Please note the newb in the title is not you, it’s me. I only started watching and reading about Pro-Wrestling last year after encountering the World Wide Wrestling rpg. There are many smarter people than I, especially about wrestling. But I thought I’d put together a list of things I had no idea about before I started watching. If you’re a new player to WWW this might help. It’s a supplement to the excellent guides in the core and WWW: International Incident books. I’m repeating some of that to reinforce concepts.
If I’m getting things wrong, please correct me in the comments. If you want to see me screw this up during actual play, check out my WWW Youtube Playlist...
You’ve got a few ways you can lose in a Wrestling match. The obvious one’s having your shoulders pinned to the mat for a three count by the referee. If the fix is in, the ref might do a “fast count.” When someone breaks a pin, they’re “Out at two” or “Out at two & a half.” You usually see close pins in matches with False Finishes. That’s when you’re a hairsbreadth away from losing and somehow recover. That’s a cool way to describe a high point of the match. Some matches have several false finishes, building the energy.
You can also lose via Submission. Essentially your opponent gets you in a painful hold and applies pressure. There are neck holds- but you can’t really do a strangulation choke hold (unless you’re heel). The ref’s supposed to watch for chokes and break those up. To get out of a submission hold, you can reverse it, putting your opponent in a hold. You can also just break free physically (overcoming with strength, open fist strikes, etc). More flashy is Putting Your Leg on the Bottom Rope. If you’re held and you put your leg on the rope, the ref’s supposed to break it up. So you’ll see wrestlers in holds desperately trying to pull themselves to the edge to get their leg there. You’ll also see opponents thwart that by dragging them to the center of the ring. They talk about Ring Awareness to describe a wrestler knowing where the ropes are relative to their downed body. Alternately, a wrestler might be so badly beaten, they’ve lost any sense of direction.
You can also lose by Disqualification. You use a weapon or a “foreign object” in a match which doesn’t have a stipulation allowing that. It can be flash paper, sand in the eye, glitter spray, or anything that sells your shtick. Sometimes wrestlers don’t care that they’re going to get DQ’d, they just want to beat someone with a chair. You can describe this after you’ve lost a match to work the crowd or another move. Chairs get used in lots of ways- not just smacking people with them. Sometimes they’re used as a pinning object to hurt a limb. Sometimes they’re a board a wrestler jumps against to make an impact look cooler. Disqualification can also come from third party interferences (like friends at ringside grabbing your opponent).
You can also get counted out. If you’re out of the ring for a ten count, you lose. In some cases, both wrestlers can get counted out. Usually this doesn’t happen, the referee just does the count for tension. Sometimes they won’t even do a count. A lot of matches go outside of the ring, bouncing opponents off rails and barriers. There’s a classic sequence where two wrestlers beat each other outside until one falls. The other wrestler then has to lift and roll their opponent into the ring to get the pin. Of course, their opponent might wake up during this…
Don’t forget about referees. They’re great engines for Heel/Face move explanations. Hitting a ref can result in a DQ. Referees can be great NPW characters. Maybe a ref has a beef with someone IRL. A classic bit is to have a stipulation where another wrestler has to be the “guest ref.” Of course the most important part of a referee’s job is to be distracted by someone or something so that one of the wrestlers can pull off hijinks (or shenanigans, your choice).
When a wrestler Sells something, it means they’re making their opponent’s blows or attacks look like they hurt. If someone works your arm hard, you want to sell it being weakened and in pain for the rest of the match. Selling extends to leaving the ring, staggering from the brutality of the match. To No Sell means to take the hit and make it look like nothing happened. It’s used as a way of demonstrating someone’s fearsome strength or resilience. Crappy wrestlers no sell because they’re not skilled.
As mentioned in the book, a Shoot is when something happens legitimately. Usually it’s about someone going off-script. So a “shoot” interview is one where a wrestler talks about the problems behind the scenes. That’s part of Breaking Kayfabe. A Work is any set up or scripted interaction, hence the stat name. You’ll commonly see arguments among fans about whether something was a shoot or a work. Like one wrestler chewing out another one to their face. “It looks too real; it looks too fake.” That gives fans something to argue about. Good bits make it hard to figure out.
Several of the moves allow you to add a Stipulation to a match. The book has a little bit about that, (p. 70) and there’s a little more on the reference sheets. Stipulations allow you to change the character of a match. That can be window dressing: making someone look good, putting them at an apparent disadvantage they have to overcome. You can also use this as an opportunity to push your way up the card. Stipulate for the match allowing you a shot at the champ or belt in the future (alternately use a controlled booking for this). Bottom line, think creatively about your stipulations.
