Professional wrestling is a polarizing industry. Its fan base oozes with passion as they will do things like chanting ridiculous words or phrases, just to voice their support or dislike for a wrestler. Its critics, on the other hand, are unforgiving. These people will condemn pro wrestling as if it is something taboo.
Wrestling is a complex sport – if one considers it as such. It is a simulation of fighting mixed with storytelling and theatrics, thus the term sports entertainment, which was coined by World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon. Sport or not, it is undeniable that the performers possess real athleticism, cardio, timing, and creativity – feats that cannot be manufactured or hidden misdirection.
As a fan or a critic, however, you must be wondering: How much do you really know about pro wrestling? Local wrestlers Jake De Leon and Crystal of Philippine Wrestling Revolution (PWR), and Manila Wrestling Federation’s Robin Sane are here to debunk five myths about the biz.
5. Wrestling matches are choreographed
Watching wrestlers perform perfectly-timed moves and spots lead many to believe that performers practice each match beat-by-beat before the show. That, however, is far from the truth as most matches are built around communication inside the ring and the chemistry between the two combatants.
In some instances, matches are impromptu. WWE Superstar Sami Zayn revealed in an episode of the “Talk is Jericho” podcast that he never wrestled with Shinsuke Nakamura prior to their classic match at NXT Takeover: Dallas.
“I remember Matt Bloom, who’s head of the [WWE Performance Center] now, was saying, ‘hey, maybe you guys want to get in the PC and spar a little or something like that. I don’t want the first time you guys get in the ring ever, the first time you touch, to be at this big match’.”
“And unbeknownst to me, [Nakamura] said the same thing I said: ‘no, no, no, I prefer that’, which is a dangerous thing, but it’s what I know. Yes, I prefer for the first time to be in the show, instead of a ‘hey, let’s feel it out in the ring’ [and] feel how this guy moves and stuff. So we ended up putting something together.”
While planning is important to a match’s success, being adaptable is a trait of an excellent wrestler. “The wrestlers do talk about it backstage but you never know what’s going to happen out there,” JDL said.
He also explained that crowd reaction plays a role in what the action in the ring will look like. “The crowd may not like what you’re doing so you have to switch it up,” De Leon revealed. “So scripted it is, but choreographed it is not.”
4. Wrestling is trying to fool the audience
From its infancy stage dating back to the 19th century up until the early ’80s, pro wrestling really presented itself like a real combat sport. And in turn, fans believed that the fights are legitimate.
But during the peak of pro wrestling’s popularity in the ’90s, fans are in on the show. On the December 15th, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw, McMahon dropped the speech that killed kayfabe (or the practice of concealing the predetermined nature of matches and the cooperative aspects of the performances).
“We borrow from such program niches like soap operas, like The Days of our Lives or music videos such as those on MTV, daytime talk shows like Jerry Springer and others, cartoons like the King of the Hill on Fox, sitcoms like Seinfeld and other widely accepted forms of television entertainment,” the WWE chairman stated.
“We at WWF (presently WWE) think that you, the audience, are quite frankly tired of having your intelligence insulted,” McMahon added.
“The way you perceive [wrestling] depends [on the person],” Sane said. “For me, how people see wrestling is really interesting because sometimes they see it as drama, sometimes they see it as competition,” he continued.
3. Wrestlers use fake blood
Critics who like to discredit the toughness of pro wrestlers claim that fake blood is being used to make a match look more violent. That claim, however, is also false. Indeed, wrestlers, introduce blood into the equation to make a moment more intense. But how do they get color on their faces, exactly? There are two ways:
“There’s blading and there’s hard-way,” according to the De Leon
“So ‘blading’ is when wrestlers hide their blades somewhere in the wrist tape or in their trunks and they’re down and then they hide their face and then they pull it out and cut sideways above their eyelid and that when they start bleed profusely,” the former PWR champion explained.
“And then there’s hard-way,” De Leon told Manila Bulletin. “’Hard-way’ is basically cutting open a guy the hard way. So basically not using any blade; just [consensually] beating them up until they bleed.”
At WWE’s Judgement Day pay-per-view event in 2004, the late Eddie Guerrero faced John “Bradshaw” Layfield (JBL) in a no-disqualification match for the WWE heavyweight title.
To spice up the match, the Mexican star decided to do a blade-job, but accidentally cut so dip that it nicked an artery on his forehead. Guerrero lost so much blood that he went into shock backstage and reportedly suffered the effects for two weeks after the incident.
2. Wrestling does not hurt
Because of wrestling’s predetermined and cooperative nature, there is a perception that it does not hurt at all. Again, this assumption is far from the truth.
“Wrestling hurts man. When you’re falling down when you trip you want to break your fall, right?” PWR’s Crystal asked. “But we wrestlers we have to learn how not to break our fall. We just need to learn to actually fall—to bump.”
Another misconception is that wrestling promotions use rings that are designed for comfortable and pain-free landings. “When you’re bumping on the ring, that’s hard wood and there’s not much foam. It’s so painful,” revealed the PWR tag-team champ.
Also, De Leon mentioned that telling a wrestler that pro-wrestling does not hurt is disrespectful. “That is the worst thing that you could ever say to a wrestler, because if you end up saying that to the wrong wrestler, they will just end up punching you.”
1. Wrestling is fake
If you are a wrestling fan, you probably heard the phrase “wrestling is fake” at least once in your lifetime. As established, pro wrestling is predetermined but it does not claim to be actual competitive fighting.
To say it is “fake” is an unjust accusation according to Sane.
“It’s a real sport because we take real sports training; we take real sports risks. And we take real sports conditioning including the diet, the mental stability, the physical conditioning,” MWF’s Sane noted.
“When people say ‘wrestling is fake’, I just say ‘yeah, and so is your favorite TV show.’ That’s my reaction always,” De Leon quipped. “Whenever someone tells me ‘but [wrestling] is fake, right?’ I just say ‘yeah, so is Game of Thrones, so is Breaking Bad.’”
In response to critics of sports entertainment, “The Queen of Philippine Wrestling” commented that although wrestling is branded as fake, real things happen between and beyond the four corners of the ring.
“The pain that the wrestlers feel when they get bumped on their heads and when they slam themselves in the mats is real,” Crystal remarked. “The crowd reactions are real. The hate that we receive when we get booed is real. The emotion of the fans who support and who are there for us is real.”