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Spot Monkey

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"If you can enjoy a match where a man gets a uranage on a guardrail and then gets body slammed on a guardrail and five minutes later is making a comeback and not selling his back? This is a match for you. If that sort of thing annoys you, not a match for you. This was a video game match with better psychology but a wrestling match with not great psychology."
Bryan Alvarez on Christopher Daniels vs Jay Lethal for the TNA X Division Title at Bound For Glory 2007

A "spot", in Professional Wrestling lingo, is a move as scripted into a match, including the reaction by the opponent.note  Some (particularly younger) wrestlers know a lot of great spots, which look absolutely brutal and require a great degree of athleticism, and yet they still don't really know how to wrestle; they have no idea how to tell a story in their matches, or even the basics of acting like something really hurt. They're the type of wrestlers who will do a Triple-Tope-Quebradora-Con-Queso through three flaming tables onto a bed of thumbtacks and ground glass wired with explosives, and then get up like nothing happened, only to perform an even more spectacular spot later in the match. These wrestlers are referred to as Spot Monkeys by fans, and their matches are often Spotfests (in other words, spot after spot with little or no rhyme or reason to them).


Interestingly, the term "Spot Monkey" is being used quite similarly to "Mary Sue" in its overuse. It's quickly losing its definition and becoming shorthand for "wrestler I don't like." In the other direction, "spotfest" isn't always a negative term and can just mean impressed with conditioning or ability to put together rapid fire spots well. Contrast Wrestling Psychology, which tends to get ignored when this trope is in play.


