Thursday, 4 August 2011
Why Do You Watch Wrestling? - Duckman Asks
“You’ve got all these great answers, to all these great questions.” - Questions and Answers by Biffy Clyro.
This week I’ve been inspired by a question from my good buddy Ian. He’s an avid lifelong wrestling fan, who, for reasons unknown, has been unable to comment on any of my posts here – although he has tried to do so desperately. This appears to be an issue between Ian and the way the comment section works on this site. He just can’t work it out!
Although given he watches, enjoys and resolutely defends TNA on a regular basis, I’m inclined to believe in this instance the problem exists between keyboard and chair! Only joking buddy. Not that it matters, he can’t post a comment here to reply! HA!
I’m sure you’ve all been asked the question Ian posed, namely:
“Why do you watch wrestling?”
Not, “what wrestling do you like?” But, “why do you watch wrestling?” Seems easy enough to answer, until you consider it for a few moments. It’s a question that really got me thinking, as all good questions should!
Normally when I’m asked this question it’s by people who don’t watch wrestling. Or even worse - they used to watch but stopped and didn’t go back. I find these former fans now either hate wrestling or act like it’s beneath them. Which gives them just the right amount of unjustified arrogance that the only way to deal with them is with a swift kick to the groin with a steel toe capped boot.
The question, when asked by the former or non wrestling fan, is usually formed as an insult, dripping with sarcasm and misplaced pity. The kind of question you’d ask a particularly dumb acquaintance who keeps doing something they shouldn’t but they actually quite enjoy. Like , “why do you keep eating chewing gum off the pavement?” One of those passive aggressive questions deigned to make you feel like a dick.
The question of why you watch, when asked by a former or non wrestling fan, is usually followed by the single most annoying statement a wrestling fan can hear,
“…it’s all fake anyway.”
I’m sure everyone who reads this understands and accepts that 99.9% of what you see on TV and DVD, from WWE to ROH to Chikara and all the myriad of promotions and variations on wrestling in between, is a work. It’s not unplanned or spontaneous – although there are moments in matches which are both. I’m talking angles and finishes. Very little that happens in wrestling that isn’t planned. The best stuff seems like it isn’t, but it always is. The CM Punk angle? It’s a work. Kevin Steen on the indy scene at war with ROH? It’s a work. HHH in charge of WWE? It’s a work. Davy Richards being pissed at Eddie Edwards for keeping a hold on his cousin Kyle O’Reilly for too long in a recent ROH match? It’s a work. Sting acting like The Joker from The Dark Knight in TNA? It’s doesn’t actually work, but it is a work nonetheless.
We know it’s fake and we don’t need to be told it’s fake. Yet still, in 2011, that comment is made on a regular basis. Shit, take a look at any YouTube video that has wrestling content and within the first couple of posts you’ll find the ‘fake’ comment or some variation of it. That and something about how much the commenter loves/hates Justin Bieber, followed by an argument about Bieber. I don’t get it either but that fight is all over every fucking YouTube video!
The annoying ‘fake’ comment is not limited to YouTube. As someone who follows and regularly comments on both pro wrestling and MMA it’s a constant source of irritation to see the ‘fake’ line thrown around any time someone mentions Brock Lesnar on a MMA forum. Then again, I shouldn’t get too annoyed. Those arguments make the fights between the wastes of skin on YouTube seem like a well thought out debate between the world’s most educated scholars on the major international events of the day.
So if you get hit with the question, “why do you watch wrestling, it’s all fake anyway?” And you’re not sure how to reply, here’s my own personal way of framing a suitable response, should you decide that a kick to the groin with a steel toe capped boots isn’t the way to go:
“Yes, I know it’s fake. In the same way that James Gandolfini was a fake mob boss from New Jersey. Or the way Star Wars was a fake story that happened in a fake galaxy far, far away. It’s entertainment. It’s not about what is fake or not fake. It’s about the story being told, the characters telling that story and whether or not it entertains you.
