If you’re a professional wrestling fan, you know that there is something of an unwritten rule book that you must follow if you wish to be entertained. Referees will always get knocked down for the perfect amount of time, for instance, while chair shots that would put a wrestler out for weeks if landed during a promo are largely ineffective during a hardcore match. These are things that all fans either know or quickly learn the moment that they start watching just about any wrestling show.
There is, however, another unwritten series of wrestling traditions that many fans are unaware of because it is not meant for them. While just about every sports organization - or workplace for that matter - utilizes a series of official and unofficial rules of etiquette, few of them compare to the rules of etiquette that dictate proper behavior in a professional wrestling locker room in terms of sheer weirdness. Over the years, professional wrestlers have just learned that if they’re going to make it in this business, there are just some rules they need to follow. So dress up, prepare to shake hands, and don’t act like a fan as we look at the 15 backstage wrestling traditions you didn’t know about.
15 Never Use the Moves of a Wrestler Who Hasn’t Performed Yet
Here’s one that you’ll probably notice if you start looking for it during shows. While it’s totally fine to “steal the show” by turning an undercard match into the best match of the night, it’s generally considered unacceptable in the wrestling business to blatantly steal another wrestler's signature move or finisher before they’ve had the chance to perform. There are some exceptions to this rule. In the indies, for instance, wrestlers tend to rely on a few high-profile moves that nearly everyone uses.
In WWE, a wrestler might be able to get away with using a particular move if it makes sense within the context of a match or storyline. However, if someone like AJ Styles goes out and does an RKO before Randy Orton has hit the ring, you can bet he’ll get an earful backstage.
14 Don’t Ask For Other Wrestler’s Opinions About Your Match
Imagine you’re a young wrestler who has just had your first big match. The bell has rung, your hand has been raised, and you’re wandering to the back. Now, in most job situations, it would be perfectly acceptable to ask for a performance review or feedback. This is apparently not the case in wrestling. In fact, some wrestlers have gone so far as to say that seeking the opinion of other wrestlers or bookers is strictly prohibited. Why? Well, it has something to do with another backstage etiquette rule which states that you should never draw too much attention to yourself. Similarly, wrestlers who know they’ve had a good match shouldn’t brag about it and wrestlers who know they’ve had a bad match should just let it go.
13 Learn to Accept Some Hazing
Here’s a tricky one. As you may or may not know, JBL recently drew a little mainstream media heat after former announcer Justin Roberts detailed his harsh hazing practices. As some have said at the time, WWE has long had a culture of hazing that some say Vince McMahon actively encourages. There is a degree of truth to that as Vince believes that a little hazing keeps egos in check. That being said, someone who just repeatedly takes another wrestler’s hazing attempts will likely be picked on forever. The trick here appears to be to take your ribs in good spirits and either start hazing other wrestlers when you’ve established yourself or otherwise stop acting like the hazing even bothers you. These seem to be the only ways to properly deal with the infamously brutal hazing in WWE locker rooms.
12 Keep Your Boots Dirty
No, that’s not a metaphor. Well...it kind of is. Okay, so let’s back up a bit. As we already said, having an ego is a strict no-go in most wrestling locker rooms. It doesn’t matter who you are, inflated self-worth will not be tolerated. Well, a dirty pair of boots go along with that. See, there’s an old belief among wrestlers that a clean pair of boots mean that the man or woman wearing them is just trying to be vain and that clean boots mean that you probably aren’t working hard enough to sell for your opponent. It’s strange - most of these traditions are - but there is an odd kind of logic to it. In any case, young wrestlers are advised to keep a few scuffs on their boots.
11 Wrestlers Are Required to Stay Throughout the Whole Show and Watch As Many Matches as Possible
So, let’s say that you’re in the curtain jerker match - or even a pre-show bout - that only lasts about 10 minutes. Surely, it must be ok to go in the back, get cleaned up, pack your stuff and go, right? Very wrong. No matter where you are at on the card, most wrestlers are expected to stay for the entire show. Actually, some people say that wrestlers are expected to watch as many matches as possible during the show, but there is some debate regarding that specific point. Furthermore, it has been said that an exception can be made for indie wrestlers who work jobs outside of their performances. If they have to leave in order to work their other job, that’s generally agreed to be acceptable.
10 Keep Your Championship Belt Hidden As Much as Possible
Wrestling belts are basically just show props, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have real world significance. If a company sees fit to make you champion, that typically means they see something special in you. That’s especially true of any World Championships, which are always a big deal regardless of the size of a promotion. Having said all that, once a wrestler has walked backstage, they would do well to keep that belt low-profile. Showing off your belt, even in the back, is yet another potential sign that you have an ego problem which is again a big “no-no.”
The Big Show learned this the hard way when Hulk Hogan told him to wear the WCW Championship through an airport. The boys in the back never let him forget how stupid that was.
9 Always Call Your Matches In English
This rule isn’t strictly limited to backstage, but it is a cool little secret that certainly originated somewhere in the back. Have you ever wondered how a young American wrestler who goes to Japan or a young Japanese wrestler who comes to America is able to communicate with his opponent? Do they just learn key phrase in the other language? Well...yes, one of them does. Apparently, wrestling matches across the globe are almost always called in English as to ensure that any wrestler can communicate with their opponent. It’s even been said that matches between high-profile Japanese wrestlers in Japan are still called in English. There’s a little debate regarding that last bit, but whenever there is a language barrier between opponents trying to plan a match backstage, English is the go-to option.
