Why Big Men Should Get Pass For Sub-Par In Ring Work
For professional wrestlers, it’s almost always considered a good thing to be big. Over the years we’ve seen an increase in smaller wrestlers getting top spots in WWE, but there will always be a place for the big man. It’s why someone as talentless as The Great Khali even had a career in WWE and why Big Show has been employed by the company for an astounding twenty years. However, most big men are generally considered to be below average workers by Dave Meltzer and most wrestling fans who like to criticize the product. In today’s era, live audiences have become more demanding for great in ring work and are never afraid to chant “BORING” during horrible matches. While wrestling is still a big man’s business, it has been gradually moving out of their wheelhouse and it’s not their fault.
Back in the 80’s, WWE was filled with big men. Andre The Giant, King Kong Bundy, Hercules Hernandez, Earthquake, Tugboat, Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Boss Man, Warlord, Hulk Hogan, Big John Studd, Akeem, and so on. Most (not all) of them were not having great matches regularly. But at the time it didn’t matter. Most people back then figured wrestling was probably staged, but the business was hardly exposed at all then, which made people have a stronger suspension of disbelief. While they were watching the show, they believed King Kong Bundy had injured Hogan’s ribs and that Andre and Big John Studd were really trying to body slam each other to win $15,000. Fans watched the matches like they were a legit competition, like any other sport, and they believed that bigger, stronger wrestlers truly had an advantage. They believed a punch from the 350 lb. Bam Bam Bigelow hurt much more than a punch from the roughly 220 lb. Marty Jannetty.
Fast forward to today, and kayfabe is dead. Out of character documentaries on the WWE Network, shoot interviews on YouTube, dirt sheets that discuss backstage rumors… everyone understands wrestling is staged. And of course, this has led to a significant decrease for most fans’ suspension of disbelief. Today, everyone knows the wrestlers are not partaking in a legit competition and most wrestlers are not trying to hurt each other. Don’t get me wrong, wrestlers get hurt all time because that’s the nature of their profession. But most wrestlers aren’t actively trying to hurt each other more than they need to. In fact, they know most are trying to protect each other in the ring. People realize a running power slam from Braun Strowman probably hurts just as much as it would if Seth Rollins did the same exact move to the same wrestler. Because it’s well known that matches are predetermined, no one really beats anyone and therefore big wrestlers don’t have an advantage.
In football, there are different positions that require different types of athleticism. Wide receivers need to be very fast, so they are slimmer than the offensive linemen, who need to be big and powerful. Odell Beckham gets to use the full extent of his speed, and Jason Peters uses the full extent of his strength. And while sports entertainment also has spots for wrestlers of all different shapes and sizes, when it comes to in ring work the big wrestlers are shackled. Smaller guys like Rey Mysterio and Seth Rollins can do exciting moves that show off their quickness and agility, like the 619 and the Phoenix Splash. Wrestlers like Chad Gable and Kurt Angle are small enough that they can do amazing technical wrestling, rapidly going from hold to hold in a succession of chain wrestling. But the bigger, stronger wrestlers generally cannot use all their force when they are slamming their opponents or doing any kind of offensive moves to them.
There were some big wrestlers like Vader, Ryback, Ahmed Johnson and Mabel who used the full extent of their power and size on their opponents, and some of their offense was very fun to watch. They weren’t always great at constructing exciting matches overall, but they had plenty of moments where they shined in the ring. When Vader’s opponents were stationary in the corner, he would go to town on them and punch them as hard as he possibly could. Ahmed Johnson would do his Pearl River Plunge and axe kick with devastating force and Ryback looked like he was going to take someone’s head off with his Meat Hook clothesline. Mabel did a move where he was standing over top of an opponent who was face down on the mat and would kick his legs out, dropping his 500 lb. frame onto the small of their back. It looked like it hurt like hell because it did.
This was very entertaining from the fans’ perspective and it did help those guys get over with the fans. But it came at a price. A lot of wrestlers hated working with Vader. Mick Foley said preliminary wrestlers in WCW would sometimes quit to get out wrestling him. Harley Race, his manager, told him if he didn’t ease up on his opponents, he would have no one to work with. Shawn Michaels even used Vader’s stiffness as an excuse to get out of working another program with him in late 96-early 97. Ahmed Johnson had a bad reputation backstage for failing to protect his opponents. Ryback gave Dolph Ziggler a serious concussion one time and he too had a reputation for not protecting his opponents, but in his case, he also made major mistakes in the ring unrelated to his power. Diesel, the champion, was pissed off at Mabel at Summer Slam 95 for doing his sit out drop on him, and he also got a lot of heat backstage when he broke Undertaker’s orbital bone. Not every wrestler is like Tommy Dreamer and Mick Foley where they have an extremely high pain tolerance and are willing to take huge amounts of punishment. Most wrestlers do not want to step in the ring with someone like Vader.
