Protecting the identity of the business has been the goal since the early beginnings of pro wrestling as a form of entertainment. Still today, despite various backstage documentaries, the company does its best to maintain certain secrets. One of those is hiding the integrity of what really goes on during a match. Is a match fully scripted? Do wrestlers rehearse before a match? How do you know how long to wrestle for? These are all questions the WWE keeps on the down low, which adds to the mystique factor they’ve been carrying around for decades. All these questions will be answered in this article however, exposing some key factors to a match which involve a stage manager, a referee and some tremendous camerawork. You will see why these three elements are such an important key during a WWE match. So now, let’s crossbody into the ring and find out what really goes on in a WWE match. Here are 15 backstage secrets you never knew about a WWE match. Enjoy!
15) All Matches Have Pre-Determined Times
Asides from WrestleMania and some rare instances, the WWE stresses the importance of proper timing for all their segments. Former WCW and WWE star Billy Kidman, works at the gorilla position, as he is in charge of making sure that all the matches fit the proper allotted time. In some instances, wrestlers are furious because some segments drag on too long, and this decreases their match time, something that unfortunately happens on a regular basis. In some rare instances however, McMahon throws the time out the window; WrestleMania this year for example, almost went an hour over its regular scheduled time. Daniel Bryan’s emotional farewell also exceeded the time limit. On that night, RAW finished almost half an hour later than it was scheduled to. McMahon told Bryan to take his time no matter how long it took. The company certainly paid a penalty for this but it was one that Vince certainly didn’t mind for such a tremendous wrestler. That just shows how times have changed; who can remember WCW going off the air before their main event at Halloween Havoc? Man, that was disastrous. Don’t expect anything like that to happen in this day and age though, especially in the WWE.
14) Stunt Coordinator
Yes, that’s right. Like on a Hollywood set, a stunt coordinator is called in from time to time with the WWE. Just recently at WrestleMania, the stuntman was called in to rehearse the Shane McMahon diving elbow. During the rehearsal, the company used a huge cover over the cell to make sure nothing would get leaked to the public. When a stunt of such magnitude is attempted, the company plays it safe and makes sure it takes full precautions. If you look carefully during the diving elbow, the company put a protective mat under the table to minimize the damage of the fall from Shane O. Regardless of the mat, the stunt was well received by the 100,000 plus in attendance.
13) Vince Instructs The Talent On How To Wrestle Certain Superstars
If you know Vince backstage, you know that he controls all (but we’ll have a little more on that later in this article). When it comes to certain Superstars, Vince is very demanding when it comes to preserving their draw value with the WWE universe. Take Roman Reigns for example, even before he was as over as he is today, Vince stressed to other wrestlers to make him look good and unstoppable during a match. CM Punk confirmed this during his shoot interview following his WWE exit, claiming Vince would tell him to make Reigns look good and avoid making him looking weak. McMahon has been very strict with this policy, and he is the same with John Cena. Even The Rock, during his peak was only allowed to rip wrestlers during promos, and rarely did anyone get the green light to answer back.
This style of booking isn’t new though, as WCW used this with Goldberg as well. In one instance, Regal made Bill look so silly, out-wrestling him during a match. William paid the consequences however, and was later released by the company for making Goldberg look dumb. Wrestling promotions are very sensitive when it comes to protecting their stars.
12) Edits To Matches Are Made
Unlike RAW or a PPV, the tension is much lower at a SmackDown or other taped events like Superstars or The MainEvent. This is generally because the matches are edited by the WWE; so unlike live TV, the ‘anything can happen’ feel is simply not there. Even the beloved NXT tampers with its matches. Who knows how much editing goes into an Eva Marie match….With match editing also comes sound editing, with the company adding noise to taped matches. When you watch an episode of SmackDown, chances are the WWE added some noise to get wrestlers a little more over to the public.
11) Camera Work Is Huge
I can’t think of any other form of entertainment that needs optimal camera work more so than the WWE. Cameras are basically everything; those in the production truck constantly must be on their game, especially during a live telecast of RAW or a PPV. Getting the proper camera angle is crucial, especially when it comes to protecting the identity of the business. The goal for the camera angles is for the fans to not see the wrestlers communicating with each other. So many times this blunder has occurred only to see the camera quickly change to another one. It’s a very hard task to keep up with but it’s one that the WWE takes a lot of pride in, especially with live TV. A lot of work is needed to protect the “realism” factor of the show.
10) Refs Help Out With Move Set
The referees of a match have the most underrated role (as you will see in the next couple of points). Without a ref assisting a match, things certainly wouldn’t go down as smoothly. One area refs help in is match smoothness and what goes into a match. When wrestlers are far apart and down on the ground, a referee will communicate to the other what is next. Notice how the ref will go next to a wrestler when both Superstars are down. It may not be that obvious because the camera crew does a great job in covering this up by changing cameras, but the ref usually gets the info on what’s next when both wrestlers get up.
