Booking a Program
Wrestling promotions in the current era (right around 1980) stay in business with a standard model. Each promotion has an hour or two of television on a local channel. During that time, they promote a large show at the local sports arena at the end of the month. Each week, fans watch as the heroes and villains of the show build tension in their rivalries while the announcer reminds the viewers that all of this tension will eventually come to a head at the sports arena. Buy a ticket and see what happens next!
To ensure fans buy tickets, wrestlers work together in programs. Every program has a good guy—“the babyface,” or just “face”—and a bad guy, otherwise known as “the heel.” To illustrate how a program works, here’s a typical example.
The television opens with our babyface is in the middle of a match. The heel comes out to make commentary while the face wrestles. He talks about how the face is lazy and sloppy and how he could take out the face in one minute. When the face’s match is over, he walks over to the interview area and says that he heard what the heel said. Now confronted with the face, the heel denies what he said or talks around it or repeats it (depending on the character of your heel). The language between the two wrestlers gets heated. The announcer tries to calm them down. No good. Sooner than you can say “pier six brawl,” the face and heel have drug each other over to the ring and start pounding on each other. Wrestlers pour out of the back to separate them. They both swear to get the other. You’ve just started your first program.
The program continues the next week when the face is in another match. In the middle of it, the heel steps out and stands by the ring, jeering the face and drawing the ire of the crowd. At an important moment, the heel interferes in the match (when the referee isn’t looking, of course) and his interference costs the face a victory. The face goes over to the interviewer and says that he’s going to get that heel. Later in the TV show, when the heel is wrestling, the babyface comes out to watch. The heel sees him and exits the ring. He walks over to the announcer and says that he isn’t going to wrestle unless the face is removed from the ring area. The referee starts a ten count. If the heel doesn’t get back in the ring by the count of ten, he loses the match. At the count of nine, the heel sneaks back into the ring just as his opponent has his back turned. He gets a sneak victory despite the babyface being at ringside. The heel strides over to the announcer and tells the face and the audience that he’s too smart to fall for such simple tricks. The face tells the heel that he’s going to get what’s coming to him. The heel laughs in the hero’s face and smacks him. Once again, for the second week, the hero and the villain drag each other into the ring, only to be divided by the other wrestlers.
On the third week, the Promoter comes out to announce that the heel and face will have a match at the local sports arena to settle this issue once and for all. The heel comes out to complain. The face comes out to promise the fans he will punish the heel for his cheating ways. Each of the wrestlers have a match that night. The heel starts with his match against some ham ‘n egger. It is quick and brutal. He beats the living hell out of his opponent. When the bell rings, he beats his fallen foe even more. Then, he goes to the announcer and promises the fans that he’ll do the same thing to the face at the sports arena. During the babyface’s match, the heel comes out again. He tries to interfere, but his interference backfires and the hero wins the match. The hero goes to the announcer and tells the fans that he will beat the villain at the sports arena.
On the fourth week, the heel has another brutal match with another jabroni. He beats his opponent and pins him, but pulls him up at the count of two. Then, he beats his opponent even more, pins him but pulls him up at the count of two. He does this a third time, but the face runs out to save the heel’s fallen opponent. The babyface and heel get at each other for just a moment, but then the heel hits the babyface with a “foreign object.” He hits the face in the knee. The face grabs his knee and screams in pain. The heel stomps on the face’s knee again and again. Finally, referees and other wrestlers come out to break up the fight. The heel goes to the announcer—still holding the foreign object—and tells the fans that their hero has no chance of winning now. The hero gets taken away from the ring area, limping on his wounded leg.
Later in the show, the babyface comes back out and talks to the announcer. He tells the announcer the doctor in the back told him he shouldn’t wrestle at the sports arena. He says that he could permanently injure his leg. But the face looks at the audience and he says, “I made you a promise. I promised I would beat that man. And I’m not one who goes back on promises.” He says he will be at the arena and he’ll beat the villain one way or another.
That’s how you build a program. That’s how you get fans to buy tickets. And that’s how you keep your wrestling promotion from going under.