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Professional wrestling is a form of athletic theater which revolves around staged wrestling.[1] Combining elements from traditional forms of wrestling and reality television, it aims to create entertaining combat shows. The matches in pro wrestling are primarily intended for entertainment, and are not to be considered as any legitimate athletic contests.[2]

Quick facts: Professional wrestling, Types, Ancestor arts,...
Professional wrestling
A professional wrestling match: two wrestlers grapple in a wrestling ring whilst a referee (in white) looks on
Types"(The) WWE style"
Technical wrestling
Tag team wrestling
Hardcore wrestling
Women's wrestling
"Midget" wrestling
Lucha libre format
Puroresu variations
Ancestor arts
Descendant artsShoot wrestling
Originating era19th century (United Kingdom) 20th century (modernized, United States)

Professional wrestling in the United States began in the 19th century as a genuine competitive sport based on catch wrestling. Around the turn of the century, wrestlers began to script the outcomes of their matches and pulled their punches to make them less physically taxing, shorter in duration, and more entertaining. This allowed the wrestlers to perform more frequently, reduce the risk of injury, and attract larger audiences. The wrestlers did not admit that their sport had become theater, a tradition that became known in America as kayfabe. The fans played along with the façade even though most of them could see that the combat was contrived. Professional wrestling became very popular while authentic wrestling became a marginal sport. The business model was replicated in other countries, with particular success in Mexico and Japan.

In Professional wrestling matches, performers often execute a series of pre-planned moves and attacks, ranging from grappling and throws found in traditional forms of wrestling, to more spectacular stunts, sometimes involving props and special effects. The moves used during these matches are designed to appear dramatic whilst reducing the risk of serious injury as much as possible. Overall, the performers aim to minimize the actual injurious impact of their moves while maximizing their entertainment value. Shows produced by the largest professional wrestling promotions like WWE are traditionally performed in indoor venues before live audience, flagship events in this profession like WrestleMania are sometimes staged at outdoor venues. These shows are generally video recorded for live or delayed broadcasting for an audience all over the world. Additionally filmed footage known as “segments” or “promos” are usually used to accompany the drama in these shows.[3]

Prior experience in legitimate wrestling is not a requirement for aspiring professional wrestlers, but is seen as an advantageous background. Despite its scripted format, there are, and have been, numerous performers throughout the history of professional wrestling who have had prior experience in legitimate wrestling or combat sports, before transitioning to its theatrical form. One of the most notable being Kurt Angle, who is recognized as the first Olympic gold medalist in professional wrestling history, having won his gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in freestyle wrestling, famously with a broken neck. Brock Lesnar is another prominent performer who is a former NCAA Wrestler and won the NCAA Division I National Championship in 2000. He also competed in mixed martial arts from 2007 to 2011 and in 2016, winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2008. A noted female performer is Ronda Rousey. Before transitioning to professional wrestling in 2018, Rousey was a former judo world champion. She won a bronze medal in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic games. Like Lesnar, Rousey also competed in mixed martial arts, where she remained undefeated between 2010 - 2015. During that time, she won the Strikeforce Woman's World Bantamweight Championship in 2012 and the inaugural UFC Woman's Bantamweight Championship later that year, when Strikeforce was bought by the UFC.