Tuesday, November 3, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Hold off on the 'Legend' tag
The word "Legend" has been thrown around quite a bit lately. It seems to be appearing in more and more articles and has been used in association with the names of many different wrestlers. I think it's about time people started taking a look at what it takes to really be a "legend" in the wrestling world.
Wrestling skills, how important are they? Ultimately, they are very important. If a wrestler can't wrestling, get them out of the ring. Although there are a few wrestlers who have managed to get by with limited wrestling abilities, the only place they will ever be legends are in their own minds. A wrestlers' ring performance will in the end make them or break them.
However, ring performance alone will not propel many wrestlers to stardom. Character is a prime example. Wrestlers' names, appearances, attitude, and everything associated with their public persona adds to their wrestling career. A name, be it a real one, fake one or something added helps to show the fans who and what a wrestler is. When Steve Austin was first introduced into the WWF as " The Ringmaster", the fans didn't respond to it. Later, when it was changed to "Stone Cold Steve Austin" , well, you know the rest.
The same happened with Rocky Miavia simply became "The Rock", people started seeing him differently.
Attitude and appearance also play a vital role in a wrestlers' career. A wrestler can become whom ever they want with the right costume, make up, music, and attitude. A wrestler' can create a hero or a freak with the right props. Prime example of wrestlers' characters' that have staying power are "The Undertaker" and "The Ultimate Warrior". Both these characters and others like them as long as they're continually updated, don't need to be changed or discontinued. They are characters that people love and never tire of.
If a wrestler can wrestle and have a solid character, there's still one thing that can be their downfall. Mic skills and interview skills are something wrestlers' need to have. How many wrestlers' are great as long as they keep their mouth shut. In order to become "legendary", a wrestler must be able to say what's on their mind, quickly, literally, and with purpose. What wrestlers' say can make people love them or hate them. Thing is, what they say is not important, it's all in how they say it. A two-minute commentary about what will be done to an opponent should always be about more than what a wrestlers' going to do to them. Shawn Michaels and Triple H can run a dialogue like nobody.
Mixed in with mic skills are acting skills. If a wrestler can't act they'll never come across. People have to believe that the wrestler believes that that character is who they are.
Wrestling fans are fickle. A wrestler can be a star one second and a jobber the next. If a wrestlers' going to get anywhere, the fans have to respect them. Respect can be a hard thing to gain from fans who have so many options when it comes to wrestling these days. Slapping hands while walking to the ring, acknowledging reactions from the crowd, public appearances, charity work, pictures, and autographs are all things that wrestlers' have to do to make their fans happy. The more willing they are to let fans into their life, the more they will love them.
These are but a few of the things that help to make a wrestler great. There is however something more that can make a wrestler ever greater than most, and maybe even legendary, and that's guts. Wrestling hurt because the show must go on, doing what ever it takes to make the fans happy no matter what the risks, or taking on a character that's aren't what people consider the norm and getting the fans on your side. Doing any or all of these things for an entire career and at the same time knowing when it's time to say your career is over and it's time to hang it up and move on.
Gone are the days of the simple "good guy" "bad guy" battle when the fans loved the wrestlers' that battled evil and make the world a better place. These days, it seems the badder you are, the better you are, but it doesn't make you a legend. I don't think that anyone in any industry should be called a legend until their career is over, and people have time to sit and ponder everything that a person has accomplished. Then it can truly be judged.
Heather Easton is from Thornhill, Ontario. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org