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10 Professional Wrestling terms many use but few understand
A Beginner's Guide
I am going to break down the basics of Professional Wrestling into 10 simple terms that you may have heard before but never really understood. I will break it down into a Beginner's Guide and go in-depth into what each term really means and what it represents. By the end of this you will hopefully have gained some knowledge and insight into the mechanics of the business and have a greater understanding as to why things happen the way they do.
These are in no particular order, and each term is as important as all the others. Some terms are used more often than the rest, but each has it's own place in Professional Wrestling.
The term Character, in my opinion, is the one term you need to understand the most out of all the other terms on the list. Because when you learn about Characters, everything else will soon fall into place in a way that you will be able to see the bigger picture. Each wrestler has their own character filled with a personality and a background. Professional Wrestling has elevated in the last decade when it comes to the depth of characters. What used to be just a man in some colored tights and a mustache has elevated into a character who is a southern gospel preaching leader of a cult with a hawaiian shirt and white pants with a non-speaking cult member who wears a goat mask. Characters have become so deeply ingrained in the wrestlers that you really start to wonder where the line is drawn between who they are as a real person and who their character is. When you see the line begin to blur, that is when you have a great character.
You want there to be a sense of believability in the character you are watching on t.v. You want a wrestler who you can rely on to deliver a great performance every week. They bring a new meaning to the term "Sports Entertainment" because it no longer becomes just a match between two men and two women; it becomes a match between two people with two backgrounds to them. With their backgrounds it makes it a so much more interesting and compelling story to watch unfold. You want to tune in each week because you begin to feel a connection to all of these different colorful and unique characters. You see them as something more than a body in the ring.
There are times, of course, where characters end up flopping. There is no real way to tell how the fans will react to a new character until they walk down the ramp and into that ring. The more thought you put into a character, the better your result will be majority of the time. There are a number of reasons why some characters fall flat, as well as why some became the most compelling and well known characters of all time.
The term Gimmick I feel should fall under the category of Character because they are so closely related. A wrestlers gimmick determines their Character. It is the outline of who they are inside of that ring, and their Characters actions are defined by their Gimmick. An easy example is the current WWE Money in the Bank 2014 Briefcase winner Seth Rollins. Seth Rollins turned on two of his team mates a year ago to take the easy way out and get on the bosses good side. He is known to the WWE fans as a "sell out", and because of this, his character is known to cheat during matches or hide behind other people who do his dirty work for him, as well as making excuses for his shortcomings by blaming others. He sold out his buddies to gain favor from the bosses, and because of all of this, he behaves the way he does.
Even though a lot of the time you cannot control whether a character will be popular or not with the fans, there are things the wrestler can to do help determine whether they will be liked or disliked. Or, as most of us call them, Faces and Heels which are #2 and 3 on the list.
A Face or Babyface is the protagonist, or the "good guy". Imagine any movie or book you've read with good vs. evil plot, the good guy versus the bad guy. In wrestling, a Face is the good guy in the ring. Most of the time when a wrestling match is made, it is a Good Guy versus a Bad Guy. There are many factors that determine whether a wrestler is a Good Guy or not. My intention is to show you the reasons from an audience aspect as well as the business aspect.
Their character is a likeable, positive person. They stand up for what is right and will do whatever it takes to defend that. If a wrestler gets ambushed in the ring, they will come down to save that person. They are relatable to the audience as a person and that causes fans to create a connection to them. They admire them, they buy their shirts, they want to be just like them in a sense. When they come to the ring or even show up on the screen, fans cheer. When a face comes to the ring, a lot of the time they will talk about the current town they are in, in a positive way. They will make jokes or mention well known places. An example would be, say, the event is in Seattle, WA. A face would talk about visiting the Space Needle or having dinner in Pioneer Square, or even cheering on the Seattle Seahawks. These kind of comments get the fans excited and make them like the character. They are simple things that make a big difference in determining whether they are a good guy or not.
Merchandise sales. T-Shirts, hats, jackets, dog collars, phone cases, you name it. The more merchandise you sell is a tell-tale sign you have become a good guy. People pay money just to wear a shirt with your name on it. Your very presence fills seats in the arena. The make-a-wish foundation begins to have requests from children to spend time with you. Because of your popularity you are given more matches and more screen time. You are an investment the company is willing to make because of the financial results they see coming from your name.
Example of a Face?
In the WWE the most well known babyface possibly of all time is, without a doubt, John Cena. His good guy gimmick was perfect for the age demographic they were hoping he would reach. Children idolize him and he has been one of the most requested Make-A-Wish appearances in the sporting industry. He has even been referred to as "SuperCena" because of the fact that he has been a Face for so many years and seems to always overcome any challenge in front of him, sometimes even to the point where it is predictable and even unfair. This has been a good and a bad thing. Good for business, bad for the audience.
