“How Insecure Are Professional Wrestlers?” | Ask PWS

A reader asked, "How insecure are these professionals?" We cover this question in this issue of Ask Pro Wrestling Stories. We also give our take on the questions: "Who is the most influential person in the business who doesn’t get his due?" and "Why do some wrestlers wear their kneepads over their calves instead of over their knees?" Let’s dive in…

When you’re talking about insecure wrestlers, it’s impossible to ignore Bret Hart, whose notoriously thin skin allowed Shawn Michaels to work Hart into a real-life tizzy. [Photo: Survivor Series 1992]
When you’re talking about insecure wrestlers, it’s impossible to ignore Bret Hart, whose notoriously thin skin allowed Shawn Michaels to work Hart into a real-life tizzy. [Photo: Survivor Series 1992, WWE.com]

We get many questions on social media, so we’re going to distill those queries and their answers into an occasional column from our in-house wrestling savant, Bobby Mathews. If you have future questions for a column, feel free to shoot us a message on TWITTER or FACEBOOK.]

Welcome back to another edition of Ask Pro Wrestling Stories, where we know you’re not paranoid if you know they’re really out to get you. This first question popped up after former WWE talent Lio Rush decided to make an idiot of himself on social media and made fun of Emma for losing her job in the WWE women’s division.

Wrestlers Lio Rush and Asuka featured in a tweet

This led to a tremendous backlash from other WWE professionals on social media and a quick apology from Rush, who realized that he’d buried himself deeper than Triple H’s shovel ever could.

Reader Lewish M. asked [possibly rhetorically], "Jesus Christ, how insecure are these professionals?"

Have you ever read Bret Hart’s autobiography? He’s possibly the most insecure man alive, and he’s revered by a multitude of fans as "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." There’s an argument to be made that everything that happened to Bret — from the Montreal Screwjob to the disastrous years in WCW — stemmed from his own insecurity and from Shawn Michaels’ ability to get on Bret’s very last nerve. HBK would go on TV and, as a heel, make on-air comments to get under the skin of the Hitman. But Shawn’s barbs didn’t just strike home for the TV character. Bret let Shawn get under his skin. Suddenly a program that was supposed to be about drawing money to see the two best talents of a generation became legitimately personal.

I could talk about a whole list of insecure talent–Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair both spring to mind, too–but remember that wrestling is a very close-knit shop. Little slights are handled in outsized ways, like The Miz (and most recently the Mad Muppet, Enzo Amore) being thrown out of the locker room for stuff that other people wouldn’t think twice about. So when you ask how insecure are these professionals, the real answer is this: for many of them, they’re more insecure than you can imagine. There is a lot of money, fame, and did I mention money, that rides on finding a place in the WWE locker room–so there can be a lot to be insecure about.

Les Thatcher and Harley Race
Les Thatcher and Harley Race

From Mark: Who’s the most influential person in the business who doesn’t get his due?

Easy. Les Thatcher, who was a heck of a hand in the ring, and then transitioned into one of the most underrated announcers for Southeastern-Knoxville and Southeastern-Pensacola, both territories owned and promoted by Ron Fuller. His idea was to run a "personality profile" segment on the hour-long shows, featuring a sit-down interview with a different talent each week, which was often the highlight of the shows.

Thatcher would go on to announce for territories like Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling, but he also worked with the then-WWWF to publish Wrestling Action, the company’s first color magazine, back in 1978. He’s written and produced wrestling shows for more decades than he’d probably like to admit. When you’re talking about Les Thatcher, you’re talking about a man who could do just about anything he set his mind to. He also owned and operated Heartland Wrestling Association, and he trained a lot of guys you’ve probably heard of, but one who ought to be singled out because of his prominent placement on WWE TV: Dean Ambrose.

I first saw Les Thatcher when he teamed with Charlie Platt for the Southeastern Championship Wrestling tapings in Dothan, Alabama, back in the late 1970s. I can remember, even as a kid, Thatcher’s even, professional tone as he called the action in the ring and interviewed talent at the desk. He eventually left, and Platt (another often-overlooked talent) carried the show from then on. But I can tell you that Les Thatcher is part of my earliest memories of professional wrestling, and I know his voice is one of the reasons I became a fan. I’ll bet I’m not alone on that front, either.

These days, Thatcher keeps a hand in the business, running Elite Pro Wrestling Training in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. You can follow Les on Twitter HERE.

Cesaro rocking the no kneepad look.
Cesaro rocking the no kneepad look.

From Allen: Why do some wrestlers wear their kneepads over their calves, or not at all?

Many wrestlers like Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard (to name three of the Horsemen) wore their kneepads to where they just came above the kneecap. There are varying explanations, including that wearing them this way lends support to the patella. The explanation I like best, though, is that Flair was insecure about how thin his calves were, so he wore his kneepads there to make them look bigger.

As the business has gone on, though, more and more guys have begun wearing their kneepads higher. Part of that can be attributed to the Japanese look that has gotten more popular, with guys wearing kickpads over their boots. There’s no room to slide kneepads down onto the calf, so the pads ride higher. Also, the style of kneepads has changed from back in the day. Wrestlers used to favor Trace brand kneepads because of the space they allowed behind the knee (and because they looked cool).  Nowadays, knee sleeves with padded fronts seem to be favored.

Because I’m an old-school guy, I want to point out that wrestlers worked for generations without kneepads. Rip Hawk, Buddy Rogers, Antonino Rocca, Swede Hanson, Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bob Armstrong, and a host of others went without kneepads for the entirety of their careers and seemingly were never the worse for wear.

That’s it for now. If you’d like to have your question featured in Ask PWS, shoot me a tweet: @BamaWriter, or send me an EMAIL.

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Bobby Mathews is a contributor for Pro Wrestling Stories as well as a veteran journalist whose byline has appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Birmingham News, The Denver Post, as well as other newspapers around the country. He's won multiple awards for reporting and opinion writing, and his sports journalism has garnered several Associated Press Managing Editors Awards. He has covered Division I college athletics and professional sports including MLB and NFL games. He has won awards from press associations in several states, including a General Excellence award from the Georgia Press Association while sports editor at The Statesboro Herald. He currently lives in suburban Birmingham, Alabama and can be reached on Twitter @bamawriter.