Saying any variation of "Wrestling's fake". That cat has been out of the bag for decades now and ridiculing wrestling for being "fake" isn't any different than suggesting that someone shouldn't watch scripted TV shows or read books that are in the fiction section. Some fans and wrestlers alike will get seriously upset at the use of the word "fake" because it is usually used as an insult to imply (especially to the minds of impressionable children) that nothing you see is real, that people don't get legitimately injured, that the things wrestlers do aren't potentially dangerous, and that there isn't a tremendous amount of skill in what they do. While it's true that the story lines are planned out, the match results are pre-determined and the wrestlers aren't actually trying to hurt each other, anyone who has even a passing knowledge of professional wrestling's inner workings knows that it does require a lot of skill and is very, very dangerous. They tend to prefer the terms "scripted", in that match results are known beforehand and "staged", in that both/all of the wrestlers in the ring are performers working together to put on an entertaining show, rather than as competitors trying to hurt each other for money. In some circles, even the word "scripted" is a berserk button, as the large majority of wrestling promotions don't use scripts and the large majority that do are farm leagues working with rookies who have not yet learned to improvise. So if you want to refer to wrestling as "not real" in a way that doesn't A) piss off wrestlers and wrestling fans and B) make you look like an uninformed Jerkass in the process, "Staged" is the proper word.
Don't call pro wrestling "WWE" unless you are specifically talking about the promotion itself, especially if you're referring to a wrestler that has never worked for that promotion as a "WWE Star". While it is the only mainstream wrestling company left (at least outside of Mexico and Japan), there are plenty of other wrestling promotions out there besides WWE.
Don't call every wrestling move a "body slam". Non-wrestling fans in particular often refer to the splash as a body slam, to the annoyance of many a fan. Mixing up the names of moves in general or resorting to Buffy Speak to describe them is also frowned upon.
Claiming that wrestlers "just know how to fall" or otherwise don't get injured. Fans that are aware of the concept of selling. "Knowing how to fall" doesn't mean falling stops hurting and they can probably tell you about a number of real injuries that have occured.
Claiming every wrestler is on steroids is not advised. It's true that the WWE favors large, muscular men and that steroid use has been a major problem in pro wrestling since at least the 1980s, but not every wrestler works a style or look that favors insane musculature, and not all of those who do have muscular physiques use steroids.
Wrestlers aren't all drug addicts, and those cases of real addiction are more tragic than anything. It's part of the price they pay with their bodies for the work they do and the lengths they go to for entertainment. All wrestlers (at least in WWE) now undergo regular drug testing and are severely punished if they are caught using an illegal substance.
Don't make fun of the concept of tights. Seriously. Not even the briefs. Don't.
Around Lucha Libre fans, don't make fun of the concept of masks. Seriously. Don't.
Around shoot/strong-style fans, don't say that matwork is boring or that there is too much kicking. For your sake, don't.
The greatest female wrestler of all time? If it isn't Lita or Trish Stratus, fans don't want to hear it. And if it's Eva Marie, prepare to get torn to shreds. Naming an Apache or Hamada can at least spark debate in the right circles. You might be able to get away with saying The Fabulous Moolah if you're a pre-90s wrestling fan, and Mildred Burke, maybe June Byers, among those who know their wrestling history. Unless, of course, you're talking to joshi fans, in which case, don't you dare suggest that any of the above (with the possible exception of Hamada) can hold a candle to Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Lioness Asuka, Chigusa Nagayo, or Akira Hokuto.
This is crossing over into Dead Horse Trope territory post-2015. The WWE (no doubt taking a cue from UFC and Ronda Rousey) really began bringing in "working" females. Women with real athletic ability to stage legitimate matches. They've all but banished the term "Diva" from usage, created "Women's" title belts designed to look more like the men's belts (and not "girly" accessories like the horrific "butterfly" Divas Title) and women's matches feature more frequently. Also gone are the days of "bra and panties" matches, lingerie pillow fights and mud pool matches. As a result, some of the best female wrestlers to appear in the WWE in YEARS have come about, such as Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley to name a few. There are still a few valet types who manage male wrestlers, like Lana or Summer Rae, but they don't get involved in matches with the Women's Division competitors.
A number of wrestling fans believe that Natalya Neidhart is Bret Hart's daughter. If you try to make this claim on a message board or some other place filled with wrestling fans, you'll most likely get reminded that she's actually his niece (hence their different last names), and that her actual father is Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart.
While on the subject of the Harts, don't say that "Sting stole Bret Hart's Sharpshooter." Sting began using the hold (originally called the Scorpion Deathlock) as his finishing move several years before Bret did (Bret was a tag team wrestler when Sting broke into the business). And the hold was actually invented by Japanese wrestler Riki Choshu.
