Wrestling is fake: if you want to rile up a hardcore wrestling fan, those three words will do it. That’s what UFC President Dana White found out the night after one of his company’s most successful pay-per-views of all time.
White called professional wrestling a “fake sport” on Twitter, and now many pro wrestlers and fans are blowing him up over it.
But here’s the thing: he’s absolutely right to draw that distinction, and the “sport” of professional wrestling proves it thoroughly.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed wrestling for a long time. Unlike many so-called pro wrestling fans, I don’t pirate PPVs, and I have been a WWE Network subscriber from the very beginning.
One of the things that I enjoy most about pro wrestling is that even when they fail, they always manage to try and keep things exciting.
UFC, on the other hand, is subject to rigid doping policies, injuries, and the occasional fighter going rogue and getting charges brought against him for leaving the scene of an accident.
Wrestling can be subject to the same things, too, but bookers have a lot more control over the final outcome. When something goes awry with a Dana White pay-per-view, he may have to cancel the whole show. WWE and other wrestling companies have options.
But since the UFC has risen to prominence, largely due to White’s oversight and guidance, WWE and other pro wrestling fans/stars have demonstrated a pathetic need to be accepted by the MMA brass, and the “wrestling is fake” stuff strikes a chord.
One Twitter user even had the nerve to say that pro wrestling “paved the way” for MMA. Like, because mixed martial arts uses legitimate wrestling skill as one of its many disciplines, it owes something to a “sport” that only uses fragments of wrestling in its product and scripts all its outcomes.
This is absurd, and makes pro wrestling seem even weaker by comparison.
White is crediting his athletes for having the guts and the discipline to step into an eight-sided cage where anything can happen, utilizing all their skill and training, and putting their pride on the line to become the best.
In MMA, you compete to win. In pro wrestling, you grab at “brass rings.” There’s a big difference, and that difference has been demonstrated with two cases in particular.
The first that I’ll mention is Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is a tough guy and could legitimately take out any superstar on the WWE roster. But when he was placed in the lion’s den of UFC, it took all of two matches for him to lose, and his short title reign — which was a lot more of a present from White than many wrestling fans want to admit — was punctuated by two brutal losses at the hands of Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem.
The second example of what separates the two came from Vince McMahon’s ill-fated experiment with a “real sport” in the WWE Brawl for All.
After putting a select group of pro wrestlers through a boxing tournament in 1998, a clear favorite emerged in tag team competitor — Bart Gunn.
Gunn had marched through his competition — other pro wrestlers — and won a chance to face out-of-shape journeyman heavyweight boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch at the end.
This is what happened next.
So now you can see why guys like Dana White say, “Wrestling is fake.”
They do it less out of disparagement for pro wrestling and more out of respect to the sport of MMA. Yes, wrestling takes athleticism; yes, it has risks and challenges that not just anyone can pull off.
But MMA takes athleticism, guts, and living with the possibility that the fighter across from you could tear off a body part or knock you out cold in front of the entire world.
So please, “wrestling is fake” haters, a little respect.