The sport of Professional Wrestling dates all the way back to the days of Ancient Greece. As time went on, the sport became more organized and champions began to rise. Starting with the days of the “catch-as-catch can” style invented by Martin “Farmer” Burns, wrestling has evolved to a world-wide phenomenon. From the very first World Heavyweight Champion George Hackenschmidt, to the rock and wrestling connection to modern day superheroes, Pro Wrestling has always had a “say so” in the world of entertainment. However, jaded fans are quick to down the athleticism of the performers. Most of which refer to the brand as “fake”, but why?
Unlike other combat sports, wrestling is seen by fans as a form of theatre. You have your characters, showrunners and creative geniuses. The baby faces (good guys) often do battle with the heels (bad guys), with the baby faces usually coming out on top. As a result of this arrangement, promoters introduced a term to help protect the identity of the sport. The term has gone on to regulate the bylaws of its performers. That term is known as “kayfabe”. What that means is, it is simply the promoter’s and athlete’s jobs to protect the sanctity of what’s going on behind the scenes.
The legitimacy of Professional Wrestling has been called into question more times than most people can count. However, it has plenty of moments where the action has gotten real. In a 2007 article with Bleacher Report, Steve Mann stated, “Try telling wrestlers like Mick Foley, who had his ear ripped off in the ring, or Scott Steiner, who was kicked in his throat during a match and required emergency surgery to repair his damaged trachea, that wrestling is fake.” The writer is referencing the incident that occurred in 1998 when Mick Foley, who at the time was wrestling as “Mankind”, went against The Undertaker (Mark Calloway). Foley was infamously thrown from the top of the cell during the WWE’s patented “Hell in a Cell” Pay Per View. Though that spot was planned, another infamous spot during that match wasn’t. When at the top of the cell, The Undertaker was supposed to only chokeslam Foley on top of the cell and that’s it. However, the panel to the cell’s roof gave way resulting in Foley crashing down to the surface below. As a result of this incident, one of Foley’s teeth penetrated his upper lip. To fix the injury, the performer required surgery.
So what does all of this have to do with the actual legitimacy of wrestling? Simple, injuries in this sport are real. Yes, wrestling does have a lot of “fake” qualities, but the hazards of the profession are real. For example, death in the ring has become an all too familiar ground in this particular sport. The late Perro Aguayo, Jr. (Pedro Ramirez) suffered both a heart attack and stroke in the ring during a match as a result of a broken neck. In an interview with the LA Times, Dave Meltzer, who’s the founder of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, compared Ramirez to the likes of Paul Levesque (WWE’s Triple H), by stating, “I’d say very much the level of a HHH from several years back or Seth Rollins, if Rollins remains in his position for 10-15 more years. Randy Orton may be the best comparison, but I’d say bigger than Orton, maybe even like Randy Savage.”
Here’s why people shouldn’t be so quick to call the sport fake, because it is far from it. The only “fake” qualities that plague Professional Wrestling is the fact that the outcomes are predetermined and the action is choreographed.
Otherwise, Pro Wrestling is the realest, “fakest” form of entertainment around. Despite the heat it gets from jaded fans, it still requires athleticism that most may not possess. In fact wrestling has a lot of legends that have crossed over into the sport (i.e. Ernie Ladd, Brian Pillman, and Ron Simmons). So instead of questioning its legitimacy, one should investigate its roots.