The Wrestling fanbase is a vast and passionate one. From the casual WWE fan to the diehard who watches every Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or PWG show they can, it is a community who loves hard. And with any community and fanbase comes terms that may confuse an outsider. Why are they calling the angry guy a heel? Why did they say that promo was a “shoot”? And what the heck is kayfabe? All these phrases and more will come up in articles and conversations with wrestling fans, and sometimes the fanbase isn’t the best about informing people what they mean. So here are 10 terms to know when talking about wrestling.
This is the term for the good guy. The guy you are supposed to be rooting for. One of the more famous current examples of a Face is John Cena. In all situations, Cena is presented as the one who is standing up for what is right. From his “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” moniker to his devoted quest to tell kids to “Never Give Up” he is made to be the man we all strive to be. He was built that way over the years by the WWE, but there are also “Babyfaces” that find their way through natural support from the crowd. Daniel Bryan is the best example of this. He was never intended to be WWE’s pick as the top guy, but his ability and determination endeared him to the crowd. At that point, it no longer mattered what WWE’s plan was, the crowd wanted Bryan. The face doesn’t always have to be a “good guy” though.
For the best example look no further than everyone’s favorite Anti-Hero Stone Cold Steve Austin. In no way did he conduct himself like someone we should want to be, but in his own destructive, foul-mouthed way he fought his evil boss and the evil corporation. Going down as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. Not all good guys stay good though, like when Steve Austin joined forces with Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania X-Seven. This is called a Heel-Turn, which brings us too…
The heel is the term for the bad guy. If someone is referred to as the heel, he or she is the one who is written for you to hate. The company doesn’t want you to cheer for them, they want you to root against them. The heels often criticize their fanbase and cheat to earn their victories. A great example of a Heel historically is Triple H. Often cheating to get his wins. So much so that the sledgehammer he would often wield has become synonymous with The Game himself.
When you hear that something is a “work,” it means that it is only true in the storyline. Often wrestlers will act hurt, but in reality, it is to further a narrative. Sometimes WWE will want someone to drop a title but don’t want to make the superstar look weak so they will have them become “injured” in a match, so they are at a disadvantage. It is then more understandable when they lose. That fake injury is the work. A work can also come in the form of a promo. Superstars will sometimes talk about a deep seeded hatred they have for each other, or attack someone backstage. They manufacture a backstory to make it seem the two superstars genuinely hate each other. Sometimes real emotions can find their way into promos and matches, that’s called a…
A shoot means that something is real. If a superstar gets injured during a match and you see an article refer to it as a shoot, it means that the injury is real and not intended to further the storyline. A shoot also can apply to a story being based on real emotions and events. Famously The Miz has crossed into this territory twice in recent history. His famous promo when he tore into then retired Daniel Bryan on an episode of Talking Smack was said to contain shoot feelings, as well as his mixed tag rivalry with his wife Maryse against John Cena and Nikki Bella. It was well documented that the bad blood between Nikki Bella and Maryse was genuine. Sometimes shoot finds its way into the match itself. When Matt Hardy famously exposed then girlfriend Lita for having an affair with then friend Edge, a very ugly program followed. After firing Hardy, WWE brought him back and actually made their public break up a storyline. When Edge and Hardy finally met the first few punches were very much a shoot. The blows were extremely stiff…which brings us to…
This one is pretty straightforward. If you wrestle stiff, it means your punches and what not hurt more than other superstars. Stiff sometimes is coupled with sloppiness or inexperience. Some superstars that other wrestlers have famously said wrestle stiff are Shane McMahon and Goldberg. Both men wrestled a very finite amount of time and matches so it would make sense that their punches weren’t as fluid and well practiced as some of their more workhorse coworkers.
Kayfabe refers to something that is in the WWE storyline. If something is Kayfabe then is acknowledged within the WWE narrative and timeline, if it is not kayfabe it will not show up in the show. This most often adheres to relationships. Very often you will notice that WWE will acknowledge some relationships, like The Miz and Maryse, and barely recognize others, like Alexa Bliss and Buddy Murphy. Famously WWE had some issues with the announcement of Lana and Rusev becoming engaged because it directly contradicted a current storyline they were in. The best way to remember what kayfabe means is that it is essentially the wrestling version of something being canon or non-canon.
If something is over it means that it is incredibly popular with fans. Whenever an article refers to something or someone trying to get over then the company wants it to be popular with fans. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Roman Reigns is a superstar that WWE is desperately trying to get over, but the WWE Universe is resisting it. Rusev Day is something that has become a very over property naturally without a lot of company support.
To have heat means to have the ire of the fans. When you are a heel, you strive to get heat from the fans. The more heat you have, the more they will boo you and cheer your opponent who is most likely a face the company wants the crowd to cheer. Sometimes superstars receive heat when it isn’t desired. The formerly mentioned Roman Reigns carries a certain amount of heat because the fans aren’t happy with how the WWE has booked him. They feel he is being forced down their throats as the new face of the company and it has garnered him some of the wrong kind of heat.
A Rib is a practical joke played on a wrestler or when coworkers give a superstar a hard time. Often times you will hear of veteran members of the roster “ribbing” the new guys. Sometimes the announcers will also rib a superstar for something that has happened, like when Titus O’Neil tripped on his entrance during The Greatest Royal Rumble.
A Jobber is a wrestler who is sent out specifically to lose to another superstar to make him or her look better. Also referred to as jobbing out or doing a job. If someone is sent out to do a job they are often on the wrong end of a squash match (a match that is short and decisive for the winner). A Jobber is usually a local talent brought on for one show to be fed to an up an coming superstar. This was how WWE built current main eventer, Braun Stroman. Sometimes articles will say a superstar has been relegated to being a Jobber since it seems he loses so often. A talented superstar who has drawn that criticism recently is Dolph Ziggler. He has appeared to be the stepping stone for talent coming out of NXT. Hopefully, his new partnership with NXT call-up Drew McIntyre will change that luck, rather than continue the trend.
Wrestling fans and writers, this one included, will often throw around terms they are aware of but may not be clear to a new fan. Hopefully, this article was able to help with some of them!