Saying anything positive about WCW or TNA, especially TNA, will probably get you a verbal ass whipping. The only exception is stating that they had/have a great roster of talent. The real issue is what they did/do with said talent. This goes both ways too. Such an "ass whipping" can bring an immediate counter-attack from long-time fans, who will start in on the glory days of the Monday Night Wars for WCW or of the X-Division in TNA. And will mostly likely call the WCW/TNA basher a "sheep", mindlessly bashing anything that isn't WWE programming.
The following entry is a list of the Unacceptable Targets in professional wrestling. Most Smart Mark fans and industry figureheads will not tolerate any negative comments about the following wrestling figures, even if it's as minor as "I don't like this person":
Other wrestlers are mixed bags, but there are still some rules on what you can and cannot say about them:
It's acceptable to say that André the Giant wasn't the best wrestler due to obvious physical limitations, but to trash him and deny his legacy and impact is a different story.
Hulk Hogan is very much an acceptable target when it comes to his personal life, his time as a spotlight hog in WWF and WCW, his Invincible Hero booking, his often coming off as unlikable, and his recent involvement in the industry. Just don't say he flat-out sucked when it comes to his "Hulkamania" peak, the early days of the NWO, his 2002 feud with The Rock, or his revolutionizing of the industry.
Ric Flair. Most people won't care if you criticize his personal life, but don't dare knock anything about his wrestling career (aside from his TNA run). Other wrestlers who fall into this category include Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels (prior to becoming a Born-again Christian), Kurt Angle and CM Punk.
Several wrestlers who got involved with drugs, like Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, and Matt Hardy. You can criticize their personal lives and most of their recent wrestling work, but definitely not their early careers, or the recent "Broken" Hardys of TNA and WWE.
Diamond Dallas Page. You can say you don't like him as a wrestler, but try not to bash him and never make fun of DDPYoga.
Brock Lesnar. You can criticize his bad mic skills, personal life, and some of his matches and angles (especially since returning in the 2010s), but try not to say you dislike him, and never talk negatively about Paul Heyman. And god forbid, bringing up him ending the Streak is bound to cause flame wars from both sides.
John "Bradshaw" Layfield: Don't say anything bad about Bradshaw of the APA. As JBL, you can rib on his recent commentary work and in-ring skills, but never say you didn't like his heel character or his first commentary stint. And don't try and defend the "bullying" accusations against him, as there's a pretty solid consensus they are true.
While you can easily say you are a fan of Michael Cole, never call him a better commentator than Jim Ross. His 2010-11 heel run, while not as despised as it was at the time, is still very much an open target.
Tony Schiavone is similar to Michael Cole. You can say you like him, but don't say he's a better commentator than J.R. Also, don't defend his work behind the desk during WCW's downfall (especially the "That's gonna put some butts in the seats!" jab at Mick Foley, even though he was told to bash Foley on-air, he came up with the line himself).
It's okay to make light-hearted jabs about Sting's reputation as "the dumbest man in wrestling." But legitimately trashing him or his career is not tolerated, as most fans don't actually blame him for the way his booking turned out.
The New Day: Don't say you like their first face run, and don't say you don't like anything they've done since their first heel turn (aside from the infamous "Old Day" sketch). Talking about the individual members in them and their pre-New Day solo careers, however, is very much a mixed bag.
The Bullet Club. Their NJPW incarnation should never be mocked, though their watered down WWE version (although not the wrestlersin it) can be criticized.
Eva Marie is nigh-universally hated by wrestling fans. Total Divas fans can talk positively about her, as long as it's not to actual wrestling fans.
Few people will ever say anything negative about Vince McMahon's overall revolutionizing of the business, running of the company up until The New '10s, and his heel character "Mr. McMahon". However, defending Vince's recent handling of WWE, his more controversial business decisions, or the face version of Mr. McMahon, is not advised.
Say what you want about Bill DeMott as a wrestler, but much like JBL, it's not advised to try to defend him over the accusations of his bullying as NXT's head trainer, as there's plenty of evidence against him.
You can talk positively about Triple H if it's about enjoying his character, his wrestling career from 1997 to 2001 or how great he is at running NXT But never ever say anything positive about his 2002-2005 heel run aka. the "Reign of Terror" (especially not the 2003 Booker T feud), unless it's about the very few times he put someone else over during that period.
Whether or not you are a fan of Doink the Clown's heel run, never say that he was a better face than heel. It's actually best you refrain from saying anything positive about his face run. And don't you dare say your favorite wrestler to portray Doink was anyone but Matt Borne (unless you count Jericho that one time he attacked Regal).
