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So you want to book some wrestling matches? Okay; however, you should consider that good wrestling booking is a skill set that is both rare and extremely difficult to implement. It used to be a waste of time to publicly entertain the idea of being an assistant booker without fifteen years of working in the business and far more have failed at itnote  than have succeedednote . However, there are some basic rules to consider when working as a booker.

The Golden Rule

You are selling a product. The fans give you money for this product. If the fans are not interested in your product, they will not give you money. Without their money, you are out of a job. Therefore, your first and only responsibility is to the fans. Not your family; not your friends; not your shareholders; not anyone else. This is because only the fans give money to you.note  Failure to follow this rule will result in a failure of your business.

Business Ethics

  1. Never let your own ego get in the way of business. This is seemingly the hardest thing for bookers to do, and it's the thing which damages wrestling most of all. If you put your own ego first and foremost, you will pay for it.
    • This is a mistake that former WWE owner Vince McMahon committed several times: the most infamous was squandering millions and millions of dollars on The InVasion Angle to humiliate his old rivals, all because he could not accept that a rival promotion had stood its ground against him, and UPN execs were so disillusioned by the WCW brand's hemorrhage of money in its dying days (this page will go into what they did to deserve that, we assure you) that they were all too happy to oblige. These things cost him millions; if he had put ego and pride aside and convinced the Network he could harness the WCW that kicked his ass for over a year, the Invasion would have rolled on for multiple years, making all parties money hand over fist. It cannot be overstated how much of a license to print money that angle was.
    • Nearly two decades later, Vince's habit of reluctance to push anything that wasn't "his creation" even at the expense of an obvious moneymaker is also said to be the reason The Shield vs. OGBC never happened despite all three Shield and four major BC members being on his payroll for over three years.
    • Contrast the above with Cody Rhodes returning to WWE at WrestleMania 38, where, rather than humiliating, squashing, and burying a major incoming talent from a rival promotion to make them look weak and unready for the "big leagues", and their rivals weak as a result (and, of course, to get a bit of temporary catharsis) at the expense of all the money the WWE just shelled out to hire him and attention they gained from the acquisition, he was booked in an extremely competitive match with a talented and high-profile heel, allowed to use his former music and entrance, treated like a star, and ultimately won, all in front of a white-hot crowd and an audience revved up and ready to see what he'll do next.
  2. While the fans are the ones that give you money, your wrestlers are the ones that make you money. Each wrestler represents years of training, conditioning, and talent to even work in a ring, and even more so to qualify getting in front of a crowd and live television. Hiring and replacing them is expensive, and without wrestlers, you don't have a show. You MUST take care of them if you really want to be a successful and respected booker. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding wrestler treatment:
    • Never punish wrestlers for Real Life misdemeanors by depushing, burying, or otherwise harming their kayfabe talent.note . If you damage their credibility through a series of protracted losses, you aren't harming them — you're harming your own business, because you have just told the fans that this wrestler cannot be taken seriously, and you send the signal that the rest of your roster are just as easily disposable. To harm a wrestler's aura is to harm the business. Be a professional; do what actual businesses do; have a disciplinary process. Take the wrestler off-television, dock their pay. Have a legally airtight code of conduct that states in black and white what is expected of your employees so they know, what boundaries they are not supposed to cross and what the consequences are, and for God's sake enforce those rules. Wrestling needs to leave its carnival days behind it, and march into the modern era. Example from Summerslam 2017
    • Don't try to work your talent. They're the ones who are putting their bodies on the line for the company, and they deserve your honesty and respect. Be firm but fair, and definitely don't double-cross them. At best, you're going to get a Montreal Screwjob situation where mutual bad blood simmers for yearsnote . At worst, it will kill your promotion. There are many reasons Vince Russo is – to put it lightly – a controversial figure in the industry, and a lot of it stems from the fact that even the wrestlers couldn't keep up with him.
    • Wrestlers are going to leave your promotion for other ones, whether for better pay, better wrestling opportunity, or both, and this is a fact of life. It's fine to use their last few months in the company to put over new talent, but do not, under any circumstances, bury them on-air for choosing to leave, even if they've done something legitimately underhanded like no-showing. Giving your wrestlers respectable send-offs if they do choose to leave will make sure your promotion is still in the good graces of not only them but the new promotion they choose to go to (see The Product, rule #15), and leaves the door open to them returning to your promotion in the future. As Jim Cornette has said several times, a wrestler leaving and having success somewhere else is a good thing, because when they come back to work for you they'll be able to draw more money than they were drawing before they left.note  In contrast, treating a long-tenured employee like trash just because they decided to change jobs will do nothing but piss them and the fans off, and all but ensure they will never work for you again. The list of wrestlers who have been buried by WWE after demanding their releases, and then showed up in another company cutting promos bashing their former employer, could fill a phone book (it's basically a requirement if you sign with AEW), while Bobby Heenan's respectful and fitting send-off (masterminded by the Brain himself) meant that even when Bischoff or other commentators tried teeing him up to take potshots at the company in wartime, he refused to.
  3. Celebrities should be used carefully; never pay more than they can bring, and remember your core business. This is the difference between William Shatner and Bob Barker producing two of the best WWE Raw guest-host gigs of 2009, and countless other "celebs" like Al Sharpton and ZZ Top showing up unprepared, slightly tipsy, and merely using the show to shill their latest project. It's all in how they relate to the wrestling.
    • If a celebrity displays wrestling ability, then yes, you can let them wrestle. But bear in mind that having a celebrity wrestle is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their involvement brings in that sweet mainstream attention and new eyeballs onto your product. On the other hand, getting into a ring requires a lot of skills that even athletes from other disciplines aren't trained or conditioned for. Example But the biggest risk comes from deciding who would win in a match. If the celebrity wins, you openly admit either your wrestlers or wrestling itself is not worth taking seriously if anyone off the street can come in and beat someone who's supposed to be a highly trained wrestler, or that pro-wrestlers shouldn't be considered 'real' athletes if they're beaten by a combat fighter like a boxer or MMA fighter. If your wrestler wins, then you risk alienating the mainstream audience who came in to see their heroes who just got beaten by a 'fake' wrestler.
    • So if you really, really, really want to put them in a match, don't have celebrities beat your wrestlers unless you have some way to get the heat back on the talent—perhaps the loss was a dirty finish, or perhaps the celebrity sticks around a little longer to put the other wrestler back over. The only wrestlers who can lose cleanly to non-wrestlers and not be affected are jobbers and joke characters who aren't supposed to be taken seriously as wrestlers in the first place. Bam Bam Bigelow may have actually carried New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor to a pretty good match in the main event of WrestleMania XI (and Taylor, himself a wrestling fan who wanted to do the sport justice, put in the work and commitment to pull as much of his weight as he could), but it still damaged the poor guy's career long-term.note 
    • And this should probably go without saying, but whatever you do, don’t try to put any championship belts on them unless the championship itself isn't intended to be taken seriously (such as DDT's Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship or WWE's 24/7 Championship). Compare WWE putting its jobber/lower card division's 24/7 title on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (or any other celebrity who has held it) to Vince Russo insisting on putting the WCW world title on David Arquette as part of a cross-promotional deal, despite everyone else, including Arquette himself, telling him it was a terrible idea.
    • AEW did this right at the 2018 All In show* with Stephen Amell, known for his role on Arrow. This worked because Amell is a famously fit individual, he spent much of his free time leading up to the event training specifically in pro wrestling (as mentioned above, you could have abs on top of abs and still be hurt incredibly easily in the ring if you don't know what you're doing), he was a close friend of Cody Rhodes, as the latter had guest starred on Arrow and the two have wrestled in WWE once, and his opponent was Christopher Daniels, a veteran of well over 20 years and possibly the safest worker to ever be placed with in a ring on this good Earth. Daniels won the match, Amell played well the role of precocious rookie, and the whole match became possibly the best worked celebrity bout in wrestling history.
      • This incidentally set the new standard for celebrity matches in the turn of the decade, with talents as diverse as NFL player Pat McAfee, rapper Bad Bunny, and even Shaquille O'Neal working their butts off in training beforehand and then again in the ring, either putting the wrestlers they competed against over or winning in a way that didn't make their adversaries look weak. McAfee in particular enjoyed an intricately booked feud with Adam Cole (British commentators with little familiarity with American football pointed out that his presentation made it clear that as a much-lauded punter his kicks were deadly), did a good job playing the arrogant heel refusing to take wrestling seriously to set himself up for a loss at Cole's hands, maintained kayfabe in and out of the ring before and after the match, and even signed on to the company long-term as a talent once it became clear he had the charisma to serve as an in-ring performer, stable manager, or commentator, earning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter's "Rookie of the Year" award. He's currently a color commentator on SmackDown.note 
    • While celebrities can wrestle, and can even win matches under the right circumstances, one thing you must never do is allow them to overshadow your full-time wrestlers by showing them up in the ring or doing a bunch of flashy moves; if someone who has never wrestled before is shown to be better at wrestling than professionals with years of experience, it makes the whole business look weak. Despite Bad Bunny showing a surprising aptitude for wrestling in his debut match, which was overall well-received, one of the most-criticized parts of it was a sequence in which he outwrestled both of John Morrison and The Miz, making both of them look far more inept than they should have. Contrast his match with Damian Priest at Backlash in 2023, which not only took place in front of a molten-hot Puerto Rican crowd where both men were A Hero to His Hometown, but had a street fight stipulation, meaning weapon use was in vogue and a wrestler losing to a non-wrestler was somewhat credible, and both men called in backup from a series of Puerto Rican wrestling legends and veterans who did a decent chunk of the damage to both competitors, all of which meant that when Bad Bunny was victorious, it arguably did Damien Priest some good and seems to have netted him a mini push. (In fact, it proved a Tough Act to Follow for the main event, but we'll get to arranging a card in time.)
    • However, if the celebrity plans to stick around in wrestling for a while, using their success in other sports is one of the quickest and easiest ways to lend them credibility right off the bat. Kurt Angle using his Olympic gold medal in wrestling instantly established that he was a top-tier athlete who could compete in WWE when he debuted in 1997.note  Another successful example of a celebrity wrestling is Ronda Rousey, who was known not only for her Mixed Martial Arts accolades, but also her acting career. Brought in for a few years to the WWE (and taking a pregnancy leave after her first year in the company), her MMA expertise combined with her wrestling training and solid booking allowed her to display her talent in many classic matches against the likes of The Authority, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, The Bella Twins, Natalya and Charlotte Flair, and her last bout served to put over rising star Becky Lynch as the new face of the company. In fact, many news and commentary outlets called her the Rookie of the Year by the time 2018 ended.
  4. Wrestlers should be treated well, and should have a solid say about matters relating to their health, jobs and well-being, but never booking decisions; see Employee Relations, rule #4.
    • A prime source of locker room politics (a poison we'll cover later) can be envy between long-time wrestlers within your promotion and new wrestlers on their way in from other promotions. While some of this is unavoidable (wrestlers' self-interest dictates that they're going to try to push for as much focus as they can get), refusing to give into these kinds of political maneuvers and not playing favorites with the talent will do more to foster good creative growth than taking sides. A major factor in the failure of The InVasion Angle was not just Vince McMahon's own petty spite, but a WWF locker room jealous of "their spots" and unhappy with the idea of new hires making more money than them or getting more screentime than them; if the bosses hadn't listened then the InVasion might not have flopped before the big WCW names signed on.
  5. Wrestling leads to horrible injuries as limbs and bodies wear out. Give your wrestlers ample injury time off; let them return to their position on the card when they come back. But even if they want to (and they often will), never rush an injured wrestler back into the ring before they're medically ready. Creating this kind of a positive working environment is good for the wrestlers' performances and the fans. See The Golden Rule.
    • As a further thought, if you're in the United States, you really should pay your workers' healthcare benefits if you can afford it; keeping them healthy keeps your product healthy. Lose them, and you lose a skill set that is not easy to replace. WWE does not provide its employees with health insurance, claiming they are independent contractors. Learn from their mistake.
    • Remember that while cool spots are great for the fans to watch, they should be balanced with their effect on your performers' bodies. A leading theory behind Chris Benoit's behavior during his family's tragic incident is the fact that he had suffered repeated concussions from years of diving headbutts and German suplexes. The NFL has been learning to take brain damage more seriously, with examinations after every serious hit, and they compete wearing state-of-the-art helmets and protective gear! Only the most ruthless fans would rather see an extra couple feet of elevation on the latest broken table spot du jour than a slightly less impressive, but much less dangerous maneuver, and these people are a dwindling minority. Even setting all long-term effects aside, dangerous maneuvers mean heightened chances of injury, and injuries mean missed dates, unhappy fans, and less money for everyone involved.
    • Also, as we'll cover under the Product, rule #20, last minute changes to your card already make a lot of your fans very unhappy. Wanna know what a major reason is for lots of last minute changes? Wrestlers simply being unable to compete, either because of substance abuse issues (we'll get to the drugs) or severe injuries that keep them on the shelf. And that's setting aside what having to suddenly do without a major performer will do to your long-term plans! AEW has suffered from frequent, serious injuries in its main event scene for basically its entire existence as a promotion, partially due to the very creative freedom it promises its performers, often requiring last-minute card changes for big pay-per-view/premium events. (That's not to say WWE has been without such injuries,note  just that its overall "house style" is much safer.)
    • A special caveat is in order for promoters of garbage wrestling. By their very nature, hardcore-style matches are very dangerous to compete in, even if everything goes right. Smaller independent promotions use hardcore matches to display the kind of ultra-violence that would never be seen on nationally televised shows, which builds them a niche, but also paints them into a corner and does little to truly set apart their talent; it doesn't take an impressive physique or a great deal of training to be smashed with a fluorescent light bulb or throw an opponent through a window glass sheet or a table wrapped in barbed wire, after all. Before deciding to book these kind of matches, take special care to weigh the risksnote  and benefits to not only your performers, but to the reputation of your promotion.
    • Because of the scripted nature of wrestling, athletes in good health can continue to wrestle for many more years than those in other sports would be able to. The key word here is health, however. If you give your wrestlers enough time to recover and rest from injuries they accumulate over their career, they can easily continue wrestling into their fifties and sixties à la Ric Flair or Terry Funk, and make the promotion money for decades. Manage their health poorly, however, and like in the cases of Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, Paige and Edge, they'll be forced to retire early for medical reasons during what would normally be the prime of their career, or worse. Remember, while you should give them the freedom to lay out their matches and use their moves, stress to them that no amount of wild stunts are worth their safety. Dave Meltzer came rightly under criticism, even from his coworker Bryan Alvarez, for gushing and giving huge critical ratings to frankly dangerous matches and stunts that can only result in diminishing returns for shortened careersnote . And even Meltzer himself hated the Hell in a Cell match featuring the single most replayed bump in the history of professional wrestlingnote . Make sure your wrestlers understand that you don't want them chasing praise or Internet fame via gifs in exchange for years and years of their careers and lives.
  6. Steroids and drugs are bad. This really cannot be stressed enough in a business where entire locker rooms could probably fail a drug test at any given time. It's gotten so bad that a cursory glance at the list of wrestlers who've died in the last twenty years or so shows that a wrestler who began his career after 1995 has a life expectancy of about 39. Drugs are the single biggest threat to the wrestling business and need to be taken seriously. Anyone caught using is a liability at best, and a danger at worst. People will always want to see steroidal physiques, but superior in-ring action, mic work, and overall stage presence will more than compensate. To the claim that audiences only want to see steroidal physiques, there is an argument to be made that if more "normal" physiques are made the norm, there would be no demand for the 'roid freaks. If you disagree with this rule, there are only two names that need mentioning: Nancy and Daniel Benoit.
    • It is worth noting here that Benoit's problems were much exacerbated by brain damage caused by his diving headbutts from the top turnbuckle and chairshots to the back of the head. One neurologist described his brain as that of a 85-year-old man with Alzheimer's. Know what he could have usednote ? Better and more thorough health care to catch the warning signs of drug and bodily abuse before they led to catastrophic damage; see Rule #5 above.
    • The name Eddie Guerrero comes to mind when it comes health and drugs in wrestling, as well as alcoholism brought on by self-medicating against pain and injuries, another blight in wrestling. He died at the age of 38 due to heart failurenote . There are dozens of other such names whose lives were cut short either directly or indirectly due to substance abuse, including Davey Boy Smith (dead at 40), Roddy Piper (who correctly predicted he wouldn't live past 65, dying at age 61), Miss Elizabeth (dead at 43 due to drug habits likely influenced by Lex Luger), Test (dead at 34), Umaga (dead at 36), Brian Pillman (dead at 35note ), Hawk (dead at 46), Curt Hennig (dead at 45), four out of the five Von Erich brothers (David, 25; Mike, 23; Chris, 21; Kerry, 33).note  These are not isolated incidents. These are patterns.
    • When they're not affecting the health of your wrestlers, drugs can affect your card, and thus the health of your promotion. Just look at what happened with Jeff Hardy at Victory Road 2011; his out-of-control drug use led to him showing up moments before his main event match with Sting visibly drugged to the gills and in no state to safely compete, necessitating that TNA - or at least Eric Bischoff - cut their PPV's main event short (to less than two minutes) by having Sting forcibly pin Jeff before he got either of them hurt.note  The fans were naturally outraged at this whole mess, and Sting was none too happy either, shouting "I agree!" on camera in response to angry crowd chants.
    • On a more positive note, the modern era crop of popular wrestlers don't tend to be 'roid freaks, instead using enhancements far more sparingly for the most part if at all to begin with. This includes AJ Styles, Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose/Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, Kofi Kingston, Cody Rhodes, and CM Punk. In fact, Punk got quite a lot of mileage from The Gimmick of pointedly NOT using drugs.
    • The rise of female wrestlers, such as Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Charlotte Flair have pretty much completely demolished the notion that audiences want impossibly muscled bodies, and instead will tune in if there is great wrestling, a procession of charismatic people in addition to the wrestling, and a compelling reason to wait for at least one wrestling match on a later show.
    • Preventing steroid and drug abuse will require you to adhere to point 5. Wrestling is incredibly strenuous to the human body. Wrestlers use steroids as much to recover faster from minor injuries as to build up muscle. Alcohol and pills are used to dull the pain, to keep moving when they're dead on their feet, and to be able to sleep before doing it again.
  7. And although it should go without saying, hold yourself to a similar standard of professionalism as your workforce and refrain from sexual misconduct. Your wrestlers and crew are your employees, not your toys. Even setting aside the uncomfortable moral problems with treating people this way, hush money adds up quick, and we're not in The '80s anymore. In the Internet age, people will find out if you're abusing your power to squeeze the people under you into servicing you and, far from celebrating your rock star charisma, all but a tiny handful of horrible people will see you for the sleazy creep you are.

