Award Snub: It's very hard to judge who the best in pro wrestling is. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter tries to avoid narrow ranges by putting multiple categories to vote, depending on style of wrestling(best technical wrestler, best brawler), attendance/gate(best box office draw), booking(feud of the year), crowd response, etc. Pro Wrestling Illustrated judges based on objective wins or losses, meaning you can go through a year of clumsy squashes against men half your size in one company and wind up higher than a guy brilliantly taking apart men twice his size in another because he happened to lose more. Scope is also a problem, as pro wrestling matches happen on every continent but Antarctica, often simultaneously. No one can be expected to cover it all, though some groups make valiant, if contentious, efforts.
Jack Pfefer is seen as an innovate promoter who paved the way for developments such as Tag Team and midget wrestling. He is equally viewed as a spiteful asshole whose revealing of business secrets and deliberately phony theatrics made it harder for more subdued grappling and mat technique to get over and or ensured legitimate pro wrestling would never return. He was largely responsible for the success of Buddy Rogers, was a great friend of Stu Hart and helped many women wrestlers like Mildred Burke and Fabulous Moolah. He purposefully sabotaged the whole of New York's promoters multiple times and ran Chicago into the ground. Many a debate has been raised over whether he was ultimately good or bad for the industry.
Mil Mascaras is beloved by fans and most promoters, but there are wrestlers in USA and Canada who think he has an over inflated ego due to him bashing their styles of wrestling and having a tendency to No Sell.
The women seem to be very prone to this. Unless your name is Mickie James or Trish Stratus (and even Trish is becoming a Base Breaker to an extent. See Seinfeld Is Unfunny below), pretty much all WWE Divas or TNA Knockouts are either base breakers or complete scrappies, at least among smarks. Even many women in the indies have divided opinions.
Among bookers, Gabe Sapolsky is either one of the greats or one of the fools who got lucky. Even critics are split, some like those at PWPonderings expressing nostalgia for him when things exceeded their expectations while others like Quebrada.net were writing/typing in depth analytical breakdowns to prove he didn't know what to do with the talent he had even during the three years he won The Wrestling Observer's "Best Booker" award. For the most part, the "Great" crowd was louder when he was booking ROH and FIP and the "Lucky" detractors were noisier when he was booking Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE.
Among commentators, Don West and Matt Striker are among the most critically praised an panned. To summarize, they put a lot of effort into their work but tend to say stupid things, with the love and hate depending on how much any given listener appreciates or is annoyed.
During the territorial era when pro wrestling became an industry onto itself, it was the first and only occupation for most involved, with those who took second jobs looked down upon and considered potentially damaging to business. However, there were always men like Big Daddy Lipscomb and Ernie Ladd who managed to carve out pro wrestling careers despite it. With the death of the territories, the industry became much smaller, leading to the rise of "weekend warriors" content to spend most of their working hours doing something else and wrestle when convenient. Debates between them and those still of the territorial mindset can get heated.
Once you get past "booking 101", the line between bookers(and fantasy bookers) most interested in telling satisfying stories and those who only care about pushing wrestlers who embody a desired trait gets pretty wide at times. And of course the first base breaks on exactly how one should go about telling stories(from tone, to the structure of competition, to distribution of media) while the other breaks on exactly what quality (talent, charisma, size, legitimacy, body hair) is truly important. It helps that there are good arguments for (almost) every stance.
"The Pure Wrestling" vs "Sports Entertainment" debate never seems to truly end, even though promotions such as the Universal Wrestling Federation and Fighting Opera HUSTLE have proven the most extreme forms of either can be successful and most promotions don't neatly fall into either category.
Deader Than Disco: While professional wrestling is still around and probably won't be dying any time soon, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be as popular as it was during its two boom periods: The Rock 'N' Wrestling Era (1984-1993) and The Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era (1996-2001) due several factors (i.e. Mixed Martial Arts' rise in popularity, the internet wasn't as widely available as it is today, DVR and social media didn't exist, not as many TV channels, people are more aware of the backstage antics than they should be and the fact that they are afraid to go beyond the status quo, WWE in particular).
