To a wrestling fan, this question is ludicrous. What’s not to love about pro wrestling? The athleticism is breath-taking, the storytelling can be outstanding, and it’s the purest form of live entertainment. Matches like Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker or even Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada can make you laugh, cringe, and cry. They’re really that good.
However, to people that don’t love pro wrestling, this is a baffling question. Inside the bubble of pro wrestling, we’ve lost perspective. When people say they think pro wrestling is stupid, we agree, but only in the sense that Monday Night Raw is getting a little repetitive and that James Ellsworth has no business beating AJ Styles. We love pro wrestling so much that to even take a step back and look at it objectively is almost impossible. This article isn’t necessarily for my fellow wrestling fans, but for everyone out there who think it’s fake, stupid, or that it was better in the 90’s.
Why Do People Love Pro Wrestling?
This is every wrestling fan’s least favorite expression. Whether you think Roman Reigns is the best wrestler in the world or that Tetsuya Naito is underrated, all wrestling fans hate being told that the sport they love is fake. Trying to argue that pro wrestling isn’t fake is often a fruitless task because in a way, you’re both right. On one hand, pro wrestling is entertainment. The results of the matches are almost always determined before the opening bell, and often, each move has been choreographed beforehand. Finn Balor isn’t really a demon, the Undertaker isn’t dead, and Bray Wyatt doesn’t have a sibling named Abigail.
But that’s just the thing. All wrestling fans know that. Most wrestling fans have known that for decades. Wrestling fans watch wrestling the same way the rest of the world watches Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Except, when we watch our favorite shows, we’re watching amazing athletes pull off death defying stunts, live, in one take. Imagine if Norman Reedus had to film an entire episode of The Walking Dead, shooting extras with arrows without killing them, and improvising dialogue, and running around Atlanta, all in one take. You know damn well he couldn’t do it. He’d stumble over his dialogue, he’d get tired, or, ya know, he’d kill someone.
There’s a reason that people like Arnold Schwarzenegger love pro wrestling. The amount of physical strength and stamina it takes to wrestle a match on any level is impressive. Go to your bedroom, stand on your bed, and just fall on your back. Do that for half an hour, and then understand that a wrestling ring isn’t a trampoline, and it’s far less forgiving than your bed. Guys like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and John Cena aren’t just big for aesthetic purposes, they need that size to do their job adequately.
Wrestling fans know it’s not an actual competitive event. They know the results are predetermined, and they know that the clunky, awkward dialogue can be cheesy and cringe-worthy at times. But to define an entire sport based on the worst parts is like saying the NFL is a garbage league because you watched the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns play. Oh, and yes, it is a sport.
It’s Not a Sport
Early I asked you to fall on your bed for half an hour. Not everyone can be a pro wrestler. The physical requirements, as well as the toll it takes on your body, are too much for most people. The physical toll that wrestling requires forces almost all of it’s stars into retirement.
And before you start harping about how the results are predetermined, remember what the definition of sport really is. It’s not “completely real competition with genuine results” or else boxing wouldn’t be a real sport either (shots fired). Sports are defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
So just because it’s not as competitive as a league that has the same four teams in the playoffs every year (hey Tom Brady, how ya doin’), that doesn’t make it less of a sport. And while the outcome of a wrestling match may not be changed due to the performance in the ring, it may change the outcome of future bouts. Wrestlers are still athletes, and as such, some are better than others. Seth Rollins can do more things in the ring than Dean Ambrose, but Dean Ambrose is a better talker than Seth Rollins. The Big Show is seven feet tall (and you can’t teach that), so he does different things in the ring than Neville, who is only 5’10.
Some wrestlers are better than others, and as a result, can put on better matches. More often than not, a wrestler that puts on good matches will become popular with wrestling fans. Wrestling fans are more inclined to pay if they know they’re going to see their favorite wrestler, especially if they know their favorite wrestler is involved in a good story. So therefore, in theory, having a better match than others will improve your position in the company, leading to being more popular and making more money.
Just because you can’t see the score at home, and just because the matches don’t determine the real winner, that doesn’t mean wrestling isn’t competitive. Everyone wants to have the best match, and everyone wants to be the best in the world (hey Mickey Gall, how ya doin’).