The Product

  1. Before anything else, THE #1 thing you have to remember is the pivotal importance of Kayfabe. Yes, even though it's dead, it still matters. Wrestling is a staged entertainment, which means that EVERYTHING is dependent on presentation, because presentation guides perception. You can hire the best wrestlers in the entire world, but if you present them as jobbers then the audience will think of them as losers. Conversely, if you present your wrestlers to the audience as a big deal, then the audience will at least give them the chance to become a big deal. Treat your guys like stars and you'll have stars. Treat them like jobbers, and jobbers is all they'll be. Of course, the wrestlers you push do need the actual talent to be able to at least mostly live up to how they're presentednote , but the only way to find the ones that can pull it off is to give them the chance. There's a lot more to it than that, of course, but this is the baseline for how the wrestling industry works.
  2. The majority of wrestling should be simple, one-on-one or Tag Team matches with no interference; Face vs. Heel. This is the basic product you are selling, and it’s what the audience wants. "Angle" was the preferred terminology over "storyline" among bookers for decades specifically because it was a constant reminder to keep things simple. A match or build up to one rarely needs more than one "hook".
    • One gimmick match can definitely be a good thing, and can easily drum up extra business. Some, like the Money in the Bank Ladder Match or the Royal Rumble, are multi-man special attractions that have a desirable prize to fight for and can sell a whole card just on name value alone, as well as set up an entire program worth of angles and future matches for the forthcoming months. Others, like the Hell in a Cell match, are brutal garbage matches that can be used as the satisfying capper for blood feuds. But the main reasons that Gimmick Matches shouldn't be overused is that seeing them too often dilutes the audience's interest. One ultraviolent match a year is truly shocking stuff, but seeing too many of them results in wrestlers doing more and more dangerous stunts to try to get the attention of a crowd that's desensitized to gimmick matches, and see Business Ethics #5 for why that's a terrible idea. Even ECW and CZW, the classic and modern faces of hardcore wrestling, made sure to include different types of matches and wrestling in between its garbage matches so that fans wouldn't get bored.
      • It's widely agreed that the worst thing WWE ever did to the Hell in a Cell match stipulation was making it a yearly PPV where wrestlers would have a cell match just because it was that time of year again, rather than because the intensity of the feud demanded it, and refusing to allow HiaC matches at any time other than the PPV for marketing reasons.note  Interestingly, once Triple H took over WWE creative in 2022, he axed the annual Hell in a Cell event.
    • Just like regular wrestling matches, the rules of Gimmick Matches should be easy to understand. Matches like the ladder match, no-disqualification match, and steel cage match have been contested for many decades because of the simplicity of their rules, whether that be using everything at ringside to hurt your opponent or being the first to retrieve a prize. But when you have a Contract-On-a-Pole, Two Out of Three Falls, lumberjack match contested in a steel cage under a time limit, it gets ridiculous. The more swerves, gimmicks, run-ins, etc. you add to a match, the more confusing it becomes. Confused audiences are bored audiences, and bored audiences don't come back, costing you both fans and money. Just look at WWE's Punjabi Prison match and TNA's King of the Mountain match for examples of overcomplicated gimmick matches that failed to do anything for the companies or angles except earning them places in WrestleCrap.
    • Another benefit to simple matches and angles? Your wrestlers don't get confused. Part of the chaos that was Russo-era WCW and TNA was due to the fact that the wrestlers themselves often missed spots, forgot cues, or encountered malfunctions the more convoluted their matches got, which can seriously put their safety at risk. Example
    • As a side note, it may seem strange, but good taste should generally prevail when it comes to most programs and simple angles. The more "out-there" a program becomes, generally the less interest the fanbase has (because they're interested in wrestling), the more you make yourself look unpalatable to the mainstream, and the less business in the long run. There are too many cases demonstrating this principle to go into detail. As a general rule, necrophilia, incest and similar themes are the purview of 18 certificate Euroshlock, not fights between two big angry foes. There is a reason that even mentioning the Katie Vick saga will make those fans who remember it feel a little ashamed of their love for the "sport".
      • It's not even necessarily the audience alone you'll have to worry about; WWE lost Dean Ambrose (likely forever) and their competitors gained Jon Moxley because he found the promo material he was given as part of his heel turn (saying truly despicable things about real-life friend Roman Reigns' leukemia) so tasteless and unpleasant that he decided then and there he was leaving for keeps as soon as his contract was up and never coming back.
    • Additionally, an individual wrestler who's tarred with a particularly distasteful gimmick can have his career permanently damaged by association with it (Kerwin White, Eugene, Bastion Booger, and post-Headbangers Chaz Warrington, anyone?). If your promotion gains a reputation for doing this, it becomes that much harder to hire new talent.
  3. "Protecting" your wrestlers (that is, to take your franchise players and keep them from losing, or having them lose via outside factors) is something that is a very fine line to walk. One the one hand, New Japan Pro-Wrestling can be very much a crapshoot where even the top tier superstars on the roster can lose clean to a lowly midcard performer at any given event (especially during its round robin tournament arcs where they don't want someone to go undefeated). On the other hand, WWE takes a lot of flak for booking several matches a card to end inconclusively or with a distraction leading to a quick pin in an effort to keep both sides looking equal in the eyes of the fans, with the end result being a kind of status quagmire where all wrestlers are made to look strong and therefore none of them do. There is no right answer as far as which direction to take things, but keep in mind that fans are very understanding of the "any given Sunday" aspect of matches wherein sometimes, even for a superior wrestler, it's just not their night. When fans can predict a winner of a match because of the wrestlers' relative positions in the company hierarchy, you've gone too far. But if you have a position where the John Cenas of the world lose clean to the Santino Marellas without any shenanigans, you've also gone too far. The lesson is to protect, but not coddle.
    • One way of protecting your wrestlers is to protect their Finishing Move, as these moves must have a reputation of decisively putting opponents down for the 3-count. Not only are they important to signify the end of a match, you can build entire programs out of whether a wrestler can hit them. The Tombstone Piledriver, the End of Days, the F5 and the Red Arrow were such dreaded moves that if they hit an opponent with them, audiences knew it was game over, and so it was a big damn deal if someone (like Shawn Michaels or Austin Aries) managed to kick out, or require two or three hits of the same move to put them away (as was the case with Roman Reigns, The Undertaker and Seth Rollins regarding Lesnar's F5). Kenny Omega copied moves of the opponents he defeated in the past as a way of mocking them, and to show his desperation to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship; he would also flatly refuse to perform his finisher, the One-Winged Angel, if the opponent was going to kick out of it (slipping out of the setup or the pin being broken up by someone else would be fine, but nobody is allowed to kick out of Omega's OWA). A finisher that doesn't put away an opponent eventually just becomes a joke move, and no one has demonstrated this better than, of all people, Ric Flair, whose Figure Four Leglock has in modern times had smarks going "Why did [wrestler] apply that move? It never puts people away!" (Even Flair has mocked the move.)
  4. Clearly observe your wrestlers, and make a note of their strengths and weaknesses. Play to your wrestlers’ strengths, and hide their weaknesses. Learn who you've got working for you and don't just throw opponents together. This was something that was done particularly well in ECW. Playing to your wrestlers' strengths can be the difference between Malenko vs. Guerrero (a feud of two completely evenly-matched technical wrestlers, widely regarded as one of the best sets of matches ECW ever produced) and Big Show vs. Batista (a WCW giant and a WWE power-face, neither of whom were known for their technical skill, booked as the "best" in ECW).
  5. Let the fans' reaction be your guide. The crowd decides who is a face or heel better than any booker. If they cheer for a wrestler, they're a face. If they boo, they're a heel. It is almost impossible to make a crowd cheer for a heel or boo a face (X-Pac Heat notwithstanding). Bookings should be made according to crowd reactions.
    • A notable example of this being done right is the Honky Tonk Man, who started off with an Elvis Impersonator gimmick that was originally supposed to get him over as a face, but the fans hated it and booed him. Rather than keep booking him as a face and trying to force the fans to accept him as such, the WWF turned Honky heel, and he went on to become one of the greatest heels in the history of the promotion.
    • Another notable example is Dwayne Johnson. When he first entered the WWF, he played Legacy Character Rocky Maivia, based off his grandfather, "High Chief" Peter Maivia. The problem was, this was a bland non-gimmick that the WWF tried to push to the moon, and fans showed their displeasure by showering him with chants of "Rocky Sucks!" and "Die, Rocky, Die!" Dwayne rolled with this, using the heat to his advantage by turning heel and restyling himself as "The Rock". As "The Rock", Dwayne got so far over with the fans that he was able to turn face again without losing the audience... yet still made use of further heel turns at well-timed points to freshen up his act.
    • A third example is The New Day, whom Vince McMahon initially saddled with a black gospel preacher group gimmick before pushing them as faces. Thanks in no small part to it largely being a racial stereotype (which didn't do much for the morale of its members either), the gimmick utterly failed to get over with fans until the group turned heel, treating their overly positive attitudes as obliviousness while dropping the racist undertones of the act. In a touch of irony, this version of the New Day ended up becoming so entertaining and popular, it necessitated a face turn because of how other teams were getting heel heat just by being matched against them.
    • On the flip side, this is the mistake WWE persistently made for years with Roman Reigns. Hand-picked as the next big face by Vince McMahon and given a monster push after The Shield broke up, crowds roundly rejected Roman when his shortcomings and limitations became apparent, constantly booing him at every opportunity. Rather than turn him heel to play off the crowd's hatred of him, WWE continued pushing Roman as a face harder and harder, giving him more main events, hanging more titles on him and positioning him as The Hero of WWE even as the fans continued to boo. While Roman's abilities and performances drastically improved since his solo career began to the point that all but his most ardent haters had to admit that he's a very competent wrestler, his constant face push is continued to receive a terrible response. Countless people within the industry all but begged Vince to turn Roman heel and let him work his way back into favor (like The Rock, above), but Vince persisted in insisting that he rather than the fans decides who is face and who is heel, resulting in Roman becoming possibly the most-hated face in wrestling history. Fortunes would occasionally change with fan reaction whenever he spent time away from the world title picture and simply focused on being an aggressive fighting badass, though he never fully got Rescued from the Scrappy Heap because this was almost always followed by a haphazard attempt to push him to beat Brock Lesnar for the world championship in a transparent move to cement him as the company's main guy for years to come.In particular The one time it wasn't a push to beat Lesnar or win the title... they had him beat and implicitly "retire" The Undertaker (which was promptly undone in part to keep Reigns from being hated for life). Despite even that, he was eventually rescued, but only after he was diagnosed with leukemia and forced to take an indefinite leave of absence, and it was only upon his return, and his receiving substantially better booking, that crowds became more willing to accept him.
    • Ironically, Roman would finally get his long-awaited heel turn in 2020 after returning from a sabbatical he took due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which revitalized his career and caused numerous fans and critics to (at long last) hail him as the best thing in the company. WrestleMania 37 would be the first time WWE performed in front of fans since the pandemic, with Reigns closing out the two-night event by defending the Universal Championship against Royal Rumble winner Edge and inserted entrant Daniel Bryan in a triple threat match. Proving his absolute excellence as a true heel, Reigns was consistently booed throughout the match, goaded and played into "Roman Sucks" chants from grown men in the audience (the same demographic that's been leading the charge in praising his conceited tribal chief gimmick online), and arguably kept Daniel Bryan babyface.* Following WrestleMania, WWE's piped-in crowd recordings used at the ThunderDome would include that "Roman Sucks" chant during Reigns' heel promos in place of the generic "You Suck" chant.
    • Conversely, don't try to force the crowd to boo someone they really want to cheer, either. When the crowd still cheered for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin after he allied himself with Vince McMahon in 2001, they transparently tried to get the crowd to boo by having him act completely out of character (crying, tapping out, and so forth). It did not work well. While Bruce Pritchard would later concede that they all knew going in that Austin and McMahon would be cheered in Steve's hometown, Austin would also admit that, rather that stubbornly moving forward with the heel turn that he himself had proposed, he should've read the crowd the night after and called an audible to stun Vince and claim he simply used him to get to the top.
    • A small appendix to this: Don't confuse loving a wrestler with loving to hate them. This was a mistake Vince McMahon made during Shawn Michaels' 90's career. The crowd had became so enamored with Shawn's cocky, over-the-top antics that Vince decided to turn him Face. Of course, this meant losing his heel antics, and thus losing the very thing that was making him popular at the time.
    • Another appendix to this: Don't confuse heel heat with go-away heat. If the audience boos a wrestler because they want to see him get his comeuppance at the hands of a face, that's good heat. If the audience boos someone because they're sick and tired of seeing them, that's bad heat.
      • Sean Waltman, the Trope Namer for X-Pac Heat, only ended up with things worse for him because the then-WWF confused the X-Pac Heat he was getting for good heat and continued to have him show up at performances, much to audiences' growing anger and frustration.
      • Baron Corbin is also an example ever since 2018, with his haircut and subsequent "Constable of Raw" push. He started being crammed down the audience's throat despite constant X-Pac Heat and abysmal booking. Corbin even managed to get over during King of the Ring 2019 by just cruelly crushing fools, only to crater out again in an endless stream of bad comedy spots and poorly-received matches, including two revolting angles in which Corbin's short jokes towards Chad Gable inexplicably became Gable's new ring name uncontested by anyone including Gable himself, leading to the Shorty G gimmick, and Corbin and his allies' antagonism of Roman Reigns descended to the depths of literally force-feeding Reigns dog food.note 
      • In the late 2010s, at the height of Roman Reigns's terrible, never-ending face push, WWE attempted to argue that X-Pac Heat didn't exist and that any reaction was a good thing because if the crowd is booing they're still invested and if they really hated someone they'd just remain silent. This couldn't be further from the truth: while a dead silent crowd is a terrible thing, it's an indicator that a wrestler is boring. If a wrestler (not their character) is genuinely hated, the crowd being forced to watch them despite not wanting to do so will boo, because there's no way to silence a crowd of unhappy wrestling fans. And while a boring wrestler does nothing for your promotion when you put them in the ring, doing so with one who has go-away heat is actively damaging to it. Yes, the crowd is invested, but they're invested in telling you to change your booking, and if you ignore them they will leave. If a wrestler is getting "YOU SUCK!" chants, they probably have heel heat, but if the chants are "GO AWAY!" or "FUCK OFF!", you've got a problem.
  6. On title (de)valuations:
    • Some championships might be more prestigious or prominent than others due to history and/or card placement. At the same time, all championships are equally valid and must be treated as important. They are your main MacGuffins for angles and plots. As a result, a championship belt, a tournament trophy and any other physical prize is as important as the one who carries it says it is. Never forget this. Therefore, no wrestler should ever insult a championship; a championship brings the possessor prestige and respect. Insulting a championship insults your organization. Remember this if you choose to pursue stories where a heel insults a championship; that heel must be publicly destroyed — booked into oblivion — or else you have admitted that the championship (and by extension your company) is worthless.note Also
    • It's worth noting that this doesn't necessarily mean that the physical prize should be immune, as long as the champion who possess it still treats having the championship as important. CMLL missed the ball when Perro Aguayo Jr. smashed the Leyenda de Plata trophy in belief it was beneath him and narrowly managed to escape punishment for it. In contrast, WWE had Daniel Bryan's heel run with the WWE Championship in 2018, where he threw the classic leather and metal belt in the trash and replaced it with one made of kayfabe eco-friendly materials such as hemp and wood from "a fallen tree" as part of his "eco fighter" gimmick. The important thing here was that Bryan did not devalue the championship itself, treating his position as an important platform to espouse his views to the public (plus the replacement belt looked really good).
    • The maxim goes: "Championships don't make the man/woman; Men/women make the championships". History has shown that even mid-card belts have been given prestige because they were defended by top-tier talent, like Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, and even John Cena, who won the United States Title in 2015 after being a decorated WWE Champion, and then defended it on a weekly basis against other great talents in some of the best-received matches of his career. Similarly, Orange Cassidy's nearly year-long run with the AEW International Championship, during which he defended it more than 30 times, greatly elevated that belt, to the point that he would eventually drop it to an even bigger star in Jon Moxley. The WWE and NJPW Intercontinental Titles have both been competed for in the main event of major Pay-Per-Views ahead of the main belts due to the popularity of the wrestlers who competed for them and the strength of the booking.
    • A great wrestler may elevate a belt, but the reverse however is not true. Obviously unfit performers, those suffering from X-Pac Heat, and office pet projects will not be elevated by championships, they will devalue them and make them seem less like prizes to fight over and more like props handed out willy-nilly. Poor Jinder Mahal was one of the worst "beneficiaries" of such an indulgent experiment in 2017, when the WWE Championship was put on him at Backlash due to WWE management hoping to tap into the Indian market by giving an Indian wrestler a big push, as well as Vince McMahon being a fan of his "evil foreign heel" gimmick and his big, muscular body (widely thought to be the result of steroid use). It was not only almost instantly obvious that Jinder was in over his head and could not perform at the main event level, but it resulted in financial disaster. Not only that, but the only way Jinder won his matches was because of his two henchmen screwing his opponents over, meaning he only got and kept the belt due to routinely breaking the rules, which didn’t help his image one bit. The fans never accepted him, the quality and ratings of SmackDown Live began to tank, the India market barely responded, and the title's prestige has been tarnished ever since.
    • One thing that you have to come to terms with is that not everyone is going to be able to get a "turn" with the belt, no matter how talented they are. You'll often hear a lot of talk among fans about how a certain wrestler "deserves" to be champion, and they may even be right based on the talent and dedication of the performer. Sometimes you'll hear complaints about how a wrestler is being "wasted" because they haven't won the big one yet. Unfortunately the painful truth is that there just isn't enough room at the top for everyone, no matter how good they are. For every Mick Foley (the underdog who was always told he could never make it who became so beloved that he managed to become a 3-time WWF Champion) there will be half a dozen Jake Roberts (one of the greatest talents of his generation who nevertheless was never able to win a championship in any of the major national promotions). If you pass your top championship around like a party favour, it'll lose all its meaning and cease to serve its real function- to mark out the top guy in your promotion. Secondary silver (like WWE's and NJPW's Intercontinental or US Championships or AEW's TNT, TBS, and International Championships) can give the wrestlers in the upper midcard their own prizes to fight for and allow for a bit more experimentation with who you give them to, but even these need to be assigned with discrimination to retain their value, and some guys are just never going to get to be champion. It's a sad fact that you're just going to have to accept. Giving in to fan demands for a wrestler to be pushed to the very top and changing your plans to accommodate them can lead to hot-shotting, and you really, really need to be sure of yourself before you even consider this—not every guy who the fans get behind is necessarily going to be Daniel Bryan.
