How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love “the Fake Shit”
If you’re a wrestling fan, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard something to that effect before. The very second after you mention that you enjoy watching some action unfold in a 20×20 squared circle, someone feels the need to pipe up and reinforce that “WWE bullshit is fake”. Forget that you may have been talking about a promotion besides WWE. Forget that calling pro-wrestling “fake” is like calling fire “hot”. That person just needs to tell you how dumb you are for liking what you like because they watch “the real shit”.
If you’re a fan of combat sports such as MMA and are not a fan of pro-wrestling, I’m not going to aim to make you a fan. Anyone can like or dislike anything they wish. Hell, if you put pickles on my cheeseburger I may be apt to smash you directly in your dome with the pickle jar. I’m also not going to go into depth on what pro-wrestling is, because you’re currently on a website with tons of audio to stuff into your earholes relating to that very subject. What I am going to do is tell you what pro-wrestling is not. If you still don’t get the appeal of pro-wrestling after reading this that’s perfectly fine, but you may just understand the genre a little bit more.
PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING IS NOT A COMBAT SPORT, NOR DOES IT TRY TO BE.
Professional wrestling is not a combat sport, nor does it try to be. From my experience, this is the biggest hang-up that many people from the combat sports world have. Some people claim that it’s just a bunch of fake fights, so you have to be a brain-dead loser idiot moron [insert-homophobic-insult-from-middle-school-1999-here] to watch it. Are they wrong in saying it’s fake? Of course not! But it’s just as fake as Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris from Way of the Dragon.
I recall Joe Rogan shutting down pro wrestling while watching this very scene by saying “it’s a movie, motherfucker”. However, movies and pro-wrestling are much more similar than one would think. Just as Bruce and Chuck were telling a story within the realm of film, Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat were telling a story with their match for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania III. Whether it’s Norris going out on his shield after a brutal battle, or Steamboat finally getting redemption after being injured by Savage, both are classics in their respective genres and both tell great stories. Fictional stories by definition are fake, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Fictional stories by definition are fake, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Even in promotions which focused more on realism, such as the wrestling featured on the UK’s World of Sport series, the focus is still storytelling. This particular program didn’t exactly have Big Daddy come down to the ring in a tanker truck and soak Giant Haystacks with gallons upon gallons of Earl Grey tea from a hose, but rather the storytelling is done in the ring itself. A person reacting to, or “selling”, a slam or hold is how the story progresses. That “selling” continues until the competitor either fights through and gets the victory, or ultimately succumbs to the pain. That format goes for nearly every pro-wrestling match as well, whether it’s pumped up by pre-match drama or not.
Although pro-wrestling is not a combat sport, they both certainly influence each other. Since pro wrestling’s in ring work is based in combat, you do see a lot of real-life techniques interlaced with the more outlandish moves. For example, Daniel Bryan’s finishing move, the “Yes Lock”, was an omoplata combined with a neckcrank/crossface. The Undertaker often uses a move called “Hell’s Gate” which is a gogoplata. Not to mention the many armbars used over the years.
They are legitimate fighting techniques, but they can also be used to tell stories. Remember the scene in Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson’s character Riggs makes Gary Busey’s character Joshua take a little nap in the mud using a triangle choke? Think something like that. Lethal Weapon isn’t trying to be real fighting, but rather it’s using a fighting technique like a triangle choke to help tell the story of the movie. This is the same with any professional wrestling technique, whether it’s based in reality or completely flashy and ridiculous.
They are legitimate fighting techniques, but they can also be used to tell stories.
Combat sports has drawn influence from pro-wrestling as well. Even in an aspect that you wouldn’t think of, such as GLORY Kickboxing’s elaborate light shows during entrances. Obviously, there is the trash talking element of MMA and combat sports, which is heavily influenced by pro-wrestling’s promos. In pro-wrestling, promos are used to further a story line. In MMA it’s not only used for fight promotion, but also as a means of mental warfare.
Perhaps the best example of that being the brothers Diaz, Nick and Nate, taking verbal jabs at their opponents during a fight. Even after defeating B.J. Penn, Nick Diaz looked directly at the camera in the most menacing manner I may have ever seen. He wasn’t at all happy that he just won, and he only had one thing to say. “Where you at, Georges? Where you at, motherfucker?” This helped heighten the drama in regards to the inevitable fight between Nick and George St. Pierre for the UFC World Welterweight Championship, not unlike C.M. Punk’s infamous “Pipebomb” promo helped add excitement to his match with John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011.
Pro-wrestling, while not a combat sport, is an exciting form of fiction with roots in combat, film, theatre, improv, and many other forms of entertainment. It provides exciting, dramatic action to many faithful viewers all over the world, just like traditional film and television do. Even though pro-wrestling and “real” combat sports may be worlds apart, you may be able to draw some of your own parallels yourself. You may even find yourself entertained by the wonderful, wacky world of pro-wrestling in the process.