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Wrestling is Fake: Why it doesn’t Matter



Wrestling is fake…


Wrestling is Fake: Why it doesn’t Matter

Professional wrestling is fake, yet the sporting phenomenon took pop culture by storm in the late 90’s; from Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the Undertaker and John Cena, these legendary characters have transcended the sport and taken permanent residence in our societal memory.

Yet wrestling is forever disregarded and ignored due to one thing.

Wrestling is fake… Or at least that’s what our teachers, snide older siblings and worried parents would tell us. Yes the ‘fighting’ in wrestling isn’t as real as what we see in the UFC today, the punches rarely connect, the performers aren’t actually out to hurt each other. Big shock. I know. However the idea that these wrestlers are any less of an athlete because they already know who is going to win is absurd.

As many wrestling fans do, I forever live in fear of 5 simple words “you know it’s fake right?”.

Well let me show you why it doesn’t matter.

Sports Or Sports Entertainment?

Nowadays in combat sports it’s less about a fighters ability to do the business that interests fans. But actually that fighters ability to sell the fight. Whether that be running their mouth at a pre fight press conference or delivering threats of a hiding like no other over twitter, this is everything for a fighter and the better they are at this the bigger the payday.

Conor McGregor is a prime example of this. His verbal sit-down of Jeremy Stephens at a UFC 205 press conference will forever live in history as one of the best cases of smack talk. Soundbites from that encounter likely will follow Conor for the rest of his life.

How does that relate to wrestling I hear you say. Well in professional wrestling there are 2 key skills that need to be mastered, one is obviously the actual in ring work to make the fight look believable but the second is performing what is known as a promo.

A promo is when a wrestler is given a small space of time to look straight into a camera and verbally dismantle their opponent while still generating interest in the fight, making the audience believe that this isn’t going to be one sided, as often MMA and boxing matches can be.

These promos are not dissimilar to those that the UFC tries to encourage at its press conferences. However not every fighter is Conor McGregor. Therefore not everyone can generate hype for the fights no matter how honed their fighting skills are. In wrestling however often the most successful stars are often those that have the best microphone skills as due to the rehearsed nature of the sport, any wrestler can be made to look like a competent and skilled fighter, something that cannot be said for other combat sports. So therefore when someone is popular in wrestling it’s due to their charisma and ability to connect with not only a live audience but a captive audience sitting at home paying for the PPV’s.

So they’re essentially muscular actors with good improvisational skills?


A Performance Like No Other

Wrestling is fake. Interestingly though not just anyone can be a professional wrestler. Now this might be less true than it once was, as we are currently in a golden age of independent wrestling where pretty much anybody can go to their local gym and begin training, however it wasn’t always like this.

From when it was first conceived till around the late 90’s wrestling was really only for 6ft plus bodybuilders and other tough man types, this was largely due to the desire to keep wrestling an attraction. This is the reason why physically huge wrestlers such as Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan were so popular, these were not your average people.

Many people have tried their hand at wrestling and all to varying degrees of success. Actors like Stephen Amell and Mickey Rourke as well as pre-established athletes like Dennis Rodman and Tyson Fury.

As part of his preparation for the 2008 film ‘The Wrestler” Rourke trained with Afa Anoa’i for 8 weeks. Having to undergo 3 MRI scans during the process as the training took a heavy toll on his body, with Rourke remarking;

“These guys take several years to learn how to land and I think after I started getting hurt doing it, I started to realise these guys are really suffering and I kind of gained a respect for their sport.

These wrestlers aren’t just running through a pre set routine when their in the ring, the main thing that makes wrestling different to gymnastics is the crowds. The crowds in gymnastics are there to simply applaud and give support to the athletes. In wrestling crowd reactions determine what’s going to happen in the match. Bad guy not getting booed very much? He’s probably going to break some rules or play dirty to get the crowd to boo him. Good guy winning? Time for the bad guy to make a comeback.

This almost live theatre aspect of wrestling helps really separate good wrestlers from the great. A great wrestler will improvise and adapt on the fly to suit the reaction the audience is giving, communicating the changes to their opponent subtly so as not to alert the audience.

It’s this quick adaptation and improvisation of gymnastic manoeuvres that makes wrestling so incredible to watch sometimes. Just imagine the olympic gymnasts flipping past each other mid routine and improvising their next mat run to help get some more energy from the crowd. That’s what wrestlers do everyday.

…but they don’t really get hurt do they?

Head, Shoulders, Chairs and Teeth

The tables have crash mats underneath. The chairs are gimmicked. The ring is actually soft. After all wrestling is fake… right? These are a few of the normal excuses that are parroted whenever a wrestler is shown taking a particularly nasty move or falling from a great height. Many promotions will often rig the more dangerous spots to relive some of the pressure from the fall, and well thats because dropping an elbow off a 30ft steel cage isn’t exactly considered a safe work practice.

If gruesome injuries and extreme risk taking are what attract you towards wrestling then look no further than CZW or Combat Zone Wrestling, this is the kind of small indie promotion for the more ‘extreme’ minded fans. Often referred to as deathmatch wrestling CZW often employ a number of very real, very painful weapons to entice their fans. From barbed wire rope matches to using a staple gun on your opponent’s head, you name it and CZW has probably done it. CZW has a tradition for of performing the most extreme spots imaginable with this spot being one of the most recently famous.