      • With that said, part of this is simply the result of cultural shift around how titles work. In the heyday of the wrestling business, title reigns could last for multiple years, and fans would turn out in droves to see their heroes defeat credible challengers. If you establish that your particular promotion works that way, and therefore that becoming your champion is a rare honor rarely bestowed, then your fans will be generally more understanding about not everyone getting a turn with the belt than if it's been badly devalued after years of being played hot-potato with. Once again (take a shot), after an obviously-unfit Jinder Mahal got the world title out of the blue, it became much, much harder to look at better wrestlers the fans liked more not getting a "turn" with the belt afterwards.
      • Also related to Business Ethics #6, carrying your top championship is a big responsibility. The wrestler who has it represents your promotion and its prestige. It doesn't matter how popular, talented, or charismatic a wrestler might be, if they're not trustworthy or stable enough to be entrusted with the company's highest honors, don't make things worse by putting them in that position. Substance abuse and mental health issues are a big part of the reason why renowned master of Wrestling Psychology Jake Roberts, perennially-underappreciated generational talent William Regal, and many other great wrestlers never got a major title run.
    • Finally, this shouldn't need to be stated, but never devalue your most prestigious championship belt. It must be defended and shown to be important.
      • WWE made this mistake with the Universal Championship, which had been in a stranglehold by Brock Lesnar from 2017 to 2019. Lesnar was champion for around 460 days, and made a grand total of ten championship defenses. This is like awarding the Lombardi Trophy to a team that's played a single preseason game, as most of WWE's champions defend their belts on average several nights a week.note  Despite having multiple opportunities to get the belt off Lesnar and onto a popular full-time wrestler, Vince kept the title on Brock all year with the idea of pushing Roman Reigns to beat him in order to solidify Reigns as The Face of the company; thus, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe's well-received challenges throughout the year all amounted to nothing. Still, at least in 2017 Lesnar was appearing semi-regularly in order to build his programs, resulting in his busiest calendar year in terms of appearances since he returned to WWE.note 
      • And yet, despite clearly seeing said willingness to work with people, Vince and co. decided to take the opposite approach in 2018. Lesnar would be advertised for an episode of Raw in which he apparently no-showed, causing Roman Reigns to come out and seemingly shoot on Lesnar, calling him out for not caring about the company. The rare passion and intensity with which Reigns spoke received rave reviews, and this was the point where most fans started to truly hate Lesnar for being a long-running part time champion. Then the same sequence repeated again, and again after that, at which point it became obvious Brock no-showing was a work and he wasn't even being asked to fly in those episodes, as part of a cynical ploy to allow the (understandable) backstage resentment for Lesnar to be aired on television through Reigns and his Shield teammate Seth Rollins while keeping Brock off the show as much as possible; the clear intent being to galvanize crowds behind Reigns on the back of Lesnar's poor attendance sheet then have him take the championship. Naturally this fell flat, causing Vince to get cold feet on having Reigns defeat Lesnar twice in 2018, all the while still freezing out all other challengers before finally pulling the trigger at SummerSlam. Reigns still needed the cloaking of The Shield reuniting post-haste to maintain support for his title run, which was cut down anyway two months later when Reigns was diagnosed with leukemia, forcing him to relinquish the belt and publicly reveal that he'd been fighting this cancer for over a decade. Ironically, this revelation as well as the way he handled it drew several orders of magnitude more support for Reigns than Vince's machinations around Lesnar's light schedule ever could.
      • Through 2019, WWE finally took the belt off Lesnar and on to Rollins twice in a four-month stretch in 2019—first to Rollins at WrestleMania 35 in April, then to Lesnar three months later in a Money in the Bank cash-in, and finally to Rollins again at SummerSlam in August. Far from learning the lesson, however, Vince then unbelievably repeated the same mistake again, this time putting the WWE Championship itself on Lesnar so he could defend it against Cain Velasquez in the unpopular Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, cutting the legs from under popular champion Kofi Kingston in an extremely humiliating manner in the process.note  After defeating Velasquez in a match that was a bust due to Cain being both out of shape and injured going in, Lesnar defended the championship against Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series. Brock then buggered off again for a month before coming back to usher in 2020 and start his next program, entering himself into the 2020 Men's Royal Rumble match as the champion without the title on the line (though this did give instant credibility to Drew McIntyre's ultimate victory when the first thing Drew did was stop Brock's reign of terror over the proceedings and literally kick him out of the match). Perhaps the real lesson here is not to value one performer so much that you let him walk all over you and your promotion even more than he actually wants to, as regardless of how much of a draw Lesnar is, the combined damage his prominence has done to WWE's title scene over the last few years has been incalculable.
      • And worse still, the bookers of WWE still haven’t learned their lesson, as they proceeded to put the belt back on Lesnar yet again as a result of Reigns allegedly testing positive for COVID-19- even though Reigns was cleared to wrestle a week later, making many believe that he had never tested positive at all and WWE was lying to swerve the audience. Though Lesnar would drop the belt to Bobby Lashley a month later, he would then be booked to win that year's Royal Rumble, essentially guaranteeing him another title shot against Reigns, continuing a feud that everyone is, by this point, sick of. And then they put the belt right back on him again anyway!
      • All of the above makes the Universal Championship appear meaningless, particularly considering that the prior champions to Lesnar were Finn Bálor (relinquished the night he won it due to injury), Kevin Owens (a substantial 188-day reign, but marred by Owens' cowardly-heel booking), and Goldberg (essentially a vanity reign gifted to Goldberg in recognition of his legendary career, with the secondary purpose of getting the belt onto Lesnar when he finally won the final match in his feud with Goldberg). It's become a long-running joke among fans that the title is cursed.
      • The TNA brand shot itself in the foot the moment it broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance when its replacement World Heavyweight Championship belt was vacated the very moment it was wonnote . Supposed former NWA World Champion Abyss was booked into midcard oblivion even before the title switch, and while his career would start to recover after nine years, continuously overbooked main events and title reigns ensured the entire company would need a new name before it could draw on the road in the United States again.
      • Another effective way to devalue a title is to have too many title changes in a short period of time. This is what happened to the WCW world title in 2000. The belt changed hands between wrestlers at a near incessant pace, was vacated six times (including one instance where every single title was vacated), was put on David Arquette despite, as mentioned, everyone telling Vince Russo not to do it, and was then put on Russo himself. When it was all over, the belt had removed from a wrestler no less than 25 times and the only attempt to salvage it was putting it on Scott Steiner for the remainder of the year, and for pretty much the rest of WCW's existence, for that matternote . By comparison, that year, the WWE Championship changed hands 6 times, being held by a total of three wrestlers: Triple H, The Rock, and Kurt Angle, all three proven draws and main-eventers. So keep title changes at a small pace, don't vacate them simply because you can, and keep them off those who have no wrestling skills whatsoever.
  7. All programs and feuds must be logical; wrestlers must have a simple, clear and easily understood reason to be fighting, and which the audience will accept, since there is only so far their Willing Suspension of Disbelief can be stretched. There is an old adage that says there are only three reasons for a wrestling match to happen: A fight for a championship title, rivalries (e.g. clashes between similar styles, Technician vs. Performer, wily veteran vs. talented newbie), or personal grudges, or a combination of any/all of the three. Logical reasons do not include behaviors that don't occur in real life (e.g., fighting over the rights to the name “T”, as Booker T once did).
    • Grudges should be simple to understand, and related to either previous matches, a personality clash or another person (valet, manager, etc...)
    • Cold matches, where opponents wrestle on the card without any special rules, personal issues or extra awards at stake are acceptable. Everyone cannot always be in an angle if you as a booker value your sanity, nor should every match always have one. Remember that cold matches will not sell the most tickets, bring in the most fans on their own, but are a valid tool to start an angle from or to build up a wrestler for something hotter later just by getting some wins, losses or otherwise established in the fans' memories.
    • If two wrestlers do not have a logical reason to fight, it is the bookers’ duty to create one. No wrestler on your roster should be neglected because Creative has no plans for them. A pro wrestler represents years of training and a skill set that is not easy to duplicate, and, unless they're just not any good, they should be put to use whenever possible. This is not to say that a wrestler can't be in the aforementioned cold match, go a few weeks without being on television, or that every wrestler on your roster should be utilized all the time; after all, injuries and real life happen, and it helps to have a fair number of performers on "standby" at any given time. But when a wrestler goes months on end without work because your creative department can't come up with anything interesting for them to do, that's less the fault of the wrestler and more the fault of your creative team. It's their job to be creative; if they can't come up with any ideas, then they are the ones that should be future endeavored. If all else fails, ask the wrestler; after a few months of sitting on their couch, it's a good bet that they're bursting with ideas to get back on screen, some of which might actually be good.
    • Where possible, programs and angles should be respectful and tasteful. Shock storylines lose their power if they happen every week. Say the word “fuck” once, and it’s a powerful phrase. Say it 1,000 times, and it’s just a meaningless sound. Teach your audience to expect a largely similar product each week; make them feel safe, secure, comfortable... then blow them out of the water with a logically-plotted event (extra emphasis on "logically-plotted" — poorly-thought-out Ass Pulls are what torpedoed WCW and weakened TNA to the point of needing a rebrand) that they'll never see coming.
    • Note that 'illogical matches' don't necessarily mean 'comedic matches' or vice versa. Plenty of wrestlers have made careers out of pure comedic gimmicks, like Colt Cabana, Toru Yano, Santino Marella, and Orange Cassidy. Even legends like Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan, and even Wrestling Monster Kane have had stints as comedy acts. The trick to their success here is, like with all great wrestling, not in the goofiness of their gimmicks, but in strong booking. Toru Yano and Orange Cassidy are silly clowns who are deceptively competent wrestlers, and in Yano's case, a legit amateur champion who has enough credibility to beat aces when they least expect it. Bryan and Kane's funniest moments came from being bitter rivals punished with taking anger management class together, forced into a Tag Team, and trying to one-up each other on everything. Michaels and H kicked ass and stuck it to the man while having fun. Yet these successes mostly came from competing in straightforward matches that resulted from long-term angles with clear stakes and often climaxed in at a pay-per-view. The lesson here: your wrestlers may be goofy, but their matches shouldn't.
      • It's okay to make your wrestlers the butt of jokes and comedy angles, but it's not okay to damage the credibility of wrestling itself by making it the source of mockery. A wrestler who is humiliated for laughs in an angle should be embarrassed and angry about being humiliated, just as anyone would be if they were in that wrestler's shoes. "Meta" comedy and gimmicks should never be used; if serious worked shoots are already a bad idea (and see Public Relations #1 for why that is), then comedic ones are a thousand times worse. Having wrestlers who are on the wrong end of comedy angles laugh along with their tormentor instead of trying to get even is the wrestling equivalent of actors suddenly stopping in the middle of a movie to point out how unrealistic the special effects are: breaking the Willing Suspension of Disbelief so openly makes it impossible for the audience to get invested in your show, and will do nothing but damage your profits, the wrestlers involved in the angles, and ultimately the entire wrestling business.
  8. The relationships on your show exist to further angles. Angles exist to give the fans emotional investment in matches. Matches exist to make the promotion money. Therefore, all relationships on your show must be logical, never ignored, and established inter-personal relationships must be maintained. If people are friends, they must stay friends, unless an event witnessed by fans during a show clearly denotes that the nature of the relationship has changed. Likewise for enemies. Unless there is a plot event that makes wrestlers friends, or turns them enemies, they remain simply indifferent rivals. In this business, the Heel–Face Revolving Door is a disaster; wrestlers go from tagging up to hating each other and vice versa while pretending things were always this way far too often, and the list of longtime rivals whose off-screen friendship is suddenly part of the plot just so one guy can turn on the other and add heat for their fifth feud out of nine (like TNA did with Christopher Daniels and his constant Green-Eyed Monster-based betrayals of AJ Styles) has become too long to count in the 21st century. It confuses casual fans and irritates long-time fans. Illogical relationships and foolish stories drive fans, and therefore business, away.
  9. Match stipulations should always be honored. If a wrestler or the company can’t keep the stipulation, then it simply shouldn’t be made in the first place. Every match stipulation you ignore insults your audience on a very personal level, and proves your company to be untrustworthy — as well as to prove those employees involved are liars. People (and therefore fans) resent being lied to. As a result, stipulations should only be broken due to exceptional outside circumstances (that is, something happens in the Real World that means the stipulation cannot be honored). There should never, ever be a broken stipulation otherwise. Clearly demarcated boundaries help sustain your integrity without letting the stipulation ruin the possibility of future business.
    • Certain stipulations may be worded in such a way that things can be reset later (e.g: a hair vs. hair match in which the loser stays bald for a year) and fan resentment can be avoided.
    • If the worst happens and a stipulation must be broken, this counts as a swerve, and should be the main plot event of a given card. If you're going to include them, give them the respect they deserve. Remember, every stipulation you break loses you credibility and thus, in the long run, fans. Every lost fan is lost income. Therefore, every broken stipulation is lost income.
    • Of special consideration are Retirement Matches. Retirement stipulations have been broken so often that fans have now been conditioned to regard it as a Discredited Trope. Terry Funk's "retirement" is a joke that was old in 1999, and Ric Flair's return after his "retirement" clearly demonstrated that no matter no matter how perfect the send-off, no matter how appropriate, no matter how emotional, it won't stick. Why not? Unless you're prepared to support them afterwards, wrestlers have to earn money somehow. We'll say it again: no wrestling promoter has yet invested in a sound retirement plan for their workers, and it's the exception rather than the rule for a wrestler to wisely invest his own income. Unless you're 100% certain that your wrestler isn't going to be performing anywhere afterward, don't use the retirement angle; it's always a lie.
    • Another consideration is the dreaded Disqualification. For the love of god, don't use DQs, count-outs, or Dusty Finishes* to end your matches, unless there is a strong emotional payoff or logical story-telling component. By all means, use an illegal weapon or have outside interference, but having a wrestler "win" a match because the referee caught their opponent in the middle of an illegal act isn't a win, it's a technicality. It makes the "winner" look weak because they couldn't win the match by themselves, the "loser" looks like an idiot for giving away the match, the product feels inconsequential because nobody cares about rules or wins or losses, and the audience feels unsatisfied. If you do it too often, your fans can even stop trusting your ability to complete any advertised match.
    • If you use DQs as a blatant crutch to extend a championship reign to record length, it can tar the perception of said reign and cause question as to whether that title's division is being held hostage for an empty and ironic boast about the superiority of current talent to former champions that left the company (such as Nikki Bella's 2014-15 Divas Championship run or The New Day's 2015-16 Tag Team Championship reign). In the worst cases, a badly used DQ finish can affect an entire card, which is exactly what happened at Hell in a Cell 2019 with its main event of Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt, where a ref stoppage indistinguishable from a DQ was used in the titular gimmick match... with a core No Disqualification stipulation!
    • Understand that if a wrestler cheats or needs outside assistance to win, it makes them look weak. We’ve already gone over that this was one of the most damaging factors for Jinder Mahal during his title run, but Vince still hasn’t learned his lesson. In the Clash of Champions 2020 ambulance match between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton, a bunch of legends, including The Big Show, Christian, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair took shots at Orton throughout the match before Drew won it. Despite being portrayed as a very strong babyface (see above for how he beat Brock Lesnar), this made McIntyre seem weak, as if he couldn't put Orton away by himself. Similarly over on AEW, tag-team champions FTR often won matches due to interference by their manager Tully Blanchard, despite being touted as one of the best tag teams in the world and having beaten the very dominant pair of Kenny Omega and Adam Page. WWE managed to do this even worse with Roman Reigns following his heel turn, presenting him as bar none the greatest wrestler in the world and an invincible and indomitable final boss with a record-breaking 1000+ day Universal reign... while inexplicably failing to book him to win almost any of his championship defenses cleanly without interference from his cousins The Usos and their little brother Solo Sikoa, or the occasional low blow, which fans eventually came to get really tired of. It got to the point where one match had the stipulation that no one from Roman's family was allowed to interfere… And that's exactly what happened anyway, with no punishments being doled out against the offending Fatus. People only cheat if they know they can't win, a.k.a. they know they're weak, and you don't want too many chickenshit heels on your program.
    • The only time when cheating can be seen as a plus is if the cheater is a clear underdog, but they must only use it as a last-ditch effort. Eddie Guerrero was the best example of this in his David vs. Goliath match against Brock Lesnar, and all the outside interference and cheating only came into play towards the end of the match, after Eddie had absorbed a lot of Brock's devastating offense and refused to quit. All that cheating also played into Eddie's Lovable Rogue persona, where even his theme song proclaimed how he would lie, cheat, and steal, and the crowd loved him for it anyway.
  10. Heels vs. Faces.
    • Faces should win the majority of the time, particularly in the ultimate payoff point to a major feud. Fans want to see the wrestlers they like victorious, and they want to see the wrestlers they hate get their comeuppance. WCW gives us a perfect example of how toxic it can be to the fanbase if the heels always win. A heel having the upper hand for most of a feud is fine, so long as there's a payoff to the fans in the end. In fact, this can make it all the sweeter when the face triumphs in the end, as it shows him triumphing over a real threat rather than making the heel seem like a Harmless Villain. If you still decide to have the heel win his feud for whatever reason, there are two important things you should do.