In 1993, Hulk Hogan and many of the other WWF stars from the eighties had either left the company or became Demoted to Extra, and Vince McMahon was on trial for steroid trafficking. Given all of this, one could forgive the WWF for dropping the ball a bit — but with a failure of the scope of the "New Generation" era, which gave us Lex Luger as a main-event Face, Doink the Clown's misguided Heel–Face Turn, Wrestling Doesn't Pay in full effect, horribly bad Take Thats at WCW in the form of the "Billionaire Ted" sketches, and some of the worst pay-per-view events on record (even if you were guaranteed a great Bret Hart and/or Shawn Michaels match every show), there's an awful lot to forgive. 1995 would be the nadir of the Dork Age, since that was supposedly the year the company was at its lowest in losing money. For most of the year, Kevin Nash was WWF Champion, who arguably one of the most limited champions in the ring that they ever had and was unquestionably one of the worst money draws (JBL was worse at the box office). It wasn't entirely his fault, though; he really didn't have much to work with as far as main event feuds went, since the only three wrestlers people wanted to see challenge Diesel were Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and Bret Hart. Problem is, Diesel-Bret III didn't occur until November (after being subjected to the Diesel-Sid and Diesel-Mabel feuds), Razor was saddled with Jeff Jarrett (and then, the 1-2-3 Kid), and Diesel-Shawn II was held off until April 1996. Not to mention that, as a face, they ruined Nash's character by turning him from a badass into yet another overgrown boy scout goody two shoes babyface when audiences had already grown tired of them. These days, this era only gets brought up if somebody wants to mock or embarrass Vince and/or the WWE.
WCW was also in the same state as WWF back in the early '90s. At that point in time a much smaller company, they tried to emulate WWF's overtly cartoonish characters, coming up with characters such as Arachniman, The Juicer and the DynamicDudes. Then there were the infamously terrible skits that TBS helped produce, such as the one where Sting and Jake "The Snake" Robertsshot laser beams out of their eyes. Don't forget about Oznote Nash dressed up as the Wizard with a fake beard and gigantic puke-green robe, although that was probably more TBS wanting to cross-promote than anything else. Even when Hogan himself arrived to the company, he was playing a tired-looking version of his old character, having lost significant muscle mass and trying in vain to exude the charisma he held in his WWF heyday. While WCW did achieve short-term success with the extremely popular nWo angle, many of its non-nWo elements could be considered "dork age" in an of themselves, particularly if you were a holdover from the NWA days.
You know you have an ensemble darkhorse on your hands when a wrestler is extremely popular regardless of how they're booked, and even if they've never had a push or held a belt. Booked to lose constantly? Cheers! Given a stupid gimmick? Cheers! Permanently in the midcard or undercard? Still gets pops that rival or even exceed the top guys in the company! Being an Ensemble Darkhorse can also be a drawback for this reason, though. If a wrestler is already over where they are, sometimes bookers don't see the point in giving them a push or putting the belt on them, since it won't make them any more popular than they already are.
Evil Is Cool: Also a type of Popular Heel. Ditto, Ditto, and Ditto from Draco In Leather Pants...
Saying "Wrestling's fake" like it makes you far more insightful. That cat has been out of the bag for decades now and it isn't any different than suggesting you shouldn't watch scripted TV shows or read books that are in the fiction section. Many fans and even some of the wrestlers themselves 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 to those who know what they're doing, and that there isn't a tremendous amount of skill in what they do. 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 competitors. 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.
Claiming that wrestlers "just know how to fall" or otherwise don't get injured. Fans that are aware of the concept of selling and can probably tell you about a number of real injuries to occur.
