"This is a shoot, dammit!"
In professional wrestling
parlance, a "work" is anything scripted (i.e. anything that's part of kayfabe
), while a "shoot" is anything "real" (i.e. not scripted). Put them together and you have the worked shoot; something that is definitely part of the act, but attempts to trick the viewer into thinking (if only for a second) that it's real.
A worked shoot plays off of a wrestler's real life
, and it breaks many pro wrestling conventions, in an attempt to convince the viewer it's totally different from anything else that's going on, that it's totally real. Since a worked shoot so often borrows from real life elements, it can be difficult to tell where the shoot ends and the work begins.
Worked shoots may be a reaction from pro wrestling bookers to the apparent death of kayfabe and the "outing" of pro wrestling as scripted; they're an attempt to put that genie back in the bottle, to make fans think it's real again, just for a second. Of course, they must eventually spill over into wrestling storylines, but until then...
An alternate definition is a wrestler taking the planned storyline and using it to express his real feelings — thus shooting during a work, for a worked shoot.
When trying to figure out if something is a worked shoot, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the wrestler's microphone on?
- Are the cameras focusing on them?
- Are they claiming that this is a shoot, or that "this is not a work?"
- Are they using "insider" language such as face, heel, mark, smark or booker?
- Was their entrance music cued?
- Are members of the staff nowhere in sight or making no attempt to stop them?
- Do their actions make sense in the context of a storyline (e.g. crazy wrestler rebelling against the company or out for revenge)?
- Is their vocabulary roughly equivalent to their usual, scripted speaking pattern?
- Are highlights of their actions shown, mentioned or otherwise recapped by anybody else on the program?
If you answered "yes" to more than half of the above questions, then don't worry: that wrestler's "shoot" was all part of the show. Remember that the default response to something completely unexpected happening is to cut away
and pretend it never happened
The same trope can be applied to entire matches and promotions. Japanese wrestling once had a tradition to stage "shoot fights", but most of them were actually worked matches with many degrees of realism. Years after, the promotions who followed the "shoot-style" movement featured matches designed to look like Mixed Martial Arts
bouts, and many of them put actual MMA fights into their cards to blur the lines between kayfabe and reality. Even outside of Japan, the World Wrestling Federation
had a similar system of real fights called Brawl for All.
To tell apart between a real shootfight and a worked shoot you have to question:
- Firstly, are the wrestlers selling (or no-selling, but always in a theatrical way) each other's hits?
- Are they taking nonchalantly strikes which should be easily avoided or parried?
- Do they spend time in fully locked submissions doing nothing more than Theatrics Of Pain, instead of immediately searching the escape?
- Are they fighting in a slow, meditated pace with innocuous rest holds and pauses, instead of a fast, instintive rush?
- And lastly, are they using a recognizable Wrestling Psychology which would be weird or improbable in a real fight?
Again, if you have answered affirmatively to three or more, you are before a worked shoot fight.
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- Arguably originated by Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, and Andy Kaufman, with the long-running Lawler/Kaufman feud. Qualifies as a worked shoot because some of the stunts Kaufman and Lawler pulled (like getting into a fight on the set of David Letterman's show) managed to convince a lot of people who weren't usually fooled into believing kayfabe.
- This was revisited during the filming of Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, with Lawler and Jim Carrey getting into a fistfight on-set. As the story was told, Carrey had gone into method-actor mode, would only answer to "Andy" on the set, and started picking fights with Lawler in order to get into Kaufman's head. This didn't spill over into the wrestling ring, unlike most worked shoots, but it did get a lot of airtime on WWE programming.
- Really, most of Kaufman's career consisted of worked shoots, like faking a British accent and reading The Great Gatsby instead of performing his comedy routine because he was "sick of your lowbrow American humor." The night he hosted Fridays was another such moment.
- CM Punk's on-screen feud with John Cena and off-screen contract squabbles in the summer of 2011 were turned into one giant worked shoot. After declaring he was leaving WWE on TV, he then cut a promo where he bashed WWE for being Merchandise-Driven and firing his friends like Colt Cabananote ; he was promptly "suspended" for his words, only to be reinstated the following week at Cena's request. (WWE actually announced the reinstatement five days earlier, possibly to suggest further that the suspension was real). Punk then beat Cena at Money in the Bank and ran out with the WWE Championship, only to keep popping up at WWE promotional events, inciting smarks in the area and daring new WWE head Triple H to hire him back. Sure enough, once the WWE appointed a "new" WWE Champion, a re-hired Punk appeared on Raw to challenge with the old belt.
