A New WWE Debate: Is Pro Wrestling a Form of Art?

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012


The debate between fans over whether pro wrestling counts as a sport dates back to the day everyone found out the results were predetermined.

I think we still had a Roosevelt in office when we found that out, so it has been quite a while.

Once people became aware that none of the fights were real and everything was planned out in advance, many immediately dismissed it as a sport.

Once the "sport" and everything in it was dubbed as "fake," there was a stigma attached to wrestling for a very long time.

These days the debate is just as alive as it was when it started, especially now that wrestlers do so much more than they did decades ago. If you watch a match from the '50s, you might see a technical clinic, but you will never see a Moonsault or a move like the RKO.

Wrestling has evolved, adapted and adopted other aspects into it to make the product seem fresh year after year in order to meet the needs and desires of the fans.

So while the debate about whether it counts as a sport can be discussed until the sun comes up, we don't really ever hear anyone ask if pro wrestling counts as art.

I know. The idea of calling grown men in tights hitting each other with chairs "art" seems strange.

But when you really examine pro wrestling from every angle and consider each aspect of it, then it seems like the case could be made for calling it art.

Allow me to elaborate.

Choreography exists in many forms of art

The matches are set up ahead of time—or choreographed, if you like. Wrestlers go into the ring knowing at least an outline of what will happen in the match.

You know who else performs within this type of situation?


Dancing is a form of art dating back to the earliest parts of human civilization, and there have been any number of purposes for performing choreographed dances from wanting to make it rain to celebrating a harvest.

Wrestling is like dancing in many ways. It requires a high level of physical fitness, the ability to perform well with others and, in many cases, a high risk of injury.

Dancers will tell you that being a professional or aspiring dancer is just as taxing and physically demanding as any sport out there.

Chris Jericho might know this to be true more than anyone, as he has trained as a wrestler his whole career and was on Dancing with the Stars, where he had to transition to holding a partner in a dip instead of a Boston crab.

Figure skating is also art, and it too is physical and choreographed. It is possibly one of the hardest sports to master, as it requires the use of literally every muscle in your body while also putting on a performance on the slipperiest surface imaginable.

I am not saying I want to see a show called "Kane on Ice," but wrestlers should be given as much credit for how well they perform under conditions similar to those under which dancers and figure skaters have to perform.

Wait a second..."Kane on Ice" would be awesome. Who do I talk to about making that happen?

Acting is a form of art

In-ring performance is only one slice of the much larger pie that is pro wrestling.

Wrestlers have to be able to act to really get ahead in the business. The last time I checked, acting is considered a form of art.

So does that make pro wrestlers artists?

Theater is undeniably art, and wrestling is essentially "action theater," so why shouldn't we classify it under the same category?

Allow me to make a comparison that would make most English, Theater and Literature professors want to shoot me.

Hamlet is a story of revenge written by William Shakespeare, and it centers on Prince Hamlet seeking retribution against his uncle, Claudius, for murdering his father. This play has been performed over and over in numerous countries by countless actors, and it is universally accepted as a piece of art.

While Vince Russo and Michael Hayes do not represent the current generation's William Shakespeares, they do have to construct stories with somewhat similar circumstances.

Murder never really enters into the wrestling storylines, but revenge is in just about all of them. Who is to say the feud between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels is not art?

Think about all the drama and suspense that came along with the encounters between two of the greatest of all time.

Comedy is well established in the world of art

Comedy performed as theater dates back to the ancient Greeks, whose comic poets would perform in the theaters.

While not all comedy might be considered art, most comedy could be deemed artistic. Whether it is a sitcom, film, stand-up comedian, Garfield cartoon or a humorous book, there are examples of comedy as art all around us.

Wrestling uses comedy heavily, because in order to be taken seriously, you have to prove that you don't always take yourself seriously.

The current program between Kane and Daniel Bryan is a perfect example of WWE using comedy to enhance their product. Additionally, much of what we have seen between them has taken place in non-wrestling settings, which shows that WWE is always willing to try something different.

The great thing about art is that its definition is subjective. Almost anything can be art to anyone, and that is why comedy is considered a form of art in almost all mediums.

Whenever the subject of defining art comes up, I think back to an episode of Parks and Recreation in which Ron Swanson is helping with an art project. He takes a few photos and says, "Boom: sad wall. Boom: sad desk. It's art. Anything is anything. Boom: sad floor."

While funny in his approach to art, he is right. Art can be anything, and anything can be art when viewed through the right person's eyes.

If a painting of a can of Campbell's tomato soup is art, then why not wrestling?

Many fans of sports such as baseball and football might even argue that they are forms of art for various reasons, but we won't go into that right now.

Since art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder, it is not my place to tell you if wrestling is art or not. It is up to you to make that decision for yourself.

So, do you think wrestling counts as art, or am I reaching farther than a kid too short to reach the cookie jar?

If you like this then follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.


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