Worked Shoot

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"This is a shoot, dammit!"
Stock Phrase of a wrestler delivering a Worked Shoot.

In Professional Wrestling parlance, a "Work" is anything scripted, anything that's part of Kayfabe. A "Shoot" is anything "real"; i.e. not scripted. Put them together and you have the Worked Shoot; something that is definitely part of the act, but attempts to trick the viewer into thinking—if only for a second—that it's real.

A Worked Shoot plays off of a wrestler's real life, and it breaks many pro wrestling conventions, in an attempt to convince the viewer it's totally different from anything else that's going on, that it's totally real. Since a Worked Shoot so often borrows from real-life elements, it can be difficult to tell where the shoot ends and the work begins.

Worked Shoots may be a reaction from pro-wrestling bookers to the apparent death of Kayfabe and the "outing" of pro-wrestling as scripted; they're an attempt to put that genie back in the bottle, to make fans think it's real again, just for a second. Of course, they must eventually spill over into wrestling storylines, but until then...

An alternate definition is a wrestler taking the planned storyline and using it to express his real feelings—thus shooting during a work, for a Worked Shoot.

When trying to figure out if something is a Worked Shoot, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the wrestler's microphone on?
  • Are the cameras focusing on him?
  • Has he claimed that this is a shoot, or that "this is not a work"?
  • Is he using "insider" language such as Face, Heel, mark, Smark or booker?
  • Was his entrance music cued?
  • Are members of staff nowhere in sight or making no attempt to stop him?
  • Do his actions make sense in the context of a storyline (e.g. crazy man rebelling against the company or out for revenge)?
  • Is his vocabulary roughly equivalent to his usual, scripted speaking pattern?
  • Are highlights of his actions shown, mentioned or otherwise recapped by anybody else on the program?

If you answered "yes" to more than half of the above questions, then don't worry: that wrestler's "shoot" was all part of the show. Remember that the default response to something completely unexpected happening is to cut away and pretend it never happened.

Examples of Worked Shoot include:

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide | hide all]

Trope Maker[edit | hide]

  • Arguably originated by Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Hart, and Andy Kaufman, with the long-running Lawler/Kaufman feud. Qualifies as a Worked Shoot because some of the stunts Andy and Jerry pulled (like getting into a fight on the set of David Letterman's show) managed to convince a lot of people who weren't usually fooled into believing Kayfabe.
    • This was revisited during the filming of Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, with Lawler and Jim Carrey getting into a fistfight on-set. As the story was told, Carrey had gone into method-actor mode, would only answer to "Andy" on the set, and started picking fights with Lawler in order to get into Kaufman's head. This didn't spill over into the wrestling ring, unlike most worked shoots, but it did get a lot of airtime on WWE programming.
    • Really, most of Kaufman's career consisted of Worked Shoots, like faking a British accent and reading The Great Gatsby instead of performing his comedy routine because he was "sick of your lowbrow American humor."

WWE[edit | hide]

