Pro Wrestling

10 Definitions From The Pro Wrestling Dictionary Source:

One of the biggest challenges for someone writing about pro wrestling is remembering that not everyone knows the language. The hardcore fans, the ones who scour the Internet for every bit of knowledge and rumour they can find, probably know every word and definition by heart. But the casual fans, the ones who watch the show and don’t care about the deeper workings of wrestling, might know one or two terms, but they certainly aren’t fluent. And someone who might not like pro wrestling but has friends who do would likely be completely lost listening to their conversations. But with the official addition of “kayfabe” into the dictionary, an opportunity exists to educate people on the many unique definitions that make up the language of pro wrestling. With that in mind, here are some of the more common words that might help you understand wrestling fans when they talk about their hobby. Pay attention, there will be a test later.

10. “Kayfabe”

So, what is kayfabe? You could probably go look it up, now that it’s been added to Webster’s, but that would take extra work, so we’ll just tell you. The idea of kayfabe has to do with the illusion of pro wrestling as a real sport. Of course, we know it isn’t, but we also know that the doctors on Grey’s Anatomy are really actors, and that didn’t stop the entire world from mourning when they killed off Dr. McDreamy. In a way, that’s a really good example of kayfabe, the basis of which is the suspension of disbelief which allows you to pretend that what you’re watching is real. It’s an implied contract between the actors and the audience that acknowledges that what you’re watching is a carefully constructed and choreographed performance, but everyone involved is willing to pretend that it’s not for the sake of entertainment and forging an emotional connection with the material. Shows like Tough Enough and Total Divas are famous for being instances of “breaking kayfabe”, or “lifting the curtain”, because they show what happens behind the scenes and incorporate the real lives of the performers as opposed to their on-screen characters. Of course, those shows are also mostly scripted,just like the majority of reality TV, but it’s probably as close to seeing “real life” on television as you’re going to get at this point. Breaking kayfabe can also include things as simple as the real names of wrestlers, which is actually considered extremely rude. Source:

9. “Babyface” and “Heel”

These are terms that have worked their way out from behind the curtain and into more common usage, but they did originate as part of the pro wrestling lexicon. The definitions for both these terms are simple, actually: Babyfaces are the good guys, and heels are the bad guys. It’s really just a simple case of alignment, and the central part of any story based on conflict, the idea of good versus evil. The traditional babyface (often shortened to “face”), to the shock of no one, is best represented by John Cena. He tries his best, he never gives up, and he fights for a good cause. Some people think he’s an irritating character, but that’s more a comment on the cynical state of humanity than anything to do with the definition. On the other side of the coin, it was the legendary Jesse “The Body” Ventura who once underlined the key philosophy of every wrestling heel, when he said “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always, always cheat”. The willingness to take shortcuts and earn undeserved rewards is the key quality of any good heel, because it gives the fans something to react to. A case can be made for heels who win by being bigger, stronger, or better wrestlers, but it’s important to note that while they can win in that fashion, when backed into a corner, rather than accept defeat a good heel will always look for the unfair advantage. Source:

8. “Tweener”

This term came straight out of the Monday Night Wars period of the late 90s, when the idea of characters having “shades of gray” was popularized. In an attempt to seem more “edgy”, babyface characters would adopt heelish characteristics, such as more aggressive attitudes, or a willingness to ignore the rules to protect their own interests. The biggest example of this was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who beat up everyone, cursed, and fought dirty, but who had a character that resonated with fans and made him incredibly popular at the time. Meanwhile, heels would not necessarily adopt the characteristics of a more noble character, but would incorporate more crowd interaction and actions designed to garner positive reactions, also known as being “cool heels”. The infamous New Age Outlaws would fit this mold, performing dastardly deeds against babyfaces, but doing so in entertaining ways that made crowds cheer for them. While it did lead to an incredible boom period for pro wrestling, it also led to creative pitfalls, as the lines between babyface and heel were so blurred that it became harder and harder to create unique characters and entertaining feuds. In recent years, WWE has moved away from “tweener” characters, and back towards more traditional heel/face alignments (some tweeners still exist, such as CM Punk, but they are the exception rather than the norm). Source:

7. “Heat”

Everything in wrestling actually revolves around the concept of heat. In one definition, it refers to crowd reaction, and in this case, “getting heat” is an extremely good thing. A wrestler could put on the most technically proficient match in the history of wrestling, but if the crowd doesn’t care, then the whole match was a pointless failure. Heat measures a wrestler’s ability to get a crowd invested in their work, and if you can’t get heat, then you’re not getting over, and you probably won’t get a push (two more terms we’ll be covering). While it’s not always easy to quantify heat, an easily visible example of a wrestler getting great crowd heat would be Daniel Bryan and the “YES!” chants, which made it pretty clear exactly who the audience was there to see.

