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Professional wrestling is a dramatized athletic performance inspired by competitive combat sports. Taking the form of live events held by touring promotions, it is a unique style of combat based on a combination of adopted styles, which include classical wrestling, catch wrestling and various forms of martial arts, as well as an innovative style based on grappling (holds/throws), striking, and aerialism. Various forms of weaponry are sometimes used.
The content – including match outcomes – is choreographed and the combative actions and reactions are performed to appear violent without injuring the wrestlers. Before the 1980s, these facts were kept highly secret, after which they were openly declared. By and large, the true nature of the content is ignored by the performing promotion in official media in order to sustain and promote the willing suspension of disbelief for the audience by maintaining an aura of verisimilitude. Fan communications by individual wrestlers and promotions through outside media (i.e., interviews) will often directly acknowledge the fictional nature of the spectacle, making the predetermined nature of the sport something of an open secret. The presentation of scripted events as legitimate is known as "kayfabe".
Although the combative content is staged and communicated between the wrestlers, there are legitimate physical hazards resulting in serious injury and death in limited cases, due to the realism and contact involved in the performance.
Pinning the opponent's shoulders to the mat, typically for three seconds (though other times have been used).
- Forcing the opponent to submit.
Disqualification of the opponent.
- The opponent remaining outside the ring for too long ([#Countout|countout]).
Knocking out or otherwise incapacitating the opponent.
- Counting fast whenever the face wrestler is being pinned, while counting slow, or even refusing to count at all (often by stopping a count at two or faking a wrist pain right before the three count), when the heel wrestler is being pinned.
- Allowing heel wrestlers to use blatantly illegal tactics that most normal referees would instantly disqualify for, while not extending these relaxed rules to face wrestlers.
- Feigning unconsciousness or distraction far longer than they would normally otherwise be out, allowing for greater opportunities for run-ins or illegal moves, while instantly waking up or regaining focus the moment the heel wrestler seems to have an advantage.
- Actually assisting in attacking the face wrestler.
- Performing any illegal holds or maneuvers, such as refusing to break a hold when an opponent is in the ropes, hair-pulling, choking or biting an opponent, or repeatedly punching with a closed fist. These violations are usually subject to a referee-administered five count and will result in disqualification if the wrestler does not cease the offending behavior in time.
- Attacking an opponent's eye, such as raking it, poking it, gouging it, punching it or other severe attacks to the eye.
- Any outside interference involving a person not involved in the match striking or holding a wrestler. Sometimes (depending on the promotion and uniqueness of the situation), if a heel attempts to interfere, but is ejected from the ring by a wrestler or referee before this occurs, there may not be a disqualification. In this disqualification method, the wrestler being attacked by the foreign member is awarded the win. Sometimes, however, this can work in heels' favor. In February 2009, Shawn Michaels, who was under the kayfabe employment of John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL), interfered in a match and hit a superkick on JBL in front of the referee in order to get his employer the win via "outside interference".
- Striking an opponent with a foreign object (an object not permitted by the rules of the match; see Hardcore wrestling) (sometimes the win decision can be reversed if the referee spots the weapon before pin attempt or after the match because they tried to strike when referee is either distracted or knocked out).
- Using any kind of "banned" move (see below for details).
- A direct low blow to the groin (unless the rules of the match specifically allow this).
- Intentionally laying hands on the referee.
- Pulling an opponent's mask off during a match (this is illegal in Mexico, and sometimes in Japan).
- Throwing an opponent over the top rope during a match (this move is still illegal in the National Wrestling Alliance)
- Entering a Royal Rumble before one's scheduled entrance time.
- In a mixed gender tag team match, any participant striking someone of the opposite gender.
Pyrotechnics such as Jeff Hardy and Goldberg.
- Additional visual graphics or staging props to complement the entrance video/routine or further emphasize the character. For instance, Kane's entrance graphics employ heavy use of fire-themed visuals, The Undertaker's entrance features dark lighting, fire, fog and dry ice, and lightning-themed effects, John Morrison's entrance would feature use of multicolored psychedelic style patterns, The Miz has in the past incorporated inflatable lettering spelling out the word "Awesome" into his entrance, and Montel Vontavious Porter frequently used an inflatable entrance tunnel during his WWE tenure. Goldust has been known to use on-screen visual effects in his entrance to simulate the presentation of a feature film (i.e. widescreen, production company credits), as to emphasize his Hollywood-themed film aficionado character. Brodus Clay enters with disco ball lighting effects to emphasize his "Funkasaurus" character.
- A distinct sound or opening note/voice in the music (used to elicit a Pavlovian response from the crowd). For example, the glass shattering in Stone Cold Steve Austin's entrance theme, The Undertaker's signature bell toll, or the sound of bells and a cow's moo in JBL's theme. Other
- Darkening of the arena, often accompanied by mood lighting or strobe lighting, such as in The Undertaker's, Triple H's, Bray Wyatt/the Wyatt Family(Bray Wyatt also carries a lantern while members of the audience are using their mobile phones to add some light to the arena) or Sting's entrances. Certain colors of lighting have been associated with specific wrestlers; for instance, blue and purple lighting for The Undertaker, green lighting for Triple H, D-Generation X, and Shane McMahon, red and orange lighting for Kane, multicolored lighting for John Morrison, gold lighting for Goldust, pink lighting for Val Venis, and so forth.
