Tell someone you enjoy watching NASCAR and they don’t blink an eye. Tell someone you watch wrestling however, and prepare to be judged and/or ridiculed. “It’s fake!” they will immediately tell you. I never quite understood that. Are they letting me in on the secret? Do they believe that I (a fan who follows intensely) did not know something that they (an ignorant non-fan) did? And if they truly thought that I was unaware, they would be shattering my world with very little warning.
Once we get “fake” out of the way, there’s plenty more to say. Those who do not enjoy wrestling usually find it incredibly odd as a spectacle. The men are greased up, barely dressed, sweaty, bleeding, while acting out over-the-top situations that are pre-determined. These critics are much happier if the pre-determined stories they watch on TV are played by fully clothed people. Pretending to kill zombies, fight dragons, or god help up another detective/surgeon cookie cutter crap fest.
Wrestling should be respected as the phenomenon it is. An age-old traveling spectacle that's been entertaining folks long before television. A time when all that mattered were the performers on the stage, the crowd watching, and the promoter hyping it up. It’s incredible to see how it’s evolved along with the times. It emerged from the circus tents and smoky halls to gigantic stadiums, pushing the envelope today with internet-delivery. Whether you are a fan or not, pro wrestling has accomplished far more than anyone (besides Vince McMahon) ever imagined and should be respected for it’s place in the entertainment universe.
I grew up a wrestling fan. I had a my time away from it, but it has a way of sticking with you. As an adult, I am much more aware of how silly it can look to an outsider. If you break it down to the basic elements it’s absolutely ridiculous, but so are many things in life. Wrestling is much greater than the sum of its silly parts. It’s a special form of entertainment that defies logic, yet is predicated on the most basic storytelling of all: good versus evil.
The critics will always exist. We're used to it. And they’re always gonna say…...It Doesn’t MATTER what they’re gonna say! Because wrestling and Hulkamania are gonna live on forever in all these millions (AND MILLIONS) of wrestling fans out there, and that's the bottom line.
10 "Wrestling fans are low-class idiots"
The image of a wrestling fan brings to mind a few stereotypes. There’s the toothless redneck from the deep south who loves his wrasslin'. He drove there with his cousins (one of whom he’s dating) in his pickup truck. He hates that darned Russian villain and if he sees him after the show he’ll throw a (now) empty bottle of moonshine at him. Or there’s another stereotype from further up north. The man-child who never moved out of his parents basement. He's overweight, not too concerned with hygiene and knows more about Randy Orton’s win/loss record than how to pick up girls.
These people do exist in a wrestling crowd, but they also exist in EVERY crowd. There are all kinds of people in this world, and in my experience the majority are awful, but to assume they are exclusively wrestling fans makes you the most awful of all.
9 "This is gross"
This is absolutely number one from my girlfriend. She hates the fact that they usually look wet from either oil or sweat. She hates that blood is sometimes mixed in with the wetness. She hates that they wear tiny shorts. She thinks they don't wear shoes and when I point out that they usually wear boots she just stares at me blankly, and then tells me how that's even worse! She hates almost everything about it. She finds the fact that it's predetermined even weirder and that millions of people watch it very confusing. There is not one nice thing she has to say about it.
But that's okay. She would rather watch a boring drama that is a copy of a copy of a copy. Shows that are poorly written and acted, and contain plot twists either incredibly obvious or incredibly ludicrous. She watches millionaires use a matchmaker to find love (for a date or two) on television. She watches shows that claim to be reality television that are far more scripted than the wrestling going on in the ring. She watches all of this crap, that when piled together is "gross" to me. But that's okay.
I'm just not going to say anything about it, and neither should she!
8 "The ring is like a trampoline"
“That ring is so soft, it’s like jumping on a bed”
Not quite. While the ring is designed to have a little more give than concrete, it’s definitely not like falling into a bed. One of the first things wrestlers have to learn is how to properly take a fall. Like a stuntman, they must master the art of being tossed around. A wrestler must never “fear the mat". To look at the moves they perform off the top rope makes an astute viewer cringe with the impact. To leap into the air and perform a full body splash, willingly landing face down on your stomach takes supreme courage.
Hear that loud sound the mat makes? That is not the sound of soft.
7 "People still watch this?"
