Professional wrestling is NOT fake. Let's get that much straight. Anyone who tells you different is a scoundrel and a liar. The action might be staged and the fighting carefully choreographed, in the kayefabe tradition, but true wrestling fans wouldn't have it any other way.
When you sneak out this Saturday, with the ticket you don't want your friends to know you bought, to watch the Bad Boys of Wrestling bring their controlled mayhem to the University of Montana, just remember that the name of the game is entertainment. To that end, promoters have made sure to push angles involving heels, faces and black hats in the hopes of generating heat from the marks in attendance. (See sidebar for the translation.)
And if the rest of you stop sniveling "this is sooo fake" for five seconds, you might just have some fun. As Shakespeare said, the play is the thing.
True enough, the action put forth at the Harry Adams Fieldhouse probably won't equal the flash or the pop of the first-rate combat seen on cable. And don't expect arms or legs to break because, unless someone misses their cue, it won't happen.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine are admittedly well past their prime, but these veteran pros are near legendary nonetheless. Doink the Clown and the One Man Gang round out the veteran roster, and the supporting cast features a number of one-time greats as well as some younger types possibly on the verge of a breakthrough.
Meanwhile, midget wrestlers Beautiful Bonnie and Little Kato will provide novelty-as if added oddity was needed-while former "Fabulous Freebird" Terry Gordy brings the ultimate in old-school appeal.
Such attractions may drive you to try and short-change pro wrestling as a weird fringe sport for deviants and little kids, but we know you love it.
And according to recent Nielson ratings, you're not alone. The numbers indicate a large number of closet rasslin' fans. Professional wrestling's two major nationally-syndicated, prime-time television shows suck in more than 25 million Americans each week. Those viewers can't all be drunk, cigar-smoking grandmas.
To wit, your anthropology major roommate might mock your Jake the Snake T-shirt in public. But when he's alone chances are he flips on WWF's Monday Night Raw and grooves to what he calls a "dramatic reenactment of ritual." He's just too sissy to admit it in front of his girlfriend.
Of course, there will always be people unwilling to accept wrestling-those who try to give away its secrets and those who seek to destroy the myth. These are the same people who want to strip-search the magician after the show, looking for the missing rabbit. They are sick and need help.
As the well-traveled superstar Jeff Jerret recently said: "For those who believe, no explanation is needed. For those who don't, no explanation will do."
In other words, you should be proud to be a fan, because pro wrestling is for real. It's the rest of life that's fake.
The Bad Boys of Wrestling "Clash of Champions" rocks the Adams Fieldhouse, Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. Front-row ringside seats $30, rows 2 through 12 $20, general admission $12, $6 kids 12 and under.
Grappling JargonHere's a short list of lingo and buzzwords employed in pro-wrestling circles. Memorize them and use them often so the other marks won't think you're a jobber.
Angle: A set, prewritten storyline used to increase fan interest in a match, usually pitting two wrestlers against each other in what could prove to be a lengthy feud.
Face: A "good guy" wrestler promoters hope will be loved by fans. "Hulk Hogan was a total face."
Heel: The opposite of a face; a dirty rule-breaker, deemed undesirable by the fans. "Ever since he went over to the WCW, Hogan's been a heel."
Heat: Excitement a-mongst the fans. Wrestlers play to the crowd to create heat.
Jobber: A professional loser-usually a journeyman paid by promoters to lose matches and to make established talent look good in front of the fans.
Juicer: A match in which a competitor draws blood from himself on purpose, usually with a hidden shank or razor blade, to help create heat.
Kayefabe: Old-time carnival slang for a scam or put-on, used to refer to the way wrestlers act during performances. "Rule number one is never, ever break kayefabe."
Black Hat: A one-time heel who attains popularity with fans in spite of his outlaw image. WWF champion Stone Cold Steve Austin is the quintessential example.
Mark: A fan who takes wrestling seriously and believes that angles, feuds and matches are real. ("That dude in the Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt is a total mark.")
Push: Efforts by promoters to increase fan interest in a wrestler, usually through popular angles, interviews and high-profile matches.
Shoot: When a wrestler breaks with the pre-arranged script and refuses to lose-or job-to another wrestler.
Jake the Snake and his rowdy cohorts are gonna kick your ass.