The F-word: why wrestling is real

There are less than 24 days until WrestleMania. WrestleMania, for those who don’t know or who write off the professional wrestling industry entirely due to general dislike or irrational hatred, is the “Super Bowl of professional wrestling” — the biggest event in the wrestling industry, and a soon-to-be 31-year-old tradition for WWE.

When I tune in every Monday for RAW, watch promotional video packages hyping the event, or see old WrestleMania footage, I get excited. WrestleMania is a yearly reminder of why I love professional wrestling more than any other form of entertainment. Remembering historic moments that caused thousands in attendance (and millions watching at home) to erupt in cheer reminds me why, even when the stories being told aren’t the most compelling, I love the professional wrestling industry: it’s an art form unparalleled by any other.

It is true that a large amount of people have an inherent hatred for professional wrestling. I  always ask anyone who expresses disgust for pro wrestling to explain why, and the usual answer is one of the following: “It’s trying to be a real sport and it isn’t one” or “It’s fake.” These answers always baffle me. When I saw Oscar-nominated film American Sniper (political agenda aside), I didn’t grow angry because I knew Bradley Cooper wasn’t actually a sniper or that all of the scenes consisted of people who were paid to play a role. I was engrossed in the film because I suspended disbelief, allowed the film to immerse me, and ultimately wanted to believe. The same logic can be applied to any form of entertainment in the realm of fiction.

Unfortunately, pro wrestling has a severe negative stigma associated with it, apparently because it presents its characters as actual competitors. Potential rant aside, this stigma clouds many peoples’ view of pro wrestling, undermining the athletic prowess, acting ability, and demanding schedule of an industry like no other. Using just WWE as an example, as they are the undisputed juggernaut of the industry, its wrestlers (WWE Superstars) have a near-300 day schedule, perhaps even more, performing not only on Mondays and Tuesdays for its televised Raw and Smackdown shows, but on the other days of the week at non-televised shows for live local audiences.

But how can one care about some wrestler having a 300-day schedule if they don’t understand the intricacies of a pro wrestling match? A funny realization that many non-wrestling fans have sounds something like, “Wait, so it’s scripted?” Duh! Pro wrestling, to use an industry term, is a “work” (whereas UFC is a “shoot” — a real fight). When two pro wrestlers step into the squared circle against each other, they are not competing to hurt each other the most, but are working together to make their bout look as believable as possible, carefully constructing a story within the 20-by-20 confines of a rope-line ring.

This is why I hate the F-word. Pro wrestlers are not faking getting hit or slammed. Instead, they are skillfully presenting a light punch to the head as a devastating blow through the art of selling the maneuver as real. Unlike the film industry, there are no careful cuts to present a move as real. If a punch misses in a pro wrestling match, it will look like it missed. In fact, WWE has implemented slow motion cameras to highlight the physicality of pro wrestling maneuvers. When it’s slowed to a few frames per second, not even the most ardent hater can deny that a superkick connected with the jaw of a wrestler.

I know’s it difficult for some people to look past the over-the-top personas and occasional gimmicks (I’m looking at you steel cage matches) of professional wrestling, but beyond the surface there is an art form that dates as far back as the early 20th century. WrestleMania 31 is in 24 days. If you have never seen professional wrestling before, there is no better place to start than with WrestleMania.

If you take the time to watch it, you’ll see that professional wrestling is more than something to laugh at with your friends in Pierce Dining Hall when it’s on TV. It’s arguably the most unique and demanding art form that exists today.