How did pro wrestling become fake in the first place?

Originally published at: How did pro wrestling become fake in the first place? | Boing Boing


I like this guy…



Let’s not conflate things here.

Pro wrestling has never been “fake” - but it has always been staged. It’s always been at its heart an athletic performance and not a contest as the outcomes are predetermined by the booker. The only “rules” are the whims of the promoters. Matches are meant to have storytelling and drama - they are meant to entertain.

There needs to be a “face” and a “heel” so the audience knows who to cheer and boo. There needs to be angles and storylines to keep the audience engaged and to keep people coming back. This goes back as far as the early 1900s.

Of course the point is to make the as real as possible without inflicting actual lasting harm, but the pain can often be very real as can the injuries. You can pull punches, soften landings, use props that aren’t as painful as they look, but there’s limits. Taking a chair to the head will always be risky. Blood can’t be faked convincingly and is often real (just typically made to look worse by performance craft).

There’s a reason so many wrestlers die young - and this isn’t a new phenomenon.


You hit the nail on the head.

I’ve been a massive wrestling fan for decades and to quote Jim Cornette, “wrestling is neither fish nor fowl. It’s athletic but it isn’t competitive.”

Even though I prefer MMA these days, the mixture of performance and sport is precisely why I’ll always love wrestling.


There are many Rusty Brooks’ in the world - I’ve met a few, and until the maintainer died I was a member of a facebook group with thousands of us.

One of the ones I’ve always had a soft spot for was the WWF wrestler Rusty Brooks. We also lived in the same city at the same time (twice in two different cities). My nearest claim to fame.

He died last year, RIP


Macho Man Acceptance GIF

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For every big name wrestling superstar, you always need a steady supply of those hard working and oft-forgotten jobbers to make them look good. Rusty Brooks was definitely one of those. He famously lost a match against Hulk Hogan in just under two minutes - but hey, he was in a match for the world title!

I remember him teaming up with the legendary jobber Iron Mike Sharpe on a few occasions in the 1980s.

Yeah, I have a soft spot for jobbers too.


The only reason I know what a jobber is, is because of Rusty Brooks.

As an aside, I really recommend the movie The Wrestler, starring an aging Mickey Rourke as an ex-pro wrestler doing sort of off-brand local wrestling shows.


That’s a great film. It really captures the grit and sleaze of the indie circuit.

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As someone whose knowledge of pro wrestling primarily began and ended with the 80’s, I fell in love with the Vice series “The Dark Side of The Ring”. Most notably, Jim Cornette. The guy really knows how to tell an anecdote.


Fake is accurate. You can try to argue that less than 100% fakery (pretty much impossible without being entirely CGI) doesn’t count as fake, but I’d say that partially fake is still fake, even if the fake matches can result in real injuries.

That being said, pro wrestling is a a genuine athletic pursuit that is insanely hard on your body, and you are at the mercy of your roided up opponent/partner/rival for paying gigs to do moves on you the “nice” way instead of the almost identical but much more painful or even permanently crippling way.

There is just no pain-free or safe way to land on your back when dropped from 6 feet. Or to land on your knees when jumping from a turnbuckle. Or to protect your head and neck when being pile driven into the mat by someone with skinny thighs.

Every match is watching someone get that much closer to permanent disability and addiction to pain killers, if they aren’t already there.


You’re just splitting hairs. There’s real physicality and real danger. You simply can’t do a lot of the things they do without inflicting pain whether or not there’s attempts to mitigate it. Some wrestlers are lauded for their “stiff” work - that is to say they intentionally take hard hits to up the ante of realism. Before he died, Chris Benoit was highly revered for this — it’s almost certainly what led to his eventual CTE (and him murdering his family).

It’s “fake” in that it’s not a real athletic competition - the outcomes are of course scripted and predetermined to some degree. (The amount of actual predetermined choreography depends on many factors, though.) It’s fake in that there’s manufactured drama, storylines, and rivalries. (Usually.) It’s not fake in that there’s hard working professionals out there risking life and limb in pursuit of this craft for the love of the institution and the fans — often for little pay and practically zero medical benefits.

This is a great series!


You can’t really accuse me of that without implicating your own first post splitting hairs on what “fake” means to you, though.

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I thought that Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” did a good job of showing how pro wrestlers know how matches are going to turn out in advance, but still get themselves hurt pretty bad out there.


:person_shrugging: when people go “lol wrestling’s fake” this is expressing a very specific and belittling opinion which was what I took exception with. Beyond that, I have zero interest in continuing in any debates around the nuances of “fake” vs “not fake”.


Then there is Greco Roman wrestling:


It pretends to be a competitive sport and it isn’t. That makes it fake by definition. The term has nothing to do with whether it is a physically dangerous job or not.

When a stunt performer does a stunt in a movie that is also fake, even though it might be just as dangerous as the real thing.

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Like I said before, I have no interest in debating this further and I think I’ve made my points quite clear.

In large part these kind of debates aren’t done in good faith — they are about ruining others’ enjoyment of a form of entertainment in an attempt to seem more sophisticated by pointing out something everybody already knows. (Of course it’s not a “real” sporting competition - WWE tried dipping its toes into legit MMA a while back and it was an unmitigated disaster.)

Good day.