Posted in: General
It’s no secret today’s professional wrestling that we can watch on TV almost every day of the week is scripted (which most people incorrectly label as “fake”). Despite the outcomes being fixed and the winners chosen by promoters, it is possible to place bets not just on the outcomes but on a variety of aspects of the industry including such things as length of title reigns, wrestlers switching promotions, who appears at certain events, and more.
Professional wrestling is a hybrid of sports and entertainment where participants use elements of classic wrestling (Greco-Roman, Freestyle, Catch-as-Catch Can) to simulate a fight. Usually, these involve scripted rivalries that are developed through weeks and months to garner interest from fans in the feud.
They can also involve tops stars of the industry who have carved a niche in certain technical aspects of the craft who face each other to determine the best. While in the 20th Century, the former was usually the case, over the last decade (mostly due to the proliferation of pay-per-view events and live online streaming networks), the latter type of match has become more prominent.
Many will argue that pro wrestling has a history dating back almost 2 and a half millennia to the ancient Olympic Games. While aspects and maneuvers from the sport can date back to antiquity, the modern roots of what we know as professional wrestling date back to the beginning of the 20th Century and are rooted in the traveling carnivals of the time as wrestling events were usually held as part of the carnival activities. To this day, carnival terms such as “mark” – a person who has little or no knowledge about the inner workings of professional wrestling and “kayfabe” – the term for keeping the secrets of the inner workings of the industry–are still used in wrestling.
The current lineage of what is a complicated list of titles, organizations and champions can be traced to a man named George Hackenschmidt who traveled around the world and won several “world” and regional championships to become recognized by most promoters across the United States and around the world as the undisputed champion.
In the US, wrestling and boxing went hand in hand, so promoters often were active in both as well as other types of live events such as concerts. Promoters ran their own areas of the country like tiny fiefdoms where other promoters dare not tread.
In order to secure these regions, members of the National Boxing Association (now known as the World Boxing Association) gathered in 1930 to establish a single governing body for wrestling. This became known as the National Wrestling Association. One of the first activities of the organization was to establish a single “World Champion” that would travel through each of the territories and defend his title.
By this time, although kept as an industry secret, matches were predetermined. The organization would vote secretly as to who would be champion. Each promotion would choose their top wrestler to compete against the champion, usually monthly, as the champion toured around the country and the world.
As 1950 approached and the advent of television was helping to skyrocket the popularity of wrestling, promoters met and decided to reorganize and break away from the NBA, they formed the National Wrestling Alliance in 1947. It functioned much like the National Wrestling Association.
When the 1960s came along not everyone was happy with the group’s choice of champions or how their regions were viewed by the national body. This led to a few schisms. While quite a few broke off from the group, the 2 major ones were Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (which controlled a big section of the Mid-West) and Vince McMahon Senior’s World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in the Northeast US. While all remained cordial with the NWA and even had interpromotional events, they each crowned their own world champions.
Throughout the decade, McMahon bought the rights to several smaller promotions and raided the talent of the ones that wouldn’t sell. As a protective measure, the NWA promoter in the Mid-Atlantic region, Jim Crockett, started buying up promotions in the South, eventually forcing Crockett into insolvency and forcing him to sell to Ted Turner.
This led to the showdown of Turner and McMahon in the 90’s known as the Monday Night Wars. Turner, with the NWA, now known as World Championship Wrestling and McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation.
McMahon’s organization had been hit hard by a steroid scandal involving tops stars such as Hulk Hogan, so he started moving up younger talent that was smaller in stature. Once the scandal was over, most of his top talent had wound up working for Turner.
McMahon, utilizing his contracts with USA Network, started a live Monday night broadcast called Monday Night Raw in early 1993. This proved to be a popular show and helped build the new stars that he needed to put the scandal behind him.
Turner executives saw the popularity of the show and when approached by Turner to ask how he could compete with McMahon, he was told that he needed to air WCW in a prime time slot. Turner had just started the TNT Network and gave 2 hours on Monday night for Monday Nitro in 1995 featuring most of McMahon’s former talent, including Hulk Hogan.
Lots of innovative programming that changed how people watched wrestling and how it was portrayed occurred over the next 5 years and WCW would actually become the number 1 promotion with a stunning 83 consecutive weeks as the top-rated show on Monday night cable going head to head with the WWF.
That would not last, as WCW was incredibly disorganized and mergers in the Turner organization of Time Warner and AOL would weaken Ted Turner’s influence. Most executives at Turner were not fans of having wrestling as part of their portfolio, so after the close of the AOL-Time Warner merger, WCW was put up for sale, eventually ending up in the hands of Vince McMahon in 2001 that culminated with both Nitro and Raw being simulcast on both USA and TNT as the final Nitro.
