If you've been following pro wrestling for any amount of time, you should be familiar with some of the vernacular. For people on the outside looking in, most if not all of the terminology should make you scratch your head and just go "huh?". Babyface, heel, selling, what does it all mean? Well believe it or not there actually is a reason for all the wacky names. Back in the days when most pro wrestling matches would take place inside of carnivals and circuses, the wrestlers would need to use inconspicuous sounding words to ensure that their audiences would not pick up on the fixed nature of the business. Even as pro wrestling evolved past its embryonic stages however most of the jargon was passed on from generation to generation, like stories around midnight campfire. If your campfire stories involved seemingly beating your co-workers within an inch of their lives.
While it may have made sense to use these terms when you were forced to lead your audience astray, we simply don't live in that era anymore. Everybody knows that wrestling is scripted, so why continue using these terms that make absolutely zero sense? That's not to say that all the terms on this list are going to come from the circus days of grappling. No, current promotions like WWE and TNA have several titles which are misused as much a teenage boy with a sock. So for the following entries on the list, don't just think of them as terms that make no sense. They can also be terms which are misused or are only applicable in one sense and then used in a completely different sense. Now with that out of the way, let's delve into the wacky world of pro wrestling terminology.
P.S This list is going to be very nit-picky so if that annoys you... I don't know, go outside and play baseball or something.
15 Dark Match
As everyone should know by now, I'm kind of a big nerd. I dabble in anime, and read entirely too many superhero comics for my age. So when I hear dark match in pro wrestling, I tend to think of a good guy facing off against an evil version of himself. No, instead dark matches are actually just matches which take place before (or after) the real show gets underway.
I got no joke here. I'm just entirely sad that we can't see John Cena versus Dark John Cena or Rey Mysterio against Evil Rey Mysterio. Come on, that has to be a better use of the term "dark match" than Zack Ryder versus Jack Swagger.
14 Attitude Era
As is going to be a recurring theme on this list, the use of this term is mostly due to marketing. When WWE wanted to turn their sterile product of the mid 1990s around, the company thoroughly and exhaustively researched their audience and... NAH just kidding, they stole ECW's ideas and cleaned them up just enough for cable television. In the process, they gave this new creative direction a name which makes little sense.
Just adding "attitude" to something doesn't make it any edgier. An attitude is simply a state of mind, you need an adjective to really give the word any specific meaning. Calling something the "Attitude Era" makes it sound more like a philosophy student's idea of wrestling. Oh I know why it was called this, because the word "extreme" was already being used by ECW. Can't appear too much like copycats eh Vinnie Mac?
13 Lumberjack Match
Surprisingly not innovated by human goat man Daniel Bryan, the Lumberjack match is a match variant where dozens of wrestlers surround the ring to ensure that the two competitors in the ring stay there, rather than fight on the outside. Aside from being one of the lamer match types in history (aside from Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam 2014), it also baffles my mind.
Being Canadian and assuming those stereotypes you foreigners have about us are true, I should be a leading expert on lumberjacking works. As far as I have observed, none of this involves standing around two people in a fight to ensure that they don't leave a cornered area. Even if they did, I doubt any wrestling promoters were present at that time so on the list it goes.
Coming from La Belle Province of Quebec, I know a thing or two about potatoes. They have to be the most versatile food in existence and more importantly they are the basis for a gift from the heavens known as poutine. So with this vast potato knowledge, I'm baffled that I don't understand the use of it in professional wrestling.
In the squared circle (we'll get to that one later), the term "potato" is used to describe a move (usually a strike) by a wrestler which actually hurts the recipient. Usually this leads to a vicious cycle of one wrestler being potatoed and the other being potatoed back and forth until they're all concussed. Now, of all things to describe an exceptionally hard blow, why was potato chosen? Hammered, smashed and many other words are all much better options. At the very least, the one doing the potatoing could give his opponent some gravy and cheese curds as well.
11 Reverse Battle Royal
Oh TNA, your name alone you give us so much material to work with but with match types like this you put icing on the cake. Back in a time where they could have possibly (but not really) been considered a competitor to WWE, TNA tried everything they could to be different from McMahon's empire. Six-sided ring? Check. Having a reverse battle royal? Check... wait what?
Yup, in 2006 TNA promoted the first ever Reverse Battle Royal as part of their Fight for the Right tournament. What are the rules to said match? Well it goes like this:
- Step one: 18 wrestlers start at the ringside area and fight to enter the ring.
- Step two: the first eight men in the ring compete in a regular battle royal.
- Step three: the final two men have a regular match, the winner moving directly to the finals of the tournament.
One has to wonder how stupid those wrestlers have to be in the first stage of the match to not immediately sprint into the ring without fighting anyone. You know what make this more believable? If the guys had to go over the top rope to get in. God this was dumb.
10 The Schoolboy
On any wrestling show ever, you're bound to see this move performed by at least one wrestler. It's simple, it's fast and it's also called a schoolboy. Why????!!!!
I really would like to know why a move in which your arm is rubbing a man's junk is called a schoolboy. To spare all of you of that image now in your minds, we've included an image of Natalya performing the move on Paige. Thankfully most announcers call this move a roll up instead, so let's keep it that way and forget this term once and for all.
