With final exams on the horizon, essays to be written and graduation ceremonies to attend, I found myself lying awake at night, obsessively brainstorming ideas for the tenth installment of The Sharp Shooter. Stirring under my covers, tossing and turning while sweat rained from my forehead, I wrestled with different ideas, trying to find a topic worthy of the occasion. Now it’s not like I?m going to celebrate every tenth addition of The Sharp Shooter, it’s just that ten weeks ago I was nothing but a lowly college kid, typing wrestling columns willy-nilly and uploading them to my rinky-dink Freewebs website. Now, ten weeks later, under the guidance and tutelage of the wonderful WrestleView staff, I am a man, a warrior; my fire and passion has been concentrated, directed, and is being honed on a weekly basis. This is cause for celebration. This validates the sleepless nights, cruising the highways of my psyche, searching for signposts and billboards pointing me in the right direction, no rest stop in sight. This is the reason I slave over my computer, panning for golden words among the dirt and the grit that reside in the crevices of my keyboard.
Ok, so maybe that’s all a bit hyperbolic. I?m no warrior and some would dispute my manliness. My computer is not a slave driver and I do not use my keyboard to pan for gold. However, it’s true I was mildly obsessed with doing something especially fun, original and insightful for my tenth column because, if for nothing else, ten is a powerful number. It’s also true that the WrestleView staff is wonderful, but that’s a different story for a different time.
Anyhow, I pined long and hard for good ideas; since ten is such a powerful number, I wanted to use that theme and write about use of numbers in professional wrestling. However, I knew I wanted to stay away from a ?wrestling by the numbers? type of piece though; you know the kind; usually in the form of a list, cataloging events or pieces of wrestling trivia by number (ex. 24 ? Randy Orton’s age when he became the youngest world champion in WWE history, 25 ? Number of Wrestlemania’s). As is the motif of The Sharp Shooter, I wanted to place the art of professional wrestling under the microscope once again in order to identify and examine not just a list of interesting stats, but exactly how and WHY a select few numbers are frequently used in almost every single wrestling match. These numbers are 10, 3 and 5.
Does my objective sound familiar? It should. As I stated before, my objective is to identify the how and why in professional wrestling, usually by examining various aspects of wrestling from a psychological standpoint to see how these elements tickle our psychological fancy. My goal is to help the reader /pro wrestling fan respect professional wrestling on many levels by showing them that, even down to the smallest detail; professional wrestling is a psychological masterpiece.
10, 3 and 5 are perhaps the most important numbers in professional wrestling because these three numbers regulate a wrestling match, signify barriers between what is legal and illegal in a wrestling match and bring a definitive end to a wrestling match. I assure you these three numbers weren?t just pulled out of the air at random. Instead, they were chosen with careful design, holding subtle psychological advantages and many tactical uses beyond the immediate. In order to prove this I?m going to break down each number to reveal its psychological power and purpose in wrestling. So, with that said?
The Number 10:
As the late, great George Carlin so masterfully informs us ??ten sounds official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it’s a decade, it’s a psychologically satisfying number (the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed)?
Continuing Carlin’s idea, 10 plagues were inflicted on Egypt, the Torah demands the Jews give 1/10th their produce to the poor. Jews observe Ten Days of Repentance, the Bible records 10 generations between Adam and Noah and 10 more generations between Noah and Abraham. The Bill of Rights is made up of the first 10 amendments to the U.S Constitution. Ten is everywhere in sports: a basketball hoop is 10ft, 10 pins in bowling; it’s the highest score possible in Olympic competition, in baseball, there are always at least 10 players on the field at a time.
Ten is such a prevalent, powerful and historically important number that it’s no wonder you can find it in professional wrestling being used for the most significant purposes. In wrestling, ten is the end. Ten marks a definitive end to a match. A wrestler really has to be beaten to a pulp to not be able to answer the ten count, or to suffer a clean ten second count out. We also see the number 10 in wrestling whenever a beloved wrestler passes away. The ten bell salute. Talk about marking a definitive end to something; nothing is more permanent than the end of human life and when that human life ends, ten chimes of the bell send that deceased wrestler into the afterlife.
I hold the number ten in the highest regard as it relates to numeral importance in professional wrestling because the number ten is reserved for the most decisive, important happenings in professional wrestling. Whenever undeniable finality occurs in wrestling, whether it’s death or a decisive victory, the number 10 is never far behind.
The Number 3:
Three is a magic number. In fairytales, everything happens in threes: three little pigs run to three houses. In Russian Fairytales especially, the hero almost always endures three tasks, encounters three foes, or solves three riddles. Macbeth has three witches. 3 makes up the Holy Trinity ? the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hades is guarded by the three headed dog, Cerberus, in Greek Mythology. There are three Roman Graces, three Roman Fates, and Three Greek Fates. Zeus had three sons, Noah had three sons. Three wise men visited Jesus after his birth and Jesus rose from the dead after three days.
