Question of the Day: Why does anyone watch professional wrestling?

Why does anyone watch professional wrestling?

To clarify, by professional wrestling I mean the WWE.

So last night, as it sometimes happens, I decided to watch a couple of minutes of Monday Night RAW. Sometimes it’s Friday Night Smackdown. There was nothing better on and I felt like a good chuckle or two. In small doses, it’s hilarious to me how incredibly stupid pro wrestling is.

When I turned on RAW yesterday, the big match was between Roman Reign and Triple H (I think?). Roman Reign was going rogue. There were about 6 referees trying to stop him. Shockingly, they were unable to slow him down.

Essentially, the few minutes that I did watch followed exactly the same script that I see every time. Except this time, I think the one dude went more rogue than usual. The announcer seemed even more jacked up than usual about this fake fight.

WWE is like the Groundhog Day of wrestling. It’s the same thing every freaking time and I can never comprehend why anyone watches it. I get why people watch the Bachelor. I get why people watch Keeping up with the Kardashians. WWE, I do not get.

Heck, people even pay to watch the WWE. Stadiums are full of adults who cheer and boo fake characters. Adults pay to watch Wrestlemania on pay per view like it’s the second coming of the Rumble in the Jungle.

I know these people know it’s fake. These people will tell you it’s similar to watching any sort of scripted TV show or movie. Yeah, okay. Except WWE might possibly be the worst-acted, worst-scripted TV show in the world. Also, when I see Star Wars in the theatre, I’m not in the theatre booing Darth Vader when he comes on the screen.

Let me be clear, pro wrestlers are very good at their jobs. I am not discounting what they do on a week-to-week basis. Their stunts have a high degree of difficulty and they are always putting their bodies on the line. Although pro wrestling is not a real sport, these guys are real athletes.

However, whenever I find out someone above the age of 13 watches professional wrestling on a regular basis, I question everything about them. I’m a huge Bill Simmons fan yet there is always a little voice in my head that reminds me he is a bona fide, lifelong WWE fan. What is wrong with him?

Every time I watch pro wrestling, I always try to figure out why anyone watches this crap. Last night, it made me feel a little better that these are probably the same people who are voting for Donald Trump. Similarly to the way I feel about Donald Trump supporters, it scares me little inside that there are this many people in the world so passionate about something that is so stupid.

I’m asking for your help. Why does anyone watch professional wrestling?

@Gritty

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10 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Why does anyone watch professional wrestling?

  1. I’m a huge wrestling fan, and I’d love to give you an answer. But before I do, I want to state that I do not support Donald Trump like your article suggest. Believe it or not, wrestling fans aren’t as mindless as people may think. Sure, it’s hard to explain why we like what some consider a fake sport to a non wrestling fan, but I’ll try my best to explain it. First, let’s address the main criticism of wrestling. Wrestling is not fake, it’s predetermined. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it is. Because while the ending of the match is already decided, the injuries that are usually suffered from the match are real.

    Professional wrestlers pull their punches, but some of the moves and strikes are real, believe it or not. You have to be a certain level of toughness to willingly allow a guy to kick or punch you in the face for real, or dive over the rope in hopes that your opponent will break your fall enough to soften the land on concrete a little. In other words, wrestlers allow a ridiculous amount of punishment to be inflicted on to their bodies in order to entertain fans. They also work grueling schedules and are given very little time to heal before having their next match. So injury after injury piles up as they participate in predetermined fights for our entertainment.

    Take CM Punk for example. He signed with the UFC with a few injuries from his wrestling days. In fact, he has admitted that one of the reasons he signed with the UFC is because it’s actually a lot safer than professional wrestling. So the word fake isn’t the best way to describe someone willingly inflicting punishment upon themselves. But what it could be described as is a beautiful ballet of violence acted out in front of a live audience every week. It’s a live performance of acrobats and brutality. And wrestling fans understand that, which is why we tune in every week. We understand what it is, and we understand how much effort was put in to creating it.