  • To this day, it is still debated whether the Montreal Screwjob was a work, a shoot, or a worked shoot. Shawn Michaels has admitted that he was in on the screwjob after years of denying it, while Vince Russo claimed that was a work.
    • In the civil suit over the death of Owen Hart, both Bret Hart and Vince McMahon - under oath - said that it was a shoot, once again causing many wrestling fans to question the sanity of Mr. Russo.
    • The feud between Shawn and Bret (which resulted in at least one real fight and the refusal of both to job to the other at Survivor Series '97) actually started with a series of worked shoots, with Shawn mocking Bret's family and Bret questioning Shawn's sexuality. Someone got in one person or the other's ear and convinced them that the work was being turned around on them, and everything went to hell.
  • CM Punk's on-screen feud with John Cena and off-screen contract squabbles in the summer of 2011 were turned into one giant worked shoot. After declaring he was leaving WWE on TV, he then cut a promo where he bashed WWE for being Merchandise-Driven and firing his friends like Colt Cabana; he was promptly "suspended" for his words, only to be reinstated the following week at Cena's request. (WWE actually announced the reinstatement five days earlier, possibly to suggest further that the suspension was real). Punk then beat Cena at Money in the Bank and ran out with the WWE Championship, only to keep popping up at WWE promotional events, inciting smarks in the area and daring new WWE head Triple H to hire him back. Sure enough, once the WWE appointed a "new" WWE Champion, a re-hired Punk appeared on Raw to challenge with the old belt.
  • One example that helped catapult wrestling into pop culture was the "Gold Record Incident" in Feb. 1985, where Roddy Piper interrupted an award ceremony on MTV with Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper, smashed Albano's commemorative record over his head and then body slammed Lauper's manager David Wolff. The whole thing was so realistic that a NY cop rushed into the ring and tried to stop Piper, which made him mess up his slam and actually hurt Wolff. The whole thing was a setup for the "War to Settle the Score" special, which itself was a setup for the first Wrestlemania.
  • The on-screen apparent death of WWE chairman Vince McMahon may have been an unintentional Worked Shoot—WWE was very up-front about the fact that it's only the character "Mr. McMahon" that died, and the real Vince is alive and well, but that didn't stop some news outlets from running the story as real within a couple of days after it happened, and it hasn't stopped some finance columnists from all but accusing the WWE of securities fraud for faking the death of the chairman. The storyline was scrapped, however, when the Chris Benoit incident happened, forcing McMahon out of "death" to address it.
    • They also tried to turn the obviously scripted stage collapse accident on Vince in 2008 into a worked shoot. He can be heard saying "Paul, (The real first name of his son-in-law Triple H) I can't feel my legs." Then they pretty much just forgot about it.
    • A similar event happened with Donald Trump "buying" RAW, despite the fact that RAW is a TV show, not a corporate subsidiary. Unfortunately, due to some official press releases from the company's headquarters in Stamford that seemed to imply the whole thing wasn't an angle, WWE stock dropped significantly the next day. Any long term plans for this arc were scrapped the next week with Vince buying it back for twice what he was originally paid.
  • Not all worked shoots are full of hate and violence: Stan "Uncle Elmer" Frazier's wedding to Joyce Stazko on a 1985 broadcast of Saturday Night's Main Event, was the real thing; Roddy Piper's attempt at disrupting the ceremony and Jesse Ventura's snide commentary were just part of the gimmick (this was when kayfabe was still alive and well in the WWF)
