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While those involved in Professional Wrestling kept up the illusion for many years that it was a legitimate sport, it is well known these days that it is mostly theatre with scripted plots, characters, and some level of choreography for the matches themselves.

However, some settings that involve Pro Wrestling take a different approach. In an effort to heighten drama, they treat Pro Wrestling as a real, competitive sport, with the wrestlers giving their all to defeat their opponents and win titles. Each punch, kick, flying body press and steel chair to the face is delivered not to please the crowd, but to ultimately achieve victory in the match.

In such settings, the legitimacy of pro wrestling is not in question, and it is commonly accepted to be just as much a sport as any other competitive martial art. More fantastical stories can take it to another level entirely, portraying pro wrestlers as having supernatural abilities that allow them to perform their death-defying maneuvers.

This is the default assumption in most related Video Games, as a game that reflected the reality of Professional Wrestling would be difficult to effectively pull off. There are a handful of games that work without Kayfabe, but they're mostly management sims--where you either manage a promotion or a wrestler's career--rather than Wrestling Games.

Compare to Kayfabe, which is the real life practice of maintaining the illusion that Pro Wrestling is a competitive sport. It should be noted that while Pro Wrestling is staged in real life, it is still a highly physical and dangerous career. As Mick Foley once said, while who wins may be predetermined, there's no way to fake falling 20 feet off the top of a steel cage.

Not to be confused with Real Pro Wrestling, a short lived professional league of Olympic-style wrestlers.

Examples of Pro Wrestling Is Real include:


Anime & Manga

  • In Ayanes High Kick, the eponymous protagonist dreams of becoming a professional wrestler and eventually winning the women's world title.
  • Tiger Mask is the Trope Maker for this in manga.
  • Grappler Baki, in which professional wrestlers are up there with the rest of them. That said, the realness or fakeness of wrestling is evidently a matter of what promotion you're with - it's said that Mount Toba, a champion of "show wrestling", once wrestled in companies where the fighting wasn't fake. In any case, wrestlers are depicted as legitimate combatants; Mount Toba nearly kills Baki even though he hasn't been in a real fight for a very long time.
  • In the Kinnikuman anime, wrestling is not only Serious Business... it's used to determine the fate of the world.
  • Special A


Comic Books

  • Street Fighter has it both ways; R. Mika's actual wrestling matches (i.e., the stuff that happens off panel) are scripted, while Zangief is baffled by the concept and has never heard of such a thing before. This has roots in SF canon; the series takes place in the same world as the Saturday Night Slam Masters games. Not only is wrestling real, but Zangief's old sparring partner Biff Slamkovich is upset that some people think it isn't.
  • Both WWF and WCW had licensed comics at one point that depicted their product as real; WWF's was published by Valiant, while WCW's was by Marvel Comics. Later, Dark Horse Comics would acquire the WWF license, and began publishing comics featuring WWF wrestlers in their kind of stories (such as Stone Cold Steve Austin as a rebellious Anti-Hero battling a Corrupt Corporate Executive, and The Undertaker being the focal point of a power struggle in Hell).
  • In Marvel Comics, wrestling is usually depicted as real. There are two notable examples:
    • When Spider-Man first got his powers, he entered a wrestling tournament and beat a wrestler by the name of Crusher Hogan. Interestingly enough, Crusher came back years later, publicly stated that wrestling was fake, and that he purposefully threw the fight to Spidey.
    • During The Thing's run in his 80s solo title, Ben was the champion of the Unlimited Championship Wrestling federation, which was full of fellow super-powered competitors in real fights. One of the notable characters to debut during this time was Vance "Jusice" Astrovik. By the UCW's most recent appearance, however, they've switched to scripted matches and primarily employ non-powered wrestlers -- though guest commentator the Thing and manager Deadpool were forced into a real battle against a wrestling-obsessed Galactic Conqueror.
  • Antarctic Press' Gold Digger has it both ways with the "Ultimate Fighters' Federation"; the matches are all unbooked Mixed Martial Arts-style fights, but the contestants do take part in storylines and maintain Kayfabe about their ring personas.
  • Super Pro KO, which takes inspiration from Kinnikuman (without the whole "superhuman" angle, though). It's also somewhat notable in that while the fights are unstaged, wrestlers still have angles and scripted rivalries -- you know, to keep it interesting.
  • Sensacional de Luchas uses this, and pretty much every comic of this type that doesn't will make the wrestlers into superheroes outside of the ring.
  • La Mano Del Destino justifies this somewhat by explicitly taking place in an alternate universe. At least, more explicitly than most -- the setting not only features lucha libre as 100% real, but popular on a level unheard of in reality.


