THE NEXT LEVEL #2 - By Kit Steel
As a continuation of the last column, I'll be focusing mainly on the many tiny little details that can make a backyard wrestling match into something to be proud of. This is going to take a good few more columns to complete, but stick with me because I've got a feeling it'll be worth it.

Now for a match to be great, the audience doesn't have to care about the wrestlers. The gimmicks and costumes involved don't have to be top notch, either. But keep in mind that it will be much harder to succeed without focusing on these things. Do everything you can to make your match seem like a pro match and chances are it'll seem better than it is.

(Note: I will not be discussing techniques for building feuds in because this is usually left up to the booker and I'm trying to discuss what individual wrestlers can do. Fear not, however, as feud-building will warrant a column of its own some time in the near future.)

Gimmicks in the backyard for the most part are either ridiculously exagerated or much too understated. On one hand there's guys running around as hobos and pimps and demons and giant chickens, the silliest and most unbelievable (in a bad way) things you can imagine, while on the other hand there's a bunch of carbon-copy Rob Van Dam wannabes who all have the same personality. So what's the happy medium between a roster that reads like the WWF line-up circa 1989 and the just-as-bad, mega-boring "All-RVD" syndrome? The answer is subtle exageration. First off, don't forget where you are and what you are - We need some sort of realism. People appreciate backyard wrestling mostly for the workrate, so keep your gimmicks simple, clever and innovative. If you tip the scales under 200 lbs (and be honest, most of us do), don't adopt an intimidating 'American Baddass' gimmick because it isn't believable and you're making a joke of yourself. Use a gimmick like Spike Dudley's (little guy with a lot of heart who never gives up) or Chris Benoit's (getting over on technical ability). You've no doubt heard many pros say that the best gimmicks are just the wrestler's own personality taken to the extreme - this certainly applies to the backyard. Finally, keep this in mind when choosing a gimmick: you are trying to get over, and you will not get over if your audience doesn't take you seriously.

As for costumes, realize that while a pair of tennis shoes, a T-shirt and sweatpants may have worked for Mick Foley, I think you'll have to go to a slight bit more effort if you want to provide a polished, professional-looking match. If you're interesting in your attire as well as your actual ring work, its a win-win situation. Now, tights are great if you can get them simply because the pros wear them. They're neat, professional and realistic. Accessories like kneepads, elbowpads and gloves are great for the same reason, not to mention the fact that they're practical. Let the clothes reflect the character, and try not to look like everyone else in your federation. Use your own style and common sense on this one.

What does any of this have to do with wrestling a good match and getting over with the fans? Everything, my friends. This column has been about making you interesting as a wrestler, and let me tell you that an interesting character will get you over ten times better than a bunch of meaningless victories or a long reign as a crappy champion. When Foley first came to the WWF in 1996, he wasn't given a huge push. He didn't do a moonsault or a Stone Cold Stunner. He got over two ways: taking big, dangerous bumps (bumps that should never be taken the backyard) and making the Mankind gimmick interesting. Jim Ross helped with the latter part, and by using things like interview segments and subtle character techniques while wrestling, Foley became a huge star. When the fans start caring whether you win or lose, you'll start putting on better matches.

That'll do it for this episode. I'll be back with the meat and potatoes of putting on a good match: the stuff that happens after the bell has been rung. Keep safe and rock on.

- Kit Steel

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