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Booking Pro Wrestling Should be a Dictatorship not a Democracy


This blog is not a political commentary, nor does it represent my political views in any way. It is merely an editorial about how professional wrestling should be executed from a creative standpoint.

Creative and Physical Burnout

If the news is true that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are now the heads of creative in WWE for Raw and Smackdown, this is not a coincidence. It was only about a month ago that Jon Moxly went on Chris Jericho’s podcast and basically stomped a verbal mud-hole in the WWE creative process.

Moxley ranted about how week after week his character was given progressively worse verbiage and scenarios by WWE writers. He also griped about how impossible it is to confront Vince McMahon directly about a change in character or a change in promo and stated that the whole creative system is broken in WWE. If you haven’t heard the podcast yet, rather than listen to me describe the whole thing here, it’s better if you just listen for yourself.

Moxley is one of an increasing number of former WWE wrestlers who have become so bitter and fed up with the WWE that they have not just quit the company, but have gone on to publicly criticize it in different ways or set out to change the business. Some others that come to mind are CM Punk and Cody Rhodes.


To me it comes as no surprise that Moxley was frustrated by the WWE creative process. He views himself as being a creative person and as a person who is able to get himself over without the help of writers who have little or no wrestling background. So if the WWE system that Moxley describes is so broken, how do you fix it?

I think that WWE is making the right move by putting Heyman and Bischoff in charge of “booking wrestling” rather than “writing television” (if indeed that is the intention). That’s how wrestling storylines have been created for ages. Back in the territory days the promoter would hire someone to be the booker and that person would come up with all the different storylines for the wrestlers. He would write the stories, decide on the winners and losers, how each match would play out and how it would affect the overall direction of the storylines.

It seems pretty commonsense stuff, and that’s basically how it worked in WWE up until a certain point. Bruce Prichard recalls time and time again on his podcast how the creative team for a number of years only consisted of himself, Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson. They would sit outside at Vince’s house by the pool and come up with all the ideas of what you would later see on your TV screen.

Wrestling Should be a Dictatorship not a Democracy

In my opinion and through my experience, the creative process in wresting should depend on one person’s vision. After all, I’ve already used the words “story” and “storyline” several times in this blog. That’s what you’re doing in wrestling, you’re writing a story and the wrestlers play out that story out in the ring. Historically, the best stories have not been a collaboration with other authors, they have come from the mind of one person. Shakespeare didn’t co-write Hamlet with anyone. Stephen King didn’t co-author It with a creative team and pro wrestling should not be booked in a multi-person format, with a booking committee or with a group of writers. The old proverb here “too many chefs spoil the soup” really rings true here.

Suggestions and Creative Freedom

I do, however, really think that the booker should listen to as many suggestions as possible, especially from the wrestlers themselves. He should bounce ideas off people, get feedback from the talent and ask them for input. But at the end of the day, the story has to go in a specific direction and that should largely be decided by one individual. A good booker should be someone who takes decisions based on lots of input and then creates a story based on his own vision and the input he has received.

I also think it’s critical that wrestlers be allowed to be themselves and not be micromanaged or over produced. For example, even though I, as the booker, may have an idea for the overall storyline, for example, that The Rock and CM Punk are going to meet at the Royal Rumble, I give them creative freedom to cut a promo as to what they are going to say in order to get there. I tell them where we are going and the overall desired effect I want, and then leave the promos up to them in order to tell the story. I also largely leave the in-ring storytelling to the wrestlers. I give them a specific finish I want to see happen and let them fill in the blanks of the match as to what they are going to do.

Without this safety net of micromanaging and over-scripting everything, it will be more of a sink-or-swim kind of atmosphere in WWE. The cream will rise to the top. Of course, there will also be some epic fails as well, but that’s part of the learning curve and part of the weeding out process. It will also eliminate that stale, fake, stagnant kind of atmosphere that arises due to the current system.

The Freedom to Create

Paul Heyman proved exactly what a visionary he was when he took a rinky-dink independent wrestling promotion like ECW (originally called “Eastern Championship Wrestling”) and turned it into a nationally televised, nationally touring wrestling promotion that was competition with WWE and WCW. But will Heyman be able to do the same with RAW now? I think the reason Heyman was so successful in ECW was because he had the ability to do basically whatever he wanted to do without having to get permission from anyone.

The big question I’m left wondering about right now is just how much creative freedom and authority Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff will have. Will they have to clear each and every decision with Vince McMahon before it makes air? Will they be working with a team of writers and assistant writers the same way it has been working since the end of the Attitude Era? If the current WWE creative process really is broken, is Vince McMahon willing to take a step back and give control of the reigns to someone else? Or will he be “booking by the pool” so to speak with Heyman and Bischoff the way he did back in the day?

Final Thoughts

Time will tell how willing WWE is to make necessary changes to the infrastructure of the company in order to make a more compelling product. As it stands right now AEW seems to be making all the right moves to please their fan base and create a product that is not only different from WWE, but also in very high demand. Once their weekly TV show hits the air later this fall and WWE starts on FOX things will certainly be interesting once again in the wrestling world.

What Jon Moxley did, whether he realizes it or not, may have been a blessing in disguise for WWE. Maybe it was the fuel that WWE needed to finally make some much needed changes in the creative process. With competition comes the need to adapt, overcome and rise above. You cannot afford to be complacent and monotonous or your competition will run you out of business. Let’s hope that the company is reinvigorated by the competition that AEW is brining and that it truly is to the benefit of pro wrestling as a whole.

- Daniel Austin









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