If you’re a fan of professional wrestling, there is one question that you’ve been asked at least once. It’s a silly question, but even when it’s well-meant, it’s a pretty pretentious one. If you’re a fan of professional wrestling, you already know the question I’m talking about.
“You know it’s fake… right?”
Why yes, obviously, I know it’s fake. I’ve always known it was fake. And ya know what? That’s why I love it.
Pro Wrestling Is Fake… and That’s Why I Love It
Firstly, I want to address something about that question. Because maybe, once upon a time, people didn’t know it was fake. Maybe, once upon a time, pro wrestling was presented a legitimate contest, and the performers were honor-bound to protect the illusion.
But tell me, was that before the Undertaker, an undead wizard, joined the fray? What about the Gobbledygooker, a giant bird-wrestler that hatched from an egg. What about the time RoboCop showed up to save Sting? Hey, here’s another question, was it before Vince McMahon, the most famous (or infamous) professional wrestling promoter of all time, literally came out and clarified that it was “sports entertainment,” not legitimate sport?
The answer to all of those questions is yes. The era of grizzled nomadic veterans, starting bar-fights to prove they were really tough, is half a century deceased… and it’s pretty obvious to anyone that’s ever sat and watched the product.
Here are a few colorful characters that defy the logic of reality.
- The Undertaker, a literal undead wizard who summons lightning to the ring.
- Kane, his brother, a demon from hell that can spontaneously summon fire from the ring.
- The Fiend, Bray Wyatt’s satanic alter ego that teleported John Cena to an alternate universe.
- Little Jimmy, an invisible child that accompanied R-Truth to the ring for a few months.
- Orange Cassidy, a relaxed man in a Canadian tuxedo that exerts little-to-no energy in most of his matches.
- Finn Balor, a cheerful Irishman who turns into a demon for big matches.
- Joey Ryan, a professional wrestler who can flip people around with his dick.
- Luchasaurus, a wrestling dinosaur.
And really… those are just a few characters that came to mind. Pro wrestling does not, and has not for a very long time, presented itself as anything but campy, fun entertainment.
…And That’s Why I Love It
Pro wrestling, on the surface, is no different from Game of Thrones, The Avengers, or any other popular form of media. There are colorful character weaving storylines, and building to big events. Instead of a frozen steroid soldier, his billionaire super-suit wearing buddy, and a talking raccoon fighting a giant purple man from another galaxy, I watch a jungle boy, his flossing friend, and a dinosaur fight two best friends and their laid back buddy.
Some people prefer Marvel, some people prefer DC, some people like Riverdale, others like Ozark, but me? I like pro wrestling. It’s just my favorite form of dorky entertainment.
I’d even go as far as to say I think it’s objectively better. Each episode of any given pro wrestling show is a live, one-take, action/comedy/horror show. There are no special effects, no stunt doubles, no outtakes, and it happens every single week. That’s incredible.
And that’s another thing, it is every single week. Every single week, I can watch my favorite characters grow and change, win and lose, experience the joy of winning a championship and the pain of betrayal. I can watch them chase championships, turn to the dark side, fall in love, and so much more on any given week. It’s like watching a live-comic book.
Imagine Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Josh Brolin trying to make the Avengers movies interesting without special effects, in one take? They couldn’t.
And yes, pro wrestling can be stupid. In fact, the vast majority of it is awful. I’m willing to overlook certain silly things because I love it, and I’m invested. But I don’t blame anyone else to taking one look at it and dismissively mocking it.
So yes, pro wrestling is fake, but at the end of the day, most entertainment is. The only difference is that mine had the misfortune of being popular in a different time…
The Attitude Error
Regrettably, most lapsed wrestling fans only remember it from the 90’s. In a time when being anti-establishment was in, people unironically liked Limp Bizkit, and Jerry Springer was king, wrestling followed suit. It was trash TV for the sake of being trash TV, and sadly, that’s how people remember it.
Women were objectified, men were obtusely brash, and match quality took a backseat to mindless violence. People outgrew that wrestling, and it didn’t realize the audience was gone until ratings took a dive.
In today’s wrestling world? It’s completely different. Sure, there are still storylines, and most of the time, they’re ridiculous, but the focus is on the in-ring product. Nowadays, wrestlers prioritize telling stories inside the ring, and in most of the educated wrestling world, women are treated the same as men are.