Hi everyone, this is your friendly neighbourhood Editor. So this is another one of our (hopefully) regular features: n00b’s Guide. In these articles, we’ll dig into the GNTH team’s wealth of diverse knowledge and love for a variety of fandoms and try to give you some basic background info to hopefully tip you in the direction of exploring something new and unfamiliar. This week’s edition, written by our very own fighting guru, Vernon, delves into the controversially popular world of pro-wrestling. So grab a can of your favourite energy drink, chug it down, get pumped, and let’s get ready to ruuumble!!!
Pro-wrestling (also known as ‘Sports Entertainment’ or ‘Wrastling’) has been appreciated from generation to generation by families all over the world. Fans follow religiously on television and social media. But the truth, and major spoiler here, is that the entertainment spectacle that we see on TV, believe it or not (in the words of Fari, I want to believe – Ed.), is scripted and choreographed. People who are aware of this deception, yet still gladly appreciate it, are referred to as ‘smart marks’ or ‘smarks’ (wrestling nerds). Just a sidebar, in SA we call it ‘wrestling’, but the US generally refer to it as Sports Entertainment
There is a formula to the mayhem. Typically, there is always a hero and a villain, each with their own gimmick or catch phrase. The hero is called a ‘babyface’ or ‘face’ and the villain is called the ‘heel’. The heel performers always draw a negative reaction from the crowd while the face receives love and cheering from fans. This is also acting with the art and finesse involved with ‘in ring psychology’ (hard to believe, I know). A persona like John Cena is unique in that he draws both positive and negative reactions and is thus known as the most polarizing superstar in all of wrestling. He has catch phrases ranging from “Rise above the Hate” to “Cenation” to “You can’t see me”. Such catch phrases, unique to each wrestler, are usually used for promos appearing on their and their fans’ attire as well as pre-match recaps. The appeal is in the character of the wrestler, their charisma, presence and how fans see an element of themselves in their favourite superstars.
John Cena squaring up against the Rock at Wrestlemania XXVIII, back in 2012.
Photo credit: Ed Webster
Each wrestler has a specific move set consisting of basic moves, their signature moves (related to the character or gimmick) and a finishing move or manoeuvre. The fighting tends to involve either striking or grappling. A wrestler who loves using punches and kicks is a striker and a one who loves wrestling holds is a grappler. I’ll keep it at that for this article and will expand on fighting styles and the psychology involved in a future article.
Back to the promos, which set the scene before match-ups take place. These help the storyline play out in front of the live crowd or viewers at home and allows new viewers to follow at any point during its progression. Nowadays it’s even played out on Twitter and Facebook before the weekly episodic shows like WWE Raw. Without the promo or storyline there is no entertainment, just wrestling.
The pageantry of the entrances is the catalyst for getting fans ready for bouts, promos or interferences. Before a superstar makes their appearance, there is their theme song that blasts through with their graphics on the Titantron (the gigantic LED screen and runway). This is where the cheers or jeers start and the atmosphere changes accordingly. Entrances themselves become awe-inspiring and larger than life and the best example is that of the Undertaker. There are also props on the runaway like the Bailey buddies. R-Truth raps to the tune of background music.
The term ‘kayfabe’ (pronounced as Kay-faybh) is used to refer to what is established as true in the story, but not necessarily true in reality, for instance, when the commentator mentions that “Cena suffered a knee injury and is getting medical attention”, John Cena’s probably not legitimately injured in reality. Sometimes I feel like the Academy Awards need to recognize the theatrics and acting that is portrayed by the likes of Charlotte Flair or AJ Styles. Luckily for us there is the Slamee Awards, which is WWE’s own version.
In South Africa, we tend to associate wrestling with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). However, while WWE is the biggest promotion in the world, there many others operating around the world. These include New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Ring of Honour (ROH) and IMPACT Wrestling. We here in SA can catch WWE on DSTV Supersport 10, with Raw on Monday and Smackdown on Tuesday. The main three to five hour specials happen at month ends mostly and are screened on Monday mornings at 3am local time. WWE Royal Rumble 2019 will be happening on January 27th. Be sure to check it out! You never know how hooked you can get until you’ve allowed yourself to be immersed in a story. I hope this article tantalized your taste buds, keep an eye out for my follow-up posts!