Now, as a fan, obviously I don’t feel the pain the wrestlers do and just watch as a spectator, and I do find it very entertaining. A lot of fans do. It’s part of why Vader was so over in WCW. But large wrestlers simply shouldn’t wrestle like that on a regular basis. Yes, it puts big men at a disadvantage because they can not use their size and strength the way smaller wrestlers use their speed and agility, but that’s just the way it is. Brock is said to wrestle very stiff during his matches, and while Roman Reigns said (I believe it was a shoot) he was sore for weeks after his WrestleMania 31 match with him, Brock only wrestles a few matches a year, so in his case it’s not really a big deal. But someone like Big Show who was wrestling every week needs to hold back or else he might seriously hurt someone. When Yokozuna did his Banzai drop, his feet usually hit the mat first and didn’t let go of the ropes until after he landed. He had to do this or else he would have killed people.
The only times big wrestlers get to display their strength safely are when they are wrestling someone 300 lbs. or more and they do power moves to them. In my opinion, it was always fun watching Brock Lesnar F-5 Big Show or Mark Henry or watching Big Show gorilla press slam Kane like he was nothing. Ryback impressed a lot of people when he got Big Show in position for the Shell Shock. Big Show getting superplexed off the top rope and the ring imploding has been overdone, but it’s always awesome to watch. Sometimes in segments big men will be shown doing something over the top to display their strength, like when Big Show pulled down the Titan Tron and when Kane and Lesnar removed the Hell In A Cell door from it’s hinges. The fans can usually tell these objects are gimmicked and it just looks hokey (although the ring imploding for Big Show always got great reactions).
There are some big men who actually are/were good workers and wrestled safely, but in most cases they had great mobility for someone their size. Bam Bam Bigelow, Undertaker and Kane come to mind. Yokozuna was fun to watch because he moved around very well for someone who was 600 lbs. But we as fans should not criticize big men for not being as agile as wrestlers like this, because not everyone has that God given talent. It’s unreasonable to expect Braun Strowman to wrestle like Ricochet, and his opponents sure as hell don’t want him to wrestle like Ryback. Although there is a certain level that they can be held to. They should not be as bad as Giant Gonzalez and the Great Khali. But generally speaking, I think we all need to give most big men a pass on their in-ring work.
Some big men add another dynamic to their matches by no selling their opponent’s offense or selling to a significantly lesser degree than most other wrestlers would, and in turn their opponents sell everything they do to a higher degree than they would most other wrestlers. Like I said before, wrestling fans now realize that the wrestlers are really trying to protect each other in the ring, but suspension of disbelief is still somewhat alive. This makes the big men seem like beasts when they’re wrestling, like they’re not ordinary men. When WWE does do this with certain big men, they usually do it at the beginning of their WWE career and they gradually begin to sell more for their opponents and their opponents sell less for them. This was the case for Undertaker, Kane, Ryback and Braun Strowman when they first started in WWE. Braun has come down a little bit from when he first started.
This is interesting at first, because they seem like an extremely tough challenge for most wrestlers, and when they finally do face someone who fans think might beat them, it leads to an intriguing match. When Undertaker faced Kane for the first time and Kane was barely selling for anyone, it was a huge deal because everyone thought Taker might be the guy to beat him. Every punch, every kick, leg drop, choke slam, every move in that match felt like it meant more. You could also see this the times when Hulk Hogan was in the ring with Zeus, who even no sold chair shots. However, this can’t go on forever because if a big man no sells for everyone for a long enough time, he would quickly bury many guys on the roster and fans would get tired of it. Brock Lesnar currently employs this dynamic in most of his matches (not against Braun Strowman or Undertaker), but because he only wrestles a few times a year he’s not really damaging too much of the roster. And judging by some of the crowd reactions he’s gotten, you could argue some fans have gotten tired of this already. In my opinion, this element usually makes certain big men's matches more entertaining at first, but it wouldn't keep up forever, which is why you usually see many of them eventually remove this dynamic for the most part.
Today we are living in a time where kayfabe is dead, and therefore everyone knows wrestlers aren’t usually trying to hurt each other in the ring, but generally are trying to protect each other. Because of this, we know that big men do not really have an advantage in the ring, making it seem like their moves mostly do not hurt anymore than those of smaller wrestlers. However, some big men choose to wrestle using the full extent of their strength and while it is entertaining for fans, it causes real life problems for them and everyone they work with. The only times they do get to display all their strength is when they do power moves to 300 plus lb. wrestlers. But overall, big men have a disadvantage as far as putting on good matches and it’s not always their fault.
Last edited by AliFrazier100; 08-31-2019 at 02:09 PM.