Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Professional wrestling is a form of performance entertainment where the participants engage in simulated sporting matches. Originating as such, in the days of travelling carnival shows, professional wrestling's humbler beginnings include strongman feats, hook wrestling, and other acrobatic performances. For the better part of a century, professional wrestling promoters and performers claimed that the competition was completely real and vehemently defended secrets of the trade (a situation known as kayfabe). Any pretense of sporting competition was dropped in the late 1990s, when Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation began describing its events as "sports entertainment," along with a formal change of moniker to World Wrestling Entertainment (although the name change was in response to a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund against the World Wrestling Federation over the rights to the initials "WWF" in the United Kingdom, the increasing use of the term "entertainment" leading up to the suit's resolution seemed to explain McMahon's willingness to change the name).
The simulated nature of professional wrestling is only one of the many differences it has with traditional wrestling.
Other differences can be found by looking at the supposed rules of pro wrestling. Punching is permitted as long as the wrestler's fist is open. You may only kick with the flat part of the foot, and "low blow" only refers to actually striking the crotch. A match can be won by pinfall, submission, count-out, disqualification, or failure to answer a ten count. 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. 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, the referee will usually pick up and drop 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. Today, a wrestler can indicate a submission by "tapping out", that is, tapping a free hand against the mat. The tapout is not a traditional part of professional wrestling; it was introduced during the mid-1990s in response to the increased popularity of mixed martial arts competitions, where the tapout has always been accepted. A count-out happens when a wrestler is out of the ring long enough for the referee to count to 10 (in Japan, the rule is a 20 count). 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 his or her knees or feet, it is considered a draw, also known as an "in ring count-out." If either wrestler is in contact with the ropes, all contact between the wrestlers must be broken. This strategy is used very often in order to escape from a submission hold, and also, more seldom, a wrestler can place his foot on the ropes to avoid losing by pinfall.
Offenses punishable by disqualification 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, for more than a referee-administered five count.
- Any outside interference involving a person not involved in the match striking or holding a wrestler. If someone 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.
- Laying hands on the referee.
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. Almost always, 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. A hilarious "motto" in the pro-wrestling world used to describe this situation is: "You can't call what you can'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.
The rules for a one-on-one pro wrestling match have not always been the same. For instance, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) had a rule that your opponent couldn't be thrown over the top rope. The now-defunct WCW or World Championship Wrestling, an offshoot of the NWA, formerly had a rule stating you could not jump off the top rope onto a prone opponent. Both instances would have caused a disqualification. The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) once disqualified wrestlers for pulling their opponent's ringwear or tights while covering for a pin. The move is still illegal in most promotions, but only breaks the hold or pin.
The referee has ultimate control in any match, and has so much authority that a decision reversal can only be made by the referee involved in the match; even the promotion owner (usually) has no influence over this decision. Of course, even this "rule" is subject to modification, depending on current storylines within the promotion.
Reality and fantasy
Please note that "simulated", in this context, does not necessarily mean "fake". While the outcomes are predetermined, the maneuvers are executed cooperatively and their effects upon the opponent are exaggerated, most moves cause genuine pain (and if performed incorrectly, capable of causing serious injury). Matches whose results are predetermined (the vast majority) are called "worked".
The final result of a match is pre-determined by "bookers" to maximise "heel heat" for the bad guy and "(baby)face heat" for the good guy, often in the context of a long-running "feud" or storyline. Typically the wrestlers will work out some signature "spots" marking key moments in the match in advance. During the match, the move sequences and transitions are improvised with the participants "calling spots" to each other to inform them of their next up-coming move. The referee is also often involved in executing the match to schedule and dealing with unforeseen circumstances.
The vast majority of bleeding incidents in wrestling are "real", and are typically induced by using hidden razor blades to cut oneself on the forehead; the act of cutting is known in the business and among fans as blading, and bleeding is known as juicing. If a wrestler bleeds without being cut, such as due to an accidental broken nose, he is said to be juicing hardway. If a wrestler hits another wrestler harder than he should on purpose, that is called "stiff", "being stiff", a "potato" or "potato shot".
Besides the somewhat real violence however, there have constantly been times where the division between reality and fantasy has been blurred, especially when it comes to who should win the matches. See the Clique as an example of this. On occasion, although increasingly rarely in recent decades, a wrestler will shoot, or ignore the script and attempt to win legitimately. This is also known as "going into business for yourself." In the past, promotions' World Champions were often intentionally-chosen "hookers" such as Lou Thesz who could defend themselves if the fight became real.
Pro wrestling and Sports entertainment
See Commedia dell'arte for an artistic predecessor to this style of entertainment.
The commedia dell'arte influence can be seen in a number of non-match related elements of professional wrestling. Some examples of these include storylines, gimmicks, interviews, and angles. These "non-wrestling" elements – used to build excitement and help build interest in professional wrestling matches themselves – have been referred to as "sports entertainment".
While professional wrestling moved increasingly to fixed matches around the early 1900s, there was still a strong push for most of the century to promote professional wrestling as being a legitimate sport; this movement is where the concept of "kayfabe" originated.
However, as the century progessed, promoters spent less time focusing on believable sports action, and more time presenting it as a "sports entertainment" spectacle. For a brief time, comedian Andy Kaufman began wrestling women during his act and was the self-proclaimed "Inter-gender Wrestling Champion of the World". Another major step in this direction was taken when Vince McMahon took control of the WWF, now known as WWE. Besides taking his federation into the territory boundries of the NWA, marking the first truly national pro wrestling promotion, and his national WrestleMania pay-per-view shows, McMahon also came up with the "Rock and Wrestling" concept. In fact, a key distinction between McMahon and competitors like Jim Crockett Promotions (the forerunner to WCW) and the American Wrestling Association was the carnival atmosphere created by the promoter's gimmicks and angles.