9) Refs Can Choose To Stop The Match
Once again, refs have more power than we really think. Vince gives the officials the right to end a match barring a serious injury at their discretion. At times, the information can also be relayed to them by the back from the Stage Manager who has Vince in his ear. This info is passed onto the ref who makes a decision. We’ve seen countless examples of this; just recently Enzo Amore sustained a scary injury at WWE PayBack, and knowing he was out cold the referee immediately called for the bell and ended the match. Especially today, the company is very cautious when it comes to an injury to a Superstar, particularly if it relates to a concussion.
8) Younger Wrestlers Plan Before
Particularly down in NXT, the wrestlers go over a match prior to it happening. Some actually practice some spots before, and this is generally done by the younger wrestlers. With the “New Era” prominent in storylines at the moment, you can probably expect that most matches are rehearsed or discussed in depth beforehand. The company is serious when it comes to putting over young talent especially in this day and age, so as you might expect, Vince and the rest of the crew want their matches to run as smoothly as possible.
7) The Veterans Wing It
Unlike the younger stars, the veterans simply wing it and let the magic go down in the ring on the spot. Now, not all veterans use this criteria but most however, generally wing the entire matchup till the end which is always scripted, of course. Wrestlers like Chris Jericho have gone on the record saying some of his best matches of all time were actually all improvised on the spot and not scripted or practiced beforehand. It must take some serious skill and experience to wing an entire match especially on live television like RAW or a PPV.
6) Live Events Are Used As Practice For Future Matches
Live event matches (aka untelevised matches) actually serve more of a purpose than you think. Some of the best matches between long time rivals actually happen at these events, as wrestlers usually try things on live events before anywhere else to see how the crowd reacts to certain bumps or new spots. Veteran wrestlers wing all their matches in an attempt to see what works and what doesn’t for a future match. The WWE also uses live events to judge the chemistry of certain Superstars together. If things don’t go well, the company won’t hesitate to quickly scrap an idea.
5) Stage Manager
Even outside of the ring, a Stage Manager is helping to coordinate the match. On live TV, you rarely see him, as the camera tries to steer clear of him, but the manager actually has a huge impact on a match as he has Vince in his ear throughout the show passing on information. If a match is running too long and needs to end, McMahon passes along that info to the stage manager. When the camera is zoomed in on a wrestler taunting the crowd or on the floor in pain, the stage manager uses this opportunity to pass along the message to the official who proceeds to tell both wrestlers to wrap it up. As we discussed earlier, timing is huge when it comes to a WWE program.
4) Wrestlers Are Aware of Commercial Breaks
Yes, the WWE Superstars are in fact aware of when a commercial break takes place. The stage manager passes along the message to the official who then tells the wrestlers. Knowing this, don’t expect the wrestlers to do anything crazy during the break, as most Superstars spend an entire commercial taunting the crowd or putting a wrestler in a submission. They usually use this time to slow down a match before building towards a frantic finish. In some instances, wrestlers use this time to mess with the crowd. Jericho recalls a time where he put a wrestler in a submission for the entire break simply because the crowd was extremely quiet on that night. As a consequence, Y2J decided to keep a submission that lasted longer than it should have.
3) The Finish Is Scripted
Although most of the match is improvised, the finish is not. Vince McMahon and his team of writers are very direct with the way they want a match to end, especially during any of the events that are recoded like RAW, SmackDown or PPV events. The company is much easier going when it comes to live events, although they still make it very clear what type of a match and finish they want, more or less.
2) Commentators Have Vince in Their Ears
During a match, not only do the commentators have a script to read, but they also have Vince McMahon in their ears telling them what to say, especially in regards to a Superstar that they are trying to put over. After Michael Cole officially took the reins from Jim Ross, according to rumors Cole was harassed by McMahon almost every RAW, and this went on for several months till Cole finally got the hang of his full time position. It’s certainly not as easy as it seems. Just imagine trying to talk on live television while your boss is screaming in your ear. Not too pleasant…
1) Vince Rules All
Still, to this very day all decisions must pass through Vince McMahon when it comes to a match. Vince is at the gorilla position before every show and during the entire telecast of RAW or a PPV. He is very direct and open with a wrestler before a match and especially after a matchup. McMahon holds nothing back; if he doesn’t like something, he’ll make it very clear. Just ask The Miz, who went on record saying Vince would approach him after a match telling him to stop looking so goofy all the time. After months and months of criticism by the boss, Miz was finally able to win him over by capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. This was another example on why you must get on the boss’s good side no matter what!
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