  • In 1997, WWE's Shawn Michaels engaged in a series of "unscripted" incidents, including an entire tirade against The Undertaker that was edited out of a later RAW broadcast. Rumors flew left and right that Michaels was trying to get himself fired in order to go to rival WCW and join his friends Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in the nWo; in fact, the entire thing was a set-up to the birth of D Generation X.
    • This particular incident arose first as a dare by a fellow wrestler (and real life friend of Taker), and then Shawn decided to have some fun. The guy conducting the interview, Jim Ross, was none too happy about it, but Undertaker took it better.
  • Also in WWE, Matt Hardy discovered that his girlfriend Lita was cheating on him with fellow wrestler Edge, and when he started to talk publicly about it, he was unceremoniously fired. After he slowly built a rabid fanbase using the sympathy from this incident on the internet, he suddenly began appearing on WWE RAW again, jumping over the barricade and attacking Edge, then being carried out by security while screaming things like, "I thought you were my friend, Johnny Ace!" (a reference to WWE executive John "Johnny Ace" Laurinaitis). Soon enough, the truth came out; Matt had been re-hired, and plans were in place for a storyline based on the problems between Matt and Edge (even though this meant Ret Conning a year's worth of storylines in which Lita was Kane's wife). To this day, fans still debate whether the infidelity that started the whole thing was work, or shoot. Realistically there's little question it was initially a shoot - WWE didn't talk about it, and you know that WWE.com would have been full of stories about it if it was a work. Note that the second Matt Hardy showed back up on Raw and bragged about it being "a shoot" on his blog, any illusion that he was acting independently was broken.
  • Joey Styles's rant on sports entertainment before "quitting" the commentating job on Raw was a working shoot. This became more obvious as he later became the commentator for the WWE revival for ECW and there was no way in Hell Vince McMahon would have let him on TV if he legitimately bashed him and his whole company off the cuff on live TV.
  • Chaz Warrington was allowed to drop his horrible Beaver Cleavage gimmick via worked shoot. While pretending to cry to his mother because he didn't want to wrestle "some guy named Meat", he abruptly said "I can't do this" and walked off screen. Marianna yelled "Chaz, we're live!" and then the feed cut abruptly to Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, who apologized for the "creative differences" and said the match wouldn't take place.
  • One of the more successful recent ones has involved internet darling Bryan Danielson. Michael Cole's shots at both Danielson and the Internet Wrestling Fans as a whole on NXT led even the most self-proclaimed Smarks to assume he legitimately hated Danielson. Then Danielson was fired after the rookies' first attack on the WWE, with many believing it was because his choking ring announcer Justin Roberts violated the show's PG-rated policy. In truth, WWE stayed in contact with Danielson and simply waited for the right time to bring him back; he returned at Summerslam and was given the United States Championship a month later.
  • The ECW One Night Stand 2005 Pay-Per-View plays it straight with one promo and subverts it with some commentary later on. The first instance was a Rob Van Dam promo where he claims he's shooting and talks about how important the night was and how to him, missing it is worse than missing Wrestlemania. The subverted part is during Joey Styles' infamous remarks about Mike Awesome (calling him a "Judas" for the way he left ECW for WCW while still champ, and wishing that a Suicide Splash had actually killed him). Mick Foley points out it's a shoot (which, as mentioned above, is typically a sign that it's a work), but Joey really did get in trouble for his comments after the show.
  • The Miz actually did several of these throughout 2010 during his reign as the United States and later WWE Champion. He referred to the real life bullying he suffered in the lockerroom at the hands of JBL.