- AJ Lee was allowed a shoot promo during her run as the Diva's champion, and she used it to great effect, tearing apart the 'plastic, interchangeable' Total Divas women who hadn't earned their spots on the roster like she had. Despite supposedly being a heel, it just got her over even further.
- One example that helped catapult wrestling into pop culture was the "Gold Record Incident" in Feb. 1985, where Roddy Piper interrupted an award ceremony on MTV with Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper, smashed Albano's commemorative record over his head and then body slammed Lauper's manager David Wolff. The whole thing was so realistic that a NY cop rushed into the ring and tried to stop Piper, which made him mess up his slam and actually hurt Wolff. The whole thing was a setup for the "War to Settle the Score" special, which itself was a setup for the original WrestleMania.
- The on-screen apparent death of WWE chairman Vince McMahon may have been an unintentional worked shoot. WWE was very up-front about the fact that it's only the character "Mr. McMahon" that died, and the real Vince is alive and well (though for at least a few hours WWE.com claimed that Vince was "presumed dead"), but that didn't stop some news outlets from running the story as real within a couple of days after it happened, and it didn't stopped some finance columnists from all but accusing the WWE of securities fraud for faking the death of the chairman. The storyline was scrapped, however, when the Chris Benoit incident happened, forcing McMahon out of "death" to address it.
- They also tried to turn the obviously scripted stage collapse accident on Vince in 2008 into a worked shoot. He can be heard saying "Paul (the real first name of his son-in-law Triple H), I can't feel my legs." Then they pretty much just forgot about it.
- A similar event happened with Donald Trump "buying" Raw, despite the fact that Raw is a TV show, not a corporate subsidiary. Unfortunately, due to some official press releases from the USA Network that seemed to imply the whole thing wasn't an angle (not to mention the press conferences held by Vince and Trump reiterating the storyline), and, with the apparent prospect of a person with no wrestling experience apparently going to be running half of the company's programming, WWE stock dropped significantly the next day. Any long term plans for this arc were scrapped on next week's show with Vince "buying Raw back" for twice what he was originally paid.
- Not all worked shoots are full of hate and violence: Stan "Uncle Elmer" Frazier's wedding to Joyce Stazko on a 1985 broadcast of Saturday Night's Main Event, was the real thing; Roddy Piper's attempt at disrupting the ceremony and Jesse Ventura's snide commentary were kayfabe, but the couple remained married until Frazier's death in 1992.
- In 1997, Shawn Michaels engaged in a series of "unscripted" incidents, including an entire tirade against The Undertaker that was edited out of a later Raw broadcast. Rumors flew left and right that Michaels was trying to get himself fired in order to go to rival WCW and join his friends Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in the nWo; in fact, the entire thing was a set-up to the birth of D-Generation X.
- This particular incident arose first as a dare by a fellow wrestler (and real life friend of Taker), and then Michaels decided to have some fun. The guy conducting the interview, Jim Ross, was none too happy about it, but the Undertaker took it better.
- Also in WWE, Matt Hardy discovered that his girlfriend Amy "Lita" Dumas was cheating on him with fellow wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland, and when he started to talk publicly about it, he was unceremoniously fired. After he slowly built a rabid fanbase using the sympathy from this incident on the internet, he suddenly began appearing on WWE RAW again, jumping over the barricade and attacking Edge, then being carried out by security while screaming things like, "I thought you were my friend, Johnny Ace!" (a reference to WWE executive John "Johnny Ace" Laurinaitis). Soon enough, the truth came out; Matt had been re-hired, and plans were in place for a storyline based on the problems between Matt and Edge (even though this meant Ret Conning a year's worth of storylines in which Lita was Kane's wife). To this day, fans still debate whether the infidelity that started the whole thing was work, or shoot. Realistically there's little question it was initially a shoot - WWE didn't talk about it, and you know that WWE.com would have been full of stories about it if it was a work. Note that the second Matt Hardy showed back up on Raw and bragged about it being "a shoot" on his blog, any illusion that he was acting independently was broken.
- Joey Styles's rant on sports entertainment before "quitting" the commentating job on Raw was a working shoot. This became more obvious as he later became the commentator for the WWE revival for ECW and there was no way in Hell Vince McMahon would have let him on TV if he legitimately bashed him and his whole company off the cuff on live TV.
- Chaz Warrington was allowed to drop his horrible Beaver Cleavage gimmick via worked shoot. While pretending to cry to his mother because he didn't want to wrestle "some guy named Meat", he abruptly said "I can't do this" and walked off screen. Marianna yelled "Chaz, we're live!" and then the feed cut abruptly to Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who apologized for the "creative differences" and said the match wouldn't take place.
