By Chloe Hunter
The spectacle of professional wrestling is rife with colorful ring gear and exaggerated moves that require skill along with peak physical conditioning from its performers. The energy within the crowd prompts boisterous outbursts from participants and fans alike. All of this by itself is a show, but behind the scenes a careful, thoughtful process hides under a fiercely exuberant and violent shell.
“You know it’s fake right?” is often heard by the wrestling enthusiast. Granted, some of wrestling’s exaggerated moves and trash talk may be seen as tacky, cheap knockoffs of other combat sports. However, professional wrestling belongs in a category of its own. It is a singular mixture of drama and athletic ability that does not belong anywhere else.
Few can effectively deliver the exaggerated lines and unreal stories. It takes skill or have the mega personality to become these outrageous characters. Many wrestlers have had the looks and ability,, but were held back by their inability to connect with the crowd. An example of this is WWE superstar Roman Reigns, who struggled to deliver promos on many occasions, resulting in fans perceiving him as dull and actively shutting his promos down with roaring taunts.
Obviously pro wrestling is not genuine combat, except for the rare occurrence when outside drama makes its way to the ring. However, the grand allure of pro wrestling is that it is scripted. It should in some ways be unbelievable and that is what makes it glorious.
Kayfabe is the suspension of disbelief on the audience’s part along with the wrestler’s intent to portray events and beef outside of the ring as real. The back and forth between wrestlers and the crowd is crucial, with the audience playing a major role in terms of energy. A worrying trend is that of the ‘What Chant” in which the crowd will interrupt wrestlers in between lines to shout “What”. As stupid as it sounds shinanigans like that when used to the extreme harms the show by taking everyone out of the reality in favor of disrupting the performance.
Some people feel clever for pointing out the obvious, acting as if declaring wrestling as fake is somehow exposing the industry. We all know the truth. Yet, wrestling is a performance art, a mixture of many traits. One of the traits key to enjoying the performance is the dismissal of reality. Self righteously professing that wrestling is phony is proof that you don’t get it.
A wrestler’s ability to control and strongly influence a crowd’s reaction is a powerful skill set that I believe is not credited enough. A wrestler’s ability to elicit reactions such as laughter or igniting the crowd in rage or excitement does not always come directly from the writers room, it is a charisma that is perfected some may even say innate. Former WWE superstar and current AEW wrestler Chris Jericho is an amazing example of charisma that still tracks whether he is playing the good guy or the bad guy.
The athleticism of professional wrestlers compared to real combat sports is often side glanced. You could not be face to face with a wrestler and claim they are not athletic. Many forms of athleticism are presented in professional wrestling, from the hulking monsters that bench press adults over ropes to smaller underdogs who fly high and outmaneuver their opponents. The goal remains the same, to tell a story.
As a child I looked at the screen in awe of the abilities and the seemingly real-life superheroes and villains. Now, as an adult, I see the man behind the curtain. But I still admire the blood, sweat and tears that are put into creating such a unique experience for the fans.