I have been a fan of professional wrestling for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is playing with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage action figures. As I grew older, my passion for professional wrestling only continued through my teens and, now in my late twenties, I’m still a fan, though admittedly not as much as I once was. One constant throughout my love of wrestling has been the individual to whom all wrestling fans have been acquainted; the individual that insists on constantly telling you that wrestling is ‘fake’.
This is something I have never understood and, I suspect, most who even do say that wrestling is ‘fake’ aren’t actually sure what they mean by it. A friend of mine was convinced wrestling was ‘fake’ to the point he would argue that the tragic death of Eddie Guerrero and the awful demise of Chris Benoit were stories, or plots. It is an assumption that people make that, if you watch wrestling, or enjoy it, or become engrossed in this or that storyline or rivalry, then you are being duped, you think it’s all ‘real’ and therefore must be informed otherwise.
Are we to assume that those who insist on spouting that wrestling is ‘fake’ that they only watch things that are ‘real’? Do they go into movie theatres and throughout the entire film insist on telling everyone in attendance that in fact, an alien invasion never really took place, and New York is totally fine? I would suspect not, so why do they insist on telling wrestling fans that the thing they love and enjoy is ‘fake’? I don’t look at wrestling as ‘fake’; I look at wrestling as simply another form of art.
Individuals who truly appreciate what professional wrestling is will hopefully understand where I am coming from immediately, but for those who may be a little confused by my describing wrestling as ‘art’, please allow me to elaborate. The precise definition of the word ‘art’ is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
Most people, as is seen through the definition of ‘art’ will instantly think of paintings & sculptures, but wrestling fits in the category of art so perfectly. Let’s take an example from the WWE, inspired by my playthrough of WWE 2K14, of the match at Wrestlemania 18 between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan. These are two individuals that are nothing short of legends of the business; Hulk Hogan is one of my earliest wrestling memories, and the Rock was in his prime during my school days, a man I nothing short of idolised. Take these two very big memories and bring them together to create a new memory, a new experience like none other, a one on one match at the ‘Superbowl’ of Professional Wrestling, Wrestlemania.
Most who witnessed the event saw how pumped and excited the crowd were to witness such a monumental clash between two of the biggest names in the industry. Even recalling that memory gives me goosebumps, and as the two begin their match, we see Hogan overpowering The Rock, pushing him away and using his old taunts most will remember from the time he was at his peak in the 80s.
What a sight that was to see, the crowd went nuts as they instantly forgot that Hogan at that time was supposed to be the bad guy, and recognised him as nothing more than their childhood hero. The central feature of this match was not technical wrestling skill, it was the visual, emotional, and psychological experience that comes with witnessing such an amazing once in a lifetime event. The end of the match saw The Rock get the win and Hogan congratulate Rock by passing the proverbial torch to ‘The Great One’. Such a moving moment for wrestling fans, you’d be forgiven for breaking down into tears at the emotional power of it all.
You see, the emotional impact of that match was not because wrestling fans thought the fight and the rivalry were real, it is due to the performance they witnessed, the emotion that was drawn from within by this match. Some have the same, or similar responses to many different types of art. Some are moved to tears by a visually striking painting, they are shocked by a unique sculpture, or are made to laugh by a humorous theatre production.
Professional wrestling is a unique art form in its own right. Depending on the promotion and the individual wrestlers, there is a blurring of lines between reality and fiction. Of course, the ending of a match is largely predetermined, but the bumps, the scrapes and the blood that we will inevitably see in a match (particularly a Ric Flair bout) are all real. Wrestlers are actors that may wind up with a broken neck. They are entertainers that may run the risk of losing a few pints of blood. They are the artists creating their own works of art within a four sided ring.
– by Steven Stewart