Professional wrestling encompasses everything of a good drama – the finery of costume, the grandeur of staging, and emotion in the highest sense. It is a spectacle that can lead you on a roller coaster ride from grief to awe and anger to tears in a second’s notice. Here, Dustin Rhodes, Raven, Ric Flair, and Paul Heyman illustrate why it is one of the world’s greatest arts.
"Wrestling is an art form. I don’t worry about those who don’t get it; I worry about satisfying those who do."
Raven: “What I do is ballet.”
In an interview with Al Isaacs of the now-defunct ScoopsWrestling.com, Raven described why he feels wrestling is an art form (H/T: Wrestling’s Glory Days):
"I think what I do is ballet…
"I think anybody with a brain – if they studied it, if they gave it a chance – they would realize that what we do it’s an art form, it’s a dance between two people.
"You know, boxing is called the sweet science, but this is much more of a science because this is a psychological drama between good and evil and the shadings in between. What we do is we do our own stunts, we do our own acting, we make up our own lines, we don’t rehearse, all we do is about 15 to 20 minutes of verbal choreography ahead of time.
"Can you imagine if a ballet just said, ‘Hey listen, I’ll do a pirouette here, and you do that, and I’ll do this, and you do this?’ They’d be laughed off of the stage.
"We do that every night, and we do it on live TV.
"The art form of wrestling…to get people to come to the matches, you have to tell a story and build on it, and build on it, you know, until people are so emotionally involved that they either want to see you get your ass kicked or see you triumphant.
"And to do that, to maintain that … you’d be shocked how hard it is.
"It’s like writing a good book. I mean, anyone can have a good idea, but to bring it to fruition, to tell the story, to keep it spellbinding from start to finish…is a competition that very few are successful at.
It’s not easy."
"If wrestling can be considered an art form, then I’m using oils, and many others are merely watercolors."
Dustin Rhodes: "I lived for those moments."
Dustin Rhodes has a similar view on why wrestling is an art form. In his highly recommended book, Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness, Rhodes eloquently shares how he uses this art to tell a story in the ring:
"I try to focus on that one person in the front row who I know doesn’t want to be there. I find him, too, because there is always somebody who comes to the match because his son or daughter is a big fan. That dad isn’t interested. He hates wrestling, and you can see it on his face. ‘This stuff sucks. It’s fake. I can’t wait to get out of here.’ I can see the kids are jumping up and down as the dad sits there, hating every one of those first few minutes. Then, after a move or two, I start to see a little bit of a sparkle, a barely visible twinkle in his eyes. Still, he’s not there yet. He isn’t even close to getting out of his seat, much less getting emotionally involved in the match.
"When I see that first glimmer in his eyes, I know he’s starting to pay attention to what’s happening in the ring. I do a couple more moves. Maybe I get slammed in a way that looks like the other guy has killed me. I look over again; this time, I can see the look in his eyes change. He’s focused on the ring now. He’s wondering, ‘Can this crazy guy with the face paint even stand up after that? That looked real.’
"The dad looks over at his son or daughter, who is either near tears or in tears because I’m getting the crap kicked out of me ten feet away. They look to their father, ‘Is he okay, Daddy?’ Now I’m conscious of directing every action, every fall toward this guy. I’ll go right over to the ropes near his seat and make sure he sees the emotion on my face. The guy is cradling his kid, who is still in tears. And I know what he’s thinking: ‘This guy is really hurt. He needs some help out there.’ I know that’s going through his mind because now he’s looking around. Is somebody going to go into the ring and help that guy? Is there a doctor approaching?
"Then, his eyes change again. Now they start to light up. I begin to make a comeback. The kid stops crying. The dad can’t believe I might be able to get to my feet. I move my shoulders a little bit, shake the cobwebs out of my head, and slowly come up to one knee. The dad isn’t out of his seat yet, but he’s fixated on what’s happening in the ring. His kid is starting to see some hope. Then I start whipping the other guy’s butt. I’m on fire. The next thing I know, the dad and the kid are out of their seats. Both of them are screaming now. Everybody in the arena is on his or her feet screaming.
"My goal was to get that one guy onto his feet. I needed him to believe that what he was seeing was real. When he got off his chair, that’s when I knew I did my job that night. I lived for those moments."
These stories may also interest you:
- Raven in WWE | Where Did It All Go Wrong?
- Dustin Rhodes | Behind the Paint of Goldust and "The Natural"
- Dustin Rhodes – Proving to the World (and Himself) That He’s Still Got It
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