In any competition, there are winners and losers. In Professional Wrestling, the overwhelming majority of them have been pre-determined since at least 1920. Fans and insiders alike refer to being on the losing end of the equation as "doing the job," or "jobbing" in short. A connected term, "jabroni" was used onscreen during the days of Kayfabe as a slang term for weak or poor wrestler, and as a way of indicating jobbers without admitting matches were scripted, and is still used occasionally today. Pro Wrestling Illustrated and other publications that uphold kayfabe and avoid insider lingo refer to jobbers as "preliminary wrestlers".
This terminology came about because losing the match tends to make the wrestler look worse, and could be a sign that the promotion is transitioning him into a less prominent role (in wrestling parlance, getting "buried"). This is especially true if he's booked to lose in a championship match (because there's nowhere to go but down after losing a feud for the top championship) or get squashed. But they finish the match and let the other guy pin them as agreed, because that's part of the job.
There have been times when a wrestler would refuse to "do the job" and would fight for real and defeat the guy who they were scheduled to lose to; this is called "going into business for yourself." This occurred primarily in the early days of pro wrestling, which was done on a regional basis aside from the champion who'd travel across regions. It rarely happens because the inevitable result would be getting fired. Sometimes a local challenger would "steal" the title by refusing to job to the champion (such events would likely be with the blessing of the local promoter but not national sanctioning body), which for many years meant that the champion would always be somebody who can legitimately fight back against an uncooperative foe.
As strange as it may seem sometimes, there is an entire class of pro wrestlers whose primary purpose in being on TV is to "do the job" on a regular basis. These wrestlers, otherwise known as "carpenters" or "enhancement talent," primarily serve to make the other wrestlers look that much better, by selling everything the other wrestler does as if they're dying.
So, why be a jobber? There are several reasons...
- Some are trainers and/or road agents (the people who lay out matches), who take the jobber role in order to work with rookie talents and help them hone their skills. Val Venis worked in this capacity for several years in WWE. Finlay's return to the ring started out in this capacity, as the initial plans were for him to get a few wins to build credibility, then work as a jobber to put younger talent over, but he gained a following and thus broke the mold.
- Sometimes, the road agents will bring their old wrestling personas out when the need presents. Have a foreign heel who resembles the ones from the old days? Here comes WWE Hall of Famer (and road agent) Sgt. Slaughter to give him his comeuppance.
- Rookies can get experience and learn both in and out of Kayfabe even while jobbing. In Japan a tradition has been for newer wrestlers to be jobbing more often due to inexperience; Japanese pro wrestling legend Kenta Kobashi lost his first 63 matches (in an intentional attempt by Giant Baba to build him as a "never say die" Determinator before his first win), and Naomichi Marufuji was mostly a jobber in All Japan Pro Wrestling before jumping to Pro Wrestling NOAH. In general, if there's a tag match, expect the guy with the least experience to be pinned or submit.
- Some are just thrilled to be part of the wrestling business, and will do anything to be part of the show. (Mikey Whipwreck's long run as an ECW jobber might have been partly this, but he eventually inverted the trope.)
- Some are young, up-and-coming talent from independent wrestling promotions, who are trying to get the attention of talent scouts. In fact, ROH's "Do or Die" matches are more or less this, with the fans (and the booker based on the fans' reactions) as the judges.
- Some are jobbing as punishment (see Triple H's extended run of jobbing after the Madison Square Garden Incident), or due to monetary disputes. Brian Pillman was told by then-booker of WCW Ole Andersonnote that if he didn't take a pay cut he'd be jobbing in the opening match until his contract ran out. Pillman responded by saying that he was totally fine with being the highest paid curtain-jerker in the business.
- Wrestlers who are seen as potential stars, such as WWE's Montel Vontavious Porter, have been put through an extended period as a jobber to ensure their loyalty to the company. This happened after WWE lost both Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley to Mixed Martial Arts after sizable pushes in the main event.
- Some are wrestlers that are about to leave a promotion. Since they no longer need the rub, it is seen as customary to give another wrestler a push on the way out.
- Some wrestlers who have had a long and respected career will be happy for the opportunity to "make" a potential star by giving them the rub. Doing so marks them as a loyal company man who puts the good of the business before their own ego. Pedro Morales is a prime example — he was the WWF's first Triple Crown winner, but by the mid 1980s, he was generally booked on the losing end of matches to up-and-coming stars such as Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts, and was reportedly completely squashed by The One Man Gang during a non-televised house show. Other examples included Tony Garea (after a successful run as a tag-team wrestler) and Tito Santana.