    As far as WWE’s writing goes, it’s hit or miss. And I’m not going to kid you, it’s more miss these days. But when it’s good, it’s REALLY good. Sometimes we feel like we’re in an abusive relationship. We think of how great it was in the past and hope that it will be as good as before. But we know deep down inside that WWE will never change. So we stick with it with hopes that will probably never be realized. But the moments when it shines, man, there is no other feeling like it.

    So there’s my answer. We watch it because we respect all that it takes for the performers to put on a show, and we don’t take the writing all that serious. It’s mindless fun that can be extremely entertaining at times. It’s fantasy. It’s a savagely violent soap opera. And most important, it’s just a show like any other show on television to keep us entertained.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s fair enough. I agree these people are incredibly talented and tough. They are real athletes. I definitely acknowledged in my post. I think your take is a very level-headed one as Squire said in that you can separate it in that it is a violent soap opera. I like that phrasing. When it comes down to it, everything is entertainment and if enough people are entertained then clearly there must be something to it. I should say though that, no matter what, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really great response @Nerdamania. I can tell your passionate about it, so keep in mind everything I say is said in a respectful tone.

    I agree with you completely that these guys are tough as nails. I also think they are some of the most athletically gifted people in entertainment. They work out just as hard as everyone and still manage to pull triple backflips off of the ring and land it perfectly on their opponent. It boggles my mind.

    My problem is with the writing. I’m not just trying to plug myself here, or use this as click bait, but this short piece I wrote, https://hardnosports.com/2016/03/13/surviving-survivor/, hits on the same issues.

    I have found and read that some of the characters are so loaded the potential effect they have on people goes beyond mindless. Class is brought in through characters, Politics, National Identity, the list goes on. I just have a hard time with the morality of the whole thing and children losing their minds amongst their parents and peers. It’s the ability that has to transcend out into the ‘real world’.

    I think someone like you, who can clearly separate the two, the entertainment aspect and the real world aspect can absolutely enjoy it, and should. Of course. It’s the people who don’t have the ability or don’t want to recognize the difference that scares me.