9 Foreign Object
Given his view on immigrants and his past involvement in pro wrestling, I believe it's fair to say that Donald Trump would not approve of the use of foreign objects in professional wrestling. After all I'm certain that those steel chairs, title belts and 2x4 are all rapists and drug traffickers. Political joke over.
But really though, how did this term come into existence? According to the Pro Wrestling Torch's glossary of insider terms, it means that these objects are foreign to the match. Really? That's what we're going with? Why not simply call these illegal objects? Or simply weapons? Perhaps most hilariously, WCW actually used to refer to these as "international objects" due to Ted Turner's policy of never using the word foreign. Either or, both are dumb and need new names.
8 Finishing Move
Up until very recently this term was fine. Every wrestler has in their bag of tricks a move that signals the end of a match, a (usually) high impact technique which a competitor uses to finish their foe. That was until about 2009 when Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker made it cool to kick out of multiple finishers for drama. Yes, people like Stone Cold and The Rock did it before Taker and HBK, but the Phenom and Showstopper brought it back in roaring fashion.
In that way, this trend of making finishers useless has destroyed the term. How in the hell can you call an Attitude Adjustment a finisher if it takes four of them to win a match? I'm taking open suggestions for new names for these moves at email@example.com.
A moment of academics if you please. Allow me to look up the first three definitions of the word heel in the Oxford dictionary:
- The back part of the human foot below the ankle.
- The back part of the foot in vertebrae animal.
- The part of a shoe or boot supporting the heel.
Seeing as how there is no definition saying "pro wrestling villain" in there, that should give you all the indication that this makes no sense. The only way this works is in the context of "turning heel" where you could make the argument that a wrestling is turning his heel towards the audience and turning his back on them. As far as just saying he/she is a heel though, you're merely calling them a part of a foot.
Just like in the best moments in wrestling history, the "babyface" overcomes the "heel" on this list. However in this case, it merely means that babyface makes even less sense than heel. Well done.
As far as I can tell, the origins of this term comes from a time when the good guys in a wrestling promotion didn't have any facial hair and were as clean cut as possible. Wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Bruno Sammartino would fall into this category. However, it wouldn't take long before Hulk Hogan came into picture as the biggest hero in wrestling... sporting a goatee. Subsequent heroes like Stone Cold, Randy Savage and Diesel all sported varying amounts of facial hair, making the term seem stupider and stupider with each passing year. Are you going to tell me when you look at Daniel Bryan's mane, you think babyface?
5 Squared Circle
Basic geometry 101: how many sides to a square? Well done, the answer is indeed four. By this chain, a wrestling ring would be a square, correct? No, it is actually called a squared circle.
In amateur wrestling, the contest takes place in a circle so by extension pro wrestling took the idea and put their "sport" into a ring. The problem is that pro wrestling actually takes place in a square with ropes. So instead of saying the wrestling square, promoters have instead christened the fighting area as "the squared circle". Seeing as how the rules of an amateur wrestling have almost zero resemblance to our beloved sports-entertainment, it's time to do away with this term.
4 Live Event
Why is it that the word "live" is so overused in today's linguistic landscape? Whether it's wannabe gangsters saying "bro this happened LIVE right in front of me" or Windows Live, live needs to die. The worst use of the word though has to be WWE's use for calling its non-televised shows as "Live Events".
Hey WWE, EVERY SHOW IS A LIVE EVENT... for the people in the audience anyway. The audience members are not living anywhere but the present and since it's not televised it isn't live on television, so why give such a stupid name? These shows are alternatively called "house shows" which, honestly are also a little stupid, but not as bad as live event.
The following is a list of some "Superstars" currently employed by the WWE: John Cena, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and Diego. Which of these things is not like the others?
In an attempt to differentiate themselves from wrestling, Vince McMahon began a push in the late 1980s to call his athletes superstars rather than pro wrestlers. While the name might work when you speak of men like Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper, it doesn't work so much when you say Kamala now does it? In basketball LeBron James and maybe a couple of others are superstars while the WWE has dozens of them. Something isn't right here.
2 World Heavyweight Championship
Being called the heavyweight champion in a combat sport like boxing or mixed martial arts used to be seen as the highest honor imaginable, even if there were more skilled champions in other weight classes. By extension pro wrestling adopted this model and made the most prestigious title in every company the "World Heavyweight Championship", even if they didn't define what exactly they mean.
To the best of my knowledge, WWE has no weight limits on what the "heavyweight" class is. It sure isn't 206-265 pounds like the UFC is, so why call it a heavyweight title at all? Guys like Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio have held the title and I bet my bottom dollar they don't crack the 206 pound weight limit. A simple solution for this would be to just call the belt the World Championship. Easy right? Now do it WWE.
If I called you a diva right now, it would be considered an insult. Calling someone a diva is meant to say that the person is a drama-queen, selfish and generally annoying. This is the term used to describe all of the female wrestlers in WWE.
Essentially, by calling all of their female athletes "divas", the WWE is calling some of your favs like Paige, Charlotte, Natalya and Sasha Banks all of the things mentioned above. While I bemoaned the term superstar before, at least it's a positive term. This term degrades all of the talent and gives them a stupid looking title on top of that.
WWE, if you really want to have a revolution, start by just calling your female wrestlers superstars and changing the title from Divas Championship to Women's Championship. Not really revolutionary, but better than the present.