by Tracy Chiles, who you can follow on twitter here: @TracyChiles
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
Wrestling is a weird sport. What other source of entertainment gives us grown men in tights pretending to hurt each other for made up reasons? Wrestling is so weird that it’s hard to even consider it a true sport. The matches are predetermined and you’d be hard pressed to find wrestling highlights on SportsCenter’s Top 10. Simply put, wrestling is weird, yet through multiple generations it has stood the test of time. But why?
Your instant knee-jerk answer might be “is it because the fans are oblivious to the fact that it’s fake?” Not quite, you generic ignorant person somehow asking me a question in my own article. First off, wrestling fans haven’t thought wrestling is real since the 70’s. Secondly, wrestling isn’t as fake as you might think. The chairs in wrestling are real. The tables are real. The thumbtacks, kendo sticks, and baseball bats? 100% real. More importantly, the risks wrestlers take are real and the injuries even more so. There’s no such thing as “fake blood” and those red marks aren’t make up. I could show you countless videos of proof but for your (and my) stomach’s sake I won’t.
In fact, it is the realism that appeals to so many fans. Each wrestler has their own style and each style has its own set of risks. If you watch closely you’ll notice a number of stiff forearms and kicks that fully connect. Over time it becomes a game of guessing if what you saw was real or scripted. When wrestling is at its best, even the most trained eye can be fooled. I would never wish harm on a wrestler but the pain a superstar endures can, at times, win me over on a match. The pain, the risks, and the blood only legitimizes wrestling as a sport.
Your next thought very well could be, “isn’t wrestling for kids? Adults don’t actually watch this stuff do they?” Definitely not, you silly article-wandering stranger. No, wrestling is not for kids. That’s not to say kids don’t watch- in fact kids make up a large percentage of the audience. However, it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out adults take the larger percentage. Next time you catch Raw on TV, take a look at the audience- you’ll notice it’s an adult dominated pastime. The content is filled with awful “edgy” jokes and while the show is now family friendly, the target demographic will always be the paying customers- the adults.
Let’s settle a final question that may still be lingering on your mind. “If you enjoy WWE so much, shouldn’t you enjoy MMA even more?” Well that might be the most intelligent question you’ve asked. Truthfully WWE and MMA, and more specifically UFC, have a lot aesthetic similarities but at the core they couldn’t be more different. UFC is a sport first with a narrative formed over it. WWE will always be a narrative with sport aspect coming second. Which is extremely important to remember when watching wrestling. You are not watching a wrestling show, you are watching a show about a wrestling show. What you are seeing is not real and that, in itself is the best part about wrestling. Have I confused you yet?
We don’t watch simply because we want to see people beat up. If we did then we wouldn’t need wrestling. UFC fills that role, and those looking for that will find it easily available. What WWE fans watch for is something more. It’s to be surprised. To be excited. To feel something. To see a story being told in front of their eyes. And of course, once that story is told, to talk about it- discuss, debate, repeat. MMA simply doesn’t offer the same experience because the stories can’t be fully controlled. As much showmanship as UFC tries to put on, the product it will always be different from WWE.
So now that I’ve corrected your unfortunate misconceptions, let’s discuss some unique aspects of wrestling that make it worth watching. When I was first introduced to wrestling the biggest draw to me was the crowd. They reacted to things.. strangely. Some good guys were booed and A LOT of bad guys were cheered. I wrote it off as the fans being snarky but the problem kept persisting. It took months of research and watching weekly to even remotely understand. (If only there was someone to write articles on how to introduce casual fans to these issues… *wink wink* stay tuned.) While researching this issue I discovered one of my favorite parts of wrestling: the community.
The wrestling community is truly something else. Millions of people from around the globe all come together over people pretending to hurt each other. You’d have better luck reading hieroglyphics than a wrestling forum on the internet. The sheer amount of wrestling terms such as heel, face, kayfabe, and jobbers can be more than discouraging. However I promise you it’s worth it. People with absolutely nothing in common have in-depth conversations analyzing every single aspect of the show and it’s amazing. It gives thousands of people a sense of belonging that can be so hard to find.
So why wrestling? Well, why Game of Thrones? Why Pretty little Liars or Greys Anatomy? Why anything? Because we want to be entertained. We want to laugh, we want to be shocked, and see a good story told by people that are good at telling it. Life is boring and we all crave something to make life a little less boring. In the end, that’s all wrestling is. It’s just another form of entertainment and for my money it’s one of the craziest, strangest, and most entertaining forms out there. So when you say why wrestling I say, why not?