Top 10 ways to get your fake "shoot" promo/angle over:
1) Mention Ring of Honor.
2) Use real names (the shock of finding out Abyss’ name is not actually Abyss will convince people your angle is 100% real.)
3) Say "this is not in the script" at least twice, to cover for the fact it is in the script.
4) Mention how tired you are of all the "bull**** politics in the back" and how you have a wife and kids at home who mean everything to you. Presumably why you got a job that took you away from them 250 days of the year.
5) Mention Ring of Honor. Oops, did I already say that? Well it’s an important one. You have to namedrop a cool indy to get you street-cred with smart fans. Don’t say you will go to Wrestlicious or something. That will make you look like a dork.
6) Strongly resist when getting dragged out by security after your shoot. Also, insist on getting handcuffed. You're a badass who doesn't play by corporate laws anymore. This has to look real, remember? But no mace spray because that stuff supposedly hurts really bad.
7) Mention "the dirtsheets" and "all those wrestling websites" and how unimportant they are (hence why you keep mentioning them).
8) Bring up HHH’s family connections. For that one person on planet Earth that doesn’t already know.
9) Go on Twitter, argue with people, whine about your push and make yourself look like an unstable, crazy person. Although most wrestlers do this anyway, so it has very limited success as a tactic at getting shoot angles over.
10) Say Benoit’s name. Oh no, just kidding. That one actually will get you fired.
"This is a shoot!"
It has been scientifically proven (by wrestling scientists!) that 99.9999% of the time these words are uttered on a wrestling programme the ostensibly disgruntled performer is actually saying something that is in the script and has been fully approved by the boss.
So no, Punk’s epic promo last week on Raw was not the result of years of pent-up frustration on Punk’s part finally pouring out and violently unleashing itself on Vince McMahon and the rest of WWE management, but rather a carefully-calculated ploy to get people talking. Not that most fans needed to be informed of this: most people had already guessed as much, just by how the whole thing was set up (if Punk really had went off script his mic would have been cut long before it was.) Well, everyone it seems except Mike Johnson and
Dave Scherererer…um, the other guy. Both are still insisting that while Punk was given the mic and told to ad-lib, no-one in WWE, including Vince, Stephanie and Triple H, had any clue he was going to say, and Vince and management were flabbergasted and angered that Punk said what he did. Not only that, Punk was settling his own personal score with HHH, whom he has apparently had heat with for a while, by referring to him as the "doofus-son-in-law". So Punk was genuinely shooting. Hmmm. I suspect these two are being worked. Or, exposure to all those poisonous ads and viruses on their site has rotted their brains.
Of course, the Punk promo has been examined and analysed by every notable journalist in wrestling. "Punk was allowed to say ‘Ring of Honor’ on WWE television because Vince does not see them as competition," noted Wade Keller in his ‘breakdown’ of the promo earlier this week. (I didn’t realize "stating the bleeding obvious" counted as wrestling criticism these days) So I don’t need to go over it again. But perhaps it might be time to go look back at the chequered history of shoot angles in wrestling, and wonder just want Punk and WWE are getting themselves into.
"Bill Goldberg won’t follow the script! See what he does next on WCW Monday Nitro!" (Old Nitro commercial.)
Vince Russo loves to use the "bull**** politics behind the curtain" as on-screen fodder, and never was this more obvious than the calamitous final years of Nitro, when it was often acknowledged on-air that wrestling fans were watching scripted entertainment, and wrestlers were told in advance they were going win or lose matches. Of course, at the back of their minds, almost all wrestling fans knew this anyway (except the young kiddies, who probably didn’t even know Santa was a work yet, nevermind pro-wrestling). But there’s a difference between knowing something and suspending your disbelief and then being told outright it’s fake. If shoot angles are too blatant, and viewers are hammered over the head with the "fakeness" of pro-wrestling, it can take people out of the show entirely, complicate things considerably and often hampers your enjoyment entirely. This is the problem at the heart of all shoot angles. And it did indeed lead to some wacky situations in the latter stages of WCW. Buff Bagwell complained in filmed backstage segments that he was scripted to lose. Kevin Nash would do guest commentary and break kayfabe. Of course, the most infamous example may be the triple threat at New Blood Rising 2000 with Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner and Bill Goldberg. It’s your average main event till Bill Goldberg refuses to go up for Nash’s Jacknife Powerbomb finisher. Bill, acting angry, and Nash, acting confused, appear to exchange words. Then Vince Russo shows up and gets in Goldberg’s face, before Goldberg storms off. The commentators are silent for a few moments, and then, echoing the viewers’ thoughts, wonder aloud what is going on. Commentator Mark Madden then helpfully explains the situation: "Goldberg was supposed to go up for the Jacknife!" Then the commentators praised Nash, the heel, for "being a pro" and continuing the match with Steiner, and not punching out Goldberg "for real." Tony Schiavone then notes: "If in fact the Jacknife Powerbomb was part of this design what are they gonna do now? Improvise?" So basically, the match was planned, but Goldberg decided to "go into business for himself" and walk out, leaving Nash and Steiner to work out the rest of the match. Better yet, WCW valet Midajah then came and she too "went into business for herself" and attacked Nash. Then Nash hit the Jacknife for the victory, and the announcers praised Steiner for taking the move when Goldberg wouldn’t. Confused yet? And just imagine how bad it must have been for the live fans in attendance, those poor people didn’t even have the commentators explaining at least some of it.
