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In any competition, there are winners and losers. Of course, since Professional Wrestling is... well, "fake"... the winners and losers are pre-determined. Fans and insiders alike refer to being on the losing end of the equation as "doing the job," or "jobbing" in short.
This terminology came about because losing the match tends to make the wrestler's character look worse, and could be a sign that the promotion is transitioning him into a less prominent role. This is especially true if he's booked to lose in a championship match or get squashed. But they finish the match and let the other guy pin them as scripted, because, well, that's part of the job. There have been times when a wrestler would refuse to "do the job" and would fight for real and defeat the guy who they were scheduled to lose to; this is called "going into business for yourself." This almost never happens anymore because the inevitable result would be getting fired; it was mainly seen in the early days of pro wrestling, which was done on a regional basis aside from the champion who'd travel across regions. Sometimes a local challenger would "steal" the title by refusing to job to the champion, which for many years meant that the champion would always be somebody who can legitimately fight back against an uncooperative foe.
As strange as it may seem sometimes, there is an entire class of pro wrestlers whose primary purpose in being on TV is to do the job on a regular basis. These wrestlers, otherwise known as "enhancement talent," primarily serve to make the other wrestlers look that much better, by selling everything the other wrestler does as if they're dying.
So, why be a jobber? There are several reasons...
- Some are trainers and/or road agents (the people who actually lay out matches), who take the jobber role in order to work with rookie talents and help them hone their skills. Val Venis worked in this capacity for several years in the WWE. Finlay's return to the ring started out in this capacity, as the initial plans were for him to get a few wins to build credibility, then work as a jobber to put younger talent over, but he actually gained a following and thus broke the mold.
- Sometimes, the road agents will bring their old wrestling personas out when the need presents. Have a foreign heel who is like the old days? Here comes WWE Hall of Famer (and road agent) Sgt. Slaughter to give him his comeuppance. Or, many times, not...
- Conversely, rookies can get experience and learn both in and out of Kayfabe even while jobbing. In Japan a tradition has been for newer wrestlers to be jobbing more often due to inexperience; Japanese pro wrestling legend Kenta Kobashi lost his first 63 matches (in an intentional attempt by Giant Baba to build Kobashi as "never say die") before his first win, and Naomichi Marufuji was mostly a jobber in All Japan Pro Wrestling before jumping to Pro Wrestling NOAH. In general, if there's a tag match expect the guy with the least experience to be pinned or submit.
- Some are just thrilled to be part of the wrestling business, and will do anything to be part of the show. (Mikey Whipwreck's long run as an ECW jobber might be part of this, but he eventually inverted the trope.)
- Some are young, up-and-coming talent from independent wrestling promotions, who are trying to get the attention of talent scouts. In fact, ROH's "Do or Die" matches are more or less this with the fans (and the booker based on their reactions) as the judges.
- Some are jobbing as punishment (see Triple H's extended run of jobbing after the Madison Square Garden Incident).
- More recently, wrestlers who are seen as potential stars, such as WWE's Montel Vontavious Porter, have been put through an extended period as a jobber to ensure their loyalty to the company. This happened after WWE lost both Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley to Mixed Martial Arts after sizable pushes in the main event.
- Some are wrestlers that are about to leave a promotion. Since they no longer need the rub, it is seen as customary to give another wrestler a push on the way out.
- Some wrestlers who have had a long and respected career will be happy for the opportunity to "make" a potential star by giving them the rub. Doing so marks them as a loyal company man who puts the good of the business before their own ego.
- For some... ehh, it's a living.
Since the revelation of pro wrestling being scripted, jobbing has lost a lot of its stigma in the last few years. In fact, many smarks will respect a wrestler who is selfless enough to consistently let put another wrestler over for the good of the company. Some of the best wrestlers in the business (Mick Foley, Ric Flair, etc.) take immense pride in their ability to "make" another guy through selling and jobbing though few would label them as "jobbers".
Some long-running jobbers have gained a cult following. The most famous jobber would probably be the Brooklyn Brawler, who recently got his own action figure. There's also Barry Horowitz, who briefly went from perennial jobber to mid-card in the mid-90's when he pulled an upset victory on Chris Candido (then wrestling as Skip), and then went on to beat him in at least two more matches.
- He is actually now a WWE Road agent.
