For about ten years now I have been an avid professional wrestling fan. That is not the mat-based sport seen most often in the UK on television at the Olympics (well until recently anyway), but rather the “fake sport” of pulled punches and pre-determined matches. I am not hear to argue that it is a sport, although a number of professional wrestlers do have amateur wrestling backgrounds, but instead that the stigma that is associated with this form of entertainment is completely unjustified.
“It’s not real, you know that right?”
That is the belittling reply most wrestling fans receive when they tell people of their hobby. The answer is rather simple, unless you are a young child, and that answer is: Of course we do. We don’t truly believe a man lay unknowingly on a wooden table whilst his opponent climbed the ropes, pandered to the crowd and photographers, before diving on top of them, causing them a great deal of pain. What we do believe though is that each performer we see is talented, determined and extremely brave. People call it fake and point out “they barely connected with that punch!” but sit quietly when a chair smashes into someone’s back or a man essentially rugby tackles another man from the ring onto a burning table (yes I’m looking at you, Edge and Mick Foley). It may be scripted but there are huge risks, and the performers need to be respected for going out each and every night and putting their bodies on the line for the entertainment of us, the public. People fail to realise that the constant “bumping” around the ring, as it is known, can cause huge damage to the performer’s well-being. The mat is not a bouncy castle and falling on it really can and does hurt.
What should also be noted is how, even though it is rigged or fake or whatever your preferred word is, none of that matters. Non-wrestling fans often say “It’s fake” thinking it is their trump card, when in reality what on television or at the cinema isn’t fake? Even saying “but they pretend it’s real” doesn’t mean anything, because that’s what every show does! Bryan Cranston doesn’t really cook meth, and (slight Game of Thrones spoiler I guess) Emilia Clarke doesn’t have dragons. Okay okay I know they are extreme examples, but the point is still valid… sort of. Wrestling is a show just like the rest of them, it would defeat the object completely to admit it was scripted.
“It’s for kids though, aren’t you a bit old?”
This question gets thrown around a lot too. Personally, I’m in my late teens, but I still think its okay for people my age, and those older, to watch wrestling (and read comics!). Most fans watch WWE which currently has a PG rated programme, but I don’t see why that is an issue. Most other television shows have this too, shows like the soaps many adults watch are indeed child-friendly with such language as “bugger off” and “get out of here”, replacing any swearing. Disney films remain popular among people of all ages, with its most recent release Frozen epitomising this by raking in over $1 billion at the box office. Most entertainment is aimed at a wide audience to try and gain as many viewers as possible, and this is what I believe the WWE aims for.
WWE is of course not the only promotion though, which is another thing missed by many people. Lots of wrestling fans prefer one of the many other promotions, whose shows can be much less child-friendly. I enjoy keeping up to date with New Japan Pro Wrestling (despite the language barrier) through their iPPVs and their YouTube channel, as well as Ring of Honor. There are much more hardcore promotions, like the old ECW, which are not suitable for little ones.
I’m not saying everyone should watch wrestling, it’s certainly for a niche audience, and lets be honest its pretty weird. Scantily clad guys and gals tussle while thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home cheer them on, but I don’t see why, if that’s your thing, people take issue with it. Certainly most of the people I have encountered who make fun of me for being a wrestling fan have never even watched it. Who are they to judge?
I’m a wrestling fan because I respect the talent on show and enjoy the often unbelievable story lines and that’s not going to change.