Shooting in professional wrestling is a modern concept. While the term does have some classic roots (when the business was still completely kayfabe, you needed shooters, or real wrestlers who could take care of a guy trying to go into business for himself. Lou Thesz is a popular example of a shooter) it’s modern meaning has to do with kayfabe being broken and something off the storylines occurring. While we do have examples like the Montreal Screwjob, Wendi Richter losing the WWF Women’s Title and Paul Roma refusing to put Alex Wright over, what we really know better is something called a “worked shoot”.
A worked shoot is a modern concept where promoters/bookers try to make something look “real” in order to fool the fans (mostly the smark fans) into thinking what they just saw was real when in fact it wasn’t at all. Prior to the 90s, Andy Kaufman was a master of this. If you watched “Man on the Moon” you would have known that the whole Kaufman/Lawler/Letterman segment was a work but people were convinced it was real. In the 90s we had Brian Pillman telling Kevin Sullivan, “I respect you bookerman” and then leaving WCW for ECW (which was a genius plot for Pillman to get out of his contract to prop himself up as the biggest free agent in wrestling) as well as countless situations. Some as innocent as Shawn Michaels passing out in his match against Owen Hart to Bret Hart revealing that Vince McMahon was running the WWF in 1997 and not just a cheesy play by play announcer in a snazzy jacket. ECW loved the worked shoot because it was the only way to get something over their primarily smark crowd such as the Sandman/Tommy Dreamer cigarette incident. Vince Russo in WCW abused the worked shoot to the point where it was sparingly used in the 2000s. We got to see a return of it by CM Punk when he did his speeches against the WWE product that lead to him becoming the new merchandise king of the WWE.
The problem with a worked shoot is the very essence of the term. PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING AS A WHOLE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A WORKED SHOOT. We’re supposed to believe these are legitimate professional wrestling contests. To try to make something seem like a shoot is just booking usual wrestling but breaking the fourth wall to accomplish it. Meaning what you are really doing is destroying kayfabe just to get your storylines over, this making it more difficult to actually book kayfabe storylines in the future. This is what caused one of many countless issues for Vince Russo’s booking. It’s good to make a storyline feel legitimate that fans get swept into the emotion and forget what they are watching is no different to staged theatre. It’s another to confuse them on what is “storyline” and what isn’t that they just tune out without any idea of what they are supposed to be really following.
So why the discussion on shoots? On March 31 in Cornwall, Ontario folks at Murphy’s Inn were greeted to Canadian Wrestling Action’s MARCH MAYHEM where in the main event, CWA Champion “The Prophet” Jeremy Barnoff faced Firestorm. The match ended when Barnoff placed Firestorm in a chokehold. It was played off that this wasn’t the real finish and Barnoff choked Firestorm out legit. Peter Bisson, doing results on OWIE went so far to say, “Noticed after Firestorm got up, there was a huge wet area on the mat where he was choked out (sweat, saliva, vomit?)” and that afterward, CWA Commissioner Eddie Weiss told the audience that for his actions, Barnoff was stripped of the CWA Championship and was fired from CWA.
This lead to a firestorm (har) on CWA’s Facebook Group where wrestlers and fans alike discussed the chokeout. It turns out that in the end, it was just a work. But not only was it a work, it was a work that none of the boys in the locker room were in on. According to “Rage” Randy Berry, boys were talking about heading to Jeremy Barnoff’s house to kick the shit out of him for choking a wrestler out legitimate to win a match. For a guy who allegedly had a bad reputation in the locker room as it was, this is the sort of consequences that happen when you try to play one over not only the fans but the wrestlers. It was quickly established to everyone that this wasn’t a shoot and it was really just a worked shoot. The most entertaining part of the thread (for me) was a poster with the Facebook profile of Star Man from NES Pro Wrestling telling people to boycott the company. It makes me a little sad it isn’t an independent wrestler who wears pink spandex and wrestles as Star Man.
For CWA, this likely won’t change much in terms of their relationship with the fans. The majority of fans are posting in support of CWA. This should come as no shock to anyone who has seen the kind of drivel that independent wrestling fans are willing to swallow just so local wrestling doesn’t leave their town. You can run five turns in a single night and people will tend to shrug their shoulders and continue chanting for their favourite wrestler. I’m not blaming them because WWE fans are the same way. As a Windsorite currently without any wrestling promotion in my city, I regret all of the griping and complaining I did and wish I was a little more accepting. As for the relationship between the wrestlers and CWA, I doubt this changes things with the underpaid midcard. Wrestling is a tough profession and you take any booking you can get from a promoter who pays and doesn’t expect you to break your neck for them. However, if CWA ever expected integrity or respect from the bigger wrestling names in Ontario? They won’t get it. They’ve watched as Greg Ezard constantly broke kayfabe on his own promotion’s Facebook fan page and even challenged Star Man and others to a fight all while touting the storyline as, “The most talked about thing in Ontario to date”. For anyone who has heard Vince Russo proclaiming the putting the WCW World Championship on David Arquette a success because it got them press from USA Today, this should be familiar to you.
Maybe when promoters remember that everything in professional wrestling is supposed to be a worked shoot, we’ll stop seeing this sort of self-absorbed storylines aimed only to convince the booker he’s a genius to himself. I guess it can get boring when your fanbase will accept whatever you give to them, but if you want to shoot, keep it in the locker room. Even a jaded smark like myself wants to believe in the idea of a Nintendo Entertainment System wrestler coming to life and throwing a flying cross chop. You may not be killing the business, but you might as well.