“Most detached observers of the phenomenon would not…accept the assertion that professional wrestling is indeed a legitimate sporting event. The doubters argue that it is rather a disreputable con-game, the outcome of each match fixed in advance with a keen eye toward the promotion of future bouts…What is the appeal of a wrestling event to the spectator?” –The Dramatic Conventions of Professional Wrestling by Gerald Craven and Richard Moseley
It’s no mystery that professional wrestling today is a fixed exhibition. The flaw in the above logic is simply a matter of perspective. If we were to look at pro wrestling and try to view it as a traditional sport, we would be met with all of these problems. We could not talk to our friends and say, “Gee, I hope my guy outperforms your guy tonight and wins,” or, “Man, my guy has been a little off lately. I hope luck is on his side tonight.” We could say these things, but they would mean nothing. This is the same for betting. It would be very unwise to bet or gamble as if it were a traditional sport because it is not one. The outcome is pre-written, the story-lines are created. The match (usually) has to exist the way it is planned for the story to move forward. If we try to view it as a sport from this perspective, it is indeed a con-game. It is necessary to view it as a sport, but only within the context of a theatrical performance.
When you go to watch a play, you are a spectator simply viewing the play. When you go watch wrestling, you are not just viewing, you are participating. The audience is also a player, just like the wrestlers. Their chants are just as valid as scripted lines. If you’re watching a play and you yell something at the stage, what you say is invalid—it has no merit and does not change or affect the play. At a wrestling match, if you yell something at the ring, it counts. It matters. It is acknowledged and becomes a part of the story. The audience is empowered in that sense. One does not need to “suspend disbelief” because that’s what wrestling is. Pure disbelief. Completely unbelievable. It is over-the-top and ridiculous and exaggerated. But when you are a part of that environment, there is a general, unspoken acceptance. When you leave a play, the play is over. You no longer need to suspend your disbelief. However, when you leave a wrestling match, it is not over. It is never over. It is a continuous, ongoing play that does not end unless you choose to remove yourself from it. You never need to suspend your disbelief because you are just accepting it wrestling for what it is. Pure madness.
“The ‘camp’ follower does not suspend his disbelief because his entertainment is his disbelief.”