It is good for the business because they are consistently selling merchandise of all sorts. Bad for the audience because when being a good guy for so long, fans begin to feel like his character is being shoved down their throats; his gimmick becomes stale after so long. But, all of those claims are merely speculation. Like him or not, he consistently delivers and that is what business looks for in a good guy.
After reading above about what a face is, I'm sure you can imagine where this one is going. A Heel is the opposite of a face in wrestling, meaning they are a Bad Guy. There are many things that can make a wrestler a Heel, and it can change in an instant. One decision, one move, one choice can change your entire character. And that is the beautiful thing about heels. It is their job to make you dislike them. The more you cannot stand them, the better of a job they are doing! It takes a lot of effort to make a good heel, though. You need to be able to believe the words they are saying. They need to make you believe that the emotions they are feeling are real, and not just an act. You need to be able to feel the hatred radiate from their core. If they want vengeance on another wrestler in the ring, you need to be able to believe that the rivalry between the two is real. It is easy to be nice and friendly with the fans, but it takes a real effort to get under their skin for more than one night. It is a continuous effort of, ultimately, being a jackass!
What makes a heel a heel in the first place?
With every story told, there has to be a give and take. Evil has existed for as long as Good has, and in wrestling, each story has to have a firm foundation to enhance it's believability. A wrestler screws over another wrestler, or makes shady moves that make them look like a real jerk. It keeps things interesting in the ring because it fuels a rivalry, it gives the wrestlers a reason for fighting in the first place. So even though you may not like them, that is how you know they are doing a good job. In a way, a Heel can be most identifiable with a Bully. Bullies who push people around to get what they want or manipulate others into doing their dirty work.
Heat is a sub-term in the Heel section that refers to things the Heel does that pisses off the crowd and gets them riled up. There is Heat, and then there is Cheap Heat. Cheap Heat is when you take the easy way out when pissing off the crowd. You hit close to home, insult the crowd whether you call them fat sloppy americans, or even just insulting their sports teams. But real Heat is well thought out, and creative. You get under their skin in a personal way. Most wrestlers when first becoming heels will use cheap heat to get the crowds riled up. But, in reality, wrestlers can receive heat behind the scenes that is entirely real as well. They can get into a real fight backstage that causes them to have major heat against them, or they can make a negative comment about the company in an interview, which makes them have heat. You can only receive so much heat backstage before they release you. Heat is real.
The term Promo is probably going to be a popular term you'll hear amongst the Internet Wrestling Community. A Promo is a speech made inside the ring or in the back, like an in-depth interview or monologue between two wrestlers or divas. It is generally to promote a storyline or matches coming up in the next couple weeks or next Pay-Per-View. Promo's are very important in wrestling nowadays because it puts together a story between series' of matches. It isn't just match after match for no reason, promo's fuel the stories and create some depth. They bring life to the things they do in the ring. There has been a lot of debate in the last decade, specifically about the WWE, that there is too much promo work and not enough wrestling. They say that there is more talking than actual fighting and that takes away from the fun of watching.
It is hard to say whether or not these people are correct because most of them came from a different Era of wrestling where most brands didn't need talking, the fighting was enough. But it has become a form of entertainment the last couple of years and in order to entertain you need more than two bodies in a ring. There needs to be a story as to why they are fighting in the first place. Promo's help with that. They keep us informed with what is going on, and they show the feelings behind the actions of the wrestlers.
Some wrestlers are better at wrestling, some are better at using the mic (promo's) and some have the gift of being able to do both. Every superstar has their strong points and their weak points, but there is truly something special about those who excel in all categories. Those who can captivate you with their words have a real gift.
Up next is the term Kayfabe. Do you remember what I mentioned a bit earlier about Characters and blurring the lines? Well, that is exactly what Kayfabe is.
"Characters have become so deeply ingrained in the wrestlers that you really start to wonder where the line is drawn between who they are as a real person and who their character is. When you see the line begin to blur, that is when you have a great character."
The term Kayfabe is based upon the suspension of disbelief. What I mean by this is, when does the character end and where does the real person begin? Are the injuries really legitimate? Do they really hate each other in real life? There are so many questions that are frankly hard to answer unless you are familiar with Kayfabe and are able to distinguish what is entertainment and what is real life. Matches are pre-determined and scenario's, arguments, injuries, they are all subject to being Kayfabe. But every once in a while there come these moments where arguments get so heated you wonder if these feelings are stemming from real life, and there are these moments when a wrestler looks like they are in pain and injured themselves and they do it so well you wonder if they really got hurt. When you begin to blur the line between reality and entertainment, you've got a great story unfolding. That is Kayfabe. When everything happens for a reason and things go according to plan. You are able to see things for what they are. If a wrestler gets "injured" during a match and they are grasping onto their ankle as if in immense pain, you can say to a buddy, "Oh, that injury is totally kayfabe." And 9 times out of 10, you are probably right.