Professional Wrestling

  • Most of the roster of Wrestling Society X. In some cases this was deliberate, as the show was only thirty minutes long and there was a segment set aside for a musical guest, so the wrestlers had to let everyone know what they could do in a hurry and still create a product that was distinct from WWE or TNA. They also had to appease executives who were most interested in explosions and broken furniture.
  • WWE's Jeff Hardy went through a severe Spot Monkey phase before his departure from the company, but got somewhat better after his return; while he's still known for his tendency to dive off high things, he is at least much better about using such spots as part of a match's story.
  • Former ECW and TNA (and recent re-signee with WWE) wrestler Rob Van Dam often gets accused of being a Spot Monkey, but he shows more awareness of the "story" factor in his matches than most Spot Monkeys do, making him a borderline case at best.
    • Van Dam's is more about his lack of selling a story rather than lack of selling an attack. A case in point would be his match with Abyss at Bound For Glory. Abyss had tried to kill RVD with a block of wood covered with huge nails and forced RVD to vacate the belt. During the match, RVD played to the crowd and generally acted like this was just another match rather than a high-level blood feud. Spot Monkey may not be the correct term to describe this, though.
      • Perhaps 'so laid back by nature that he acts high even when he hasn't touched any marijuana recently' fits better. It may just not be in RVD's emotional design to be able to get, or sell, being seriously angry.
  • Some of the members of TNA's X Division, including Sonjay Dutt and Jay Lethal. Others, like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, employ a wrestling style with just as many impressive spots, but manage to actually chain them together with decent wrestling, and thus avoid being tarred with the Spot Monkey brush. It should be noted Alvarez still gave the match mentioned in the page quote three stars. "Good but could be better".
  • Averted with Shawn Michaels. He is a great practitioner of high-level spots and was a major influence on today's spot monkeys. However, he also happens to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and one of the absolute best at telling a story through a match, thus completely averting the stigma of a spot monkey.
  • While most of Essa Rios's spots were both impressive and oddly sensible, some during his WWF run were senseless such as his Jakked match where he gave Low Ki an arm drag that did not carry any of the momentum from his prior acrobatics, making him look like a showoff. In his better spots, his acrobatics made basic moves seem a lot more painful.
  • John Morrison gets painted with this brush. Mostly since he's a former gymnast who now practices Le Parkour and Capoeira, his spots can be spectacular when he does do them. As far as everything in between them, he's improved since his debut, but many of his TV matches boil down to him doing three spots, followed by his finisher, with the other guy doing most of the work. Since leaving WWE and working for AAA and Lucha Underground as Johnny Mundo and TNA as Johnny Impact his psychology and consistency has improved substantially, so he rarely faces these accusations any more.
  • A non high-flying example would be Gail Kim from her first WWE run, who used complicated, nasty looking submission holds with no rhyme, reason or buildup. Ironically whenever she wrestles with her high flying moveset, she shows full awareness of how to tell a story with her moves.
  • Unfortunately, not even Japanese pro wrestling (believed to be a source/inspiration for this showing up in the American indy scene) is immune to this phenomenon. Partially it is from a lot of Japanese promotions employing psychology an American fan may not immediately understand-rapid exchanges of high impact moves (as opposed to reeling after one or two), constant transitions between submission holds (rather than locking one in as long as possible) simultaneous adrenalin surges punctuated by screaming (wrestlers seeming more energized at the finish rather than wearing down as the fight goes on)-and partially just from athletes doing some high spots for little reason other than them looking nice. Another common form seen in Japanese matches is to sell almost nothing at the start of the match but sell progressively more as it goes on, which is easier for foreign fans to recognize but can still be a little weird when a move that did nothing previously goes on to knock a guy out.
    • Japanese high-flyers Kota Ibushi and Takuya Sugi are examples of this dissonance, even in their different wrestling styles. They often perform acrobatic versions of routine wrestling spots in place of the actual spots, which leads them to be too spectacular in moments in which it is not needed for the story of the match. Both have improved their wrestling psychology, mainly due to the need to ground their styles because of their injuries.
  • Some indy wrestlers could be called "stiffness spot monkeys". Stiffness is a wrestling term to describe how hard the fake strikes are - the harder they are, the stiffer they are. The advantage of stiffness is that it's easier to make strikes look real when they for all intents and purposes are real. The disadvantage is that if not very well-timed and targeted, stiff strikes can greatly increase the risk of injuring your opponent. William Regal and Fit Finlay are two good mainstream examples of stiff workers, and two examples of good ones. But on the indy scene, some guys just whale on each other as hard as they can for no particular reason. Raven actually ranted about this phenomenon on his blog. This is due to the influence of Japanese wrestling on the indy scene, and the popularity of super-stiff Japanese wrestlers like Kenta Kobashi. But Kobashi, like Finlay and Regal, can work stiff responsibly, and the Japanese touring schedule is much more relaxed, allowing the wrestlers more time off to recover and thus allowing them to take more punishment in the ring.
    • One example of a "stiffness spot monkey" (as opposed to a stiff, but responsible wrestler) on the Japanese circuit was legend Stan Hansen; who would often legitimately injure his opponents due to the fact that he was legally blind.
    • In his autobiography, Bret Hart accused the younger Japanese wrestlers from New Japan Pro-Wrestling (and Japanese-trained Bad News Allen/Brown) of this; the cult-like dojo system that produced them taught them not to "respect" (i.e., sell for) an opponent that wasn't legitimately beating the hell out of them.
    • In the 1980s, Pavillón Azteca Super Lunes shows were characterized by overly stiff matches, especially those involving Super Muñeco, a popular draw known for having the second highest number of apuestas wins in lucha libre history. Because Muñeco was a small man with a comedy clown gimmick, his opponents resented having to lose to him and would make sure to legitimately beat him up before allowing him to win.
    • While Baby Bull would later become one of the best stiff workers in the business, Big Van Vader, he admits that during his early days in the American Wrestling Association he was under the impression beating the piss out of your opponent was how to go about a match and the Gagnes had to teach him to dial it back.
    • La Nazi had trouble finding work on the Mexican independent circuit during the 90s due to her unrelenting stiffness. Eventually Commandante Pierroth taught her how to protect opponents, after which she was quickly snatched up by AAA and CMLL.
