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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Legitimacy of Professional Wrestling
March 8, 2007 by Michelle S.


Editor's Note: The author of this column can be contacted via the OWW Forums, where this submission was first posted. Feedback can be posted automatically by clicking here - but remember you must sign up for the forums to post feedback on a column. Thanks you!


Professional wrestling dates all the way back to the Spartans from ancient times. Getting into the nineteenth century, professional wrestling was a respected and prestigious sport. In the twentieth century, rumors arose that matches were predetermined and tactics were underhanded which posed the question whether or not professional wrestling was legitimate. Around that time, the word "kayfabe" was adopted by professional wrestlers and the principle of kayfabe lasted until the late 1980s. Kayfabe meant that professional wrestlers could never divulge to anyone under any circumstances that professional wrestling was anything less than what it seemed to be in the ring. In the 1980s, the owner of a wrestling promotion called the WWF, Vince McMahon, began to call professional wrestling, sports-entertainment. Some believed that it was a nice way of saying that it was all fake. Even though professional wrestling is often referred to as sports-entertainment that does not mean that it is all fake.

Some believe that since wrestling is predetermined that wrestlers know everything they are going to do before they do it in the ring. However, the truth is that not all decisions are made backstage before the match. Many times, wrestlers have to think on their feet and call the matches in the ring. Furthermore, wrestlers change their routine depending on the audience reaction. Wrestlers go out in the ring to put on a good match which means telling a story and tapping into the crowd's emotions which goes hand in hand with psychology. "It's psychology that truly gets a wrestler over, as long as the work he does in the ring is delivered with skill and passion" (Guerrero and Krugman 48). "This is the best definition of psychology--making the unreal seem believable" (Guerrero and Krugman 48).

Not all matches go as they are supposed to which is known as a shoot match. Shoot matches move away from the initial formula of professional wrestling which is "to pit a baby face against a heel" ("Professional Wrestling"). A "shoot" is when a wrestler is really trying to hurt another wrestler. Shoot wrestlers specialize in "stretching" their opponents. "Stretching" opponents means that the wrestler is legitimately hurting them. Shoots occur in matches where wrestlers truly get angry resulting in an actual fight. Therefore, a shoot is when wrestlers legitimately duke it out until one of them emerges as the winner.

Working almost every day during the fifty-two weeks of the year is grueling and painful for the wrestlers. They need to train each day for many hours to maintain their physical condition because if they do not, they will run out of gas during their matches. Wrestlers practice for years to learn moves and how to execute them safely while still making it appear dangerous. WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero recalls his experience with one of his brothers teaching him how to wrestle, "he'd stiff me--actually hit me--a while and then he would grab my head and ram it into the turnbuckle hard--boom!" (Guerrero and Krugman 22). "I didn't realize it at the time, but by kicking my ass, they were teaching me respect. They were showing me how to respect the business. They were treating me like they would treat any kid who wanted to learn how to wrestle" (Guerrero and Krugman 23). They know how to hit the ropes and how to take offensive and defensive moves. Wrestlers are constantly trying to learn new ways not to get hurt, but getting hurt is unavoidable and is just part of professional wrestling.

All wrestlers train how to fall and take bumps. A "bump" is when a wrestler lands off an opponent's moves. They learn how to fall in order to protect themselves from danger. Additionally, wrestlers help their opponents take bumps, for instance, wrestlers make sure that their opponents hit the mat back first instead of getting slammed down on their neck. Wrestlers take hundreds of bumps a month and then they go wrestle the next day. Taking bumps is so painful that sometimes some wrestlers use prescription pain medicines just to get through the day and deal with the pain.

One thing that is very common in wrestling is gruesome matches where wrestlers get drenched in blood, generally known as "the crimson mask". The main method of getting "the crimson mask" is blading. In blading, wrestlers use a tiny sliver of metal in their glove or wristband to inflict a cut on their foreheads which means that the blood they shed is completely real. The head wounds bleed profusely even though it leaves only a minor wound. However, blading is risky because it leads to scarring and if not done correctly, wrestlers can sever an artery.

Wrestlers use particular methods to reduce pain and damage. For example, when a wrestler delivers a leg drop and hits their opponent with an extended thigh, the force would then spread over a larger area and it would hurt and bruise, but it would not do as much damage as an elbow drop. These methods work with punches because sometimes, punches turn into open-handed slaps at the last second, so quickly that the audience does not notice. Other times, they just use their forearms instead of their fists. Basically, these methods allow wrestlers to avoid injury by spreading out the force of the impact.