Film

  • The Wrestler The original 1974 movie of that name, produced by Verne Gagne and starring Ed Asner, Elaine Giftos and Verne Gagne. Portrayed wrestling as a real sport, and featured a scene where a wrestler died after a top-rope kneedrop from Ray "the Cripper" Stevens.
  • Nacho Libre
  • The Hulk Hogan film No Holds Barred.
    • Mr Nanny also works the same way, as it's mentioned that Hogan's character was blackballed from wrestling for refusing to take a dive, and the villain is the shady promoter who saw him ousted from the wrestling business.
  • ...AllTheMarbles portrayed women's professional wrestling as being real (outcome not predetermined, both participants trying to win).
  • Any of the Mexican wrestling films of the sixties and seventies, starring real wrestlers like El Santo, who have to use their wrestling skills to save the world.
  • The first Spider-Man film also depicted wrestling as real as a direct adaptation of his origin story. In that world, Spider-Man beat a wrestler named Bonesaw McGraw, played by Randy Savage. This is a not-entirely-realistic depiction of a practice known as "hooking", in which a wrestler who actually is a skilled fighter is advertised as taking on anyone who cares to try their luck with a large cash prize on the line, and proceeds to mop the floor with the rank amateurs who come gunning for the prize while making the matches look more even and dramatic than they really are in order to entice more suckers -- err, contestants to step up, pay their entry fee, and try to win; it was so named because each actual wrestler involved would have a "hook", or a simple submission hold they could quickly execute to end a match in seconds if it stopped going his way. Not entirely realistic because, generally, steel cages aren't involved in shooting, nor do the marks (non-insider fans) have spider powers. Hooking isn't generally practiced in the post-Kayfabe era, but was done recently enough that some of its practitioners, the most prominent of which is WWE wrestler William Regal, are still active in the business today.
  • Ready to Rumble: "Wrestling is not FAKE!!!"


Literature

  • Arn Anderson's autobiography is written as if wrestling were real - talking about the time the Four Horsemen ambushed Dusty Rhodes in a parking lot and broke his arm, for example - but modern wrestler autobios are more true to the business.
  • The Fabulous Moolah's autobiography didn't break Kayfabe either.
  • "One Fall", a rare fictional example. Much of the conflict in the book takes place in the ring and is entirely genuine, but that is only because both the hero and villain wrestlers in the climactic match were forced by circumstance to go into business for themselves, making the entire match "off script".


Live Action TV

  • An episode of Quantum Leap in which Sam leaps into the body of a wrestler playing an Evil Russian; in this episode, it's confidently declared that wrestling actually is staged - except for the title matches, and Sam and his partner's refusal to take a dive in a tag-team title match is the main conflict of the episode.
  • In one episode of The Incredible Hulk David had a job as a trainer/medic at a pro wrestling arena. The wrestlers got along with each other well enough, but inside the ring it was all real.
  • Tagteam, a Pilot Movie that was picked up but then canceled the day before shooting the first post-pilot episode. Jesse Ventura and Rowdy Roddy Piper play two wrestlers who refused to take a dive in a match so they were blackballed from the business. The eventually become cops and now They Fight Crime.
  • Little House On the Prairie: In the 1979 episode "The King is Dead," the sport's early carny origins are exposed, although in the climatic scene the champion wrestler in this episode -- an aging athlete suffering from heart failure -- defeats a loudmouthed challenger using his own, legit athletic skills (putting the arrogant challenger in a legit bearhug and refusing to let go until the mouthy youngster passes out); he dies shortly after winning the match. The champion wrestler's manager, played by Ray Walston (of My Favorite Martian fame) is named Jimmy Hart ... the real name of a young musician who would become one of the best-known WWF personalities in the 1980s and 1990s.
    • Rumor has it that Bonanza (Michael Landon's previous series) had a script featuring professional wrestling in development before the show's sudden cancellation in 1973.
  • The A-Team: The 1985 episode "Body Slam" starred Hulk Hogan in a plot that made heavy use of Hogan's wrestling career (including footage from a 1984 match vs. Greg "the Hammer" Valentine, presented as legit), and featured several WWF faces as un-billed extras in a scene where they fight off that episode's villains. In the segment featuring the Hogan-Valentine match, the ending is altered to show the bad guys entering the arena to confront and assassinate Hogan (don't worry, they're stopped in time).
  • In season four of Boy Meets World, Cory has to be in two places at once, and one of those places is ringside, giving tips to Big Van Vader as a favor to Vader's (fictional) son Frankie. Everyone, including Vader, treats the match as entirely real.