Opinions on R-Truth are mixed, with only one real rule, which is not to say anything negative about his 2011 heel run.
You might be able to get away with talking positively about Lex Luger's work in WCW, but definitely not his time in the WWF.
The Sin Cara gimmick is very much a divisive affair, but even the gimmick's biggest critics rarely ever consider Místico to be a bad wrestler, just that he had a hard time adapting to WWE's format. Hunico isn't seen quite in the same positive light as Mistico, but most people agree he was a much better Sin Cara.
The Authority. You can talk positively about them in regards to how they were the perfect antagonist to Daniel Bryan or the wonders they did for Seth Rollins. Besides that, not so much.
Kane is one of WWE's biggest legends and should rarely be talked about negatively (unless you're talking about Katie Vick, but fans won't usually have him take the blame for it). But don't talk positively about "Corporate Kane", and never, ever say you're a fan of his tag team with the Big Show.
Randy Orton is very much a Base-Breaking Character, but fans will universally agree on two things thing: the "Eddie's in Hell" comment was offensive and tasteless, and he should not have won the World Heavyweight Championship from Christian immediately following the latter's first title win at Extreme Rules. Anyone who says otherwise will be torn apart.
Batista may not be the most popular wrestler on the internet, but most fans will at least tolerate those who like him — but never, ever say that he deserved to win the Royal Rumble in 2014 over excluded-from-the-match Daniel Bryan.
The Shield are a sacred stable to WWE fans, and criticizing them is not advised in any way. It's a different story for their individual members: while it's very ill-advised to say anything negative about Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose, despite a recent wave of backlash, is still liked by most fans, Roman Reigns is near-universally hated.
You can say Jeff Jarrett was a good wrestler in WCW and WWF, but it's best not to talk positive about his running of TNA and GFW.
Mark Henry: On one hand, don't you dare say you liked his angle with Mae Young. On the other, do not say you didn't like his 2011 "Hall of Pain" run or his "fake retirement" promo from 2013.
LayCool: The careers of Michelle McCool and Layla are generally looked at positively and their work as a duo gets mixed reactions (with most of the criticism being due to the former's marriage to the Undertaker), but never talk positively about the "Piggie James" storyline.
Paige falls firmly under the divisive category, but there are two things about her that are pretty much universally hated, her offensive and tastelessTake That! towards Charlotte's late brother Reid Flair in a promo and her real-life relationship with the reviled Alberto Del Rio (while the latter is ultimately a personal matter, the relationship has caused so many professional and personal scandals for both that many agree that it's a powder keg with a big-ass spark incoming. As for the former, people don't really blame her as much as they do the writers of the segment)
Charlotte is by far the least liked member of the "Four Horsewomen". Although initially an internet darling during her NXT days, her reputation rapidly sunk once she made her way up to the main roster. She's not universally hated, but it's generally forbidden to prefer her to the other three Horsewomen, all of whom are still held in very high regard. And never say she is a better wrestler than her father.
Let's just say that mentioning Chris Benoit is sure to start a flame war from both sides of the fanbase. A small, but vocal portion of the online fanbase will become enraged if you say that Benoit doesn't deserve to be in the WWE Hall of Fame. Even though his accomplishments in the ring definitely warrant a Hall of Fame induction and saying otherwise is not a good idea, these fans are either unable or unwilling to accept that killing his wife, son and finally himselfundoes all of the good things he did in his career in the eyes of the public. Many of these fans will try and defend or excuse his behavior due to the fact that he was discovered to have severe dementia after his death, and some adamantly believe that Benoit was innocent and framed by Kevin Sullivan, his wife's ex-husband, even though there is little-to-no proof that supports this (and regardless, the dementia isn't seen as a valid excuse for his behaviors). But we shouldn't discuss that here.
You can say what you want about The Fabulous Moolah as a wrestler, but stay away from defending her personal life, as she is an infamous "pimp" who oversaw the abuse of women.
Between 2006 and 2014, John Cena was easily the most hated man in wrestling (at least in the adult male demographic; kids and women loved him), but his 2003-2004 run as the Doctor of Thugonomics and his work from 2015 onwards should not ever be trashed. And even those who don't like his in-ring work tend to respect the time he puts in with the Make A Wish Foundation.
Mike Adamle is a Once Acceptable Target. Due to his frequent flubbing of lines, he was the fandom's whipping boy for years. However, he was diagnosed with dementia in 2017, so needless to say, mocking him is no longer acceptable.
WWE NXT and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic tournament are both considered Sacred Cattle among hardcore wrestling fans. Say something even slightly derogatory about them. Go ahead, we dare you. Though you might get a pass for mocking the former if you're specifically referring to its old "fake elimination tournament" format.