Theatre has long served some sort of role in professional sports. From the opening and closing ceremonies that accompany each and every Olympic Games to 'flopping' (or diving) in basketball, putting on a show is an important part of fan engagement and getting your own way. Let's be honest, take away the arenas, the flashy kits, and thousands of singing supporters, and many sports are reduced to throwing or kicking something around.
While there's a night and day difference in how they are played, darts and professional wrestling have become easy bedfellows in recent decades. They're both dazzling worlds filled with characters, good and 'bad boy' competitors and cult-like followings among their respective fanbases. For every Edge and Undertaker in WWE, for instance, there's a Viking and a Mighty Mike on the darts circuit.
Darts retain many more of its credentials from professional sport, such as shirt sponsors, unlike wrestling. Wagering provides another parallel, with the darts betting from Betfair offering fans the opportunity to bet on markets like most 180s, correct score, and overall winner. Most darts betting tips inevitably focus on things like progress through the World Cup of Darts, which opened in early September this year.
Due to WWE's classification as sports entertainment back in 1989 as a means of avoiding sports-relevant taxes, its relevance to games like football and ice hockey is debatable. However, all the features are there. It's possible to bet on Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, The Rock, and Big E as a winner of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in 2022, for example, as well as a raft of names for the female or 'Diva' version of the event.
Former darts professional Paul "The Asset" Nicholson was known for imitating popular wrestler CM Punk during his stage entrance. In a short interview with the Wrestling News website, Nicholson refers to CM Punk's shoot on Raw in 2011 as an important part of his own character. The Asset's unpredictable nature would ultimately come to define his darts career, though his mimicry of Punk might seem a little contrived in hindsight.
Of course, no discussion of pro wrestling's relationship with darts would be complete without a mention of Peter "Snakebite" Wright, the current 11/2 for the PDC World Darts Championships. For wrestling fans, Wright's persona seems to come right out of the playbook of late eighties heel Jake "The Snake" Roberts. However, his coloured mohawk and temporary snake prints (painted on his head by his wife) are all his own creations.
The concept of the cult of personality is incredibly popular in professional wrestling as it elevates simple humans to a type of earthly godhood. For example, much of The Undertaker's enduring popularity has almost nothing to do with Mark William Calaway, the man under the open crown hat, but with the image of the powerful, nigh-immortal monster that fans have been able to create in their own imaginations.
Darts, too, increasingly favours characters over the human competitor, adding a sense of drama and fantasy to each competition.