Many things in professional wrestling come and go. What was once the standard, soon becomes passé and disappears for a few years or never returns at all. One thing that seems to be a lost art, is the well produced vignette. A vignette in pro wrestling is a series of short videos that help promote a new gimmick or character to a promotion. They usually ran these vignette for a few weeks to get fans interest piqued.
Vignettes were constantly used to introduce audiences to a new or returning character. As with jobber squash matches, vignettes all but disappeared for a time. Sure, you will still see one or two air on television….but they really aren’t the same as in days gone by. The vignettes that air now, usually are shown for about a week or two and then debut. Sometimes, they debut the very same night as the vignette airs. The slow, simmering build up just doesn’t seem to be there anymore.
Perhaps it is because many fans attention spans are shortened due to the age of social media and instantaneous gratification. Fans know more about wrestlers and their previous bodies of work for different promotions than ever before. Whatever the reason, promoters like Vince McMahon need to use the true power of an excellently produced series of vignettes to try and get more of these future stars over more. Forget about their stay in places like NXT and start actually promoting talent once again.
I look fondly of vignettes from the past where wrestlers like The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, Kurt Angle, Edge, Fandango, Double J Jeff Jarrett etc were first introduced to fans. The slow build up of their characters helped establish them even before they set foot in a WWF ring. Val Venis and his vignettes actually made him a star before he wrestled on television. I remember the loud roar of the crowd when he first debuted. Fans were so into the vignettes they did for him.
Vignettes weren’t just to help introduce a new wrestler, but also helped develop repackaged stars like Dustin Rhodes transformation into Goldust, Husky Harris into Bray Wyatt and Andre the Giant under a mask as a part of The Machines. The vignettes really focused on the new gimmick and made you forget who they were previously…even for a brief time.
They also used vignettes to help reestablish wrestlers from a heel to a face or vice versa. Vignettes helped Sgt. Slaughter get his country back after portraying a treasonous heel during the Persian Gulf War and also helped The Honkytonk Man become a establish himself as a heel after trying his hand as a babyface.
Now don’t get me wrong, a vignette can’t guarantee a wrestler will become a star. Some work and others do not. It helps to have a really cool gimmick or be great wrestler with personality. The vignettes advertising Mr. Perfect were fantastic…but Curt Hennig’s ring skills helped solidify him as that persona.
They can also be very effective telling fans of an upcoming return of a wrestler whether it was from an injury like Triple H or the return of an old gimmick like the masked Kane. These vignettes helped set the stage for a big return and got fans excited for something they were already introduced to.
While vignettes aren’t completely dead and are still used today…although more sparingly…WWE, AEW, Impact and every promotion in between should really take note on how effective a great vignette can be. While having a wrestler appear on programming completely as a surprise is great…that should be used less frequently to not get fans so jaded and spoiled. Give us the slow building video packages and vignettes touting incoming stars. Let’s see if they can capture the same magic as years gone by. It takes time and patience, something some promoters forgot about…or are just plain lazy.