The Science of Wrestling blog has been created out of necessity, to share the limited, but useful knowledge of a fair few, and educate new and old performers alike on pro wrestling techniques that are usually reserved for thousand dollar training classes with older stars or, at best, hundred dollar seminars from travelling veterans.
There is a distinct lack of knowledge of the basic wrestling formula, especially among young performers, and I find myself going through this many, many times with fresh-faced young rookies looking to be the next big thing in their microcosm of pro wrestling.
So what is the basic formula?
The basic formula follows a formula of storytelling that transcends pro wrestling, and occurs in almost every aspect of written and performance art and drama, however, rather than being dictated by an author, it is the audience that dictates how the match formula progresses, through their cheering, booing and rallying. To simplify, it goes something like this:
Setting the Story > Shine > Cut-Off > Heat > False Comeback > Heat > Comeback > Finish
Setting the Story:
There is a good guy (babyface) and there is a bad guy (heel). They both want to win (duh). Establish the scene and the tone of the match.Who is stronger? Who is faster? Who is more technically savvy? Who's the asshole? Who's the hero? Who has smellier underarms? Whatever the underlying story of the match is, set it here.
The babyface will begin with an advantage after Setting the Story, to show that despite the heel's winning attribute, the babyface still has the ability to win the match. The general story is that the babyface is a better wrestler, and the Shine will exhibit this, by tying the heel in knots, reversing all of his move attempts, and generally climaxing in the heel being knocked down (bumped), and cowardly running away.
This is where a heel's selling is important. If a heel isn't selling his fear, reverence and shock that he is getting his ass kicked by the babyface, the babyface will not be able to establish that they are the better wrestler. Once the audience seems to be peaking with their adoration for the ass-kicking babyface, that's when you cut them off.
The Cut-Of and The Heat:
Once the babyface has shown they have what it takes to beat the heel by the virtues of being a better wrestler/stronger/faster, the heel will then nefariously cheat to gain the advantage, and then continue to cheat to keep the advantage on the babyface. A Cut-Off may consist of a low blow, scratching the eyes, basically something against the rules to stop the babyface's constant barrage of offense. Once the babyface is down, it is very important not to allow them to get back up. This should be the slowest portion of the match, where the heel methodically takes control to keep the babyface down.
This is where a babyface's selling is important. The heel basically beats down on the babyface to draw sympathy from the audience. If the babyface does not sell effectively, the crowd will not sympathise, and the heel will have to keep the heat on longer. This is why you often see veteran wrestlers be in control of a match against rookies for a very long time. Once the audience starts peaking with jeers, or chanting the babyfaces name, you give them hope.
The False Comeback
The false comeback is the give the audience hope that the babyface can overcome the odds, and to remind them that although they are getting beaten on, they are still the better wrestler. Babyfaces do this through Hope Spots. Once you generate enough heat through beating a babyface, the babyface can take advantage of an opening, make it to their feet, and have a quick flurry of offense, while still selling the effects of their beating. Through selling of an injury that the heel administered through cheating, or through using a Cut-Off spots again, the heel will get back on top to yet again generate heat, keeping the match flowing.
It's not uncommon to see matches go through several Heat > False Comeback > Cut-Off cycles, to generate a massive amount of heat, so that the roof blows off of the place for the real Comeback.
This is a bigger Shine, where the babyface finally struggles and powers through the pain (note: always keep selling) to finally give the heel the beating they deserve. Through this, it's important to keep moving. Having a hot comeback is one of the most important parts of a match, so always be mindful not to use moves or spots that will slow the pace of the match. If possible, save your quickest spots for this portion of the match, leading into the Finish.
This is the crescendo of it all. After the babyface is back on top and kicking ass, and the heel is begging for mercy and trying to find an opening, the babyface has to eventually slow down due to the effects of the match, and to allow the audience to catch a breath after hopefully losing their minds with the Comeback. Whether it be through a big move into a double knockdown, or through intense selling of injuries, the match now slows down as the babyface postures to hit their finishing move, or the heel finds a sneaky way to avoid certain defeat and, through trickery and cheating, win the match.
As always with professional wrestling, the formula is up for interpretation and you will always need to vary it depending on crowd response, the type of crowd you're playing to, the skill level of yourself or your opponent, and most importantly, what the booker wants. However, following this loose guideline will insure that, at the very least, your matches will stay dramatic and tell a compelling story. If you can both sell, bump well, have fluid movement, and you can both convincingly lay a beating on each other, there's no reason why you cant have the best match on the card, even if you're a rookie.
That's all I've got in my head thus far. As always with pro wrestling, there's other formulas to learn, heat and hope spots to take advantage of and of course, we haven't even mentioned promos, angles/scenarios, managers/valets, how to use your referee efficiently, timing, what to do before and after a match, and great ways to take advantage of highspots and the outside of the ring. In the near future I'm hoping some more experienced contributors will be able to explain some more ins-and-outs of the science of pro wrestling.