- One of the more successful recent ones has involved internet darling Bryan Danielson. Michael Cole's shots at both Danielson and the Internet Wrestling Fans as a whole on NXT led even the most self-proclaimed Smarks to assume he legitimately hated Danielson. Then Danielson was fired after the rookies' first attack on the WWE, with many believing it was because his choking ring announcer Justin Roberts violated the show's PG-rated policy. In truth, WWE stayed in contact with Danielson and simply waited for the right time to bring him back; he returned at Summerslam and has been a main Superstar since, going from United States Champion to World Heavyweight Champion in little more than a year.
- The ECW One Night Stand 2005 pay-per-view plays it straight with one promo and subverts it with some commentary later on. The first instance was a Rob Van Dam promo where he claims he's shooting and talks about how important the night was and how to him, missing it is worse than missing WrestleMania. The subverted part is during Joey Styles' infamous remarks about Mike Awesome (calling him a "Judas" for the way he left ECW for WCW while still champ, and wishing that a Suicide Splash had actually killed him). Mick Foley points out it's a shoot (which, as mentioned above, is typically a sign that it's a work), but Joey really did get in trouble for his comments after the show.
- The Miz actually did several of these throughout 2010 during his reign as the United States and later WWE Champion. He referred to the real life bullying he suffered in the locker room at the hands of JBL.
- When Ken Shamrock was new in WWF they booked a Pancrase-style match between Shamrock and one of his students from the Lion's Den, Vernon White. The match was billed as an exhibition, but during the match, White supposedly "tried to turn it into something it wasn't supposed to be" and shoot kicked Shamrock, which caused Shamrock to snap and ground n' pound White unconscious. The match was a work from top to bottom, though.
- Ironically enough, Shamrock was involved in a number of worked matches in Pancrase. He did a job to Masakatsu Funaki to drop the Pancrase title (before facing NWA champion Dan Severn in a UFC bout; since the NWA was "fake" wrestling, Pancrase would have lost face if Shamrock lost), and it's believed that he dropped a match to Minoru Suzuki when fans needed to believe a Japanese guy could hang with him. He also tanked a match to avoid an injury before facing Royce Gracie in a rematch, and "carried" several other opponents to more exciting finishes than would have happened in a pure shoot.
- While The Undertaker was leading the Ministry of Darkness, the idea that Mark Calloway (the man behind the gimmick) was beginning to really believe in the Satanic Cultist stuff was floated a couple of times. Most notably when Ken Shamrock cut a promo in the ring where he called "Mark" out and threatened to beat a sense of reality into him.
- On the Raw following The Undertaker's shocking defeat by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX, Paul Heyman decided to "shoot from the hip," and talked about Taker's legitimate concussion during the match as well as Vince McMahon leaving the WrestleMania set to make sure he was alright. While the whole promo was very obviously a work, it involved a lot of events that would normally be kept out of kayfabe.
- An example of a worked shoot gone awry is the "Loose Cannon" gimmick Brian Pillman did in WCW. Pillman said and did things that seemed specifically designed to tweak the noses of management, such as when he ended a PPV match (an "I Respect You" match against booker Kevin Sullivan) about a minute in by shouting, "I respect you, booker man!" Subsequently, he was "fired", and he convinced WCW to really release him from his contract in order to make the illusion complete; then, freed from contractual obligations, he went to ECW instead of finishing the storyline.
- WCW saw another Worked Shoot backfire when wrestler/booker Kevin Sullivan put together a storyline that had his (on-screen and real-life) wife, Nancy "Woman" Sullivan, sleeping with his rival, Chris Benoit. Sullivan was from wrestling's old school, and he made sure that Woman and Benoit traveled together, were spotted entering each others' hotel rooms, and otherwise spent a lot of time together in public, just to drive the angle home. The problem? After spending all that time together, Nancy fell in love with Benoit, and left Kevin for real to marry him. This led to Woman being moved into a non-speaking role as a valet for Ric Flair, and Benoit kicking Sullivan's ass in match after match, along with fighting his way through Sullivan's Power Stable the Dungeon of Doom, culminating in Benoit defeating Sullivan in a "Career vs. Career" match at WCW Bash at the Beach 97. Sullivan was replaced as booker in late 1998 by Kevin Nash, who gave the world the Fingerpoke Of Doom and roughly a year of terrible booking. and was himself replaced by Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara in October 1999. Benoit left the company in January 2000 when Sullivan re-gained the head booker position, as Benoit feared that Sullivan was still holding a grudge. Worse yet for WCW, his friends Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero all left for fear of becoming collateral damage; the quartet formed The Radicalz in the WWE, where Benoit and Guerrero became huge stars.
