Professional wrestling is an assembly of blood, sweat, and dramatic flair: “a kind of gladiatorial theater in which showmanship counts for more than genuine athletic skill,” according to William Martin, writer of the article Friday Night in the Coliseum. Most fans realize wrestling is fraudulent, which is what makes their response so interesting, Craven and Moseley write in Actors on the Canvas Stage. The degree of understanding among fans may vary, but most willingly suspend their disbelief when watching wrestling. Why?
Wrestling is a theatrical production, combining violence & dialogues, sweat & spandex, and real blood & fake tears. “The emotional response which professional wrestlers seek to invoke in their audience… is significantly different from that experienced by other sports fans who want to see their favorite athlete or team win a contest” (Craven and Moseley, 332). The “contest” wrestling fans come to see— take a grudge match, for example— is just the manifestation of the drama swirling below the surface that erupted into that moment in the ring. Months of fighting, yelling, name-calling, and general uncouthness may have led to the match that sold out every seat. It’s not simply two men’s physical strengths that are pitted against each other; this match is “the eternal conflict of good versus evil personified in the physical struggle for dominance.” They yearn for some kind of poetic justice that doesn’t always come to fruition in everyday life. The fans come to watch the drama, “the Portrayal of Life;” the actual wrestling is just the means (Not that a wrestling match is uninteresting in itself, but the larger context of the drama makes every move more significant). Like the motto displayed in Houston promoter Paul Boesch’s office says, professional wrestling is “the sport that gives you your money’s worth.”