Who Watches This Crap?

Before I get to the actual subject, let me just say that I’m not trying to sell you on anything or change your mind. I’m only trying to explain my own reasons and maybe clear up some misinformation. In other words, this is meant to be informative rather than persuasive. And I feel the need to give this little warning up front because the subject in question is one of the most polarizing forms of entertainment in existence. So much so that non-fans probably would have stopped reading by now, which would be unfortunate considering that’s my target audience in writing this.

So if you haven’t already guessed what the subject is and been scared away, I’ll (finally) come right out with it: professional wrestling. I’ve been a fan for more than half my life, and I have seen that term bring about so much hatred and disgust from the general population. Even Vince McMahon, the man who’s dominated the medium for the past few decades, hates pro wrestling and the stigma associated with it. The various forms of the word “wrestle” are mostly banned from all WWE programming, in favor of terms like “sports entertainment” and “superstar.”

Stereotypically, it’s associated with small children or ignorant adults, right? In other words, people who don’t know any better. Which is probably why someone always seems to say “It’s fake!” in general conversations about it. As if that’s a big secret, and the illusion that it’s real fighting is the only appeal. But that “secret” has been common knowledge for a long time now. I knew it well before I got interested in wrestling, and I came to enjoy it in spite of that.

The problem with all the “It’s fake!” stuff is that people are trying to compare it to competitive sports like boxing or soccer or whatever. But pro wrestling is more about performance than competition. It’s better compared to ballet or theater, in that performers are carrying out a predetermined scenario. But it’s not totally dissimilar from sports either, because it does take a great deal of athletic ability and training to be a (good) wrestler. It’s not as though they’re just body builders standing around pretending to punch each other; wrestling moves take strength and skill to perform correctly. You have to know how to perform a move without hurting yourself or your opponent, while also making the move look good for the audience.

And that’s the main thing I find appealing. I enjoy the skill and technique of wrestling moves performed well. Really good wrestlers and matches can get you so caught up in the moment that the word “fake” is the absolute last thing on your mind. Good writing doesn’t hurt either, because that can also get you really wrapped up in the drama of the moment. Unfortunately, good wrestling and writing are both rare in the two biggest American companies nowadays (WWE and TNA), so I have to sit through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff.

Speaking of the writing, another common complaint I see is that wrestling is just a “soap opera for men,” although I don’t really get why that would be a bad thing. The writing is indeed serialized, over-the-top, and apparently male-centric. But the craziness and theatrics of it actually remind me more of cartoons and comic books than anything. Even at the best of times, there’s an inherent cheese factor to pro wrestling: after all, guys “fight” to settle petty arguments, with fancy costumes, lights, music, and pyrotechnics to go along with their fights. So I would assume all of that could be off-putting to some people in the same way that adults might dismiss all cartoons as “kids’ stuff.” I don’t believe soap operas have that kind of presentation stigma associated with them (but I could be wrong).

Personally, I love that cheese factor. I’ve always had a thing for absurd “so bad it’s good” type stuff, and pro wrestling definitely has that in spades. Sometimes things are so ridiculous that they’re hilarious (to me, at least), and I find that having a sense of humor can keep some of the worst stuff from being depressing or infuriating. So there’s also an ironic appeal to wrestling, but as I said before, I do find genuine enjoyment in the pseudo-sport of it and the better storylines, rare as they may be lately.

On an unrelated note, did you know that there are wrestling nerds? People who over-analyze everything from the wrestling itself to WWE’s financial reports. So pro wrestling does have a place for intelligent, discerning people. I want to say that I’m one of them, but I only wish I had the time and energy to be more analytical and watch more than just the big mainstream companies. I don’t even remember the names of most wrestling moves anymore.

So I guess I’ve kind of gone all over the place, and I’ve probably missed something obvious. (Just like WWE’s current creative team.) But I hope I’ve at least given an acceptable answer to the question of, “Who watches this shit?” (I thought saying “shit” in the headline might sound tacky and unprofessional. (Just like TNA’s current creative team.))


Categories: Contemplation, Pro Wrestling

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