We felt that something had to be done. And it was done in a manner in which people are still talking and asking questions about it—the right questions about it—to this very day. "Who knew about it? What did they know about it? When did they know about it?" Nobody knew about it. Just Paul and I, and on that night, Shane.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. 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 their 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?
- 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 only to miracleously revert it afterwards, instead of immediately searching the escape or reverting it before the locking?
- 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?
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- It is believed to have been 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. While Carrey was doing publicity for Man on the Moon, he was visited by Tony Clifton, resulting in a fight and Clifton actually urinating on scene with a gag penis. The journalists gathered seemed to realize that it was a worked shoot, however. Seen here. Finally, 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, and he was so infamous for this behavior that even tabloids refused to believe he actually had cancer.
- 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 Cabana;note 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 cut a CM Punk-esque promo during her run as the Divas Champion, and she used it to great effect, tearing apart the supposedly "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 February 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 was 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 tried to turn the obviously scripted stage collapse accident on McMahon in 2008 into a worked shoot. He can be heard saying "Paul, I can't feel my legs."note 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.
- 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 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 retconning 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 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 dropped 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. In reality, Chaz actually thought the vignettes were amusing.
- 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 Calaway, 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.
- After Cody Rhodes was fired on Raw, the Professional Wrestling Syndicate announced that as soon as Cody's 90 day no compete clause ran out he would be competing for them, which Rhodes confirmed on his Facebook page while putting over all the PWS talent he wanted to face. Of course his "firing" didn't even last 90 days.
- 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 inadvertent one came during the 2015 Elimination Chamber match for the Intercontinental Championship. When Sheamus was supposed to be released from his pod, the door got stuck, which visibly disrupted the match and led to wrestlers stopping and audibly directing each other as if improvising a new plan for the match. After throwing a fit for several minutes in his pod, Sheamus suddenly stops and lifts up his necklaces from the floor of his pod, as if he had deliberately gotten himself stuck in his pod.
- On the Raw following the 2015 Elimination Chamber, Kevin Owens, after defeating John Cena cleanly, mentioned how despite all the years it took for him to make it to WWE, his son looks up to Cena as his hero. He also mentioned the issues Cena's detractors have against him.note
- WWE realized that fans were starting to understand what the "X" sign means when a ref puts his arms in a cross above his head.note So there have been a number of instances where it's fairly obvious the event was scripted but the ref still does the gesture anyway (its actual purpose has presumably been replaced with a different gesture).
- 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, Sullivan remained a consummate professional in the ring and never tried to hurt Benoit in any of their matches.
- The worst-ever Worked Shoot for WCW was when the company itself starting shooting on itself, complete with the user of insider terms during the show.note Unsurprisingly, this came at a time when Vince Russo was writing for WCW. The stupidity culminated at the wretched New Blood Rising show, where WCW promoted a match between Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner who were going to have a "real fight". Midway through the match, Goldberg "stopped co-operating" and walked out on the match, with the announcers criticizing his lack of professionalism. Nash and 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". This was one of the factors that led to WCW going out of business less than a year later.
- Bash at the Beach 2000 was almost as bad. Hulk Hogan was pulling his creative control card and insisting on beating Jeff Jarrett for the title while Vince Russo and Creative were set on Booker T ending up with the belt. The negotiation between Hogan and Russo ended with this: Russo would tell Jarrett to lay down in the ring to make Hogan win in a way that would make Hogan look bad, Hogan would leave in a huff, and then Russo would come back out by himself and reveal everything that went on backstage to the fans just so he could nullify Hogan's win and put the belt back on Jarrett - with no one but Russo and Hogan actually knowing it was all a work. As a result, Jarrett was obviously incensed but went along anyway, but the end result in not telling the announcers was them actually saying on the air "This is not part of the script!" and then saying Russo was not "in character" when he cut his promo. The promo ended up being the reason Hogan later sued Russo for defamation of character (the suit was dismissed in 2002), claiming that he never knew about it, or at least (according to The Death of WCW) that it was a worked shoot turned half-work half-shoot where Russo went completely overboard in calling Hogan a "big bald son of a bitch." The likely real reason for the suit was Hogan reading claims from fans online that Russo had finally "put him in his place" while Russo didn't call him the next day after claiming he would because TNT president Brad Siegel told him not to (according to Russo in a later interview). Enraged by this, Hogan refused to continue working for WCW despite having a contract.note
- 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 led 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 worked shoots was a interview made by Cactus Jack known as the "Cane Dewey" promo, during his time in ECW. The promo was inspired by a sign Cactus Jack saw during a match against Terry Funk, which read "Cane Dewey".note Cactus Jack 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 Cactus Jack, 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.note
- Vince Russo 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.