Something else that make people question the legitimacy of professional wrestling are the steel chairs. In actuality, those steel chairs are one hundred percent steel. Steel chairs are almost always used flat side first since using the edge is tremendously dangerous. According to WWE Legend, Hulk Hogan, steel chairs are used sometimes with the edge: "One night after I came back to WWE, they told me they were going to swing a chair at me and they were going to send it. I've been in the wrestling business more than twenty years and I didn't know what that term meant. Then I got into the ring and they didn't hit me with the flat of it. They hit me with all the sharp parts coming at my face. Thank God I got both my hands up in time, or I would still be in the hospital--maybe dead. Now I know what send it means. It means no regard for safety whatsoever" (Hogan and Friedman 335). The steel chairs do hurt because if they did not hurt, then the wrestlers would not need to put their hands up for protection.

Slight miscalculations can lead to severe injuries for the wrestlers. For instance, a piledriver is a move in which wrestlers drives their opponent into the mat headfirst. If it is executed correctly, the victim's head only comes within inches of the mat, but never touches it. Yet, miscalculate it by a few inches and serious injury will result. The list of wrestlers injured by that move is a very long and famous one. That is why the piledriver is such a popular move because not only does it look dangerous, but it actually is dangerous. A "botch" also ties in with miscalculations. A "botch" is when a wrestler fails to execute a move correctly. Both miscalculations and botches can lead to brutal injuries.

If wrestling is all fake, then there would not be as many wrestlers continually getting injured. Wrestling promotions all around the world tell their audience not to try what the wrestlers do at home. If any normal person who did not have any training at all did what wrestlers do in the ring, they would most definitely end up with numerous amounts of injuries. "Wrestlers get hurt in the ring all the time. Every night somebody tears a muscle or twists a knee or breaks a bone. It's almost always an accident. But once in a while, there's bad blood between two guys, and the guy who's supposed to lose just says, "I'm beating him." That's when it gets ugly, because it spills over into the dressing room" (Hogan and Friedman 131). "In this line of work, you give your opponent your body, and in turn, you take care of him. You don't jerk people around. This is a very serious business, and you don't mess around with another guy's health" (Michaels and Feigenbaum 71). During their career, wrestlers experience several injuries, both severe and minor. Yet, wrestlers continue to wrestle or they go into rehab to heal as quickly as possible in order to wrestle once again.

Undoubtedly, there is no reliable reason to say that wrestling is all fake. In wrestling, wrestlers need to make everything as realistic as possible and if it is not, then they have to make it realistic. "One of the keys to being a good wrestler is to make it look physical out there without actually killing your opponent. However, some just club the heck out of each other" (Michaels and Feigenbaum 65). Also, there is nothing fake about falling off a ladder, getting power bombed on a flaming table, getting slammed on steel, or being snapmared on the mat. High-flying leaps are among the most dangerous moves in wrestling because they cannot be faked. Wrestling is exceedingly real even if some people in the world decide to think otherwise.

Sports-entertainment and professional wrestling are two interchangeable words, which means that no matter what people call it, it will still not be all fake. "Wrestling is all about guys kicking and scratching and fighting to get to the top" (Austin, Ross, and Brent 247). Timing and communication are two important keys, but things tend to go wrong from time to time no matter how careful the wrestlers are in the ring. Every wrestler goes out there to entertain the fans to the best of their ability. Take Mick Foley, for example, whenever he goes out to the ring, he does not want to cheat the fans out of their money. By doing so, he will willingly get thrown off cages, have his body set on fire, or even have thumbtacks stuck in his body. Not everybody has the ability or talent to wrestle injured, execute wrestling moves, sell their character, and get a reaction from the audience while exercising great care to ensure that nobody gets severely injured. Countless people in this world still say that professional wrestling is completely fake and well, every time they say that, the fact of the matter is that they will always be lying.

They put their bodies on the line for the fans. Don't diss wrestling.

Credits:
- Austin, Steve, Jim Ross, and Dennis Brent. The Stone Cold Truth. New York: Pocket Books, 2003.
- Guerrero, Eddie, and Michael Krugman. Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story. New York: Pocket Books, 2005.
- Hogan, Hulk, and Michael J. Friedman. Hollywood Hulk Hogan. New York: Pocket Books, 2002.
- Michaels, Shawn, and Aaron Feigenbaum. Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story. New York: Pocket Books, 2005.
- "Professional Wrestling." 5 Nov. 2006 .

by Michelle S. (View/Submit your feedback here)..




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