A secondary definition of heat is the negative variety, and usually involves backstage social dynamics. When a wrestler has heat backstage, that means that they’ve done something wrong, and are more than likely in trouble. Since WWE, like most sports, encourages a “locker room mentality”, heat can be something as simple as breaking unwritten rules, over-stepping your place in the hierarchy, or just being a jerk to someone else. It may seem silly, but situations where someone has real heat in the back are usually taken very seriously. Source:

6. “Over”

Getting “over” is the result of getting good heat, or crowd reaction. If a wrestler is “over”, it means they’ve connected with the crowd on some level and have become popular (if you’re a face, hopefully, this means you’re beloved, and if you’re a heel, the opposite). More importantly, a wrestler that is over is in a position to “draw”, which also means “make money for the company”. Originally, a wrestler’s value as a draw was measured mostly by ticket sales and Pay Per View buys. If more people bought tickets to live events or Pay Per Views that a certain wrestler was in the main event of, that wrestler was given credit for it. On the flip side, if ticket sales went down, that wrestler also usually took the blame. However, in the modern era, WWE has adopted a business model that basically eliminates the concept of a single wrestler being responsible for drawing money, instead giving credit to the WWE brand in general being popular. As a result, merchandise sales have become a more popular form of determining if wrestlers are considered over, which is why John Cena has been in the main event of WWE for over ten years. Source:

5. “Push”

Pushes are, again, connected to crowd heat, and also to getting over, although not necessarily. A wrestler who is being “pushed” is being given an opportunity to succeed by the company and the booking team. They’re placed in high-profile spots, given extra television time, and generally win more matches than the average wrestler. They may suddenly have more t-shirts available for sale, or even a starring role in a WWE film (because presumably, WWE thinks that WWE films are still important). A push came come about two ways. The first way happens by design, which is when the company decides that a certain wrestler is going to be receiving all these benefits, hoping that they will garner crowd heat as a result, and end up getting over and bringing in more money. There are literally hundreds of examples of this, to varying degrees of success or failure, but notable ones include Roman Reigns, Lex Luger, and The Rock. The second way is more organic. Sometimes, a wrestler catches on with the crowd unexpectedly. Despite not being involved in anything particularly high-profile, audiences get behind their character, leading to that wrestler getting some of the best reactions every night, no matter what they’re doing. At that point, most companies will decide that this warrants a push, and things will move forward from that point. The best example of this would, of course, be Daniel Bryan, but also includes stars like Mick Foley, CM Punk, and yes, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who was never expected to be anyone important when he came into WWE and ended up the biggest-drawing Superstar in history. Source:

4. “Jobber”

In wrestling, nobody wins all of the time. Even John Cena loses occasionally. But there is a position in pro wrestling called a “jobber”, or “enhancement talent”, which consists of wrestlers who are being paid to lose all their matches. It has nothing to do with their abilities, in fact, many jobbers are good wrestlers who know how to make other people look better when wrestling them. The entire point of jobbers is to make the real stars look more important by winning a lot of matches without having to beat another Superstar. Before the Monday Night Wars, when marquee matches were booked every week as WCW and WWF attempted to steal viewers from each other by making their show seem more important, jobber matches made up the majority of televised matches, with bigger, more important matches between Superstars saved for Pay Per Views and Saturday Night’s Main Event. Now, thanks to crowds being trained to expect matches between big stars every week, jobber matches occur less frequently. However, WWE does keep several wrestlers on the roster who can be recognized by the crowd, but who will usually be sent out to lose to wrestlers that are currently being pushed, such as Heath Slater or Zack Ryder. Source:

3. “Spots”

