Useful terms from professional wrestling politics

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Our current president learned the art of the "promo" during his days in professional wrestling. For those who many be unfamiliar with that culture, I recommend the Wikipedia Glossary of Professional Wrestling terms — or, as a place to start, the terminology illustrated in this strip from Pixie Trix Comix:

From the Wikipedia Glossary:


  1. (noun): Anything planned to happen, or a "rationalized lie". The opposite of shoot.
  2. (verb): To methodically attack a single body part over the course of a match or an entire angle, setting up an appropriate finisher.
  3. (verb): To deceive or manipulate an audience in order to elicit a desired response.


When a wrestler or personality deliberately goes off-script, either by making candid comments or remarks during an interview, breaking kayfabe, or legitimately attacking an opponent.

worked shoot

The phenomenon of a wrestler seemingly going "off script", often revealing elements of out-of-universe reality, but actually doing so as a fully planned part of the show. A notable example of a worked shoot is CM Punk's pipebomb promo on the June 27th, 2011 episode of Monday Night Raw.

Of course, the same concepts apply in other subcultures. A few years ago, I was asked to discuss presentations  by Greg Crane and Michael Silverstein at a workshop on Digital Humanities, and I framed their differences in terms of an imaginary "World Academic Entertainment" battle.

(In my defense, I put the slides together under the influence of narcotics the day after a hernia-repair operation…)



  1. Joe said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 7:47 am

    Kayfabe. And here's what Barthes had written about it decades ago.

  2. Simon K said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 8:00 am

    I've long thought that kayfabe – "the portrayal of staged events as 'real' or 'true', specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature" – is a term that needs to break out into the world of political reporting.

  3. George said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 8:19 am

  4. david said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    kayfabe = covfefe ?

  5. Terry Hunt said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 4:03 pm

    I started to wonder a while ago whether Donald Trump, a sometime wrestling promoter, genuinely believes that, not just politics, but all of life is supposed to follow the 'kayfabe' principle, and that he is genuinely enraged when the press (or public) call him out over obvious lies because he honestly thinks that they are the ones behaving badly.

  6. Andrew Usher said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

    Even if there's some commonality between the 'fakeness' of politics and of wrestling, I don't think the parallel is very fruitful because they are done for quite different reasons.

    k_over_hbarc at

  7. Bloix said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 5:41 pm

    "Make love" for flirt, woo is at least a few hundred years old.

    From Love for Love, by Congreve (1695):
    Tattle: I must make love to you, pretty miss, will you let me make love to you?
    Miss Prue: Yes … You must tell me how.
    Tatt: You must let me speak, miss; you must not speak first. I must ask you questions, and you must answer.
    Miss P: What, is it like a catechism? – come then, ask me.
    Tatt: D'ye think you can love me?
    Miss P: Yes.
    Tatt: Pooh, plague, you must not say yes already. I shan't care a farthing for you then, in a twinkling.

  8. Bloix said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 6:12 pm

    But to get on point, a concept similar to kayfabe is contained in the Norman Mailer coinage (in Marilyn,1973) "factoid," which in his usage meant a phony "fact" invented in service of a false narrative about a star – a love affair, a feud, an origin myth. A lot of "facts" about Trump are factoids: his wealth, his business acumen, his current marriage.

  9. AntC said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 6:22 pm

    they are the ones behaving badly.

    Yes, unsporting of the Turks to use live ammunition; unsporting of the Kurds to go actually dying.

  10. Andrew Usher said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

    I believe the post about "make love" belongs in a different thread (I just remember it). As for the rest, it's not surprising that certain people are turning this into yet another mindless attack on Trump, nothing constructive apparently being able to cross their minds when he is even tangentially relevant.

  11. JPL said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 7:18 pm

    I'm not a fan of wrestling at all, but I recognized from the beginning that Donald Trump was consciously, deliberately and naturally, since he can't but do what is already his nature to do, playing the heel. Apparently the audience for this is "the liberals", but probably the wrestling fans love it that the "liberals" are booing. (Unfortunately, in the case of this current show, there is a real world out there where real people suffer real consequences.)

  12. Ray said,

    October 24, 2019 @ 7:41 pm

    our current president is merely an impressario who's challenged and maybe even usurped the media's role as impressario. and so: "Arriviste!" the Gray Lady cries.

    despite their stark differences in style and in methods, they're clearly engaged in the same sport. it’s not so clear anymore who is the favorite and who is the underdog, but the promos are succeeding in bringing the audience into the building!

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