    • La Nazi's counterpart North of the border is Trenesha Biggers, who was snatched up by TNA and Lucha Libre USA without receiving similar instructionnote , leading to a fight after hitting Roxxi Laveaux too hard in the former and Bryan Alvarez giving out the rare minus five stars rating after she beat on Octagoncito and Masacrita Dorada in the latter.
    • MVP has also ranted about this on the independent circuit, though unlike those above his complaint was about opponents hitting him too lightly, saying too many wrestlers who had no business throwing kicks were suddenly trying to imitate a match between Low Ki and Samoa Joe that made the latter a star.
  • Lucha Libre can often seem like this to a casual viewer, in that the rules for trios matches don't allow for American-style heat building note  and the harder rings make traditional "bumps" all but impossible. Since about 99% of modern American pro wrestling is babyfaces selling heel offense, and then heels taking big bumps for the comeback, it just looks like a bunch of masked men doing pretty flips.
    • Also in Lucha Libre it's somewhat common for the tecnicos (faces) to be Spot Monkeys and provide the high spots, and for the rudos (heels) to be more grounded and responsible for telling the story. Watch pretty much any Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Psicosis match from the 90s, and how Psicosis controls the pace and sets Mysterio up for his high spots.
  • A good portion of the Ring of Honor roster in the early days could be accused of this; most notable is the group Special K, who almost served as a Lampshading of the wrestling style. All of the members were rich kid ravers who were on so much drugs that they could pretty much kill themselves doing ridiculous moves with no rhyme or reason to it (conveniently sidestepping the question of how they actually had the motor coordination to actually pull these spots off in Kayfabe), and they flaunted their lack of storytelling and "respect for the business" for heel heat.
    • Special K was negatively contrasted with Low Ki, a "shoot-style" pro wrestler who relied more on stiff kicks (and unlike the "stiffness spot monkeys" described above, knew how to be stiff responsibly). It didn't help Special K's reputation (or them in kayfabe) that Low Ki was one of ROH's top stars and kayfabe threats at the time.
  • A particularly infamous example is indy primadonna Teddy Hart. In addition to being a royal pain backstage and having delusions about his own popularity, Teddy was well known for no-selling within seconds of a match's finish just so that he could show off with more athletic moves. The height of this was Teddy performing several unplanned spots off the top of a cage following a Ring of Honor cage match. The spots made no sense, diminished the story of the match by having Teddy be energetic enough to perform them, were a blatant attempt at drawing attention to himself, and put the other wrestlers in danger because they had to catch him with no preparation. ROH blackballed him, and future WWE Heavyweight Champion CM Punk publicly lambasted Teddy for his actions. This single incident is probably the most extreme example of everything that is wrong with the Spot Monkey style.
    CM Punk: There is no god, and the cage wasn't 30 feet.
    • Not to mention that both Punk AND Hart got blackballed (at least from that company) for a fight that they had while both employed by TNA.
  • Jack Evans, innovator of the 720 moonsault and leader of ROH's Generation Next and Vulture Squad, in a big bad way. Practically every single move he does involves at least one flip. The worst part, he's sloppy as hell and has landed on his head countless times.
  • Kelly Kelly used to have a big problem with this around 2009. As a former gymnast she would often pull out all kinds of headscissors, hurricanranas and complicated flips in every match with little rhyme or reason. When she was moved to SmackDown she worked to improve and has averted this now.
  • Dragon Gate was described by Vince Verhei (of Figure Four Weekly) as "two guys/teams come out, they do 75,000 moves as fast as they can in a 10 minute span, and then at a random point, one of them is pinned."
  • Shane McMahon, despite the fact he is a sitting executive at WWF/E, part of one of the most legacied families in the business, and the boss' only son, who knows how to fight and wrestle. Did a flying elbow drop from the corner to the announce table at WrestleMania X-Seven to his dad, his signature move is a corner-to-corner dropkick into a trashcan, and his most famous spot is definitely the Leap of Faith off the Titantron or Hell in a Cell. He has also taken some nasty bumps too (such as being thrown through the King of the Ring set onto unpadded concrete, a bump that took multiple attempts to make work, with him landing squarely on his head on the failed tries), being sent through a plate of plexiglass twice and landing on his head and neck the first time, doing a Shooting Star Press onto a garbage can in his match with Kurt Angle at the King of the Ring PPV, since it was pure showing off as the move would only hurt Shane and do nothing to Angle.
  • Layla is an odd variation of the trope - she is a comedy spot monkey. Moreso as a heel than as a face (as a face she merely comes across as a little playful before getting down to serious business). She has a habit of forcing excessive comedy spots into a match where they don't make much sense and don't particularly flow well with the story. And she has very little understanding of subtlety - as a heel she's a fountain of Narm.
  • Michelle McCool was a more traditional example, doing handsprings and such for little reason than to show off (they would not even transition into another move or anything). She quickly got better about it but some fans never really let it go and insist she was always a mediocre talent who was only being pushed because of her relationship with The Undertaker.
  • Pro Wrestling Ponderings have accused AR Fox of degenerating from doing moves to hurt people to doing moves to look cool as his EVOLVE run progressed. They periodically made such accusations toward EVOLVE in general leading up to its "reboot", as it was built on the specific psychologies of technical wrestling and contrasting styles and felt EVOLVE shows lost meaning as those things became less central.
  • One of the more common complaints from detractors of The Young Bucks is their matches tend to involve a ton of unnecessarily added flips and way too gratuitous use of Superkicking. On the flip side, many also see the pair as a parody of this trope, as they are well aware of the smarky audience that tends to watch their matches (they named one of their moves after Dave Meltzer for crying out loud) and purposely act like spot monkeys as a way to piss them off in order to play the Heel role.
  • The final confrontation between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg at WrestleMania 33 showed that the only way to get a really entertaining match (distinct from the 86-second Squash Match they'd had at Survivor Series the previous year) out of them was to go for a full-bore hoss spotfest. The two did nothing except trade signature moves and finishers for less than 5 minutes, with Goldberg hitting multiple spears (including one through the barricade outside the ring) and Lesnar delivering ten of his trademark German Suplexes, kicking out of Goldberg's Jackhammer (the first time anyone has ever done that other than the botched spot where Hulk Hogan was forced to kick out when Kevin Nash's interference was late) and finally putting Goldberg down with an F5. For the entire match neither man so much as threw a punch, it was just spot, spot, spot from bell to bell. Surprisingly, it was considered an excellent match between them, worlds better than their plodding and overly drawn-out encounter at WrestleMania XX 13 years earlier.