WCW[edit | hide]

  • An example of a worked shoot gone awry is the "Loose Cannon" gimmick Brian Pillman did in WCW. Pillman said and did things that seemed specifically designed to tweak the noses of management, such as when he ended a PPV match (an "I Respect You" match against booker Kevin Sullivan) about a minute in by shouting, "I respect you, bookerman!" Subsequently, he was "fired", and he convinced WCW to really release him from his contract in order to make the illusion complete; then, freed from contractual obligations, he went to ECW instead of finishing the storyline.
  • WCW saw another Worked Shoot backfire when wrestler/booker Kevin Sullivan put together a storyline that had his (on-screen and real-life) wife, Nancy "Woman" Sullivan, sleeping with his rival, Chris Benoit. Sullivan was from wrestling's old school, and he made sure that Woman and Benoit traveled together, were spotted entering each others' hotel rooms, and otherwise spent a lot of time together in public, just to drive the angle home. The problem? After spending all that time together, Nancy fell in love with Benoit, and left Kevin for real to marry him. This led to Woman being moved into a non-speaking role as a valet for Ric Flair, and Benoit getting squashed repeatedly by Sullivan in the most brutal matches he could come up with, until Sullivan was eventually replaced as booker. Benoit left the company when Sullivan re-gained the head booker position, as Benoit feared that Sullivan was still holding a grudge. Worse yet for WCW, his friends Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero all left for fear of becoming collateral damage; the quartet formed The Radicalz in the WWE, where Benoit and Guerrero became huge stars.
    • To Sullivan's credit, Benoit said on the Hard Knocks DVD that for all the animosity he held toward Benoit (for, you know, breaking up his marriage) that Sullivan remained a consummate professional in the ring and never tried to hurt Benoit in any of their matches.
      • Ring of Hell takes it one step further: Sullivan knew that his feud with Benoit would be his last (Bischoff didn't want his at-the-time head booker as an active wrestler) and wanted to keep it going as long as possible until the blowoff. The real reason behind Benoit's career stagnation in WCW is that the top guys didn't want ANYONE new getting over (because that might threaten their own position, and their considerable salary).
    • And without turning this into a big game of fantasy booking and what-ifs: If the Benoit/Sullivan worked shoot angle hadn't happened, Chris and Nancy wouldn't have fallen in love, wouldn't have gotten married... and the double murder/suicide would not have happened.
  • The worst-ever Worked Shoot for WCW though was when the company itself starting shooting on itself, complete with the user of insider terms during the show, example Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg cutting "shoot" promos and the commentators acting like it's a shoot, or rather explicit mentions of predetermined match finishes on purpose while the cameras are still rolling during the show.
    • Unsurprisingly, this came at a time when Vince Russo was writing for WCW.
    • The stupidity culminated (?) at the wretched New Blood Rising show, where - and apologies in advance if this doesn't make any sense, but blame the source material - WCW promoted a match between Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner were going to have a "real fight". Which logically meant all other matches were fake, but ignore that for the moment because Everything Else You're Watching Except What's On TV Right Now Is Fake is certainly a Russo Trope. Anyway, midway through the match (which, you'll recall, was supposed to be real), Goldberg "stopped co-operating" (... um...) and walked out on the match, with the announcers criticizing his lack of professionalism. Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner then proceeded to "improvise" a finish, with the announcers praising how professional they were. Soon after, they ran Fall Brawl promos talking about how Goldberg "refused to follow the script". And you wonder why WCW was out of business less than a year later.
      • As if anyone would believe that Scott Steiner was any more professional than Bill Goldberg.
  • Almost as bad was the Hulk Hogan / Jeff Jarrett title match at Bash at the Beach 2000. After Hogan pulled his creative control card to win the match and stay on WCW TV, the two came out to the ring with Vince Russo, and Jarrett laid down with Russo throwing the belt in the ring. All sides have claimed this part was a work, but they didn't tell the announcers - one actually said on the air "This is not part of the script!" Afterward, Russo came back out by himself and revealed everything that went on backstage to the fans just so he could nullify Hogan's win and put the belt back on Jarrett. Hogan has since said that was a shoot and the reason he eventually sued Russo, but the lawsuit was dismissed in 2002.
    • The Death of WCW claims that what happened there, was that it was a worked shoot turned half-work half-shoot. Russo was set to cut a worked shoot promo against Hogan, but he went completely overboard, calling Hogan a "big bald son of a bitch". Hogan, enraged, legitimately refused to continue working for WCW (which was what Russo wanted anyway) and sued Russo for defamation of character. Technically Hogan was under WCW contract all along, but he really was refusing to work.
  • On the very first WCW card Russo booked, Buff Bagwell and former tag partner Scotty Riggs shot a backstage segment where Riggs informed Bagwell that he (Riggs) would be winning the match, and Bagwell reacted with disbelief - and then when they actually had the match, Bagwell used a small package pin and "wouldn't let go", winning the match. A couple weeks after that Bagwell was in a match against La Parka. He no-sold everything, then took a dive from the "run into someone's feet in the corner" spot and "threw" the match.
  • The tendency for WCW staff not to be informed of plot developments lead to some hilarious situations where, when something genuinely unexpected happen, the staff would assume it had been planned and just not told them. Most notably, a fan dressed as Sting jumped a barricade and started to interfere with a match and the commentators, so used to not being told about about changes, assumed it was meant to be the real Sting.
  • WCW once attempted to save an angle with a worked shoot. Dustin Runnels' new character, Seven, was hyped in a series of creepy vignettes that left the unfortunate impression that he was a child abductor. Turner Standards and Practices axed the gimmick, and in an attempt to get some use out of Seven's elaborate entrance and costume, had Dustin interrupt his own debut, rant about how Goldust had caused him to be stuck in silly gimmick characters, and swear vengeance on WCW for firing his father, Dusty Rhodes.

ECW[edit | hide]

  • One of the most famous classic worked shoots was a interview made by Mick Foley known as the "Cane Dewey" promo, during his time in ECW. The promotional interview was inspired by a sign Mick saw during a match against Terry Funk, with which read "Cane Dewey" - Dewey Foley being Mick's 5-year-old son. Mick became somewhat disillusioned with the wrestling business at this time and, at the advisement of ECW promoter and booker Paul Heyman, channeled that into his feud with Tommy Dreamer, which had Foley, then a Heel being against the "Hardcore" wrestling style, and attempting to get Dreamer, who had a Hardcore gimmick, to leave ECW for Ted Turner's WCW - which was at that time reviled by ECW fans.

