Okay, I'm probably E2's foremost expert on professional wrestling (for reasons I won't get into here), so I'll answer this question once and for all:

Yes, wrestling is most definitely fixed. 100%, absolutely, no doubt about it.

A brief history: Wrestling *used* to be real. It started as a circus attraction in the 1800s. When the circus came to a town, one of the attractions was a "Beat the Strongman" booth. Various town locals would come up and test their strength against the carny muscleman in a wrestling match--or at least who they *thought* was the carny muscleman. The circus would let the first few guys win on purpose against some nobody who worked for the circus, and then would send in the hooker (unfortunate term, but that's the one they used), or the real, skilled wrestler, to go in and stretch out (destroy) the local. This had the double purpose of impressing the yokels while also injecting all the folks who didn't believe wrestling hurt with a strong dose of reality.

Eventually, promoters got the idea to have the best hookers from all the different circuses get together and compete against one another--the birth of the wrestling card. The main problem, unfortunately, is that "real" professional wrestling matches are not very interesting--they often lasted until the sixty minute time limit, consisting of boring headlock after boring headlock.

So, inevitably, the promoters started fixing matches in the late 1800s. The last shoot (non-fixed) match occurred in the 1880s. Everything since then--every single one--has been a work (fixed).

Pretty much the only thing you can consider an "exception" to this is the WWF's ill-fated Brawl For All scheme in late 1997, where they held Toughman contests with their wrestlers in a tournament format. The first round or two of this tourney was not fixed, but it's not really wrestling anyway so the whole thing is a moot point.

Occasionally, accidents do happen, and occasionally a wrestler will get out of line or say something they don't mean to, and very VERY occasionally two wrestlers will stop cooperating and try to hurt each other due to a backstage gripe, but the general rule of thumb is:

If you see it on television, it's fake.

The following is excerpted from the rec.sports.pro-wrestling newsgroup FAQ (maintained by Scott Keith):

Q: Is wrestling fake?
A: In a word, yes. In many more words, yes, very, totally, completely, utterly fake. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either very misguided or simply attempting to add to the myth surrounding the sport known as "kayfabe."

On the other hand, "fake" is relative. The sport is fake in that the results are predetermined and the athletes cooperate with each other, but the actual moves are generally executed with contact made and pain inflicted. Only the best wrestlers can pull off devastating-looking moves without causing some sort of pain to the opponent.

Wrestling has been predetermined since before the turn of the century (1880s to be exact) no matter what anyone may try to tell you. Unless the person who is so nostalgically telling you about "when it was real" is 120 years old, they are mistaken.

Q. Are they *really* hitting each other?
A. Generally speaking, yes.

Most punches connect, although they are pulled. The perception of the wrestler swinging at air while stomping the mat for effect came about due to the efforts of lazy wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, who happened to be the most media-exposed wrestler ever. That method is used by those who don't trust their opponent to cooperate properly, or if the opponent is unable to take an actual punch to the head. Most of the time, if executed properly, a wrestler will react to a blow from his opponent at the exact moment of impact, making it appear "real". When the opponent reacts too soon, thus moving out of the way before the move hits, then the "fake" perception comes about.

Many wrestlers have the reddened chests and bloody noses to prove the reality of the shots delivered at times.

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