Ring Psychology is a phrase that gets banded around the internet a lot. It is used by some people to explain why a certain wrestler isn’t great, why a match didn’t flow, or an excuse to help back up something they are trying to say. The idea of a wrestling match is that (ordinarily) 2 wrestlers tell a story – from the time they come out from the curtain, going down to the ring, wrestling a match and making their way back to the locker-room. Everything they do relates to a story which is told and the importance of Ring Psychology comes in to make their story telling the best it can be.
Imagine we have two wrestlers, Wrestler A and Wrestler B. Wrestler A is a high flying wrestler, think Sin Cara pre-WWE and Wrestler B is a heavyweight, think of someone the size of Triple H. If these two went at it on paper, then there would only be one clear winner. However, when story telling comes into play, things can get changed; Wrestler A might know that Wrestler B has a dodgy back that can be targeted with high flying moves; similarly, knowing that Wrestler A is a high flyer, Wrestler B wants to keep him on the ground as much as possible. It seems logical doesn’t it? However, it doesn’t always happen. Take this match for example and watch it all the way through (feel free to turn the sound down on the commentary btw). It’s a tag team match for a UK wrestling promotion called Phoenix Wrestling and from the looks of the match number, its the main event. There is no flow to the match, no clear order of what has happening – it’s just a collection of several spots, put together to make a match, which in turn makes you “believe” less in the match. If they had gone into the match and completely destroyed one of the high flyers then it would have been more believable – if you have 2 smaller opponents, it seems logical to take one out straight away and focus on the other together.
The other branch of Ring Psychology which is pivotal is how to work the crowd. If a wrestler hits some big moves, he expects the receiver of the moves to be moving around slowly, appearing to be pain and complaining. If he just stands up and moves around the ring normally, then he may as well have been poked. Similarly, at the start of a match, the crowd needs to be interested in the match, the wrestlers need to grab their attention. If the wrestlers don’t get the crowd involved in the match then they may as well be wrestling in the middle of a field.
So at the moment you might be thinking that Ring Psychology is something all wrestlers should know about and have, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. There are some training schools in the UK that focus on the moves that need to be learned, how to take bumps, how matches work and unfortunately its in that order. To “learn” Ring Psychology you need one of two things available to you – either an experienced wrestler, or a lot of free time and YouTube. When I say experienced, I do mean experienced – someone who has been on a few shows or been around wrestling for a couple of years is not experienced. Look at the veterans of the business, look at the main stays for wrestling promotions where you live, then you can start getting an idea of who to approach.
In terms of YouTube, it is a wrestlers best friend (in terms of research), as there is so much rich wrestling that can be found in the click of a mouse. Want to see the best of Bret Hart? Want to watch entire Ironman matches? It’s all there. Watching other matches can give you an idea of how to craft different stories, different ideas for movesets – they are an invaluable resource.
So when you watch your next wrestling match, whether its a WWE Pay Per View main event or the first show of your local wrestling company, try and answer this question : how are the wrestlers telling a story?