In defense of professional wrestling: Why most critics don’t understand the concept of professional wrestling

Professional wrestling is one of the most dynamic forms of entertainment out there. It has been around for several generations and has gradually evolved into a form of live fight choreographed stunt show with emphasis on dramatic elements. The most popular professional company today is World Wrestling Entertainment(WWE), it has a worldwide fan base and even those who don’t watch professional wrestling know about it. But with it’s universal popularity, it also has criticism by people who don’t seem to understand the concept of the business.

In defense of professional wrestling: Why most critics don’t understand the concept of professional wrestling

key terms: There are many pro wrestling terms, here some of the most common ones.

  • Kayfabe: Portraying events or personas as “real” even though it’s all part of the show. It help with suspension of disbelief.
  • Angle: A skit or scripted storyline between two or more pro wrestlers.
  • Push: Promoting a specific wrestler to become more dominant than the average pro wrestler.
  • Shoots: A real fight that happens during a wrestling match. Whether it be because of a mishap or personal issues between the two wrestlers, it’s also when a wrestler goes off script.
  • Botch: Messing up a wrestling move which may or may not cause injury
  • Receipt: If a wrestler(usually a rookie) uses too much oomph, the other wrestler will return the favor.
  • Stiffing: Using extra force to make certain wrestling moves more believable. The wrestlers involved come to some agreement first. If it is done with out any mutual agreement, it can lead to a shoot fight and or receipt.


1.) Professional wrestling can trace it’s origins to a legit martial art:

While it’s true that many of the high flying stunts performed by the leaner pro wrestlers, or the usage of melee weapons have nothing to do with wrestling. A lot of the grappling techniques are modified catch wrestling and Judo techniques. Catch wrestling is a legitimate martial art that was popular in the early 20th century , it gradually evolved by incorporating techniques from various older grappling arts such as Judo, Jujutsu, Indian Pehlwani and folk wrestling from the British isles. Both Judo and Catch wrestling served as a basis for newer grappling styles such as Sambo, Shooto, collegiate wrestling, freestyle wrestling and also most notably professional wrestling.

Masakatsu Funaki a very popular Shooto practitioner, catch wrestler and professional wrestler in Japan
Masakatsu Funaki a very popular Shooto practitioner, catch wrestler and professional wrestler in Japan

2.) Professional wrestling greatly influenced MMA: Professional wrestling is primarily popular in USA, Japan and Mexico. And all three distinct pro wrestling styles influenced each other in some way. But it was Japanese professional wrestling which provided the corner stone for what would become modern day mma. A lot of UFC fans like to talk trash about a professional wrestling for being “fake” or “wannabe MMA” but ironically MMA wouldn’t be the sport it is today if it weren’t for pro wrestlers like Masakatsu Funaki, Antonio Inoki, Ken Shamrock, Karl Gotch etc.

The earliest MMA promotion founded in 1986
The earliest MMA promotion founded in 1986

3.) It’s very strenuous: The one word wrestlers don’t want to hear is that pro wrestling is “fake”. While it’s true pro wrestlers aren’t actually fighting each other for real doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park.

  • Constantly on the move: wrestlers are frequently traveling around the country and the world. They may have a few shows in Los Ángeles and the next week they are wrestling in London. And most only can only spend 2-3 days with their families.
  • Have to stay in great shape: As expected, pro wrestlers have to stay in great shape which is very hard to do while constantly on the move.
  • Matches aren’t rehearsed: Contrary to popular belief, professional wrestling matches aren’t rehearsed, only the storylines are rehearsed. While there is a predetermined winner, the wrestlers have autonomy in dictating what happens during the match by discussing a rough draft before a match. But matches are mostly improvised.
  • It hurts: Just because they aren’t actually fighting doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Getting body slammed hurts, suplexes hurt, receiving rich flair chops sting especially if they come from Walter. And so on.
  • Injuries happen: Countless wrestlers have been injured in the ring, some have had their careers shortened and on rare occasions some wrestlers have died in the ring.
In defense of professional wrestling: Why most critics don’t understand the concept of professional wrestling

4.) Backstage drama: “Ah they are just pretending, they don’t really hate each other.” While it’s definitely true that most pro wrestlers get along well and are even close friends, there are occasions where some wrestlers who’ve got heat with other wrestlers and just don’t get along. Whether it be for no in ring chemistry or non wrestling related issues. There are also occasions where wrestlers do something that doesn’t sit well with the boss causing the wrestler to get in trouble and so on. There are also occasions where some beef turns into shoot fights on live tv

Undertaker and Goldberg reportedly got in a argument backstage after their match
Undertaker and Goldberg reportedly got in a argument backstage after their match

5.) It takes good acting skills: As a result of the dramatic elements, wrestlers must be able to act out various types of skits and often times while adopting a persona. For this reason, many wrestlers also get movie roles.

