Psychology in Professional Wrestling

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Updated: Mar 06, 2023
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In today’s society, professional sports plays a major role on how people both think and act. Professional wrestling is one of them. The popularity of professional wrestling has grown since the late eighties, and along with it, so has the popularity of the regular weekly programs that portray it. Psychology became as big as it is today because of the psychology of both the fans and wrestlers. How these two act is what makes professional wrestling what it is today.

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Psychology has a major effect on the fans on professional wrestling. A study was performed by psychologist, Matthew Bernthal. In his study he states, “While no study has proven a direct causal relationship specifically between watching wrestling and increase in aggression… 16-20 years old, the frequency of watching wrestling was associated with violent behaviors such as having tried to hurt someone with a weapon and threatening to hurt someone with a weapon and threatening to hurt someone with a weapon” (Bernthal 24). The use of weapons in professional wrestling has become increasingly common in shows. One popular example of a wrestler using an object as a weapon is smashing another wrestler with a steal chair on their head. Other weapons include trash cans and stop signs, but there are so many other objects used to harm another wrestler. There was even a part of WWE that was called the “Hardcore Division,” where fights relied solely on the use of these weapons.

The Hardcore Championship was first introduced on November 2, 1998. This division of WWE was formed under harsh rules. Some rules that didn’t apply to this division would be disqualifications, count-ons, and many others. Not having these rules would cause much more aggression and more violence. Children and teenagers who grow up watching this will think that these violent wrestling moves are okay and will try and do it themselves. Fans say there isn’t any danger with this because things are acted out instead of wrestling for real, but they are wrong. When people of any age try to recreate the moves they see on TV, they can potentially harm themselves and others.

Besides people trying to recreate these moves, people could also try to fight someone or threaten to fight someone with these moves. When someone grows up watching WWE, they could look at a certain wrestler as a role-model. When someone has a role-model, they look up to them and what to be like them in some way. Trying to start a fight out of aggression and wanting to use the moves they see their favorite wrestler do could be there way of becoming them.

Internalizing problems may have a problem with the psyche of a fan who has anxiety or self-esteem issues. A child who spends a lot of their free time watching these professional wrestling programs identify with the inappropriate role models on the shows and may want their lives to be like the role models. They want to have their personal satisfaction to come from the make-believe world that they look up to.

Humor portrayed in the performances of WWE also has a major effect on the psyche of fans, especially young fans. In C.K. Jablonski’s article titled, “Humor’s Role in the Trivialization of Violence’, Media Psychology: Periodical for Individual and Mass Communication” he talks strictly about this idea of using humor to dampen the appearance of violence in these programs. In Jablonski’s article he talks about the fact that these programs are more dangerous than they seem because they use comical elements to hide the dark side of violence. This makes the violence in these programs more likely to be learned by children because the show portrays it as a joke or being funny which makes it less serious in the eyes of children and therefore, they want to go out and attempt these things themselves (Jablonski Pg. 125). Overall, professional wrestling uses many different techniques to try and desensitize the violence that it depicts, and in turn doing this it makes it so that the learning of these aggressive behaviors is easier in not only young viewers but also older viewers as well. Anybody trying to recreate moves seen by professional wrestlers will most likely cause a significant amount of harm to themselves or to other. It takes a great amount of training to perfect these moves in order to perform them without harm done to anybody

In order to be fully trained to become a pro wrestler, they must complete many things. One has to do many strength training exercises, and to help with those exercises, they must add much more protein to their diet. They also have to add more cardio to their workout in order to endure the long, active matches one has to fight in. The most important step in becoming a pro wrestler is going to a wrestling school. This is where people will learn how to perform the moves you see in WWE matches. People have to master the moves and techniques to perform them. It takes many months of hardcore exercises to be able to act out wrestling in a safe way. This proves that there is danger to people trying to fight like pro wrestlers.

Psychology deals a lot with the wrestlers themselves. In his article, Jerry Lawler explains that wrestling psychology, “is essentially a performer’s in-ring acting ability, determining how much they can make a wrestling match look like a real competition or fight between real people. A match with great psychology is spectacular and convincing; a match with poor psychology often comes off like a random collection of spots” (Lawler 1). In order for a wrestler to sell to the fans the storyline, they need to have good psychology. A wrestler needs this in order to constantly taunt their opponent and to sell or act like one is getting hurt. There are other wrestlers who don’t like to sell because they think it makes them look weak.

Wrestling psychology deals with the wrestlers who act out the storyline, rather than the writers. The show they perform is highly choreographed, but the wrestlers only follow them strictly in the beginning and in the end. The wrestlers actually have to improvise. They have to go through serious training in order to be able to do this. With so many fans watching and a lot of money relying on the performance, these wrestlers need to have a high and great wrestling psychology.

The corporate side of WWE definitely cares about the psychology of their wrestlers because they are the ones that will increase or unfortunately decrease their ticket sales and their viewers. The wrestlers know that its them who sell the tickets, so they train intensely to keep their roles. All their long hours used for training could potentially hurt them overtime.

The writers of the storylines have to manipulate the psych of the fans. When they write they have to think about the characteristics of their story. To engage their fans, they have to tread the line between engrossing and biased. The more biased a storyline is, the less intrigued viewers will be. If the writers lean more toward a biased show, the audience will think less of this performance and lose interest in WWE itself if they believe this is what it is about. The imbalance of engrossing and biased has been the reason for some wrestler’s lowest moments.

Kayfabe is a word that has a major toll on the psyche in professional wrestling. It’s the act of performing a fight as genuine as possible. With an increase in kayfabe, audiences will start to believe that this fighting is real and the love for the sport will rise, and when the love for the sport rises so will the ticket prices. According to the article The Power of Psychology in Professional Wrestling, when the WWE made the program more kid friendly, the kayfabe decreased. Without the intense violence that older viewers used to witness, the fight became less believable (Voices of Wrestling). Yes, the fans know the moves are choreographed, but they make themselves believe its real because it looks thrilling to them.

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Psychology in Professional Wrestling. (2019, Jun 21). Retrieved from