The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of WrestlingINC.com or its staff.
With the WWE looking for Daniel Bryan and CM Punk to be their top two babyfaces (or at least they were while Cena was on the mend), a lively debate has been sparked within the wrestling community as far as whether size matters in wrestling today. Bryan and Punk are not going to wow anybody with their physical prowess, and some fans are attributing the recent drop in Raw ratings to the fact that Bryan and Punk are not believable babyfaces.
If I were to give a blunt answer to the question "Does size matter?" my answer would be no, but the issue is so much more complicated than that. Although I would not go as far to say that size matters a great deal in wrestling, I will say that it is still a factor in certain aspects of the business.
Wrestling is a business, and the people involved in a business typically have one goal in mind: Make money. If a wrestler was making more money than anybody else in the company, they are going to get pushed. Now, there are several factors in someone making money for a wrestling company, but what it really comes down to is if somebody is over with the crowds or not. If fans like you (or resent you), they will pay money to see you wrestle, tune into the shows and buy your merchandise. In a company like the WWE, if they see someone that can get over with the crowd, MOST of the time, they will push that person, no matter what shape or size they are.
CM Punk and Daniel Bryan are over with the WWE fanbase. Even if you despise either Bryan or Punk, you cannot logically deny that they are over with the fanbase. Both men get among the loudest ovations from the audience and both men's shirts are amongst the companies top-sellers. Punk and Bryan may not be the largest men in the company physically, but they are definitely some of the company's largest money-makers.
So physical size did not stop Bryan or Punk from reaching the top, so should it really matter if another undersized guy, say Seth Rollins, goes solo? Will the WWE be fearful that someone smaller than the average competitor would not be able to get over? I don't see why it could be a problem, after all, they have so many other success stories, not just Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, but other guys like Chris Jericho, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Why doesn't size matter anymore? In the past, less than talented individuals got perhaps undeserved pushes simply because they were impressive physically. Kevin Nash was given the WWE Championship, despite Nash being a sub-par in-ring worker and he was still uncomfortable under the "Diesel" character. The results were disappointing, and Nash will forever go down as being one of the worst drawing WWE Champions of all-time. A contemporary of Nash, Sid, shares a lot of similarities with Nash, and like Nash, Sid was one of the worst WWE Champions of all-time.
There were of course many other factors that derailed Nash and Sid's runs as champion, and it could be said that their poor financial turnout could just be a product of the times that the WWE were in. But the fact remains, if you took away their physical appearance, and just went by arbitrary abilities, like in-ring talent and charisma, would Sid or Diesel ever be considered championship material? Probably not.
Size might not STOP someone from getting to the top and being a top draw, but it can certainly HELP them. Ryback continues to get break after break in the WWE, not because of his talent, but because of his physique. Someone that is 6'6" or taller is going to be a hot commodity, just because the mind-set of promoters is that people like watching big guys. Not EXCLUSIVELY big guys, but they do like to watch bigger guys wrestle.
Why doesn't size matter anymore? That answer is simple, and it is because we are currently in a period where kayfabe is all but dead. Even the most ignorant fan will admit that the matches are pre-determined. Because wrestling promoters have basically accepted the fact that a majority of the fans are in-the-know, some of the previous philosophies when it comes to wrestling booking become obsolete.
In a real fight, Kevin Nash would presumably defeat Shawn Michaels. Nash has nearly a foot and 100lbs on Michaels. Having Michaels defeat Nash in a match would most likely puzzle fans and make them question the reality of the product. Today though, where most fans know the matches are scripted but still enjoy the product anyways? Size should not really matter, because much like watching a television or going to see a movie, wrestling fans go to the show to suspend their disbelief. In that world, it is possible that Punk could defeat Brock Lesnar, even if in reality Brock would snap Punk in half over his knee Bane-style.
Overall, size will always be a factor in wrestling, but we are currently living in a state where size does not limit a wrestler's potential. In the end, talent and ability will always trump physical size in most fans eyes, and that is all that matters when it comes to the promotion of stars. If fans are invested in a guy, they are going to be a success, no matter how big or small they are.