Professional wrestling is a sport involving athletes doing choreographed moves which are scripted. "kayfabe" an old carnival term, has been created to protect this.
Historically, European and North American professional wrestling have involved matches where the outcome was predetermined, by the referee telling the contestants who wins. The term professional wrestling or pro-wrestling has evolved to refer almost exclusively to predetermined matches, also referred to as "works". Modern professional wrestling usually features striking and other techniques, which are modelled after diverse sets of global wrestling and boxing styles.
Modern professional wrestling is commonly associated within a company (often referred to as a fed), where the participants create an entertaining show simulating a dueling match. The level of realism can vary from sports entertainment (the American World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) promotion) to stiff style (the Japanese strong style as exemplified by Antonio Inoki) to spotfests. In Mexico the dominant style is the stylized, theatrical Lucha libre.
The question of whether professional wrestling is a sport comparable to its freestyle, Greco-Roman, and collegiate counterparts can seem irrelevant, maybe even impossible, to compare as the key difference between both concepts is that professional wrestling's main focus is maintaining its audience and profiting as a business rather than as a form of athletic competition.
As opposed to a common sporting event, a professional wrestler's athletic prowess and skills are done more to prevent injury than to inflict it. In many cases, the victim of an attack in a professional wrestling environment is required to do more athletically than the one performing an attack on him. If the wrestler absorbing the attack is less skilled or less athletic, he/she may injure his/her partner or even him/herself.
The simulated nature of professional wrestling is only one of the many differences it has with traditional wrestling. Other differences can vary from company to company.
The assigned referee is often the one who controls the outcome of the match barring certain matches with special rules or for storyline reasons. A common storyline angle of this is a promotion owner or other high official modifying the stipulations of a match to invalidate a referee's decision, such as declaring it a no-disqualification match after a wrestler wins by disqualification. A "motto" in the pro-wrestling world used to describe the interpretation of the rules (actually more like loose guidelines) is: "You can't call what you don't see", implying that anything is justified as long as the referee doesn't see. This is often used as a plot twist to drastically change the momentum in a match. One of the better-known occurrences has a referee getting "accidentally" knocked senseless or thrown outside of the ring (often referred to as a "ref bump"). While he's stunned, one wrestler, usually a face, will suddenly have the match won, only to then have it robbed from them via outside interference, a foreign object, or some other unfair means. The referee, unaware of what happened, will recover just in time to notice a pin that reflects the new situation, and make an arduous three-count. A variation on this finish, the "Dusty finish" (after Dusty Rhodes, who frequently used such finishes as a booker), has the substitute referee making the three-count in favor of the face, only to have it overturned by the original referee. In addition to pinfall, a match can be won by submission, count-out, disqualification, or failure to answer a ten count.
Punching is permitted as long as the wrestler's fist is open. This is probably the most ignored rule in WWE, as referees almost never disqualify a wrestler for throwing closed-fist punches. Instead, the referee simply admonishes the wrestler to stop, which is rarely successful. In addition, wrestlers may only kick with the flat part of the foot, and "low blow" only refers to actually striking the crotch. If either wrestler is in contact with the ropes or if any part of the wrestler is underneath the ropes, all contact between the wrestlers must be broken before the count of five. This strategy is often used in order to escape from a submission hold, and also, more seldom, a wrestler can place his foot on (or under) the ropes to avoid losing by pinfall. Participants may try to abuse these rules, and it will often result in verbal or physical sparring with the ref.
In order to win by pinfall, a wrestler must pin both his opponent's shoulders against the mat while the referee slaps the mat three times. This is the most common form of defeat. Illegal pinning methods include using the ropes for leverage and hooking the opponent's tights, therefore they are popular cheating methods for heels. Such pins as these are rarely, if ever, seen by the referee and are subsequently often used by heels and on occasion by cheating faces to win matches.
To win by submission, the wrestler must make his opponent give up, usually, but not necessarily, by putting him in a submission hold (i.e., leg-lock, arm-lock, etc.).
Passing out in a submission hold constitutes a loss by knockout. To determine if a wrestler has passed out in WWE, the referee usually picks up and drops his hand. If it drops three consecutive times without the wrestler having the strength to stop it from falling, the wrestler is considered to have passed out. At one point this was largely ignored, however the rule is no much more commonly observed. Often the third time, the WWE wrestler in the hold will fight their way out.
