Glossary of professional wrestling terms
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Professional wrestling has accrued a considerable amount of jargon throughout its existence. Much of it stems from the industry's origins in the days of carnivals and circuses. In the past, professional wrestlers used such terms in the presence of fans so as not to reveal the worked nature of the business. Into the 21st century, widespread discussion on the Internet has popularized these terms. Many of the terms refer to the financial aspects of professional wrestling in addition to in-ring terms.
A management employee, often a former wrestler (though it can be a current wrestler), who helps wrestlers set up matches, plan storylines, give criticisms on matches, and relay instructions from the bookers. Agents often act as a liaison between wrestlers and higher-level management and sometimes may also help in training younger wrestlers. They are referred to by WWE as "producers" and by AEW as "coaches".
A wrestler intentionally cutting themselves (or, more rarely, allowing themselves to be cut by the opponent or referee) to provoke bleeding to sell the opponent's offense.
To determine and schedule the events of a wrestling card. The person in charge of setting up matches and writing angles is a "booker". It is the wrestling equivalent of a screenwriter. A booker can also be described as someone who recruits and hires talent to work in a particular promotion. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa defined a booker in 1956 as "[...] any person who, for a fee or commission, arranges with a promoter or promoters for the performance of wrestlers in professional wrestling exhibitions". Booking is also the term a wrestler uses to describe a scheduled match or appearance on a wrestling show (i.e., "a booked match").
A match that ends in a time limit draw.
The worked lowering (relegation) of a wrestler's status in the eyes of the fans. The opposite of a push, it is the act of a promoter or booker causing a wrestler to lose popularity, momentum and/or credibility, or damaging their gimmick through means such as forcing them to lose in squash matches, losing continuously, allowing opponents to no-sell or kick out of said wrestler's finisher, or forcing them to participate in unentertaining or degrading storylines, or not using them at all. A burial is often used a form of punishment due to real-life backstage disagreements between the wrestler and the booker, the wrestler falling out of favor with the company, or sometimes to demote an unpopular performer or gimmick.
The rule that a reigning champion, should they lose during a title defense by countout or disqualification rather than by the traditional means of pinfall or submission, would retain their title despite losing the match; it can sometimes be revoked as part of a storyline.
An event which occurs when two or more rival promotions put together one card or wrestling event. Some promoters have used cross-promotion style angles to further interest. Cross-promotion dates back to the early days of wrestling as challenges between rival promoters in the same area often occurred.
A point in a match in which the heel stops the face's attack or comeback and goes on the offensive.
Also lackey or heavyA (typically larger) wrestler who accompanies another wrestler as a second to matches and acts as a bodyguard.
A wrestler who is heroic, who is booked to be cheered by fans. Heels are the opposite of faces and faces commonly perform against heels.
In a tag team match, the member of a face team who is dominated by the heel team for an extended period of the match. The tactic can be used to help get the crowd behind the face tag team and is usually followed up with a hot tag. During the 1980s, Ricky Morton of the Rock 'n' Roll Express was typically in this position while teaming with Robert Gibson; so much so that "playing Ricky Morton" has become synonymous with the term.
A brief offensive flurry by a face, before losing momentum back to a heel after being dominated for several minutes. Usually, it occurs before the actual comeback.
The imagined barrier between competing wrestling promotions; wrestlers who are signed to one promotion but make appearances for another as part of a talent exchange agreement are said to have entered or passed through the Forbidden Door. The term was coined in January 2020 by New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Hiroshi Tanahashi when speaking of his desire to challenge Chris Jericho for the AEW World Championship. The term was further popularized by AEW general manager Tony Khan during an appearance on Impact Wrestling television during AEW wrestler Kenny Omega's concurrent reign as both AEW World Champion and Impact World Champion in 2021, and further codified in 2022 with AEW and NJPW announcing a joint pay-per-view with that title.
A jobber who defeats "pure jobbers" as well as mid-card wrestlers in matches, but consistently loses to main event level wrestlers.
A wrestler who is villainous, who is booked to be booed by fans. Faces are the opposite of heels, and heels commonly perform against faces.
An untelevised event.
A smaller wrestling company that operates at a local (rather than national) level and typically employs freelance wrestlers, as opposed to signing wrestlers to exclusive contracts.
A wrestler who routinely loses in order to build the credibility of other wrestlers.
