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So, is pro wrestling fake?

Grunts, roars and the smack of flesh on canvas have, for generations, echoed from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. Pro wrestling is a gritty world populated by heroic "babyfaces," dastardly "heels," outrageous managers and outraged fans. We tackle some of the most colourful stories and characters to come out of the wrestling scenes from coast to coast.

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In Quebec, there are lots of men in tights looking for fights. They aren't the millionaire stars but the up-and-comers willing to scrap for free. They are the stalwarts of Northern Championship Wrestling who, like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in the old movies, just want to put on a show. They do have one thing in common with their WWF heroes -- they know how their matches will end, as we see in this CBC Television clip.

The wrestlers have tossed aside the age-old pretense that matches are completely unscripted tests of athletic vigour and skill. Hours before NCW stars Piranha and Dream Killer do battle, they meet at a Harvey's restaurant and amicably plan the night's mayhem. "I'm going to throw you out of the ring, OK? Then you've got to start to run after Floyd...," Piranha explains between fries. 
• For generations there was a wink-wink, nod-nod attitude toward the question of whether the outcomes of pro wrestling matches were dictated by promoters. Almost everyone seemed to know the answer but those in the business were loath to admit it.

• Many wrestlers deflected journalists' persistent questions with invitations to fight in the ring and see for themselves. Others listed the many injuries they had suffered and questioned why, if matches were fake, they had suffered so much pain. Some wrestlers insisted their sport was as much on the level as football, baseball and other pastimes. By promoting wrestling as first and foremost entertainment, the World Wrestling Federation eliminated the need for such pretense.

• As a cub reporter in Toronto decades ago, journalist Jerry Gladman thought he had a worldwide scoop. He overheard a big-name wrestler say he wanted to show his opponent a new hold because: "It's his turn to win tonight." Gladman rushed back to the newsroom. His editor turned to a grizzled sportswriter and said, "Hey Al. Wrestling's fake." The sportswriter replied in mock amazement: "No kidding?" The story never ran.

• In 2001 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that professional wrestling is a sport. The broadcast regulator said that, although parts of a match are scripted "the action in the ring involves athletics, competition (however unorthodox), and a winner and a loser." A year later, World Wrestling Entertainment asked the Ontario government to reclassify its matches as entertainment, rather than sport, in a bid to avoid a two-per cent gate tax levied on pro sports events.

• Allan Turowetz, a Montreal sociology professor and sports journalist, said that questions of fakery should be put in terms of a James Bond movie. The fans intuitively know the outcome but they are still interested in how it happens.

• Wrestling star and Manitoba native Chris Jericho in 2000: "Fake no; pre-determined, yes. Basically, you're in an arranged fight. You know what's supposed to happen, but there's no way anyone can control everything. Most of the time, you come out unscathed. Sometimes, you don't."
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: Oct. 8, 1999
Guest(s): Charles du Moulin, Martin Robilliard, Anthony Tonin
Host: Brian Stewart
Reporter: Tom Alderman
Duration: 8:11

Last updated: February 6, 2012

Page consulted on October 8, 2014

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