A lot of us in the jiu-jitsu community get a little skeptical when it comes to pro-wrestling. People tend to think it is fake fighting. But, even though it is choreographed, they still take the bumps to entertain fans. The biggest pro-wrestling company in the world, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), considers themselves “Sports Entertainment,’ and what’s not to love about that? The theatrics, the lights, and the energy of the crowd are something that is not like other art forms.
I grew up as a pro-wrestling fan because my parents and their parents were fans. Pro-wrestling in Puerto Rico was more about the hardcore and brawler style designed to make fans believe it was real because of the blood. But, like other martial arts styles, there are many forms of pro-wrestling.
In Japan, they call their style “Strong Style, which implements more of a martial art approach using kicks and submission holds. Mexican pro-wrestling (also known as “Lucha Libre”) used more high-flying moves in their matches.
In countries like England and Canada, they had more of a catch wrestling approach, and in the United States, it was more about being a showman and charismatic on the mic. These styles are now mixed everywhere in modern professional wrestling to create a hybrid of what they used to be.
A perfect example of a pro-wrestler who mixed all those styles and still is wrestling today is Chris Jericho. When he turned 19, he started at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Canada, trained there for two months, and then wrestled in independent shows.
He later traveled to Mexico to wrestle matches there and took that time to learn their style of wrestling. After a few years in Mexico, he started to wrestle for “Smoky Mountain Wrestling” in the United States and other promotions in the country, which drew the attention of “World Championship Wrestling.”
WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was one of the biggest wrestling promotions in the ’90s and was in heavy competition with the WWF (Which is now the WWE). They had a deal with “New Japan Pro Wrestling,” which allowed Jerrico to wrestle on the Island and learn how fast-paced their style was.
During the ’90s, the smaller pro wrestlers were not usually the draw in the USA because of their size. But the cruiserweight division in the WCW changed all of that and gave the smaller wrestlers a spotlight. Later on, though, Chris Jericho became one of the few pro-wrestlers during that time that was a complete performer with acrobatics, submission holds, and charisma. He is currently wrestling in “All Elite Wrestling” and became the first AEW World Heavyweight champion for the promotion at 48 years old.
Many tactics mixed martial arts fighters use are highly inspired by pro-wrestling, and one of them is mic work. Drama is entertaining, and MMA fighter, Chael Sonnen, understood that. He was a fan of pro-wrestling all his life and used his passion for pro-wrestling as a tool to be one of the greatest trash talkers in the sport of MMA.
In pro wrestling, it is so important to be good on the mic to sell your matches and pay-per-views, and in the sport of MMA, you can tell that trash-talking does help the sport to get mainstream attention. If it weren’t for Chael Sonnen, there wouldn’t be a “The Notorious” Conor McGregor who started taking a page out of Ric Flair’s book wearing expensive suits to press conferences while being a very charismatic talker on the mic. If you watch an old Ric Flair promo video, you would think it’s virtually identical.
But, I bet you are wondering, “If it’s choreographed, why is it so popular?”. It’s a lot more than just the matches. It’s the hard work and dedication of these entertainers to keep you entertained. It’s like watching a comic come to life, and they have so little room for error, especially on live tv.
The biggest pro-wrestling PPV of the year is “Wrestlemania,” and most pro-wrestlers dream of being on the main event of that show to win the big one. This PPV existed for thirty-seven years, and the first one was headlined by the legendary Hulk Hogan teaming up with Mr. T squaring off against Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
For the first time in pro-wrestling history, the sport got mainstream attention having many special guests such as Muhammad Ali and Cyndi Lauper. It proved that you don’t have to be a big pro-wrestling fan to enjoy.
MMA has massively influenced pro-wrestling in the past decade. One of the biggest draws in pro-wrestling is Brock Lesnar, a former UFC Heavyweight champion, and “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, who was a huge pro-wrestling fan growing up. Pro-wrestlers are even using heel-hooks and armbars now or even being an MMA fighter as a gimmick.
AEW uses win-loss records into their promotion and has a ranking system for the next number one contender for the championships. Many MMA “purists” are usually against the whole trash talking and bringing pro wrestlers like CM Punk, but regardless, it brings more attention to the sport.
I am equally as passionate about pro-wrestling as I am about mixed martial arts. Anything that involves technique and practice is something that I can’t help but admire. There is such a long history behind pro-wrestling that I can write about for days, and I hope this sparks your interest in it too. Each country has its roots, and every match has its own story. Hopefully, every MMA nerd that reads this will understand why I am a pro-wrestling and MMA nerd and tune in to the next pro-wrestling pay-per-view.
Gian Carlo is a 10th Planet Blue Belt and a comedian from Puerto Rico. He currently resides in Albuquerque where he trains under “Nasty” Nate Harris, and hosts 2 podcasts (Unemployed Commentators & The Shoot)