A few months later, McMahon would purchase the 3rd largest promotion (and the last national promotion in the US at the time) in bankruptcy court, Extreme Championship Wrestling. This effectively ended any competition for McMahon domestically.
The following years would see McMahon’s domination the pay per view industry and then abandon it for his own live streaming network, a name change from World Wrestling Federation to World Wrestling Entertainment (due to a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Fund) and create multiple brands under the WWE banner. In addition to the Raw brand, Smackdown, a short-lived revival of ECW, NXT, and most recently NXT UK brands were created to reach niche markets that the traditional WWE product did not attract.
Not everyone will take bets on wrestling.
And who can blame them?
But because there’s still a veil of secrecy regarding the outcomes, some odds-makers will accept bets.
Betting on pro wrestling should not be thought of as sports betting (although tradition sports betting establishments may take bets on it). It should be thought of as betting on entertainment. It’s much like betting on what would happen on your favorite TV show, such as who will be eliminated from a reality show or who murdered a character on a drama.
The most common bets for professional wrestling involve the outcome of matches on pay per view (which are usually now referred to as live streaming events since several promotions have their own or are part of an online streaming network).
Sites and establishments that take these bets offer a variety of odds on a variety of outcomes. They could take bets on the winner, the loser, how they win (pinfall, submission, count-out, disqualification, etc.). They could take bets on in being a no contest or a double disqualification, match interference by another party or aspects of the outcome.
But because as Vince McMahon is so famous for saying “anything can happen in pro wrestling” there are plenty of bets that can be placed and have odds actively offered on.
In the WWE for example, pay per view events are usually themed. One of the major events of the year and the one that sets up the WWE’s Super Bowl-like event WrestleMania each year is the Royal Rumble.
This event is headlined by a match that sees between 30 and 50 participants (depending on the year) sent to the ring one by one every 2 minutes in an over the top rope battle royal match. The winner gets a guaranteed WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. This match provides for a lot of opportunities to bet on.
Here’s a list of some of the different types of bets historically placed on this match alone:
And that’s just one match on one of the 12-15 pay per views WWE runs each year.
The other big event that people will bet on for WWE each year is WrestleMania. WWE pulls out all the stops on this event each year. A great example of this is WrestleMania XXVIII that took place in 2011 at the (then) Sun Life Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium).
WWE invested over $5,000,000 in renovations and modifications to accommodate the show in the deteriorating stadium. In 2015 a full renovation would take place, incorporating updates made by WWE.
WrestleMania can see upwards of 75,000 people attend the event and can expect over 1 million live views worldwide each year. The current iteration of the show id broadcast for over 8 hours that day (including pre-show and post-show broadcasts).
One of the great aspects of the show, and one that allows for great opportunities for betting, is that there are a number of different themed matches. These can vary from title matches in traditional form to ladder matches, battle royales, Luchas de Apuestas matches (“matches with wagers”), no holds barred matches, ironman matches (most pins in a 30 or 60 minute time limit), triple threat (3 individual competitors), fatal 4-way (4 individual competitors) and many more.
Also, the WWE now has 10 active championships (not including the 4 they have on their minor league brand NXT, which has a major event the day before WrestleMania) and usually all 10 are defended on the show (some are defended on the pre-show) because of the amount of time that needs to be filled. So there are at least 10 opportunities to bet on title matches alone when you consider winners and losers.
Some recent unique bets include:
Besides these 2 pay per views, WWE has other themed shows such as Extreme Rules (where the rules are modified or removed all together), Tables, Ladders and Chairs (where all the matches involve one or all three of the aforementioned), Survivor Series (a multi-person tag team themed event) and many more. Each of which allows for creative betting based on the different stipulations of each match in addition to the more traditional winner/loser aspect.
While WWE is the major player in pro wrestling, they’re not the only game in town. In the US there are other “minor league” promotions that tour nationally and even internationally and also produce pay per views and/or live streaming events.
Ring of Honor is arguably the second largest promotion in the US and they are powered by the media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns over 200 television stations in the US. They produce 4-8 live streaming events each year and as a small group, they provide even more flexibility for betting.
One of the more popular bets is who will make surprise appearances. These are usually top Japanese or Mexican stars or recently released WWE stars. Also, Ring of Honor has a special “Code of Honor” that competitors agree to abide by. As part of the scripting of the events and to create a “bad guy” character, occasionally a performer will violate the Code or not agree to wrestle under it. The agreement is immediately before the match, so it allows for betting as to who will follow or violate the Code.
