With the passing of the WrestleTalk TV Presents: The Jim Cornette UK Tour, we celebrate the ‘Louisville Slugger’ stepping foot in the United Kingdom for the first time in his historic career with a series of Jim Cornette related articles. In the first instalment, I discuss the importance Cornette places on confidence in professional wrestling.
I’ve started training at a pro wrestling school, in order to become a manager and booker, and I can really see the difference between the more experienced guys and the fluidity they have in the ring compared to myself who’s just starting out. Looking at other stars that have been in the business and trained for far longer, it can be equal parts inspiring and frustrating to compare yourself to them, but at the end of it all it drives me to keep improving. However, even if I achieved that level of crisp and solid work, the one thing I can see as important is the confidence I would require to be a believable performer when committing to my role in the ring and on the microphone.
In a recent episode of ‘The Jim Cornette Experience’, Cornette spoke with Canadian wrestling legend and ECW, WCW and WWE star Lance Storm, and the topic of a star’s confidence came to prominence. Without the magic ‘C word’, the suspension of disbelief can shatter and leave an uninterested crowd and a poor performance. Even in television programming, if the actors are not entirely involved in their own performance, it makes it nearly impossible for the fans or viewers at home to do the same. Veronica Taylor, a famous voice actor mostly-known for voicing 10-year-old Ash Ketchum in Pokemon, mentioned the importance of believability in her field of work during a panel show Q&A from 2012. Taylor mentions that in voice acting, if you are not able to commit as a performer to your role, you will not be able to convince your audience of it either. As Cornette has been documented as saying, wrestling fans want to believe in something and so it is down to the performer to provide that legitimacy.
In the ‘Cornette’s Commentary’ section of his website, he describes wrestling not necessarily as acting, but rather as reacting. The one undisputed lie detector is a wrestler’s face – if you do not believe what you are saying in front of the camera, it shows in your eyes and from your facial expression. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you say, but the viewers have to believe that you mean it.
Whether from the entertainment aspect of committing to your role or the professional sports aspect of not giving your opponent any psychological advantage by showing a lack of confidence, the performer in the ring must be able to convey their intentions so that they come across as authentic. After all, if a wrestler or performer is not oozing the confidence that they can beat their opponent standing across from them, why would anyone believe that they could even pose a chance of winning? Would Bray Wyatt and the Wyatt Family really be this captivating, or Roman Reigns alongside The Shield this dominant, if either didn’t play on our emotions with their seemingly limitless faith in themselves and
their abilities on screen? You could even say the same about Goldust’s androgynous persona, Dolph Ziggler’s run as ‘The Show Off’ in 2011-2012, Mark Henry’s supposed retirement and Daniel Bryan’s gripe against The Authority.
The topic of confidence brings three particular examples from the past year to mind: CM Punk vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, Natalya vs. AJ Lee for the Divas Championship at TLC 2013 and (from outside the wrestling world) Meisha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey at UFC 168. The one thing I remember more than anything about the great bout between CM Punk and The Undertaker at last year’s WrestleMania was the complete smugness on CM Punk’s face whilst he waited for ‘The Phenom’. From the moment Cult Of Personality hit the arena speakers, just looking at ‘The Best in the World’ made me believe that man was the best, to the point where I started to sympathise with The Undertaker because his opponent looked invincible – and Undertaker hadn’t even arrived by this point! It was as if CM Punk had just come out knowing that he was going to go down in history as the man who ended ‘The Deadman’s unprecedented streak. However, that did not come to pass. The sheer confidence Punk carried with him to the ring captivated my entire attention.
Similarly, when Natalya faced AJ Lee for the Diva’s Championship at this past year’s TLC event in December 2013, the daughter of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart looked completely confident within herself and from looking at her demeanour, my mind assumed she was about to win the Diva’s Championship. Alas, again I was completely fooled as The Sharpshooter ended up coming short. However, I felt more emotionally invested in the contest just as a result of Natalya’s body language and presence that night.
By the second time I was starting to get the pattern and it even occurred in a non-wrestling event. During the bout pitting UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey against challenger Meisha Tate in a re-match from their previous encounter in March 2012, Tate came down to the ring with complete confidence, even singing along to the words of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ in almost bliss. This already set warning bells of in my head and it proved right as Ronda Rousey came to the Octagon with her trademark BMF walk and went on to win that fight, closing the second chapter of an already heated and captivating rivalry. But in all three scenarios, all three supremely confident competitors also backed up their bravado with great in-ring (or in-octagon) performances against their opponents, which made the bouts that much more exciting and engaging to watch, and I believe is something that everyone involved in professional wrestling, whether in front of the camera or behind it, needs to make a priority.
DVDs of the tour and Jim’s seminar are available here: http://wrestletalk.tv/Jim_Cornette/
Originally written for Wrestle Talk TV HERE, published in February 2014.
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