1. Refers to real-life incidents or events that have not been booked or scripted and are therefore not part of the fictional and kayfabe presentation. It is often used to describe a genuine injury to a wrestler, as opposed to one scripted as part of a storyline.
A portion of a match, usually the very start of the match, where two wrestlers join together in a collar-and-elbow tie up.
Derisive term given to a member of a tag team who, upon the breakup of the team, achieves markedly less success than their partner. Coined in reference to Marty Jannetty, who teamed with Shawn Michaels to form The Rockers. While Michaels went to become a four-time world champion and two-time WWE Hall of Famer, Jannetty was released from the WWF two months after the team's breakup and would repeatedly be hired and fired from the promotion (and other promotions) over the next twenty years, almost always participating in storylines which related to his status as Michaels's former partner. Other wrestlers often seen as a Jannetty of a team include Rick Steiner of The Steiner Brothers, Stevie Ray of Harlem Heat, and Jim Neidhart of The Hart Foundation.
The ability to generate reaction from the audience using words, and generally by speaking using a microphone.
A move or series of moves which are mistimed.
A wrestler, often a respected or feared shooter or street fighter, responsible for enforcing the promoter's will against recalcitrant wrestlers by performing unscripted or painful moves within a match, punishing or intimidating them for defying the management. In today's industry it is a largely outdated because such tactics are illegal if they can be proved. Typically, it is only still used by dirt sheets and outside commentators who believe one wrestler is deliberately placed in matches against more dangerous opponents and injured deliberately after disagreements with management. While allegations of this sort persist, including being made by wrestlers themselves, few have been proven. Also describes a wrestler who keeps order in the locker room by threats of physical force.
A wrestler will make themselves dead weight, to prevent their opponent from lifting them up for a move. Though usually planned in a match, it can also be deliberately done by a wrestler who doesn't want to be lifted for a move, which can make the move harder to be properly executed and can cause a higher risk of injury to either one of the wrestlers.
Originally, along with "grunt-and-groan", used by the mainstream media when presenting a derisive story on professional wrestling, which often stereotyped the participants and audience. Now refers to a style of wrestling popular in the Mid-South region of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas (primary city is Memphis, Tennessee), and as a result, the southeastern United States, which emphasizes kayfabe and stiffness, generally with fewer squash matches and longer feuds, hence the more recent "southern style" or to be specific compared to the Carolinas (Jim Crockett) or Georgia styles, "Memphis style".
When a champion loses their title to another, this may be invoked as a storyline plot device to procure a title rematch in the near future (often the next pay-per-view event) in order to continue a feud. In recent years, this clause has often been explicitly ignored in storylines.
A match finish which occurs sooner (and often differently) than planned. It is used when a wrestler is legitimately injured and cannot continue as planned, when the match is approaching its time limit (or a television segment is running long), or after a botch significantly changes the plot of the match. The term "audible" is also used, referring to the finish being known to happen upon verbal instruction from outside the ring.
To sabotage a throw by letting one's body go limp instead of cooperating, which makes the throw much harder, if not impossible, to execute. This move is typically done deliberately to make the attacker appear weak or unskilled, but can also be the result of a botch. Sandbagging can be dangerous, as many moves require specific actions by the target to lower the risk of injury.
To book an angle and/or match so as to explain in kayfabe a wrestler's upcoming (and usually inconvenient) absence, usually in the form of being "injured".
A rookie, particularly in Japanese professional wrestling. The term "young lion" is used for the trainees from the New Japan Pro-Wrestling dojo; although they usually perform at NJPW shows, typically on the lower card, they are also assigned other tasks such as security around the ring.
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'Ring of Honor, it's all about sport. That's the genre, pure wrestling. That is what makes us unique, and I kept telling the office that we needed this market of our own. A lot of fans feel the same. They want their wrestling to be pure, technical wrestling, so let's fill that void.' [Italics added].
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Styles' bitter rejoindre, delivered forcefully with convincing fire, was even more impactful as it further banished the notion that the former IWGP champion can't hang with the best on the stick.
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- Harley Race; Ricky Steamboat; Les Thatcher (2005). The Professional Wrestlers' Workout & Instructional Guide. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1-58261-947-6.
- Kerrick, George E. "The jargon of professional wrestling". American Speech (1980): 142–145. JSTOR
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- Total Wrestling Terms
- Wrestling Booker's Glossary of pro wrestling terms at the Wayback Machine (archived June 13, 2008)