- Some are wrestlers who are very good at making their opponents look great, but lack the charisma or presence to make it as a main eventer. One typical example given by fans is Peter Stilsbury, an Australian native who competed for the WWF from 1987 to 1988 as Outback Jack; Jack, using an exaggerated "friendly Aussie 'mate" gimmick, was given a huge push early in his run (and according to some reports, was also briefly considered for a tag team championship run with Hillbilly Jim), but when it became evident Stilsbury lacked what it took to be successful, he was jobbed out before being let go from the company in the spring of 1988.
Vince McMahon: He looks like a giant parakeet or something, half his body is white.
- To that end, other jobbers are simply what they are presented to be on television ... not very good. One example is a young man named Steve Reese, who infamously oversold the offense of his opponent Bad News Brown during a match that aired on WWF Superstars of Wrestling in early 1989; for reasons that have never been made clear, this was Reese's only known match for the WWF. One speculation was that Brown's intended jobber opponent no-showed and, needing a fill in, they turned to Reese, whose background was unknown; the match is also known for its play-by-play commentary, where commentator Vince McMahon relentlessly made fun of Reese's physique and lack of ability as Brown mercilessly beat him down.
- There's also a niche of "Jobber to the Stars"; a wrestler who wins matches against other Jobbers, but loses matches to the wrestlers who are getting a Push. This works under the theory that The Worf Effect is lessened if the "Worf" is regularly shown winning, even if it is against what are effectively Mooks or Red Shirts. A Jobber to the Stars is usually either somebody who the bookers think has the potential to be a future main eventer (or at least upper midcarder) and thus needs to maintain some credibility in spite of jobbing, or a former main eventer seen as past their prime but still credible enough for it to mean something when the new stars beat them. Examples of past main-event stars who later became jobbers to the stars include Pedro Morales, Tony Garea and Dominic DeNucci.note
- For some... ehh, it's a living.
The revelation of pro wrestling being predetermined caused jobbing to lose a lot of stigma. In fact, many "smarks" will respect a wrestler who is selfless enough to consistently put another wrestler over for the good of the company. Some of the best wrestlers in the business (Mick Foley, Ric Flair, etc.) take immense pride in their ability to "make" another guy through selling and jobbing, though few would label them as "jobbers".
Some long-running jobbers have gained a cult following. The most famous jobber would probably be the Brooklyn Brawler, who got his own action figure. The second best-known example would be Barry Horowitz, who briefly went from perennial jobber to mid-card in the mid-90's when he pulled an upset victory on Chris Candido (then wrestling as Skip), and then went on to beat him in at least two more matches. He is now a WWE road agent.
Rookies are often expected to spend their first few years "jobbing." In the field, this is known as "paying your dues," and wrestlers who avoid doing this are often scorned by veterans unless they are a sublime talent like Big Show, Goldberg, Sting, or Kevin Nash.note Famous jobbing runs include:
- Mick Foley, who wrestled under the name Jack Foley in the 1980s.
- Curt Hennig, during his early 1980s WWF run, long before he became "Mr. Perfect." Bret Hart was also used as a "jobber to the stars" early in his WWF run in 1984, before being paired with Jim Neidhart and his fortunes changing greatly.
- Scott Hall's pre-Razor Ramon days.
- Virgil's tour as Ted DiBiase's whipping boy. At least once before assuming the character of Virgil, Mike Jones was billed as "Luscious Brown"; his only known match under that name, which aired on WWF Wrestling Challenge, was against "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorffnote .
- Diamond Dallas Page's first run as a manager.
- Kane's run as the fake Diesel and Isaac Yankem.
- The Hardyz before they got their big break.
- Kenta Kobashi's career started with him losing 63 matches in a row, building up the audience's sympathy towards him and his undying determination.
Rookies who have been scorned include:
- The Rock's early push as Rocky Maivia.
- Steve "Mongo" McMichael, a former football player and announcer who was somehow accepted into the Four Horsemen.
- All celebrity gimmick wrestlers, like Jay Leno or Dennis Rodman.
- Nearly all second generation wrestlers, including Brian "Grandmaster Sexay" Lawler (son of Jerry "The King" Lawler), David Sammartino (son of Bruno Sammartino) and Scott Putski (son of "Polish Power" Ivan Putski).
Some other wrestlers avoid "paying their dues" as jobbers because they're real fighters who have gained prestige in non-scripted athletic contests:
- Kurt Angle's two gold medals in heavyweight wrestling at the Olympics in Atlanta and the World Games.
- Dan "The Beast" Severn's run in the UFC and PRIDE.
- Brock Lesnar's collegiate wrestling championships.
- Bobby Lashley's collegiate and Army wrestling championships.
- Ronda Rousey's mixed martial arts record. (Interestingly, some fans also began to turn on her due to feeling like she hadn't "paid her dues" enough late in her championship run.)
