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Wrestling is Nothing | Thoughts on Professional Wrestling

by Shayne Hawke

What “is” professional wrestling?

Is it a sport? An art form? Is it theatre, or does it belong in the Olympics? We all have our opinions. Nevertheless, we all want to define what wrestling “is.” The problem with our need to define professional wrestling, however, is that nobody can agree on what it “is.” With unparalleled access to information at our fingertips, discourse reigns supreme on social networks. Everyone seems to know what’s best for the industry and, what’s more, has the unique ability to resurrect the “dying” wrestling business.

Some people even earn their entire livings telling other people what wrestling “is.” Some other people are even willing to pay good money to be told what wrestling “is” so that they can, in turn, tell other people what wrestling “is.” Answering the question “What is professional wrestling?” is a need that burns so greatly inside the human spirit that it has spawned an entire economy!

You’ve heard it before. Deathmatches are “garbage wrestling.” Lucha libre is gymnastics. Technicians have no charisma. Comedy acts can’t work.

In reality, there is only one thing about wrestling that matters:

Wrestling is nothing.

Professional wrestling is entirely subjective. It can never truly be defined because it means something different to every single person. Pro wrestling is not a noun. Pro wrestling is a verb. “Pro wrestling” is the emotional connection formed between performer and audience member that creates a mutual piece of existence – wrestling is those moments in time.

Movies are static storytelling devices. If you yell at the Superhero on the screen, it won’t change the outcome of the movie. Pro wrestling is different. You can yell something at a live show, and it will not only influence how the performer behave but might even determine the show’s outcome. The wrestlers don’t know how the audience will react. The experienced ones can guess. Fans don’t know what will happen in the ring before it happens. The experienced ones might have an idea. You can’t guess what moves will occur spot-by-spot. If you yell “chop” at a paperback novel, the protagonist doesn’t stop what they’re doing to slap their opponent in the chest and yell “WOO!”

Pro wrestling occurs at the intersection of the physical perceptions experienced by two or more individuals – performer and viewer. Without the viewer, pro wrestling ceases to exist and becomes something else entirely. It is the audience that gives professional wrestling its unique brand of storytelling. Note to wrestlers: without the audience, you have nothing. Appreciate this fact.

Wrestling “is” nothing – it is not a static term. Wrestling is entirely subjective and means something different to each individual person, and it is physically impossible to truly know any other person’s version of it. Each person has their very own “pro wrestling.” and experiences professional wrestling through a unique lens crafted by their own collections of life’s perceptions and experiences. 

Wrestling is such a unique emotional experience, a peak experience – a moment where we are entirely alive and focused on the present moment – fans tend to attach a good chunk of their identities to professional wrestling. When a babyface firing up makes us feel good, we get upset when someone else tells us it was bad – they are telling us we shouldn’t feel good! This invalidates our feelings and our very existence, and the human robot is programmed to push back against that with sometimes lethal levels of force.

In the same way, you cannot tell people what they ‘should’ or ‘should not’ feel, as feelings are not logical, you do not choose to feel a feeling, it is a chemical reaction in your brain, you cannot tell another person what “is” or “isn’t” wrestling. They can only feel what “is” or “isn’t” wrestling to them. You can only tell them about your own version of wrestling. 

If it’s safe and it makes money, what’s the difference? There are very few things that haven’t been done in pro wrestling at this point – and the business is arguably doing better than ever. If we all had a nickel every time someone said the business was dead, we’d all be able to start our own companies with full pyro budgets!

Wrestling is action. Wrestling is drama. Wrestling is comedy. Wrestling is a three-ring circus: if you don’t like the acrobats, you can go laugh at the clowns. Wrestling is honour. Wrestling is tradition. Wrestling is an industry. Wrestling is a business. Wrestling is progress. Wrestling is despair. Wrestling is pain. Wrestling is memory. Wrestling is life. 

Wrestling is everything.

And therefore, Wrestling is Nothing.

On its own, professional wrestling doesn’t exist.

Now that it doesn’t exist, that really takes the pressure off, doesn’t it?

So maybe it’s time we take wrestling a little less seriously. Maybe it’s time we be a little more open to other versions of wrestling. Maybe it’s time to have a little more fun and consume what we enjoy instead of wasting time hate watching things we dislike. Life is short. Time is money. 

If you do not like a particular brand of professional wrestling, you do not have to consume the product.

Such products are not an attack on your existence or identity. They can exist. There is room. You can ignore them!

If it’s safe, and it makes money, who cares? 

Wrestling is not a finite resource.

There is enough wrestling for everyone.

Your wrestling might not be my wrestling.

My wrestling might not be your wrestling!

And that’s okay.

Because at the end of the day, we will still both get what we want.

More wrestling!

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