Also, a wrestler can indicate a submission by "tapping out," that is, tapping a free hand against the mat or against an opponent (when no hand is free, as is the case in a Mexican Surfboard, the submitting wrestler may scream "I give up," which is the same as a submission). The tapout was once common-place in professional wrestling, especially in the days prior to it becoming a predominately pre-arranged contest. However, following the decline of the submission-oriented catch-as-catch-can style from mainstream professional wrestling, the tap out largely faded, regaining prominence as a means of victory mostly in the face of the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the early 90's.
A countout (alternatively "count-out" or "count out") happens when a wrestler is out of the ring long enough for the referee to count to 10 or 20 (regular referees usually count very slowly, as opposed to one count per second, because countouts are very controversial and unsatisfying ways to end matches). The count is broken and restarted when a wrestler inside the ring leaves the ring.
If both wrestlers are outside the ring, the count will refer to both. If one of the wrestlers re-enters the ring, while the other remains outside, the count will continue for the one left outside. A common tactic, to buy more time outside the ring, is for a wrestler to re-enter the ring to restart the count, and then continue to fight outside the ring. If both wrestlers remain outside at the count of ten, both will be counted out. This is known as a double countout, or to a lesser extent, an "impossible draw".
If both of the wrestlers are lying on the mat and not moving, the referee may issue a ten count. One wrestler reaching his knees will break the count. If neither wrestler reaches their knees or feet, it is considered a draw, also known as a double knockout, or incorrectly, an "in ring count-out."
The countout rule indicates that a wrestler cannot win a match while any part of his opponent's body is not in the ring. This allows escape from pinfalls and submission holds, by grabbing hold of one of the ring ropes, thus forcing the referee to break the hold or stop the count. This is also why the referee will start a count once a wrestler has reached the top rope; he is out of the ring area. Also, Championships cannot change hands by a count-out loss unless the authority figure declares that the defending champion may lose his/her championship to the opponent, although this is good only for at least one match, unless the authority figure declares otherwise, IE more than one match.
Common slang for walking out of the ring and leaving your opponent standing there, only to get purposely counted out yourself, is known as pulling a "Broadway".
Offenses punishable by disqualification (or "DQ") include:
- Performing any illegal holds or maneuvers, such as refusing to break a hold when an opponent is in the ropes, choking or biting an opponent, staying on the top turnbuckle, and repeatedly punching with a closed fist. These violations are usually subject to a referee-administered five count and will result in disqualification if not released before.
- Any outside interference involving a person not involved in the match striking or holding a wrestler. If a heel attempts to interfere but is ejected from the ring by a wrestler or referee before this occurs, there is usually no disqualification.
- Striking an opponent with a foreign object (unless the rules of the match specifically allow this).
- A direct low-blow to the groin. (unless the rules of the match/company specifically allow this)
- Laying hands on the referee or to an extreme case, often in special referee matches, laying any body parts on the referee.
- Messing with an opponent's eye, such as raking it, poking it, punching it out or other several attacks to the eye.
In practice, the "rules" of the fight are often violated without disqualification due to the referee being "distracted" and not seeing the offense, or the referee seeing the offense but allowing the match to continue. In the WWE, a referee must see the violation with his own eyes to rule that the match end in a disqualification and the referee's ruling is almost always final. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the referees themselves to get "knocked out" during a match. While the referee remains "unconscious," rules are often violated at will. In some cases, a referee might disqualify a person under the presumption that it was that wrestler who knocked him out; most ref-KOs are arranged to allow a wrestler, usually a heel, to gain an advantage. For example, a wrestler may get whipped into a referee at a slower speed, knocking the ref down for a minute or so; during that interim period, the wrestler may pin his opponent for a three-count and would have won the match but for the referee being down. As with a count-out loss, Championships cannot change hands through disqualifications, unless the on-screen authority declares that the defending champion can lose his/her championship by getting disqualified, which is usually good for at least one championship match
If both participants (or teams) in a match continue to breach the referee's instructions, the match may end in a double disqualification, where both wrestlers or teams (in a tag team match) have been disqualified. The match is essentially nullified, and called a draw or, in certain storylines, a restart or extended wrestling period is made possible by an authority figure.