Claiming every wrestler is on steroids is not advised. It's true that the WWE favors large, muscular men, especially prior to the 1990s, but not every wrestler works a style or look that favors insane musculature, and not all of those who do 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.
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.
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.
Saying anything positive about WCW or TNA will probably get you a verbal ass whipping.
Pro Wrestling fans vs. Boxing fans, then vs. Mixed Martial Arts fans, in regions where MMA isn't considered a sub genre. Or pretty much fans of any entertainment, athletic or not.
Within the industry, Casual fans (Marks) vs. Hardcore fans (especially those who self-identify as smarks) since the two groups look at the product in different ways. Casual fans watch the show the way it was meant to be seen (with Kayfabe in tact) whereas smarks care more about analyzing the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business and are more interested in technicality than Five Moves of Doom.
El Santo vs The Blue Demon, even though the former was more popular there remains a vocal minority that insists the latter was the better wrestler. Doesn't help that their rivalry never came to a conclusive end.
A particularly nasty one surrounds Bruiser Brody, especially regarding any suggestion that his death was anything but murder. Who should be held responsible and how they should be dealt with is in turn a broken base on a side of a broken base, ranging from simply giving Invader #1 a retrial to condemning everyone who can be associated with Invader #1 in any way following the incident to hell.
Also, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart has finally settled their differences, but that doesn't stop their respective fans from engaging in flame wars regarding who was better.
In the new Millennium, WWE vs. TNA vs. Ring of Honor, though despite the addition of wrestlers made famous by either WWE or WCW, TNA's ratings remain stagnant.
From within the WWE itself are Raw vs. Smackdown (the flagship sports entertainment show vs. the wrestling show, made worse when the Draft often relocates a lot Smackdown talent to Raw), brand extension fans vs. unified company fans, Cena fans vs Cena haters, Superstars (especially Divas) with indy wrestling backgrounds vs. WWE/NXT homegrowns, Jim Ross vs. Michael Cole, and combinations of the WWE's different eras (Rock and Wrestling vs.The Wrestling/Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era vs. Ruthless Aggression Era vs. WWE Universe Era)
People who agree with WWE regarding making Chris Benoit an Un-Person and those who want him in the Hall of Fame and his matches on DVD.note There was a Benoit DVD, 2004's Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story. WWE took it out of print following the tragedy.
If Twitter is anything to go by, Nikki Bella fans and AJ Lee fans absolutely despise each other.
A good example was when Randy Orton approached John Cena backstage at Backlash 2007 just before their Fatal Four-Way match with Shawn Michaels and Edge. He suggested that he and Cena team up to take out the competition, but unfortunately he used the words "get together" - and, to top it off, tried to appeal to Cena's vanity by noting how "young" and "good-looking" they both were. Cena, being the Deadpan Snarker he was, replied that, while he was okay with Orton's lifestyle, "that's not how I roll." He then walked off, leaving Orton yelling, "Very funny, Cena! But you know how this is going to end - with you on your back and me on top of you!" Enter the always-outspoken Ron Simmons, complete with his "DAMN!" T-shirt. Hilarity Ensues.
A lot of wrestlers working in America remain hugely popular in their country of origin or descent, despite being low-card acts in the US. Some examples:
Stan Hansen of AJPW, who is vaguely notable to American pro wrestling history but remains one of the most popular and recognizable stars in Japan years after his retirement;
Terry Gordy and Steve Williams, who were enormously renowned in their territorial days but resigned to relatively bit roles on WWE and WCW, were also very popular in AJPW, teaming as the Miracle Violence Connection.
Hulk Hogan and his all-American gimmick is popular in Canada, and absolutely beloved in Toronto. After returning to WWE as the leader of the New World Order, his face turn was induced by the Toronto fans who adamantly refused to boo him.
Brillante Jr/La Sombra, best known for his stints in CMLL, who is loved by Germans despite never wrestling in Germany or Europe for that matter.
