Pro Wrestling has been around for years, but it only recently became a mainstream and accepted sport. Yes, it was known, but for many, it was not taken seriously. It was seen as entertainment, and while there is a theatrical element, to define the sport by this one aspect is foolish. Make no mistake about it, pro wrestling is a legitimate, and grueling sport that requires dedication, talent, strength and smarts.
And now, thanks to guys like Jon Cena to Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, wrestlers have become household names, putting the spotlight on this often overlooked, but deserving sport. If you never watched, or want to know more about it, you’ve come to the right place.
Pro Wrestling 101
It may surprise you to hear this, but pro wrestling was a respected and recognized sport in the U.S. back in the 1920’s. It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that it began to develop a reputation for being “fake.” It was put in a category all by itself and not taken seriously in comparison to other similar sports, like mixes martial arts or boxing.
But none of that stopped it from soaring in popularity in the 1980’s. Pro Wrestling became a phenomenon then, with guys like Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, The Hart Brothers, Macho Man Randy Savage, and others entering living rooms across America.
Sadly, its popularity could not erase the stigma of it being “fake.” Yes, matches are pre-determined, but that doesn’t negate the moves these guys perform, which are 100% real- and dangerous. People confuse the scripted parts with the very real moves that these guys perform. Or at least they did, until now.
Now, after a dip in popularity, pro wrestling is once again enjoying unrivaled popularity. But this time, with wrestlers venturing into other areas, like broadcasting and acting, along with reality shows to show fans how it all happens, it is getting the respect that has eluded it for so long.
The Anatomy of a Pro Wrestler
Becoming a pro wrestler takes years of hard work, none of which pays off without the right branding. If they don’t create the right persona, a wrestler’s career can be over before it starts. Which is why knowing who they are and what they wear is crucial. They must choose gear that is not just safe, but eye-catching.
From the color of their singlet and the types of boots they wear, to their signature move, everything must be carefully considered and planned. Here is what goes into building a career:
- Public Persona: Are they good or bad? Loud or menacing? Wrestlers must figure out who they want to be known as, then build the character from there. Who they are will determine what they wear. And the more flamboyant, the better. Think Rowdy Roddy Piper or Rick Flair. Not only did those guys stand out, their outfits were memorable- and still are.
- Signature Move: In wrestling, it’s not so much about getting the pin as it is how you get the pin. Backbreakers, figure-four leg locks, sleeperholds and more can be used to create a deadly signature move. And every big name pro wrestler has one. Like the Big Show and his Colossal Clutch or Jon Cena and the STF.
Behind the Scenes as a Professional Wrestler
Not anyone can be a pro wrestler. The notion that it is “staged’” and that actors can do it is beyond ludicrous. Wrestler train, just like ball players or boxers, and must be in exceptional shape to cut down on injuries- to themselves or others. They also face unknown factors every time they step in the ring. Here is a look at what you don’t know:
- Their Training is Grueling: Just as with other sports, there are schools to learn wrestling, and training arenas to practice once you learn. Those training centers are brutal, pushing these athletes to their limits for hours at a time as they battle each other. And that doesn’t even count the hours they spend in the gym doing cardio and strength training.
It is a painstaking, arduous process that can take a toll on the body. And it’s nerve-wracking. A wrong move can put themselves, and whoever they’re wrestling in danger, or worse.
- The Matches Aren’t Scripted- or Practiced: While the outcome of a match is pre-determined, how they get there is not. It would be impossible for these guys to practice a match move by move. Not only is it unnatural, but with all the hours they train there simply isn’t enough time to practice or choreograph the match. No, these guys go in flying blind, and have to keep in sync with each other to prevent injuries.
You know all those attempted pins they kick out of? Those are to give the other guy a chance to catch his breath if a move hurt him.
- Injuries Are Real- and Happen All the Time: While there are some storyline injuries that you see, there are thousands of real injuries that happen daily. Just look at former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, who had to retire after a neck injury. Wrestlers punish their bodies, and suffer injuries while training, and competing. From rolled ankles to lacerations, there is always something to treat.
- They Are Always On: Being a great athlete will only get you so far in this sport; you need the personality to match. To truly become a success, wrestlers must brand and sell themselves. Their personalities need to stand out for them to be noticed. Sounds simple, but it’s not, and it takes careful planning.
These days, wrestlers do a lot outside the ring. The Rock is a successful actor, while Jon Cena co-hosts sometimes on NBC’s the Today show entertainment hour alongside Al Roker and others. The point is, these guys work hard in and out of the ring, weaving the sport into the fabric of our everyday lives.