Dwayne “the rock” Johnson is considered to be the most talented pro wrestler on the mike.
Dwayne “the rock” Johnson is considered to be the most talented pro wrestler on the mike.

6.) It takes talent: A lot of talent to receive a major push in the company. Most people assume “oh you just show up and follow the script”, well that’s not the case. As I mentioned above, there is very little scripting going on, most of it is improvisation. Acting, ring skills and how well you can portray your gimmick all determines how much of a push you can get. So when people say it’s “not competitive” they are wrong, you are competing to impress the head honchos of the company.

Asuka is perhaps the most versatile female pro wrestler in WWE.
Asuka is perhaps the most versatile female pro wrestler in WWE.

7.) Gimmicks: Most wrestlers adopt a persona that they portray on the show. Sometimes a trademarked gimmick will be assigned to you and other times the wrestler can create their own gimmick and depending on whether or not the boss thinks the gimmick will be well received by the fans or not can either accept your gimmick or deny it. Some wrestlers play a fictionalized version of themselves by using their real names.

Mark Callaway’s “Undertaker” gimmick is probably the most iconic wrestling gimmick in pro wrestling history
Mark Callaway’s “Undertaker” gimmick is probably the most iconic wrestling gimmick in pro wrestling history

8.) So many rules: While pro wrestlers have some level of autonomy on what they do on live tv, there are several rules that must be followed especially with the current PG/PC antics imposed on many pro wrestling companies. You can’t cuss, you can’t use certain phrases(title match vs title shot), you can’t “bleed”, you can’t use politics and most notorious of all, you can’t be “too violent”. Only the top stars of the company can get away with breaking these rules.

Any other wrestler would have been disciplined
Any other wrestler would have been disciplined

9.) Shoot fights: As expected it’s not surprising that real fights may occurs between two or more wrestlers. These fights occur for a variety of reasons whether it be for a botch, lack of cooperation, personal beef or just for fun. The two most popular shoot fights were between Antonio Inoki and Great Antonio. And also the receipt Braun Strowman received from Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar punches Braun Strowman for real
Brock Lesnar punches Braun Strowman for real

10.)Charity and honor: Some professional wrestling companies actually support various philanthropic causes. Whether it be fighting cancer, fighting bullying etc. Pro wrestling companies also organize shows for audiences composed entirely of US military personnel. So before you say pro wrestlers don’t care about people, think again and look at all the causes they contributed to.

WWE tribute to the troops.
WWE tribute to the troops.

11.) A lot of pro wrestlers are talented outside of the ring: Pro wrestlers often find success outside of the “squared circle” as well due to their other talents. Some compete in other sports, others become big names in Hollywood and so on. To assume that their only talents are in the ring is a very naive way of analyzing pro wrestlers.

Dave Bautista as “Drax”
Dave Bautista as “Drax”

12.)They aren’t “gay”! A lot of these critics seem to think that all pro wrestlers must be gay just because they “roll around half naked” but in reality most of them are 100% straight. Yes there are a few who are openly gay but most are straight and date the opposite sex. Why not call UFC fighters “gay” when they roll around and get on top of each other as well? Why only pick on pro wrestling. By the way, no offense to gay people.

It’s just an angle.
It’s just an angle.

13.) They are Human beings as well: Most pro wrestlers are very decent individuals outside of the ring. A lot of them are married with children and are no different than the average person. They aren’t machines who get powered down after each show, they are human beings.

So yes, pro wrestling is a largely misunderstood profession. Only those who truly understand pro wrestling can appreciate the art of it.

sources:

https://www.grunge.com/151820/the-tragic-truth-about-the-life-of-a-professional-wrestler/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/theweek.com/articles-amp/447375/heres-what-prowrestling-script-looks-like

In defense of professional wrestling: Why most critics don’t understand the concept of professional wrestling
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