Pro Wrestling as Theatre Part 5: Silent Theatre & the Power of Facial Expression

Matthew HemphillCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2012


Facial expressions may be one of the most ignored and forgotten parts of theatre and acting out there today.

The advent of the green screen and CGI technology has replaced emotive energy as the leading part of theatre.

It's shame because it is also one of the most important parts of getting a character across to an audience.

When words are used, they limit a character.  They make it so that they have a certain pattern of thoughts and a certain reason for why they do things.  This limits the impact that they have and the amount of the audience they can connect with.

Using facial expressions to convey emotions hits a much deeper.  Instead of using words or ideas, it needs something that is universal to convey the character's feelings.

Silent films knew how to do this and made sure to blend these facial expressions with exaggerated motions, like the wrestling moves seen in the ring today, to progress the story.

The wrestler who understands this the most is Undertaker.  He needs very few words to convey what he is feeling not only in promos, but in the ring as well.

In his match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25, he went for a tombstone and after a close two-count, Shawn Michaels kicked out.  The resulting expression of disbelief that lingered on Undertaker's face conveyed emotion that was able to tell fans everything in a way that words would have failed to.

He isn't the only wrestler to do this.

When CM Punk joined the Nexus, he did it in a way that made fans understand.  He sat in a chair contemplating his options.  The audience could see the gears turning in his head as he slowly made his decision and took the reins of Nexus.

His change from lone wolf after the collapse of the Straight Edge Society back to cult leader is one of the best examples of silence mixed with proper use of expression and emotion.

He never said one word and he made only minimal movements or gestures.

It was the power of silent theatre at its best and something that only improved with sound that captured the audience's reaction.

It is one of the key components to theatre and it is tailor-made for wrestling.

It's just a shame fans don't see it more.