Even though wrestling singlets have become a symbol for the amateur part of the sport, these days everybody is busy tuning in to watch “professional wrestling”, most of them choosing the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).
Since people got bored of watching two wrestlers throw each other in a ring for almost 1 hour every match, the audiences began to dwindle and a new form of wrestling had to be introduced. This was how the current format was born, with short matches and the two athletes working together to tell an in-ring story as opposed to fighting with one another.
Companies like WWE exploded at the beginning of the new millennium and made wrestling a global phenomenon. Even though millions of people enjoy it and tune in on a weekly basis, there are those who claim it is “fake” and “staged”. This article aims to shed some light on how exactly wrestling is predetermined.
An Evolution Over Time
In the beginning, professional wrestling was very much similar to what amateur wrestling is today, with the competitors trying to win the match by being physically better than their opponent. Over time, people began to realize that doing this for a matter of (sometimes) two to three hours is not the best way to win over a crowd.
Thus appeared the “professional” wrestling of today, where the two athletes work together to tell a story in the ring and, like any story, it has to have an ending. As a comparison, think about the wrestlers as two writers who already know the ending to their story but they still have to build the entire book around it.
Even though the first wrestling promotion that did this started because it was trying to differentiate itself from the competition, nowadays everybody does it. People have grown used to this type of sport and, except for the purists, you will rarely see somebody complaining.
The “E” in WWE’s name comes from “Entertainment” and that is the defining characteristic of the company. As opposed to amateur wrestling where all the moves are done in an attempt to win, “professional” wrestlers have flashier and riskier moves, designed to awe the audiences worldwide. Jumping from the top rope is something you will never see in amateur wrestling.
Even though the ending of the match is usually pre-determined, there is a lot of room for improvisation until they get to that point. The athletes have a few “must-do” moves that are required to tell the story of the match. In wrestling-language, those moves are called “spots”. Other than that, wrestlers are free to use their bodies any way they see fit.
How Is It Put Together?
First, let’s clarify that the example we are about to give will be based on the way WWE operates its shows. Even though the framework is pretty much the same for any professional wrestling event in the world, every company will have its special way to operate.
The people who decide the outcome of the matches are, in WWE’s case, the writers. This large team of writers gets together and comes up with ideas, feuds, and rivalries which they then pitch to the chairman, Vince McMahon. As the legend who brought the company to its global standing, McMahon still is, to this day, calling the shots around the place.
The scripting process will start by determining who the winner of a match will be, and then putting together a script which, depending on the ability of those wrestlers, will be open and flexible or pretty rigid.
After the decisions are made, every match gets a booking agent or a producer, whose job is to make sure everybody involved knows the script and that the wrestlers learn their lines if they also have to speak. As we said, every match has some moves which need to be done, like John Cena’s shoulder tackle into a slam into a five knuckle shuffle, but they also improvise on the go.
Chemistry Of The Wrestlers
A wrestling match is like a choreographed dance who tends to follow the beats. As such, wrestlers who worked together a lot are very similar to dance partners by knowing each other’s moves and tendencies in the ring. Since they know what the other one will likely do and what moves they can use to counter, the whole event becomes more fluid and attractive to watch.
These guys will typically require few instructions before the match, as they already know what they need to do. On the other hand, putting together two wrestlers who have not worked together before and now they find themselves in a high profile match – Think Roman Reigns and The Undertaker -, will always require them to do some planning and rehearsals beforehand.
Referees are a very important part of a wrestling match, as they represent the athletes’ connection with the people backstage, many times those “people” being Vince McMahon himself. Since they wear an earpiece, the refs keep wrestlers updated with the time that has passed and let them know when they have to work toward the end of the match.
Since wrestling is a show that is mostly done live, in front of the audiences, mistakes will sometimes happen and are accepted as normal. Insider language calls these mistakes “botches” and many wrestlers will find their botch series video online. When these happen, referees also have the role of letting the wrestlers know how should they proceed.
If It Is Staged, What About the Injuries?
Injuries are, unfortunately, a very real part of a professional wrestler’s life. Even though the results are scripted, the offensive maneuvers often have damaging results. It’s true that by working together, wrestlers are scaling back that damage and helping one another, but they can’t help it all the time.
A backflip off the top rope will hurt even though you know the guy laying on the ground will not move and catch you. For example, because of the nature of his wrestling style, the wrestler Edge injured his neck multiple times and was in the end diagnosed with Cervical Spinal Stenosis, which meant possible paralyzation if he continued doing this.
The injuries that happen during a match or even when walking to the ring are some of the worst, such as Vince McMahon completely blowing both his kneecaps when trying to slide under the ring’s bottom rope. In times like these, wrestlers will always improvise and continue the show, and commentator Jerry Lawler even had a heart attack during a live RAW episode.
So You’re Saying Wrestling is Fake?
No, we most definitely are not. Wrestling is by no means a fake sport since the athletes feel and take every bump and hit. We’re saying it is scripted, having spent 100 years carefully building an illusion of legitimate competition for the sole purpose of entertaining millions of people.
Even though this sometimes makes for awkward situations (when “mortal enemies” Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the Iron Sheik were arrested in the same car for drug possession), wrestling is an art form like any other and one that demands constant and rigorous training. Any person who subjects himself or herself to this is worthy of praise and admiration.