Pre-match Rituals is a new WWE.com feature that will appear on the third Wednesday of every month. It will detail the idiosyncrasies and customary behaviors that WWE Superstars have adapted before they make their way to the ring.
"The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses."
-Francis Bacon, Sr.
Michael Jordan had one. Wayne Gretzky and Wade Boggs had theirs too. Jordan — a graduate of the University of North Carolina — wore his UNC basketball shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform. Gretzky sprinkled baby powder on his hockey stick before games, wore one side of his shirt untucked and refused to get his hair cut on the road. Boggs ate chicken before every game and prior to each at-bat he wrote the Hebrew word Chai — meaning life — in the dirt of the batter's box.
Perhaps the epitome of ritualistic behaviors hailed from former Major League Baseball pitcher Turk Wendell. A few of his many eccentricities included: insisting the umpire roll the ball to the mound before an inning began; brushing his teeth and chewing licorice between innings; crouching when his catcher would stand; jumping — not hopping — over the baseline when entering or leaving the field; and tossing the rosin bag to the ground with the same force as his fastball.
So, how does this relate to WWE?
The Superstars have the unyielding pressure of performing day in and day out in front of rabid WWE fans who notice every mishap, slip-up or sub-par performance. The immense pressure to succeed looms before every match, and without performing up to the standards of fans, the hours of training and preparation go for naught. This leaves the Superstars to believe that without sticking to their proven routines — or diverting from the formula that allowed them to achieve success — their luck may turn for the worse.
To better understand what type of ceremonial customs WWE Superstars have developed during their rise to the pinnacle of sports-entertainment, four of them were asked what they consider to be their pre-match rituals. Below are answers from RAW's John Cena and Randy Orton and SmackDown's King Booker and Cruiserweight Champion Gregory Helms.
RAW Superstar John Cena
"Everybody usually warms up and stretches out. My sh*t is real basic. I say to myself, 'Good luck, be safe and have fun,' because it's what I love doing."
"I drink other people's bottles of water, believe it or not. I'll never open a new bottle of water, but it's got to be cold and I always smell it before hand so I'm not drinking Vodka or any sort of gimmicked up drink."
- "I always knock on wood, and always before I go out there -- and this is something that you can see in the match right before the bell rings every the time because I go out there with a lot of energy, and I'm kind of just rowdy and having fun—but when it's time to get serious you'll see me back up against the corner, put my head down, hit the corner, and then I'm coming out swinging. So, those are the things I do every single match."
SmackDown Superstar King Booker
- "My ritual is meditation for one hour, and it may start around five o'clock. Then I start with my preparation as far as getting myself together—getting my body ready and warmed up to its peak. That may take jumping rope for 30 minutes straight; that my take doing 300 pushups; that may take doing a couple hundred sit-ups—and that's just to get myself warmed up for that main event of that main course."
- "I top it off with a coupe of Red Bulls. It's like nitrous oxide kicking the BTZ off— the KING BTZ off — getting ready to launch, getting ready to do exactly what I have to do, and that's go out and be the best each and every night."
- "Stretching is very, very important. One of my closest comrades, a loyal, loyal subject, Mark Henry, right now is sitting on the shelf just because of his stretching regimen. He should do more of it, and I'm going to talk to him about that as soon as he gets back because I see Mark Henry being a big, big part in the King's court."
SmackDown's Cruiserweight Champion Gregory Helms
- "I have a certain number of calisthenics that I do, and it's always been the exact same number. I do the same number of pushups, same number of squats and the same number of high-step running in place; it's the same number before every match."
"The numbers are different. The number of squats I do differs from the number of pushups and the number of high steps running in place is different from that. But it's always those same three movements and always the same numbers for those same three."
"It's (the number) not too high—it's just enough to get my blood flowing, but not to get me tired. You have to warm up. When guys don't warm up, they go out and get injured. So it's a certain number that I do, and it helps me focus. It's routine and organized."
- "I also eat two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups — I always have — before every match. I got it from Lex Luger. I saw him eating Reese's Cups before a photo shoot one time and, he said it helps his vascularity; the little sugar rush helps the veins pop out, and mainly I like that because I really love Reese's Cups and that gave me a reason to eat them—and I always eat them. If I don't find them, I get really flustered. I have to have my Reese's Cups."
RAW Superstar Randy Orton
- "I have a stretching routine that I do. I also try to hydrate and drink a lot of water early in the day so I can get that first sweat going before I go into the ring—almost like I'm reaching my second wind before I go out there. The first five minutes out there is usually the toughest if you haven't gotten your body warmed up to get in the ring."
"However I go about it, whether it's jumping rope, stretching, Hindu squats or whatever, I like to warm up and get that second wind kicked up before I step in the ring."
"I'll find different ways to do it. There are different kinds of core exercises I can do, something to get my heart rate up, then I'll stretch-out and take some deep breaths and get my lungs opened and stretched out so I can breathe out there."