Since the first time I watched pro wrestling sitting in my Grandfather’s lap some 15 years ago I began to try and figure out what exactly I was watching.
Like any person I like to understand things. I like basketball. I also understand what it is. Basketball is an athletic competition that focuses on team work and physical conditioning. That is simple to understand and I think that is simple for any person to figure out.
However, pro wrestling is a very different concept. I have struggled for a long time trying to define pro wrestling. Here is how wrestling is clearly, yet unclearly, defined in the dictionary sitting on my shelf:
- “Professional Wrestling: A form of performance entertainment where the participants engage in simulated sporting matches.”
While the definition isn’t wrong it is very vague and like any definition does not give much depth to what it is trying to “define.”
So I wanted to dig a little deeper. The common consensus is that professional wrestling, the modern entertainment based version, began to emerge sometime in the early 20th century during the heyday of carnivals and amusement parks. It began as a simulated sport where the winner was already decided and this concept has gone unchanged for 100 years. They did this to simply entertain.
Over time this became very popular reaching its pinnacle in the 1980s.
Even knowing where it began I still could not rightfully tell you what this is. A simulated wrestling match where a bad guy faces a good guy in a wrestling contest where the winner is mapped out already and the wrestling match is improved by the performers to appear to be a real fight.
That is what you see every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday night. At the base level that is what pro wrestling is, but underneath all that pro wrestling is much more.
Professional wrestling’s biggest problem is also the very thing it has been since it's very humble beginnings. It is two things and the thing that has plagued the WWE is that it tries to serve two masters.
On one hand it tries to be a legitimate sport, but it seems a majority of sports fans don’t take an interest in it due to the fact that they see it as a “fake sport” which it very well is to some degree.
On the other hand it also tries to be a form of entertainment. That would be fine, but the entertainment world does not seem to understand pro wrestling and sometimes only sees it as some sideshow for bodybuilders and something rednecks enjoy watching.
To me, however, I see wrestling as a satire. It took me awhile to come to this, but I now see pro wrestling as a joke. It seems that it makes fun of professional sports and even at times the world of entertainment.
You see how the “Heel” is built as an often narcissistic asshole? That is a direct play off the rival sports team or the antagonist in a novel or a film. He is meant to be hated and on the flip side you see the “Babyface” who is suppose to be loved and embraced by the fans much like your favorite football team or the hero in a novel or the main character in a movie.
Even the stories that are mapped out over periods of time in wrestling promotions are based on concepts of irony and over the top events leading up the climax of a rivalry.
Pro wrestling creates a place where fans can not only appreciate a simulated test of skill and precision of fabricated athletic moves, but it is also making light of the world of entertainment and sports.
The WWE claims to call what they are doing “Sports Entertainment,” but they are actually producing a very over the top and cliché from of both sports and entertainment. It is very rare that something “subtle” happens in the world of pro wrestling.
The best example I could give is that pro wrestling is more or less a parody or the same thing it wants to be and that is why so many people seem to misunderstand it.
Think of it as the Space Balls to George Lucas's sci-fil epic;Star Wars. Space Balls is a film making fun of another film. Pro Wrestling is a form of entertainment/sports that is making fun of other forms of entertainment and sports.
I might be over thinking this, but that is how I analyze things.
You see pro wrestling is criticized often for being childish, cheesy, and campy.
What these people don’t understand is that pro wrestling has always been this way and that if you tried to change it than it wouldn't be pro wrestling anymore.
If you didn't like pro wrestling as a child than you most likely never will. It is the strangest mix of entertainment and sports ever created and it is not everyone’s taste. However, I think I began to like it even more when I finally figured out what it was I was exactly watching.
The best thing I have ever said on this website since I began writing here was this.
“People hate what they do not understand…”
This rings true even still. It holds true for pro wrestling, for TNA, for ROH, and even the WWE. People don’t seem to understand that pro wrestling is a parody and meant to be tongue and cheek. This fact hinders people’s enjoyment of the product.
You can’t possibly enjoy something if you aren’t, at least somewhat, able to grasp some part of what it actually is.