I’ve been meaning to write something about this topic for a while now. But I had to quite literally* collect my thoughts on this issue before putting pen to paper – or rather putting fingers to keys to screen. Some of you may be shocked to learn that I am a fan of the circus freak show that is professional wrestling (or wrasslin’ as it’s known in some boroughs). Others have known this for some time and have been studiously praying for my soul – or waiting for the fad/phase/moment to pass. Sadly I must report that it’s been more than 1.5 years since my introduction to the WWE and my interest shows no sign of abating/waning. In fact I feel compelled to publicly defend my interest in the “sports entertainment” industry on the basis of some loosely held claim that said interest is purely from an “academic” stand point and a desire to understand the American psyche through this particular form of pop sub-culture. I could also point out that Federal Treasurer Peter Costello is similarly fixated with the WWE – and Rove McManus and Wil Anderson are also said to be celebrity fans of the spectacle.
Wrestling is stupid. Everyone readily admits this. It’s stupid in the same way that any work of fiction is stupid. Critics of wrestling fans are stupid because they fail to realise that everyone (except the greenest of fans) knows the results are all rigged – in much the same way that everyone knows that the people in their favourite TV shows are actors. Wrestlers are just athletic (and admittedly sometimes wooden) actors. It’s a show people. A circus in a square “ring” where daring feats of physical strength and acrobatic ability are appreciated by the ignorant American masses who bay for the blood of the athletes. Blood sports are a thing of a bygone era. Wrestling is the last bastion of hope in an era dominated by politically correct, emotionless, professional, dollar driven sport where fighting is harshly discouraged (I mean even ice hockey is cracking down on in ring violence). Cynically – wrestling has taken that paradigm and subverted it. In plain English – what they’ve done in response to professional sport where content is driven by the dollar and a team’s success is based on the size of its bank account (ala Chelsea) is they’ve become a massive commercial conglomerate where the wrestler’s success can be directly correlated with the amount of money they pull in for the company. The fans have ultimate control over character development – if they choose to support (or hate) a wrestler it will determine that wrestler’s future in the company. If a wrestler can draw an emotive response from the crowd, if his merchandise sells and his matches sell tickets the company will make him a success. Wrestling’s continued success relies on the use of binary opposites to create tension – the good v evil nature of each bout keeps the fans cheering for the good guy (or the face – from babyface) or booing the bad guy (or heel). They’ve injected passion and violence (albeit fake), and removed political correctness (one wrestler even had the temerity to take a dig at Steve Irwin two days after his death) in a bid to engage the audience. Like any long running serial drama – characters often switch roles from good to bad in a bid to bring something new to the fans, and like any long running drama some story lines are memorable and exciting while others are frustratingly stupid, annoying and painful. Unlike any long running drama the “actors” involved are actually involved. They get hurt. As the compulsory disclaimer at the beginning of each show (designed to prevent copycat injuries in lounge rooms across America) says “Bodies have been bruised… necks broken… careers ended in an instant. Yes this is entertainment – but the hazards are real.”
So next time you pay out a wrestling fan – make sure you only watch documentaries and other “educational” television.
*In an exaggerated metaphorical sense.