Pro Wrestling

Sports entertainment

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Lou Marsh

A photo of Lou Marsh, a prominent sports journalist


Vince McMahon, Jr. who prefers wrestling to be referred to as sports entertainment

Sports entertainment is a colliquial term for professional wrestling that came into prominence in the 1980s, through its use by the World Wrestling Federation and its chairman, Vince McMahon. Use of the term sports entertainment was promoted within the WWF to demarcate itself from athletic contests regulated by athletic commissions. By doing this, the WWF and its wrestlers are able to avoid heavy commission fees and license costs in some states.

Precursors have been found going back to February 1935, when Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh described professional wrestling as "sportive entertainment."


The term came into prominence in the 1980s through its use by Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation, in order to avoid governmental athletic regulation, and it is explicitly used in advertisements by the Harlem Globetrotters. Antecedents have been found going back to February 1935, when Toronto Star sports editor Lou Marsh described professional wrestling as "sportive entertainment."

While the concept of sports entertainment is generally applied only to modern creations, it can also be applied to traditional public spectacles such as bull fighting or even the gladiatorial fights of the ancient Roman Colosseum.

Monster truck events and the international versions of the MGM Television franchise Gladiators are contemporary examples of sports entertainment without predetermined outcomes, even though Gladiators was declared a game show legally. Robot fighting such as Robot Wars and Battle Bots was a popular fad in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Japanese Obstacle Course shows like Sasuke, Unbeatable Banzuke, and Viking are also in this category as its competitors don't have a traditional athletic background.


Although most sports entertainment is seen as having a niche market, even extremely popular television shows such as Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing With the Stars fall into the genre.

Sports entertainment has a stigma of mindless pop culture, and has been criticized as such in popular media. The film Idiocracy portrays a future where sports entertainment permeates the global culture: the president is an active champion professional wrestler and capital punishment consists of a combination demolition derby, monster truck event and gladiator duel, and is a highly popular television broadcast. Fiction with a dystopian future setting often portrays deadly futuristic games as popular sports entertainment, including the movies Rollerball and The Running Man, video games such as Smash TV and the Twisted Metal series, and the roleplaying game Shadowrun, which features Urban Brawl and Combat Biking.

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