Why Don’t You Just Watch UFC?
This is the really fun one. If pro wrestling fans love fighting so much, why don’t they watch real fights? This is actually a decent question. Why watched choreographed violence when we can watch the real thing?
Believe me, many of us do. Especially when we get crossover appeal like CM Punk (rest in peace) or Brock Lesnar. Some fighters, like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, even employ pro wrestling tactics, like developing a character or trash talking, in UFC. Most of the people who know Conor McGregor that aren’t hardcore UFC fans can’t name three of his opponents, but they know his personality. Some love him, some just pay to see him get beat up, but at the end of the day, people pay to see him.
UFC and Pro Wrestling are completely different things. There’s a difference between watching The Wire and sitting on the corner of a bad neighborhood all night. The two sports have violence in common, and ultimately that’s about it.
But ultimately, if you want to know the biggest difference between the two, just ask their biggest star, crossover superstar Brock Lesnar. When asked to respond to UFC’s Dana White calling WWE fake, Lesnar said “Of course, Dana, it’s fake. You’re right. Everybody knows that. But it’s still the same. You’re promoting the same thing we’re promoting. Dana White is promoting fights; we’re promoting fights. It just so happens that you can get a little more longevity out of our fight and out of our fighters because of the circumstances. It is a stage arena. Everybody knows that”.
And Lesnar is absolutely right. The WWE get more out of each fight because not only are they building the fights on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live every week, but because they’re taking care of their fighters. To say that professional wrestlers are more like stuntmen than fighters is still pretty accurate, but when you’re wrestling someone, you aren’t trying to cause them bodily harm. In UFC, you’ll kill someone in the octagon if you think it’ll help you win. In pro wrestling, you’re just trying to put on a good show.
Bang-Bang For Your Buck
And frankly, pro wrestling is better at that too. You get far more bang for your buck (Suck It!) with pro wrestling than UFC. You can spend $60 bucks on a UFC fight to watch Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor, only for them to win or lose in less than a minute. How stupid is that? Would you pay $15 dollars for a movie ticket just for previews? No. That’s a waste.
Meanwhile, for just $9.99, you can watch any WWE pay per view ever, and you’re almost guaranteed a few half hour matches. Matches with storytelling, death-defying stunts, and all the brother you can brother, brother.
That’s not to say that WWE is better than UFC. If a fighter is the best, they should easily dispatch their opponent. But I’m just highlighting the differences. Wrestling fans want stories. They want to go on an emotional adventure in their fights, and maybe they don’t want to see eight thousand Monster Energy Drink logos.
Why Do People Love Pro Wrestling?
That’s the best part. I have no idea. Sometimes I’m watching Monday Night Raw (which I cover… RIGHT HERE, at Last Word on Pro Wrestling), and I think “this is so stupid, why do I watch this crap?”. But then WrestleKingdom 11 happens, and I see Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada lock up, and I remember. I guess the thing about pro wrestling is that there’s something for everyone. Even for the most jaded cynic, there’s some kind of pro wrestling out there that will make them smile. Whether you want to see cheesy, over-the-top soap opera stuff like Lucha Underground, or maybe disgusting, over-the-top violence like Combat Zone Wrestling, or even good ol’ fashion family-friendly American fun like the WWE, there’s something for you.
Pro Wresting isn’t Hulk Hogan. Pro Wrestling isn’t John Cena. It isn’t the Rock, and it sure as hell isn’t Roman Reigns. It’s fake, it’s stupid, it’s cheesy, it’s been around far longer than you or and I, and it’ll be around long after we’re gone. It’s a stunt show, it’s a soap opera, it’s a vulgar display of pain threshold. I guess people love pro wrestling because pro wrestling can be whatever you want it to be. Pro wrestling is larger than life, and with so much out there for fans, I guess the better question is why don’t people love pro wrestling? That’s the question I can’t wrap my head around. To quote Paul Heyman, arguably the greatest manager in wrestling history, “Wrestling is an art form, I don’t worry about those who don’t get it, I worry about satisfying those who do”. Thanks for reading, brother.
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