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Shooter vs. the Champ

This could be my favorite wrestling match. Years ago I wrote about it to explain the shared DNA of sketch comedy and wrestling. Today, and very likely in the future, let's look at this match and its clown DNA.

ECW Hostile City Showdown: Dean Malenko vs. ECW Television Champion Eddie Guerrero.

I'm only going to write about the first 60 seconds. There's enough in minute one to understand the dynamics of everything that follows.

The ring announcer introduces the competitors. First: Dean Malenko. The ring announcer mentions Dean is one third of The Triple Threat. His moniker is "The Shooter." He's wearing plain black trunks and boots, pacing his corner of the ring, eyes locked on his opponent. His head twitches to the side. He's adjusting his knee pads. He gives zero acknowledgment to the crowd, with his head bowed in a menacing Kubrick Stare. He is a calculating, serious, bad dude. When his name is called, there's a smattering of applause and a noticeable "boooo" from the crowd. He is playing The Heel of this match.

Second: Eddie Guerrero. The ring announcer mentions Eddie is the current ECW World Champion (If this YouTube clip included his entrance, you'd see Eddie has the big shiny championship title belt to prove it). At this stage in his career, Eddie doesn't have a moniker. But something inherent to the hardcore fans in attendance is Eddie's storied family name. The Guerreros are a wide reaching, almost universally respected family tree in pro wrestling. So he's got that going for him. He's wearing shiny American Flag tights, jacket and matching headband. When his name rings out in the arena, he greets the ovation from the crowd with a raised sign language hand for "I Love You." The audience is cheering and applauding. With a smirk, he removes his headband and playfully flicks it in front of Dean Malenko's face. Eddie is playing The Babyface of this match.

In sixty seconds, within the convention of a ring announcer making introductions, two performers have established distinct character games. Their status as it relates to each other and the audience has been defined with physicality, costume and addressing the public before they've even made physical contact.

I recommend watching the whole match, if you're curious. Where else do you see status and signaling to the audience coming into play? Maybe I'll break down minute two or three sometime soon.

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