Non-wrestling examples:

Comic Books

  • Some Comic Book artists embellish their pages with art which actually detracts from the story, in order to make it more sellable in the Original Art market.
    • Atop the Fourth Wall will usually make note of something like this happening. If a book is utter crap, but has great artwork, Linkara will not shy from complimenting the art and making sure the viewers know he likes the artist's work. He will then break apart the story and show us its faults, thus proving that good artwork does not a good story make.


  • Gore-driven Torture Porn films have this reputation in the horror genre. The lesser of these films ignore trying to build suspense in favour of elaborate gore, giving the scenes a "wasn't that cool" mentality instead of being actually scary. There's a reason the more effective and scary horror films are those that don't rely on gore for their scares, instead using it as a punchline after lengthy, suspenseful buildup if they use it at all.
    • This said, this may not be deliberate. Many of the more famous "torture porn" directors are haemophobes, and to them, these scenes are as legitimately scary as a more traditional horror moment.
  • For a similar reason above, Michael Bay has built a career off of this for his films. He doesn't get the best scripts to work with, and his direction may leave something to be desired, but his films are CGI filled, car chase ridden, explosion fested love letters to the word awesome. He's made a lot of money doing this, so it's not like anyone can fault him (and his plots and directing aren't usually all that bad anyhow, just not masterpieces). Furthermore, he does have a sense of humor about his status, using Self-Deprecation humor in a few TV ads and cameos.


  • An in-universe and accidental aversion in Reserved for the Cat. When dancing the title role in La Sylphide for the first time outside a rehearsal room, Ninette is so wiped at the end that she delivers a very brief death scene for the Sylph. One reviewer compliments her for not padding out the death scene to show off her ballet moves (something the prima she was substituting for was notorious for doing). Later, when she and Nigel are planning the show in England, the trope is played straight — Ninette's part will involve several flashy ballet moves linked together with "looks nice, but no strain whatsoever" dance.


  • A curiously-related example can be found in opera. In what is meant to be a sung story, a lot of the more spectacular singers ignore the acting element, in favor of scene-stealing vocal performances (i.e., not making eye contact with someone you're meant to be 'acting' with in a duet, opting to sing for technique and not for emotion, etc). The phenomenon is strikingly similar enough to call them Spot Monkeys.
  • Even more curiously related, this behavior contributed to the downfall of the Castrati — men who'd been castrated at a young age so that the high pitches and clarity of tone from their pre-pubescent voices never faded, but were instead added to by the power of adult male lungs and a more flexible ribcage. Many, many Castrati, shamelessly self-satisfied, embellished and improvised the arias they were given to make themselves look as magnificent as possible, with no regards to what the opera was about or what that aria itself was even trying to say. Fed up, one of the most influential opera composers of the time announced he was sick of this bullshit and that he was no longer writing any parts for Castrati in his operas. This caught on as many composers were equally done with having their carefully crafted art chewed up and spat out with gaudy, vocal acrobatics and as a result, the Castrati vogue — which had gone on for quite some time and produced a number of bonafide superstars — began to subside.

