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Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment that combines athleticism and theatrics. It portrays itself as a combat sport taking place for wrestling championships while predetermining the outcomes of the matches to focus on providing the most entertainment possible for the audience. Placed alongside the matches are promos, or skits that are meant to attract interest or develop a story-line put in place. The professional wrestling industry formerly portrayed itself as a legitimate sport, though when it became harder to hide the secrets of the business, it became an open secret for audiences. The choreographed nature of professional wrestling is not discussed during shows in order to help sustain a willing suspension of disbelief.
Professional wrestling began in France around 1830, when showmen presented wrestlers under names such as “Edward, the steel eater”, “Gustave d’Avignon, the bone wrecker”, or “Bonnet, the ox of the low Alps” and challenged members of the public to knock them down for 500 francs.
The modern style of professional wrestling, popularized by the United States and United Kingdom during the late 19th century, is called the catch-as-catch can style. Originally thought of as unorthodox and more lax in style, catch wrestling differs from Greco-Roman in its allowed grapples; Greco-Roman strictly prohibits grabbing below the waist, while catch wrestling allows holds above and below the waist, including leg grips. But, from the late 19th century onwards, a sub-section of catch wrestling changed slowly into the sport known worldwide as pro-wrestling, recognized as much for its theatrical antics and entertainment as wrestling ability. However, this change did not become predominant until following the Second World War, and there are still forms of Shoot wrestling existing in professional wrestling, in the present day.
The most notable foreign countries that have a rich history in professional wrestling are Mexico and Japan.
Luchadores, the common name for Mexican wrestlers, are known for their high-flying acrobatics and intricate submissions while puroresu was the genre of wrestling headed by Japan. Mexico indulges in some of the over-the-top antics of modern-day American pro wrestling while Japan is distinct in its psychology and presentation of the sport. It is treated as a legitimate fight, with fewer theatrics; the stories told in Japanese matches are about a fighter’s spirit and perseverance. In strong style, the style most typically associated with puroresu, full contact martial arts strikes and shoot submission holds are implemented. Both styles of wrestling implemented by these two countries, lucha libre and puroresu, have influenced American wrestling in presentation and in-ring ability, with stars such as Antonio Inoki, Rey Mysterio, and Eddie Guerrero having matches with American wrestlers or wrestling in United States promotions.
Professional Wrestling Slang
The professional wrestling business has a variety of different terms and phrases used in-business by fans, promoters, and other wrestlers that are normally not used during programming. The reason is mainly to maintain the image and helping fans suspend their disbelief to believe that the wrestling they are watching is legitimate. Below listed are the most commonly used terms:
Botch: A goof-up, getting something that was planned wrong.
Buried: A term for a wrestler whose reputation as a credible character is devalued beyond repair.
Face: The good guy in a story, wrestlers that the fans should cheer for.
Heel: The bad guy in a story, wrestlers that the fans should boo.
Kayfabe: Simply, the reality of the fictional world that professional wrestling puts forward.
Over: Established as a notable name in wrestling, a character fans care about.
Shoot: Going off of the script, being completely honest about something.
Work: A moment that is played out to fool the audience into thinking it was beyond real.
Professional wrestling began to flourish in the 1950’s, during the introduction of television. The man considered responsible for popularizing modern wrestling in American television was George Raymond Wagner, better known as “Gorgeous George”. In 1941 in Eugene, Oregon, Wagner debuted in his Gorgeous George persona, playing the role of a heel (or villain). He drew the ire of fans in attendance thanks to his exaggerated “pretty boy” behavior, quickly drawing in crowds in subsequent shows all wanting to see and ridicule Gorgeous George. Wagner developed his persona to be more antagonistic by cheating at every possible chance during his matches and having a snooty, pompous personality. When television was looking for programming to fill time slots, they looked toward professional wrestling. Gorgeous George made his first television appearance on November 11, 1947 and he immediately commanded the same star power as Lucille Ball and Bob Hope, revolutionizing professional wrestling from being just about the action to the theatrics and characters. George could also be credited with singe-handedly establishing television as a worthy entertainment medium in the United States.
