Hulk Hogan, Junkyard Dog, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, and Andre the Giant. Remember the professional wrestling heroes of the past (1980s) whom kids could admire? Now, wrestling has become more of a drama that includes every type of Hollywood ploy-sex, profanity, violence, and complex story lines.
Perhaps surprisingly, one-third of American teens under 17 (especially males) are watching professional wrestling on cable TV? Do most of their parents know the content of these shows and how the shows affect their kids? Researchers at Indiana University say, “No.”
It has been called “sports entertainment” or “soap opera for males,” but, really, what is “professional” wrestling? How is it affecting young people’s views of violence, sex, and morality? The continual fight for ratings by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), the WCW (World Championship Wrestling), and other smaller wrestling organizations has resulted in outrageous storylines, scantily dressed women, hyped characters, and violent stunts for the TV screen.
Professional wrestling statistics are alarming:
The average weekly audience for WWF’s “Raw” was 4.2 million in 1998-99 and 3.3 million for WCW’s “Monday Nitro” (Nielsen Media Research).
An analysis of 50 WWF “Raw” episodes contained about 33 vulgar gestures per two-hour show and occurrences of simulated sex, drug use, and satanic acts. Each show contained only 36 minutes of wrestling. (Indiana University)
The number of men ages 18 to 34 who watched WWF’s “Raw” doubled last year, while ratings for sports broadcasts were stagnate. (The Washington Times)
Sexual themes are rampant and have drastically increased professional wrestling’s ratings. WCW’s Nitro Girls dance in provocative manners and Sable, a female professional wrestler, sued the WWF for allegedly asking her to have her dress ripped off and appear topless. A father of two young girls, Stone Cold Steve Austin (who originated “Austin 3:16,” his spoof on the holy “John 3:16″ verse) is even quoted as saying, ” ‘I get a little turned off with some of the sexual overtones.’ ” Yet he still flaunts his middle finger and regularly speaks profanely”.
‘These shows are extremely inappropriate models for children,’ ” says Howard Spivak, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ task force on violence. Not only are the sexual innuendos unsuitable, but children also mimic the wrestlers, often finding themselves in the hospital for “backyard wrestling.”
Stars of hip hop music are jumping on the hype of professional wrestling. Master P joined WCW because he has ” ‘always been a big rassling fan.’ ” They view the merge as mutually beneficial. For WCW, ” ‘It’s that urban demographic we’ve been missing.’ ” For Master P, ” ‘It’s a worldwide television audience.’ “
Wrestlers themselves are seeing the effects of their aggressive sport. Who can forget Owen Hart (33 years old), who plunged to his death on a live WWF Pay-Per-View on May 23, 1999? Or Jake the Snake Roberts, whose dealings with drugs led to several suicide attempts?
Wresting advocates try to justify themselves by saying that violence in professional wrestling is not as bad as in movies. They argue, ” ‘At least we don’t use guns or knives.’ They also blame parents for not regulating their kids’ TV programs.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Are kids in your group tuned into professional wrestling? Why do they watch?
When you see a child imitating the crude gestures seen on professional wrestling programs, how do you respond?
What attitudes and values are professional wrestling feeding their viewers? What can be gleaned from the shows?
How do you react and respond to this article?
Professional wrestling has moved from an athletic contest to entertainment.
Parents need to know what their children are watching.
Because of its popularity, professional wrestling is also making a strong runway for other countries.
Knowing the effect that music has on teenagers, the merging of hip-hop and professional wrestling could have significant, negative effects.
Professional wrestling has become enormously popular worldwide-especially by youth-and is being copied by them, occationally with serious injury.