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Posted in: In Laiman's Terms
IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Timing is Everything
By Al Laiman
Mar 2, 2012 - 5:44:28 PM

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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: Timing is Everything

By Request

One of the most important aspects of running a show in professional wrestling is timing. Whether it's under the constraints of television and commercial standards, or if you've only rented the gym until 11:00 and need to be finished with enough time to take down the ring, everything in wrestling runs on a rigid schedule.

Time limits aren't a big deal in mainstream wrestling anymore, but they're still huge on the independent circuit. Part of the reason they were instated was to give the wrestlers the benefit of knowing where they were in accordance to how much time they've been given. Before most shows, the promoter will tell you not only the match's time limit, but the time within which you're expected to keep your match. For instance, if your match has a fifteen minute limit and you're the second match on the card, the promoter will likely tell you: "Keep it between seven and ten."

Mainstream wrestlers have to do the same thing. On a two hour show with some overrun, obviously everything has to fit into the show with certain timing. When segments or matches go long, others get shortened or cut, and if you cause the wrong veteran to lose time on the show, you'll find yourself with heat in the locker room pretty damn quick.

The next question is, of course, how does a wrestler know how much time he has? How are they supposed to keep it within time limits? Obviously wrestlers don't wear watches, but being involved in wrestling long enough gives you a sense of timing with how long you've been out there. Fortunately for those who don't have that sense, the referees are there to remind you if you're getting close, as are the ring announcers to give you hints. "Five minutes gone by in this contest, five minutes." In old school wrestling, if you went over your time limit, the promoter would send out someone called a "shooter", and you would legitimately get the shit beaten out of you. In today's world where some of those actions aren't acceptable anymore, you may find yourself not asked back, or at the very least find some heat with the veterans. I still remember when a young guy in a stable battle went over his time by seven minutes, and the champion of the fed asked him if he had fun, after which he accosted him for taking way too much time. One rule of wrestling is the least experienced person in the match always takes the most heat. Look at Triple H with the Curtain Call for evidence of that rule.

Timing, however, does not just apply to the allotment of a segment. One of the most important aspects of chronemics (usage of time) is not only how you use the time, but when certain things are timed. The person who submitted this request feels that some of the younger stars do not have the timing of when to throw down the "I WIN!" card in their matches, thus contributing to their lack of being over. There is some merit to this argument, and I'll explore it further here.

As timeless as professional wrestling itself, the basic professional wrestling match still runs along some of the same standard lines. The face looks good in the beginning to get a shine, the heel does something dirty to take over and get heat, the face makes a few hope spots before he finally gets the upper hand, and then you take it home. This obviously excludes gimmick matches or squashes, but we're talking a majority of matches, which are usually singles and normal tag team contests.

It's not enough to hit certain moves to look cool, there has got to be a reason for these moves to be hit, as well as hitting them at the appropriate time. I know I refer to Mick Foley a lot, but for those of you who haven't read his books, get off your ass. In Foley's first book, he talks about how The Undertaker gets a bigger pop going over the top rope once a year moreso than Taka Michinoku did every night. Why? Because The Undertaker saved the high spots for the appropriate moments.

One of the biggest reasons independent wrestling gets such a bad rap is because of the notion of spotfests, where wrestlers just hit flashy moves back and forth without selling and notoriously kick out of finishers on a regular basis. While there is some truth to this in selective promotions, the old school system still exists out there, and that's the way I learned.

Taking the match home is the most crucial part of a wrestling match. Just as the final two minutes in sports like basketball and baseball are, the finishing sequence is likely what will make the match memorable. The heel tends to use more psychology in weakening a part of the body in order to set up a finisher, such as Alberto Del Rio often working the arm in order to set up his armbreaker submission. A lot of times, the face will fail at hitting his finisher right off the bat, thus giving it more buildup and anticipation for when it does connect.

Back in the Attitude Era, Matt Hardy used the Twist of Fate finisher, which was originally to have been called "JLT", or Just Like That. Given the Hardy Boyz' smaller comparative stature, it played up their strength of speed to be able to have a finisher that could come out of nowhere. In other words, there was a reason for it. What so many wrestlers lack today is a reason for finishing the match.

How many times have you been watching a televised match that just ends out of nowhere because Wrestler A hit their finisher? The match may have been good up until that point, but because of a sudden "what the fuck just happened?" finish, a lot of that build was lost on a quick finish that gave the audience no time to react.

The key aspect of professional wrestling is to make the crowd forget they're watching a show and to truly get invested, to believe that the two people they're watching are in a fight. Sometimes there are high spots to the outside to cap off a face shine in the beginning of the match, but for the most part, big moves do not happen in the beginning or middle of a match, because that leaves you no place to go. If you hit a Canadian Destroyer within 30 seconds of the match beginning, where really does that leave you to go? The move itself might get a pop, but the wrestler behind it doesn't, and believe me, there is a difference. It's not enough for a wrestler to do a really neat move. There has to be a reason why the wrestler is doing the move, and the crowd needs to care about who is doing the move, not the move itself.

I've seen numerous matches on television where it just seems like they got the word to take it home, so they just seem to go, "Oh, I'm over in this match. Finisher, I win." In cold silence, the match was just shot to hell because of a lousy finish with no buildup or reason to care about it. These are fundamental aspects of wrestling that have lacked in the last few years, and possibly have contributed to the dropping of interest.

Wrestling chronemics are everything in the industry, and without them, it just becomes a repetitious series of moves where one guy pins the other. Until the next generation of stars is taught to have a reason for doing the moves and to execute them at the proper time, it will be that much harder to develop them.

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