- To Sullivan's credit, Benoit said on the Hard Knocks DVD that for all the animosity he held toward Benoit (for, you know, breaking up his marriage) that Sullivan remained a consummate professional in the ring and never tried to hurt Benoit in any of their matches.
- Ring of Hell takes it one step further: Sullivan knew that his feud with Benoit would be his last (Bischoff didn't want his at-the-time head booker as an active wrestler) and wanted to keep it going as long as possible until the blowoff. The real reason behind Benoit's career stagnation in WCW is that the top guys didn't want anyone new getting over (because that might threaten their own position, and their considerable salary).
- And without turning this into a big game of fantasy booking and what-ifs: If the Benoit/Sullivan worked shoot angle hadn't happened, Chris and Nancy wouldn't have fallen in love, wouldn't have gotten married... and the double murder/suicide would not have happened.
- The worst-ever Worked Shoot for WCW though was when the company itself starting shooting on itself, complete with the user of insider terms during the show, example Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg cutting "shoot" promos and the commentators acting like it's a shoot, or rather explicit mentions of predetermined match finishes on purpose while the cameras are still rolling during the show.
- Unsurprisingly, this came at a time when Vince Russo was writing for WCW.
- The stupidity culminated (?) at the wretched New Blood Rising show, where - and apologies in advance if this doesn't make any sense, but blame the source material - WCW promoted a match between Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner who were going to have a "real fight". Which logically meant all other matches were fake, but ignore that for the moment because Everything Else You're Watching Except What's On TV Right Now Is Fake is certainly a Russo Trope. Anyway, midway through the match (which, you'll recall, was supposed to be real), Goldberg "stopped co-operating" (... um...) and walked out on the match, with the announcers criticizing his lack of professionalism. Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner then proceeded to "improvise" a finish, with the announcers praising how professional they were. Soon after, they ran Fall Brawl promos talking about how Goldberg "refused to follow the script". And you wonder why WCW was out of business less than a year later.
- As if anyone would believe that Scott Steiner was any more professional than Bill Goldberg.
- Almost as bad was the Hulk Hogan / Jeff Jarrett title match at Bash at the Beach 2000. After Hogan pulled his creative control card to win the match and stay on WCW TV, the two came out to the ring with Vince Russo, and Jarrett laid down with Russo throwing the belt in the ring. All sides have claimed this part was a work, but they didn't tell the announcers - one actually said on the air "This is not part of the script!" Afterward, Russo came back out by himself and revealed everything that went on backstage to the fans just so he could nullify Hogan's win and put the belt back on Jarrett. Hogan has since said that was a shoot and the reason he eventually sued Russo, but the lawsuit was dismissed in 2002.
- The Death of WCW claims that what happened there, was that it was a worked shoot turned half-work half-shoot. Russo was set to cut a worked shoot promo against Hogan, but he went completely overboard, calling Hogan a "big bald son of a bitch." It also didn't help that Russo (according to him in a later interview) promised Hogan he would call him the following day and then didn't because TNT president Brad Siegel told him not to, at the same time Hogan was reading claims from fans online that Russo had finally "put him in his place." Enraged, Hogan legitimately refused to continue working for WCW (which was what Russo supposedly wanted anyway, according to Hogan's 2002 autobiography) and sued Russo for defamation of character. Technically Hogan was under WCW contract all along, but he really was refusing to work.
- On the very first WCW card Russo booked, Buff Bagwell and former tag partner Scotty Riggs shot a backstage segment where Riggs informed Bagwell that he (Riggs) would be winning the match, and Bagwell reacted with disbelief - and then when they actually had the match, Bagwell used a small package pin and "wouldn't let go", winning the match. A couple weeks after that Bagwell was in a match against La Parka. He no-sold everything, then took a dive from the "run into someone's feet in the corner" spot and "threw" the match.
- The tendency for WCW staff not to be informed of plot developments lead to some hilarious situations where, when something genuinely unexpected happen, the staff would assume it had been planned and just not told them. Most notably, a fan dressed as Sting jumped a barricade and started to interfere with a match and the commentators, so used to not being told about changes, assumed it was meant to be the real Sting.
