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Booking is the term used behind the scenes in professional wrestling promotions to refer to the act of scripting a wrestling match or event. The person doing the booking is referred to as the booker. The booker will generally do some or all of the following things:

  • Deciding who will wrestle whom
  • Deciding who will win in each match, and how.
  • Writing speeches and dialogue, also known as promos for the performers to recite before or after the match.
  • Scripting events that happen in the ring area before, during, or after the match, such as a heel using a foreign object to gain the upper hand in an underhanded sort of way.
  • Scripting angles and storylines in general

In the past, it was fairly common for the booking to be handled by the big name wrestlers in the promotion. In the NWA in the 1980's, for instance, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, and Ole Anderson were just a few people who did booking, to varying degrees of success. In Japan, it is still common for active or recently-retired wrestlers to handle booking, such as Ultimo Dragon in Toryumon, Mitsuharu Misawa of Pro-Wrestling NOAH, Super Delfin of Osaka Pro, or any number of bookers of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. While wrestlers do have a stronger understanding of the business, the booking power frequently corrupted the booker, or at least attracted already corrupt people.

Nowadays, in the US (which is to say, in the WWE), booking is handled by a staff of writers, which includes former wrestlers, Hollywood writers, and members of Vince McMahon's family.

Aside from those already noted above, the most notorious bookers of the last decade undoubtably cropped up in the 'Big Three' promotions of the '90s.

ECW of course would have been nothing without the man that the Philly masses dubbed 'The Mad Scientist', Paul Heyman. His template of arena-wide, spot-laden brawling was adopted wholesale by Vince McMahon's WWF and became WWF Attitude. Heyman's booking style favoured workers who had been overlooked by both Titan Sports and WCW due to their size - and ECW made stars out of Taz, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, The Dudley Boyz, Rhino, The Sandman and Shane Douglas amongst others. Heyman also played a massive part in introducing American audiences to luchadores like Rey Mysterio and La Parka, not to mention the influx of the Michinoku Pro talent, notably Taka Michinoku and Sho Funaki.

The WWF would not have been the same success story if it hadn't been for the combination of talented writers, a philosophy garnered from the success of ECW and the keen eye of Vince MxMahon himself. While nobody other than McMahon ever had total control of the WWF product, the most exciting and creative period in its history came when Vince Russo and his team of writers were the ideas men whose work passed through Vince's seive. His prodigious workrate in finding angles and stories for virtually the entire roster made fans care about the shows they were seeing and the racey, edgy content pushed wrestling into the mainstream for the first time since Hulkamania in the late '80s. Following Russo's defection to WCW, booking duties returned wholesale to Vince McMahon, before he brought in Johnny Ace, Paul Heyman, Brian Gerwertz and his own daughter Stephanie McMahon as the creative thrust behind the company.

WCW was probably the best lesson in how to kill a promotion through bad booking. Bill Watts held the booker's pen through 1992 and despite scripting some intense, stiff feuds, his old-school style of wrestling didn't get over and he was replaced by the usual Rhodes/Flair axis. By the time Hulk Hogan had arrived and the nWo was born, Eric Bischoff was overseeing the creative direction of the company, with the assistance of Terry Taylor - a period that first brought incredible success but then a crawling legacy of failure. By 1999 Kevin Nash had taken the book and immediately killed Bill Goldberg's streak and put the belt on himself, thus killing the company he worked for. Things went from bad to worse when Vince Russo arrived and brought his 'crash tv' style to Atlanta, at which point it became clear that he was only a great writer when he had Vince McMahon reigning him in. Russo was fired and replaced with Kevin Sullivan, who immediately started booking according to his personal vendettas against Chris Benoit and his friends, which led to them all jumping to Stamford. Sullivan was canned and suddenly Russo and Bischoff turned up together. This lasted about twenty minutes before Bischoff burned out again and Russo quit (but not before shooting all over Hulk Hogan on live television and basically kicking him out of WCW). As WCW breathed its last breath, one thing was evident - even with all the money and talent in the world, with bad booking, you WILL go to the wall.

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