8 You NEVER Lose A Bar Fight
This is another one of those old-fashioned rules that may or may not be applicable based on the situation and promotion that we’re talking about. Back in the day, though, most wrestlers loved to drink. While they certainly weren’t opposed to drinking backstage, in the car, or wherever, most preferred to visit the local bar for a few too many rounds. Should someone happen to try to fight them at said local watering hole, the wrestler was strictly prohibited from losing that fight. This measure was apparently implemented in order to help keep kayfabe alive. After all, how could a wrestler be believably tough if they’re beat by some guy in a bar? Whether or not a promotion like WWE still expects their wrestlers to win all bar fights is up for debate. They probably prefer they don’t get into a bar fight at all.
7 If You’re Riding Passenger, Don’t Sleep in the Car
This one is probably not as common as it once was, but seems to still apply to the modern day. Most wrestlers have to endure a lot of travel throughout their careers. It’s just part of the job. More often than not, wrestlers will travel in pairs to avoid loneliness and help ensure that everyone knows they’re “one of the boys.” If you so happen to be the wrestler who is riding shotgun, however, then you are not allowed to sleep in the car. Again, this could always vary a bit from performer to performer and probably isn’t as big of a deal in WWE where the company helps handle many travel arrangements, but it does seem that it’s still at least a little rude to catch a little shut-eye while your companion has to mind the road.
6 Only Veterans and Executives Can Ride First Class
We come to yet another travel rule, but this one is probably more applicable in WWE than it is elsewhere. On many occasions, a wrestler is required to get on a plane in order to get to their next show. It's less common in smaller promotions, but can still happen. Well, if you share your flight with other wrestlers - or even if you don’t - most people in the business will tell you that it’s just bad form to fly first class unless you are a veteran or a company executive. For instance, Triple H and The Undertaker could probably grab a first class seat if they wanted, but Finn Balor would probably be out of luck. Once again, this ties into that classic theme of not acting like you’re better than anyone as well as paying your dues.
5 The "Two Botches and You’re Out" Rule
Again, there’s some room for debate here as this isn’t necessarily something that might apply to every single wrestler everywhere. However, this basic rule states that a single in-ring botch that causes your opponent to either suffer minor pain or embarrassment is forgivable. Hey, these guys are professionals and that stuff happens. Apparently, though two botches of that magnitude are strictly unacceptable. Why two? Well, there’s not official rulebook on the matter, but it apparently has something to do with the fact that the potential for serious injury because of a botch is too great to leave room for a third strike. In the old days, it was perfectly acceptable to take the boots to someone after that second botch in order to keep them in line. Now, they may get reprimanded backstage or perhaps hazed a bit.
4 Don’t Refer to Another Wrestler By Their Real Name
Have you ever noticed how wrestlers using another wrestler’s actual name in a live promo is always treated like a big deal? Well, that’s because real names are a big deal in professional wrestling. This is especially true of the old days when wrestlers were still trying to present their characters are somewhat real people. As such, other wrestlers were forbidden from calling them by their real name even when it was just the two of them hanging out in the back.
As more and more wrestlers use their actual names - or some variation of their names - this one becomes a little less common. However, there are many performers who keep this old wrestling traditional alive backstage and the usage of stage names only is still apparently a pretty big deal in WWE. You'll notice in watching WWE reality shows like Total Divas and Legends House that the wrestlers still call each other by their ring names.
3 Dress Well Whenever Possible
When wrestlers are asked by people who are trying to break into the business as a performer what the rules of backstage etiquette are, one of the most common answers involves making sure that you dress well whenever possible. In some cases - specifically WWE - that involves a suit and tie, but even small time wrestlers say that they rarely come to shows in anything less than slacks and a dress shirt. Obviously, there are some exceptions to this rule that mostly relate to a wrestler’s gimmick. For instance, WWE probably didn’t want someone like Stone Cold Steve Austin walking around in a suit too often (even though he probably did dress well from time to time). For the most part, though, dressing up is a sure sign that you’re a true professional who can be trusted by your fellow workers.
2 Don’t Act Like a Fan/Mark
This one is based on the same principle of professionalism as the last entry, but is a bit more serious and applies to all wrestlers in all circumstances. To paint a picture of how rule might be enforced, imagine that you’re a young wrestler who just got signed by WWE and you’re suddenly standing next to John Cena. While you may be tempted to tell him that you’re a big fan, doing so might end your WWE career before it truly began. Simply put, wrestling companies - especially WWE - don’t want wrestlers geeking out for other wrestlers (aka being a mark). Some companies - again, WWE - actually prefer for wrestlers to not even act like they are fans. This ties into the idea of all wrestlers being at least somewhat equal and bigger name wrestlers being able to treat the locker room as a safe haven where they are surrounded by professionals.
1 Shake Everyone’s Hand In Very Specific Ways
One of the most famous backstage rules in wrestling is also one of the most famous backstage rules in wrestling. Simply put, wrestlers are expected to shake hands with everyone whenever possible. If you walk into the locker room, you had better make sure to work the room and shake as many hands as possible. If you’re walking through the back, you shake as many hands of notable employees as you can. There are even specific rules for handshakes that apply to certain countries and regions. What’s the deal with all these handshakes? Some of it has to do with respect, but it actually dates back to wrestling’s old days when handshakes were used to let other wrestlers know they were in on the nature of the business. Back then, you were required to give a wrestler a limp handshake to let them know they were safe in your hands. Now, a firm - but not painful - handshake is a sign you're confident and respect your coworker, but you can also be trusted.
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