Professional wrestling (or as it is sometimes called, sports entertainment) takes some understanding to fully be engaged in and enjoy.
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Many people dismiss it as “fake,” which the veterans, current wrestlers, and fans find offensive because it’s considered an insult to the athletes who put their bodies through extreme pain while wrestling. Another stigma is a “soap opera for males.” This expression implies that the wrestlers are acting more than legitimately hurting each other. Although the wrestlers over-dramatize their pain in their matches, they still do get injured. To those who follow the industry regularly, wrestling is a lifestyle for the men and women who travel all year round to entertain the fans who pay to see the wrestlers compete and tell the stories their characters and matches are intended to portray.
It is a business that features a mixture of athleticism and theatre, with the most well-known promotion being World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). There are other promotions around the world with entertaining matches and storylines, such as Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor Wrestling (both of which are part of what is called the independent wrestling scene), and the Japan-based New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Whichever promotion a fan or non-fan chooses to watch, the promotion will do its best to produce a show worth the price of admission.
The matches are fun to watch because of the stories the wrestlers tell through the moves performed in the ring. There is a unique group of terms and expressions that the industry insiders and hardcore fans know and use when talking about the storylines, characters, and matches. The most common terms describe the “hero” and “villain” in a match or rivalry, with the “hero” being called a “babyface” and the “villain“ being called a “heel.” Depending on if the creative writers in a promotion feel that a wrestler’s character is stagnant or stale, they may write a storyline where the wrestler switches from being a “babyface” to a “heel,” or vice versa. When the switch from “babyface” to “heel” or vice versa occurs, it is called a “face turn” or a “heel turn.” Some wrestlers may show traits of both a “babyface” and a “heel,” in which case, they are called a “tweener.”
Besides the terms “babyface” and “heel,” when a wrestler agrees to lose their scheduled match, or is told they will lose and goes along with it to earn their paycheck, this is known as “doing the job” for their opponent. There are wrestlers, who are known as “jobbers,” that are hired for the purpose of losing most of the time to make the popular wrestlers look more dominant. The other expressions for losing matches are to ”put over” the opponent and to “stare at the lights.” When a wrestler is booked to win a match, that is called “going over” their opponent. When the wrestlers talk on the microphone to hype up a match and rivalry, either backstage or in the ring, that is called “cutting a promo.” This is designed to enhance the storytelling that will happen in the ring.
The wrestlers will rehearse the moves they plan on doing in their match before the match officially happens. During the match itself, the fans can sometimes see them whispering to each other as one wrestler has their opponent in a headlock, sometimes called a “rest hold.” This is done so the wrestlers can communicate what moves are to come next, and they will remind each other as they are moving around the ring, which is known as “calling spots.” Some matches are given more time to transpire depending on the wrestlers in the match and the stakes involved, such as a championship match or a match to end a rivalry. In these cases, the wrestlers will get more creative about the sequences of moves they perform and how the match should end. For instance, the wrestlers will rely on a concept known as “ring psychology” to get the audience (in the arena or watching at home) more emotionally invested in the match and to tell a story in order to build up hype to the pre-planned finish. If the wrestlers are more experienced at this, they are able to bring out very powerful emotions from the audience, especially if the “babyface” in the match has a strong emotional connection with the audience and has been portrayed as an underdog in the storyline leading up to the match.
Professional wrestling is fun to watch for those who enjoy it, and while it is not enjoyable for everyone, it is important to respect the opinions and tastes of other people and to let those who watch it have a good time.
Michael Westwood is a 25 year old college graduate from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Independent of being a contributor to Step Up, he is looking to pursue a career in professional writing of some type. His hobbies include watching professional wrestling (e.g. WWE and other promotions) and watching select TV sitcoms from today's television (e.g. Big Bang Theory, The Goldbergs) and classic programs as well (e.g. Seinfeld, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond). He also has an ongoing online forum designed to inform people about the autism spectrum called "Ask Mike," which is part of an autism awareness group called All 4 Autism, which is based in Florence, South Carolina.