Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful. Normally on this segment, we debate on whether video games should be considered art. Today we’re going to talk about something different: professional wrestling.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Wrestling? You mean that drama show for men? Where half-naked guys covered in oil roll around on each other and pretend to get hit? That is supposed to be beautiful?
Well, yes. Now bear with me on this one. I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling ever since I was little. My whole family has watched it together, going to live events and buying every Pay-Per-View. To those who have only seen wrestling a couple of times, everything looks fake. In some ways, it is. Spoiler alert: the show is scripted. Every rivalry, every match, every plot. It’s all written ahead of time. This is because wrestling is entertainment. “WW“ itself stands for “World Wrestling Entertainment“. It’s meant to suck you into the world and get you interested. Yes, everyone loves a great match. But without the intense rivalries to back it up, wrestling becomes stale.
Dictionary.com defines art as the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. Normally people see art as physical things that people have made, such as a painting or photograph. Wrestling promos are another form of art. They are prose selections designed to elicit a reaction out of someone, whether it be the rival wrestler or the audience. Some promos, like Stone Cold Steve Austin’s famous “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass” promo are simple, straight, and to the point. However, promos such as his are remembered forever and are considered classics to wrestling fans. (If you’ve ever heard the phrase “a can of whoop-ass”, that also comes from Stone Cold.) Promos can also range to some that can be considered works of poetry. Bray Wyatt, one of the newer wrestlers, delivers promos that sound like something out of a twisted Bible story. No one writes these for him, as is the case for many other wrestlers; he does them all on his own.
“Her touch could save the world, but her kiss burns it to the ground.” If someone had said that to me, I never would have guessed that it was from wrestling. His promos are creepy, disturbing, and also enchanting. All eyes and ears are glued on him when he speaks. That’s art.
Another version of art in wrestling is the entrances. As soon as someone’s theme song hits, the crowd immediately reacts. If it’s a crowd favorite, you can hear the excitement bubbling right before it hits. Then that first note plays. The first recognizable note, the one that everyone knows. Then the crowd is on its feet, cheering and hollering and grinning from ear to ear. Being in a crowd at a live show is an amazing experience. You can feel the pounding from your ears to your ribs, feel the beating of your heart thudding in your chest. Even at home, hearing the music of one of your favorite wrestlers can make you extremely happy. When less liked superstars come out, the crowd all joins together in a round of booing and jeering. Sometimes there is a mix in the crowd, and you hear the crowd competing against each other. John Cena, one of the most well-known wrestlers of all time, is both liked and disliked by the crowd. “Let’s go Cena! Cena sucks!” can be heard all throughout his matches and promos. It’s amazing to see a huge stadium become so passionate over something many people don’t take seriously.
Some entrances are done amazingly well. The aforementioned Bray Wyatt has an extremely cool entrance in which all of the lights are turned off and the only method of illumination comes from the lantern he carries. (The debut of his was fantastic – after weeks of confusing promos saying “We’re coming” and finally going “We’re here” – it’s just amazing.) My personal favorite entrance (and a favorite among many others as well) is Undertaker’s entrance. Undertaker, if you’ve never heard of him, is a supernatural figure in the WWE, as his name implies. He is known for raising the dead, popping up out of the blue, and burying people alive. His matches leave you with goosebumps, especially his Wrestlemania matches. He currently has a streak of 21-0, which will be defended this Sunday against Brock Lesnar. His most recent Wrestlemania entrance involved hands coming up out of the ground, 21 exactly – one for each opponent he has slain. (Ignore the name in the lower right – this was the best video I could find.)
The lights. The smoke. That first ringing of the bell. Even watching at home, you feel chills run up and down your arms. It’s surreal. It’s art.
Don’t start thinking that all art in wrestling is purely supernatural or creepy. Those are just some extreme examples. Wrestling itself; that is the most important form of art. My favorite wrestler, Jeff Hardy (who is no longer in the WWE) made me love wrestling. His acrobatic moves seemed to make time stop. I was amazed at all of the amazing things he could do in the ring, putting his body at risk each and every night.
That video only shows glimpses of all the things Jeff Hardy did. He even did a Swanton Bomb (his finisher) from about 30 feet up onto another wrestler, Randy Orton, as seen here.
Not all art forms in wrestling have to be extreme like this: even a simple match between two Divas, or female wrestlers, can be seen as art. Being able to pull of extremely technical maneuvers, such as submission holds, are difficult to do and require intense training and accuracy.
While the story lines and punches may be fake, the slams and falls are surely real. The injuries can be real. The passion that the wrestlers put into performing each and every night is certainly real. Although there are silly segments and bad matches, wrestling is one of the most under looked forms of art. Seth Rollins, a current wrestler in the popular stable The Shield, said so himself; “What is fake? It’s a television show, and a live performance. Nothing’s fake about it. We’re not telling you we’re out their fighting each other. We’re going out there to entertain you…People just don’t understand the art form of what we do. It’s a mental and physical grind…Being a character, executing a live performance, understanding what it is to connect with a crowd and elicit a specific response at a specific time using moves and body language and emotions. What we do is very complex. It’s underappreciated.”
Wrestlemania 30 is this Sunday. Maybe now you’ll think about buying it on Pay-Per-View. Think of it as a concert. Think of it as an art gallery. Think of it as a show. Most importantly, think of it as art.
You can read the interview with Seth Rollins here.
For an example of a fantastic match, here is one that is widely regarded as the greatest match of all time.