Take the time to watch the match below between Savage and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, one of the most gifted professional wrestlers of all time. Heralded for his in-ring psychology and soft-yet-powerful vocal delivery on the microphone, Roberts was in a league of his own. Pay attention to how the crowd reacts throughout the match. These men may have been trained for how to properly take bumps (i.e., the act of a wrestler hitting the ground or the mat), but gravity is real. They’ve broken bones and torn muscles for the sake of entertaining millions of people the world over.
Unlike Savage, other wrestlers like to call it in the ring. They will literally talk to each other in the ring, calling moves on the fly. Think of how challenging that must be! Doing these high-risk maneuvers is hard enough. Then, on top of that, they have to call the moves and string it all together in a way that takes the crowd on an emotional rollercoaster ride that gets fans invested in what’s happening in the ring. Watch the match below between Hulk Hogan and Sting. This took place at Temple University, and I was live in the crowd that night with my friend Brian. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this wound up being Hulk Hogan’s final match. Pay attention to how the crowd roars for Hogan toward the end of the match, and at key moments during this contest. You’ll also notice that both competitors bleed during the match. This is real blood. Wrestlers will self-inflict these wounds using a hidden blade to “get color” during a match. This has been going on for decades. It’s a way to heighten the drama of a match, further investing the audience in the perceived reality of the situation. Think of how committed these guys must be to literally bleed for their job.
The next time you think of asking a fan of professional wrestling if it’s fake, don’t. We’re well aware that what we’re watching is scripted entertainment, just as you are when you watch a TV show or movie. But remember that, unlike most actors, professional wrestlers are intentionally putting themselves in harm’s way. They aren’t using stunt doubles. They’re experiencing the reality of gravity. The broken bones are real. The torn muscles are real. The blood is real. With this in mind, give them the respect they deserve. After entertaining us for more than 100 years, I’d say they’ve earned it.