Wrestling Then and Now

by Rick Silver

The following article originally appeared 1/12/2003 on 1Wrestling.com. Rick Silver requested that it be posted here as well.

Bob Holly may have behaved in a way that shocked Tough Enough viewers, but as far as I'm concerned, it's old hat. If I could have a dollar for each time in the past 8 years I?ve seen a "professional" worker lay into a student just for the fun and games of it because they couldn?t help themselves, I?d be a pretty wealthy guy. I've seen promising young students, guys with ability and charisma, quit the business forever after getting punched out, beat up and chopped until they've bled through their shirts. It's what happens in the business. But that doesn't make it right.

I understand, from a fan?s standpoint, why Bob Holly?s antics crossed the line. But you have to take a step back and realize just who perpetuates this sort of behavior in the first place. From any worker?s standpoint, including my own, this garbage is just another day at the office. Wrestling today in the indys, especially around the NJ/NY/PA area, is all about making yourself look good and putting yourself over at the expense of your smaller, weaker fellow workers. If you bump, sell or work the crowd, you won't get asked back by the promoter.

There is, of course, a psychological bend to all of this. A lot of workers are people who never had the chance to beat anyone up growing up because they were too shy, too weak or too scared. It's all too easy to take advantage of someone who offers themselves up as a crash test dummy. Other workers are just bullies to begin with, and this affords them an opportunity to bust people up without having to worry about getting hit back. Treating the new kids rough, we are told, is a way to see "who really wants it," or "who's tough enough to really be a professional wrestler." When that's the way you're brought into the business, it's normal practice to continue the cycle of violence. Most of us just take our lumps and move on. We even get "respect" for "playing through the pain." The worst part is that when students finally get fed up, figure out that getting beat up for real sucks and they complain about it, they are ridiculed until they either learn to punch back for real or decide to quit. If they stay, they more often than not repeat this cycle of violence on the next group of students.

During my career, I?ve been purposely knocked out, gotten concussions, broken bones and worked through that match, the match the next night and the one the week after that. It's not because I'm tougher than anyone else. It's because I was afraid not to. It's because there really is no choice. You either work, or you don't get asked back. That?s just part of being in the business in 2003. Heck, it was part of the business in 1995. I can guarantee you that a good majority of workers in this area who watched Tough Enough cheered Bob Holly on while he pounded the snot out of that kid.

Just try going to wrestling school and see where being cooperative, selling for your fellow workers, and attempting to have a professional-style wrestling match gets you in the indys. I?ll give you a hint: I?m doing it right now ? sitting home not working. Working professionally, what has become termed a ?comedy? match, is for people who ?can?t work a more athletically challenging style.? By that, they mean there are some workers who don?t potato people, interact with the crowd, and don?t drop people on their head.

Unfortunately, it's not about learning how to cut a promo, work a crowd or sell a headlock so that fans care about your match anymore. It's all about this abstract concept of "respect." Respect in the locker room, many times, is cherished yet rarely given. Too many workers care more about what the boys in the back think of them than what the paying fans, who are their meal ticket, think of their ability. Working stiff, wrestling injured, performing with a concussion - they're all part of the game. Wrestlers perform with injuries that would make most professional athletes go on the DL for two weeks. But we have no choice. If we don't, we lose a payday. We don't get asked back. We're "pussies." And the last thing you want to do is have someone in the back start a rumor that you're a prima donna who won't work injured.

What's funny is that you can refuse to job. That's professional. You can demand more pay and threaten to leave if you don't get it. That's also professional. You can disobey the bookers and make up your own finishes in the middle of a match. That's professional as well. But God forbid you don't play hurt, or you don't work tight enough, or you don't really kick that guy in the head - then you're embarrassing the business and acting unprofessional. That's what it has come down to. Frankly, it's ridiculous.

The way to earn respect is no longer measured by how well you work the crowd, what kind of promo you can cut, or whether or not you sell tickets. It?s based 100% on whether or not you go out there and either kill someone else or yourself to get that ?holy shit? chant during your match. This is why people act unprofessionally, stiff people left and right, refuse to sell for their opponents and selfishly get off their own big moves without worrying about making their opponents look good - because they?re trained to. Trained by people like Bob Holly, who just want to get their rocks off beating people up.

So what Bob Holly did was neither surprising, shocking nor abnormal. As a fan, you might not like it, and as a worker, I might think it's crazy, but that's how it goes. Workers have to take the beating, get up and get on with the day. That's just how it is. That's just how it's always been. Actions like Holly?s are never "right", but they're all too commonplace. And the reality is, they?re not going away any time soon.

Rick Silver

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