Radio

  • Fabulous Moolah, who was mentioned above under the Literature section, once did an interview on a radio show. She talked about the storylines she'd been in as if they were real, and eventually admitted that she found it very difficult to break kayfabe in the first place let alone do an out-of-character interview.


Tabletop Games

  • The Shadowrun supplement Shadowbeat described wrestling as real in a retrospective on sports in the Sixth World. It's unclear if the writers were taken in by Kayfabe, if they'd opted not to spoil the ruse for believers, or if wrestling actually is for real in the alternate universe where Shadowrun takes place.


Video Games

  • Smackdown vs. Raw
  • Rumble Roses features a villain who plans to use a pro-wrestling tournament to take over the world.
  • Wrestle Angels
  • Masaru's chapter from Live a Live is a great example of this trope.
  • A weird example in the NES Pro Wrestling game. The fighting isn't staged, but then you learn the wrestling company you're working for is aware they are in a video game.
  • Saturday Night Slam Masters
  • Frequently this is the case in the Fighting Game genre as professional wrestlers are commonplace entrants in the various tournament (which is to say that they know that their moves are capable of doing real damage and thus can use it as a legitimate fighting style). The UDON Comics Street Fighter series plays with this. Pro wrestling is real, but the elements that back it (such as kayfabe, selling, etc.) are also accounted for, which confuses Zangief when he wrestles R. Mika. She uses chairshots and low blows, all the while congratulating Zangief on his ability to sell but in truth she's actually hurting him and by the end, he's battered and beaten while wondering how this is "pro wrestling".


Webcomics


Web Original

  • The round-robin story Magical Troubleshooting Crossover Fighting Federation ULTRA starts with the premise "what if all our favorite anime (and other fiction) characters were the stars of a pro wrestling tournament ... and the fights were not staged. (Also, Kasumi Tendo is God.)"
  • Many e-feds (essentially a combination of professional wrestling RPing groups and story contests) consider it bad form to have your character treat wrestling as fake.


Western Animation

  • One of the early cartoons satirizing the sport was the 1951 Bugs Bunny cartoon Bunny Hugged. Bugs has to use his wits (and several conveniently available contraptions) to eventually upend the arrogant champion.
  • ¡Mucha Lucha! is definitely on the "supernatural" side of things, with moves that involve shapeshifting among many others.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003: Fast Forward, Pro Wrestling has become a legit sport. However, being from the past, Raphael is unaware of this and treats it like its all a show, at least until he gets his shell kicked by a disgruntled wrestler.
  • Played with in Futurama, where the Robot Wrestling League is completely scripted, but Kayfabe is still intact and very few people outside the industry realize that it's scripted. Bender then rebels when the script calls for him to start losing, so it becomes a real match--except Bender's massive, invulnerable opponent is being remote-controlled by a martial arts master, so Leela has to beat up the robot's controller. Leela wins her side of the fight, but Bender loses when the deactivated Destructor falls on him, pinning him to the mat for a three-count.
  • The Rugrats episode "Wrestling Grandpa", being mostly from the babies' POV, has this trope in spades.
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