What Pro Wrestling Has Taught Me: Don’t Just Say No.

While many people my age remember Pat Patterson as one of Vince McMahon’s “Stooges” with fellow legend Gerald Brisco, he is much more in the world of Pro Wrestling. He was a great performer in his prime, in-ring years, and is a great behind-the-scenes guy as well. Many people have stated he is the best at coming up with finishes to matches, and just general ideas for the in-ring product.

Along with being the first WWF/E Intercontinental Champion, he is also gay, which hasn’t always been a good thing in the sport. While he wasn’t always open about it, it was widely known backstage, yet he still was one of the more respected guys in an era when his personal life wasn’t exactly accepted.

He’s been working with Vince McMahon in several backstage capacities since even before his in-ring retirement in 1984. When perusing through the many Pro Wrestling podcasts, one theme with Patterson has stayed constant: He’s been an asset to the performers, bookers, agents, producers, and writers. Patterson has never judged those without a history of Pro Wrestling, and from every account, puts the product first. Probably why Vince has kept him around for so long.

While both former WWE writers Brian Gewirtz and Dave Lagana have credited Patterson with a lot of help and advice during their tenures at the company, I couldn’t find which one credited him with the topic of this post: “Don’t just say no.” This was in regards to creative meetings, when all the creative staff (bookers, writers, etc.) pitch ideas. Some are long-term, high-level ideas, but can also be short-term, detail ones.

One of the above mentioned ex-writers said they would just shoot down ideas from others with no follow-up or reasons. After one such meeting, Patterson called them aside and offered this advice: Don’t just say no to someone’s idea without offering an alternative, or adding/subtracting something from it.

Apparently the writer was getting a lot of backlash from others, and even found it hard to work with some on-air talent, and word had got around. Patterson, having about four decades of experience at this point, knew the guy would eventually get fired, or even beat up if he continued down that path.

Now I think I’m clear of a physical altercation in my industry, however, it’s great advice for any setting, especially creative ones. Some people (*slowly raising my hand*) can get very attached to their ideas, designs, and projects, and take criticism or anything but “Hey that’s great!” as an insult. Even if the person doesn’t go about it in a rude way, criticism can still hit a little too close to home.

The worst is when you get told by someone (especially a client) they don’t like your work, and doesn’t give you a clear explanation as to why. They just give a vague reason and zero follow-up as to what they want changed or why it’s not how they see it. So thoughtful, detailed feedback is always the way to go.

Again, this isn’t ground-breaking, or little known, however, I can assume we’ve all that boss or colleague who does this. You might have done what I did and said “Huh, I’ve done that too.” I’ve made it a point to be better with my feedback and how I approach group projects. So thanks Pat Patterson, you might not be the “Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All-Time!” but you’re a damn good one.


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