TNA[edit | hide]

  • Vince Russo has continued to do Worked Shoots in TNA. One particularly atrocious Worked Shoot was the scene where Mick Foley goes backstage and meets Vince Russo and the writers. Foley tells them that they're doing a great job, and asks if they can write a scene where Dixie Carter returns his phone calls. Foley was clearly not happy about having to break the fourth wall in this fashion.
  • At TNA Turning Point 2007, Samoa Joe was supposed to team up with Kevin Nash & Scott Hall in a match against AJ Styles, Tomko & Kurt Angle. However, Hall no-showed the event. Joe was asked before the match to go out and cut a promo to announce their replacement for Hall, Eric Young. However, Joe used the opportunity to bury Hall and voice his frustrations against the company for not properly using the younger talent and giving more breaks to the older, more established stars, frequently shooting nasty looks at his partner Kevin Nash and his opponent Kurt Angle while talking. Kevin Nash was shown to be visibly upset by Joe's words, as was TNA President Dixie Carter, who was sitting in the front row. Towards the end of his promo, Joe looked down into the crowd where Dixie was sitting, noticed she wasn't happy and said "Are you mad? No, go ahead, fire me. I don't care." After the match, Joe and Nash had an argument backstage that nearly became physical and the next day, Joe apologized to the TNA locker room for his comments.
    • Not everyone in the crowd was sympathetic to Joe: Karen Angle (Kurt's now ex-wife) was close enough to the microphone that the words "Quit being a crybaby!" made it over the air.

Other Professional Wrestling Organizations[edit | hide]

  • The phrase was also applied to what is more popularly known as "shoot wrestling", a Japanese wrestling style reminiscent of MMA (in fact, many early UFC participants like Ken Shamrock or Dan Severn were veterans of groups employing this style). Although outcomes were predetermined (the "worked" part), holds and strikes were generally applied in a realistic manner (the "shoot" part). Many of these later became full-shoot MMA organizations.
    • Worked Shoots were somewhat endemic to Japanese professional wrestling. First, there was Antonio Inoki, who won a series of (fake) shoot fights with fighters of various martial arts disciplines (and drew a real fight with Muhammad Ali, doing serious damage to Ali's legs in the process despite goofy restrictions on his side; one side or the other backed out of a worked fight at the last minute, and the rules were cobbled together about 15 minutes before the match started). Then in the 1980s, several wrestlers in Inoki's New Japan promotion with real martial arts backgrounds felt that they were being forced to lose to inferior opponents. Two of them (Satoru "Tiger Mask" Sayama and Akira Maeda) formed the UWF, which was the first shootwrestling promotion. The shootwrestlers eventually made their way back to the mainstream promotions, and New Japan to this day still has a heavy emphasis on matwork and submissions due to their influence (and almost all major promotions in Japan go to clean finishes for the same reason). Several promotions down the line, shootwrestlers such as Masakatsu Funaki and Ken Shamrock felt they were being forced to lose to inferior opponents, and formed Pancrase, which did away with the whole predetermined outcome thing, and set the stage for Japan's next cultural fad (and America's newest PPV phenomenon/human cockfight).


