Choreographed Violence: Why Professional Wrestling is an Art

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What do you think when you think of art? Mona Lisa, music, or perhaps a bit of theatre here and there, which basically all of the classical exquisites that everyone perhaps has the convenience to know and agree that each of them is a form of art. But of course, art does not have to belong to the realm of the classic convenient as there are already lots of unorthodox art forms, such as professional wrestling. Yes, the drama of violence between professional wrestlers as they beat each other to knockout is definitely a form of art.

Everybody in the world, well except underage fans perhaps, most definitely knows that professional wrestling is “fake”, or in specific terms, it is choreographed. Professional wrestlers usually do not actually beat each other to death, and they try to avoid injuries at all times. The moves they perform require cooperation from the opponent and the executor. Professional wrestlers have their own persona, which is entirely separate from their real-life identity. Lots of Mexican wrestlers even go further as hiding their real identity by using masks. According to Oz (2017), usually, the persona either embodies the good guy (face) or the bad guy (heel). The term for this persona preservation and choreography is “kayfabe”. They have to keep those personas when they speak to the crow. Some wrestlers have their own way of preserving kayfabe, going as far as cursing children when they are heels and doing charity for cancer organizations if they are faces. 

So, it is fake and choreographed, and it is basically not a real sport, as it is not directly competitive. But does it make wrestling an art form? Knowing what the definition of art should be the start. Oxford Dictionary defines it as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. From this definition, some constitutions can be inferred from what art is supposed to mean: they are expressions or applications of human creative minds and produce works to be appreciated for their aesthetic or emotional power.

Professional wrestling matches happen not just to entertain people with fights, but often to tell a story. Often, these stories result in a long narrative between the wrestlers called “feud” and the professional wrestlers with their personas, who are the storytellers with their prepared narrative. According to MacFarlane (2012), professional wrestlers are vocal about their role as dramatic storytellers, not as athletes with prepared routines, describing their roles as storytellers. We could see that professional wrestling is an expression that requires a creative mind and complex planning.

The fans, especially the crowd, play an important part in these narratives of a professional wrestling storyline. Without their live reaction, professional wrestling shows will feel bland. They boo and cheer according to their own, even when it is not supposed to be, as sometimes the crowd cheers for the heels. Like the crowd, it also evokes emotion for those who watch them through their screen. Many fans cried when Undertaker lost his streak showing how powerful a professional wrestling storyline can be. Also, professional wrestling in-ring choreography is something to be impressed upon, as most wrestlers that compete use different move sets and sometimes different styles. The choreography requires years of training to safely do even the simplest move: falling on your back (taking a bump, in professional wrestling terms). So not only are they appreciated for their emotion-evoking storyline, but there is also beauty inside the ring when a match happens.

Professional wrestling has two components of art: it is an expression with complex planning and evokes emotion for its aesthetic. To compare it to literary works, I have been a fan of professional wrestling for some years. Watching it feels like a fiction you can participate in, as the fans’ opinions matter. You might want to watch the feud between CM Punk vs. MJF if you care for some new era top-notch drama, and make comments about whether wrestling is art or not.


MacFarlane, Kit. "A sport, a tradition, a religion, a joke: The need for a poetics of in-ring storytelling and a reclamation of professional wrestling as a global art." Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature 6, no. 2 (2012): 136-155.

Oz, Drake. “Understanding Wrestling Terminology: A Casual Fan's Guide.” Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report, September 29, 2017. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1135290-understanding-wrestling-terminology-a-casual-fans-guide.

Writer: Junanda Amriansyah 

Editor: Amalia Prameswari