One of the biggest conundrums we see in WWE at the moment is the issue of how, with so much talent, to keep from destroying the value of that talent, most of it not very cheap to come by. The problem is that most matches need a winner and a loser (especially since there seem to be no time limits to matches anymore and, therefore, the time limit draw has been removed from the tool belt of the bookers). The solution that has been embraced by Vince McMahon and company is known as 50/50 booking – in most feuds, each participant will win roughly half the matches before the blow off comes. It is also difficult to make most feuds last longer than one or two months as the wrestlers will have faced one another in a variety of formats (singles, tag, 6-man tag, triple threat) on television each week leading up to the major event (I don’t think the term pay-per-view really applies to WWE anymore) where they face one another in a blow off. This process is intended to make each performer on the roster look strong at certain times, but all it does is make most of them look weak. However, the difficulty remains of how to get over superstars without other superstars being utterly damaged in the process? Jobbers.
By jobbers, I am not referring to the “enhancement talent” the WWE brings in from the local area occasionally to feed to a monster like Braun Strowman. I mean real professional jobbers. Men such as George South, Lanny Poffo, the Italian Stallion, the Brooklyn Brawler, and Randy and Bill Mulkey made names for themselves as some of the best jobbers of the 1980s. These men, many of whom had held titles in lower promotions, knew they would never sniff a title in the major promotions, would rarely, if ever, even get a win, but they learned their craft and they went to work every day. Why? Because they understood that their job, while not glorious, was extremely important to the business.
These jobbers developed characters for themselves, played babyface and heel roles, and even had turns. They were sometimes squashed when the storyline called for it, but they usually put on very competitive, realistic matches with some of the top talent in the promotion. The purpose of these matches was to make the mid-card and main event talent look strong without weakening the jobbers too much. Why did anyone care how weak the jobbers looked? Because stronger jobbers make the talent that beat them look even stronger. These wrestlers had their own move sets, could usually tell a good story, and took every bump the featured talent wanted to deal out, while never kicking out of a finisher!!
Unfortunately, in the 1990s the WWF (now WWE) decided that all performers should be “superstars.” The net effect of this change was that there were eventually no jobbers employed by the promotion. WCW soon followed suit, fundamentally changing the business. Sure, some of the newer talent jobbed to the more established wrestlers, but everyone’s goal became to advance up the ranks and become a top talent themselves rather than make a career out of losing. The problem with this mindset is that no one becomes really talented at losing without becoming weak, no one consistently allows others to go over without a lot of bitching, and everyone feels the need to kick out of a finisher or two every match, destroying the entire concept of the finisher as a real threat. Eventually, the result of the decision to eliminate jobbers has become the dreaded 50/50 booking. Now almost every performer looks blasé with there being very few really strong characters and almost none that know how to lose in a manner that strengthens their opponent without destroying their own validity as a tough competitor.
The WWE, and other promotions for that matter, should embrace the role of the jobber and begin to train and employ more of them. Doing so would be an excellent way to put talent and finishers over without damaging other performers at the mid-card and main event levels. Major story lines could still be advanced through promos and interference surrounding these matches. In the meantime, talent could be built up and the payoff for feuds could be postponed as in-ring confrontations between top talents would be minimized. Feuds could last longer, leading to more time to develop the story and more interest from fans due to the more developed story lines. Plus, a promotion would not run thorough all the possible major feuds in a year or two and make the next few years seem like a tired rehash of the past.
Yes, WWE should still pursue top talent, but don’t forget…JOBBERS NEED JOBS TOO!!