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Is Professional Wrestling A Sport?

This is going to be interesting. Recently inspired by Mark Freie’s article, debating the legitimacy of NASCAR as a sport, I began to wonder, is one of my favorite guilty pleasures considered a sport?

It all started as a kid. My brother had WWF Monday Night Raw on the television, and I saw the red, masked monster my brother referred to as Kane. For some reason, I was completely hooked. Maybe it was the mystery behind his mask, but it was probably that he put people through tables. Needless to say I was hooked for years.

From there, learning the truth behind the world of professional wrestling could only be described as the same thing as finding out the truth of Santa Claus. There’s a state of crushing disappointment, denial, and eventually rejection. But I came back, after catching a WrestleMania with friends; I learned to appreciate it for its entertainment value. But at the same time, I always get the shame of telling people that I enjoy watching two guys in boy-shorts and body oil beat the tar out of each other.

Well, here’s an attempt to legitimize the event that always gets me the dirty eye whenever I declare my interest, and might just give me a few weird glances at the next KRUI meeting.

Wrestling is real, to an extent. These people risk their bodies on a weekly basis to entertain the fans. Moves as simple and mundane as punches involve contact. Most moves are choreographed, but if gone wrong, they can result in serious bodily injury. With every single move that a wrestler does, there is a risk that their career is over. It’s a dangerous quasi-sport. For an example, Mick Foley, known as “Mankind,” (among others) fell through a steel cage and landed 30 feet on his neck in 1999. He broke several teeth, broke almost half his ribs, was carted off in a stretcher, and got off the stretcher to finish the match, resulting in him falling through the cage again. He finished the match.

You can’t fake gravity. Now I’m not saying this happens every night, but consider that wrestlers go through injury just to entertain the spectators. There is a real aspect to pro wrestling, and that’s what keeps me entertained. It’s a pure form of dedication from those who put themselves in the ring. By simply adopting the career of “pro wrestler” they’ve signed a contract to dedicate themselves to the “sport” and the fans.

Just as football players play and win for the fans (or, at least, they tell us they do after every win) the pro wrestlers do the same thing. The fans can see that dedication, and they in turn watch every week, they show their dedication differently, whether buying a t-shirt, or being way too old for this and writing an article for the event on his radio station’s website.

But dedication aside, is it a sport? Nah, not really. Look, there is a real aspect to professional wrestling, that cannot be ignored, but it’s scripted. It can’t be sport if the winner is predetermined. No one would watch the NBA Finals if it was told before the season started the Miami would win. The unpredictability makes fans of professional sports tune in. I tune in to be entertained by a unique form of story telling, and that’s the main difference. Wrestling is entertainment, not sport.

At the same time, the goal of this article was just to defend wrestling a little bit, and to almost justify why I watch it every week.  The goal of this article was to tell you that although I know it’s fake, there’s a real, entertaining aspect to wrestling that causes me, and 15 million other closet fans to tune in, with 12 million of them older than 18 according to WWE’s corporate website.

In the end, we are entertained, and we do know, that although it’s not a sport, but it sure is entertaining to watch.