A professional wrestling match can end in a draw. A draw occurs if both opponents are simultaneously disqualified (as via countout), neither opponent is able to answer a ten-count, or both opponents simultaneously win the match. The latter can occur if, for example, one opponent's shoulders touch the mat while maintaining a submission hold against another opponent. If the opponent in the hold begins to tap out at the same time a referee counts to three for pinning the opponent delivering the hold, both opponents have legally achieved scoring conditions simultaneously. Traditionally, a championship may not change hands in the event of a draw, though some promotions such as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling have endorsed rules where the champion may lose a title by disqualification. A variant of the draw is the time-limit draw, where the match does not have a winner by a specified time period (a one-hour draw, which was once common, is known in wrestling circles as a "Broadway").
A wrestling match may be declared a No Contest if the winning conditions are unable to occur. This can be due to excessive interference, loss of referee's control over the match, one or more participants sustaining debilitating injury not caused by the opponent, or the inability of a scheduled match to even begin. A No Contest is a state separate and distinct from a draw — a draw indicates winning conditions were met. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in practice, this usage is technically incorrect.
The vast majority of professional wrestlers are men, and especially in the North American WWE, where they are usually large in size, often to extremes. Competitions or divisions are sometimes set up for men of similar wrestling styles. (eoj) Styles include that of technical, brawling, high flying, and luchador.
Midget wrestling has been a unique aspect of professional wrestling, and can be traced to professional wrestling's carnival and vaudeville origins. In recent years, however, the popularity and prevalence of midgets in wrestling has greatly decreased mostly due to major wrestling companies depriving midget divisions of any form of wrestling storyline or feud, although the WWE broadcast of SmackDown did feature a "Junior's division", in which midgets wrestled against each other, from 2005-2006. The "Junior's division" is no longer a part of Smackdown or the WWE. But it's still a popular form of entertainment in Mexican wrestling, mostly as a sideshow, so to speak. Some wrestlers may have their specific "mini me's", like Mascarada Sagrada and his midget counterpart Mascarita Sagrada, Alebrije has Quije, etc. Or there are cases in wich midgets can become valets for a wrestler, and even get physical into a match from time to time, like Alushe, who often accompanies one of the greatest Mexican wrestlers, Tinieblas, or Kemonito, who is portrayed as CMLL's (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) mascot, and is also a valet for a popular wrestler on the rise called Mistico.
- See: Wrestling promotion
The organizations that schedule and produce professional wrestling performances are known as wrestling promotions. Currently, the only major wrestling organizations left in North America are the United States promotions of WWE and TNA Wrestling (TNA) and the Mexican lucha libre promotions Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) and Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA). Of these, WWE is by far the largest and most influential throughout the world. While these organizations are the most prominent and popular, there are many other smaller, regional promotions known as "indies", many of which are official territories of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Other major independent promotions include Ring of Honor (ROH), Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW).
Wrestlers from Canada are generally of comparable quality as those of the United States. Canada's promotions include Stampede Wrestling, Border City Wrestling, Pure Wrestling Association, International Wrestling Syndicate, UWA, and Blood, Sweat and Ears.
Outside North America, there are other federations throughout Europe and also in Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the rest of the Caribbean.
The traditional Japanese style differs from the American style in that it is portrayed more as a combat sport than as pure entertainment. The term strong style was coined by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) promoter Antonio Inoki. Inoki incorporated more martial arts and real fighting techniques to his arsenal, and performed the moves and strikes with more muscle stiffness than in traditional American style, in an effort to make his pro wrestling look more like a real fight. A style known as King's Road was created by Giant Baba which is similar but slightly different. This style is the dominant style used by All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) descendants.
- Foreign objects (e.g. folding chair)
- Wrestling aerial techniques (e.g. Shooting star press, Moonsault)
- Wrestling attacks (e.g. Leg drop, Superkick)
- Wrestling double-team maneuvers
- Wrestling holds (e.g. Boston crab, Pinfall)
- Wrestling match types
- Wrestling tag team match types
- Wrestling slang
- Wrestling throws (e.g. Backbreaker, Brainbuster, Chokeslam, Cutter, DDT, Facebuster, Neckbreaker, Piledriver, Powerbomb, Powerslam, Stunner, Suplex)
Lists of wrestlers
- WrestlingGoneWrong.com - The Reality of Professional Wrestling
- website of documentary Catch - the hold not taken on the history of pro wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Discussion Forums - Wrestling news and talk.
- Pro Wrestling Title Histories
- CBC Digital Archives – Cross Country Smackdown: Pro Wrestling in Canada
- Prowrestling Wikia Korea