When I read a few weeks ago that WWE was going to bring back enhancement talent to television, I was skeptical. Lo and behold, on the first post-draft Raw, they utilized not one, but two “local athletes".
Enhancement talent, local athletes, local competitors, jobbers, jibbers, oners and doners, dregs of society, whatever you want to call them -- they really are back...and I could not be more excited!
Oh, how I’ve longed for the return of the jobber. There’s something incredibly fun about watching one of WWE’s regular superstars come out and eviscerate some beer-bellied bozo, or in Nia Jax’s case, a totally normal looking female wrestler.
But as much as I love them, is using enhancement talent on television really such a great idea? I don’t know about you, but that to me sounds like a question best answered with a good ol’ pros and cons list -- my favorite of all the lists.
The Pros --
As mentioned, I love enhancement talent, so that’s clearly a pro. I mean, just take a look at young James Ellsworth here, last seen getting mauled by Braun Strowman.
Who wouldn’t want to see a face like this on their TV screen every week? That’s the thing I love about it. Every week, it’s some new schlub in his best “Trust me, I’m a real wrestler” get-up looking completely out of place. Giving them a few seconds to say their piece like they did with Ellsworth on Raw is just the icing on the cake.
Perhaps even more important than simply my love of jobbers is the fact enhancement talent can help to reduce the dreaded 50/50 booking that’s been plaguing WWE television for years.
If the aforementioned Jax had debuted a few weeks ago and was booked in a squash match like she was on Raw, her opponent would have been an established WWE superstar like Naomi or Summer Rae who’s not currently doing anything special. Jax, of course, would have squashed her opponent and (hopefully) looked good doing it, but it would have been at the expense of someone who probably still has hopes of being a big deal someday. As we know, a one-sided loss to Nia is not going to do that person any favors in the long run.
Utilizing enhancement talent means fewer losses for established stars. Believe it or not, wins and losses actually do matter. Fewer losses by established stars will help improve that 50/50 ratio to at least 40/60, and maybe even 38/62.
Enhancement talent can also reduce overexposure of some superstars. Back to the Nia vs. Naomi example, would it benefit Naomi more to appear on Raw only to lose in emphatic fashion to a debuting Nia, or to be held off TV until creative has something for her?
I don’t believe the expression “any news is good news” or “any publicity is good publicity” applies to the superstars of WWE. Fans can, and do, get sick of seeing certain people week in and week out -- especially if that person is only really being used to put over other talent.
The jobber not only makes WWE superstars look good, but can also stop them from falling into irrelevancy.
The argument to that point is that the enhancement talent are taking up “precious” TV time that could be going to someone under contract to WWE. But, I think my previous point negates this argument.
Speaking of precious time, Raw is still a three-hour show. That’s a lot of time to fill every week, and simply relying on longer matches isn’t going to cut it. Wrestling shows need variety: long matches, short matches, squashes, interviews, Pokemons, video packages, etc.
Using local competitors for quick squashes adds to the match variety of the show and fills in a few more minutes. Add a brief (intentionally or unintentionally) hilarious pre-match interview and that’s another portion of time filled, plus it’s a bit of fun for the audience.
If nothing else, local jobbers are a meme and GIF goldmine. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get enough James Ellsworth in my life. Drink it in!
The Cons --
It wouldn’t be a pros and cons list without the cons. Otherwise, it's merely a list of pros, which is only suitable when discussing how great Danshoku Dino is. One problem of using enhancement talent is that it may backfire.
For example, the purpose of the jobber in a squash match is to make the WWE superstar look good and help bayou Viking man or whatever Braun Strowman is get over as a monster.
But there’s always a chance that “Average” Joe Jobber or "Average" Jolene Jobber (best wrestling names ever?) might actually be a super charismatic guy and end up winning over the crowd. Meanwhile, the pushed WWE superstar looks like a complete idiot for getting shown up on TV by a nobody.
The flipside is that WWE could just roll with it, and we get a neat little underdog storyline out of it. It might even have a fairytale ending with the local talent getting a contract.
However, an even worse case scenario is the local jobber goes into business for him or herself. They might go off-script and do something silly like kick out of the planned finish or shoot on their opponent on live TV.
This would, of course, get them blacklisted from WWE and probably murdered backstage, but I bet they would make a few dollars on the indie circuit out of it.
One final, potentially major, issue of using local, non-contracted performers on WWE television is that they’re unknowns. I don’t mean unknown as in not famous. I mean they’re unknown as in we, and I assume WWE, don’t know a whole lot about them.
Before putting someone on television, I’m sure WWE does some kind of background check, but I doubt it’s as stringent as one they’d do for someone they’re looking to hire full-time. I mean it’s just for one appearance, how careful do they need to be? Actually, quite careful as evidenced by past potential signees missing out on jobs because of four-year old comments made on social media. As we know, information gets out.
On the surface, local jobber X may seem on the up and up, but after a television appearance, people are going to go digging. Who knows what they might find?
And it’s not just secrets buried in the past that WWE needs to be worried about. This is a big “what if" and an absolutely worst case scenario, but what if the day after appearing on Raw, James Ellsworth goes out and commits some kind of horrendous act?
When his face appears on the news, you just know the job title next to his name is gong to say “WWE wrestler." Accurate or not, it would, for that one appearance, be technically true. That kind of press could be devastating for a global company like WWE. And while the chances of something horrific like that actually happening must be very small, it’s still a possibility.
Of course, you could say there’s a chance anyone associated with the WWE could potentially commit such an act and thus bring negative publicity to the company, whether they be full-timers, on-camera or off-camera employees. That is true, but those employees would have gone through a much more strict hiring process than say “Pretty” Pete Powerpunch from Punxsutawney, PA, who was used for a 30-second squash on SmackDown.
Having said all that, I’m sure James Ellsworth is a chill dude. I mean, look at this guy:
So, there we have it with some pretty solid arguments for both sides, if I do say so myself. Here's that final list of pros and cons of using jobbers on WWE television:
- Zach loves jobbers
- Reduces 50/50 booking ratio
- Reduces overexposure of WWE Superstars
- Good way to fill time
- Glorious memes/GIFs
- Unintentionally getting over/fun underdog story
- Stealing precious TV time from contracted talent
- Unintentionally getting over
- Intentionally getting over/go into business for themselves
- Dubious backgrounds/lurking, dark secrets
- The potential to pull a Falling Down (aka bad press for WWE)
That makes it six to the pros and five to the cons. And so, according to the ancient rules of the pros and cons list, the winner is the pros! The jobbers stay!