Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Booker (post for 9/22)

Of particular interest to me in the chapters of Inside Out were the chapters of Ole’s life as a booker. Ole gave great insight into the inner workings of a booker, from having to put up with the “stars” and saying it was the star’s decision or idea, to managing the business in every detail in every wrestling location (p. 160). Ole made the analogy of being a booker is like a salmon swimming upstream, taking the path of least resistance, and when it (he) reaches his goal, it dies (he gets fired). These chapters show how Ole took away the power from Dusty Rhodes in Atlanta and Ole mentions how he always took a stand on important matters otherwise the wrestlers would walk all over him.

These chapters also give us insight into his philosophy which was that he wanted all matches to have a finish in every town, whether it be Atlanta, North Carolina, Georgia or Charlotte; he did not want any draws or disqualifications. Ole also wanted his wrestlers to do real life stuff. He said he didn’t do anything that could not happen in real life. It was interesting that his wrestler baby-face Tommy Rich just had his butt kicked by Abdullah and Barnett wanted to fire the kid, Rich, but Ole said no. Ole had Rich in three rematches—all great bookings—and he lost them all. According to Ole, Rich had a heart of gold and was a fighter who never quit and that was how he was billed by Ole. The fans loved Rich for this. Barnett wanted a 1950s style or formula to make Rich a star, where Rich would beat half of the other faces, and then faceoff against a heel who beat his half of the heels.

Another item that came to life was how much money the bookers, or at least Ole was making at that time, $140,000 in the first year in 1976, and $180,000 the second year and well over $200,000 the third year. Without doing the CPI calculations, it is a safe bet to say this would be well over $500,000 in today’s dollars. This is huge money!

It amazes me how Ole gave this all up for a few years so he could get into the sawmill business. He says he was burnt out, and given the detail of what his booker work entailed, I can see why.


Timothy S. Rich said...

I like how Ole presents traditional booking logic. There needs to be a rationale for each ending and while breaking from a formula is necessary from time to time, the logic creates expectations out of the fans.

As I mentioned last week, the Rich-Abdullah booking was a great example of how to build the perception of a character's perseverance. This also gets to the point that the win-loss record in professional wrestling, unlike sports, is relatively unimportant. Rather the story arc and the ending matters.

Nor is this unique to the US. Kenta Kobashi, a star in Japan from the 90s on, was booked very similarly when he started. The booker, Giant Baba (mentioned in relation to Andre the Giant), booked Kenta to lose his first 60+ singles matches in a row, with each showing more perseverance. Not only did this build a core support for Kobashi, but likely encouraged a segment of the audience to turn out expecting this would be the time he'd finally win.

Sam Ford said...

Ole's insights are invaluable, I think, in understanding life in pro wrestling in that era, and particularly how his role straddled administration and "being one of the boys." It gives him unique perspective on his own in-ring career as well as the way he looks at other wrestlers. But I do appreciate that logic of "breaking the expectation only works if you've set the expectation." You can see his disdain for what he perceives as a lack of logic in much of the wrestlers around him and that he feels has become the norm in professional wrestling today...when, I'm sure, there are plenty from a previous generation who would have had plenty to nitpick about the style of the territories Ole booked as well! :)