    The Church tried to cap it by banning the creation of castrati for musical purposes, but problems with Loophole Abuse inevitably set in — all later boys had just 'happened' to 'need' their testicles removed or destroyed at about 13 for some 'medical' reason. (Surgeons in those days did not have any sort of regulation, and child abuse was only regarded as such if it were liable to actually kill the child.) France managed to stop the craze first by banning them performing — everywhere else, the change in fashion came at about the same time as changes in medical practice (with surgery done by doctors) and a change in social attitudes to children's rights. Ball-less Spot Monkeys.
  • There's another musical version of Spot Monkeys. There are several singers who can achieve very high notes in a range known as the Whistle Register. Minnie Riperton was one of the first, and others such as Mariah Carey and Debelah Morgan have been able to achieve it more recently. Possibly because it's difficult to make your voice jump up and down your range (or because listening to it for long periods can get frustrating), but any time a singer uses the Whistle Register, it's never used for the purpose of the song, or even during a song. It's usually added on to the end of it, almost just to say "Listen to what I can do."
  • Melismatic Vocals in general can be considered a musical Spot Monkey, since many cases result in the song getting thrown by the wayside in favor of letting the singer show off. (Depending on who you ask, you can thank/blame either Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera for this getting really out of hand.) It's not so bad when it's a solo singer since lung capacity will usually keep it under check, but if it's a group, the melisma never seems to really stop.
    • "Where My Girls At?" by 702 seems to always have someone warbling in the background.
    • Speaking of Aguilera, you have both times when she performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at sporting events, the first being at the 2004 NBA All-Star Game and the second at Super Bowl XLV. In both instances, she used the occasion as an excuse to show off her singing, changing the melody in the process (though in both cases, her singing was hardly the only indignity done to the National Anthem).
  • This can happen in piano too, most often in styles such as Ragtime where the player is allowed and sometimes even expected to improvise. So they decide to show off their speed and technical ability, oftentimes at the expense of the music. Compare this version of The Chevy Chase by Eubie Blake, which is fairly close to the way it looks on sheet music, to this one played so fast and altered so much that there's almost no trace of the actual song left.
  • Neoclassical/Jazz Fusion shred guitarists in Rock Music and Heavy Metal often have this reputation. This is because in many cases, these musicians, while technically excellent, will merely rely on their ability to play extremely fast/complicated guitar parts rather than contributing anything of value to the song they are playing. In fact, this was part of the Hype Backlash against Hair Metal in the early '90s, as many of the genre's bands relied too much on flashy leads and guitar work rather than musical substance to sustain their songs, which caused listeners to turn against them.


  • Roller derby used to involves entire teams of spot monkeys back in the '70s, where every score, every block, every fall, and every fight was scripted beforehand, though the players obviously denied this. Modern teams occasionally pull some spectacular trick skating out to gain popularity with the audience before the match or during half time, but these days matches are totally unscripted and often about ten times more brutal as a result. Modern roller derby matches are regularly promoted and described as "bouts".
  • Because of the way the game is played, basketball players can become Spot Monkeys by choosing to go for the highlight reel dunk shot instead of simply scoring, sometimes to the point of refusing to make passes to teammates who have wide open shots.
    • During the '90s, the Melbourne Tigers in Australia's National Basketball League seemingly kept a player named Brett Rainbow on their list exclusively for slam dunk competitions, never playing him in an actual game.

Video Games

  • A common criticism leveled at modern action games (perhaps most notoriously the later installments in the Modern Warfare series) is that they have become long strings of barely-connected Videogame Set Pieces that introduce new gameplay mechanics for one stage, climax with a big "wow" moment, then jump on to the next one and never use the just-introduced mechanic again. The similarity to spot monkeying is quite striking.


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