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Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment where the participants engage in simulated wrestling matches for means of entertainment. In its purported rules and competitions, it apes the convention of sport. In its earlier history, professional wrestling promoters and performers claimed that the competition was real, and varying fractions of the audience have believed this to be the case. Any pretence to be a sporting competition was dropped in the 1990s, when Vince McMahon's WWF wrestling organisation began describing its events as "sports entertainment".
The simulated nature of professional wrestling is only one of the many differences it has with traditional wrestling.
Other differences can be found by looking at the supposed rules of pro wrestling. Punching is permitted as long as the wrestler's fist is open. There are no restrictions to kicking, and the only "low blow" (punching or kicking) one can deliver is an actual blow to the crotch. A match can be won by pin fall, submission, count out, disqualification, or failure to answer a ten count. In order to win by pin fall, a wrestler must pin both his opponent's shoulders against the mat for three seconds. To win by submission, the wrestler must make his opponent give up, usually by putting him in a submission hold. Passing out in a submission hold constitutes a submission. To determine if a wrestler has passed out, the referee will usually pick up and drop his hand. If it drops three consecutive times without the wrestler having the strength to stop it from falling, the wrestler is considered to have passed out. Today, a wrestler can indicate a submission by "tapping out"--i.e., tapping a free hand against the mat. The tapout is not a traditional part of professional wrestling; it was introduced in response to the increased popularity of mixed martial arts competitions, where the tapout has always been accepted, in the mid-1990s. A count out happens when a wrestler is out of the ring long enough for the referee to count to 10. Conditions for disqualification will be explained later. If one or both of the wrestlers are lying on the mat and not moving, the referee may issue a ten count. A wrestler not reaching his feet, and thus answering the count, will be deemed to have lost. If neither wrestler reaches their feet, it is considered a draw. If either wrestler is in contact with the ropes, all contact between the wrestlers must be broken. This strategy is used very often in order to escape from a submission hold, and also, more seldomly, a wrestler can place his foot on the ropes to avoid losing by pin fall.
Here is a list of offences punishable by disqualification:
- Refusing to break a hold when your opponent is in the ropes.
- Choking or Biting your opponent for more than five seconds.
- Staying on the top turnbuckle for more than five seconds.
- Repeatedly punching a prone opponent in the face for more than five seconds.
- Outside interference.
- Striking your opponent with a foreign object. (smashing your opponent against a foreign object will usually not end the match in a DQ)
- Laying of hands on the referee.
Please note that simulated, in this context, does not necessarily mean fake. While the outcomes are predetermined, the maneuvers executed cooperatively and their effects upon the opponents exaggerated, most moves are real and cause genuine pain (And if performed incorrectly, capable of causing serious injury). For example, all blood in wrestling is real, and is typically caused by using hidden razor blades to cut oneself on the forehead; the act is known in the business and among fans as juicing. If a wrestler bleeds without being cut, most often due to a broken nose, he is said to be juicing hardway.
Besides the somewhat real violence however, there has constantly been times where the division between reality and the fantasy has been blurred, especially when it comes to who should win the matches. See the Clique as an example of this.
See Commedia dell'arte for an artistic predecessor to this style of entertainment.
Currently, the only major wrestling organisations left in North America are World Wrestling Entertainment, and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) although there are others in Japan and Mexico, where masked wrestlers are particularly popular.