A story can be told about of a mob boss struggling to balance his criminal business and his family life. Or about the adventures of a slightly inbred and extremely camp farm boy who shoots womp rats in his T-16 in his spare time. Or even about two or more pseudo sports men or women, competing in an predetermined athletic contest, while wearing some kind of spandex.
All entertainment is fake but it’s only as fake as you make it. Suspend your disbelief. Sit back and enjoy the story being told and, if it’s told well, it’ll feel real and that is where the true enjoyment lies...”
Either that or you can do that weird gasping, half talk/half cry thing that kids do and through a snot filled nose, with tears streaking down your cheeks yell,
“It’s still real to me damn it!!”
And then quickly do the John Cena ‘you can’t see me’ hand gesture before running out the room, back to your computer, where you can switch off the comments on YouTube and happily go back to your fake little pastime. Whatever works for you really. I don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Anyway…where was I? Oh yeah, so Ian asked, “why do you watch wrestling?” On an internet wrestling forum. Which of course resulted in the usual eclectic bunch of responses. Ranging from the sublime (well constructed and heart felt responses recalling childhood memories and important family times) to the ridiculous (gay jokes and references to ‘raised eyebrows being awesome’ etc). So par for the course when it comes to online comments.
The good thing is, all of those responses were completely valid in answering the question. I’m not ragging on anyone for watching wrestling because they like to watch oiled up men in small pants pretend to fight or because they love The Rock. Just as I’m not going to rag on someone for watching TNA…alright, I am, but I can appreciate the fact that everyone watches wrestling for different reasons and they’re all valid. Even TNA, though it pains me to say it.
What I’m getting at is the true greatness of the art form we call professional wrestling. It has such a wide ranging appeal, it attracts people from all corners of the globe, it covers so many different cultures, personalities and mindsets. Plus it’s HUGE. I read a statement once that said the three most recognisable people on the planet during the 1980s were Muhammad Ali, The Pope and Hulk Hogan. On a recent Comic Relief telethon all the little kids in Africa were doing Cena’s “you can’t see me,” to the camera! Crazy, right? Wrestling is one of the few art forms that crosses all language barriers and geographical borders.
Oh and don’t let anyone tell you that wrestling isn’t an art form. It is. Seriously, it fucking is. One of the most unusual, unique, profitable, exciting, controversial, mysterious, attention grabbing and opinion dividing art forms ever created. When you mention professional wrestling is an art form some may scoff and turn with a flick of their, ‘look at how smart I am stripped scarf’ that they even wear in the pub - but they’re wrong. And their scarf makes them look like a twatty wizard.
Professional wrestling, along with comic books and the genre of jazz music, is one of the only true original American art forms. Granted the Greeks might have a claim to inventing ‘wrestling,’ and just about everything else! But it was America that created professional wrestling and most importantly of all, it was in America where wrestling was shown on TV and that brings us back to the original question – still with me? Good.
So why do I watch wrestling? Surely at 30 years old I should have grown out of wrestling by now? Hell no and don’t call me Shirley! I do wonder though, what is it about this strange pseudo sport that keeps me coming back when so many have left it behind? A lot of people replied that they watch wrestling out of habit. That they didn’t really enjoy it anymore, but they kept watching in the hope that it would return to the glory days of their youth. I’m in that boat when it comes to WWE.
The problem though is when people look back on their childhood it’s always with rose tinted glasses on. Of course everything was better, brighter, more exciting when you were a kid – it’s cause you were a fucking kid! Show a 4 year old a stapler for the first time and he’ll think it’s the single greatest invention in the history of mankind.
WWE has changed over the years I’ve watched it. From the cartoon era of the 80s, to the boring and bland era of the early 90s, to the boundary pushing, violent and young adult orientated era of the late 90s, to the current weird hybrid of all three. Along the way a lot of people gave up watching. Yet a lot of people, like me, stuck with it. Why? Out of loyalty? Or just habit? Could it be nostalgia, remembering those days when it was all so real and exciting and you truly believed in your heroes and legitimately hated the bad guys? I know that’s one of the reasons I watch still wrestling - a cocktail of habit and nostalgia with a side order of hope that things will get better.
