->''"I think that Shawn's psychology is a little off so far..."''
-->'''Wrestling/JerryLawler''', {{leaning on the fourth wall}} to chide Wrestling/ShawnMichaels during [[https://youtu.be/j7px7rhA9A4?t=2m his famous oversell match]] against Wrestling/HulkHogan

One often hears fans talking about [[ProfessionalWrestling pro wrestlers]] displaying great psychology. When one says this, they aren't talking about a wrestler being a WarriorTherapist. No, they're talking about wrestling psychology, which is essentially a performer's in-ring acting ability, determining how much they can make a wrestling match look like a real competition or fight between real people. A match with great psychology is spectacular and convincing; a match with poor psychology often comes off like a [[SpotMonkey random collection of spots]].

The first half of wrestling psychology is to follow a consistent strategy throughout the match. This can be as simple as working a body part, weakening it through constant attack to leave it open for a match-finishing move. It can also be a more complicated "mind game", with a wrestler constantly taunting his opponent in an attempt to goad him into making a mistake. Other popular strategies include [[BatmanGambit maneuvering the opponent into nigh inescapable hold]], immobilizing a high-flying opponent and keeping TheGiant on his back (where he can't apply his massive strength). The RickyMorton is a key component of TagTeam psychology, as one team seeks to isolate a member of the other team and pick him apart.

The second half of psychology is known as "[[TheatricsOfPain selling]]", or acting like one is getting hurt. Selling can be as simple as reeling back from an opponent's punches, or it can get into the realm of limping because your opponent has been working your leg, or making stupid mistakes because you're losing your temper. Often, a wrestler with truly good psychology will sell things over time; he may even limp to the ring on his way to a match as a result of an "injury" inflicted on him during a prior match/beating. There are some wrestlers who don't like to sell because they feel it makes them look weak, despite the fact that selling is a key component of making the audience [[WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief suspend their disbelief]] and get into the match.

Wrestling psychology is generally attributed to individual wrestlers instead of the writers/bookers. This is because, unlike staged fights in other media, wrestling matches are rarely choreographed from beginning to end[[note]]There simply isn't time to choreograph every match, since even when a promotion has a reliable roster house shows will translate to a wrestler typically having two or more matches per week.[[/note]]; usually, only the ending and a few big spots are pre-planned, while everything in between is improvised. (This is not always the case - Hulk Hogan vs. Wrestling/UltimateWarrior at ''[=WrestleMania=] 6'', for example, was heavily choreographed; both Warrior and Hogan rehearsed much of the match for weeks leading up to the event, and it paid off as the resulting match is hailed as one of the greatest in both men's careers.)

