Pro-Wrestling is fake, staged, choreographed. Choose your adjective, and it has been used to describe what goes on inside of a 20’x20’ ring each night. Two men “fight” to compete for championships, egos or simply just to win. The year is 2014, and the mystique of professional wrestling in terms of questioning its authenticity has been almost completely erased. In fact, wrestlers aren’t even referred to as “wrestlers” anymore. They are now “sports entertainers”, further separating themselves from the realm of reality. In fact, the word “wrestling” has almost become a dirty word inside the wrestling business, where they are now referred to as “sports entertainers”. Branding them as sports entertainers rather than pro-wrestlers has in and of itself has added to the “wrestling is fake” label.
Ironically, the one element to revive wrestling is BELIEVEABILITY. Think about when you watch a movie, what makes a movie great or not is your ability to SUSPEND DISBELIEF and become immersed and emotionally invested in the story that is being told. In the same way, what made wrestling great was the ability to watch two men inside a squared circle competing with each other for a specific reason. It’s no secret that personal rivalries in sports have always resulted in the cash register ringing, whether it’s football, baseball or pro-wrestling. It’s a timeless formula that personal rivalries create cash, especially in wrestling.
Unfortunately for wrestling, the curtain has been pulled back so much in terms of the business being exposed that it would be difficult to re-educate the audience in terms of creating that sense of believability. However, it’s not impossible to accomplish. In order to re-establish a sense of believability, the WWE needs to look back at why wrestling had such a large growth in audience during its “Attitude Era” (late 90’s/early 2000’s). Yes, the roster was loaded with main-event level talent like Stone Cold, The Rock, Undertaker, Mankind, Kane etc. However, beyond the high level of talent were believable characters/promos and physicality inside and outside of the ring.
The first element to establishing believability is creating a character for a wrestler that is not only very believable, but one in which is an extension of who that person really is. When a wrestler is given or creates a character that is an actual part of who and what they are as a PERSON, it allows them to be comfortable with themselves in front of a live audience, and therefore comes across as organic and natural, rather than forced.
Promos that are scripted word for word and memorized by the talent are very easily visible in delivery. When an audience can see through your words and that you don’t really mean what you’re saying they will hear you but they won’t LISTEN. A wrestler needs to truly BELIEVE what they are saying. It’s become clear that many wrestlers today are simply being given lines to repeat, rather than delivering a message from their own brain.
Physicality is the final element to recreating the believability in wrestling. As an audience, we know that what we are seeing is a work, but when a match reaches that fine line of saying “wow, how can you fake that?”, that’s the moment when reality and fantasy blend. I’m not advocating that wrestlers try to hurt each other, but rather stiffen up the style and work a little tighter so that we, the audience, can’t see through your work. There is nothing worse than seeing a punch that clearly didn’t land, and having the receiver still sell the punch.
On a final note, having time limits return and closed fist punches banned would also add to the reality presentation. It’s very difficult to look past the fact that no mark is being left on the opponent when you just “punched” him in the face several times. Time limits are also realistic, and add another “finish” to matches.
Unfortunately, WWE is no longer labels themselves as a wrestling company. They are now an “entertainment” company. As mentioned before, this in and of itself hurts the believability of the product. Some may say “Well, everyone knows it’s not real, so why insult the intelligence of the audience?” Ironically, we as an audience WANT to believe that maybe part of what we are seeing is real. Yes we want to be entertained, but why can’t that be done through believability? Let’s not reinvent the wheel.
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