- WCW once attempted to save an angle with a worked shoot. Dustin Runnels' new character, Seven, was hyped in a series of creepy vignettes that left the unfortunate impression that he was a child abductor. Turner Standards and Practices axed the gimmick, and in an attempt to get some use out of Seven's elaborate entrance and costume, had Dustin interrupt his own debut, rant about how Goldust had caused him to be stuck in silly gimmick characters, and swear vengeance on WCW for firing his father, Dusty Rhodes.
- This quote, taken verbatim from a 2000 WCW broadcast, from Tony Schiavone, of course, "We do not wrestle in WCW." Note that the company's name was World Championship Wrestling. For those wondering, the quote was from a Hulk Hogan-Billy Kidman backstage brawl that ended with the Hulkster throwing Kidman into a dumpster and then ramming it with a Hummer.
- One of the most famous classic worked shoots was a interview made by Cactus Jack known as the "Cane Dewey" promo, during his time in ECW. The promotional interview was inspired by a sign Mick saw during a match against Terry Funk, with which read "Cane Dewey" - Dewey Foley being Mick's 5-year-old son. Mick became somewhat disillusioned with the wrestling business at this time and, at the advisement of ECW promoter and booker Paul Heyman, channeled that into his feud with Tommy Dreamer, which had Foley, then a heel being against the "Hardcore" wrestling style, and attempting to get Dreamer, who had a Hardcore gimmick, to leave ECW for Ted Turner's WCW - which was at that time reviled by ECW fans.
- Vince Russo has continued to do worked shoots in TNA. One particularly atrocious worked shoot was the scene where Mick Foley goes backstage and meets Vince Russo and the writers. Foley tells them that they're doing a great job, and asks if they can write a scene where Dixie Carter returns his phone calls. Foley was clearly not happy about having to break the fourth wall in this fashion.
- At TNA Turning Point 2007, Samoa Joe was supposed to team up with Kevin Nash & Scott Hall in a match against AJ Styles, Tomko & Kurt Angle. However, Hall no-showed the event. Joe was asked before the match to go out and cut a promo to announce their replacement for Hall, Eric Young. However, Joe used the opportunity to bury Hall and voice his frustrations against the company for not properly using the younger talent and giving more breaks to the older, more established stars, frequently shooting nasty looks at his partner Kevin Nash and his opponent Kurt Angle while talking. Kevin Nash was shown to be visibly upset by Joe's words, as was TNA President Dixie Carter, who was sitting in the front row. Towards the end of his promo, Joe looked down into the crowd where Dixie was sitting, noticed she wasn't happy and said "Are you mad? No, go ahead, fire me. I don't care." After the match, Joe and Nash had an argument backstage that nearly became physical and the next day, Joe apologized to the TNA locker room for his comments.
- Not everyone in the crowd was sympathetic to Joe: Karen Angle (Kurt's then-wife) was close enough to the microphone that the words "Quit being a crybaby!" made it over the air. Of course, Kurt was one of the people to whom Joe was referring, so Karen wasn't exactly unbiased in the matter.
- Reportedly, Joe was only supposed to take a shot at Hall and bring out Eric Young as Hall's replacement, but realized midway through that he'd been handed a live mic on a TNA PPV and decided to air some grievances as well.
Other Professional Wrestling Organizations
- The phrase was also applied to what is more popularly known as "shoot wrestling", a Japanese wrestling style reminiscent of MMA (in fact, many early UFC participants like Ken Shamrock or Dan Severn were veterans of groups employing this style). Although outcomes were predetermined (the "worked" part), holds and strikes were generally applied in a realistic manner (the "shoot" part). Many of these later became full-shoot MMA organizations.
- Worked Shoots were somewhat endemic to Japanese professional wrestling. First, there was Antonio Inoki, who won a series of (fake) shoot fights with fighters of various martial arts disciplines (and drew a real fight with Muhammad Ali, doing serious damage to Ali's legs in the process despite goofy restrictions on his side.note ) Then in the 1980s, several wrestlers in Inoki's New Japan promotion with real martial arts backgrounds felt that they were being forced to lose to inferior opponents. Two of them (Satoru "Tiger Mask" Sayama and Akira Maeda) formed the UWF, which was the first shootwrestling promotion. The shootwrestlers eventually made their way back to the mainstream promotions, and New Japan to this day still has a heavy emphasis on matwork and submissions due to their influence (and almost all major promotions in Japan go to clean finishes for the same reason). Several promotions down the line, shootwrestlers such as Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki felt they were being forced to lose to inferior opponents, and formed Pancrase, which did away with the whole predetermined outcome thing, and set the stage for Japan's next cultural fad (and America's MMA PPV phenomenon.)