One can become a superstar wrestler without displaying great psychology (The Great Khali) or with heavily simplified psychology (Hulk Hogan, [[Wrestling/DwayneJohnson The Rock]], and Wrestling/JohnCena), but most of the greats have at least a basic grasp of the concept, and most of the truly memorable matches display a high degree of psychology. Hulk Hogan, for example, looked absolutely miserable when he was "beaten up" and really sold the flogging he took - but that was it. As they say, do one thing, and do it well.
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!!Examples:
* Strong Style, as described by Wrestling/YujiNagata, starts with two guys feeling each other, mainly through mat wrestling. When it becomes clear one is going to win the wrestling sequence the other wrestler starts using strikes to prevent from losing the match, the opponent responds in kind and then they begin to use their most dangerous moves. The idea was to convey [[DrivenByEnvy envy]]. Wrestling/AllJapanProWrestling had pretty much all the best foreign talent and thus all the attention, so the message being sent was the wrestlers in Wrestling/{{New Japan|ProWrestling}}'s dojo were working harder, they deserved everything AJPW had. All Japan would nearly collapse on itself in the 2000s but New Japan's wrestlers would keep finding things to get envious about, so they could take their frustrations out on each other in the ring.
* A good deal of professional wrestling is based on the collar and elbow style, which can only be done by two willing opponents. Matches start with such a tie up/lockup out of tradition, with the bonus of it being an easy way to feel for any vulnerabilities in the opponent this particular night and failure to execute one on a wrestler's part indicates lack of respect, a degree of intimidation, something along those lines. Some promoters won't sign an athlete, no matter how well they wrestle on the mat, apply submissions, land strikes, etc if they cannot lockup well. The shoot style was developed in the Wrestling/UniversalWrestlingFederation when Wrestling/YoshiakiFujiwara, Wrestling/NobuhikoTakada, [[Wrestling/SatoruSayama Tiger Mask]] and Kazuo Yamazaki entered the promotion on the vow they were no longer going to "help" inferior opponents, starting with rejection of this traditional start in favor of "shooting" straight for take downs or any perceived vulnerable area. Even after the UWF's closing, a tell tell sign of a "shooter" remains [[ArrogantKungFuGuy an arm hanging limp]] when another wrestler attempts to "lockup" with one.
* Other pro wrestling [[TheGimmick gimmicks]] come with their own brands of psychology too. TheGiant is all their part of their opponent's inability to move them and also comes with a deliberate pace to let them know it, as Wrestling/AndreTheGiant, a legitimately agile man early in his career, was criticized for running and jumping around too much, which was said to detract from people's ability to view him as such. [[WrestlingMonster Monsters]] are generally not supposed to sell pain or only for a little while before ignoring it and going right back on the attack (which forms the basis of Wrestling/BigVanVader's CatchPhrase). Exoticos are more interested in harming their opponent's dignity than their bodies (Cassandro's "lip lock" served no other purpose).
* Wrestler Scott "Wrestling/{{Raven}}" Levy (a veteran of Wrestling/{{WCW}}, Wrestling/{{WWE}}, Wrestling/{{ECW}}, and Wrestling/{{TNA}}) discussed many of the finer aspects and details of wrestling psychology, applying to both {{face}}s and {{heel}}s, in his "Secrets of the Ring" interview series.
* Wrestling/TheShield has been applauded for their psychology, both during beatdowns and promos.
* [[Wrestling/JakeRoberts Jake "The Snake" Roberts]] is widely considered to be one of the finest practitioners of wrestling psychology, to the point where younger wrestlers are often sent to him for an education in the art. Despite having a pot belly, skinny legs and a quite limited moveset, Jake was always massively over with the fans due to a combination of his classic promos and uncanny knack to always do the right thing in the ring, when it was the right time to do it. Even modern day stars like Randy Orton have been schooled by Jake in the art of psychology.
** Carrying around a bag with a live snake in it certainly helped as well.
* Wrestling/TheMidnightExpress's Bobby Eaton, considered the backbone of that team, was well known for his savant like ability to know exactly which moves to pull off and when to pop the crowd. So much so that when other wrestlers were booked against Eaton, they considered it basically a night off since Bobby would lead the match and make it look good.
* Despite the above page quote (which took place during a match in which he was, in rare form, intentionally bad[[note]]Hulk Hogan had screwed him in the lead-up to this match by getting him to agree to lose, then backing out of the planned return match where Michaels would get to win, so Michaels got back at him by making the match into a farce and making Hogan look ridiculous[[/note]]), Shawn Michaels really is known for his excellent ring psychology. His matches are always well-thought-out, with a clear "strategy" throughout them (an example being his Unsanctioned Match with Triple H at Summerslam '02, which utilized a lot of brawling and "hardcore" techniques to compensate for his surgically-repaired back and a genuine fear that it wouldn't hold up to more traditional catch-as-catch-can wrestling). He also takes what could be, in the hands of another wrestler, a senseless spotfest, and builds around the spots. And when it comes to selling, you don't get much better than Shawn, who raises the HowMuchMoreCanHeTake trope to a true art form.
* There is a different kind of psychology, involving being able to get under one's opponent's skin and even terrify him before the match has even started. Wrestling/TheUndertaker, Wrestling/{{Kane}}, Wrestling/TheWyattFamily and [[Wrestling/{{Boogeyman}} the Boogeyman]] are all naturals at this.
* Then there is the case of [[Wrestling/JimFullington The Sandman]]. While generally dismissed as a sloppy GarbageWrestler, he did have his own version. By [[CanCrushingCranium busting himself open with beer cans]] on his way to the ring, he nullified any threats his opponents might have made about making him bleed.
* An EnforcedMethodActing version of this appeared in the bout between Wrestling/{{Goldberg}} and DiamondDallasPage in Wrestling/{{WCW}}'s ''Halloween Havoc '98'', where Goldberg ''launched'' himself at DDP in the corner... who promptly dodged (planned) and Goldberg's shoulder smashed into the ring-post (unplanned). Because of this real-life injury, the first climax to the match, where DDP would reverse Goldberg's FinishingMove into a Diamond-Cutter, took two tries to complete. The first one, Goldberg's shoulder was too aggravated to effectively lift Page off the mat, making the crowd go ''nuts'' due to Goldberg's status as an InvincibleHero up to that point.
* One aspect of psychology Wrestling/JimCornette gave away on Wrestling/RingOfHonor's ''Secrets Of The Ring'' Series was why it was sometimes important for wrestlers to slow down at points even if they're fully capable sprinting for ten minutes at a time: to give the audience a chance to catch up, and if they actually like what they're seeing, clap. Incidentally, ROH crowds are equally among the most vitriolic and appreciative to gather in ECW's wake.
* Savio Vega stated the kind of psychology that comes from taking in the crowd reaction and improvising in the match as it went on was lacking in TNA, where most wrestlers were under the impression the crowd should be ignored as much as possible. He cited his and Dutch Mantel's attention to this detail as the reason the Knockouts had the best rated segments on flagship show ''Impact'', though Vega was more in charge of BShow ''Xplosion'' till Mantel's departure.
* One of the most noticeable things about Wrestling/KazuchikaOkada's return to Wrestling/NewJapanProWrestling was his new offensive psychology, using many different approaches and angles to wear down the opponent's neck\shoulder area before finishing with a short lariat. This made one of the most memorable moments of the 2015 G1 Climax a simple headbutt during the "rainmaker" from Wrestling/YujiNagata, which completely wrecked Okada's strategy and had him struggling to maintain his standing in the rankings.