Impact in the last few years has dropped from number 2 to number 3 in the US markets. They do run pay per views but they have become less frequent over the last few years. They are moving to streaming, but it has been a slow process. As a result, betting on events has been limited.
One of the top bets for this organization has been who is leaving or entering the organization as there has been a lot of instability. An ownership change in mid-2017 has helped Impact regain some of the stability it had lost from 2014-2017.
The NJPW is a powerhouse in Asia and is starting to make inroads in the US. The entry into the US has been facilitated by AXS TV and Mark Cuban, who believes that NJPW is even more entertaining than WWE. NJPW fans are a devoted lot as the action is quite realistic and in some cases border on crazy. Matches involving exploding barbed wire, matches with weapons like bamboo canes, baseball bats and thumbtacks were created in Japan.
NJPW provides just as many strange bets as WWE if not more. Their big show each year is Wrestle Kingdom held in the first half of January. Lots of betting involve Luchas de Apuestas matches, such as hair vs. hair, mask vs. mask, mask vs. hair, and loser leaves the company–all of which would be considered points of honor in Japanese culture. Other bets include special appearances by US wrestlers and whether interference will play a role in a match.
These aren’t the only organizations, as there are some in most every country. Some have different rules, customs, and styles that allow for more opportunities to place unique best. For example in Mexico and Europe, they have weight classes similar to boxing and in Europe they also wrestle in 3-minute rounds.
The determination of odds for pro wrestling matches are complex. They can include a number of factors such as previous meetings of the performers, both on TV and in non-televised events, injuries, length of performer’s contracts, crowd reaction, merchandise sales, live event sales, TV ratings and much more.
One major factor in determining a winner or loser would be their contract. Most performers are under a multi-year contract. At some point these come up for renewal. In an effort to mitigate the loss of a performer and to increase the value of another, a wrestler whose contract is up and is leaving is expected to ‘do the honors” as it is called in the industry. This means they will lose the match.
A great example of this is WrestleMania 33 where Bill Goldberg lost the WWE Universal Title to Brock Lesnar as Goldberg was only under a short-term contract. This would have been a sure bet.
But contract expiration is not always as it seems to be as 2 recent contract expirations led to renewals on the last day. These 2 were CM Punk at Money in the bank 2011 and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34.
Both were expected to lose according to all the websites, but WWE renewed their contracts the day of the event and as a result beat the odds.
A perfect example of this would be WWE Extreme Rule 2018. Jeff Hardy was the United States Champion and facing Kensuke Nakamura. Hardy had been working with a pinched nerve in his back causing numbness in his arms and hands. A match was arranged where he was attacked before the bell allowing Nakamura to put his finishing move on him shortly after the bell sounded to win the title.
But how would the average person know this?
The answer is simple: the Internet Wrestling Community. The IWC are fans across the internet who come across inside information. The information is then revealed to pro wrestling websites who report the news.
One of the major sources for the inside information of late has been Reddit. The pro wrestling community of Reddit is quite active and a lot of insiders and former insiders who have worked as writers and producers for wrestling organizations leak information about upcoming matches.
In one case there was a Sub-Reddit that had a person accurately “predict” the winners of every pay per view for WWE for over a year. It was later determined that this person was actually employed by WWE when he leaked the information.
A great source for historical information is Wikipedia. You can practically find the results of every pay per view ever on Wikipedia with a simple search.
So if you’re planning to bet on pro wrestling it would be a good idea to follow both Reddit and top pro wrestling news websites and research on Wikipedia.
Betting on professional wrestling may sound foolish. After all, it’s pre-determined.
But after delving into the industry and learning about all the aspects of it, it can be fun and rewarding. Placing a simple bet on a winner or a loser may not take much effort in the short term, but developing strategies for multiple bets on the same card or specialty bets will definitely take some research.
Using online tools to find out about the wrestlers is key. Contract expirations, opponent history, popularity, even knowing upcoming events in the wrestler’s personal life can play a role in a win or a loss.
For example, in 1988, Hulk Hogan’s 4 years first WWE title run ended when Andre the Giant beat him on NBC’s Main Event. At the time there was no internet, but newsletters pointed out that Hogan’s first child was due in May and he needed time off.
So research and check the odds. That will be a big help in your betting decisions. Watch shows, subscribe to online services like WWE Network or NJPW World where you can see entire libraries of pro wrestling to get the information you need, and read wrestling news sites, Wikipedia and Reddit.
But most of all enjoy the shows. That’s the real “big win”.