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  3. It’s difficult to ‘convince’ you here in a few sentances. So I’m going to bore you with an essay!!
    Most simply, as Nate mentioned, it’s basically the same as a fictional TV show you watch. But there is so much more to it than that explanation. Adult wrestling fans most likely grew up with this. As someone I met as Wrestlemania last year said: there’s something comforting, familiar and reliable about a ‘show’ thats been on every week since I was a child. There are wrestlers that I used to watch when I was 13 that are still either wrestling or at least making an appearance (I’m 38!). It’s like growing up with a TV character. Besides the nostalgia, here are things that wrestling fans find entertaining:
    1) Storylines – some good, some bad, some corny comedic, some downright spectacular (especially 10-15 years ago). It’s light relief and it’s about rooting for a certain character. Especially now since the kayfabe (make believe) boundaries have been blurred and fans are conscious of storylines, creative angles and wrestlers ‘real’ lives, it makes it even more fun to talk about “wwe creative should do *this* with this character” etc. It’s like watching and commenting on a never ending story with constant new characters and, dare I say it, audience power to actually affect story angles.
    2) The skill: No matter whatever anyone says, never underestimate the skill and athleticism of these wrestlers. Yes the ‘punches’ are fake, but the drops, kicks, powerbombs, falls are real. I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day with the great Bret Hart and get to ask all my childhood questions and it made me realise even more that the risks are real, there are good and bad wrestlers in terms of injuring opponants. The falls on the table and chairs hurt, and the schedule is more gruelling than any other sport or entertainment. These people are basically performing acrobacy, and perfectly timed physically demanding moves, at a great speed, and because they do this almost every night, there are legitimate injuries. Sometimes I’ll watch a move and have to pause rewind and watch again 5 times to figure out how on earth that didn’t break their neck. And sometimes it does. There’s a very established and legitimate art of wrestling that is technical and takes years of practice. Some wrestlers are more technical than others, and fans appreciate this. Others are daredevils, and fans also appreciate this. Watching a wrestler do a 2.5 spin in the air from the top rope and land exactly where they’re supposed to, or jump off of a x meter high cage, or do a series of tradional wresting maneuvres – these all leave us applauding.
    3) The music – Professional wrestling entertainment would not be entertainment without the music. Every character has their own music and sometimes, the first few notes of this music is enough to get you cheering, because it represents years of back story. Hearing Motorhead blaring out (for Triple H) gets the adrenelin going. Hearing the atmospheric music for the Wyatt Family (where everyone lights their phones in the darkness) is like listening to the intro of your favourite tv show and knowing that you have that episode to look forward to. The music of the legends is even more awesome because it’s like getting a bonus episode of your favourite tv show thats been off the air for 5 years 🙂 The music of the Undertaker who I have watched for 20+ years is still enough to give me chills. Not so much for someone hearing it for the first time, I’m sure. But if you had never watched Breaking Bad and someone showed you a 5 minute clip from episode 6 season 4, that wouldn’t mean anything to you either.
    4) The Pop – WWE is a culture, a community, a common passion. Like supporting your favourite sports team, but on a global scale. The crowd atmosphere, the funny chants, the group mentality that you are part of even though you are watching at home, make you feel like you are a part of something big. So, it’s even more exciting when a fan favourite makes an unexpected entrance, and the crowd POP that you hear on the first note of their music makes you feel like you are sharing this with thousands. Like your favourite team scoring a goal. The crowd pop when superstars make comebacks, legends return for an appearance, or when a character comes in to do something to affect the storyline – these are the biggest pops and I still find myself getting as excited at home as the people in the crowd.
    5) The production: Ok, so it’s not a Las Vegas show, but the production behind the shows, especially pay per view events, gets you in the mood. Combining the music with fireworks, the high tempo commentary with the matches, the lighting, the promos – there is always something happening. It’s literally like keeping a baby’s attention with funny sounds, toys, colors 🙂 but it works. Sometimes, you need something to just be BIG and colorful. Our lives are tough enough, and this is light relief. Also, it’s underestimated the level of coordination and talent it takes to syncronise these matches. The referees play a crucial part in directing the matches, but mostly it’s up to the wrestlers to make a loose plan of what moves will be done and how the match goes and also communicate with each other during the match so they know where they should be to set up the next move. It’s actually very impressive that most of the time, the fast paced moves are seemless. Except for the funny botches that you can find on youtube 🙂 It’s more about how a wrestler takes a move/blow than it is about how the other wrestler carries it out. The moves have to be sold. If a wrestler is being an dick, he doesn’t sell the move or he dead weights himself so he can’t be lifted. The level of communication and coordination is amazing when you watch it in that light. So no, it’s not just 2 grown men in tights following a worked out routine and running about in the ring. It’s like watching a dance performance on Dancing with the Stars – noone tells dancers that it’s stupid because it’s all rehearsed (thats actually more rehearsed than the wrestling matches)
    6) Promos – these guys have to be actors. If they are bad at cutting promos and selling their character, they don’t make it or are sent to acting lessons. There have been some promo cutters in the past that are as good as any movie or tv star I have seen. Some are crazy and intense, and those are always fun. Some are goofy, those are just silly fun. Some are so bad that you take to twitter to make fun of them, and that’s also fun 🙂 But these guys are having to act, perform high level athletic shows every night, and engage the audience. And all the while, a creative team is working on how to introduce new characters, how to make characters populer, how to get them to turn bad, how to find an original storyline. Neverending…

