Opinion - Wrestling? Really? Yeah, not here.
Updated: Mar 12
Picture the scene, if you will. You enter a fairly nice sports bar and grill…you know, almost lodge-like with some leather seats, hardwood floors and maybe paneling, those light to mid green lampshades…to watch your sporting event of choice. In this instance, let’s say hockey…because I’m a hockey fan. The atmosphere is about what you’d expect from a place like this, sure, there’s the usual din of conversations, the occasional cheer at a spectacular play…but not the “hootin’ and hollerin’” one observes from someplace a bit more low-brow. [You realize that sentence made you sound like an insufferable elitist, right? – Ed.] Except…you DO hear said “hootin’ and hollerin’” over in a corner. You look at the screen nearest to the commotion to determine what has everyone’s attention.
Then you look at the revelers: faces painted, fake ‘championship’ belts aplenty. If you’re not hearing the record-scratching-WTF sound effect…it might be that you’re part of this. If so, I have a question for you: When the hell did this happen??? Look, I’ve been a card-carrying nerd for my entire life…so, yeah, member since 1978, bitches. [That’s probably your best attempt at defending the fact that you’re getting old. – Ed.] Anyway, was there a meeting that I missed? Was there a memo that was circulated and I missed it? When the hell did professional wrestling fall into the wheelhouse of nerd-dom?
I guess before I go any further, look, I’ve been there, okay. I was a fan back in the heyday of the whole “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” media blitz…Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Macho Man Randy Savage, the Iron Sheik…so on and so forth. Sure, back then there were elements of pseudo-drama, but it seemed like there was more emphasis on what happened in the ring as opposed to out of it. In addition, back then yeah, they tried to keep it under wraps that the action was…shall we say…scripted. Granted, as one got older (certainly in my case anyway), sure, you figured out that this stuff was more entertainment than sport and I eventually moved on. Why? Well, if I wanted sports, I’d watch a sport…where the outcome was generally unknown (current scandals surrounding FIFA and professional tennis aside)…and if I wanted entertainment, well, there were cartoons, shows, movies, comics and all manner of scripted drama to partake of.
Yet, let’s go back to our opening scenario. Look, the whole premise of going nuts as a fan in the stands (face painted, loud cheers, so on and such) is to cheer on a person/team in a contest that (typically) is not determined…in the hopes that your support will give said participant the energy/strength/will or whatever needed to overcome the current challenge. If said sporting event is scripted…and you KNOW it’s scripted…again…WTF man? The ending is determined, and sure, the effect of cheering at a sporting event that’s NOT scripted is certainly open to debate (in spite of what the citizens of Seattle believe), but if you’re cheering at something that’s scripted? Aren’t you just setting yourself up for…well…anything ranging from disappointment to just looking like a complete idiot?
How and why did this happen? Well, after a little bit of internet research [You read ONE article…ONE. – Ed.] and a lot of thought…I have a theory. It kinda makes sense that this would happen in an age where “reality” TV and superhero fiction are abundant. Let’s look at the impact of each. First, with “reality” TV, well, the minute the camera goes on, any attempt at capturing actual reality is pretty close to nil. If it’s a human or humans in front of the camera, then anything from a heightening or exaggerating of personal qualities to just downright acting is possible. If you think you’re free of this with a nature documentary or something akin, well, then you’re failing to take into account the folks behind the camera and in the editing room that will actively or inadvertently ‘humanize’ the proceedings. What I’m getting at with all this is the mere fact that ‘scripted fiction being sold as real, happening events’ is at an all-time high and just like an artificial sweetener, the more you’re exposed to THAT taste…you know which one I mean…the less you notice it and, in some ways, begin to accept and expect it. Combine this with the sequential and serialized storytelling, idealized physiques and overwrought melodrama that have become the staple [Oh, no you didn’t. – Ed.] of superhero comics, and perhaps you have the perfect formula for what could only be described as Superhero Reality Television. Hell, in what seems like more than a coincidence, it seems like comic book crossovers/events are happening just as often as professional wrestling pay-per-view events...with the former at seemingly one every month and the latter being literally once every month!
