Sports entertainment is a term most often associated with professional wrestling. After all, sports entertainment is defined as a type of spectacle which presents an ostensibly competitive event using a high level of theatrical flourish and extravagant presentation, with the purpose of entertaining an audience.
Such events have a stigma of being mindless pop culture, in some cases glorifying violence for the sake of entertainment. In reality, the purpose of professional wrestling is a lot more serious. Its widespread popularity, particularly in the United States, has caused politicians, such as President Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and John McCain, to use it to reach voters, particularly young males.
WWE also host an annual ‘Tribute to the Troops’ event, when wrestlers travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to interact with members of the military.
Many wrestlers begin as mainstream athletes. Kurt Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta in heavyweight freestyle wrestling, reaching critical acclaim after it was revealed he’d severely injured his neck in the US trials.
Last year he successfully campaigned against the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to drop wrestling as a sport from the 2020 Olympic Games.
Bobby Lashley worked for companies such as Strikeforce and Titan Fighting Championship in his mixed martial arts career, winning ten out of twelve matches. Bellator stars Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz have both appeared in TNA in the last year.
Its appeal is widespread. Professional basketball player Shaquille O’Neal has a reputation as a long time pro wrestling fan and attends WWE events several times a year. Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather has expressed an interest in fulfilling a pro wrestling career, as has American football player Brian Urlacher.
If you'd believe the critics, you'd think that a 10-15 minute match is about as rough as a walk on the beach. Otherwise, how can wrestlers have more matches in a week than pro boxers have in a year? There are certain parts of a match that are not as real as they look, such as punches thrown with closed fists. And what announcers call a "headlock" is really a "rest move" in the middle of a long match.
But as politician Jesse Ventura famously asked, "How can you fake a body-slam?" Well, you can't. Body-slams, metal chair shots to the head, and getting thrown through a table are as real as they look. Backdrops, pile-drivers, and falls off the top of a steel cage onto a table are only a few of the dozens of moves that wrestlers willingly perform to entertain the fans. And the fact that they do it five or more days a week is beyond extraordinary.
Entertainment is a part of sport. Take the Olympic Opening Ceremony, an event that costs millions of pounds, all in the name of entertainment. In 2012, choreographer Arlene Phillips described Danny Boyle’s interpretation as: “extremely theatrical – the most theatrical I have seen – with lots of story-telling, and that story-telling was in no way lost in a stadium. It really was a theatre of wonder.”
There are other examples – the SuperBowl Half-Time show, cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) – entertainment and sport go hand in hand. Wrestlers work as hard as any other type of sportsman or sportswoman. Realistically they work harder.
Pro Wrestling deserves more respect from outside of its own fans, and its talent deserves to be viewed as the high-class athletes they are.
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