Work is a subcategory term of Kayfabe because when something is Kayfabe, it is a "Work". A work is anything that is planned to happen and goes according to plan. Sounds relatively simple, right?
Another subcategory term of Kayfabe is Shoot. A Shoot is the opposite of a Work. When a wrestler goes "off script" and does something or says something that is not planned.
Pipe Bomb Promo
One of the best and most controversial examples of both a Work and a Shoot would have to be C.M Punk's Promo on Monday Night Raw on June 27th, 2011, the infamous "Pipe Bomb". For years now, this Promo has been under major speculation as to whether it was Planned or Unplanned "Aka a Work or a Shoot". Rumor has it that it was planned and Vince McMahon gave him the green light ahead of time on what he was allowed to say and what he wasn't allowed to say. But, there are many others who believe it was a total Shoot Promo and that he went off script to speak his mind. What do you think?
2011 CM Punk promo
What do you think, was his promo a Work or a Shoot?
The term Push in the wrestling industry is when you are rising the ranks in the company; you get more airtime, more matches, and more title opportunities. The higher-ups believe in you and your abilities enough to see you as future champions of their company. There are many things that give a superstar a push; the things I just mentioned, along with merchandise sales and popularity amongst fans of specific age demographics. There have been accusations by many people over the years that wrestlers who kiss ass get bigger pushes than the rest in the locker room, versus earning it through hard work and dedication.
This is a big one, VERY important. Storyline is what ties all of these terms together. A storyline is an outline or guideline to all matches made. The reason why they are fighting. Matches have pre-determined outcomes and there are reasons why.
Wrestler has a match
Other wrestler interferes and screws up his match for whatever his reasons are
Wrestler loses match
Wrestler wants revenge on other wrestler for interfering
A couple promo's and run ins over the next couple weeks trying to get back at each other
A rivalry comes to fruition at the upcoming pay per view to settle the score between Wrestler and Other Wrestler once and for all.
Bam, that is a simplistic breakdown of a standard storyline. They can certainly get more complicated than that, but that was just a simple example to help you understand what a Storyline is.
This term is pretty standard and easy to understand. Botching something is when you mess up a move or promo, or something goes wrong that wasn't planned. Moves are controlled and planned as best as they can, but injuries and mistakes happen. They are more common among rookies, but even veterans can make mistakes. Mistakes can lead to injuries, which can be avoided if being careful. Sometimes botches happen because one wrestler wasn't in the right spot where they needed to be during a move, other times during a promo a wrestler could get tongue tied with what they are trying to say and it comes out muffled and odd. A video series was made awhile back called "Botchamania" and it is all about different wrestling botches that wrestlers make. It can actually be quite comical.
The term "Over" or even "Over with the fans" may even be the simplest of them all. Being over has two definitions; one for a heel, and one for a face.
When you are over with the fans they are engaged in your character. As a heel, when they are engaged in you, they will boo you and you will get the desired reaction you are looking for. When your theme music hits you will hear boo's in the crowd because they accept your character and invest their time in hating you. Sounds odd, but that's about as simple as it comes.
The opposite of a Heel, they are cheered for and praised when theme music hits, you reach a certain level of popularity amongst the crowds and you receive positive reinforcement for what you do out there.
Putting someone over
Putting someone over is a subcategory of Over and means when you are in a match competing with another wrestler and you purposely lose to them, or you make them look good during the match instead of focusing on your work. This tends to happen when certain wrestlers are getting more and more popular, they have average wrestlers put them over and make them look stronger and better than anyone else. Those who put them over consistently can be even referred to in most cases as "Jobbers."
As mentioned above, a jobber is basically the person who consistently puts someone else over. That is their job. (haha, pun partially intended.) It doesn't mean they necessarily lose every match, the same as someone who loses every match isn't necessarily a jobber. Because even if they don't lose, they can still put the other person over throughout the match by continuing to make them look strong and powerful and build up their character. It is all the way you perceive it, and many people make the mistake of assuming someone is a jobber just because they are on a losing streak. That isn't always the case.
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I hope all of this helped you, or at the very least kept you entertained! I hope to bring you all many more wrestling-related Hubs! Wrestling is my passion and I love to share it with people. Thank you for reading! <3