In 1942, the famous Mexican hero known as El Santo (The Saint) made his debut in Mexico City, dressed in silver tights and wearing a silver mask. El Santo won an 8-man Battle Royal and the public became heavily interested in the masked wrestler. His career went on for five decades, his popularity rising to the point of becoming a folk hero for the common man. El Santo appeared in comic books and over fifty-two movies, with the public interest becoming so great that El Santo was always wearing his trademark mask, wearing different masks that was designed for a specific scenario, even for sleeping. Much like Gorgeous George, El Santo brought much attention and profit to professional wrestling programming all over Mexico.
World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment
In March 1979, the World Wide Wrestling Federation was renamed the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), for marketing purposes. Vincent Kennedy McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling Corporation Ltd. from his father, Vincent James McMahon, and began establishing his vision for the WWF. This included signing Terry Bollea as the top talent of the promotion, who would eventually become known worldwide as Hulk Hogan. Hogan was coming off of his popular role in Rocky III as Thunderlips, which McMahon saw as a marketing opportunity. Several notable icons of the wrestling industry that came to the WWF included “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, The Iron Sheik, and Andre the Giant.
McMahon was finding success with the WWF but needed something that would make his promotion stand out, and thus, created the WWF’s flagship show, WrestleMania. What helped separate WrestleMania from other promotions who had the same idea was that McMahon made it accessible to those outside of wrestling, bringing in Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, and Cyndi Lauper to be a part of the event, as well as signing a deal with MTV to provide coverage of the event. The peak of this period of wrestling traces back to WrestleMania III, in a match that could be argued to be the most significant match in the history of professional wrestling; Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, which was viewed by over 93,173 in attendence at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Due to several legal troubles in 1992 that both hurt the WWF in the public view and in their profits, Hulk Hogan along with several other WWF wrestlers left the company and headed to the main competition, World Championship Wrestling (WCW). This led to a group of new stars being pushed into the spotlight, billed as the “New Generation”, that group including The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Scott Hall (then known as Razor Ramon), and Kevin Nash (then known as Diesel). The WWF would find growing success with the debut of their weekly television program Monday Night RAW. Despite the talent involved in the New Generation, the WWF was still falling behind their rival, WCW. It appeared that the WWF was in critical danger of folding, until The Montreal Screwjob occurred, which led to the famous feud between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon. Eventually, former boxing champion Mike Tyson was brought in to appear and have a role in the rivalry that would gain the WWF mainstream media attention and significantly boost ratings.
Along with Steve Austin, several other stars were being born thanks to the now-established “Attitude Era”, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has been a part of a heated rivalry with Austin for years. Both men as well as the other popular WWF wrestlers would appear outside of wrestling, with Austin appearing as a recurring guest star in the claymation MTV series Celebrity Deathmatch (which included an episode where Austin fought Mr. McMahon in a Deathmatch) and The Rock becoming a host on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in 2000.
Following the acquisition of both WCW and ECW as well as renaming itself World Wrestling Entertainment thanks to a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Foundation, WWE saw the departure of two of their biggest stars. During what was referenced to as the “Ruthless Aggression Era”, it saw one wrestler who became established as the new face of WWE, John Cena. Cena’s original gimmick of a rapper was soon changed into a more marketable gimmick that has been criticized by dedicated wrestling fans, but it has brought much profit to the WWE, thanks to Cena’s merchandise and appearances in other media. Cena has also been a major part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, granting over 400 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, with Cena being the biggest wish granter in the charity’s history.
