Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I love professional wrestling

Tonight is WrestleMania, the biggest night of the year for professional wrestling and its fans.  It's our Super Bowl, our World Series, our whatever the hell NASCAR has; WrestleMania fever... CATCH IT!  With WrestleMania on my mind this week, I've been reflecting on the last year; I started Kick-Out!! Wrestling last year during WrestleMania weekend.  I've been floored by the response to the site and how successful it's been in such a short period of time and I look forward to another year of growth and showing wrestling fans that wrestling websites can be better.  

But in my efforts over the last year, I think I lost sight of one of my early goals for the site, explaining to non-fans why wrestling is so enjoyable.  If you're a fan, I'm sure you've experienced at least a raised eyebrow from someone when you say you like wrestling.  You may have heard, "Why do you watch that fake crap?" from someone that watches movies, TV shows, and various other forms of scripted entertainment.  That's the difference between fans and non-fans, we're in on the secret, we don't watch it because we think it's real, we watch it because it's incredibly entertaining.

"Entertainment" is the word that gets thrown around a lot, especially by WWE, but that's what it is.  Well, perhaps it's a bit more complicated than that, I often like to call it the most unique form of entertainment on the planet.  There's nothing else out there like professional wrestling.  Unlike standard scripted TV shows, it blurs the line between fiction and reality; the winners are pre-determined for the purposes of the story, unlike in sports where the winners determine the story.  Wrestling is part variety show, part athletic exhibition, part traveling circus and part soap opera, there's something there for everyone.  Nowhere else in sport or entertainment will you find a group of guys, traveling from city to city (with no off-season), to put on an athletic showcase where they pretend to fight in order to advance the narrative.  

Anti-fans often simplify it with insulting language like "sweaty men in tights rolling around," non-fans think it's all dudes in masks and capes talking about steel cage matches, but fans know it's so much more than that.  Let's look at one of the main event of this year's WrestleMania, Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon.  In November of 1997, WWE (then WWF), was in some serious financial troubles and Vince needed to cut costs.  He had just re-signed Bret Hart to a massive contract (I believe it was $20 million), and offered to let Bret go to WWE's biggest competitor, WCW, who were trouncing them at the time.  Bret had been with WWE since the 80s and didn't want to leave, but Vince couldn't afford to pay him, so Bret made the deal with WCW, but there was just one problem, he was the reigning WWE Champion.  Bret was scheduled to defend the title against Shawn Michaels, but refused lose to Michaels due to a real-life hatred between both men.  So instead of Bret losing the belt, he agreed to vacate it after the match, but Vince, worried that Bret would take the title to WCW and tarnish WWE's image, had other plans.

Instead of the planned finish of a double-disqualification, Shawn Michaels locked Bret Hart in a submission move and the referee immediately called for the bell.  Vince McMahon changed the finish without Bret Hart's knowledge in what would become known as the "Montreal Screwjob."  Bret left WWE, trashed them in the press and swore he'd never return to the company.  After years of tragedy, including the horrific in-ring death of his brother Owen, it seemed that things between Bret and WWE were starting to cool off.  In 2005, Bret agreed to do a DVD centered around his career and in 2006, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  He didn't show up to WrestleMania the next night (as is usually tradition), and that seemed to close the book on Bret Hart and WWE... that was until 2010.

On January 4th, Bret Hart shocked the world by stepping foot in a WWE ring for the first time since 1997 as Monday Night Raw's "guest host."  After over a decade of bad blood, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart stood in the ring together and shook hands... until Vince kicked Bret in the groin.  Bret wasn't just there to get his proper send-off, he was there to work a storyline! So after months of build-up, here we are, tonight, Bret Hart will wrestle his first match in ten years, against the man he once said he'd never do business with ever again.  Like I said earlier, blurring the lines of fiction and reality.

Not all matches tonight have storylines with that many twist and turns, but they've all been built up on "The Road to WrestleMania" in a superb fashion through matches, interviews, and WWE's tremendous advertising.  You can't find anything like this anywhere else: Peyton Manning doesn't threaten to retire if he can't beat Brett Favre at the Super Bowl, Jack Shepard and John Locke from TV's Lost don't settle their differences in a 20-minute athletic showcase, and the ballet doesn't have characters like The Undertaker!  WWE will give us all of these things tonight in front of a crowd of 70,000 screaming fans who come from all walks of life.  We're all watching for different reasons, some of us like the story, some of us like the athleticism, some of us like the spectacle, but we're all there for the most important part of wrestling, it's fun.


3 comments:

  1. This is a good piece, sir. You should write things like this more often.

    I love the weekly reviews--I've even gotten a bunch of friends hooked on them; they're the best commentaries around--but seeing some more editorials and Top X lists, would be awesome.

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  2. I usually write an editorial every week, they just wind up becoming Opening Bells for Kick-Out!! Radio.

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  3. It's too difficult to explain to a non-fan why you like wrestling. I've heard it all too. "I used to watch it, but I outgrew it." or "Why do you like to watch men in tights roll around?" or the best "It's fake, don't you know that?". I used to defend it, but stopped. I like it, no one else has to be forced to. Two things that I loved from my childhood was wrestling and video games and nothing has changed. Now I watch Raw and PPVs with a group of friends. After the shows we will watch some classic wrestling. It's the type of fun only a wrestling fan can appreciate.

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