Gushing blood not your style but still like to dabble in the more extreme? Look no further than 1998 at the Civic Centre in Pittsburgh, The Undertaker vs Mankind (aka Mick Foley) inside Hell in a Cell.

This is possibly one of the most famous wrestling matches of all time. Unfortunately it is also one of the hardest to watch when you know the story behind it. The match begins on top on the cage with both competitors giving their all, however a few moments in Undertaker grabs Mankind and tosses him off the side of the 22ft high cell and sends him crashing down toward the announcers desks which are very clearly not padded.

Seeing his work friend in an obviously horrible situation, Jim Ross, lead commentator at the time famously exclaimed;

“Good God almighty! Good God almighty! That killed him!” and “As God as my witness, he is broken in half!”

As Foley lays legitimately unconscious several of the paramedics and doctors lift him onto a stretcher and begin to carry him to the back, only for foley to push them off and stumble his way back to the top of the cage.

It’s here where the plan for the match goes horribly wrong. Foley takes a chokeslam from the undertaker on the top section of the cage however the thin mesh couldn’t hold his weight and foley fell another 16ft to the ring below. Not only is he knocked out by the impact but a steel chair falls with him and collides with his face. This knocked Foley’s teeth from his mouth up into his nose and lip.

Still think wrestling is fake?

If I haven’t already sold you on this match I urge you to go and find it online somewhere as that calamity isn’t even the end of the match. The next few minutes feature a fully concussed Foley, still trying to finish the match out of pride. These are some of the most endearing and terrifying character moments on tape in the history of professional wrestling.

And although the safety standards in the WWE have massively changed since that day in 1998, the physical record of the pure heart of Mick Foley and his unwillingness to stay down, to make his character keep fighting is truly a sight to behold.

Something for everybody

I spoke about CZW earlier and mentioned WWE a few times and if my descriptions about either of these promotions have yet to really resonate with you, well I have good news. Wrestling isn’t just one style, one type of promotion, one set of fans, and as of right now there are more wrestling promotions than there was 10 5 or even 1 year ago.

There’s promotions that cater to everything you could think of from hard hitting realism to silly comedy and here is just a few examples:

NJPW or New Japan Pro wrestling is the premiere place to watch  the most technically excellent grappling and striking along with simple and impressive storytelling. Although the majority of the talking is done in the companies native Japanese, the company has committed to making it more accessible to English speaking audiences with subtitles and English broadcast coverage.

AEW or All Elite Wrestling is a sort of throwback to the late 90’s in a time when wrestling wasn’t aimed at such a young audience. They employ a range of wrestlers from recognisable names such as Chris Jericho and Matt Hardy to independent wrestling sensations such as Joey Janela. AEW is a good jumping off point for someone who hasn’t watched wrestling in a while and has memories of things such as the Hardy Boyz and the NWO.

PWG or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla is wrestling that embraces the fact that people grappling each other in differently bejewelled underwear is in fact, a little bit silly. This more lighthearted approach to wrestling has produced some of the most entertaining and gifable moments in recent wrestling memory.

WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment is the titan in the industry, often considered to be the top of the mountain for performers. Although the product isn’t what it was at one time but if you’re looking for easy to digest storytelling and often some excellent matches featuring some recognisable faces, then WWE is unrivalled.

World Wonder Ring Stardom or simply Stardom is a women’s only wrestling promotion that is really help push the boundaries for what women are capable of in wrestling. Simple characters and flashy style along with some incredible women working incredibly hard makes this promotion hard to ignore.

I could go on and on, but the only real way to know what promotion is right for you is to get out there and look for them. Who knows maybe you’ll find one you really enjoy.

But it’s just fake fighting?

If after all that explanation you still fall back to this let me bring all your doubts and scepticism to a grand crescendo.

It’s the one of the longest running soap operas on modern TV, but imagine instead of talking out their problems in the local pub the characters perform some punches and start smashing each other through tables.

Its this absurdity and over the top energy that makes wrestling such an interesting thing to watch. In what other show can you watch an undead wizard battling a pseudo male stripper in a violent cage match, only for it to interrupted by the wizards, also undead, demon brother who legitimately rips the cage door off and lays waste to the matches participants. This all may sound a bit silly but there’s something great about it because after all, wrestling is fake, nobody is trying to pretend it’s still real and embracing the silliness sometimes really goes a long way.

The best wrestling makes you forget its fake.

Some good examples of this include the rise of the Yes movement and Ronda Rousey’s first Wrestlemania match each of which rest on the idea that its not another wrestler trying to keep them down but instead its the company and the corporate heads whether in Ronda’s case because they didn’t respect MMA fighters or in the case of Daniel Bryan that he was deemed ‘too short’ despite being the most talented and beloved wrestler on the roster at the time.

So maybe next time you hear someone is watching wrestling or the next time you come across it on television, maybe don’t change the channel so quickly, maybe sit down give it 5 minutes and see if these world class athletes and magnificent storytellers can pull you out of your world and into theirs.


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