The Montreal Screwjob
The Montreal Screwjob is the title of one of the most infamous incidents in professional wrestling with real-life implications. The incident mainly involves Bret Hart, Michael Hickenbottom (more popularly known as Shawn Michaels), and Vince McMahon, as well as Hart’s contract with the WWE (or WWF at the time). Hart won the WWF Championship at the pay-per-view “Summerslam” in August 1997. A week prior to the pay-per-view “Survivor Series”, Hart signed a contract with rival promotion WCW, in which he would perform for them in December of the same year. McMahon did not want Hart to leave the WWF and Survivor Series as the champion, but Hart refused, as the event would be held in his home country of Montreal, Quebec, Canada and he did not want to drop the title to Michaels, whom he had personal issues with on-and-off screen. All three men then came to the agreement that the match would be ended in a disqualification, which would mean that Hart would retain the title and he would lose it at a later time.
However, without Hart’s knowledge, McMahon ended up deciding that Michaels would be the WWF Champion by the end of the night. After the filming ended, Bret Hart caused destruction of various ringside equipment, angry at the outcome and the betrayal. After he was calmed down by his brother Owen, along with his in-laws and fellow wrestler Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith, Hart traced the letters W-C-W in the air before leaving the arena.
The Montreal Screwjob affected not only the WWF from thereon, but WCW as well, as this moment would change the landscape of the WWF and bring Vince McMahon into his role as a heel, and subsequently, make new stars out of his wrestlers, namely “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. McMahon would embrace his persona as an “evil boss” who would screw wrestlers out of winning titles and McMahon would give them to wrestlers he saw fit to be the champion.
In 2006, nine years after the Montreal Screwjob, Bret was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and was seen as a sign that Hart and McMahon mutually came to an agreement about the events, although that already occurred in 2002, when McMahon checked on Hart during his recovery from a stroke. On January 4, 2010, Hart appeared on Monday Night RAW to “bury the hatchet” with Michaels. The two reconciled and apologized to one another, closing the book on their troubled relationship. McMahon would engage in a storyline feuding with Hart, which culminated at WrestleMania XXVI, with Hart defeating McMahon in a match.
The Fall of Owen Hart
Owen Hart, Bret’s brother, died on May 23, 1999 when an equipment malfunction occurred during his entrance from the rafters of Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., at the WWF’s Over the Edge pay-per-view event. Owen was performing under the character of The Blue Blazer, a “buffoonish superhero” who was supposed to be lowered down to the ring, where he was supposed to be “entangled” in the harness and release himself and fall for comedic effect, which needed to use a quick-release mechanism. However, due to unknown reasons, when performing the stunt at the pay-per-view, Hart was released from his harness and fell 78 feet, landing on the top rope chest-first and falling into the ring. Medical personnel were out to treat Owen while the broadcast showed nothing of the event, only leaving WWF television announcer Jim Ross to inform the home audience that Owen was badly hurt and that no storyline or staging is involved. Owen was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries.
Jim Ross informed the TV audience of the tragedy after it occurred, and WWF management was forced to decide whether to continue the show or stop it altogether. They decided to carry out the show to the end, but no footage has been released and a lawsuit was filed by Martha Hart, Owen’s widow, along with the rest of the Hart family. A settlement was reached in November 2, 2000, with the WWF giving the Hart family $18 million. The manufacturer of the harness system also was involved in the case, though a settlement was reached and thus, dismissed. Martha would use millions of the settlement to establish the Owen Hart Foundation.
The following night after the event, Raw Is Owen was put on for the audience, as with the WWF wrestlers, managers, referees, along with the McMahon family, paying tribute to Owen Hart throughout the show, with shoot testimonies given by select wrestlers being shown for the audience. The show ended with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin performing his beer guzzling routine and leaving a beer can in the ring ‘for Owen’. The tribute was the highest-rated special history in Raw history and the third highest-rated show overall.
Chris Benoit’s Double Murder Suicide
On June 25, 2007, it was reported on WWE.com that Chris Benoit and his family was found dead in their home in Atlanta, Georgia. On that evening’s edition of Monday Night Raw, all storylines were dropped to present a tribute to Benoit with comments from other WWE wrestlers (similar to the testimonies during Raw Is Owen) and showcasing Benoit’s matches. However, before the program was over, reports surfaced that the case was being investigated under the idea that Benoit murdered his wife and son before killing himself.