      • First, do not have the face dominated by the heel in their final match. Your face will look weak when he finally loses, and it makes the heel come off as more of a bully and less of an actual threat. Don't have the heel dominated by the face either; if the face is just going to be pinned after the heel hits his finisher out of nowhere, then your face will have his credibility damaged as well. Make the wrestlers appear evenly matched, so that the fans will walk away with the impression that it honestly could have gone either way and that if the heel had been a second slower or the face a second quicker, the result would have been different.
      • Second, if your fans truly hate the heel, seeing him victorious and celebrating will make them unhappy. Don't let them stay unhappy for long; as soon as the heel gets his hard-fought victory, have another face note  show up and let everybody know his intentions to take down the heel. This will give your fans something to look forward to. Just make sure that their patience is eventually rewarded.
      • Make sure the heel is allowed to win some feuds. If fans begin to realize that a heel always loses the payoff match to a feud, like 2017 Bray Wyatt, he still looks weak even if he can win matches during feuds. When a heel loses a feud, he needs a way to get his momentum back so he doesn't end up as a Harmless Villain that everyone knows poses no threat.
    • However, keep in mind that while it's fine for the heel to have the upper hand in a feud, this does not mean that the entire build of the feud can be nothing but the heel humiliating, outfighting, outsmarting, and generally making the face look like a weakling fool before the face eventually wins the blow-off match with a suprise roll-up. While this can work up to a point, when overdone (and it does not need to go on long to be overdone) this doesn't generate "heat" that makes the audience want to see the heel beaten, or "sympathy" that makes them want to see the face triumph, it just makes the face look like a loser who they shouldn't care about and kills all investment in the feud. The comically overdrawn 2021-22 feud between Naomi and Sonya Deville went on for over half a year with heel authority figure Sonya mercilessly bullying Naomi, denying her opportunities, putting her in matches with herself as the crooked guest referee to screw her, and generally making her life hell for no real reason, while Naomi just stood there and took it for months, making the 2-time SmackDown Women's Champion look like the most pathetic babyface of all time, and the feud become possibly the worst thing on SmackDown at the time- but at least the feud had a payoff with De Ville being stripped of her power as an authority figure.
    • Monster pushes (of either heels or faces) are perfectly acceptable. The monster wrestler should be fed a steady diet of jobbers to destroy; avoid having the monster fight main-eventers anywhere except PPV main events. A monster should be fed mid-carders at PPV before main-eventers. Failure to do so will result in the angle hot-shotting. Mid-carders due to lose to the monster wrestler should be pushed hard for a while before their loss to the monster, which will help the monster establish credibility. The monster’s loss must be used to elevate someone - it is a serious thing to take down a monster.
      • Poor buildup of a Wrestling Monster was a mistake that All Elite Wrestling made early in its run. The company set Nyla Rose up to be the monster heel of their women's division by having her beat Awesome Kong and put her into the match to decide the first AEW Women's Champion against Riho, a woman who is half her size and looks about half her age... which Rose lost cleanly. It would have been a great way to give Riho some momentum if it hadn't come at AEW's first ever episode of television. Instead of putting Riho over, all it did was bury Rose because she didn't have enough credibility built up as a Wrestling Monster.
  11. Squash matches are perfectly acceptable. Someone has to look at the lights, and if every match is a near-even 20-minute contest no one ever stands out. Be wary of using squash matches too often, though; they're predictable. Use them as the tool they are — they elevate those wrestlers you want to be main-eventers or mid-carders.
  12. Hardcore matches should be used sparingly. Beyond overplaying a gimmick, hardcore matches can destroy the bodies of those involved; just ask Mick Foley, or look at the gravestones of Chris Benoit and his wife and son. Another danger is the increasingly dangerous stunts people will pull to get reactions out of a desensitized crowd. Use them as a blow-off to a bloody feud and promote the hell out of them so your wrestlers won't feel like they're sacrificing a lot for nothing. More harmless stunts like table bumps or blading can be used more frequently. Unprotected hits to the head and New Jack-esque falls from a forty-foot scaffold should never be used; fans care about the wrestlers, and watching them get crippled will shock and scare away all but the most extreme fans.
    • You must also be aware that in the modern age, fans have also become more knowledgeable about the effects and tragedies that befall their beloved heroes, and are quick to voice their outrage at unnecessary injuries meant to shock the audience. In the early days of AEW, Cody Rhodes took a single chairshot to the head, using what was supposed to be a gimmicked chair that was designed to crumple around his head and cause minimal damage. When the gimmick instead accidentally gashed his head open and required Cody to get stitches (but did not sustain brain injury), a veritable wave of internet backlash forced his fellow bookers to immediately break kayfabe afterwards to explain the situation, which still resulted in criticisms for them even tacitly encouraging (or re-encouraging) these kinds of spots, as unprotected chair shots to the head had been banned for years in most major wrestling companies. To their credit, it was the first and last time the promotion ever attempted such a stunt.
    • Another reason why weapon spots and bumps shouldn't be overdone is to protect the impact of them. If wrestlers are constantly taking chair shots, for instance, multiple times each week, then weapons and hardcore spots become less extraordinary acts of violence for feuds that necessitate such a reaction and are folded into the standard repertoire of your matches, which is the quickest way to desensitize the crowd and lead to Serial Escalation as wrestlers move on to more ridiculous-looking bumps that are more dangerous to the athletes as they try to get a rise out of an increasingly jaded crowd. If you make it clear that weapon use is rare and unusual, and only confined to moments that deserve it, your fans will treat even simple spots like big deals. And it goes without saying that the wrestlers themselves should also treat the hardcore spots like big deals—no selling weapon shots is one of the quickest ways to turn a devastating foreign object into a joke. Early in its run, AEW Collision did an angle where Samoa Joe slammed Roderick Strong onto a chair in the ring to get inside the head of CM Punk, and the show was brought to a halt as Strong was wheeled out on a backboard and stretcher. While the angle worked fine in isolation, critics pointed out that years of seeing wrestlers Strong's size or smaller, including women, take similar bumps during matches with little lasting effect made the seriousness with which the angle was played come across as a bit silly.
  13. When ordering the card, the opening match and main event are always the two most important segments. The opener gets your crowd pumped and sets the bar for the quality of matches they can expect to see. If your opening match is weak, the expectation is that the rest of the card will be too. The main event is what closes out the night and showcases your best performers; you want to finish on a high note. In between, you can utilize other highs and lows (squash matches, promos, mid-card matches, grudge matches, comedy), but the overall feel of the show should be consistent.
    • Extra emphasis on "opening match and main event", and "the overall feel of the show should be consistent". One of the main criticisms of Backlash 2018 is that it had a strong opener (the IC match between Seth Rollins and The Miz) but the rest of the show was extremely subpar, to the point that, when the time came for the (also underwhelming) main event, people were exiting the arena. Putting the opener aside, it was a consistent show, but for all the wrong reasons.
    • Another point to bear in mind are the cooldown moments: the hottest points of the card must be followed with either matches or segments that allow the people to vent steam off and prevent boredom before the next hot match. This was a point of criticism of the otherwise excellent NXT TakeOver PPVs, NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 1 in particular: having to follow the four-and-a-half-star-rated match between Sasha Banks and Bayley was what dragged down the also excellent Ladder match between Finn Bálor and Kevin Owens, which would normally be a show-stealing match. Another example is 2018's NXT TakeOver: New Orléans: having to follow the bone-crushingly awesome, five-star rated seven-man Ladder Match for the NXT North American Title was what dragged down the Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic final between Roderick Strong/Pete Dunne vs. The Undisputed Era.note  Contrast with the WWE main roster PPVs and shows, which intercalate minor matches and comedy spots/backstage interviews between the big fights.
  14. Authority figures can be done well or badly, whether as heels or as faces.
    • A good face authority figure, like Teddy Long or Jack Tunney, makes fair matches, stays out of the way, and handles stipulations and personnel decisions only when someone has clearly gotten out of hand. This usually benefits the faces by virtue of blocking some underhanded tactic by a heel, but as the figure is not inherently biased towards the faces, it sometimes can go the other way around if the story involves a heel having a legitimate gripe.
    • A bad face authority figure, like Triple H in 2011 or A.J. Lee in 2012, becomes the center of attention and seemingly goes out of their way to stick it to the heels to the point that fans start viewing the heels as sympathetic and the faces as advantaged and opportunistic, or alternatively is so utterly incompetent and commands so little respect that the heels get to walk all over them as if they weren't even there.
    • A good heel authority figure and a bad heel authority figure both have in common that they abuse their power against faces and thus must be taken down a peg or two and, ultimately, either removed from power or have their schemes defeated in order to reel them back in line until the next Evil Plan. The difference between the two is that the good heel boss (i.e Vince McMahon) is occasionally beaten down, humiliated, called on their garbage, or even strongly opposed enough to represent that the wrestlers they're kicking down actually have a spine, which makes people want to root for said wrestler. The bad heel boss, on the other hand, is one of two extremes: either the humiliation is too frequent and too childish for them to come off as anything more than sympathetic bosses dealing with popular bullying "faces" who must be kept in line, or the opposite takes place and they get to freely condescend the roster without blowback, almost always have their way, never take any losses, and have some internal connections or demographic cards they can deploy as a reason to shame their oppressed enemies into compliance and silence, to the point that the show ends up cast in Arc Fatigue or even Too Bleak, Stopped Caring because they and their proxies can seemingly never lose.
    • If you're gonna book yourself as an evil owner, at least try to look like you have money. Unless you're booking the Welfare Wrestling Federation, waddling into the ring in Crocs shoes and sweatpants makes you look like a hobo. This goes a long way toward helping your company's image and maintaining kayfabe.
    • Regardless of how you book any kayfabe 'General Manager' (Big Bad 'Evil Owner', a Big Good face, a Reasonable Authority Figure, an Obstructive Bureaucrat or a simple Mission Control), keep an Author's Saving Throw in hand by setting up someone who has more kayfabe power than the day to day GM. This can range from the owner of the company, someone who represents the 'Network' if you are televised, or even yourself if you prefer to stay backstage. This should be used extremely rarely and for the most part only when Real Life Writes the Plot. For example, if you book a long Women's title feud involving your best female wrestlers, your heel Dark Action Girl and the face Cute Bruiser, and the women come to you and say they want to work a ladder match, you say fine, the GM announces it and promotes it, only for one of them to get legit injured bad enough that they can't do any of the ladder spots, but not badly enough to stop the match, you use the Author's Saving Throw to turn it into another type of match like a Hair vs. Hair match.
    • If the person playing the evil owner on TV is the actual owner of the promotion, that's perfectly fine, as it adds Reality Subtext to the role. But don't acknowledge someone who's a member of the company management in real life as also being so in Kayfabe unless you plan on doing something with it. There's a reason that Dusty Rhodes and Bill Watts went out of their way to hide their positions as bookers and part-owners of WCW and Mid-South Wrestling, for instance—in both cases, nothing would kill their pushes as blue-collar babyfaces as quickly as finding out they actually owned the promotion they were supposed to have fought to earn their spot in. Even Vince McMahon, the Trope Codifier of the evil owner gimmick, didn't acknowledge his ownership of the then-WWF for years before it became necessary to work it into an angle. For an example of how to do this incorrectly, look no further than Jeff Jarrett in TNA, who was openly acknowledged as the company's owner and therefore had his babyface world title reigns come off as a Vanity Project of the highest order, or Cody Rhodes, who in 2021 went from one of the hottest babyfaces in the world to one of the most reviled when it started to look like he was winning matches he had no business winning simply because of his power as a founder of AEW. It can even backfire if you're trying to be a heel about it and turn into go-away heat; fans who watched during the "Reign of Terror" era still haven't forgiven Triple H for dominating the company's main event scene for years because he was married to the boss's daughter.
  15. If you're a small promotion (and let's face it, if you're reading this it's safe to assume you're not part of the WWE booking team), your options are to try and copy the big promotions (and it's gonna be an uphill battle to try and beat WWE or even Ring of Honor at their own game), or find your own niche by doing something they don't. For example, CZW specializes in hardcore wrestling that WWE doesn't do in the PG era, while Chikara went for a more lighthearted, even comedic approach before going under for reasons unrelated to its style.
  16. Building good working relations with other promotions is important; it lets you get acquainted with wrestlers that you might want to sign in the future and opens the door for you to book their wrestlers and use them to draw more eyes to your product. The height of the National Wrestling Alliance was also the financial height of the professional wrestling industry precisely because of promotional cooperation, shaky as it was, with the WWF and its most famous competitors, AWA, WCW and ECW, all rising up from NWA offshoots to form their own companies. Failure to continue to work together resulted in a monopolized region that only one company really benefitted from.
    • However, you need to remember to use the wrestlers from other promotions to put your own wrestlers over and not the other way around. This means using crossover wrestlers sparingly, and always making sure that your wrestlers look strong against them, whether in victory or defeat. This is the difference between WWE main-roster talent making unscheduled one-night-only appearances in NXT and making the developmental wrestlers look like a million bucks with competitive matches, and Ring of Honor, which regularly booked New Japan Pro-Wrestling talent as the focal points of their big events and pushed them so much that it made their own wrestlers come off as second-class by comparison (and ultimately killed that promotion when New Japan decided that they'd rather run their own shows in America than go through a middleman). New Japan's wrestlers dominating the homegrown talent of the Universal Wrestling Federation made New Japan a lot of money and put the UWF, which had been doing million dollar gates prior, out of business. Remember, while you need to make the borrowed talent look good, they are, at the end of the day, borrowed talent.
    • Another thing of note is that promotional partnerships need to be treated with honor to continue, something that TNA completely forgot within a handful of years of its existence. Their treatment of the NWA, who actually helped establish them in the first place, was especially bad. Originally founded as an NWA offshoot before losing the label in 2004, TNA maintained a five-year deal from the outset of their existence in June 2002 for provisional control of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Tag Team Championship. When that deal set to come to a close in the summer of 2007, the plan was to vacate the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship at May's Sacrifice pay-per-view through then-reigning champion Christian's failure to defend the title against Kurt Angle and Sting (Angle made Sting tap out while Sting pinned Christian at the same time), then activate a brand-new TNA World Heavyweight Championship the following month at Slammiversary to make Angle champion However, rather than protect a good working relationship with the NWA until the very end, which most likely would've included Christian putting over whoever the NWA decided to make its first post-TNA champion, TNA were boneheaded enough to allow/encourage Christian to refuse to defend the title at outside events against challengers from NWA territories during his reign, taking for granted that the NWA wouldn't do anything about it since the deal was almost over anyway. Because of this, the NWA officially declared the championships under TNA's watch vacant the day of Sacrifice. Still, rather than make a surprise reveal, introduce the TNA belts that night and make sure both came away with decisive finishes, TNA were too stubborn to change their plans, opting instead to simply refer to both titles nebulously as the "World Tag Team Championship" and "World Heavyweight Championship" without a company prefix while continuing with the exact same plans, despite it being obvious to anyone working there that the matches would have to be de facto retconed from being the last NWA title matches in TNA history to the first matches for the TNA championships once those belts were revealed later. While this was fine for the tag titles because Team 3D were meant to retain champ status through the transition, the heavyweight title goes down in history as having been vacated for a whole month as a result of its inaugural match having a dirty finish. As elaborated above, this did not help the value of their brand.
      • There have been examples in the industry's history, of course, where cruel backstabbing worked out. It's a cutthroat business. But for every Paul Heyman that goes down in history for a sufficiently-spectacular betrayal, as when he and ECW champion Shane Douglas gained notoriety by literally dropping the NWA title to the ground in favor of the ECW title, giving their own promotion cred at the expense of the ailing NWA, there're many others who just out themselves as untrustworthy types. The price of being an outlaw is being outside the law's protection, and if you get a reputation as a slippery customer don't be surprised if other promotions refuse your custom.
  17. It should go without saying that you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. A single wrestler can be booked as the "top guy", but there needs to be other credible challengers for that position. A wrestler can't be taken seriously as the number one in the promotion unless they have victories over credible opposition. Likewise, a midcarder can't be elevated to main-eventer if there isn't more than one top wrestler that can put him over. Having more than one top wrestler also helps with overexposure—if the fans grow tired of one wrestler being booked as number one, another wrestler of similar status can take his place.
    • WWE has both periods of success and failure at building stars:
      • On one hand, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's success as the top wrestler during the Attitude Era can be attributed to the amount of credible wrestlers he fought and defeated, including but not limited to every other name that will be mentioned on this bullet. First, Austin could not have gotten a better launching pad for his top face run than the 21-month period between King of the Ring in 1996 to WWF Champion at the end of WrestleMania XIV in 1998 featuring victories and defining moments against the likes of Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, and Shawn Michaels among others. Following that, the depth of the main event scene would blossom to unseen levels, allowing wrestlers such as Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Triple H, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho to take turns at being the number one wrestler in the company, while simultaneously putting each other over. Hell, Mick Foley, the guy who was so beloved he started WCW's downfall, and Undertaker, whose name is synonymous with the term "Living Legend", were considered top draws, and they never actually won the big belt that much or held it for very long. This period also had possibly the strongest undercard roster ever, with legends like The Dudley Boys, The Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, William Regal, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and a whole host of Hall of Famers being popular draws and credible threats to give even the top stars a run for their money, and some even replacing them further down the road.
      • On the other hand, there have been many periods where one wrestler hogs the spotlight to the detriment of the other talent. Hulk Hogan was such a spotlight hog and so unbeatable in late-80s and early-90s WWF that it began to hurt the careers of not only the heels that were constantly losing to him, like Ted DiBiase and Curt Hennig, but also the other faces like Randy Savage who weren't allowed to have sustained runs at the top of the company. WWF put so much faith in Hogan that his 1993 departure resulted in the company entering a sustained financial downturn because they hadn't built any stars that could take his place (see the failures that were Ultimate Warriornote  and Lex Lugernote  to replicate/replace Hulkamania).