Mark Jindrak, a mid-carder from WCW and WWE, revived his career in Mexico as Marco Corleone;
Genki Horiguchi, a lower-card Dragon Gate wrestler whose Bald of Awesome gimmick has made him one of DG's most popular wrestlers in the US, although this is largely due to the efforts of US promoters trying to get his baldness over so that "HAGE" wouldn't be Lost in Translation.
Similarly with Akira Tozawa. A generally middle of the road guy in Dragon Gate (who wasn't even the highest ranked member of the stable that bore his name), in the summer of 2010 he began an extended tour in the United States wrestling mainly for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. His ability to put on great matches and seemingly crazy/eccentric personality quickly won over American crowds making him a far bigger deal on the American indies than he had been in his home promotion.
Mention professional wrestling to your average Filipino casual fan/non-fan and the first name they'll usually tell you is Batista. That's largely because Dave Bautista's father is Filipino and/or because he's made a successful transition to film, but despite his age, his arguable lack of skill for many smarks, backstage rumors, and the whole "Bootista" run of 2014, he's still arguably the most popular wrestler, period, among his father's countrymen. That's despite the presence of younger Filipino-Americans like Zema Ion/DJ Z and Manik/T.J. Perkins.
Hype Backlash: Seemingly becoming more common nowadays as fans sometimes turn on wrestlers/personalities that are shoved down their collective throats (Roman Reigns for example) or, conversely, cheer for more entertaining villains.
Internet Backdraft: Mentioning anything about pro wrestling online will almost guarantee a Flame War. If it's not the haters attacking the fans for liking the craft, it'll be fans attacking other fans for not liking the wrestlers or promotions that they like.
Professional wrestling has its own specific flavors. Both are just as subjective as the trope itself but are recognized and worked around by bookers and promoters.
Within the scope of an individual show, matches need to be ordered properly to avoid the crowd burning out. Putting an incredibly awesome match in the middle of the card will essentially cause the show as a whole to Jump The Shark and multiple awesome matches need to be spaced out with not-as-awesome matches and promos.
For the promotion as a whole, overuse of gimmicks and generally turning everything Up to Eleven is a good way to gain short-term ratings and attendance spikes but can leave everything overexposed: too much hardcore wrestling, for example, will cause the audience to be desensitized and force the wrestlers to come up with more violent ways of maiming themselves while having all-out brawling street fights once in a while in big situations will keep things special.
Launcher of a Thousand Ships: No wrestler that's had a decent amount of airtime and attention in WWE in the last ten years has gone without being paired with somebody else in either a straight or slash fic. (Yes. Even Vince McMahon. He's got Linda, remember?)
Love It or Hate It: Either you like professional wrestling or you don't. There isn't much of a middle ground.
Memetic Badass: Vacant. After a period where both the WWE and TNA titles were vacated during the later half of 2013 for extended periods, the IWC decided that "Vacant" must be some sort of invisible mystery wrestler, and a quick search of title histories shows him to be among the most decorated professional wrestlers of all time.
Older Than They Think: Given that the practice of working matches dates back to at least 1880 (and that's just works, wrestling itself is at least as old as Sumeria) and that virtually all matches were worked by 1920, there was very little that was truly "new" in professional wrestling by 1970. If someone does come up with something truly believed to be "new" it will be called a "Northern Light" and even to this day a good many Northern Lights (especially when it comes to moves and match stipulations) are done by accident. Basically, if you actually thought and planned it, it's a good chance someone in wrestling has done so before.
Reviews Are The Gospel: There are people (at least the smart marks) who swear by Dave Meltzer's (of the Wrestling Observer) reviews of matches. There are also a great many wrestlers and promoters who swear at them.
As the years passed, many things in pro wrestling that used to be unique or shocking have become commonplace. Examples follow...
The ladder match. At WrestleMania X, it was very exciting and revolutionary for its time. To viewers in the 50 states at least. Fans who grew up watching TLC matches may find this match boring.