- Costumes that evoke "otherworldly" or "fictional" themes. With examples such as Big Van Vader's bio-mechanical themed headdress which spewed steam, Pyro's fire shooting outfit, Shockmaster's bejeweled space helmet, and Ricky Steamboat's dragon costume, to name a few.
- Entering in a manner in keeping with their character traits, such as a fast, highly energetic entrance, or a slow, stoic entrance. For example, The Ultimate Warrior would run at high speed down the entrance ramp and into the ring while Randy Orton would slowly and darkly walk to the ring. The Undertaker has adopted one of the most notable entrances, taking around 4 to 5 minutes, darkening the whole arena, and performing a slow, intimidating walk. Like sound effects, some entrance mannerisms often become signature to individual wrestlers. For example, Stone Cold Steve Austin's entrance often involves him standing on the second turnbuckle, raising his hands in the air for few seconds, and then doing the same thing for the other three turnbuckles, a mannerism which has become just as much a signature part of Austin's entrance as the glass-shattering sound effect.
- Driving a vehicle into the arena. For example, Eddie Guerrero would arrive into the arena in a lowrider, The Undertaker (in his "American Bad Ass" biker gimmick), Chuck Palumbo, Tara, and the Disciples of Apocalypse on motorcycles, The Mexicools on riding lawn mowers, JBL in his limousine (although the limousine is being driven by various drivers instead of JBL himself which is a rare example of a wrestler entering the arena in a vehicle that is driven by someone else), Alberto Del Rio arriving into the arena in various luxury cars, Stone Cold Steve Austin driving an all-terrain vehicle, and perhaps most recently Camacho and Hunico entering on a bicycle.
- Acting out a trademark behavior, such as posing to display their muscularity, mounting the ring ropes, or sitting in the corner.
- Talking to the crowd using a distinctive patter. For instance, chanting or rapping along with the music (i.e. Road Dogg, R-Truth). Another example is Vickie Guerrero entering to no music, but announcing her arrival with the words "Excuse me!".
- Many heels with narcissistic gimmicks (Lex Luger, Shawn Michaels, Cody Rhodes, Paul Orndorff, etc.) would admire themselves with a mirror on their way to the ring.
- Coming through the audience, such as The Sandman's beer drinking and can smashing entrance, or Diamond Dallas Page's exit through the crowd, The Shield and/or most recently, Roman Reigns walking through the arena.
- Accompaniment by a ringside crew or personal security, or otherwise walking out of his locker room onscreen as soon as the entrance music started playing, an example of which would be Goldberg(in some instances, a member of Goldberg's escort can be seen knocking on the door of his Locker Room).
- Entering the arena by a lift in the stage, such as Kurt Angle, Gangrel and Rey Mysterio.
- If a wrestler is a current champion, they will attempt to visually draw attention to their championship belt by either holding it high over their head or (if the belt is worn around the waist) moving their hands across it or pointing to it.
- A foreign language voice that serves as the intro of the music such as Rusev and Vladimir Kozlov.
- The wrestler himself performing the lyrics of his own entrance music such as Shawn Michaels and John Cena.
- The wrestler's recorded voice accompanying the music, such as The Rock saying "If you smell what the rock is Cooking!", Booker T saying "Don't hate the game, hate the player" and "Can you dig it, sucka" on the respective WCW and WWE versions of his music, Ric Flair saying his signature "WOOOO!", Finlay saying "My name is Finlay and I love to fight" during his heel run in the WWE, Ryback saying "Feed Me More", Val Venis saying "Hello, Ladies", Scott Steiner saying "Holla If you hear me", The Boogeyman saying "I'm the Boogeyman, and I'm coming to get you", Viscera saying "The World's Largest Love Machine, Viscera"(during his Love Machine Gimmick) or Vader saying "Oh it's time, it's time, it's Vader time".
- Wrestlers distributing merchandises to the audience such as Bret Hart giving his sunglasses to a kid in the audience or John Cena removing his shirt and throwing it to the audience.
Foreign objects (e.g. folding chair)
- Glossary of professional wrestling terms
Professional wrestling aerial techniques (e.g. shooting star press, moonsault)
Professional wrestling attacks (e.g. leg drop, superkick)
Professional wrestling double-team maneuvers (e.g. Doomsday Device)
Professional wrestling holds (e.g. Boston crab, mandible claw, pinfall, Sharpshooter, camel clutch)
- Professional wrestling match types
Professional wrestling throws (e.g. backbreaker, brainbuster, chokeslam, cutter, DDT, facebuster, neckbreaker, piledriver, powerbomb, powerslam, stunner, suplex)
- Professional wrestling tag team match types
- Professional wrestling tournament
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