      • Sidenote: History has shown that legends such as Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan earned their statuses not only through to their own talent, but by the caliber of their competition. Ali had George Foreman and Joe Frazier, and Jordan and his Bulls had Magic Johnson's Lakers, Patrick Ewing's Knicks, Isiah Thomas' Pistons, and the John Stockton/Karl Malone Jazz. Mike Tyson has a lesser reputation because despite his technical prowess and power, there was never anyone credible enough to match him in his prime (Evander Holyfield came along, but that was ruined when Tyson bit his ear off). The WWE was at its strongest when the upper-tier roster was packed with talent, and at its lowest when it wasn't (King Mabel vs Savio Vega as your King of the Ring tournament final, anyone?)note  The point here is that the more people you build and sustain to compete for your championships, the more you stand a chance of creating exciting matches, long feuds, and other money-making opportunities.
    • In the 21st century, WWE returned to a one-guy formula, with first John Cena, then later Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair being subjected to The Chosen One status.
      • While Cena had originally worked his way into part of a one-two formula with Batista and eventually won out due to higher durability, once he became the main man it was made abundantly clear that the product revolved around making him look good at the expense of all else. Feuds and promos were repeatedly marked with moments where Cena discredited his rivals with worked shoots and occasionally committed worse acts than the heels he was facing with it all being whitewashed, standing in stark contrast with his "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect" image, while logical responses and call-outs said rivals could've and did make of both the worked shoot and kayfabe variety were either shot down by commentary or glaringly not even stated at all. Heel commentators such as John "Bradshaw" Layfield and 2012 Michael Cole would go out of their way to avoid disparaging Cena like they would other faces, and of his increasingly-rare defeats, more would actually come from a lapse of judgment on his own part which he could later use as an excuse to get his run back than from outside interference which would've justified him regardless.
      • Reigns was much more obviously hand-picked from the jump, winning most of his matches in FCW, being talked-up as a superstar during his brief run on NXT, being the essential closer for The Shield, and being slated to beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship less than a year after The Shield's breakup. While the Designated Hero business was certainly cut down upon since he wasn't as gifted on the microphone as Cena and was carrying a persona that was more fierce warrior than boy scout, his contrived invincibility and inability to project a real persona besides occasional smugness still had a way of putting people off. It didn't help that he was constantly beating guys who were better than him at both cutting promos and working matches in a way that made fans connect with the moves they were doing. The most glaring indication of Reigns' anointed position as The Guy regardless of his readiness or the talent around him was him being repeatedly pushed above everyone who gained a hot hand with the fans over the years as being the one destined to dethrone Brock Lesnar for good to herald the arrival of the new era. This failed every single time, resulting in Vince stalling and going for alternate options, before finally pulling the trigger in the middle of 2018 after months of cynically-conceived worked shoots and false starts due to fear of Reigns getting booed had rendered the whole thing meaningless.
    • New Japan Pro-Wrestling has always had a good track record with building multiple main event stars and using them to elevate new ones. Hiroshi Tanahashi became the face of the promotion in the mid-2000s thanks to his victories over Yuji Nagata, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Keiji Mutoh, among others. Likewise, Kazuchika Okada made his climb to his current status by beating Tanahashi, Nakamura, and Minoru Suzuki. And following him, Kenny Omega became a star by defeating Okada and Tanahashi, as well as ousting AJ Styles from his top position in Bullet Club. Jay White became the most consistent gatherer of heel heat in the business by defeating Omega, Okada, and Tanahashi, as well as significantly shifting the dynamic of all three men's alliances through a long game coordinated with the Tongan members of Bullet Club.
    • Putting all the eggs in one basket nearly killed pro wrestling in the UK for two decades. Joint Promotions, the company behind World of Sport Wrestling in the 70s, made the gargantuan Big Daddy the top babyface of the promotion, but his age, weight, and poor conditioning meant he couldn't wrestle long matches. Joint's solution was to have him defeat his opponents extremely quickly, or use him in tag matches where his partner would do all the work, but he would come in at the last second and get the pin. Making him stand head-and-shoulders above all the other wrestlers killed the company, as when he retired the only wrestlers left were heels who had been squashed by him or babyfaces who had played second fiddle to him; most of the wrestlers who Joint could have built the promotion around (such as Davey Boy Smith or William Regal) had already left for greener pastures.
  18. Promos are an important part of even non-staged combat sports like boxing and MMA, and they play an important role in buoying interest in your product. How much control you should exert over them is a bit of a delicate balancing act. On one hand, most of your talents were probably hired for their ability to wrestle rather than improvise dialogue, and might not be able to create entire promos on their own, leaving many excellent wrestlers but poor talkers out in the cold, while talented talkers might try to wrest control of the show by going wildly off-angle. On the other hand, WWE is often criticized for having long, dull, repetitive promo segments during what's supposed to be a wrestling show, and for trying to tightly control wrestlers with scripted promos written by people with more experience in soap operas than combat sports, while talents who might be able to get over with their own personalities are stuck woodenly trying to recite bad jokes from a memorized script, and/or all sound alike. The great promo men of yesteryear would be given a list of bullet points to work off, and would use them to get the audience invested in ways that still let them put their own creative spins on the material and show off their own unique personalities and charisma. If they have these natural qualities, giving them the right amount of free will during promos will do more to get them over than any number of staid monologues, and will result in a benefit for both wrestlers (leaving them feeling creatively fulfilled) and the audience (who will be more invested in them), and therefore increasing the chances of giving you money. Refer to Employee Relations, rule 3.
    • If you do have a guy who's good at wrestling but not talking, feel free to put him in a stable or give him a manager or mouthpiece, a guy who excels at talking who can speak for him. This was a time-tested solution for most of wrestling's history, and the only reason the practice is not more prominent on the modern scene is that (you may be sensing a trend here) Vince McMahon didn't like the idea of paying two guys instead of one once upon a time and convinced himself the whole idea was bad. And even he lets Paul Heyman do the talking for Brock Lesnar. This is somewhat pigeonholed as a heel arrangement in modern times, but great face managers have existed in the past, including, sometimes, the late great Paul Bearer.
    • Also, remember that the point of the promo is not to talk about how weak or foolish the wrestler's adversary is. The point of the promo is to sell the show (remember the Golden Rule). You want the audience to know who is fighting, get invested in why they're fighting, and then you plug the date the match will be held so that people will tune in, buy tickets, or get the PPV. Belittling a wrestler not only damages their aura, not only cheapens the accomplishment of the other wrestler in defeating them, it causes audiences to not care about seeing them fight, which costs you money every time you book either performer ever again. Make sure that the promo puts over an opponent's skill, athleticism, or other qualities, then assert that the wrestler will win anyway because they're better, and give the opponent a strong comeback.
      • This is one of the many things Vince McMahon, an egotistical bully at heart, never liked and phased out during the Attitude Era, where abusive promos were the dish of the day, before abandoning it almost completely after introducing heavy scripting. Predictably, it has resulted in a stale product where no one ever gets over, every single loss feels like a burial, since it typically happens on the heels of weeks of the winner smugly telling the audience that their opponent is a loser. The Rock's "God Spoke to Billy" promo may have been one of the most legendary promos in wrestling, but by casting Billy Gunn as an idiot who fluked his way into a King of the Ring tournament victory instead of presenting him as an upper-card wrestler on the cusp of superstardom who finally made a name for himself by beating the best the company had to offer, Rock essentially killed Gunn's upper-card push stone dead because no one could take him seriously as a world title contender after that.
      • With Vince returning the product to its pre-Attitude norm of family-friendly programming and role-model hero babyfaces, this abolition of respect for the enemy in promos clashes so badly with the company's stated values that John Cena would often be accused of hypocritically undercutting his rivals with every Rock-reminiscent barb or Heyman-esque worked shoot he delivered on the mic, especially since he had more creative freedom in his promos than most wrestlers standing across from him with a microphone.
      • For good examples, ironically, Paul Heyman himself is one of the best there is at this today; despite being most known as the advocate for Brock Lesnar, one of the most freakishly-dominant wrestlers the world has ever seen, Heyman was known for invoking Villain Respect towards Lesnar's challengers, making the case that against anyone else they could be victorious to emphasize exactly how much Lesnar stood apart from everyone else. He even praised the courage of famous jobber Heath Slater when he came out and got in Lesnar's face during Heath's "free agent" storyline, despite Brock predictably squashing Heath flat.note 
      • Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins' Universal Championship feuds with Brock Lesnar suffered from a similar problem, to the point of betraying the very storytelling conceit that should've been the point of Lesnar's long reign in favor of stoking the flames of real-life resentment for him to provoke cheers for Reigns and Rollins.*
  19. Commentators and interviewers are just as important as matches, marketing, and promos. Just like promos, their main role is to get the viewer invested by explaining to them who is fighting, why they are fighting, how they are fighting, and why you should care that they are fighting. The commentator, just like in other sports, is the quickest conduit to explain wrestlers' actions and abilities to the viewer, and to get them over. Having a bloated announce desk of three or more commentators who bicker with each other or hype other segments while a match is going on do nothing for the wrestlers in the ring or the product itself.
    • Your commentators need to know enough about wrestling to call matches, but more important than that is chemistry. Good chemistry with their partner on the desk can effectively cover for a commentator's deficiencies. There is a reason that Jerry Lawler is much more fondly remembered as a commentator during the Attitude Era WWF than during the PG era WWE—his amazing chemistry with Jim Ross on the commentary desk made for some of the most memorable lines and reactions of that decade. In contrast, his tandem with Michael Cole never had the same chemistry and therefore accentuated the negative qualities of both (not helped by the fact that by that time, Vince McMahon was micromanaging so much that he was literally feeding them lines through their headsets).
    • Speaking of, while passing on the occasional suggestion or instruction to your commentators can be okay, try to avoid getting into the habit of constantly bombarding them with things to say over the headset. Chances are that all this will do is make them flustered and negatively affect their performances - particularly if you can't maintain your composure while speaking to them - and also prevent whatever chemistry and/or talents on the mic they may possess from getting to shine. Alternatively, if you can't shake the need to have your thoughts heard by the audience and/or determine what exactly comes out on commentary, perhaps consider taking a spot on the desk yourself.
    • Heel commentators are a common trope and can be done either really great or really terribly. A good heel commentator, such as Jesse Ventura or Bobby Heenan in The '80s, uses eloquent, but ultimately severely flawed arguments to justify heel cheating and get more heat on the heels, and can even bring up legitimate cases of Moral Myopia concerning faces. A bad heel commentator, like 2011 Michael Cole, takes the spotlight away from the wrestlers by instead focusing all the attention on him- or herself. Also, as Cole's heel run proved, the heel role should never go to the play-by-play commentator.
    • Your commentators are usually going to be the first people the viewers hear, and will always be the people the viewers hear the most. As such, you should use them to give the viewers a good picture of what to expect from your wrestling: if it's supposed to be taken seriously all the time, then your commentators should attempt to stay professional, and if it's supposed to be a bit more tongue-in-cheek, they should be allowed to show that by cracking jokes and being sarcastic. Your commentators should be guiding the fans' reactions: they should get excited when you want the fans to get excited, get angry when you want the fans to get angry, laugh when you want the fans to laugh, and so on. Having commentators whose style is not suitable for the product being presented in the ring is never a good look. Even a lot of fans of AEW's commentary team do acknowledge that having a dumpy middle-aged man wearing a lucha mask calling matches in the same sarcastic style he used with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla sitting alongside respected industry veterans who call the matches in the same professional way they did in WWE and WCW comes off as being very tonally dissonant.
    • A special caveat goes to the role of backstage interviewers. As they're asking the wrestlers questions during their scheduled interviews, they can provide a very valuable resource for guiding a promo and making sure that the wrestler/manager being interviewed gets across what you want them to get across. Compare interviews with the legendary Gene Okerlund, where he asks wrestlers pointed questions designed to launch them into their promo, summarizes their responses, and even reacts with outrage to heel antics he finds especially distasteful, to the endless cast of rotating WWE interviewers, whose role can be summarized as standing holding the microphone while the wrestler recites a scripted promo—or even worse, AEW's "interviews", which usually barely last a second before the wrestler grabs the mic and starts cutting a promo himself while the beleaguered interviewer (usually Tony Schiavone) just stands there looking confused. If you're not actually going to use backstage interviewers, you're better off just not having them.
    • Note that you should not confuse "being professional" with "being bland". Bobby Heenan, Paul Heyman, Jesse Ventura, and many other color commentators have portrayed gimmicks behind the commentary desk. But all of them treated the wrestling that was happening in the ring as 100% serious and real because that's what WWE wanted them to do. Your commentators should be able to show personality without undermining what's going on in the ring.
  20. Unless external, important factors force you to do so (see The Product, rule 8.2), resist the temptation to do last minute changes to your event's card. Especially when you decide to take control of every piece of your product down to the last detail. Last minute changes almost never have worked in favor of any promotion. One of the main criticisms of the WWE in the Reality and New Eras is Vince McMahon's tendency to scrap entire scripts and redo everything from scratch just as either Raw or Smackdown were about to start. This not only affects your product, but also pisses off both your employees and your wrestlers, leading to bad locker room and working place morale, which is the last thing you want if you really want to have a successful promotion. There's at least one case of a former writer quitting his WWE job because of accumulated frustrations over this and other issues.
    • To add on to this, avoid hotshotting angles through hasty rewrites. Giving an Ensemble Dark Horse an immediate push or having a title unexpectedly change hands may draw eyes to your promotion in the short term, but having logical, long-term storytelling will get fans more invested in the angles and make the ultimate triumph all the sweeter, and will make you more money as well. This kind of storytelling was common in the territorial days, and a more modern example is Tetsuya Naito, who took upwards of four years to finally put aside the hate and bitterness he had toward the fans and the promotion he felt had betrayed him and finally become the champion and ace of NJPW like he was expected to be. On the opposite side, the first WWE title reign of both Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan were due to hotshotting—in both cases Vince McMahon had to drastically rewrite plans for WrestleMania and put those wrestlers in to win titles with only a month of buildup. While their coronations were big moments, both of their title reigns afterwards suffered from a lack of fan investment and poor booking because they were not only hotshotted but never supposed to happen in the first place. Another example is the WWE title reign of Jinder Mahal (yes, it was such an unmitigated trainwreck that we have to mention it yet again)— Vince saw an untapped market (India) and a wrestler with a good look* and immediately pushed him into a title win without any prior angles or matches to establish his credibility, to disastrous results.
    • That said, while changing short-term plans instead of hotshotting is good advice, changing longterm plans to take advantage of unexpected boons in popularity is worth considering, and keeping these flashes in the pan strong to see if they grow into something more is also good advice. Daniel Bryan in particular didn't just get over but stayed over, years after his initial surge of popularity, and stubbornly and staunchly refusing to capitalize on it (even trying and failing to bury him) cost WWE an awful lot of fan goodwill it could scarcely afford, while Becky Lynch's admittedly-convoluted road to WrestleMania ultimately made her the face of the company. Indeed, a major factor in the eternal backlash to Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair was that their big pushes always seemed to coincide with times the fan favorites were being buried.
    • For an example of this done right, consider Sami Zayn's storyline around the 2022/2023 Wrestlemania season. WWE was in a quandry, because the plan was for Cody Rhodes to win the Royal Rumble and challenge Roman Reigns for the title belts at Wrestlemania, but Sami's lovable turn as part of Roman's Bloodline stable had become the most popular thing in the company, with Sami's charismatic and hilarious promos, coupled with his endearingly genuine personality and talented wrestling abilities, getting huge reactions from the audience. The story was saved by, first, having Roman force Sami not to participate in the Royal Rumble in advance, so that Cody's victory wasn't tainted by the crowd's anticipation of Zayn's arrival or reaction to his defeat, then, after Reigns finally drove Sami to turn against him by cruelly attempting to test his loyalty one time too many, having Cody repeatedly support Sami in the aftermath, first complementing Zayn's abilities and suggesting he would be just as honored to face Sami at Wrestlemania, then by having Sami wrestle a great match against Reigns at a secondary pay-per-view in advance of Wrestlemania in front of a hometown Canadian crowd desperate to see him win, and giving him a good storyline afterwards that complemented rather than competed with Rhodes's coming showdown with Reigns. In fact, Cody Rhodes was actively participated in Zayn's attempts to get his redemption back, something which made Cody look both clever and good-hearted, since Zayn putting in a good showing against Roman's henchmen would be as much a blow against Roman's attempts to cheat as a moral victory. As a result, crowds were completely behind both of them without resenting either, and it was hailed as not only a great storytelling triumph but one of the best ways WWE has handled this sort of problem in its history. While WWE's controversial decision not to pull the trigger at WrestleMania proper (although Sami and Kevin Owens won the Tag Team titles from the Usos, Roman still wound up beating Cody the same way he always does) overshadowed the win and angered the IWC, the frustration only served to demonstrate how good the build-up really was. It took another year for WWE to get the message and have Cody win.
    • And it almost goes without saying, but avoid antagonistic booking decisions and actively provoking the crowd by burying or damaging their popular flavors of the month, as Vince McMahon repeatedly did with both, as with the infamous 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumbles, where Daniel Bryan never showed up despite a crowd desperate to see him win, and was eliminated very early right before Goldust's entrance plastered "Shattered Dreams" on the Titantron, respectively. Both times, it instantly turned ugly, with the crowds heaping go-away heat on everyone in the match, especially 2014's final entrant Rey Mysterio, 2015's Invincible Villain duo of Big Show and Kane, and both Rumbles' eventual winners (Batista and Roman Reigns).