The DDT was once a devastating maneuver but it is now a standard move so watching an older match end with one stretches fan's willingness to suspend disbelief. Ditto for moves like the Power Bomb, Superplex, Stampeder (running power slam), and — going back even further — the Thesz Press.
Watching old AWA matches, moves like the Clothesline and Dropkick were also match enders back in the day.
Also common among lucha libre and cruiserweight wrestlers. As the style becomes more popular, more wrestles add more flippy stuff. At Bash at the Beach '96, Rey Mysterio Jr.. and Psicosis created the "highspot of the night" when Rey hit a huracarrana on Psic in mid-air. But with Jack Evans, Ricochet, Takuya Sugi and PAC and the like later doing double rotation corkscrew shooting star presses, that just fails to impress as it did at the time.
The Dynamite Kid vs Tiger Mask series in the early 80's seems slow-paced and short by modern standards. At the time, those matches more or less established the notion of "high-flying" wrestlers.
Back in the 1980s, title matches could be considerably shorter than they are today (Hulk Hogan's famous victory over The Iron Sheik, for example, was barely five minutes long!) and were filmed in long shot, making you feel that you were actually in the arena, thus causing the novelty of watching a wrestling match at home on TV to come off as rather pointless. Add in the general lack of music, pyrotechnics, and so forth, and modern-day fans might think they're watching a Stylistic Suck! Though it should be noted the short title matches were largely started by the WWF for Hogan.
Trish Stratus was a huge success story during her career - WWE had brought in Sable as a valet in 1996 and she had a brief run with the revived WWE Women's Title before her ego took over and she made herself Persona Non Grata, but Trish herself was the first (in WWE at least) to develop onscreen from an eye candy valet with patchy mic skills to a charismatic star who is now regarded as one of the best female wrestlers in North America. These days at least 60% of the women's division in WWE (and some of TNA's roster too) is made up of former models brought in and trained to wrestle in the hopes of replicating Trish's success.
At the time of her debut in WWE, Lita's style of wrestling stood out for moves like headscissors, hurricanranas, and moonsaults, barely used by women in WWE. These days (see the Trish example above) due to having to work extremely short matches all the time, the models brought in by WWE will often learn flashy moves like hurricanranas to make their matches appear more exciting and cover up their lack of wrestling ability. If the models are former gymnasts this can work fine and they eventually develop into competent wrestlers (such as Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly) or they can just come across as sloppy spot monkeys. Moves such as moonsaults and hurricanranas are more staples of women's wrestling these days than men's, at least in WWE due to the retirement of the Cruiserweight division.
Averted with regards to Natalya and the Sharpshooter. Aside from a one-off Trish Stratus match, fans had never seen a woman do it before and while it's not as amazing now to see her use it, she still gets great reactions whenever she does use it to win matches.
Part of the reason she gets great reactions for it? She's the daughter of Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and was trained by the Hart family, the first woman to ever be trained in The Dungeon.
Unpleasable Fanbase: Wrestling fans in general are pretty hard to please, especially the smarks, and especially in recent years. However, the one place that mainstream wrestling can never seem to please is Philadelphia, thanks to ECW. Philly has been known to eat wrestlers alive if they don't put on a good show. The WWE, having become somewhat bland and samey over the years after the transition to PG, has had a harder time escaping their hatred as of late, which was made all too obvious after the 2015 Royal Rumble where their rage was so palpable that The Rock couldn't calm them down.
Fans who refuse to accept that wrestling is staged entertainment and not real competition, even though people who actually fall into this category are almost nonexistent today despite what many wrestling detractors may think.
These days, it's most likely the hardcore smarks who despise any wrestler who isn't an average-sized, average-looking technical wrestler who spent 15 years on the indy circuit before making it to the bigger promotions, complain constantly (especially about WWE or TNA), are never satisfied with anything, and believe they can run a wrestling company better than the actual promoters.