WWE magnate Vince McMahon once said “To those who believe in the beauty of professional wrestling, nothing needs to be said. For those who don’t appreciate wrestling, nothing could be said to change their minds.”
I try anyway. Even if you don’t find the spectacle and the never ending morality play compelling, you’ve got to appreciate the backstage antics and accompanying lingo. Once you know these ancient carny culture terms, I imagine you’ll find them useful and want to drop them into your day to day discourse in the near future for all kinds of reasons. I tend to think that people that get the universal nature of this stuff somewhat ironically have a better handle on reality than those who don’t- perhaps they can see the artifice of life a bit more clearly.
Maybe you’re tired of being a jobber at your job and ready to give a shoot on your boss but end up cutting a promo instead, maybe you’re about to turn heel on your friends because they never put you over, or considering going for a swerve because life is just working too stiff for you right now. See what you can do with these…
Kayfabe- This word roughly means “code” and refers to maintaining the illusion that what’s happening in the ring is representative of outside life. Everything that I’m saying here is breaking kayfabe, and if you were a wrestler doing so until around the late 90’s, you were toying with ending your career. Old school dudes didn’t break kayfabe.
Work- When something is called a “work,” that means that it’s part of the show.
Shoot- When a wrestler breaks kayfabe.
Worked shoot- When a wrestler pretends to break kayfabe, but actually doesn’t. This is done to lend greater credibility to a storyline.
Mark- Someone who believes wrestling is not staged. Nearly extinct.
Smart- One who knows the inside dope on what’s often called The Business.
Smart Mark– One who knows what’s up but gets invested in the show any way. When they get worked up about what they see, that’s known as marking out.
Promo– When a wrestler is talking their shit, that’s called cutting a promo. Maybe more important than any other aspect of being a wrestler is the ability to get on a microphone and get the crowd to go down to The Gardens on Sunday and lay down their bread.
Babyface- Usually just shortened to face, the babyface is the good guy. It’s hard to be the good guy. Because, as I’m sure you’ve found is the case in your day to day life, it’s much easier to get people to dislike you than the other way around.
Heel- The bad guy. It’s much easier to be the bad guy, because you don’t need to gain the crowd’s approval, but instead just cheat and mock them. The best heels have reveled in finding ways to antagonize the audience, and are the most fascinating characters- what other aspect of show business is driven by entertainers actively trying to make the patrons hate them?
Cool Heel- Some guys get so good at being heels that they get cheered anyway. It could be argued that Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, the greatest to debut in at least the last twenty years, were pretty much heels even when they were technically faces.
Heelturn- This is the thing that happens where a good guy goes bad. Sometimes gradual, usually a single event, often involves someone getting walloped with a folding chair when they’re not paying attention, always a business decision. Someone isn’t drawing enough as a face.
Faceturn- “Heelturn in reverse” would be the easy way to say it, but it’s usually more complicated. Again, consider life: you could get someone who likes you to stop liking you very quickly if you wanted. Dump their plate over their head over dinner. Empty their bank account. Get them fired from their job. Now try to get them to like you again. The Business lives and dies by what the audience wants, and if they aren’t ready to forgive, a heel remains a heel.
Swerve- If the stoyline looks like it’s going one way but heads another, that’s a swerve.
Over- This has kind of a duel meaning- a person or thing that’s popular and working out well with the audience is “over” with them, and when one makes their opponent look good, that’s known as putting him over. Everybody wants to get over, some guys never put anyone over. You know people like that, from McDonald’s to the highest level of government.
Doing the job/Jobber- Losing a match, and if you do that enough, you become a guy who pretty much only ever loses matches. Which basically means you’re pretending to lose pretend fights all the time and that doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you consider that nobody wants to buy the t-shirt of the guy who literally never wins. Sometimes one can do the job and still not really put the other guy over, though. Hulk Hogan is often involved.
Pop/Cheap Pop- Getting a cheer or boo from the crowd. It’s cheap if you’re resorting to mentioning the city or town to do it. However, everybody goes cheap sometimes. Again, it’s hard to be a face, and sometimes a heel needs to diss the place he’s in for some quick heat.
Blading/Getting some color- Sometimes in order to heighten the drama a wrestler will covertly cut their hairline with a razor blade and bleed a bit to make it look like they’re really taking a beating. The proverbial crimson mask!
Hardway- This is when someone gets opened up for real from a real wound. Reserved for the really hardcore dudes, often frowned upon.
Stiff- When someone really hits hard and hurts people, it’s said that they’re working stiff. Not desirable for the wrestlers, but sometimes fun to watch.
Drizzling shits- This means you’re doing a bad job of being a wrestler.