An inversion occurs when the bookers are unable to utilize the talent of a particular star (otherwise known as "Creative has nothing for you..."), and thus he is forced to job to those wrestlers that are being pushed.
- Paul Wight (Big Show) achieved mega-stardom in his rookie year by not only winning the WCW championship, but by being the only wrestler in history to win Pro Wrestling Illustrated's (the Bible of Professional Wrestling) Rookie of the Year and Wrestler of the Year awards in the same year. Since then, he has rarely held any belt, and is usually either in squashes or jobs. He has jobbed to Chris Benoit, Kevin Nash and much smaller wrestlers. Outside of his occasional main event runs, he's basically the WWE equivalent of a Giant Mook. He is, however, the only singles wrestler to date to have held the WCW, WWE, and ECW titles in the course of his careernote . He just rarely held any of them for very long.
- André the Giant would often have 1 month contracts, and his first and only loss would occur at the next supercard.
- Ron Simmons (with Bradshaw as The Acolytes) never received a singles push in the WWE (although he did become the first black WCW World Champion), and would only see action backstage in promos, after the runaway success of Doom (with Butch Reed) and the failed push with the Farooq gimmick. The most individual fame he gained in WWE was as the guy who would randomly appear and say "DAMN!" at everything.
- Polynesian wrestlers often suffer this fate, regardless of their actual ability. The main exceptions are Yokozuna, The Rock (who's Polynesian on his mother's side), TNA's Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns, who are/were among their respective promotions' top stars. Samoa Joe was for a long time the only Samoan wrestler to achieve superstardom with his Samoan ancestry as part of his gimmick until Roman Reigns turned heel and introduced his new character of "the Tribal Chief" in 2020.
- It's very common for WWE mid-carders such as Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, The Miz, Zack Ryder, Antonio Cesaro, R-Truth, and Damien Sandow to be frequently used as jobbers against such big names as John Cena, CM Punk, Randy Orton, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, and Ryback, because it seems that the WWE Universe is only interested in seeing the big names and not the mid-card. Thus, the Intercontinental Championship and the United States Championship both have lost their prestige, though both have their prestige status recovered when The Miz (with the IC belt) and Cena (with the US belt) hold the belts in the 2015-16 period. This is known as being a "jobber to the stars". These are typically wrestlers that the bookers think might be a future main eventer (or at least a future upper mid-carder), and thus they're usually made to be a credible threat rather than simply being squashed, even if they always lose to the top talent in the end. This leaves the jobber to the stars still looking strong enough that fans can buy into it if they're booked to Take a Level in Badass down the road.
An established talent jobbing to a new wrestler is considered a huge favor, and will often boost the new wrestler's popularity instantly.
- Lou Thesz jobbed to Rikidozan, a favor for which Rikidozan was eternally grateful.
- The other thing Sean Waltman (The 1-2-3 Kid/Syxx/X-Pac) is known for is that he broke through with a (Kayfabe) upset of Razor Ramon. He'd been all over WWF TV as "The X Kid" with X changing on a seemingly weekly basis, at which point Bret Hart taunted Ramon and christened Waltman the "1-2-3" kid to mock "The Bad Guy."
- In a Passing the Torch moment, Hulk Hogan jobbed to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI.
- Ivory jobbing to Trish Stratus in 2001. This is considered the moment Trish became a legitimate wrestler after spending her first year in the WWF as an eye-candy manager.
- Tag-team specialist Shelton Benjamin upsetting Triple H on a 2004 RAW established Benjamin as an upper-card superstar. This was arguably the high point of Shelton's career (aside from being on the receiving end of one of Shawn Michaels' most memorable superkicks).
- Chris Jericho lost to rookie blue-chipper John Cena in the summer of 2002 not once, but twice, including Cena's first ever match on PPV. While both were "fluke" wins (Cena won both by roll-up), it was enough to establish Cena as someone to keep an eye on on the Blue Brand. The rest is history.
The term "jobber" has crept into other genres as well, most particularly in superhero comics and anime Fighting Series, in reference to when a character loses a fight against an enemy to show off how strong the enemy was and thus a credible threat for The Hero. It (along with some other wrestling terminology) has also made its way over to the trash-talking in real sports, becoming interchangeable with terms like "basement dweller" or "lottery team".
The opposite of jobbing is called a "push," where up-and-coming stars are on the receiving end of jobs from established wrestlers.
- Lensman: A Boskonian pilot at one point tells his captain that, "we've been jobbed," when he realises that the ship they thought was a merchant, and consequently tried to raid, was actually bait in a trap, filled with Velantian warriors and with other ships nearby as backup.