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The Spinning Lariat: Ring psychology

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Every Friday, The Spinning Lariat brings you Trent Zuberi’s observations on the latest developments in America’s other major wrestling promotion, TNA.

Austin Aries gets it. He hands down, without a doubt, gets it. From the second he sets foot on the entrance ramp, you know he gets it. With the way he eyes the camera when he enters the ring, he gets it. From first lockup to final pinfall, the man truly gets it. What is the “it” I speak of? Psychology.

Professional wrestling is extremely rooted in psychology, and one of the biggest make or break factors when it comes to what makes a great wrestler and what makes a star is their comprehension and execution of the psychology involved in this business. This is a sport where athletes take a predetermined finish and essentially work backwards to portray a real competition. The goal is to make every spectator lose their inhibitions for a few minutes and get caught up in the moment. Every single move made during a match has to have a rhyme or reason toward the ending that the competitors are trying to get across to the fans watching. As fans, we watch this show presented on a stage for our enjoyment, and while the athleticism attracts us, the story is what keeps us invested. There can be no story without psychology.

Ring psychology is something that was extremely emphasized in older generations of professional wrestling, but years of overexposure and revealing secrets of the business lessened the impact it had and made a lot of wrestlers complacent. It’s easy to see the ones with a “why try, the fans know it all anyway” attitude compared to the ones that believe in every move they make when performing. In today’s generation, one of the best examples of this I have seen has been through Austin Aries. When this man is performing, there is not a single wasted motion in the entire time he is in front of the fans’ eyes. Every move has logic and almost scientifically constructs the next.

Years back, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas did an interview talking about how he learned some aspects of ring psychology from watching Terry Funk matches. He mentioned a match where Funk repeatedly threw his opponent out of the ring, to the point where it was almost confusing to the average eye. Douglas mentioned how he didn’t understand at first, but as he thought about it more and more and broke down each throw-out and why Funk was doing what he was doing, it finally hit him how important it all was to the story of the match. Austin Aries adopts that same psychology. He has that throwback style with a modern flare that incorporates the teachings of his heroes with his own spin, and it’s extremely refreshing to see that kept alive.

A big complaint old-school fans (and wrestlers alike) have about modern-day wrestlers is that they do not know how to tell a story in the ring. The biggest concern for most performers these days is to hit all of their spots and make sure they get over, thus making the story essentially play second fiddle to the action. There needs to always be an equal balance of both, as well as ensuring all involved parties get over with the crowd. Psychology is completely thrown away when the only thing a wrestler cares about is outdoing his last extreme move with another. Fans eventually become numb to it and moves do not mean as much as they should.

Austin Aries is one of the most conscious performers in the game because he is not guilty of sacrificing the fundamentals of the sport for the sake of his own performance. His moves have meaning, his words have power and his motion is completely fluid from beginning to end. For as much as one can know about the sport through the overexposure it suffers from, wrestlers like Aries keep the illusion that hooked all of us alive by being aware of how much or how little is needed to progress the story being told in the ring. It’s an art to him and something he prides himself on, you can see that in his performance.  And hey, he wears a cape, a CAPE with the words “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” written on the back. How can you not love this guy?

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