The Master of his Art
"It takes a lot of talent and a lot of skill to make it look
The real art of professional wrestling is to do it full contact ....
[but] you should never get hurt. If you ever get hurt its because someone
did something wrong..... Watch my punches - my punches are very credible.
You watch them [and you'll say] he connected on all of those. I've kicked
people full blast in the face. Did you ever wonder for one second
why there's no big bruise after .....There IS an art to wrestling."
(Bret Hart, "Wrestling with Shadows.")
In these circumstances, you'd think the wrestling
world would be throwing money and contracts at skilled ring workers like
||Zenk was trained in Ed Sharkey's wrestling
school and Verne Gagne's training camp and did his journeyman work in the
AWA, PNW, IWA and Japan (1984 - 1986) before achieving national recognition
in the WWF. He is best known for the excellence of his technical mat work,
highlighted by stunning aerial high spots.
Several manuevers are regarded as Tom Zenk's signature moves, either because he pioneered them or because no-one else has surpassed his execution.
These include the 'Sky-High' dropkick (above); the Sunset Flip; the Flying Bodypress; the enzuiguri; the savate; the catapult splash; the 'high kick',(similar to a karate kick) and above all the dropkick off-the-top-rope.
To push Zenk in the PNW, Don Owen asked him for a dramatic maneuver - something that would excite the fans by its technical and athletic brilliance. Zenk gave him the Sky-High dropkick (above).
On the other hand, Flair, in booking Zenk,
stipulated his signature move would be the sleeperhold, telling him
"like it or not, it's the [booking] Committee's decision." This was a clear
sign, early on, that WCW had no intention of pushing Zenk. Once the
babyface locked on the sleeper, he was perfectly set up for an ambush from
behind that would draw heat onto heels like Flair and Anderson, or Cornette
and the Midnight Express.
* * *
The allocation of finishing moves by the bookers
shows that finishing moves are subject to a strict economy in any promotion.
Irreversible and 'devastating' finishers (such as the 'DDT' or 'Torture
Rack') are allocated to the top echelons of any promotion's ruling clique.
This hierarchical allocation is protected by the rule that "you don't take
anyone's finish" (unless, as in the case of Diamond Dallas Page and the
Diamond Cutter, you steal the move from someone lower down the hierarchy).
|In Japan Zenk executes a leglock on his
In WCW this became "the Scorpion Deathlock" - reserved for Sting's exclusivee use.
|In Japan, Zenk executes "the German Suplex."
In WCW this was regarded as Benoit's signature move - reserved for his use.
In the WWF, Zenk was warned never to use a leg drop because "that's Hogan's move." In WCW the figure four belonged to Ric Flair and, according to Zenk, "you couldn't use it even as a rest hold."
In WCW, the allocated finishing moves during
Zenk's tenure included:
|Torture Rack||Lex Luger|
|DDT; Gourdbuster||Arn Anderson|
|Figure Four Leg Lock||Rick Flair|
|"Scorpion" Deathlock and "Stinger" Splash||Sting|
|Clothesline, renamed the"Steinerline" and Flying Bulldog||Rick Steiner|
headscissors and flip from the mat or top turnbuckle
|"Alabama Jam" (legdrop from the top rope)||Bobby Eaton -|
|Crescent Leg Kick||Stan Lane|
|"The Rude Awakening"||Rick Rude|
|German suplex||Chris Benoit|
|Flying Bodypress||Rick Steamboat|
|Rolling Head Snap||Terry Taylor|
|Bulldog and Elbowsmash||Dustin Rhodes|
|the 7 minute stall||Larry Zbyszko|
In many cases, a young wrestler with, e.g. superior aerial skills, may be so good that his performance, given free rein, overshadows the work of a pushed star at the top of the card. Since wrestling is all about keeping your spot, top wrestlers don't allow that to happen. Bookers or agent are sent to warn wrestlers, if they want to keep working, they can't use the full range of their ring skills. (Wrestling Eye, September 1990) This artificial limitation of another worker's performance not only limits his audience appeal and subsequent push, but - like any restricted work practice - rruins careers and puts promotions out of business. WCW is a case in point.
Matches of very short duration are another means used to stop skilled wrestlers overshadowing - or just 'blowing up' - the top dogs in the ruling cliques. Both Kevin Nash and Diamond Dallas Page, for example, were notorious for booking short matches with 'devastating finishers' to maintain their status in WCW. Both men are physically incapable of sustained bouts, performing with knee braces and other prostheses underneath those long tights.
Aerial precision - Tom Zenk descends
from the skies to land a dropkick
|Tom Zenk - "So many
guys do the dropkick these days, it's lost a lot of the prestige it had
back in the time when Antonio Rocca and Argentina Apollo were pioneering
the move. It was unique in those days. It's not anymore , but it's still
as effective as it's ever been. Maybe more effective than ever, considering
all the variations that have sprung up over the years. I'm a student of
the move. Believe it or not, there are at least two dozen ways to throw
a dropkick; standing, running, off the ropes, high target, low target ....
Some guys like to kick up, where their legs
are higher than their head. I like to try and kick down, so my head is
higher than my legs. I find it gives me more control in pinpointing my
target and snapping my legs to get the strongest impact. In the end, through,
throwing the dropkick is kind of like managing a golf-swing - everybody
has a different one, and everyone has to do what works best for them."WCW
Magazine, September 1992
Pinpoint accuracy - an enzuiguri connects
precisely with the back of his opponent's neck
(above and below)