A “spot” is another wrestling term with multiple meanings. The most common usage is related to performing a match, where a “spot” refers to any move or sequence of moves, some more impressive than others. When John Cena hits a Five Knuckle Shuffle, that’s a spot. A chain wrestling sequence would be considered a series of spots. When Neville flies off the top rope, that’s also a spot, usually referred to as a “highspot”. When The Dudley Boyz put someone through a table, that is called, unsurprisingly, a “table spot”. All wrestling matches contain a variety of spots, with certain maneuvers, used to get wrestlers in position to perform spots, considered “transitions”. Fighting over a lock-up, Irish Whips, even punching and kicking, would be examples of transition moves, and they help a match move from spot to spot. When you see a match without many transition moves, where wrestlers just hit a lot of big moves in a row, such as a Ladder match involving multiple participants, those are considered “spotfests”, which come about because with so many wrestlers involved, transitions become secondary to making sure everyone gets to hit their moves in a certain amount of time.

Another use of “spot” in wrestling refers to a wrestler’s position in the company, as in “their spot”. Wrestlers are usually very protective of their spot, especially if it’s a higher position in the wrestling hierarchy, such as a main event spot. Keeping your spot in pro wrestling can be difficult, because there are so many factors related to your position, including crowd heat, whether you’re currently receiving a push, or if the booking team has even written a story line for you at the time. This has led to problems where wrestlers work through serious injury out of fear of losing their spot, and also a perceived lack of variety in main event matches, as wrestlers already established in that spot often seem unwilling to give up, or even share, that position with anyone seen as below them. Source:

2. “Bladejob”

Pro wrestling does not use fake blood. Well, unless it’s someone representing internal injuries through “coughing up blood”, because it’s far safer to fake that. But any time a wrestler is bleeding from the forehead, that’s real blood, and it was usually done intentionally in a process that is called a “bladejob”, or “blading”. And yes, it’s exactly what you think it is, as a wrestler uses a small, easily hidden, sharp object (usually a shard of a razor blade) to quickly cut themselves. It’s a practice that has fallen into disuse, especially in WWE, who have explicitly banned blading (though it does still happen in rare occasions) due to growing health concerns and a desire for a more family-friendly presentation of the product. Source:

1. “Work”, “Shoot”, and “Worked Shoot”

The most important thing to know about this definition is that everything that happens in pro wrestling, with a very, very small number of exceptions, is a “work”. It’s fake, pre-determined, choreographed, scripted, and presented as if it were real. In other words, something that keeps to kayfabe, which we discussed earlier. Everything that airs on Monday Night Raw, on Pay Per View, any time a wrestler is in character, is a work. The opposite of a work is called a “shoot”, a reference to the old days when wrestling was not fake and “shoot fighting” was a real thing. Most of the time, a “shoot” only happens in wrestling when wrestlers do out-of-character interviews, usually when they aren’t currently employed by a major wrestling company, where they reveal alleged secrets and backstage stories that aren’t part of the televised product. Shoots have happened in pro wrestling, but they are very few and far between, with the most famous being the Montreal Screwjob, where Bret Hart lost the WWE Title due to Vince McMahon ordering the referee to break from the script and award the match to Bret’s opponent without Bret knowing about the finish in advance. True shoots are an incredibly unique situation, one which wrestling tries to avoid, as it clearly breaks kayfabe and ruins suspension of disbelief, which is the foundation of the business.

Somewhere in the middle of work and shoot is the dreaded “worked shoot”, where something happens that is completely scripted, but is presented as if it it were real, in a way that seems to break kayfabe. The idea arose during the Monday Night Wars (and are usually blamed on a man named Vince Russo, head writer for both WWE and WCW at certain points during that era), and were generally used to attempt to fool fans who thought they knew about the backstage workings of pro wrestling due to the increase in availability of information that came with the rise of the Internet (also known as “smart fans”). Of course, the problem with trying to fool fans who have the ability to find out if something is fake or not should be obvious, and fans who don’t have access to that information are usually just confused by worked shoots, so they often fail. Wrestlers cutting promos that they imply are “unscripted” are the most common form of a worked shoot, and the best example of an actually effective worked shoot would be CM Punk’s infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo from the Summer of 2011. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.