Employee Relations

  1. First and foremost, if you want your workforce to be professional, lead from the front. The history of the wrestling business is littered with criminals and psychopaths whose workforce abandoned them for greener pastures as soon as they could, because no one wants to work for an abusive bully if they can possibly help it. Verne Gagne's AWA went from one of the top wrestling promotions in North America to a dying, hollowed out husk despite having arguably one of the greatest professional wrestling rosters of all time (seriously, look it up some time and see because nearly every major wrestler of the 80s or 90s got their start in the AWA) as much because Verne was, to quote Jesse Ventura, "a yeller and a screamer who didn't treat people right" as anything Vince was doing, and it meant they were all just itching to abandon him for McMahon's federation before and after the WWF started muscling in on their territory. It also helps to have good overall business ethics in this area; the Gagnes skipping out on paying their wrestlers so they could embezzle the cash to blow on a skiing vacation sure didn't help!
  2. Wrestling and circuses have a lot in common (it's no coincidence that wrestling became popular in North America thanks to its inclusion in traveling carnivals and funfairs). Some people go to a circus to see the acrobats; some go to see the animal acts; some to see the freakshows; and some to see the clowns. Similarly, some people watch wrestling for the high-flyers; some for the technical wrestlers; some for the giants and bodybuilders; some for the talkers; some for the comedy acts; and some for the angles. Every single wrestler can be somebody's favorite. Make sure that that somebody gets their money's worth by making their favorite look like they belong and deserve to be there. Give wrestlers ample opportunity with a mic to help them get fans invested, and angles to rope people in. Stories outside the main event may need to be kept simple in the name of efficiency and clarity, but never let this be an excuse to neglect them completely.
    • You might receive complaints about how certain acts, like comedy wrestlers or Spot Monkeys shouldn't be allowed in the noble sport of wrestling. We would like to remind you that wrestling almost always involves two or more people grappling and lying on top of each other in very colorful underwear, the folding chair is the most ubiquitous melee weapon in the ring, and the progenitor of the modern wrestling gimmick was a flamboyant, effeminate pretty boy who spritzed audiences with perfume. Wrestling is, has been, and always will be inherently silly, and there will always be people who like the flippy or silly acts, while some will like the technical and hard-hitting violent stuff, so if you want to diversify your portfolio to accommodate a wider audience, don't be afraid to do so.
    • In fact, there is historical precedent that emphasizing too much on 'realistic' wrestling can have detrimental effects on a wrestling company, and it was no less than the legendary Antonio Inoki who fell victim to this. Due to the rise in popularity of MMA in Japan in the 2000s, Inoki's NJPW brought in legitimate MMA fighters and made them instant champions by beating their existing stars in shoot fights. Unfortunately, this led to MMA that wasn't MMA enough, and pro wrestling that wasn't pro wrestling enough, and a lot of their wrestlers became extremely disgruntled at being forced to work a legitimate style which they were not trained for while getting buried by a bunch of newcomers. The company would lose their top stars and bleed audiences due to this trend until they reverted back to their signature strong style before they could go bankrupt.
      • An earlier comparable example was the rise of "shoot style" in New Japan in the 1990s, which was inspired by Karl Gotch's catch-influenced style of pro wrestling and presented matches as being as close to shoot fights as possible; the downside was that a lot of wrestlers with no background in MMA became convinced that they could use this style to win legitimate fights, entered PRIDE and ended up being beaten humiliatingly by Rickson Gracie, undermining the "legit tough guy" image they had cultivated in pro wrestling. The wrestler who did beat Gracie may have saved pro wrestling in Japan, but the fact he had been a jobber further exposed the shoot style stars as broken down old men carefully protected to extend their careers. Sakuraba enjoyed a push on the account of his MMA victories, but remained a mediocre worker. A little legitimacy can always bring a wrestling promotion a little more money, but it is a tool that can just as easily lose money if mishandled.
  3. In regards to wrestler input into the booking process:
    • Wrestlers should have broad creative control of their appearance, moves they are allowed to do and performancenote . Bear in mind that this is not the same as letting them book their own matches. Think of a booker like a director at a movie set, and a wrestler is an actor. The actor worries about their own performance, while the director works on the big picture by managing all the other actors and performances. You, the booker/director, have your eye on the big picture, and should ultimately be the one deciding how the program flows and who should go over. By all means, take input from your wrestlers, but if you let them book the show, nine times out of ten they'll book themselves to win, no matter how magnanimous they proclaim to be, or how much they profess to make up for it later, because wins mean TV time mean merch sales mean money, and nobody would stupid enough to give up money. TNA and WCW are two examples of what happens when you delegate too much booking power upon a certain group of wrestlers: the undercard is stifled, programs are driven into the dirt, and your product dies a slow death.
    • A good modern example of wrestler input being taken seriously would be AEW, which has a roster full of young talent plucked from the indie scenes, but who were allowed to keep their silly and diverse gimmicks. So you have the goofy, kid-friendly Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, and Marko Stunt, the egotistical asshole MJF, the emo, nigh-suicidal Darby Allin, and the supremely lazy Orange Cassidy, all of whom, despite their bizarre personas, put on solid, competitive matches against veterans like Cody Rhodes, PAC and Chris Jericho. In contrast to this, WWE has a habit of constantly ignoring their wrestlers' established gimmicks (see Finn Bálor and 'Broken' Matt Hardy), retooling their recruits into totally different packages that are more in line with their branding, and thus created a roster of samey, cookie-cutter wrestlers. Any popular outliers, like Daniel Bryan, Rusev, or The New Day, are often popular despite WWE's attempts at losing them in the shuffle to suit corporate branding. As a quote floating on message boards says, "AEW focuses on the wrestlers, WWE focuses on the brand".
      • Never give your wrestlers too much control over their own matches and angles, but always, always, always be willing to listen if they come to you with ideas on how to put someone else over. Despite the views of old school wrestlers and promoters, superstardom is not a zero-sum game. The happiest problem a promoter could have is having too many talented, charismatic athletes in his employ. Just because fans cheer loudly for one guy does not mean they won't cheer just as loudly for someone else. Encourage this type of thinking and go out of your way to reward selflessness. Get your wrestlers out of the mindset of asking, "What can I do to help myself?" but "What can I do to help the company?" and "What can I do to help my fellow wrestlers?". If the company does well, then everyone wins. ECW went from a glorified indy promotion to the verge of joining multinational billion-dollar federations because its owner and a strong core of talent went out of their way to build an us-against-the-world team mentality. This is also the reason that Chris Jericho is the absolute MVP of All Elite Wrestling as it was getting established, as during both his inaugural championship reign and after it he's intensely focused on building as many new stars as possible, such as Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Scorpio Sky and Orange Cassidy.
    • Wrestlers who have charisma and other talents, but only Five Moves of Doom should be booked in matches where this lack of working ability should be obfuscated. For example, John Cena should not be booked to throw punches, and the only time Big Show should be booked against a high-flyer is for the point of the match to be Big Show throwing the high-flyer around and nothing else.
    • Wrestlers who routinely stink up the ring and/or draw X-Pac Heat without making any effort to improve should be dropped without consideration. No matter who they are, or who they are friends with. Your business will be better for it.
    • While you should let wrestlers decide their movesets for themselves, you need to put your foot down when it comes to matters of safety. If a wrestler has proven that they can't perform a move safely, do not allow them to perform that move in the ring. Not doing so usually leads to injuries, and it's already been shown how deadly those are for your promotion. One major criticism of AEW has been their large amount of botches and injuries, which are usually caused by wrestlers being unsafe in the ring and performing flashy moves that they don't know how to give or take safely. Let your wrestlers wrestle like themselves, but, in the words of the great Dusty Rhodes, do not let them do shit that they don't know how to do.
  4. Related to the above topic, backstage politickers are the death of your business. Nothing will destroy morale and work ethic like politics backstage. Find out who the politickers are, and then find reasons to fire them. If you cannot fire them for legal reasons, then book them into oblivion; if they have no marquee value, then they have no power over you at all. If the wrestler is a drawing name and they leave you for the competition, fair enough—let them eat your opponent up from the inside. As the booker, you have personal responsibility for defining how much politics exists. Make it as low as possible, preferably zero. Good locker room morale means wrestlers who are happy to work for you, which leads to better performances, pleased fans, and more money.
    • As is true in any organization, wrestling or otherwise, politics in the workplace come into play when some workers believe (or want others to believe) that they know more than everyone else and want to spread that around. Open and honest communication is the key to curbing these tendencies. Many of WCW's backstage problems were caused by secretive angles between a handful of people meant to fool other wrestlers backstage just as much as the fans, which caused trust in management to plummet. A tight lid should be kept on some angles if surprise value is a key component, but otherwise everyone should have an idea what's going on with the company.
    • Finally, if your family and friends are good at wrestling or on the mic, good! Many wrestlers come from dynasties that cultivate and polish talent. But only push them if they're getting over, not to get them over. This is the difference between the Von Erich Family forming the solid backbone of World Class Championship Wrestling or the Hart family doing the same for Stampede, and the WWE's use of its powerful production engine to try to get over various members of the McMahon family or how All Elite Wrestling constantly undermined its already shaky women's division with lots of screentime for the poorly-received Nightmare Collective because Brandi Rhodes was fronting it (even the AEW backstage realized they had a turkey on their hands with that one and quietly canceled it by putting Brandi back in her husband's feud with MJF, which actually was over). Refer to Business Ethics, rule #1, the Product, rule #4, and the Golden Rule. This is obviously emotionally hard when they are people you share a personal as well as professional relationship with, but it is important that your pushes come as a result of business rather than nepotism, cronyism and political clout in the back. Nothing attracts go-away heat like the belief that the recipient is only getting a push because of their relationship to you, and indulging them may actually hurt their careers long-term.
    • In the worst cases, nepotistic pushes can end up tanking a whole promotion.
      • Nick Gulas's successful Nashville wrestling territory in The '60s died as soon as he started pushing his obviously unfit son George as the top babyface; pissed-off wrestlers and fans left in droves for Jerry Jarrett's USWA, which eventually bought what was left of Gulas's promotion.
      • The beginning of the end for the AWA was when Verne Gagne booked his son Greg as the number one babyface (compounded by the fact that Verne never actually put the belt on Greg, which just made him look even weaker) which caused the promotion to bleed money and eventually shut down soon after.
    • Being known as a booker who will push your family members over talent that deserve it will not only greatly damage your reputation, but that of the family members who were the recipient of nepotistic pushes as well. Just look at Erik Watts, who despite being a solid tag team wrestler was never able to find steady work because he was the recipient of a massive singles push in WCW early in his career when he was green and botch-prone because his father was head booker.
    • There are plenty of behind-the-scenes arrangements in AEW. Many friends of the Rhodes family are (or have been) coaches, agents, managers, or producers, such as Arn Anderson; Tully Blanchard; Jake Roberts; QT Marshall (who helps run Cody Rhodes' Nightmare Factory wrestling school alongside Dustin Rhodes); and Billy Gunn, whose sons Austin and Colten worked their way up the ladder to become AEW tag team champs. Perennial Jobbers Brandon Cutler and Michael Nakazawa are old friends of The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega respectively, with Cutler working as a content producer. Enlisting old acquaintances, especially ones you know who have a long track record of doing reliable, good work, is not always a bad thing. Also note that these these acquaintances and their children, such as the younger Gunns and Hook (son of Tazz), have not been given gigantic pushes, and instead have to work their way up or around the roster just like everyone else.
    • While the friendly arrangements in the back seem to have worked out well for the most part in AEW, the actual politickers themselves eventually became poisonous to the locker room, with the company ultimately feeling the absolute business end of this in the year's length of time since CM Punk finally returned to wrestling by signing with AEW. First, Cody Rhodes left the company and returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38, amidst months of rumors that he and the rest of the EVPs were at the very least no longer friends, with cryptic comments in interviews prior to his departure hinting that he foresaw an ideological clash soon hitting the locker room. During and after this came Jay Lethal's nonexistent booking and subsequent Face–Heel Turn along with Colt Cabana's disappearance from television and reassignment to the Khan-purchased ROH, fueling rumors that Punk was using his leverage to hurt the careers of both his wife's ex-boyfriend and his former best friend. This was the backdrop of worked shoot promos from Adam Page towards Punk which added unnecessary acrimony in their program where Punk defeated Page for the AEW World Title, as well as Punk's retaliatory public shoot campaign against Page months after the program had ended. In the media scrum following his win over Jon Moxley at the 2022 All Out event in September, Punk continued to excoriate Page for various reasons, and even accused Omega and The Bucks of using their well-known relationships with dirt sheet journalists such as Dave Meltzer to try and sabotage him as the company's top babyface by creating the rumors that he went after Cabana's job. This led to The Elite, who, remember, are the company's Executive Vice Presidents, confronting Punk and Ace Steel in the locker room, setting off Punk to spark a shoot fight backstage that ultimately saw all parties suspended and stripped of their championship titles.* With wrestlers starting to choose sides backstage, many of them publicly, it would fall on Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley and Bryan Danielson to ensure the locker room didn't fall into chaos. This is widely seen as proof that criticism of Tony Khan as a "money mark" who seeks to befriend his favorite wrestlers and holds little to no promotional authority as a result, and that this is merely the opposite extreme of Vince McMahon's control freak tendencies rather than a preferable alternative to such, is absolutely merited.
  5. No wrestler comes into the business as a ready-made main event player. All wrestlers have to start in the lower card, and some never make it out of there. It's your job as a booker to ensure that the audience knows each wrestler's status on the card and has a reason to care about them, especially when it comes time to start elevating their position. Increasing a wrestler's status on the card is called building them because just like building anything else, it takes time and it must be done step-by-step. Wrestlers, just like any other athletes and sports teams, can only increase their profile by showing themselves to be consistently better than others that are perceived to be around their level. You cannot instantly get a wrestler over; if a Jobber has a 20-minute wire-to-wire match with a main eventer, it looks like a fluke that only hurts the profile of the upper-card wrestler, and even casual fans can tell it's a blatant hotshot designed as a futile attempt to make the jobber seem suddenly relevant (see The Product, rule #19 for why that's a bad idea). But if an upper-midcarder who's on the verge of breaking out takes the main eventer to the limit, then you have a new star. Building wrestlers up the right way results in a sustainable promotion full of credible wrestlers that are able to get new talent over when the time is right. You need wrestlers at every level of the card for your promotion to succeed, so make sure you give all of them the respect they deserve.
    • Treat your jobbers well. Their self-sacrifice is the cornerstone of your business, and without them looking at the lights, your main-eventer will never get over. They are brave men, willing to sell their own glory to create yours; you, your performers, and your company owe them everything.
    • Guard your mid-card workers. Remember, their purpose is to establish the credibility of your top-card performers. As a result, they get to beat jobbers, and their losses should generally be protected to ensure they can continue to build future top-stars. They should never descend to the level of jobbers. Your mid-carders should be those talented workers whose mic skills are essentially non-existent, or those who can talk a good fight, but not wrestle.
    • Crowd reactions mandate which wrestlers you choose to push: you can build up a wrestler as meticulously and carefully as possible, but if they are getting no reaction from the crowd, they're not a star or anything other than a Creator's Pet. Likewise, not pushing a lower-card act that's gotten over will only make the fans angry because they feel like their voices don't matter. Don't repeat the mistake WWE made with Rusev and Lana over the years, an increasingly popular act which never reached the heights they could've because management wasn't convinced Rusev could be worth anything more than a Foreign Wrestling Heel. He only won the United States Championship so he could put over John Cena and trade wins with Shinsuke Nakamura, was never allowed near the WWE Championship besides being a one-time transitional challenger to AJ Styles, was broken away from Lana in demeaning angles twice, and even when the Rusev Day gimmick and Tag Team with Aiden English became insanely popular nothing was done with it.
  6. There is no such thing as "too old" in the wrestling business. As mentioned above, wrestlers can easily have careers that span decades. Just like with any other job, longevity in wrestling brings with it experience and skills that are not easily replicated. Even if a wrestler is too injured or broken-down to be credible as an in-ring talent anymore, they can fulfill other on-screen roles such as manager, referee, or commentator, or they can use their knowledge to help the business as a booker, road agent, or executive, just to name a few. Never bury a wrestler for their age; implying that one of their respected leaders is a dinosaur and a relic of a bygone era will do nothing but piss the entire locker room off. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a wrestler is too old to get over and draw anymore like Vince McMahon did with Randy Savage in the late 80s, or like Jim Herd did with Ric Flair in early 90s WCW. This is another thing AEW does exceptionally well, as they've brought in a number of elder statesmen of the wrestling business to play important non-wrestling roles in the company, such as Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Jake Roberts, and Tazz, who manage or coach younger talent. Their general wellbeing is protected by not participating in actual matches, while on the rare and special occasions they do get physically involved (such as Arn hitting his iconic spinebuster on someone) it still generates a colossal pop from the pure nostalgia, while if they take a carefully-planned and protected bump (such as when Eddie Kingston knocked down Jake during a confrontation with his client Lance Archer) it can generate ferocious heat.
    • However, there is one thing you MUST remember with this: while bringing back legends of yesteryear can bring a huge nostalgia pop and a great deal of credibility by drawing on their experience, they're still the stars of yesteryear, and they should be used to help build the stars of the present, not undermine them. When WWE brought back Goldberg in 2016 to reignite his feud with Brock Lesnar, squashing the Beast in 86 seconds and three moves at Survivor Series, the positive reaction was spectacular. When Goldberg squashed Universal Champion Kevin Owens at Fastlane the next year, winning the Universal Championship so he could go into the rubber match with Lesnar at WrestleMania 33 with gold on the line, the fans turned on him hard. Goldberg beating Lesnar was great because both men were part-timers whose matches were special attractions, but Owens was a hard-working full-time star in the prime of his career, and Goldberg ending his championship reign (in his usual style too) undermined him badly. WWE repeated this mistake (arguably even worse) in the build to WrestleMania 36, having Goldberg squash "the Fiend" Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship again at a Saudi Arabia show so he could drop the belt to Roman Reigns (which ended up being all for nothing when Roman was forced to pull out of WrestleMania by the COVID-19 Pandemic, forcing WWE to glibly change plans at the last second and have Goldberg lose to Braun Strowman instead, since they couldn't keep the belt on him any longer). Goldberg's reputation, already damaged by an atrocious match he'd had the year before where he nearly killed The Undertaker (because both men were frankly too old to keep performing), was almost ruined among the IWC, but that was nothing compared to the near-crippling effect it had on "The Fiend", once the most interesting wrestler in the company, booked as an invincible monster, made to look like a jokenote . Old wrestlers can be a valuable asset, sometimes they can even wrestle to great effect, but be very, very cautious about letting them win.
      • For a couple of quick examples of WWE doing this right, in the build up to the 1000th episode of RAW, mouthy heel Heath Slater acquired a gimmick where he'd repeatedly call out retired legends by stepping on their catchphrases, leading to him getting brutally squashed by Vader, Psycho Sid, Bob Backlund and others, including Lita at the end. He only managed to win one match (against Doink the Clown) and even then he got blindsided by Diamond Dallas Page afterwards. Heath was chosen for this because not only is he an exceptionally safe worker and fantastic seller, able to make the legends look great while minimising any risk of injury to them, but he was also a total jobber who wouldn't be harmed by the losses (in fact, despite how weak it made him look, getting to work with so many legends arguably did his career profile some good). On the flip side, at WrestleMania XXV, Chris Jericho challenged a team of old legends (Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper and Ricky Steamboat, wrestling on behalf of the retired Ric Flair) to a 3-on-1 elimination handicap match, specifically to prove that their time was past. While Snuka and Piper sadly weren't really able to perform any more, Steamboat gave Jericho a huge run for his money, looking like he could have credibly beaten the younger man. Steamboat's nostalgia-inducing performance impressed so much that he went on to have a short feud against Jericho, culminating in another solid match between them at Backlash, but despite Jericho being the heel, Steamboat was still unable to beat himnote - which was the correct decision, as no matter how much Steamboat had left in the tank, Jericho losing to him would have badly damaged his credibilitynote . Finally, WWE managed to get it right with Goldberg on their 3rd attempt when he challenged WWE Champion Drew McIntyre at the 2021 Royal Rumble and, after a typically short but solid match, McIntyre defeated Goldberg cleanly to retain, bolstering his credibility.
  7. If you have a developmental territory, treat your future stars well and go out of your way to push them as the future of your company once they're ready. Future stars represent the future of your company, as you can't rely on your older/more experienced wrestlers forever. Do NOT make the mistake WWE has made with NXT and several of the callouts to their main roster, which were treated as afterthoughts after their initial runs, and some of them were treated like trash even during their first appearances. This led to the company to rely on the same old wrestlers in order to keep any semblance of cash flow. Conversely, the way the stars were treated in NXT serves as an example of what to do: in spite of the many roster cuts due to promotions/releases, NXT has managed to keep the consistency that made it one of the most well-received wrestling shows ever thanks to its booking and treatment of up-and-comer stars. The lesson here is clear: burying young talent can end careers.
    • While this treatment of developmental callups only became obvious thanks to NXT's greater visibility, this sort of thing has been happening for a while. For every OVW success story such as Brock Lesnar, Batista, Randy Orton, or John Cena, there were many more forgettable call-ups that got buried thanks to bad gimmicks/booking, such as Rob Conway, Nick Dinsmore/Eugene, René Duprée, Muhammad Hassan, Doug Basham, The Damaja, and every member of the Spirit Squad save one. In a lot of cases, these wrestlers ended up so damaged by their booking on the main roster that following their departures from WWE they were stuck working small indie shows or out of wrestling altogether.
    • Conversely, if you run a developmental promotion, remember that your role is to prepare young wrestlers to work for another, larger promotion. Make sure they get trained to work the same way that they would on the main roster. Don't push wrestlers you know that the boss isn't going to like: if your parent promotion favors large power wrestlers, for instance, don't book a bunch of small technicians as the focus of your developmental territory. One reason why so many NXT callups ended up buried in The New '10s is because Triple H attempted to book the brand like an independent territory, pushing wrestlers who not only didn't have the sort of look or age that Vince McMahon liked, but in the case of three consecutive champions had publicly expressed the desire to stay on NXT permanently and never get called up to the main roster (and by that point Vince had made such a habit of abusing, bullying, and ruining even the called up NXT stars who did fit his image of what a WWE talent ought to be once they got onto his roster, let alone those who didn't, it's hard to blame them). While NXT was still critically well-regarded for much of this time, this ended up getting Trips ousted in 2021, when Vince took over the booking of NXT himself, and led to its bizarre and much-mocked “2.0” incarnation under first Vince and Bruce Pritchard, then under Shawn Michaels.