The following night on WWE’s ECW program, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon appeared in a recorded statement prior to the broadcast, stating that “other than my comments, there will be no mention of Mr. Benoit’s name tonight.” Soon after, WWE quickly distanced themselves from any mention of Chris Benoit during programming or in related media, and an investigation was established into the WWE’s wellness policy. A study done by Julian Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, showed “Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.”
The implications of the event are still felt today, as WWE strictly enforces the rule of “No chair shots to the head”, which was a popular stunt to perform prior to the death of Benoit. Outside of wrestling, the National Football League, among other sports leagues, has been creating and enforcing new rules that deal with concussions to a player and what to do when such an event occurs. With new cases arising of different athletes dealing with the side effects of concussions, efforts are being made to prevent lasting damage on those who have suffered from the injury.
On January 2, 2014, WWE started sending out memos for the upcoming WWE Network announcing that they will air footage featuring Benoit for the first time since the murders, but an advisory warning will be displayed by WWE before each archival airing featuring Benoit.
Botchamania is a on-going web series produced by Maffew Gregg, showcasing the botches (basically wrestling maneuvers, promos, and related matters ending up going wrong) of the past and present, from WWE, WCW, TNA, ECW, and various other promotions. Botchamania as a concept was originally created by a YouTuber named TheOriginalMikey. The videos were rather sub-par especially when other YouTubers tried to add their own spin to Botchamania. Maffew, believing that “I could make a better video than this in my sleep” released Botchamania 4, and then his own versions of Botchamania 1, 2, and 3.
Botchamania has several running gags within the series, based on more prominent and popular botches. One of these running gags (shown below) involves the promotion CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling) and its founder/wrestler, John Zandig. Zandig cuts a rather unintelligable promo on events that occurred prior to the segment, proclaiming in the first couple seconds “JESUS!!” in an exaggerated manner. Whenever a Botchamania is segueing into something involving CZW, there is an edit involving Conan O’Brian’s Chuck Norris Lever skit, with a sound bite of Zandig when the lever is pulled or there is a piece of popular media featuring Jesus or activating a button or lever and inserting Zandig. Fans are encouraged to submit their own “JESUS!” segments or endings for Botchamania.
Maffew had a website dedicated solely to Botchamania – botchamania.net – but towards the end of March 2010, there was a sudden surge in the cost of hosting, and Maffew needed $500 to cover the traffic the site was getting. Donations poured in, covering the cost in roughly two days, but other technical difficulties caused the site to basically stall out; Maffew eventually started up botchamania.com and it is still going. His Twitter can be found here.
WWE Sign Guy
“WWE Sign Guy” is the nickname of Rick Achberger, a man who has been a longtime fan of WWE and follows the shows around the country, always wearing a red backwards cap and a blue workman’s shirt in order to be recognized. He has gained his own following within the wrestling community with his appearance and creative, provocative signs that he is able to display in the front row of any event he appears at. Achberger made an appearance on the game show Deal or No Deal, where he played for $1 million. His appearance on the show also featured John Cena and Bobby Lashley cheering on Achberger (in their role as faces), while Edge and Randy Orton were antagonizing Achberger (as they were heels).
E-Federations (also typeset as eFederation, e-fed or just referred as fed) is a fantasy wrestling league or promotion in e-wrestling, operated electronically and is based on professional wrestling. Formed in 1995 with a small group of people and four efeds that used email based feds. It uses roleplay aspects to shape events in the way it turns out in the real business. In modern day, these federations are mostly ran through the use of a message board, where everything is conveyed via text form with images, and sometimes videos, borrowed from other entities, contrary to when conducted by means of website, email, postal mail, dicing systems, and simulated or strategic gaming.
The most prominent type of E-Federations are ones used in professional wrestling video games, mainly the games using the WWE license. These gaming E-Federations typically use original characters, popular fictional characters, or celebrities, all created using the game’s Create-A-Wrestler mode.
fn.3 Twitter – Maffew Gregg’s Twitter