During the huge explosion of the first WrestleMania and the Attitude Era, wrestling had crossed over into the mainstream. It had become cool to like wrestling and there was much more recognition. Names like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, The Rock, and Steve Austin were as recognizable as a universal sports star like Tiger Woods. Today’s stars may not have the same mass-appeal as before, but to the hardcore fans that are always there, it doesn’t matter one bit. In fact, the real fans know wrestling is flush with more superstars than ever before. The WWE is spoiled with more talent than they know what to do with. Premier talents like Cesaro languish in meaningless tag-matches and a half dozen more could all hold the World Championship comfortably.
Outside of the WWE there are decent alternatives as well. ROH has been putting on great shows, Lucha Underground offers a different product, TNA is still kicking, and WWE’s own NXT is a fantastic product on its own.
Wrestling fans don’t care one bit if the mainstream is involved. They can go watch the Kardashians for all we care (which is also scripted).
11. "They’re not real athletes"
Wrong! They are perhaps the best conditioned athletes in the world. Wrestling requires an incredible balance of strength, agility, and conditioning. They must lift, run, fall, and fly for upwards of 60 minutes at a time. There are no timeouts and no substitutions. The fans are watching every second, and will not hesitate to chant “boring!”
These athletic specimens combine the cardio of a soccer/rugby player, the strength of a bodybuilder, and the agility of a gymnast. Anyone who disrespects a wrestler’s athletic ability is only calling attention to their own stupidity.
10. “Who’s going to win this match?”
This is one that the non-fan will toss out while watching. It’s well-known that the winner is pre-determined (like some famous boxing matches), but we as fans do not know DURING the match who will come out the winner. Although we can still enjoy a classic match already knowing who will eventually win, half of the fun is predicting the winner and seeing it all play out. What’s even MORE fun is when the WWE throws a “swerve” at us like they did at WrestleMania 31.
Most fans paying attention to Brock Lesnar’s expiring contract and the meteoric rise of Roman Reigns were predicting he would get the win (rumours suggest this was the original plan). However, with Lesnar renewing his contract just a short time before the main event and the fans very audible boos of Reigns for months before the match, the WWE remained agile enough to change plans at the last minute.
Even the winner of WrestleMania's main event (Seth Rollins with a run-in) didn't find out his good fortune until halfway through the card. So how could we know?
6 "It’s for kids"
Vince McMahon is a promoting genius. He knew his early-Saturday television time slot would be watched by the same kids watching cartoons and he programmed accordingly: Larger than life wrestlers, easy storylines of good and evil, and bright colors filled the screen and imagination of the youngsters. Of course as fans grew up, and so did his product, resulting in the more age-appropriate Attitude era. It has come full circle with another emphasis on a “safer” product. However those adult fans didn’t go away.
It's become an incredibly interesting psychology to try and please a very wide audience. For the kids, they still have their easily relatable heros and villians: John Cena versus Rusev for example. The adults however are smart to the business and watch on a second level. They hate the obvious "heroes" and cheer for the badass villains. The adult fans who loudly suggest Cena should turn heel are already experiencing Cena as a heel. He plays his role perfectly and is simultaneously a hero to the kids and a villain to the men.
One simple viewing of the crowd at any live wrestling event crushes this idiotic argument.
5 "It’s a soap opera for men"
Soap operas and wrestling both contain dramatic elements, but anything on television does as well. Sport has always been about the story. The incredible amount of sports talk radio, television, and journalism dedicated to discussing the story behind the game proves this point. The greatest moments in sport have all been the telling of a story. Amazing comebacks, Cinderella teams, dynasties, it’s all there.
Vince McMahon has been guilty of over-the-top storylines, but for the real fans, the greatest stories are always told in the ring.
4 "It’s too violent"
The same critic saying wrestling is just for kids will eventually hurl this one out as well. Violence is all over pop culture. Look at the most popular shows on television: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Criminal Minds to name a few. Movies have always celebrated violence, but perhaps CNN and their peers are the worst culprit. While wrestling, television, and film can use their fake violence as escapism, there is no escaping the brutal truth of the news.
Random example: April 3rd, 2015, top story on CNN.com “A student who hid for nearly an hour said she heard the gunmen say: Come out. You won't be shot. "They were lying," she said. At least 147 people were killed at the college in Kenya".
Same day’s example from WWE.com: “Did Sheamus stomp out the Yes Movement?”
