Professional wrestling has long been viewed by the outsider as a sport starring big, burly muscle men throwing each other around a ring and pretending to hurt one another. Ask someone you know who isn’t a wrestling fan to name some wrestlers and I’d suspect the names Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, The Rock, Randy Savage, and Ric Flair may be mentioned. For us in the UK, the old wrestling scene here is remembered fondly by a certain generation who saw performers live on TV or in small local arenas. Again, if I were to ask a non-wrestling fan here to name a wrestler, they’re likely to say Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy or Kendo Nagasaki. Legends of the business are they all, but two of them are remembered more for their sheer size rather than their technique or skill sets. I doubt many Brits would have Dynamite Kid on their minds, however, his larger than life tag partner for many years, the British Bulldog, would probably be more recognizable to them.
Perhaps it’s the psyche of people to naturally remember larger than life people they see. Is it a part of our subconscious from a bygone age to recall the big people we saw so as not to run into them again, or is it a general rule of thumb for pro wrestling that bigger is usually better? Come see the giant! Come see the wonder of the world! Come see the strongest men alive! All things you may have heard at a Victorian circus, all designed to draw you in and spend your money. Though such attractions may have worked well back when Thomas Edison was recording his voice for the first time, but today the modern audience is quickly satisfied once the curtain has been lifted and we’ve seen the giant on show. Now we want to see what he can do. And here is where it ends for most wrestling fans. Though Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were household names, they weren’t the best wrestlers the world had ever seen – then again, they sold lots of tickets, had big personas, and drew in a TV audience so perhaps both men shouldn’t be criticized too much. Their eventual epic showdown lasted barely three minutes. If you want to check out the grainy footage, take a look below.
From the giants of the past to the wrestlers of today. The reason I wanted to write about size in wrestling today is that I think there’s been a definite shift in both approach and response to many of today’s superstars. The traditional ‘big men’ of wrestling may be popular and there will always be a place for them, but there doesn’t seem to be as many now, or at least at the top of the card. Braun Strowman has been quiet of late, but he captured the Raw Tag Titles this past week on Raw with Seth Rollins. The other larger men in the company such as The Undertaker, Big Show, Kane, Luke Harper and even Erick Rowan are either semi-retired or have very limited on-screen time, if any at all. The more ‘regular-sized’ guys such as Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns (he’s billed at 6’3, so not the tallest guy out there), Samoa Joe etc. are showcasing that professional wrestling is definitely moving away from having big men as star attractions and little else and instead allowing the talent to showcase their skills no matter what their size or stature.
For prime examples of this, look no further than the recent mini-push of Buddy Murphy on TV. Sure, Murphy has had success on 205 Live, capturing the title in a great match at the Super Show-Down in Melbourne, Australia last year. The 205 Live show was a good idea, but I think the show found itself playing fourth fiddle behind Raw, Smackdown and even NXT. It was a good showcase for the smaller talent on the roster, but some fans can’t watch hours upon hours of WWE each week and 205 Live always seems to be the one show many don’t watch, even if it is for just an hour. In fairness to Buddy and his colleagues, they’ve not admitted defeat and in recent months, a steady stream of smaller guys have, or are in the process of, making a serious impact on the main roster, and good for them.
Perhaps it’s determination, tenacity or just taking an opportunity, but WWE is certainly trying to showcase all of their talent. Buddy Murphy has had two excellent matches on TV these last two weeks. Roman Reigns may have defeated him on Smackdown Live, but it was certainly no pushover. The same can be said for Daniel Bryan who lost to Murphy this past week in another great encounter. Bryan typifies the smaller guy struggling against the odds in WWE. We all remember his meteoric rise from NXT rookie to Wrestlemania main eventer (and multi-time World Champion) in little over a few years. The same too can be said for the legendary Rey Mysterio. A guy deemed ‘too small’ to hang with the big boys in the ring, Mysterio rose to the top to become a firm favorite and a deserving champion. Both men took advantage of the opportunities they were given and ensured that the company couldn’t ignore them anymore.
As I write this, the opportunity is knocking for a lot of the smaller talent in WWE. The King of the Ring has returned and listed participants include; Buddy Murphy, Ali, Chad Gable, Cedric Alexander and Ricochet. The whole purpose of the old King of the Ring tournaments back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was to build a new top guy. The tournament should be made up of mid-card talent with a splash of former champions and the winner should be the next big superstar who will be pushed to the next level in their careers.
Looking at the contenders, neither Kevin Owens (who lost on Smackdown in cheap fashion) nor Samoa Joe need the win. Drew McIntyre could be considered a favorite, as could Andrade, but I think this tournament is the ideal opportunity – see, there’s that word again – to push someone who can be a truly great talent going forward and have the ability to make themselves a star. Ricochet already is a star, so I would really like to see, from the Smackdown Live half of the draw, Buddy Murphy and Chad Gable reach the semi-finals with one of those men crowned the champion. Gable is an awesome talent that just hasn’t got the break he so deserves. He has the background and talent to succeed and really be a phenomenon in the WWE.
WWE has taken a chance with going against the tried and tested methods of pushing the biggest guy they have on contract before, and it’s worked. They’ve also taken chances by crowning lesser-known stars as their King of the Ring and seen them go on to greatness. Perhaps the best of both worlds can collide with this revamped King of the Ring tournament and a new up and comer can be crowned king and usher in a new dynasty to rival the Rey Mysterio’s and Daniel Bryan’s of the professional wrestling world.