Indeed, if the term "sports entertainment" was not invented by McMahon, WWE has certainly popularized its use. A popular myth within professional wrestling fandom suggests McMahon adopted the term because staged entertainment insurance premiums are lower than for those for live sporting events. Another suggested reason is to give his business a sense of "legitimacy" in the business community as a form of entertainment, rather than as a "fake" sport. Similarly, McMahon "educated" his fan base, through the 1980s, that they weren't witnessing an improvised sporting contest, and instead that they should tune in for the sports-entertainment aspect; in other words, at least implying that the event was bettered, not diminished, by the very fact that it was being "worked." This was a cunning move, especially given that his competitors were still often presenting themselves as being legitimate sports (WCW commentator Tony Schiavone continued to use the phrase "Greatest moment in the history of our sport" well into the 1990s).
The WWF's "Rock and Wrestling" era has been derided by critics, and professional wrestling "purists", as presenting "cartoonish" characters, interviews, and slapstick skits as opposed to "real" wrestling. Others, however, point out that – aside from cable television and video – McMahon's focus on entertainment was key to pro wrestling's 1980s revival in popularity. This debate is still ongoing within pro wrestling fandom, especially within the "smark" community. Since then, Extreme Championship Wrestling, WCW's nWo gimmick, and the WWF / WWE's "Attitude" era further progressed the development of the non-wrestling aspects of professional wrestling.
Currently, the only major wrestling organisations left in North America are World Wrestling Entertainment, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and Total Nonstop Action, a former NWA member that is still loosely linked to that organization. Of these, WWE is by far the largest and most influential. However, outside North America, there are other federations throughout Europe and also in Japan, Puerto Rico and Mexico, where masked wrestlers are particularly popular.
- Internet Wrestling Syndicate (IWS)
- Monster Pro Wrestling
- Stampede Wrestling
- westside Xtreme wrestling (wXw)
- German Stampede Wrestling (GSW)
- All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- Pro-Wrestling ZERO1-MAX
- Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW)
- Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE
- Super World of Sports (SWS)
- Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF)
- All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (Zenjo)
- GAEA Japan
- Asistencía Asesoria y Administración (AAA)
- Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL)
- Universal Wrestling Association (UWA)
- Norsk Wrestling Forbund (NWF)
Republic of Ireland
- Irish Whip Wrestling (IWW)
- Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA)
- International Championship Wresting (ICW)
- K-Star Wrestling (KSW)
- NWA UK Hammerlock
United States of America
- Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW)
- French Lake Wrestling Association (FLWA)
- Incredibly Strange Wrestling (ISW)
- Memphis Championship Wrestling (MCW)
- Midwest Pro Wrestling (MPW)
- Minnesota Independent Wrestling (MIW)
- National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)
- Neo-Pro Wrestling
- Northern Premier Wrestling (NPW)
- NWA Wildside
- Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW)
- Pro-Pain-Pro Wrestling (3PW)
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG)
- Ring Of Honor (ROH)
- Steel Domain Wrestling (SDW)
- Total Nonstop Action (TNA Wrestling)
- Windy City Pro Wrestling (WCPW)
- World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
- World Xtreme Wrestling (wXw)
- All States Wrestling
- American Championship Wrestling
- American Wrestling Association (AWA)
- American Wrestling Federation (AWF)
- Championship Wrestling Midwest (CWM)
- Continental Wrestling Association
- Elite Wrestling Alliance
- Empire Professional Wrestling
- Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)
- Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW)
- Girls With Attitude (GWA)
- Global Wrestling Federation (GWF)
- Gold Coast Championship Wrestling
- Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW)
- Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA)
- Jim Crockett Promotions
- Juggalo Championshit Wrestling
- Kick Ass Wrestling Association
- Ladies Pro Wrestling Association (LPWA)
- Lunatic Wrestling Federation
- Major League Wrestling (MLW)
- Memphis Power Pro Wrestling
- National Championship Wrestling (NCW)
- National Wrestling Council
- National Wrestling Federation
- New Mid-West Wrestling
- No Rules Wrestling
- NWA Georgia
- OMEGA Pro Wrestling
- Peach State Wrestling
- Powerful Women of Wrestling (POWW)
- Pro Wrestling America (PWA)
- Pro Wrestling USA
- Ruff Cut Wrestling
- Smoky Mountain Wrestling
- Southern California Championship Wrestling (SCCW)
- Southern Professional Wrestling Federation
- Trans World Wrestling Alliance
- United States Wrestling Association (USWA)
- Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF)
- West Virginia Wrestling Alliance
- Wrestle America 2000 (WA2K)
- Women of Wrestling (WOW)
- World Championship Wrestling (WCW)
- World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW)
- World Professional Wrestling
- World Television Wrestling (WTW)
- Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW)
- Professional wrestling attacks
- Professional wrestling double-team maneuvers
- Professional wrestling finishers
- Professional wrestling holds
- Professional wrestling aerial techniques
- Professional wrestling match types
- Professional wrestling slang
- Professional wrestling throws
- Professional wrestling school
Professional wrestling worldwide
- Professional wrestling in Japan
- Professional wrestling in Mexico
- Professional wrestling in United Kingdom
Lists of Wrestlers
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