Pro Wrestling Terms TL;DR
New and die-hard pro wrestling fans should be familiar with these five terms. Not for any other reason than to know what other fans are saying during intense, nerdy wrestling debates.
- Kayfabe – Wrestling is “real.”
- Face – The good guys.
- Heel – The bad guys.
- Promo – Great Mic work
- Gimmick – A character.
BONUS: Get Over: Crowd approval
Oh, Wrestling presents Pro Wrestling For Beginners! It’s our casual wrestling fan series, giving you all you need to start (or continue) enjoying pro wrestling. Our first outing covers pro wrestling terms. Better yet, these are the first five must-know professional wrestling terms all new fans should know. It’s a pretty lofty start, but it’s important nonetheless.
For the uninitiated, pro wrestling is a scripted form of combat-focused performance art and entertainment. It’s important to remember that pro wrestling is a highly choreographed and skilled performance by trained athletes. The goal is to tell stories in the ring using short-form dialogue and a buttload of elbow drops.
Got it? Good. Understanding key industry terms can be a game-changer for new and casual fans looking to headbutt their way into “sports entertainment.” Let Oh, Wrestling demystify the lingo of die-hard wrestling fans, breaking down five essential terms to help you appreciate and enjoy this bombastic pastime. Get ready to annoy your wrestling buds with these must-know pro wrestling terms.
5 Must-Know Pro Wrestling Terms for new and old fans
Kayfabe: It’s Real To Me Damnit!
What is Kayfabe? It refers to the suspension of disbelief fans adopt when watching pro wrestling. In short, Kayfabe means seeing pro wrestling matches and stories as “real events” and not scripted combat entertainment. When you were a kid, did you really think The Rock threw Stone Cold off a bridge with the World Championship? Perhaps you thought CM Punk’s infamous Pipe Bomb promo would get him fired once he walked backstage? Did you really think the Undertaker was burying people alive on national television? Well, that one was real, to an extent, but still, that’s you living the Kayfabe life, and its grand. Wrestler’s creating the illusion that the matches and rivalries are genuine contests is all part of the mystique of pro wrestling.
Kayfabe helps fans treat wrestling as a legitimate sports competition and invest emotionally in matches and their favorite on-air storylines. In the era of social media, kayfabe is a bit harder to maintain as wrestlers have a variety of platforms to express themselves out of character. Back in the day, legends like Roddy Piper and Undertaker would live in Kayfabe, maintaining their personas inside and outside the ring, at airports, or eating at a diner at three in the morning. This commitment to kayfabe made wrestling a unique form of entertainment, leading many to love the sport.
Face (Babyface): The Heroes of Wrestling…
Everyone loves a good guy. Faces, short for “babyfaces”, are the heroes who capture the audience’s hearts. These wrestlers embody sportsmanship, integrity, and virtues that fans can rally behind. These are the men and women shaking babies and kissing hands. They are the folks taking the photos and making sure kids have followers on TikTok and tickets to ‘Mania. Faces are the characters we are meant to cheer for, the underdogs we should root for, and the embodiment of good triumphing over evil.
When a face wrestler enters the arena, they should be greeted with cheers, applause, and adoration from the audience. Their commitment to kayfabe means they embrace their role inside and outside the ring, maintaining a positive and virtuous persona. Faces like Ricochet often engage in thrilling, high-flying moves and dramatic comebacks that resonate with fans. They are the heart and soul of wrestling, representing the enduring spirit of competition and honor that defines the sport. Sometimes, faces just can’t seem to get over with the crowd. In those moments, it may be time for a change. If you can’t be good, you might as well be bad…
Heel: The Dasterdly Ones…
Every hero needs a villain to validate them, and that’s where the heels come in. A “heel” is the bad one. These villainous characters soak up the boos and jeers of the crowd and let the negative energy fuel them. These men and women relish playing the antagonist, using underhanded tactics, cheating, and taunting the audience to generate those sweet boos. Heels are the driving force of all drama and conflict that drive wrestling storylines—without heels, wrestling is just a bunch of John Cena’s engaging in respectful competition. Who wants that?
