Is WWE Getting Away From Overdoing Finishers and Close Kickouts?

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Is WWE Getting Away From Overdoing Finishers and Close Kickouts?

In the past 15 years or so, WWE main event style wrestling has evolved to the point that the vast majority of the drama comes from repeated signature moves and finishers with a lot of kickouts. That style came even more pronounced after the “boom” generation of independent wrestlers started coming into the company, as they came up watching tapes of All Japan Pro Wrestling (and later Pro Wrestling NOAH), which heavily emphasized its own variation on that style. While that style consistently resulted in some of the best (if not the best) main event matches in the world, it conditioned and desensitized fans in ways that eventually messed with fan expectations.

The early parts of matches would lack heat because “everyone knew” that the finish couldn’t happen until past the 20 minute mark. Certain moves lost their impact as they were routinely kicked out of on the first attempt. There were occasionally efforts to reprogram fans, using quick upset wins to get fans not to expect the former, but the latter was trickier, and usually the “solution” was just to introduce even bigger, more dangerous, and more special moves. One of AJPW’s videogames, Virtual Pro Wrestling, even reflected this by adding “super special moves” that could only be used once per match.

In the last few months, it’s started to feel as if WWE may be trying to recondition fans as to what can end a match. There’s still a ways to go, as moves like, for example, Kevin Owens’ cradle slam should probably net some TV wins to gain credibility to avoid becoming the modern incarnation of Matt Hardy’s “Side Effect,” but we are definitely seeing some improvements. Sasha Banks and Charlotte, for example, have had multiple major matches together end outside of the finisher trading format. It’s one of several reasons why the crowd was so flat for the finish of their match at Hell in a Cell (Banks losing at home in Boston didn’t help, of course). But it’s the type of thing that you have to do to reprogram the fans.

sasha bank statement falls count anywhere.jpg

Similarly, Banks’s title win in their falls count anywhere match also came out of nowhere, but the crowd and TV viewing audience bought the Bank Statement through the lower bowl’s handrail as a finish because it looked like a match-ending hold. There was nowhere to go but down if the match continued, so it was the perfect moment for the finish

The same goes for Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens’s win over Roman Reigns on Raw this past Monday. Setting aside any feelings of the relative danger of the apron powerbomb spot (Owens and his dance partners clearly try to make as flat of a bump as possible out of it), it’s the type of move that needs to end a match when it happens, and it did. Reigns was dead weight, Owens hoisted him into the ring, and in a nice touch, he didn’t even try to hit the pop-up Codebreaker with Jericho BECAUSE Reigns was dead weight. Instead, he just kind of whipped Reigns into Jericho, and it was academic from there.

As dramatic as the finisher kickout-heavy structure can be when done well, it’s starting to get overly patterned, and these departures are welcome. Maybe the fans need some time before they start reacting to it the same, and the wrestlers need more match-ending moves to really mix things up, but it sure seems like WWE is well on its way to retraining its audience.


David Bixenspan is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, NY. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbix and view his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix as well.

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