Another answer given was the athletic competition. The fact that when a wrestling match really ‘works,’ it elicits a reaction that very few other genres of entertainment can. I don’t think I’ve ever marked out while watching The Sopranos and I fucking LOVE The Sopranos. But I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve jumped up and yelled at the TV while watching pro wrestling.
Hell, just ask my brother, this year during the tremendous Wrestlemania match between HHH and Undertaker, when HHH hit the tombstone – I actually shouted, “not like this!!” when HHH went for the cover! And when Taker kicked out I squealed like a 4 year old being shown his first stapler. True story. I’m now mercilessly ribbed for that mark out moment any time I speak to my brother. Thankfully he didn’t hear me shouting, “don’t you fucking dare tap,” at CM Punk when Cena had him in the STFinglookshorrible for what I feared would be the finish of their recent match at MITB!
When it comes to true athletic contests you don’t really get them in WWE anymore. You still get great matches from time to time but as pure athletic contests go I don’t really remember any since Kurt Angle left and Chris Benoit went all kill-a-doodle-do. Which is why in recent years I’ve devoted a lot of my interest in wrestling to Ring of Honor. One of the few promotions where the mixture of athletic competition, legitimate hard hitting action and believable characters is cooked to entertaining perfection.
ROH also caters to my love of wrestling storylines that play out over a long period of time. Thanks to ROH not running the counterproductive business model of WWE and TNA (a PPV every month so they burn through months worth of angles every three weeks) the storylines in ROH are given time to develop at a natural pace. Something as well put together as the recent year long feud between Kevin Steen and El Generico would never have stood a chance in WWE. Simply because they’d have had the blow off match on the third PPV after the feud started because IT’S THE LAW!
Sometimes I want something less serious than ROH. Sometimes I want to put a show on and have a damn good laugh. I don’t mean dumbed down WWE poop jokes. I mean funny wrestling. Which is where Chikara comes in. One of the most fun promotions out there. Just the right mix of strange characters, funny spots in matches and simple, good old fashioned FUN! It doesn’t always have to be head drops and intense promos you know. Sometimes a spot involving an imaginary hand grenade being thrown in the ring, or one team hypnotising the other to break dance is all I need!
Then there are moments when I just want to go back to a simpler time. Before the business was exposed. When people were happy to be in on the secret and just let themselves go – that feeling of being a kid again. So I dig out the classic matches that have pride of place in my collection. I watch Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage and their peers work their magic. I watch them and see the crowd react and wish that every week on Raw the people had that kind of experience. Pro wrestling at its absolute finest.
So why do I watch wrestling? There’s no one definitive answer. It’s what I’ve done since I a kid and it’s a habit I legitimately can’t break – on a deep rooted psychological level. Seriously, if anyone knows a good shrink that deals in wrestling addiction, send me their number. It’s cost me a fucking fortune!
I watch for the spectacle of a good match. The kind of match that makes you forget about those pricks on YouTube laughing about it being fake. To see the skill, the commitment, the originality and the athletic ability of a Davey Richards, a Bryan Danielson, a Samoa Joe or an AJ Styles and be dazzled by these state of the art performers.
I watch to see the current master story tellers at work, guys like CM Punk, Kurt Angle, HHH and Undertaker take the crowd in the palm of their hand and bring them out of their seats with one gesture or look.
I watch for the kind of lengthy and well constructed story that draws you in like a great novel. To see a conflict begin and weave a story with peaks and troughs before finally culminating in a huge final battle.
But most of all I watch because out of all the genres of entertainment and all the sports in the world nothing compares to professional wrestling. Nothing comes close to the passion and the spectacle and the fucking awesomeness that is professional wrestling. It reminds me of my childhood. It entertains me. It disgusts me and annoys me. It amazes me and it surprises me. It makes me laugh and it makes me marvel at the skill of those who are the very best. It does all those things and more and I keep coming back, decade after decade. That’s why I watch. So what about you?
As always thanks for reading, keep the comments coming, remember you can follow me on twitter @EFKDuckman and keep supporting Wrestling’s Last Hope.
See you next week.