    So to summarize 🙂
    There is no other form of entertainment where you get the rush of an arena show, the visual of athletes at their physical peak, the fun of an ongoing story (more than one), the excitement of surprises, the humor of the oneliners, the development of characters over many years and buzz of loud music. UFC is cool. But it’s a match. You’re never going to get the guys best friend run in and hit the other guy with a hammer. Where’s the fun in that 🙂
    We know the chacaters and stories are made up, we know the wrestlers are acting, we know the punch doesn’t hurt but that the broken ankle is real (and he has to finish the match somehow). But 1-2 times a week, when it’s raining outside and you just got home from work, when you have the bills to pay tomorrow, when you’re tired and don’t feel like watching an oscar nominated film about world war 2, when you want to clear your head and have someone else just entertain you without having to think about anything – THEN you put on Raw and laugh, and cringe, and internally cheer, and you let the lights, the music, the familiar voices, the crowd just entertain you. And you comment that Reigns should become heel, and that Ziggler has been booked wrong, and that Big Show should retire, and that Ryback botched again, and wow how high did Neville just get, and oh my god is that Mick Foley, and Ambrose just did that move in Canada as an appreciation to Bret Hart, and oohh I love that new Limp Bizkit entrance music, and I wonder when Rollins gets back from injury, surely either him or Orton will be back soon, and this storyline is very similar to the Attitude Era storylines, come on Creative get original, and oh my god that’s Stone Cold’s music (big pop)….and then the show finishes and you’ve forgotton about everything for 2 hours. And that’s Professional Wrestling Entertainment.
    🙂
    PS. If you have any inclination to see what I’m talking about, old classic matches are well and good but without knowning the backstory and the years of character development, it may not mean much to you. But, watching some of the WWE Network programs such as Countdown are actually a good way to get the jist of what I’m talking about. The top ten rivalries, tag teams, entrances, intercontinental champions etc etc are a good way to see the range and the history behind this. Or you may not care at all, and I have written all this for nothing 🙂 But hey, it’s been cathartic! I may just go and watch this weeks Smackdown 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. And I just realised Nerdamania had already made all of the points I made (in very similar wording! I guess us wrestling fans have the same thought process!) And I completely agree that this is a relationship that actually reminisces about the ‘good old days’ when the stories and characters were 100 times better. Its the memory and occasional references to the old days that gives the present WWE the benefit of the doubt most weeks.
    Also, I am a 38 year old female who grew up in London – so no Trump supporter here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Aylin. I really appreciate the thought that went into it. I don’t think I’ll ever be fully convinced but I think these past few hours and seeing people’s responses are giving me a better appreciation for what I could never understand. It’s something very personal to wrestling fans.

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      1. Well thank you for keeping an open mind 🙂 To be fair, none of my friends watch WWE, and it’s more of a guilty pleasure for me. Apart from when I get to go to a live event, and then I feel like I’m home and I get to talk to random fans about that match in 2002 where such and such happened 🙂 It’s a funny culture and more often than not these days, I do roll my eyes at things on the show. But for example, you watched Reigns go full-rogue on Raw last night and it was funny and ridiculous to you (I get that), but to us that represents whether this is a shift in character for him, what this means for Wrestlemania, whether WWE is going a bit more old-school with backstage brawls, whether Reigns has finally got the acting down so he doesn’t do his duckface pose, and how many stiches that gash in Triple H’s head needed (6). It is personal and it is silly, but like anything, it’s about putting the time in 🙂

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      2. This is definitely a much more reasonable take. I mean, heck, I watch Hell’s Kitchen on a regular basis. It is one of my guilty pleasures and I recognize it is silly as fuck but I still watch it. I’m not trying to directly compare the two but I guess what I’m saying is that we all have things we understand are silly but when you put the time in you become invested in something.

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  5. You already got the answer: it’s a live action comic book set in the genre of a “sport”. It’s been that way for decades.

    To dismiss that as what they’re doing is kind of silly. Now granted, you are look at WWE as an example who do rely HEAVILY on badly acted, badly scripted back stage segments. That’s not what pro wrestling does (WWE itself doesn’t claim to be pro wrestling anymore, they call it “sports entertainment”).

    Pro wrestling is essentially a stunt show / action theater where archetypes are used to allow fans to cheer or boo and have a good time. Some take it way too seriously (we tend to avoid them like that embarrassing cousin at Thanksgiving dinner) but it is a unique, skilled and engaging form of entertainment when it’s done right.

    Anyway, you either get it or you don’t. Some people don’t understand how people enjoy reading, some people don’t understand why people spend hours and hours playing video games, others don’t understand why people like soap operas. Horses for courses … and no need to look down on other people for liking something you don’t necessarily get, enjoy or understand.

    Many people can’t get past it “being fake” as if a) none of the fans know it’s scripted and b) pro wrestling people think they’re fooling people that it’s real … neither is correct and the only ignorant person is the one who thinks shouting “it’s fake!” is some sort of revelation that makes them smarter than other people they look down their nose at.

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