Public Relations

  1. Don't have wrestlers break kayfabe under any circumstances. The same goes for you; don't ever create an angle based on real-life events if that story would contradict a previously established narrative. This is for the same reason that halfway through Blade, Wesley Snipes doesn't stop using his silly rusty voice. It breaks the Willing Suspension of Disbelief a story needs to work! Worked shoots have almost never made big money. Even Andy Kaufman's famous feud with Jerry Lawler initially drew less people to the arenas than usual. Nobody wants to see it; the casual fans will be horribly confused, and the smarks, the only guys who would actually be able to follow what is going on, would really rather you drop the nonsense and just put people in the ring anyway. It makes no money, and serves no purpose other than damaging your credibility with the fans. This is wrestling, not UFC. While there's no need to insist that wrestlers maintain kayfabe outside of the job, as was done for much of professional wrestling's history, the fact that almost everybody knows it's a work doesn't mean that you should call attention to the fictional nature of your programs and angles. Everything that happens inside the arena and/or on camera should be treated as if it were completely real.
    • Worked shoots rarely ever make big money, but they do occasionally catch headlines in the wrestling world. CM Punk and A.J. Lee both successfully redefined themselves off the back of worked shoots, with Punk both building his career on the independent circuit and catapulting himself to the hottest man in WWE for over a year. Unfortunately, this and the "Reality Era" branding that would kick in in subsequent years has caused everyone and their grandmother to try and strike gold with worked shoots. John Cena was infamous for using worked shoots to cut down the value of his rivals despite respect being part of his Cenation mantra, and the oft-aforementioned debacle of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins' long-standing rivalry with Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship is also an example of a badly-placed worked shoot angle hurting the perception of the company and its talent.
    • As if proving the point, over in NJPW, Adam "Hangman" Page made an attempt to spin "Switchblade" Jay White as someone unwilling to consistently defend the IWGP United States Championship across the United States... which spectacularly backfired when White responded by verbally cutting through Page and his allies within Bullet Club Elite with pinpoint precision. Hitting at every dysfunctional point in The Elite's relationship both to each other and to the larger Bullet Club as seen though NJPW, ROH, and Being the Elite storylines, White gave a textbook presentation of how a well-constructed fully-immersed in-universe promo will shred apart any emotional worked shoot based on flawed logic. What's more, he seamlessly summed up the entire justification for Bullet Club's core members to mutiny against The Elite, as though he had intimate knowledge of the group's inner workings despite supposedly being part of an enemy faction. In hindsight, this foreshadowed not only the Firing Squad arc of the Bullet Club Civil War, but also his emergence as its leader once The Elite were kicked out. While Page was thinking about popping the crowd by accusing his opponent of holding a championship hostage, White was thinking ten steps ahead, feeding into not just the angle he was working at the time, but where he would be for the next two years of his career. This demonstrated the attention to detail paid by NJPW and its trueborn professional wrestlers into long-form storytelling, thus aiding both the consistency of the product and the reputation of the company.
    • Funnily enough, it would be none other than CM Punk and Adam Page themselves who would provide Exhibit A of how destructive worked shoots can be when not managed correctly. With Cody Rhodes returning to WWE amidst problems with The Elite and Jay Lethal and Colt Cabana's piss-poor booking following Punk's arrival, the locker room atmosphere had been poisoned even prior to Punk and Page's feud for the AEW World Title. Page peppered his promos with thinly veiled references alleging that Punk had intentionally sabotaged Cabana's career, which Punk took umbrage to and retaliated to with shoots of his own months later, claiming Page was a disrespectful idiot being used by executive vice presidents who go behind people's back to their friends in the wrestling media and create BS rumors to try to undermine people they don't like. This ultimately led to said executive vice presidents having a locker room fight with Punk and his trainer Ace Steel on a night when Punk and The Elite had all won championships, leading to suspensions all around including the stripping of said championships, sending the company's booking and backstage environment into a barely-salvageable tailspin.
    • There is one major exception to this rule: when dealing with very serious real-world issues. Paying tribute to dead wrestlers is a common example; the tribute shows for Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero and Brodie Leenote  WWE (or, in Brodie’s case, AEW) put on after their tragic deaths were cases where stories and face/heel alignments were put aside out of respect to the departed because attempting to make a worked story out of them would be considered horribly tasteless (as it eventually was after Guerrero's respectful tribute show when WWE couldn't help itself and engaged in the appalling "Eddiesploitation" angle, considered to this day to be one of the worst things Vince McMahon ever did, and think of the ground that covers). Don't treat your audience like they're stupid; they know what's happened in real life when the news is big enough so attempting to muddy a serious issue with kayfabe will only insult their intelligence and make them resent you.
      • In the worst cases, the heels who get ordered to bring up serious real-life issues can end up suffering from major consequences even though they didn't come up with the lines themselves, such as when Paige insulted Charlotte Flair's dead brother, CM Punk brought up Jerry Lawler's heart attack and Paul Bearer's death within four months of each other, or Randy Orton told Rey Mysterio that Eddie was "in hell".
      • A milder example came when Matt Hardy appeared on the fallout episode of AEW Dynamite following the PPV All Out 2020, where he took a horrifically botched bump that injured him badly, and which garnered the company massive criticism for allowing the match to continue afterwards. Matt delivered a sincere shoot promo where he assured the fans that he would fully recover, apologised to both them and to his family for frightening them as well as for the match itself not living up to expectations, and told everyone that he would be back once he'd made a full recovery with the intention of focusing on his singles career. He was entirely out of character, did not attempt to work any elements of his AEW programs, angles or gimmicks into the promo (aside from assuring people that the feud with Sammy Guevara was definitely over now), and nobody ran in to attack him to "write him off" with a fake injury to let him recover, because everyone already knew why he had to take time off. After the dark shadow Matt's accident had cast over the entire All Out PPV, most people found being addressed so directly very reassuring.
  2. The Internet Wrestling Community is not a Hive Mind, and will complain about everything you do. This is acceptable and their complaints are to be largely ignored. After all, it is impossible to please everybody, and, unless ratings, buyrates, and live attendance plummet, then there's no reason to believe you are doing a lousy job. We are well into a millennium where most fans can be expected to find access to online devices of some sort and wrestlers promote themselves through services like the world wide web. This has resulted in a lot of people writing about wrestling on the internet, each with completely different tastes, most of them of loud and opinionated. You will piss somebody off. Accept this.
    • Now, having given you that caveat, it is also worth remembering the Wisdom of Crowds — many fans want to contribute to your business being successful (that's part and parcel of being a fan!), so do not ignore them entirely. Instead, if you can afford it, have an office they can contact (preferably via email) with suggestions and feedback. Legally speaking, soliciting creative ideas from people outside the organization is a bad idea, and you should never actually use a fan's idea wholesale as part of your show (unless you like courtrooms and being forced to pay royalties, anyway), but keeping up on this, and noticing general trends in the messages received, can help you determine which angles are working and which wrestlers are getting over. Plus, having a point of contact for fans to write to goes a long way to improving public relations, and helps you avoid looking like real life heels in the process.
    • Always remember that wherever the internet is concerned, there will always be leaks. Unless you take absurd lengths to keep everyone in the dark about your booking plans except for the wrestlers involved, and only for their own matches, you have to expect that someone, be it a performer, referee, security guard, or ring crew member, will be willing to sell out the day's planned events to some website or other just for the notoriety value. In a perfect world, it would be nice if spoilers could be kept under wraps, but it is not your responsibility to take draconian measures to make it so. As long as fans are willing to scour the web for the latest dirt, someone will be willing to provide it. In the end, they're only ruining the experience for themselves. Do not book plans at the last minute or engineer an Ass Pull just to blindside this one sub-group. They being who they are, there's a better than even chance they'll catch wind of it anyway, and the product will be damaged for the vast majority of your fans, who are now watching something that doesn't make thematic sense because of the haphazard change.
  3. If the crowd reacts to a rivalry, it should be milked further. An interesting rivalry can lead to a series of angles that become a program in their own right. Failure to capitalize loses fan interest. If the fans are not interested in a rivalry, it must be dropped. Failure to do so will bore fans and lose fan interest, besides the fact that there's nothing fans hate more than being force-fed a rivalry they don't care about week after week. It's generally a cue for changing the channel.
    • As an extension of this, if the crowd reacts to anything hinting at a future rivalry based on a combination of talent that has presented itself, make note of this and gauge the possibility of using it in future plans. If it seems like a logical money angle, or if it causes a stir whenever you do anything that even hints at it becoming closer to a reality, USE IT.
      • This advice seems to have gone unheeeded through an entire over-three-year period from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows’ arrival on April 11, 2016 to Dean Ambrose’s departure on April 30, 2019, during which four early pioneers of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling-based yet globally-infamous Bullet Club were all under the same payroll as the three "hounds of justice" that comprised WWE's hottest act in years in The Shield. While yes, the original leader of Bullet Club had to clear up all business on NXT and the traitor of The Shield couldn't turn face again until a good while after their breakup was resolved, these were things that could've been taken care of by WrestleMania 33 at the earliest (using the brand split instituted in 2016 as a vehicle to buy more time if needed). This would clear the path for Bullet Club* to unite and launch a siege angle, which would eventually provoke the reunion of The Shield to feud with them, creating the closest thing WWE could produce to both NJPW vs. WWE and Sons of Anarchy vs. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Instead AJ Styles and Finn Bálor were always kept on separate brands, with Anderson and Gallows only ever teaming up with one of them at a time and being booked like utter chumps when neither of them were around; whereas Ambrose and Seth Rollins would take their place next to Roman Reigns only as clear and blatant heat shields with their opposition being disparate individuals coming together to mess with them, and the justice/military agent motifs that made them cool to begin with were reduced to a nickname and vests. Then Ambrose had a heel turn in late 2018 that was so horribly bungled up in questionable segments that all reservations Dean had had about his decision to leave WWE ceased to exist, closing the book on something that could've been a huge money maker.
  4. Unless you have no plans to grow your promotion beyond a certain size, Pandering to the Base should be avoided. While the Internet Wrestling Community and other hardcore fans will make up a vocal and important part of your fanbase, don't make the mistake of thinking all your fans are like them. At the very least, your wrestlers' gimmicks, motivations, and programs they're currently participating in should be understandable to those who are new to the promotion. Confining the motivations behind feuds or explanations of gimmicks to Internet videos with a fraction of the reach and interest of your product will frustrate and drive away people who aren't already fans interested your promotion, while explaining them properly and simply during the show will create a story to draw new fans in. And more new fans means more growth for your promotion, and more money for you.
    • This has been a frequent major criticism of All Elite Wrestling since its TV deal started. Wednesday Night Dynamite tends towards being match-heavy and promo-light. This results in wrestlers having matches or feuds built entirely on plot points from the promotion's web series, like AEW Dark or even Being the Elite. A TV viewer who is unfamiliar with the product, having only just tuned in or has returned to wrestling after a long absence in the excitement around a new major promotion opening up might not know these shows exist, and using them as a crutch for building their angles on the actual Dynamite television program — as opposed to, y'know, airing some of these "web segments" on Dynamite itself — has been considered a major factor in its ratings decline after the initial surge of interest.
    • In another example of how Pandering to the Base can hurt a product, WWE from 2014-2019 was notorious for debuting NXT talent to the main roster by just having them show up without any introductory vignettes, and just assuming that the fans would be familiar with them and their gimmicks—the problem was, at that time NXT was exclusive to the subscription-based WWE Network, which many fans didn't own. Worse, many gimmicks that worked well with the small and notoriously smarky Full Sail University crowd in NXT didn't translate well to the mainstream audience, or were poorly understood and badly mishandled by Vince McMahon, which, combined with bad booking, resulted in many wrestlers flopping and being pushed down the card soon after their debuts. Two extremely notable examples below:
      • The push of Finn Bálor at the start of the reinstated brand split. Finn made his debut in the 2016 edition of the WWE Draft and was pushed immediately into winning the Universal Championship a month after his debut. However, with no debut vignettes or promo time, and little time to establish his ability to the main-roster fans, they were just left sitting confused at to who he was and why he deserved a title shot over their favorite wrestlers. And then he gave up the Universal Championship the very next night, having suffered a shoulder injury in the match where he won it, with his return just seeing him come out for a match. With very little fanfare, his push grew cold after that for years to come. To truly regain his steam, he had to return to NXT and become a heel following his real-life wedding and honeymoon in late 2019.
      • This arguably culminated in the lead-up to WrestleMania 35, where four popular NXT wrestlers, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Ricochet, and Aleister Black were called up to try to shore up the roster's star power, to a completely dead crowd who didn't know who any of them were. Within the year, Gargano and Ciampa quietly made their way back to NXT after injuries, Aleister Black was stuck doing rambling and widely-mocked promos in a dark room because Vince McMahon didn't understand his gimmick, and Ricochet was, while moderately successful, mired in the same midcard as everyone else, and eventually got fed to The Beast and was buried, like so many other promising talent.
  5. Women can wrestle, so take advantage of this. And those who aren't good wrestlers can still be interesting in other ways not exclusive to their bodies. Lingerie matches and their ilk should be used sparingly; they're fine as a once-in-a-blue-moon Breather Episode type segment, but making them a staple of your product insults 51% of the population, and can therefore hurt 51% of your potential sales. Don't make the mistake of thinking your demographic is entirely either men or thirsty fangirls who only care about the men. Thinking long term, more female wrestling fans (especially young ones) means more girls wanting to become wrestlers, which means more depth of talent in the future. All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling's incredible depth of talent in the 90s was due to hordes of Japanese schoolgirls who idolised the Crush Gals in the 80s, and before them, the Beauty Pair in the 70s.