Many moves also allow you to book a match. That match can happen that session or you can put it off for the next time. It’s a good way to bring in rivalries with NPW’s or a get a shot at starting heat with a belt holder. Be flexible about your booking. If you just want to show off, you might ask for the Creative to feed some jobbers to you. You could use that to Cut a Promo or Work the Audience without playing out the whole match.
When you Cut a Promo, you present something-- a speech, an interview, or a pre-recorded package-- where you bring up an opponent. You name them directly or indirectly. As it says in WWW, you want to build up your rival a little before talking trash about them. It makes things sound more real. When you Work the Audience, there’s no specific target of your ire. You’re whooping things up as you come down the ramp, you’re engaging in patriotic rhetoric, you’re doing a dance number, you’re bitching about treatment. It’s obvious, but it took me a couple of sessions to figure out what triggered when.
One of the things we haven’t seen as much in our matches are Run Ins. In WWW move terms, that’s someone coming in to interfere with a match. The core book gives a nice example of a non-planned Run-In (p. 27). Runs ins don’t necessarily come during a match. You could do a run in to dish out a beating while a wrestler’s making their entrance. This make affect your move or move result choices. More classically, you can do a run in after a match—beating up the winner or the loser while they’re weak. You can even do that as they’re heading for the locker room. In this case, I’d call that Cutting a Promo or Working the Audience, depending on intent. It’s a great way to set up future feuds. Related, a losing wrestler might Cut a Promo after a loss because they’re angry about the result. They might jump the winner immediately. Or they have a posse that jumps in to do that. That’s a little like a run in.
I keep mixing up a couple of term. Each playbooks is a Gimmick. But sometimes when I’m running, I refer to a character’s gimmick when I mean shtick or theme. For example The Undertakers’ a Monster Gimmick wrestler; his shtick is that he’s an evil sorcerer or something from the underworld. The PC Harbinger’s a Monster too, but his shtick that he’s some kind of force of nature covered in mud. You may not get that mixed up…I do.
One of the GM soft moves is to add a Wrestler to a stable. That means a formal or informal group within a wrestling promotion. They’re great because they come with a set of NPWs and opportunities for inter and intra-stable rivalries. It looks like Japanese Wrestling uses these a lot. Those stables are hugely important and their leadership’s a matter of contention. You also see this in US pro wrestling with groups of “Bad Boys Taking Down the Promotion from the Inside” or “Theme Team Ups for a Cause.” Stables are cool and can add another layer of story to a match.
The four corners of the ring are the Turnbuckles. A nasty heel thing to do is to take the padding off and smash your opponent against it the bare metal. Wrestlers climb the turnbuckle to do big flying attacks. Big top rope flying moves are called Highspots. Climbing to the top rope’s a thing commentators call out “it’s so dangerous.” One of the classic moves is for someone to go up on the turnbuckle for a big move, only to have the other wrestler come up and grab them as they’re up there. Also, the edge of the mat’s called the apron.
You’ve all heard of Cage Matches. I assumed they were just about keeping the two wrestlers together in the ring with no escape. It can be that. But more often it is about winning by being the first wrestler to escape. You can to get to a door, climb over the top, or cut a lock before your opponent(s). Sometimes cages will have extra bits: like multilevel cages you have to climb from one level to another.
A Bump’s a fall or flat landing. Usually a hard fall. Originally I thought it meant any messed up hit. But that’s really a Botch. Over means someone’s popular. You “Put Someone Over” by making them look good. That can be negative if management’s doing that but the crowd doesn’t agree. To Bury someone is to make them look bad. Management might book a series of losses to bury a wrestler. You call a series of actions in a match a Spot.
Finally, I was surprised when I saw wrestlers go out of the ring during a match. I assumed that was an automatic loss. In fact the area outside the ring’s a great stage for wrestling spots. In Lucha Libre, wrestlers often use the ropes to fling themselves out to knock down opponents. Wrestlers can argue with the fans, smash the announcer’s table, or take the fight into the stands when they’re out of the ring. One classic bit is wrestlers evading dangerous opponents by waiting outside for a while or wear them out though chases. “Smart” wrestlers with “Veteran Instincts” go outside the ring to catch their breath. For matches with multiple opponents, unengaged wrestlers can lurk outside waiting for a chance to interrupt and come back in to “surprise” everyone.
There’s much more, but that’s what I remember having to learn when I started watching matches. I did so with a notebook in hand, making notes for future plays of World Wide Wrestling. The G+ WWW Community is awesome for answering questions. Also check out Wikipedia’s Glossary of Pro Wrestling Terms.