Professional wrestling is a dangerous sport. Wrestlers are soaring through the air and often take very hard landings after falling at awkward angles. These stunts can end in serious injuries. But how do referees and others know if the injury is real or just a part of the show?
Do Wrestlers Have A Safe Word?
Wrestlers do not use safe words. When hurt they will tell the referee or other wrestler that they are injured. If a wrestler is on the ground the referee will squeeze their hand and if the wrestler is hurt he will not squeeze back. The referee will then cross his arms in an X to signal for medical attention.
While most of the moves in a professional wrestling match are scripted there is no tradition of coming up with safe words with your opponent prior to the contest. While this sounds like a good idea it typically isn’t necessary as wrestlers will just tell the referee or their opponent that the injury is legitimate.
The referee and opposing wrestler will immediately understand this is not a gimmick or a part of the show. Coming up with a safe word is overboard.
Wrestlers build a script and rapport before going out and performing. They quickly understand when things are going off script and know when a wrestler is injured. It doesn’t take a genius to break character and determine if a wrestler is actually injured or not.
A famous example of this happened in a match between Chris Jericho and Neville in 2016. Neville signalled to Jericho he was injured. So Jericho told the referee before attacking the him to get DQ’d and ensure the match ended with Neville being victorious as scripted.
Here Is A Video Of The Match Between Jericho And Neville
A major problem with a safe word is that often a wrestler will be too injured to use the safe word. If a wrestler is concussed or knocked out they won’t be able to say the safe word. This could lead to a situation where the match continues as the ref and the opposing wrestler believe the injured wrestler is fine to continue because they never uttered the safe word.
After a particularly dangerous spot in a professional wrestling match the referee will typically run over to wrestling on the ground and grab their hands. If the wrestler squeezes the ref’s hand it indicates they are injury free. However, if they fail to squeeze it means they require medical attention.
The referee will then quickly throw his arms up into an X which is a sign for medical professionals to enter the ring. A wrestler may also use other hand signals to indicate they are injured such as a throat slashing motion or a thumb down sign.
The referee is like a conductor in the ring. It is their job to keep the wrestling match under control and be on the lookout for any injuries or dangerous situations. Wrestling referees are trained to quickly identify injuries and to signal to the medical team. The referee is also in charge of determining the severity of the injury and deciding if the match should continue or finish.
Sometimes referees can’t always control crazy wrestlers who despite being seriously injured refuse to end the match early. This occurred in a Hell in a Cell match between the Undertaker and Mick Foley. Foley took a nasty bump, falling from the cage and crashing through the announcer’s table before hitting the concrete floor.
Foley was seriously injured but refused to stop the match despite the referee wanting to. The referee had signaled to the team in the back that there was an injury and they were highly concerned about Foley’s welfare and wanted the match to be stopped.
After taking another nasty bump when his lip was split after being choke slammed by the Undertaker, this time the Undertaker pleaded with Foley to end the match, but Foley again refused. Foley was so out of it after the match that he barely remembered anything.
Maybe in the future some professional wrestlers will start adding safe words to their routines. However, at the moment they are not used. Wrestlers instead just tell their partner and the ref they are really hurt or after a dangerous spot the referee will grab the wrestler’s hand and if they squeeze, there is no injury but if they don’t there is a serious injury.
If there is no injury the ref will hold up a fist to signal to the medical staff everything is fine. If the wrestler is injured the referee will make an X signal with his hands and then the medical team will be on standby or enter the ring if the injury is particularly serious.