    Remember rule one — you're here to sell a product to the fans. If you hire good female wrestlers, and then book them like proper wrestlers, the fans will treat them like proper wrestlers. If you hire great female wrestlers and give them the green light, they may even steal the show and get a standing ovation, or even become the face of your entire company, as Becky Lynch was during 2019 in WWE. If you hire anyone who looks great but can't wrestle well, rather than throwing them in the ring and booking them to win matches, try hiding their weakness, possibly with a bodyguard, valet or manager role that fits their personality and range. You'll find that opens them up more to fan support as well. Sasha Banks and Lana can exist favorably in the same world, just as Lita and Terri Runnels did, or AJ Styles and Paul Heyman do. Most fans want to see good female wrestlers and support them, and are also pretty good about interesting female non-wrestlers as well. Play to the strengths of those you book and things should work out, male or female.
    • If a non-wrestling woman decides she'd like to become a wrestler, allow her plenty of time to train and actually get good before fully transitioning her. Much of this is the difference between Trish Stratus, who went from a model with a gift of gab and a scandalous talent scout gimmick to one of the most legendary women in WWE history, and most of WWE's manufactured attempts to reproduce Trish in later model-turned-wrestlers whose results varied from barely memorable to utterly disastrous, the most infamous example being Eva Marie's debacle of a career. Even good wrestlers can sometimes benefit from being introduced in a non-wrestling role and transitioning into an in-ring one after getting over, as it happened with Rosemary at Impact Wrestling.
    • In either case, don't be afraid to let the women be sexy or romantic. If they're not interested, don't try to force it (refer to Employee Relations, rule #3). Some are better at just kicking ass, some shine using guile and wit, some as innocent maidens, some in a pompous bitch role, and yes, some are better as the sexy one. Know what works for your talent, as well as the lower and upper limits of your content rating and target audience. (Wrestling tends to court a big 18-to-49-year-old demographic, so there will be room for everything. The question, of course, is how much of what.) And for God's sake, while it is important to put your talent over, do not have your babyfaces, or worse, an untouchable female authority figure, lecture the audience about your women's division being some sort of revolution — especially if the same arena you're in gave a women's match a standing ovation within the past three days. People in The New '10s and beyond are very much aware that female athletes are a thing, both inside and outside the wrestling business. Sexism and misogyny limits your audience, but so does preachy corporate straw feminism (which, on top of throwing unnecessary shade at those of your fans who are men, often becomes the same thing anyway via "bigotry of low expectations").
    • On that note, if you let women compete directly with the men, let them get hit — but don't overdo it. Contrary to what many fanfiction authors believe, the day a woman who's not a Wrestling Monster, even a powerfully built one like Beth Phoenix, beats one of the most renowned male wrestlers and badasses in the world, Shinsuke Nakamura for example, for a World Heavyweight Championship, the match is going to be scrutinized half to death. If the man brutalized the woman and she took his every blow but beat him with Five Moves of Doom John Cena-style, or if he didn't touch her at all because the network won't allow man-on-woman violence, you will get torn asunder and accused of unrealistic pandering to identity politics. And while it was trendy at the time for monster heels or jerk heels to beat up small-statured babyface Divas (usually as a set-up for a babyface save), Values Dissonance makes it no longer acceptable to do so. Treat it like you would any other match - let both wrestlers have their ups and downs, and make it feel like both the man and the woman actually put effort into their fight.
      • For a quick case study in booking a woman winning a traditionally male championship, look at Sexy Star winning the Lucha Underground Championship in Season 3.note  LU had always been an intergender promotion that presented its female wrestlers as equal to the men (they weren't as strong as the male wrestlers, but were just as skilled, the same principle that gave the legendary Rey Mysterio a multi-decade career), but all the champions for the first 2 1/2 seasons had been male. Going into the Aztec Warfare III match, the unstoppable Monster Matanza had had a deathgrip on the title for an entire year, and absolutely nobody would believe Sexy had any chance of beating him, but Aztec Warfare was a battle royale-type match where they were able to remove the Championship from Matanza while protecting him by having about half the roster gang up on him and wear him down, eventually having him eliminated not by Sexy, but by Rey Mysterio (who Matanza then destroyed in revenge to get his heat back). However, to legitimise her win, Sexy Star had to finally overcome the other Wrestling Monster on the roster, Mil Muertes, after he eliminated her friend and ally The Mack, leaving them the last two standing. The final sequence of the match was booked very carefully to make Sexy's win seem plausible. The sadistic and overconfident Mil Muertes passed up multiple opportunities to simply pin Sexy and win, preferring to try and brutalise her more, eventually introducing two tables and a steel chair, both of which Sexy was able to turn against him, delivering several brutal headshots with the chairnote  and putting him through the tables from the top turnbuckle before hitting him with her finisher. Through a combination of Mil's overconfidence and Sexy's determination and initiative, a woman was able to win her promotion's top belt by defeating one of the biggest and most-feared men on the roster, without it seeming utterly ridiculous.
    • Female authority figures are just like male authority figures. They can be face, or they can be heel, and either one can be done very well or very badly; see The Product, rule #14. Here are a couple of suggestions to avoid going badly with it. First off, never put a woman using insanity as a gimmick in charge as a babyface authority figure. The gimmick, especially if popular to begin with, will take over the role and cause her to abuse her power just as badly as any heel boss would, only towards the heel side — which normally would be fine if that didn't include being their female boss, emphasis on both terms. Unless the heels are trying to take over the company, you're creating a case of The Unfair Sex. Also, if a woman planned to appear in an authoritative role has a relationship to either you or the owner of the company both inside and outside kayfabe, reconsider the idea now because it is a giant red flag. The combination of being of the fairer sex and of having that relationship may cause you to protect her to the point that she can be the hypocritical babyface or condescending tyrant heel who gets away with almost everything with little to no comeuppance (whether physical or simply professional) and can even cut down and weaken the wrestlers through dominating her promos with them and constantly mentioning her sex and family ties to shut them up. No matter how good the woman is with her promos and facial expressions, this will get the company itself side-eyed. In fact, if she's too good at it, it might make it worse and cause people to believe this is the way she is in real life, which ultimately hurts your company's image. Has anyone noticed how Stephanie McMahon has to say in almost every press interview and stockholder meeting that she is "portraying a villainous character" almost as if she's trying to distance her business personality from her WWE kayfabe as much as humanly possible?
    • Long story short: there's a lot of room for return on investment in female talent, but that investment must be wise if it is to be made at all. If you want to throw that money away wasting and misusing your women, you'd be better off not hiring them in the first place.
  6. Finally, a booker should cultivate interests outside of wrestling, specifically mainstream interests that have nothing to do with wrestling or other manly pursuits. If you become too obsessive about wrestling, you will be unable to see the forest for the trees, and your booking skills will decline. You will become convinced that certain actions are completely the right ones to take, simply because you lack the perspective. In the same way that you must be ruthlessly honest about your workers' abilities, you must be honest with yourself about your own. Both arrogance and excessive humility lead to errors of judgment. Just try to see the truth (and don't rely on others to provide it; have trusted advisors — preferably ones with no conflicts of interest regarding angles — but always follow your own vision). It is your job to be enthusiastic, but not blinkered, and it's very easy to get lost in the minutiae of a thing. Ultimately, and as with so much in life, everything in moderation.
    • And as Vince McMahon has also taught us, just because you have interests outside of wrestling does not mean you should try to use your wrestling business-savvy to try and become say, a football or a bodybuilding promoter. Stick to what you do best, and maybe hire other people to run your attempts at branching out.
    • To add to this, try to keep up on what's popular with your target demographic at the moment. Use this as fodder for angles and gimmicks, and to determine which celebrities might draw attention to your product (but always make sure they will actually contribute to your core business; see Business Ethics, rule #3). For example, if pirates happen to be popular at the moment, try packaging a wrestler in a tongue-in-cheek pirate gimmick; if they can get the gimmick over, it will draw attention immediately, and if they really make it their own, it will remain over long after the fad has passed. Examples:
      • From Western morticians to zombies to gothic warriors to demonic monsters to real fucking dudes, The Undertaker from 1990 to 2003 cycled through a number of different fads, all the while coming back to a single unifying theme of vengeance and death. From 2004 on, he became a well-blended pastiche of all these fads that ultimately formed a champion of cause from the shadows with a grim reaper image and occasional dangerous tendencies, much like Sting since 1997 but far more solitary than Sting was even then. His ability to adapt to the times both in his look and in his wrestling style ended up creating a legend that far outlives his previous aura of invincibility or any one of the appearances he took on, and those have all been memorable.
      • Another successful example is The Shield: when superheroes and agent soldiers like The Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. started spiking in popularity again thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what better way to debut three solid athletes than to have them wreck shop dressed in riot gear declaring they're about justice and calling themselves "The Shield" while doing impromptu mission reports instead of standardized interviews for their backstage promos?
      • The pirate example is an example of what happens when a gimmick is either too stuck to its fad or isn't given a chance to breathe beyond it. Vince McMahon didn't understand Paul Burchill's pirate gimmick, so he had it axed within the year — right before the second Pirates of the Caribbean release.
      • Gangrel is also another such "bust": between being used ultimately as a vehicle to push Edge, being on a roster stacked with absolute superstars including two true franchise players at the same time, and the uptick in that period of the vampire genre not reaching peak territory yet (which Vince couldn't have known at the time even if he had understood the vampire thing), he never stood a chance at becoming a top star. However, as the archetype of an almost friendly yet truly menacing vampire with one of the coolest entrances of all time, with said gimmick being serving as a launching pad for several of the greatest wrestlers in his era and beyond, Gangrel has managed to attain a fairly decent cult following.
      • It's also important to note that wrestling eras are often wildly different from their predecessors, represented most clearly by the top stars of those eras. Bruno Sammartino was a powerhouse who appealed to Italian-Americans, Bob Backlund a small-sized amateur legend, Hulk Hogan a cartoon, monster-slaying superhero, Bret Hart a realistic technical master, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin a counter-culture, boss-fighting rebel, John Cena a kid-friendly PG product, CM Punk a cult hero who aired real-life criticisms of WWE, Daniel Bryan a spirited underdog from the indie scene, and Becky Lynch an ass-kicking, anti-authoritarian female version of Steve Austin. The lesson here is that times always, always change, often in revolution or rejection of the previous era, and a promoter must be able to adapt with the times, or risk alienating their audiences (see, again, Ultimate Warrior, Lex Luger, and Roman Reigns failing to imitate the same success of their predecessors).

A Final Note

You might have noticed the laundry list of examples on this page pointing out all the ways WWE has ignored (and indeed is continuing to ignore) this advice. You might also think, "Well if Vince McMahon can do whatever he likes and still manage to own the biggest wrestling company in history, surely it can't be that important, can it?"

First of all, you are not Vince McMahon and never will be. WWE has managed to remain uncontested at the top of the wrestling world ever since the end of the Monday Night Wars because WCW and ECW closing down gave it a near-monopoly on the Western wrestling landscape, and monopolies are self-sustaining. Regardless of how bad its content gets, the majority of casual audience members will continue to watch WWE not because they like it, but because it's the only game left, and the only show that they know about. You do not, will not have that kind of luxury, as you almost certainly do not have the kind of established brand to tank glaring creative mistakes. During the 1980s when the NWA was still a visible presence and all throughout the Monday Night Wars in the 90s, Vince was just as beholden to the guidelines laid down here as anyone- if he had tried pulling the kinds of stunts he does today (ignoring or deliberately provoking the audience, burying crowd favorites to push his own personal picks, micromanaging every aspect of his guys' performances) back then, his company might have been the one that went out of business. It's also important to note that even back then, when Vince did put his thumb on the scales, it often cost him real money, or even caused tragedies like Owen Hart's death due to a stupid gimmick.

Secondly, even with their effective monopoly, WWE has been running into constant financial trouble over the last decade or so, with ratings and profits both falling as fans tire of his declining product quality (RAW ratings during the Monday Night Wars was usually above 4.0, but rarely cracked 3.0 in the 2010s). For every obligatory "okay, see you next week" line stating how "the angry smarks" will threaten to cancel the Network or quit watching WWE only to come back anyway out of habit and hope, millions upon millions over the past two decades have skipped right past complaints and threats and just plain tuned out of wrestling forever. The primary thing keeping the company solvent are a billion-dollar business deal with FOX that is already causing some problems as ratings slump and fail to deliver on the investment, and a particularly controversial and massively-criticized deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to run propaganda shows for the regime. These things are doing long-lasting damage to the company's image and brand, even as his stubborn insistence on ignoring criticism and pushing forward on a blinkered course drives ever-more-erratic attempts to gain short-term profits at the expense of long-term stability.

Thirdly, Vincent Kennedy McMahon's creative talent is more evident as a promoter than a booker. Before his megalomaniacal micromanaging urges became irrepressible, McMahon tended to hire other men to handle the booking for the same reason he hired people to hold the cameras, play the music and wrestle the matches. He never did stop hiring good bookers altogether, but did become increasingly resistant to the word "no". While The Gobbledy Gooker was hated by the fans, McMahon did manage to keep them interested before The Reveal and did listen when told not to give The Gimmick to anyone he actually wanted to get over (thus saving The Undertaker). Contrast that with Katie Vick, which McMahon was convinced would make Triple H and Kane as big as The Rock and Steve Austin, and his decline becomes obvious.

In fact, there are already two prominent examples of people who ignored most if not all of the guidelines listed above, which led to toxic locker room morale, the promotions' reputations run into the ground, and money hemorrhaging from every orifice due to bad business and booking decisions. The first was, at one time, the biggest promotion in the world and WWE's greatest threat, WCW, whose bosses did everything they could to provoke their audience, bury favorites, and mismanage performances. They were on top of the world for two years mostly due to one great idea, and with unlimited funding from their patron Ted Turner, they could afford to make all sorts of idiotic mistakes without worrying about the cost note . But when Turner could no longer fund them, and they suddenly had to actually create a good product to compete with WWE and justify their pay, the bookers went with even stupider, even crasser, even more illogical ideas, and the company very quickly died an ignoble death. The second example, and Spiritual Successor to WCW but without the clout or brand recognition, was TNA under former boss Dixie Carter, which went on to repeat the same, if not commit even worse, acts of idiocy.

And even if, after all this, you still want to emulate Vince McMahon, you should be aware that the same fate that befell WCW and TNA is catching up to WWE as well. December 2018 was the month where, RAW ratings finally fell into the previous record lows achieved by the late-1996 offerings of December 3 (1.60) and December 31 (1.50), leading to worked shoots by Seth Rollins and the McMahon family flatly admitting the product has gone bad. Still, things only continued to get worse, to the point where every few months or so you would hear about RAW hitting its lowest rating of all time. One of those cases happened in 2020, where RAW ratings fell to an abysmal 1.527 on December 14, and, most importantly a 0.41 in the key demos of 18-49, a demo that was beaten by AEW with a rating of 0.45. While sycophants might give excuses that this was a result of that night's RAW being aired opposite a major football game and the COVID-19 Pandemic, it still does not explain how a 40-year old company, with a long-running staple of Monday night television, and what many consider to be the largest and most talented roster in the history of wrestling, could lose to a company that was barely over a year old at this point and operating at a budget 10 times smaller.

Not to be outdone in The Death of WWE pre-production material department, 2021 saw not one, not two, but three massive "Black Wednesday" roster and personnel cuts in the immediate months following a WrestleMania that had seen the first live gate in over a year. These releases included talents any company worth its salt would've pushed as top tier. The first round of cuts, which included the likes of Samoa Joe, Mickie James, and The IIconics, took place less than two weeks after WrestleMania and narrowly preceded the first teaser vignette for Eva Marie's return. This caused fans to bitterly assume WWE's "budget cuts" were made so they could rehire Eva, cratering any chance she had of getting over as an inspirational model-turned-wrestler babyface (despite the fact that news of her rehiring was reported as early as October 2020). The second round of cuts, headlined by Braun Strowman, Aleister Black, and Lana, took place less than 48 hours after the May 31 episode of RAW, which had hit a non-December record low rating of 1.41. In response to this, the speculation bubbling underground as to whether Vince was looking to sell WWE to the highest bidder suddenly burst to the surface as the primary point of conversation about the company, completely dwarfing even the career-defining championship heel runs of Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns. The third round of cuts on the 4th of November saw them dropping another 18 wrestlers, including Keith Lee, Karrion Kross, Nia Jax, Ember Moon and, ironically, Eva Marie.note  The release of Jax in particular shocked fans, who had assumed that she had a permanent position because of her family ties to Dwayne Johnson, and proved that almost nobody on the roster was safe, driving locker room morale and faith in the company to an all-time low. (Scuttlebutt suggests that all three firings were intended to make their workforce feel unsafe, to display management's power over their workforce, but it's backfiring hard.)

This, this is the result of WWE (and Vince McMahon) screwing with the fans and being so out of touch that people simply do not want to tune in anymore, and are quitting in droves. It took Vince's retirement/sidelining and HHH taking control to even begin to restore his promotion’s credibility! And if this is what happened to the all-powerful WWE with Vince McMahon in charge... what do you think will happen to you and your small company?