- Scott Hall's first pro wrestling appearance after no showing several TNA and WWC events was for Juggalo Championship Wrestling, where he was a founding member of the "juggalo World order". Hall challenged the jWo to go "on the road" and invade either WWE, ROH, TNA or UFC. They decided to start with TNA, by buying front row tickets to the "Turning Point" event. TNA officials actually thought JCW was actually threatening to interfere with the show and even Samoa Joe was worried because he thought they might have been there on behalf of Hall, who he had dissed. Sheik Abdull Bashir thought the jWo was a welcome part of the show and started to "fight" with 2 Tuff Tony, which security interfered with and had the jWo expelled. The "invasions" of the other three companies never got passed the planning stages.
Other Professional Wrestling Organizations
- In 1957, the NWA ran an angle where several member promotions took different sides in a dispute over whether Lou Thesz or Édouard Carpentier had won a match for the World Heavyweight Title. This was supposed to be building to a big match but then Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn left the alliance, leading to NWA President Sam Muchnick declaring Thesz the official winner, ending the "dispute".
- 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.)
- Gabe Sapolsky burying Chris Hero on commentary when he made his first appearance for Ring of Honor, leading Hero to call Sapolsky and ungrateful bastard and boast that his match drew more than any ROH ever did with Kenta Kobashi. This lead to a serious escalation in the CZW feud.
- Jim Cornette banning Low Ki for life from Ring of Honor. It worked because Low Ki does have a history of leaving promotions when he doesn't get his way, being hard to deal with or being too stiff, the reason his banning was for supposedly giving Cornette an injury. In fact, it might have worked a bit too well, as people started to hate Cornette and ROH personally for it. And not in the come to the show on the off chance someone might beat Cornette way.
- Ring Of Honor also ran angles involving CM Punk and Tyler Black threatening to take the Ring Of Honor World Title Belt with them to WWE. This was also done in Full Impact Pro, only in this case the threat was to take the Florida Heritage Title to Japan.
- Kevin Steen burying Ring Of Honor on their official message board while putting over Pro Wrestling Guerilla after being sent out of ROH by El Generico.
- In Yoshihiro Tajiri's SMASH, there was "The World Famous" Kana writing a manifesto on how to save Joshi pro wrestling. This somewhat backfired, as most fans either wondered why she had gone off on this tangent or just equated it to all the heel promos she had already cut in 2010. Other pro wrestlers and promoters were the people most upset, to the point it actually setback her bookings for a couple years and lead to flanderization of Kana being a sneaky, manipulative, arrogant megalomaniac for the next half decade.
- In WSU, there was Tina San Antonio's absence from a show being explained as her faking an injury to tryout for WWE, leaving her tag team partner Marti Belle to fend for herself.
- When the World Wrestling League was starting up, the World Wrestling Council's Facebook page started filling up with criticism of the newer promotion. Then Carlito Colón, one of WWC's three owners, became a WWL regular and later still the two companies became affiliates.
- In WSU, there was DJ Hyde firing a good part of the roster and banning Jessicka Havok for life after she decided to work at a TNA event. In this case it worked because many women had left the company when he took over, coincidentally or otherwise. note