For the love of wrestling: the basics
The Only Way is Essex. Geordie Shore. Made in Chelsea.
The country has come to recognise these as ‘scripted reality’ programmes. What you see attempts to appear real, or blurs the lines between reality and fictional programming.
Well, think of the world of professional wrestling as ‘scripted sports’.
In my twenty five (ahem) years a wrestling fan, I have never really understood why the obsession with the ‘is it scripted?’ question. Because it really doesn’t matter — and if you think it does, you’ve entirely missed the point.
Pro-wrestling is storytelling. Engaging, physical, violent storytelling. Sometimes a story is told in a single match, sometimes it spans multiple matches — even multiple wrestlers, and multiple promotions.
It’s like EastEnders. In lycra. With blood… sometimes.
So, here’s my attempt at a beginner’s guide to professional wrestling. These are some of the things you’ll need to know.
Faces and heels
This is one of the oldest concepts, but still very applicable today. Faces, or babyfaces, or blue-eyes, are the good guys. We’re meant to like them, cheer for them, and always want them to win. And so the heels are the bad guys; the villains. They’re more likely to break rules, push their luck, generally do the bad stuff.
In the 1980s there was a real distinction between the two things. That’s not always true these days… sometimes you can’t help liking the bad guys, no?
WWE is a wrestling promotion (actually, it’s a billion-dollar business, but I’m trying to keep it simple here!) and whilst it’s the best known, it’s not the only one. Not by a long shot.
Here in the UK, there are literally dozens of promotions around — we’re pretty spoiled just now. So if we’re talking about ‘the indies’, we mean these independent promotions who are largely in it for the love of the sport.
You just have to make your peace with this. A work = part of the story. A shoot = real, usually used when real life gets involved with art — people who *really* fall out. A worked shoot = something the fans are meant to think is real, but isn’t. A double bluff, if you will.
A mark is a fan, but one who doesn’t really ask too many questions — they tend to believe everything they see. A smart mark is a fan who believes they know the ‘behind the scenes secrets’ of wrestling… it’s an outdated term now, really, but let’s just say that some wrestling fans are more palatable than others, and leave it at that!
…and other assorted weapons. Yes, they’re all real. Yes, they hurt.
And to a wider point: wrestlers are astonishing athletes. Seriously. They absorb huge amounts of punishment, they challenge themselves to achieve bigger, better, greater things. The physicality is simply breathtaking, and it’s there to tell a story. It absolutely, categorically doesn’t matter how much ‘contact’ things make. They’re still superhumans.
Ah, we do love our chants. Listen, learn, and appreciate the wonder.
And the fans…
Let’s be honest, we’re a weird set of freaks and nerds by anyone’s standards. But I’m super proud to stand alongside them all, in this little world that’s created for us by the wrestlers, but that we work hard to keep alive and enjoy. After all, there’d be no point doing it if nobody watched.
That’s just… violence…
So, these are the basics. Bear them in mind, as I take you on a little journey of my wrestling memories, interspersed with tales of the modern day industry that I adore so much.