COLUMN: Wrestling is not a sport, it’s sports entertainment

Justin DiBiase

“You know it’s fake, right?” “Man, I haven’t watched wrestling since the fifth grade, dude.” These are some of the claims that swirl around the head of the average American when the topic of professional wrestling is brought up. How does someone judge a product like wrestling when he or she cannot identify what exactly it represents? While most people are indifferent toward wrestling, I have a personal endearment to the “sport,” having watched it with my brothers since the Hulk Hogan era.

Some people watch “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursdays; some watch “Cold Case” on Sundays. Others watch “WWE Monday Night Raw” on Mondays. This really is what wrestling is and tries to be. It is solely entertainment packed into two one-hour time slots on Monday and Friday nights. It will never replace any of the professional sports, nor can it even compete against them. Wrestling does not have extra innings or playoffs; it is simply a weekly television broadcast designed to entertain. It is “Days of Our Lives,” “Ultimate Fighting Championship” and “Mad TV” all wrapped up into one product.

The key word here is entertainment. It is what wrestling arguably does better than any other show on television today. The characters are vibrant; the storylines are cutting edge and intriguing; and the actual wrestling in the ring is action-packed. The wrestlers are so well-rounded when it comes to personality, athleticism and overall popularity that several wrestlers eventually become music stars, actors or athletes in other sports.

Many people criticize professional wrestling because not many people are reasonable enough to give it a chance. Wrestling brings us back to childhood when our imaginations led us through our lives. Larger-than-life characters use the fans as a direct source of energy and direction. In other professional sports, athletes get their motivation and satisfaction from money and their coaches. Wrestlers feed off the crowd and give fans the best show they can deliver every night.

I believe professional wrestling has become Shakespearean. I am not implying that the product in the ring is in any way academic; however, the events take the shape of old Shakespearean plays. Performers wrestle in front of onlookers who are not cheering or booing their favorite wrestlers; rather, they relay their satisfaction or disappointment with the match. Crowds create loud chants so that their voices are heard. Another dimension that makes professional wrestling so dynamic is that it is a living, breathing thing shaped by the fans. Creative teams try to present characters and storylines to fans, but if fans do not voice their approval, the management is quick to fix its error by trying something new. This is not just a trend within the continental United States. Professional wrestling is well-respected and honored in other nations such as Mexico and Japan.

Another major aspect of wrestling the general public just doesn’t get is the wrestling itself. Most people believe that since the matches are somewhat scripted, they are not worth watching. The truth is, professional wrestling has some of the most amazing and talented athletes in the world. Professional wrestlers range from former NFL players to Olympians like gold medalist Kurt Angle. I compare the matches to a form of art. The technical and often death-defying maneuvers are breathtaking. Where else would one see a 500-pound behemoth doing a splash from the second ring-rope or a lightweight performing a 450 degree spinning jump on an opponent from the top rope? The wrestlers nowadays are not like the seemingly handicapped ones with whom we grew up. They are exciting and ushering in a new breed of sports entertainment unparalleled by any other business. While some teenagers find outlets at rock shows or art museums, others go to the local wrestling shows.

As for the “fake” part of wrestling, there is nothing phony about the bumps and bruises these men endure. These performers are so passionate about what they do that a few years ago a wrestler struck a reporter after he questioned pro wrestling’s authenticity.

Professional wrestling does not have a huge following here at Villanova, but often times it receives false accusations of being too “fake” and childish. Contrary to the latter claim, the most popular age demographic for professional wrestling is young male adults. This style of sports entertainment is not for everyone, but it should not be ridiculed and hailed as an imposter sport by people who have never experienced professional wrestling.