6. "The blood is fake"
It’s not from blood capsules, or packets, or any other special FX, it’s real blood. The best wrestlers can whip out their blade and slice above the eye without it ever being seen. Some keep it in a pocket, in their boot, or even under their tongue. The blade is very real and so is the blood. On other occasions wrestlers get blood the old-fashioned way without any help from a blade. With punches and kicks constantly flying at their heads, not to mention the steel posts, ring steps, and turn buckles they hurl themselves towards, skin is bound to get cut open. No matter the method, the blood is a real sacrifice these warriors make for added drama.
Just take a look at the foreheads of old-timers like Dusty Rhodes and Abdullah the Butcher if you want any more evidence that they cut themselves. Just don’t look while eating.
3 "It’s Homo-Erotic"
“Dude, you watch oiled-up muscular men grab each other” is something every male wrestling fan hears. I can’t speak for heterosexual women or homosexual men on this matter, so I won’t. On my side of things as a hetero-male, while I find the entrances and promos of the beautiful women wrestlers pleasing to the eye, the matches themselves are far more competitive and strenuous than sexy.
Jerry Seinfeld said it best: "There are good and bad kinds of naked."
Watching Stacy Keibler enter the ring is good. Watching a pained and strained grapple (for me) is not my idea of sexy.
The bottom line however, is that whatever you find attractive is your own damn business. Rather than try to reach conclusions about people based on what they watch, try to get a life instead.
4. "They would get destroyed in a real fight"
If anyone would like to test this theory, be my guest, but count me out. If I had to bet on a "real" fight's winner, I would always put my money on the guy who spends his life working out and taking punishment. Wrestlers also know what they’re doing with all of those “fake” holds. If those are performed incorrectly, body parts are quickly broken.
Also, in a fight, usually the crazy guy wins. To willingly and successfully become a professional wrestler, being crazy is just part of the job.
3. "They’re all on steroids"
The steroid scandal of the early 90’s brought this issue into the mainstream. Looking back, the freakish bodies of 80’s wrestling were a dead giveaway to the steroids being used. After the scandal however, wrestling switched gears, and the big guys were replaced with more natural looking athletes, but the perception never went away.
There are still rumours of some using steroids. Just using the eyeball test it’s easy to pick them out. However, the most popular stars since the big scandal have all been obviously natural: Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, and Daniel Bryan have all risen to the top of the wrestling heap while looking normal and healthy.
It is naive to think steroids are completely gone from wrestling just the same as it is to think it's completely gone from baseball or any other competitive sport. But the scandal was 20 years ago, time to get over it.
2 "MMA is tougher"
MMA fighters are tough, no question, but I’ll argue that being a professional wrestler is a tougher job. First off, the workload. While the fighters starting out are more active, the top ranked MMA stars average just 2-3 contests a year. Contrast this with the absolutely grueling schedule of a wrestler. Wrestlers from top to bottom can be expected to perform 200 times per year. An intense travel schedule grinds their body down and kills any chance for them to recover. MMA fighters however can tap out at any time and we regularly see their fights cancelled for any number of reasons.
Wrestlers are not given the luxury to tap out. They are often injured during a match and must soldier on. Steve Austin is the most infamous, as he miraculously finished a match with a broken neck! He is one of the few that are well documented but there are so many more that go unnoticed. Other examples include Triple H wrestling on a torn quad muscle and Mick Foley somehow finishing his Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker.
The nature of wrestling's product means the fans can only guess at the injuries sustained. But they are many, and they are very real.
1 "It’s not real"
Number one with a bullet. Firstly, the argument is ridiculous. No other fictional entertainment draws this comment. Film, television, and novels are all somehow left out of this debate. Nobody goes to watch a blockbuster movie and blurts out to fellow movie goers, "it's fake!"
Even reality television is scripted! Generally, the people making this argument feel like they are educating the wrestling fan. Like the annoying guy at a magic show “helping” everyone by loudly pointing out that the missing quarter must be in the entertainer’s hand.
There was a time when it was much more important to convince the audience it was all real. When wrestling existed only as a circus attraction, the entire premise hinged on tricking the crowd. The circus promoter would hype an unbeatable muscle man in the ring, enticing the crowd to challenge his behemoth. A carnival worker would pose as an audience member, accept the challenge and get the scripted win. It’s fascinating that the concepts of an unbeatable monster versus the underdog “people’s champion” have remained relatively intact throughout decades of change in the wrestling word.
So to the person yelling out “it’s fake!”, stop it. Who are you helping? Only the kids truly believe, and you might as well tell them there’s no Santa or Easter Bunny while you’re at it.