Rookies are often expected to spend their first few years "jobbing." In the field, this is known as "paying your dues," and wrestlers who avoid doing this are often scorned by veterans unless they are a sublime talent like Paul Wight (The Big Show), Bill Goldberg, Sting, or Kevin Nash. Famous jobbing runs include:
- Scott Hall's pre-Razor Ramon Days.
- Virgil's tour as Ted DiBiase's whipping boy.
- Diamond Dallas Page's first run as a manager.
- Kane's run as the fake Diesel and Isaac Yankem.
- The Hardy Boyz, before they got their big break.
Rookies who have been scorned include:
- The Rock's early push as Rocky Maivia.
- Steve "Mongo" McMichael, an announcer who was somehow accepted into the Four Horsemen.
- All celebrity gimmick wrestlers, like Jay Leno or Dennis Rodman.
- Nearly all second generation wrestlers, including Brian "Grandmaster Sexay" Lawler (son of Jerry "The King" Lawler) and Scott Putski (son of the "Polish Hammer," Ivan Putski).
Usually, wrestlers who avoid "paying their dues" as jobbers are often actual fighters who have gained prestige in actual athletic contests:
- Kurt Angle's two gold medals in heavyweight wrestling at the Olympics in Atlanta and the World Games.
- Ken Shamrock's success in the UFC and PRIDE.
- Dan "The Beast" Severn's run in the UFC and PRIDE.
- Brock Lesnar's collegiate wrestling championships.
An inversion occurs when the bookers are unable to utilize the talent of a particular star (otherwise known as "Creative has nothing for you..."), and thus he is forced to job to those wrestlers that are being pushed.
- Paul Wight (The Big Show) achieved mega-stardom in his rookie year by not only winning the WCW championship, but by being the only wrestler in history to win Pro Wrestling Illustrated's (the Bible of Professional Wrestling) Rookie of the Year and Wrestler of the Year awards. Since then, he has rarely held any belt, and is usually either in squashes or jobs. He has jobbed to Chris Benoit, Kevin Nash (good matches, actually) and much smaller wrestlers. He is, however, the only wrestler to date to have held the WCW, WWE, and ECW titles in the course of his career.
- Andre the Giant would often have 1 month contracts, and his first and only loss would occur at the next supercard.
- Ron Simmons (with Bradshaw as The Acolytes,) never received a push in the WWE (although he did become the first black WCW World Champion,) and would only see action backstage in promos, after the runaway success of Doom (with Butch Reed) and the failed push with the Farooq character. He gained the most fame in the WWE was as the guy who would randomly appear and say "DAMN!" at everything.
- Polynesian wrestlers often suffer this fate, regardless of their actual ability. The main exceptions are Yokozuna, The Rock (who's Polynesian on his mother's side) and TNA's Samoa Joe, who are/were among their respective promotions' top stars.
An established talent jobbing to a new wrestler is considered a huge favor, and will often boost the new wrestler's popularity almost instantly.
- Lou Thesz jobbed to Rikidozan, a favor for which Rikidozan was eternally grateful.
- Probably the only thing Sean Waltman (123 Kid, X-Pac) is known for (other than injuries, X Pac Heat and spending "One Night in Chyna") is that he broke through with a (Kayfabe) upset of Razor Ramon. He'd been all over WWF TV as "The X Kid" with X changing on a seemingly weekly basis, at which point Bret Hart taunted Ramon and christened Waltman the "1-2-3" kid to mock "The Bad Guy."
- In a Passing the Torch moment, Hulk Hogan jobbed to the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VI.
- Tag-team specialist Shelton Benjamin upsetting Triple H on a 2004 RAW established Benjamin as an upper-card superstar.
- And this was arguably the high point of Shelton's career (aside from being on the receiving end of one of Shawn Michaels' most memorable superkicks).
- Chris Jericho lost to rookie blue-chipper John Cena in the summer of 2002 not once, but twice, including Cena's first ever match on PPV. While both were "fluke" wins (Cena won both by roll-up), it was enough to establish Cena as someone to keep an eye on on the Blue Brand. The rest is history.
The term "jobber" has crept into other genres as well, most particularly anime Fighting Series, in reference to when a character loses a fight against an enemy for seemingly no reason other than to show off how strong the enemy was.
The opposite of jobbing is called a "push," where up-and-coming stars are on the receiving end of jobs from established wrestlers.