Professional wrestling boasts a colorful and complex vocabulary that has evolved along with the sport itself. This specialized slang not only facilitates communication between industry members, but also enhances the theatrical experience for fans. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used wrestling terms, explain their meaning and origins, and show how this unique language contributes to the attraction and understanding of wrestling as a form of entertainment.


One of the cornerstone concepts in wrestling is “kayfabe,” a term that refers to the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “genuine.” Kayfabe is about maintaining the illusion of reality in wrestling storylines, matches, and rivalries to create a deeply immersive experience for the audience. The origin of the term is unclear, though it is thought to have carny roots, implying the need to protect the secrets of the trade.

Heel and Face

In the wrestling world, characters are crucial, and they often fall into one of two primary roles:

  • Heel: A wrestler who adopts the role of a villain or “bad guy,” performing actions that are meant to draw the audience’s ire or disdain.
  • Face: Short for “babyface,” this term describes a wrestler who plays the hero or “good guy,” appealing to the crowd’s support and sympathy through their actions and persona.

These roles are crucial in storytelling, setting up conflicts and dramas that drive the narratives seen in wrestling programs.


A “mark” refers to a fan who believes that the aspects of professional wrestling are as genuine as they are presented, or at least suspends disbelief, wholly embracing the staged nature of the sport as real. This term also has roots in carnival slang, where a mark was an easy target for cons and tricks.

Work and Shoot

These terms are used to distinguish between scripted events and genuine occurrences within the wrestling world:

  • Work: Anything planned or scripted in wrestling, such as outcomes, storylines, or feuds.
  • Shoot: Any unscripted, real event that happens in the ring. This can also refer to when a wrestler breaks character or speaks honestly about the business in public.


Being “over” is when a wrestler has achieved a level of popularity with the audience, whether as a heel or a face. The term can also apply to specific moves or gimmicks that have become particularly popular or effective.

Pop and Heat

These terms are related to audience reaction, which is crucial in wrestling:

  • Pop: A loud, positive reaction from the crowd, typically for a face’s actions or when something exciting happens.
  • Heat: Negative reactions elicited by a heel’s actions, essentially the boos and jeers from the audience.


A jobber is a wrestler who frequently loses to better-known wrestlers, typically to build up the latter’s reputation and character. The role of the jobber is critical as it helps establish others as stronger or more skilled competitors.


Blading refers to the act of a wrestler cutting themselves to provoke visible bleeding. It is done to sell the realism of the fight and heighten the dramatic impact of a match. While less common now due to health and safety regulations, it was once a regular occurrence in matches deemed particularly intense or significant.


A promo involves a wrestler delivering a monologue or interview segment, typically to further a storyline, build up a match, or develop their character. Promos are critical for character development and audience engagement.


When a wrestler does not acknowledge their opponent’s moves as being as painful or effective as intended, they are said to “no-sell” the attacks. This can be used to portray a character as unusually strong or impervious to pain.

Know the Words!

Understanding wrestling slang not only enriches the viewing experience but also deepens the audience’s appreciation of the performers’ skills and the writers’ craft. The language of wrestling is as much a part of the spectacle as the physical performances, adding layers of complexity and tradition to this enduring form of entertainment. As fans become more literate in this unique language, their connection to the sport deepens, turning casual viewers into dedicated enthusiasts, or “marks,” of the wrestling world.