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The Sentry's appearance in Marvel Comics is a good example of a non-wrestling Worked Shoot, as he was originally claimed to be a long-forgotten, pre-Fantastic Four creation of Stan Lee, an angle that Wizard Magazine helped to indulge. Of course, Sentry was, in actuality, a modern creation, created by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee for the Marvel Knights line, and the idea of everybody having forgotten about him played prominently into his origin story.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Blair Witch Project is one big Worked Shoot, by this definition.
  • Before that, Italian director Ruggero Deodato was put on trial by Italian courts in 1980 among accusations that his movie, Cannibal Holocaust, was a Snuff Film.
  • Both Sacha Baron Cohen movies (and his TV show for that matter) are unscripted acts thrust upon unsuspecting "co-stars".
  • An adult film company called Kick Ass Pictures actually tried this when one of their stars got pregnant [1]

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Disney live-action shows like Cheetah Girls and Hannah Montana go to a lot of trouble to blur the line between the actors and the characters.
  • This is the biggest accusation of all "Reality" tv shows, especially ones like The Hills and The Real World. The funny thing is, some of them really are and have been for a lot longer than you think, as some producers have admitted. Why? For the same reason they do it in fiction: Shipping Bed Death. So much so, that the joke that reality shows are rigged in favor certain contestants and against others is an Undead Horse Trope. The joke is so pervasive in media, that truTV (which used to be Court TV) made their tagline "Not reality, actuality".
    • Another variant is that what is shown actually happened but it is taken out of context and edited in such a way to make the contestants seem to act in strange (and entertaining) ways when the reality is much tamer.
    • This trope was used in the Joe Shmoe show on Spike TV. The reality show was completely rigged except for the titular 'Joe' who is made to believe that he is in an over-the-top reality show. Everyone else are actors who try to make him believe that what is happening is real. This fails in season two so they recruit the female 'Joe' who figured it out as part of the team and bring in a new 'Joe'.
  • Back in the 50s, it was an open secret among the TV business that game shows were rigged to favor the most desirable contestant. Many suspected it, in the exact same way people today suspect Reality TV is rigged (see above), but it was part They Just Didn't Care and they didn't want to believe it. Once the secret went public, and advertisers started losing sales because people didn't like dishonesty, they stopped. Now, it's unlawful to rig a game show.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: The staff watches the bad movie first. Then they come up with as many riffs as possible and use the best ones in each episode but make it seem that Joel/Mike and the bots are making them all up as the movie plays. Originally bits of the first seasons (KTMA and the first comedy channel season) were cold reads, which stopped about the same time improv-lover Josh Weinstein (the original voice of Servo) left, and an incident where the cold viewing of Sidehackers turned up an unexpectedly brutal rape scene.
  • Man vs. Wild tries hard to make it look like Bear Grylls is really trying to survive in the wild. Of course, Grylls is never in any kind of real danger and many events he encounters during an episode, while certainly possible in that location, are orchestrated.

Sports[edit | hide]

  • In early 2008, there was apparent wrangling between Cricket Australia and the Indian Premier League over the contract status of Australian players in the IPL, which IPL co-founder Inderjit Singh Bindra eventually revealed was a ruse to create interest in the league. To quote Bindra, "Unless there is some spice, the dish won't taste good."
  • During a timeout of a Dallas Mavericks game, owner Mark Cuban, whose rants against referees had become legendary, appeared to get into an actual brawl with an official. This took place on April Fools Day.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In a particularly strange non-wrestling example, the Coldsnap expansion for the Magic: The Gathering card game was unveiled as the long-lost third set of the Ice Age/Alliances block, canceled and shelved until being repackaged by head designer Mark Rosewater. In reality, the set was brand new and merely a thought experiment in reviving old design techniques, which they admitted to a few days after the announcement.
    • Mark Rosewater himself later stated that the announcement actually came off as a bit more believable than intended, and that the joke was always supposed to be blatantly obvious. He attributed this to choosing a columnist not known for writing silly stuff (Randy Buehler) to break the news rather than doing it himself (since everyone knows he writes silly stuff all the time), as well as the basic story being too plausible. Afterwards, he rewrote the announcement in his own style.
  1. The star, Violet Blue, had appeared in two of the studio's "creampie" movies, essentially meaning the guy doesn't pull out before orgasm. In order to show the supposed "realism" of their videos, much later editions in the two movie series opened with a very pregnant Blue saying the scenes she did got her pregnant - as in, she separately blamed each individual scene for causing what most people should see is the exact same pregnancy. In addition, those earlier scenes were filmed about two years prior to the more recent ones she appeared pregnant in.