but also think certain guys (i.e. Bret Hart) used them way too often. It rarely hurt the individual matches, but I do think it hurts the credibility of "top guys" (I still hate the finish of Eddy v. Angle from Mania because of this).

 

I agree with Loss that multiple finishers really enhances guys. I remember thinking that one of the reasons Booker T appeared to be such a good worker at times is because he had at least four credible finishers (axe kick, harlem sidekick, harlem hangover, rock bottom). Taker is another guy that has benefitted enormously from this as he has five moves that he has used to finish people with regularity over the years. Big Show also has four or five.

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I agree with others who point out that Heel Eric predates Mr. McMahon. Didn't the SMW vs Memphis feud have some form of Battle For Control with Armstrong and others? The "heel winning control" is a storyline that goes back a while. The T-Birds Roller Games down here in LA had Heel Commish Georgia Hase? I know she also managed, but I seem to recall a stretch in the 70s or early 80s where she was the leagues Commish and just busted the balls of the T-Birds left and right. :)

 

 

John

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The T-Birds Roller Games down here in LA had Heel Commish Georgia Hase? I know she also managed, but I seem to recall a stretch in the 70s or early 80s where she was the leagues Commish and just busted the balls of the T-Birds left and right. :)

 

John

Roller Games! I had no idea anyone else on the planet remembered this! My only exposure to roller derby. Loved it.

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The T-Birds Roller Games down here in LA had Heel Commish Georgia Hase? I know she also managed, but I seem to recall a stretch in the 70s or early 80s where she was the leagues Commish and just busted the balls of the T-Birds left and right. :)

 

John

Roller Games! I had no idea anyone else on the planet remembered this! My only exposure to roller derby. Loved it.

 

I remember watching Roller Games as a sophomore in college. They even had a pinball game we played all the time. Ah, good times.

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Yeah I was a big Roller Games fan back in the late 80s/early 90s when I was in middle school and Junior High IIRC the show aired around 1 or 2 AM Saturday Nights/Sunday mornings on my local CBS affiliate.

 

I don't remember much only that I knew it was a work right away. The acting was pretty much worse than any pro wrestling acting I've ever seen

 

I used to watch SNL, Roller Games and Worldwide (WSBK out of Boston which my market had the feed of) in a row

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The more I watch Hogan from the 80's and even pre-NWO 90's (especially early 96 Nitro), the more I find that he subverts the FACES ARE ALWAYS GOOD trope. I know we have talked about it before, but he does sneaky things all the time -- and he treats others like crap. In a lot of ways, 1995-era Hogan is one of the first Tweeners.

 

I don't feel like going into it tonight, but I just remembered that a few years back I wrote a paper for a grad class called, "Myth, Parable, and Professional Wrestling". It's primary topic was essentially tropes, though I did not know the term then. I had four or five Myths (things wrestling teaches about how we wish life were or how it ought to be) and four or five Parables (hard truths we learn about real life from wrestling). Each one contained a couple of very markish examples of characters or angles or events. Tomorrow, I will dig it out and lists the myths/parables and see how they hold up in this context -- it would be interesting to see if anyone else comes up with some of my illustrations (all WWE-based, as it was the only rasslin I knew at the time).

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The more I watch Hogan from the 80's and even pre-NWO 90's (especially early 96 Nitro), the more I find that he subverts the FACES ARE ALWAYS GOOD trope. I know we have talked about it before, but he does sneaky things all the time -- and he treats others like crap. In a lot of ways, 1995-era Hogan is one of the first Tweeners.

I think during that 1995 run they were testing out a heel turn for him, IIRC. But yeah, he always fought a little dirty and acted like a jerk to a lot of faces. One of my biggest "outrages" growing up was during the 92 Rumble and Sid throws Hogan out. Hogan is complaining and goes back to eliminate Sid. In the original commentary that was on the PPV, Monsoon was actually speaking out against how Hogan was acting. Later, on TV, when they showed the ending of the Rumble, they had gone back and redone the commentary so Monsoon was talking about Hogan being robbed.

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