The fallout and "unanswered" questions surrounding Bill’s apparently unprofessional conduct led to a complicated storyline on Nitro, of course, but trying to explain it would be about as easy as explaining quantum physics.
While never quite plummeting to the depths of the New Blood Rising main event, Russo’s tenure in TNA has nonetheless churned out some risible work-shoot main storylines. The storyline of real- life divorce of Kurt and Karen Angle and her relationship with Jeff Jarrett, had the potential to be something special: Kurt and Jeff have great in-ring chemistry, Karen is a very good on-screen performer in the right angle and, of course, the real-life situation gave something fans to sink their teeth into. Indeed, the first on-screen confrontation between Jeff and Kurt (in which Jeff gloated about his role in Kurt’s divorce and Kurt told Jeff bluntly, "you can keep that slut", referencing Karen) was a big hit with the fans at the impact zone, who loved the idea of the dysfunctional people airing their dirty laundry in public. American audiences love a scandal, after all, and taking sides ("I don’t blame Karen for leaving Kurt for Jeff; he’s a hunk," one person told me.) It all sounded very promising. So, what went wrong? Many point to the child custody angle, which introduced stipulations that ruled if Kurt won an upcoming ppv match with Jeff, he would get custody of his children from his marriage with Karen. Dave Meltzer has blamed this development for ruining the entire Jeff/Kurt/Karen angle entirely, noting after this, no-one could take the storyline seriously (come on: are Child Protection Services really going to let the custody of children be settled in a wrestling match?). Throw in some lame honeymoon skits, horse crap, some stupid and reckless bumps on Kurt’s part and Chyna being dragged out of obscurity as Kurt’s scary girlfriend (Rhaka Khan was unavailable and/or still criminally insane) and fans were glad to see the back of this angle, in the form of a losers-leaves-town car park brawl. Jeff is going to Mexico for a while in real-life, you see, where no doubt his unique views on racial equality and reckless big mouth will go down well.
On the bright side, interviews with Kurt, Karen and Jeff indicate that doing this work on this storyline has helped smooth things over between all parties (serving as a form of therapy presumably) no bad blood remains and all three are now looking forward to civilly and happily raising their numerous children together. So it’s not all bad. Perhaps Russo should pursue a career in family counselling?
More after the cut
While it’s easy to criticise Russo for his work/shoot craze, WWE have made plenty of errors in the area too. Notably the Edge/Lita/Matt storyline. Short history lesson: Matt got injured, and had to get knee surgery. Lita was left to travel on the road herself. Matt, speaking to Powerslam Magazine in 2005, said: "I felt betrayed. I trusted my friend Adam to take care of my girlfriend on the road." Well…Edge famously did just that, although probably not in the way Matt meant. Lita and Edge embarked on an affair, which blew up when Edge’s then wife Lisa found out. She promptly informed a furious Matt, who couldn’t resist sharing the details with the world. One thing led to another, Matt got fired by WWE (who wanted to avoid the inevitable drama, and preferred Edge to Matt anyway ) and Edge and Lita were heavily vilified. (Although I’d like to point out that if Youtube had been around back then and Matt was putting out the videos he puts out now, it’s entirely possibly Edge would have been hailed as a hero by fans and Lita would have been the biggest baby face in wrestling for freeing herself from this unstable nut.)
Even in his absence, Matt remained over like crazy, and Vince McMahon made the call to bring him back. That summer Matt did a run-in, used Edge’s real name, said "Ring of Honor" on-air, and called Lita a slut before being aggressively being hauled off by security in what was presented as an entirely unscripted segment.
Then there was a long, rambling, badly-delivered promo in which Matt informed viewers that while Lita was with Kane "on tv", it was him she went home to. Er, okay. So similar to Russo’s worst WCW angles, basically everything we had seen up till this point was fake, but this was real. For one reason or another, this angle never got over like many expected it to. Only person that ever got anything out of it was Edge (and with his talent, there’s a decent chance he would have succeeded in the main event scene ,anyway). As soon as it was over, Matt was kicked back down to the mid-card and became the trainwreck we all know and…well know. Lita was arguably damaged by it too. Prior to the Edge scandal she was a beloved babyface and hero to girls everywhere who admired her nonconformist attitude and saw her as a big-sister type, unlike the rest of the Barbie doll divas. After the Matt storyline, she was on the receiving end up of one tasteless joke after another, participated in a live sex angle and generally was reduced to the role of eye candy. How bad was it? Well, in 2007, former diva Krystal Marshall noted the main reason she had turned down the chance to be Edge’s girlfriend in a storyline was because she "didn’t want to end up Lita," with fans forgetting anything of merit she had ever done, and focusing solely on the sexual aspects of her character.
So no, shoot angles don’t always work. I wish Punk and WWE the best of luck, and hopefully they can buck the trend of awful work/shoot angles in wrestling.