In sports; three strikes you?re out. Three bowling strikes are called a Turkey. There are three periods in hockey (go Pens!), three goals is a hat-trick, a football field goal is worth three points. I could go on forever obviously.
Again, it’s no wonder professional wrestling adopted the all important number three and assigned it to, of all things, a pinfall victory. Although less decisive than a 10 second knockout victory, the three count pinfall is probably the most common form of victory in professional wrestling today. Furthermore, the number 3 is used for the pinfall in professional wrestling because by being two seconds longer than an amateur wrestling pin, the three second pro wrestling pinfall unconsciously convinces pro wrestling fans that pro wrestling is more grueling and tougher than amateur wrestling. Think that’s an absurd point? Watch 50 hours of professional wrestling footage and count the number of times an announcer touts the fact that in pro wrestling, you have to have your opponent incapacitated heavily enough to pin his/her shoulders to the mat for three seconds instead of amateur wrestling’s one second pin.
I keep saying that the numbers 3 and 10 are most always used in ending a match and I know readers at home are probably thinking ?well what about submissions? What purpose do numbers play in submissions?? Well, remember that aside from a verbal submission and before Taz came along and made everyone tap out, the other most frequent way to determine submission was by raising and dropping the weary wrestler’s arm 3 times.
The number three is, in my mind, the second most important number in pro wrestling not just because it’s an historically important number, seen numerous times in every facet of life, but because the two second advantage over amateur wrestling’s pin tells us pro wrestling fans that pro wrestling is the harder endeavor, littered with more skillful athletes; a message that professional wrestling certainly benefits from.
The Number 5:
Five fingers, five toes, five Pillars of Islam, and Five Books of Moses. Muslims pray to Allah five times a day. The Book of Psalms is arranged into five books. The number 5 symbolizes the Holy Spirit as the bearer of all life. The most cataclysmic hurricanes are a category five; for tornadoes it’s f-5. Beethoven completed five piano concertos.
In sports: the symbol of the Olympics is five interlocking rings.. 5 is the number of pupil grades in Judo. In basketball, five players from each team are on the court at all times. In wrestling, five seconds is the amount of time a wrestler has to perform a choke, a top rope maneuver; it’s the amount of time a wrestler has to break a submission hold after their opponent reaches the ropes before a disqualification is made.
Five is used in professional wrestling as a parenting technique and with good reason. Parents, how many times you have said to your children ?I will give you five seconds to get your ass down here /to start eating your dinner /to tell me the truth? etc? Referees administer this count, acting, (albeit as poorly as humanly possible) as the wrestlers? parental figure because it gives the illusion that professional wrestling is an authentic competition with enforceable rules and regulations, complete with authority figures to enforce those rules. This illusion aligns professional wrestling with legitimate fighting sports, thus authenticating the competitions in the fan’s mind.
However, what makes professional wrestling so different and wonderful, and what makes the 5 count rule enforcement window really work, is the ability for a bad guy to blatantly avoid these rules and regulations. In boxing, if you avoid the rules and regulations, you?re banned and labeled a menace, in pro wrestling; you?re a valuable and skillful heel. Furthermore, rules are made to be broken obviously, so implementing a five second time limit between a legal choke and an illegal choke makes it all the more psychologically satisfying to the fan when a no disqualification match is put into place. ?Finally? the fan thinks, ?the wrestlers won?t have to worry about 5 seconds, won?t have to worry about disqualifications.? The 5 second window of legality teases the pro wrestling fan and makes him/her yearn for an occasion where the rules are totally abandoned.
ECW had this all wrong with their ?Christmas every day? attitude towards the rules and five counts were never implemented.. ECW folded in about 8 years.
The number five is an important number both in history and in professional wrestling, as the use of the five count separating legal from illegal allows a wrestling bad guy to prosper, while wrestling itself maintains some semblance of regulation and boundary which allows it to appear less hokey and more sport-like. The 5 second window taunts and teases the fans with its steadfast pushiness, seemingly preventing a fight from truly blossoming, yet what it’s really doing is building us up psychologically for the rare time when the rules and five counts are abandoned.
In closing, 10, 3 and 5 determine wrestling matches, they regulate them, call them to a close, dictate the paces. 10 is the end, as the tolling of a ring bell ten times marks the end of a wrestler’s life. 3 is an all important magic number that marks the seconds needed for a pinfall; 2 more seconds than needed in amateur wrestling. 5 is the parenting device, giving the illusion of order in a wrestling match, providing a tool for the wrestling bad guy to misuse. Providing hope and anticipation in fans for the time when two combatants don?t need to worry about 5 counts.. These three powerful numbers, each with significant roles and purposes in professional wrestling, work as psychosomatic enhancement tools, along with many other tools that pro wrestling employs in order to time and time again draw millions of fans around the world to the psychological masterpiece that is professional wrestling.
Oh, and finally, 10+3+5=18, the target male demographic for professional wrestling companies, which leads me to next week’s column: a look at WWE’s master plan to use their PG rated environment to cultivate the next Stone Cold Steve Austin.
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