Friday, February 9, 2007

My thoughts on pro wrestling

I've been a wrestling fan for many years and have followed different organizations for quite a while, still keeping up with it to this day. One of the things that I truly enjoyed in the videos we watched this past week was how so many view professional wrestling as an art form. I think with the negative connotation that people have with wrestling, it's refreshing to know that so many, like myself, do consider it an art. To an outsider, that might be difficult to fully understand - especially if said outsider was flipping channels and wound up watching a fast-paced, lights out tables, ladders, and chairs match. The ladder match we saw this week was an excellent example of this. Granted, that was a PPV match, but matches like this on Raw and SmackDown do happen occasionally. It's hard sometimes to make a case for this profession being an art form when you're watching guys landing into ladders (and wondering why, of course), but I don't think it takes away from what "the business" is.

I truly believe that the single most important thing when it comes to a pro wrestling company being a success is a connection to the audience. If you can't draw in a fan emotionally, you won't be nearly as successful as someone who does. I liked the comparison in the documentary of pro wrestling to Shakespeare because it's a perfect parallel. Live performance and improvisation is no easy task, as I'm sure anyone who's ever performed in theatre knows quite well. If a Shakespearean play (or any play for that matter) can't pull in a viewer emotionally and truly make a person care about the characters, then it won't be nearly as successful as it could be. It's the same with pro wrestling. Some will put athleticism before storytelling and charisma, but that's a personal preference. From what I've seen over the years, the stories drive the actions, not the other way around.

Is it really that much different from watching Rocky movies, where you know that Rocky wins every single time? Not to me there isn't, and I've seen those movies so many times I've lost count. You don't walk into a movie theater expecting to see "real" sports movies - you go for a break from your everyday world by watching actors draw you in emotionally to what they're doing. It's the exact same thing for pro wrestling, who also try to use emotion to draw in their audience. Pro wrestlers are athletes, performers, entertainers, and actors. It hasn't always been that way, especially in the beginning when it was just getting started. But by and large, this is what it is today - and considering the huge international market and demand for the biz, I'd say they're doing a pretty good job.


Sam Ford said...

Carolina, I'm interested in your insights about the comparisons between wrestling and other forms of drama. I think that there are definitely plenty of parallels, and we'll be examining this sports vs. entertainment vs. drama discussion throughout the semester. I think that many wrestling fans feel the same way and make similar defenses, as you have, and I hope that we can go deeper into these issues and engage on what it is that draws people to pro wrestling and also what it is that makes those outside pro wrestling detest it so much. It's certainly a polarizing form of entertainment.

I think what's key is your point about how people flipping through channels may have a hard time understanding what pro wrestling is. There are many different styles and types of wrestling, and it's hard to say that Hulk Hogan, Lou Thesz, and Jeff Hardy are even doing the same thing...

Another issue we'll be talking about a lot in the next few weeks is what drew people into wrestling in prior eras. For the early characters we've been reading about, such as Frank Gotch and Ed "Strangler" Lewis, what was their appeal?

Alex Maki said...

The way professional wrestlers draw their fans into their storylines is an art that must be needed to become successful in this business. That's why wrestlers like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and others become so popular, it isn't through their wrestling entirely, it's for their in-ring promos and the way they trash talk their opponents and draw the fans into what they want to see when they tune in each week.