With a description like that, I should be chomping at the bit wanting to join in the festivities…but I’m not. I’m looking at these people as losers…why? I think I can point to the term “Sports Entertainment” as to why I look down my nose at these people. Let’s look at this first from the Sports point of view. First of all, of course sports are entertainment…they always have been and they wouldn’t be such a staple of human culture if they weren’t! There has almost always been sport and there always will be. People will always thrill at what a fine tuned instrument the human body can be and do (all the while consuming items that will ensure that theirs will NEVER meet that standard!)…no matter if it’s putting a puck in a net, a pigskin in the end zone or so on. [I guess at this point we should mention that the following are not considered sports here at the Cat: Baseball, Golf and…poker? WTF? When the hell did poker suddenly become a sport? Who makes this shit up? And ESPN covers it? But not hockey??? Fuck me… - Ed.] But the most entertaining factor in sport is that the outcome is not determined. Either competitor, be they individual or team, can end up winning. The minute you introduce a scripted aspect to this, though, in my mind, you stop being sport and become strictly entertainment. So with that lead in, let’s flip the coin and consider the entertainment side. Entertainment, generally, works best when the veneer of reality is obviously tossed away. Entertainment embraces it is fiction. Those forms that don’t end up succumbing from one or more of the following; it comes off as pretentious, it falls into the trappings of “reality” TV that we’ve already discussed, it falls into the trope that has become identified as the Lifetime Movie of the Week, it’s little more than an insipid talent show for those tirelessly and shamelessly reaching for fame or lastly, in the event the fiction succeed in convincing the viewer that its falsehood was fact…more often than not, it’s a ‘joke’ you can only tell once, no matter how good it is, thus eliminating any life span the story might have. While wrestling will never be called pretentious, nor will it ever be confused with a Lifetime Movie, it’s certainly susceptible to the remaining pitfalls. It’s for these reasons, this conflux of faults in premise, that I’m simply not on board.
But let’s turn this back on the nerds that clearly outnumber me in thinking this should be in our collective wheelhouse…and let me ask you all one simple question: Do NONE of you remember high school? I’ll explain myself. As one of you, oh rampant hordes of nerd-dom, I grew up fashioning myself off of an unrealistic, unachievable ideal of superior humanity. Sure, we all had our own chosen icon from the fiction of our choice and every single one of us, at the very least, was ridiculed for it by the other castes. And yeah, top of that list would be those of the jock disposition. This sends my argument into two directions. First, the characters we chose as our icons…sure, they’ve been portrayed by actors, especially now that the genre has really taken off…but do you look at Superman: The Movie and see Christopher Reeve? Do you look at Iron Man and see Robert Downey Jr? And so on and so forth…but the answer to each question is no. [At least, not if the casting is good…because every time I see Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I keep thinking “Aren’t they married???” thanks to Godzilla. – Ed.] You only see Superman or Iron Man…because the role, the ideal, is so much bigger than the mere mortal filling in the shoes for a brief period of time. In creating what amounts to Superhero Reality Telelvision, professional wrestling, there is no ideal…there’s only the mortal…and that’s kind of diminishing, isn’t it? Also, who are those mortals? More than likely, they’re the same assholes that were willing to ridicule us back in the day. Suddenly they deserve our admiration and support just because they’ve bulked up to insane proportions because they couldn't cut it for the professional football gig? Sigh…how soon we forget. Granted, there are exceptions. I mean, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson seems like a crossover talent…and by that I mean the one or two jocks that were always in at least one nerdish circle (my high school circle had two)…so I can’t hate on him, but he’s just one of how many?
Look, I realize that the previous paragraph is just me being a bitter vindictive old nerd [Glad you fessed up, saves me the trouble. – Ed.] and yeah, I agree that these guys are most certainly athletes, but for the reasons outlined above…I can’t see how professional can be considered a sport and I certainly can’t see why nerd-dom as a whole has seemingly embraced it. Sure, it can be…and is…popular. [Wouldn’t be the first time something was popular without your explicit approval. – Ed.] But let it be popular somewhere else… I don’t want to see it on a site where I’m trying to see the latest in comics or video games or genre fiction. It’s like putting a pickle in my Corn Pops. Sure, pickles are fine and so are Corn Pops…but mixing the two? Ugh. Gross.
Still…as reality shows, I’m clearly in the minority on this. Like I said, I just wish I’d have gotten the memo.