A heel’s commitment to kayfabe means fully embracing their role as the bad guy by bending or outright shattering the rules to gain the advantage. Legendary heels like Iron Shiek, Roddy Piper, and The NWO redefined what it meant to be bad in wrestling. Heels excel at generating “heat,” or negative crowd reactions, getting fans riled up and emotionally invested in watching them lose. While despised, heels are the backbone of wrestling storylines, providing the good guys and gals something to overcome.
Promo: Mic Drop.
Promos are the cornerstone to getting over. Having great matches can only go so far. At some point, you will need to get on the mic and sell yourself as a wrestler. Promos are how they do that. A promo is a speech or interview segment where wrestlers try to advance storylines, express motivations, or engage with the crowd. Effective promos are crucial for character or “gimmick” development and building anticipation for upcoming matches.
There is no better way to get over that than with a great promo. Wrestlers need fans to love or hate them. Apathy is death in the industry. To get fans all worked up, you have to be able to cut a strong promo to let them know who you are and why they should cheer/boo you. Watching wrestlers get better on the mic during their careers allows fans to like and respect them as performers. While holding the mic, Xavier Woods, LA Knight, Edge, and Chris Jericho establish themselves as fan favorites. Promos can range from passionate speeches to humorous taunts, each designed to “elicit emotional responses from the audience “pop” the crowd. Whether it’s a face delivering an inspiring message or a heel spewing venomous insults, promos are a cornerstone of wrestling entertainment.
Gimmick: Show Them Who You Are!
Wrestlers have distinct personas known as “gimmicks.” A gimmick is the character wrestlers portray on screen. One of the greatest (if not THE greatest) gimmicks of all time is The Undertaker. Mark Calloway lived the Taker gimmick so strongly and completely people believed he was a real supernatural zombie man. That’s kayfabe at work. A gimmick includes a wrestler’s name, ring gear, theme music, taunts, promos, alliances, personality, and unique traits or behaviors that distinguish them from others. It’s the wrestler’s brand, and all the elements of that brand work together to create a character that hopefully gets over with the crowd. It doesn’t always go well.
Gimmicks can range from the over-the-top, like a masked superhero or a charismatic rock star, to the more grounded, like a tough-as-nails brawler or a cunning strategist. A well-crafted gimmick adds depth to a wrestler’s character, making them relatable or captivating to the audience. It’s a critical element of storytelling and character development in professional wrestling.
Bonus-Get over: You’ve made it
Getting over is every wrestler’s goal. Win the crowd, and you can do almost anything. For wrestlers to get over, they must appeal to the crowd and be committed and authentic to their gimmick. Getting over requires a combination of things. A wrestler’s commitment to their gimmick, regardless of how ridiculous it is, is the first step to get over. A gimmick like Shane Helms’ superhero persona, “The Hurricane,” would fail if Helms wasn’t 100% dedicated to the absurd yet endearing nature of the character.
Promo skills are integral to getting over as well. You have to have great mic skills to reach audiences around the globe. The Rock’s launch to superstardom was completely due to his promo skills. They were an integral extension of his gimmick that worked in tandem perfectly to make The Rock a legend.
Lastly, you need to be a good wrestler. Putting on great matches and leaving a lasting impression with your technical skills will get any wrestler over in the fan’s eyes. Bret “The Hitman” Hart wasn’t the most exciting promo, but he was a wrestling demon in the ring, putting on classic matches that resonate with fans today.
The pro wrestling terms wrap up.
Treat these five pro wrestling terms as a gateway to appreciating the complexity, drama, and excitement that define the world of pro wrestling. Kayfabe, Faces, Heels, Promos, and Gimmicks are just the start of your wrestling Journey. Stick with Oh, Wrestling as we explore the world of pro wrestling for new fans. Think of us as your sherpa through the body-slamming world of pro wrestling terms.
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