WWE Debate: Is Professional Wrestling a Sport, Theater, or Both?
Prologue: A Dumb Decision
Sitting around reminiscing with a friend, this story came up...
About seven years ago when I was still in high school, I was confronted by a friend who had just scored four tickets to an indie-wrestling promotion. He knew I was a fan and invited me. We enjoyed a few "Diet Cokes" on the way to the event, booed The Million Dollar Man when he launched into his opening promo (he was the promoter at the time, and surprisingly we were the only guys booing him. He gave us an acknowledging smile), enjoyed watching the Legion of Doom in a squash match and then a few more "Diet Cokes".
It was turning into a great night.... Until something happened.
Here is the ridiculous conversation that took place between my three friends and I that night.
Scene: A local church recreation center located in god-knows-where, NH. I remember driving by a lot of trees, a couple of run down buildings, a Wall-mart, and some more trees.
Sean: Look at this kid in front of us! (kid wearing a NASCAR jersey and rocking a mullet. Yelling and cheering for every wrestler) Does he not epitomize every stereotype associated with professional wrestling?
Side note: Sean, by the way, looks like he just walked out of Thugs-R-Us. He's white and lives in New Hampshire....He is currently filling out another stereotype as he proceeds to torment this kid by doing everything opposite the kid does...funny, but immature looking back at it, but still hilarious.
Matt: I dare you to stand up and yell "NASCAR is not a sport, and neither is Wrestling!"
Sean: No way! I'll be murdered in less then three seconds...Have you ever seen Sling Blade?"
John: I'll do It! Whats the wager?
Matt: I'll do your math homework for you tomorrow.
Me: (being logical, but a wet blanket) Can we not do this, and say we didn't? You're going to get us kicked out and/or mugged...either one is no good.
John: (now standing on his chair, a gigantic smile across his face) Hey kid! Wrestling is fake! This is not a sport, and you know what else isn't a sport? NASCAR!
Within seconds of those words leaving his mouth, John became the biggest heel in that promotion's history. We were harassed so much in the next hour we decided to cut our losses and leave early. On the ride home, we were giggling like little school girls. John had become an overnight legend to us; his story would forever live in infamy.
Amongst praising John for the "grapefruits" he showed, we also debated whether or not the words John yelled were true...
Is professional wrestling a sport?
After all these years, countless rehashing of the story and telling it to friends and family, I have decided to open the debate to you. The largest market for wrestling aficionados, pundits and connoisseurs...The IWC.
Let the debate begin!
Ridiculous Definitions, Thoughts, and a Dictionary
First of all, can anyone tell me what WWE stands for nowadays?
I'm pretty sure it stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. I've heard conflicting reports that suggest McMahon wants to drop the "wrestling" aspect from the name, but has recently changed his mind.
The whole thing is pretty asinine if you ask me. The product being displayed is wrestling and no amount of re-branding, marketing and name-changing is going to make people think otherwise. The company, let alone the art of wrestling, has been around for far too long to one day decide to change the way we perceive it.
It's kinda like if Bud Selig decided that the MLB was no longer a baseball league, but a national pastime entertainment league...somewhere in the world Pete Rose just petitioned to join that Hall of Fame.
Anyway, I digress.
I went to the only reliable source for definitions about the WWE and professional wrestling around: Urbandictionary.com. Here's what it says about the WWE and professional wrestling.
unadulterated, homo-erotic, gender transferable, butt tapping, leg humping, man grappling, soft core man on man action in gaping man tights for public viewing by gender preference confused individuals trying to pass this (expletive deleted) play off as “entertainment”.
... Wow! That's not correct at all... let's try the definition of WWE instead.
A professional wrestling organization that was very entertaining and fun to watch until its chairman and his no-talent, wannabe gangsta poster boy decided to sell it out to a bunch of ignorant soccer moms and their snot-nosed, pre-pubescent 5 year old kids who know absolutely nothing about the sport.
Oh god! I didn't mean to rile up Cenation, but at least it uses the word "sport" in defining it. We're onto something now.
My friend, who isn't the biggest wrestling fan, said he just contacted WWE headquarters to find out what their acronym stands for. He said it stands for...
Worst Wrestling Ever!
This is not helping at all...let's open up a real dictionary.
If you look up the definition of sport in the dictionary this is what you'll find:
1. a. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.
2. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.
3. An active pastime; recreation.
If we look at professional wrestling through this definition alone, we might have a shot at calling it a sport.
Physical Activity? Check.
Set of rules and competitive environment? Check
An Active Pastime? You Betcha!
That's far too easy though. I'm gonna need to do more research to fully round out this debate. How can something that is scripted and pre-rehearsed be considered a sport with the likes of football, basketball, soccer, hockey and amateur wrestling?
Let's continue on...
Looking Past the Script
I can safely assume that if you are reading this article, then you are in some way, shape or form a fan of professional wrestling and will agree with my next statement....
Wrestling is a form of art. It is the child of writers, athletes, producers, marketers and fans. You, the fan, are its pulse. Without you, there is no professional wrestling. There is no canvas for the WWE to paint on.
So what exactly is art?
the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance
In many ways, "sports" are a form of art as well. Michael Jordan would paint a canvas as he "lit up" his opponents for 50 a night. Peyton Manning dissects opposing defenses like a surgeon (a surgeon's an artist, right?) and the beautiful symmetry that comes with each and every pitch and crack of the bat in baseball is definitely artistic in my opinion.
So if all of these arts are sports-related, then that would make professional wrestling a sport too, right?
Well, that answer depends on your answer to one question... can you look past the script?
Let's break down a couple of things people say about professional wrestling and sports:
"Wrestling is fake! It can't be a sport. Sports are real!
... Thanks! I know. It always has been, and always will be. It is a scripted and performed event much like your favorite play, movie or television show. So in retrospect, the WWE is no different from the Jersey Shore...except for much better actors, athletes and fights.
Professional wrestling takes the notion of sport and scripts it...kinda like a sports movie. Even though the outcome is predetermined, that doesn't mean there aren't qualities of "sport" involved. For God's sake! Poker is on ESPN every day. Is that a sport?
Would 90,000+ people show up to a poker, bowling or TV taping event?
"Wrestlers aren't athletes. They are steroid in-juiced meat heads who couldn't hack it in the real world, and who failed at other sports out of high school"
... This was said to me from a friend who I quickly gave the stunner to after this comment.
You can honestly sit there and tell me that NASCAR drivers, golfers, fishing "experts" and bowlers (all events considered sports) are better athletes then professional wrestlers? I didn't think so.
"Sports are dervived from true competition. Wrestling has a script. There is no competition; No one wins or loses anything"
Just because there's a script involved it doesn't take away from the competitive environment of professional wrestling. Ask any former wrestler, read an autobiography on a wrestler or use common sense. There is tremendous competition within the WWE.
Not performing to the high standards in the ring? "You're Fired".
Not getting over with the fans? "You're Fired."
Being a nuisance and refusing to be a team player? "You're fired."
Don't want to continually train, live the grueling road schedule and establish connections...see where I'm going with all this?
While NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and overseas soccer players (football, I know, I apologize) are getting paid ridiculous contracts (with a lump sum up front, and a lot of the contract guaranteed), professional wrestlers do much more work for a lot less. We can safely take the competition argument out of the discussion.
So ultimately, if you can look past the script, then professional wrestling is a sport.
We have an answer...albeit a convoluted one.
As my friends and I discussed this, we came to one conclusion.
We can't look past the script, and therefore don't think it's a sport. But it's damn entertaining! We will go as far to say that it is sports theater, but that's it.
What do you think?