My boyfriend and I absolutely love watching professional wrestling together. I know a lot of people complain about the cheesiness of it or call the fights fake. Regardless of how you feel, it is important to also see that the industry makes lots of money and entertains people across the world. There's reasons for it, reasons that can make novel writers better entertainers if we understand them.
1. Action scenes are best with a lot of stakes.
When I first started writing action scenes, I worried about how to describe each kick, how many punches to include, whether guns should be involved...that kind of thing. I was too worried about the details of how a fight took place to realize what truly makes an action scene good.
While those details are important, they are not nearly as important as the stakes. Why do we care who is going to win? What will be lost or won based on this fight? Who are we rooting for?
The storylines in professional wrestling are the thing that makes it great. It's the difference between watching two people fight and watching two people fight where one is trying to win the championship belt for his dying son while the other is struggling to keep his job. It's those twists and turns and emotional connections that makes every body slam great because you know what a loss or win means to each person.
2. You don't have to be loved to be good.
One of my favorite wrestlers is Kane. He is what is called a "heel" in wrestling, which is basically a bad guy. Whenever he comes out, the stadium turns red, fire erupts in the air, and people usually run and/or scream. He's a creature from hell, he even dragged Zack Ryder down a hole in the ring that resembled a type of hell before.
Why is he great?
Because he's absolutely terrifying. He gets people to talk, stirs things up, entertains, and does his job.
There are some wrestlers who come out and everyone boos them automatically. It sounds like the kind of job anyone would hate, going out on stage multiple times a week, standing in front of a large group of people, and having them all mock you, but they love it. And it takes a certain amount of skill to make a bunch of people hate you in that way, to pull off a believable villain, and make it enjoyable.
Writing is not about everyone liking what I write and have to say. It's about entertaining people and getting them to talk about my work whether they like it or not. I also don't have to fit into a certain mold to be a good writer. I can have success by making my own mold if I want to.
The Twilight series is one of the most hated book series ever. It's also one of the most successful. Everyone has an opinion on it and a whole lot of those people have bad opinions. The books and movies have been talked about so much, they made a ton of money.
3. Being good takes lots of work and practice.
Going out on stage and looking like those muscular wrestlers do takes a lot of working out. They must diet, push their body to extremes, practice taking punches and hits, learn the steps to their entrances and how to avoid the pyro, memorize lines, and more!
Good wrestling doesn't just happen, it's practiced!
Same with good writing. I can't just sit around and daydream and have a book appear in front of me. I must work on it every day, study and practice writing, promote myself and my image, get feedback from other authors and discuss techniques with them.
If I'm not actively trying to improve myself and work on my writing then I'll never get anywhere with it.
4. People know its fake, but you must convince them its real anyway.
This is the biggest complaint I hear about professional wrestling. The whole thing is fake, it's scripted, they know who's going to win ahead of time and what should happen. If two people are going to fight, it should be real.
It's ironic because most entertainment is fake. I'm writing a novel currently about Medusa, who absolutely never existed. I'm watching a sitcom on T.V.: friends. The actors and actresses, like Jennifer Aniston do exist, but their characters, like Rachel, do not and many of the scenarios they act out on television never happened to them in real life. Shouldn't I be offended? Why am I getting so worked up over people and situations that never existed.
Because entertainment doesn't have to be real to be good. It just has to FEEL real.
I know some of the wrestlers who play great guys on television that I root for might be horrible people in real life. I know they aren't necessarily going through some of the emotional situations that the characters they portray are experiencing (although sometimes real life for the wrestlers does bleed into their story lines.) But the fact is, those people and the things they are striving and struggling for feel real to me.
If you can make a story feel real to someone and cause them to emotional invest themselves in it, that's when you know you've done a good job. If you can make the situations similar enough to real life and scientifically/historically/whatever accurate while at the same time making them sit on the edge of their seats, then you know you've done a good job.
It doesn't matter if it's real or not, it just matters how real it feels.
5. There's ways you will suffer that the audience will never know about.
To contrast what I just said, I must point out that wrestlers do genuinely fight each other. It's not to the death and there are many rules that exist in wrestling that don't in real life and sometimes they overexaggerate their injuries, but that doesn't mean they don't suffer.
Owen Hart, for instance, died during a Pay Per View performing his entrance.
Many wrestlers have been forced to retire due to back, neck, or leg injuries. I haven't seen Wade Barrett wrestling for awhile, one of my favorites, after he fought tooth and nail in the elimination chamber beating up the most people, but ultimately losing, due to injuries.
We have no idea how often wrestlers are forced to sit at home with ice packs and/or pain pills, struggling to walk or do normal things because of trauma they've sustained to their body. Even bruises are covered up with make-up. It gets in the way of their tough images to see how vulnerable they really are.
In the ring, they must make the whole thing look effortless. I point it out to my boyfriend all the time when a wrestler is starting to stumble like he's dizzy or his eyes are unfocused. He has to get up anyway, perform his moves on the top rope (if he has some) while he feels like collapsing, punch someone when their depth perception isn't working and make the whole thing look easy.
Writers are similar in the sense that we must work hard to write every day, take criticism, push ourselves sometimes when we're sick or struggling emotionally in real life. No one will notice our efforts, in fact, we hope they are so absorbed in our books that they notice nothing else, but the fact is we bled and bruised ourselves and suffered for every word. (Metaphorically, of course, most of the time.)
6. People enjoy watching other people do the extraordinary.
I will never forget CM Punk being handcuffed to the ring during one match. I thought he was going to lose for sure. All his opponents had to do was get on the ladder and grab the championship belt. It would be over and he'd be the loser.
But CM Punk did the unthinkable. Something I've never seen a wrestler do. He ripped the ring apart, beat the other men, and got the championship belt when he was seconds from losing it. My boyfriend and I were screaming the entire time watching it
In writing, we enjoy watching people struggle to do the impossible. It gives us something to strive for and dream of. It gives us someone to look up to. We want to hear stories of heroic acts and true love.
We must be able to relate to the other characters yes, but we want to see them strive to do what we can't, so we can hope for more and dream of more.
So even if you don't enjoy professional wrestling, I hope this article has inspired you and taught you a little about entertainment as well. I hope you can understand a bit more about why millions of people tune in to watch RAW and Smackdown week after week.