Re-reading the Book of Job
Last week's RAW was a fantastic show. Whether you think it was the best RAW of the year so far or not, it's hard to dispute that the quality and pacing was fantastic. You know a show is good when the highlight of it isn't The Shield or even Daniel Bryan. One thing that was appreciated by many but possibly a little overlooked during the show however, was a very telling tweet from Zack Ryder. After another fantastic vignette for The Wyatt Family was aired, Ryder tweeted the following:
'I should probably learn how to counter @WWEBrayWyatt's finish'
It's not hard to understand what Ryder is saying here. Ever since he became an internet phenomenon and had a very brief United States title run, Ryder has slid back down the roster, and once again finds himself as one of the gate keepers of Jobbersville. Ryder's fall from next big thing to jobber has been particularly difficult to watch, and all joking aside I do expect to see him on the receiving end of Wyatt's 'Sister Abigail' finish within a few weeks.
Jobbers. Constantly maligned by everyone who watches wrestling, these guys go out night after night to lose and not much more. Whilst wrestling may no longer have the illusion of being a sport, it is still presented as competition, and in competition there are winners and losers. In wrestling, the phrase used for someone who is going to lose the match is 'doing the job', hence the term jobber. Throughout the history of WWE, there are guys who have become known as perennial jobbers, wrestlers who were seemingly employed for the sole reason of losing. These are guys like the Brooklyn Brawler, Barry Horowitz and Jim Powers. Viewers frequently lament the position of these guys, often saying that so and so deserves better, that it must be a pretty depressing position in a wrestling company. Is it really that bad though? Has the position of a jobber improved or worsened in the last 20 years? What is the lot of the jobber? Let's investigate.
As of right now, the main roster of WWE has a total of 63 males employed. Not all of these are particularly active, but that is the number. It is right to assume that in every line of athletic work, every individual is aiming to reach the pinnacle of their industry, but of course not everyone can do this. The main event can only contain a small number of individuals, and if everyone was perceived on the same level all booking would become slightly redundant, as we see frequently in WWE where wins are traded back and forth on a weekly basis.
Since the turn of 2010, 28 different guys that are still employed with the company have held singles gold in the WWE. 28. That is almost 50% of the male roster. To me, that seems pretty high. Of these 28, 16 are performers that most would consider still top level talent, or part timers such as The Rock. When they lose, it seems like a big deal. There are 6 who would be considered the definition of midcard right now, wrestlers like Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and Cody Rhodes. Then, there are those who have dropped to pure jobber level. Wade Barrett is included in this and that is debatable, but when was the last time anyone thought he was going to win his match? Even if you take Wade out of it, there are still 4 guys who are considered jobbers that have held singles gold in WWE since the turn of the decade (Drew McIntyre, Ezekiel Jackson, Zack Ryder, Santino Marella. Did anyone ever think Jim Powers could possibly hold the Intercontinental title? How about Koko B. Ware?
Right now, I count around a third of the guys on the active roster who are considered jobbers. Now, there is the argument for people like Sin Cara or Wade Barrett to be included, but I only considered people I would expect to lose to an NXT talent. For instance, if you have Sin Cara vs. Leo Kruger, who do you have as the winner? How about Yoshi Tatsu vs. Leo Kruger? This was the exact moment in the column when I remembered that Wade Barrett lost to Bo Dallas. Going back to my previous point again though, 10 of them have held titles in WWE, whether it is singles or tag team. Again, compare this to twenty years ago or more, when talented individuals such as Jake Roberts never held a title at all. If we're talking about accolades and titles, the life of the jobber today is much better than decades previous.
The increased amount of television means the jobbers are more visible today than they have ever been, and more likely to be subject to a potential push. They might be perennial losers at the moment, but who is to say that The Prime Time Players won't receive a push in the future, either as a team or individuals. Look at Curtis Axel now, this time last year he was losing more often than not and going nowhere, now he is the Intercontinental Champion and at the beginning of the biggest push of his career. Similar can be said for Fandango. 9 hours of weekly television means that there are more and more opportunities for jobbers to move up the card. The possibility of holding a title in the WWE is much greater now than it was in the early 90s, all be it less than it was in the early 2000s.
The modern day situation of WWE also means that some of the jobbers have much stronger job security, which means a more secure financial position. Look at wrestlers such as JTG, Yoshi Tatsu, Curt Hawkins and Primo. Despite rarely, if ever, winning a match, these guys have been employed by WWE for a long time. The rigorous touring schedule, not to mention its size, means that a large roster is vital, and this means that people need to be employed to lose. Sure, if you're higher on the card I assume you make more money, but making money is better than being unemployed in the wrestling business. Even when released, a decent tenure with WWE surely puts you in a better position to get independent bookings, as seen with Chris Masters and more recently Derrick Bateman.
Despite this, it could be argued that the life of a jobber is worse today. More so in wrestling than in sports, losing looks bad. Credibility with the fans is almost vital, and constant losing can put serious dents in this. This is seen whenever anyone gets saddled with the losing streak gimmick. Despite getting one of the biggest pushes of his career this year, people still remember Jack Swagger as someone who couldn't buy a win just one year previous. Constant loser can also become a subject of ridicule.
Just look at JTG. He is ridiculed to the point of only existing for that. There is even a website dedicated to how long he has been employed and how dumb it is. His career now might be beyond salvation, and even if he is released he will always be known as JTG the total jobber. His credibility could not be any lower. He's a genuinely talented performer, one who was very effective as part of a tag team, but those days seem a long time ago. Back in the days of the WWF, a guy could be a jobber for WWF one night and a main event guy for another territory the next. The promotions had less of a universal position, confined to their areas, so reputations could be different depending on the company they were representing. These days, talent for WWE is exclusive to them, so their reputation is defined by how they are presented on WWE television.
Heath Slater is another interesting example. Despite being a 3 time tag champion, he is now a joke. Just last year, he spent the majority of his summer jobbing to names from the past. Heck, he even jobbed to jobbers from the past. When 3MB burst on the scene there was a chance of being reinvigorated, but that group has now become nothing more than a joke. However, his chances of long tenure and potential pushing are high, as his willingness to do the job (not to mention the style in which he did it) have led to him having many supporters higher up in the company. By jobbing, and doing it well without complaint, you show loyalty to the company, and loyalty in pro wrestling is a rare thing.
These days, WWE is professional wrestling in the United States. A lot of the people who we consider jobbers today, your Zack Ryders, your Curt Hawkins, your Alex Rileys, these are people who grew up watching WWF, people who dreamt of one day becoming a WWE superstar. Not withstanding the odd petulant tweet, these guys are living a dream, one that I would say the vast majority of people writing for or reading this site have shared. When I was young, I dreamt of one day performing on WWF TV, of wrestling on the grandest stage of them all, even just once, even to lose. Of all the guys that I would consider jobbers today, almost 50% of them have been involved at Wrestle Mania, and I would be surprised if The Prime Time Players, Zack Ryder and Hunico don't eventually reach that point. Whilst we lament their position, these guys are living a dream.
And that's that. What do you think of the life of a jobber? Talented workers who deserve better? A job is a job is a job? It's a tough one. Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, drop me an email at email@example.com or twitter me at @pingvinorkestra. Have a safe weekend folks.