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American Culture – WrestleMania Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Culture

Just as the Super Bowl is to professional football, WrestleMania is to professional wrestling. I’m not talking about the kind of wrestling you watch on the Summer Olympics, though. Before we learn more about the big event, we should probably start by explaining more about this type of wrestling.

American Professional Wrestling

Professional wrestling (or pro wrestling for short) has a long history. It actually started out in Europe in the 19th century and eventually ended up in the US as part of traveling carnival shows. For a long time, pro wrestling existed simply in small, independent circuits. By the 1980s, one company came to dominate the industry – the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The WWF had some major competition in the 1990s, which many consider the “golden age” of pro wrestling. They eventually body slammed the competition, just like Hulk Hogan did to Andre the Giant at WrestleMania 3.

These days, it’s actually known as “sports entertainment” instead of wrestling. In fact, the WWF changed their name to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). It is now a multi-billion dollar company that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has live events all over the world.

Image by slgckgc from flickr.com.
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

In traditional mat wrestling, two men wrestle until one is pinned. Pro wrestling, on the other hand, is a mix of athletics and theater. The matches are actually pre-determined, meaning the wrestlers know who is going to win beforehand. This allows them to choreograph a match and make it full of excitement and surprises. The actual wrestling is a mix of many different styles. While some may say pro wrestling is “fake,” the wrestlers do take real risks and do get injured.

Rather than try to sell the product as “real wrestling,” it’s now more focused on the entertainment aspect. In addition to the wrestling matches, there are elaborate costumes and entrances, interviews, and other backstage segments. In a 2-hour show on TV, you may only see 30 minutes of actual wrestling after all the theatrics and advertisements.

There’s an ongoing storyline where different rivalries between wrestlers take place. In the wrestling business, a good guy is known as a babyface while a bad guy is known as a heel. Most major storylines usually revolve around a babyface fighting against a heel. There’s a lot of drama in pro wrestling, with backstabbing, double crossing, and more. Some like to call it a “soap opera for men!”

Pro wrestling isn’t only for men, though. Women have been competing in pro wrestling for decades, and the so-called “Women’s Evolution” has taken place over the last few years. In the past year alone, women wrestlers have participated in the main event (last match) on several major shows.

All of the wrestlers compete over different championship belts. There are titles for individual wrestlers as well as tag teams (two wrestlers fighting together).

Image by Ed Webster from flickr.com.
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Each company has their own unique championship belts, with the WWE having several. The main goal of all the wrestlers is to someday headline WrestleMania and walk out as champion. That brings us to the big show!

About WrestleMania

Image by Erwin Bernal from flickr.com. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

WrestleMania began in 1985 at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden. It was the idea of the WWE owner Vince McMahon. It’s the most successful and longest-running pro wrestling event in the world. WresleMania 34 just happened last week in New Orleans with over 78,000 fans in attendance!

There are several nicknames for WrestleMania, including “The Grandest Stage of Them All” and “The Showcase of the Immortals.” As it is the biggest event of the year in pro wrestling, a lot of time and effort is spent promoting it. The build to WrestleMania officially begins in January at the Royal Rumble. The winner of a 30-man (or woman) battle royal gets the chance to go to WrestleMania and compete for a championship belt.

Every superstar wants to have their “WrestleMania moment.” As a result, the matches at WrestleMania are some of the best and most exciting of the year. Wrestling fans travel from all over the world to be a part of the action and witness history at WrestleMania. It’s not uncommon for American fans to be sitting next to someone from New Zealand or Germany during this big event.

These days, WrestleMania is a weekend-long event that completely takes over a city. In addition to the big show, there’s also the WWE Axxess event. Here, fans can meet superstars, buy merchandise, and even step into the ring. Now that WWE is the one major pro wrestling company in the US, they have several shows on TV each week. During WrestleMania weekend, all of these shows will take place in the host city.

WrestleMania has always been about much more than the in-ring action. There are always big name musicians, bands, movie stars, and pop culture icons involved. Over the years, WrestleMania has seen the likes of Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Shaquille O’Neal, and even current US President Donald Trump!

My Experience

I’m the champ!

I’ve been an on-and-off pro wrestling fan my entire life. My uncles took me to shows when I was just six years old! Later on, I took my younger brothers to their first shows. We went to WrestleMania 23 together when it came to my hometown of Detroit in 2007. This was the event where Donald Trump famously shaved the head of WWE owner Vince McMahon in their “Battle of the Billionaires.” Trump didn’t get away unharmed, though, as he was taken down by wrestling legend Stone Cold Steve Austin:

While that event was fun, I wasn’t really into wrestling at the time. To be honest, the product wasn’t very good in 2007. Times have changed, though, and I’ve been an avid fan once again for the past few years. The quality of the programming and the wrestling has gone up a lot in that time. It was enough to make me want to go to another WrestleMania, this time in one of my favorite cities – New Orleans.

The view from my seats at WM.

I went with my brothers and their friend to the warm-up show on Saturday night and had a great time. My wife even brought a friend and came to WrestleMania on Sunday, even though she constantly reminds me how “wrestling is stupid.” I’m happy to say she had a good time, and how couldn’t she?! It was an amazing show with one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. Her friends from Australia were visiting the US and decided to check it out as well, and they both headed back down under as new wrestling fans.

Sure, pro-wrestling is pre-determined. Many times, there’s not much of a surprise about who is going to win. Sure, some of the moves look clearly “fake.” However, there’s no denying the talent and athleticism of the wrestlers. There’s no way I could even dream of doing what they do! And sure, sometimes the storylines are a bit overdramatic and cheesy, but it’s entertainment nonetheless! Whereas I was once embarrassed to tell people I liked wrestling in middle school, if someone asks me whether or not I like pro wrestling these days, my answer is simple…


Have you ever watched American pro wrestling? What did you think of it? Is it popular in your country? Would you like to go to a WrestleMania? Leave a comment and let us know!



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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.