Comedic wrestling is often overlooked at the national level. Sure, WWE often has jokes in segments or some funny promos, but it’s rare to see them actually feature comedic wrestling. Impact is a little better in this regard, but not by much, making AEW the first national promotion in a while to start to embrace the more comedic side of wrestling.
Before we can look at that, though, it’s important to define what exactly comedic wrestling is.
So what exactly do I mean by comedic wrestling? If WWE has a lot of jokes in its segments, why am I saying it usually avoids comedic wrestling? Well, there are wrestlers who, while not “comedic wrestlers”, are able to interject a lot of comedy into their promos, such as Otis. Often, these individuals will do funny promos, but their comedy during actual matches is usually limited to a silly face. This is not at all a bad thing, mind you; it’s simply a different style. It’s wrestling with comedy, which isn’t necessarily comedic wrestling.
While funny promos and an occasional fun one-liner during a match are great, true comedic wrestling looks at, well, wrestling. Comedic wrestling is at its best and purest when it relies on the wrestling itself. The comedy is derived from the match and the physical act of wrestling.
Of course, sometimes the line between comedic wrestling and wrestling with comedy become blurred. For instance, one can hardly call Chikara’s spontaneous baseball game comedy based on the physicality of wrestling despite it being during a match. Sure, it initially begins as a joke tied directly to the action of the match, but its humor is soon simply devolves to “it’s silly that they’re pretending to play a baseball game” instead of being based on events in the match. Again, I want to emphasize this does not make it bad whatsoever, just that it isn’t comedic wrestling and more wrestling with comedy added in.
Let’s look at something like Kylie Rae and Orange Cassidy’s thumb war. It seems to fit the idea of comedic wrestling more so, especially once the two begin trying to force the other to tap. The same question applies for Chikara’s magic doors bit. How much of this can be classified as comedic wrestling? While the premise of the door skit isn’t related directly to the physical act of wrestling, they are used and interacted with for the sake of the match. It’s one of those fuzzy in-between moments.
A clear-cut situation of comedy being derived from wrestling (and thus comedic wrestling) would be something like Cassidy trying to keep his drink from spilling in his match against Colt Cabana. The joke not just being that he’s willing to go through extraordinary means, but seeing how he is able to pull it off while doing such moves. Sure, it’s funny that someone is trying to not spill a drink while jumping around, but how would they do it while doing an arm drag?
I want to highlight one of my favorite comedy matches: Orange Cassidy vs Gentleman Jervis. It is absolutely amazing and if you have not seen it, what are you doing? Go watch it right now! Go. The reason it is so good is the match does such an excellent job not just making jokes about the fighting, but each sequence is a small, bite-size critique, satirizing tropes within wrestling as well.
Take for instance when, Jervis has Cassidy in a variation of a drop toe hold catch, often used to trip an opponent into a submission. However, in the world of pro wrestling the move is occasionally not followed through on, leaving for a tense moment where the tripee tries to regain his balance by swaying to and fro. Cassidy and Jervis take this recurring bit and simply point out the obvious: if the move has gotten to this point, it should be a fairly easy predicament to escape.
Take another moment, where Jarvis is running the ropes and Orange Cassidy responds with… well… it’s hard to even call it a drop down but, for all intents and purposes, a drop down. Through comedy and exaggeration, this segment satirizes the drop down. Why chase after your opponent to continually drop your whole body in front of them when you can just stay on the ground and let them tire themselves out?
Jervis jumps over Cassidy each time effortlessly, just as everyone else has ever done (please tell me if you have ever seen a drop down trip someone — I don’t think I ever have). Lastly, it plays on the classic idea of being unable to stop yourself while running the ropes.
Now, it would be unfair to say that modern WWE completely ignores comedic wrestling, even if they do avoid it like the plague on most occasions. R-Truth has had some amazing bits as a comedy wrestler throughout the years — from his run as United States Champion (in which he accidentally won multiple times), to him mistaking the Royal Rumble for a ladder match, his comedic wrestling is hilarious. A lot of his promos and segments are not what I would consider comedic wrestling, but they are just as funny. It’s just a shame that WWE doesn’t have R-Truth in more actual matches where he can really shine.
The issue most people take up with comedic wrestling is that it usually points out the flaws in pro wrestling’s internal logic. Hitting someone with a pool toy being sold as devastating offense or Ibushi getting repeated Canada Destroyers from a blow up doll can, for some people, undermine the logic pro wrestling has set up for itself. However, in a world where everyone knows it’s fake anyway, as long as each promotion keeps its own internal logic, I will always be more than happy to watch two invisible wrestlers beating the living hell out of each other.
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