More complete thoughts on professional wrestling

Okay. Let’s get some things straight.

I am not on the anti-wrestling bandwagon. I still have a warm spot in my heart for certain aspects of the sports-entertainment world – I still use a vast section of the vocabulary, and I’m still enamored with a tightly wrestled technical battle along the lines of Benoit vs. Angle.

I don’t hate wrestling. But I will say that professional wrestling, a hobby that I put a considerable amount of time into, has done me wrong. Really done me wrong. I was always a fan of lucha libre, of puroresu, of the Super J Cup Tournament and of Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho. I turned my nose up at the more lowbrow humor, the punchy-kicky superstar matches, and the intelligence insulting.

I hated the sexism and xenophobia that is still prevalent in professional wrestling. I hated the poo-poo humor that permeated any “humorous” skit or angle. I truly was insulted when an 80-year old woman gave birth to a hand, when female wrestlers were relegated to mud wrestling, and when a seven-foot “monster” performed an act of necrophilia.

Wrestling requires some reality suspension. Obviously. I just can’t do it anymore because, well, there has to be a little continuity involved. For some reason the entire genre turned me off. I’m not saying this to sound conceited, to sound as if one kind of reality suspension – clay figures going to the moon and eating cheese in a spacecraft flown by a dog, for example – is better than another (the fact that grown men wait until they’re in an arena full of people to settle their differences by flopping around on the mat comes to mind).

The thing is, I used to be able to suspend reality for a few hours while watching wrestling. But that is when the storylines where still fresh. When the art of wrestling was still followed. Three things ultimately ruined professional wrestling for me.

1. The downfall of the independent circuit. I used to love watching ECW. I also loved watching the mid-card level personalities in the WCW and WWF. I loved watching them because they were different – they were doing things that you couldn’t see in Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker. They were wrestling. And to me, it was fresh.

Eventually, I realized that what they were doing wasn’t interesting – it was the fact that I hadn’t seen it before that made it stand out. Once it became commonplace, I tired of it. I gave it up. That’s about the time that the great wrestlers started getting relegated to punchy-kicky type matches and started being involved with storylines that were designed to give them personalities – personalities that they didn’t have.

2. I got too involved backstage. I, like Kerrie mentioned, used to make changes (with a red pen) in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Professional Wrestling. It was horribly inaccurate. It was outdated within a week of its publishing date, and it was incorrect throughout anyway. I knew what was going to happen before it happened, thanks to the Internet. I over analyzed Pay-Per-View events. I had actual interest in whether or not a wrestler’s comments were “shoot” (real life comments) as opposed to scripted.

There were no surprises left for me. And even when surprises tried to manifest themselves, I was always disappointed. I thought way too much about programs that were designed to make you think as little as possible. It’s like analyzing the backstage antics of ER, and then trying to figure out if a patient’s comments were in some way directed at George Clooney’s departure nearly ten years ago.

3. I realized that a figure-four leg lock doesn’t really hurt (unless it’s applied incorrectly). Thank you, Owen, for reminding me of this.

A lot of the glamour of wrestling disappeared when I started watching American wrestling exclusively. Gone from my repertoire were the stiff forearms of Mitsuharu Misawa. Forgotten were the neck drops of ECW’s Taz. Lost were the suicide moonsaults of Toryumon’s Dragon Kid. Instead, I watched move after move that did nothing to convince me that they were even painful.

Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle were still putting on wrestling clinics – using moves that borrowed heavily from the laws of physics, leverage, and balance. The rest of the league was flopping around and using half-assed fists to swing past their opponent’s head. Wrestling is more ballet than boxing, and I always knew that. But I don’t like ballet. And really, I don’t like boxing. So why was I watching it so much?

I say all of this because I don’t want it to seem like I’m on some high and mighty pedestal, throwing stones at the people – of which many of my close friends are included – that still watch wrestling. I have no problem with professional wrestling. I’ll always feel a little warmth in my heart for a soundly contested suplex-fest. It’s just that I personally can’t take it seriously anymore.

No, that’s the wrong way to put it. A person who takes professional wrestling seriously is in more trouble than they ay think. What I mean is that I can’t bring myself to watch it. Things have gone so far off course that I don’t think I’d ever be able to come back. The main event companies are boring retreads of what I used to watch, which ultimately was a boring retread of what ECW did in the mid 90’s. The indie leagues are trying to hard to be successful, a feat that can really only be completed by creating a league that is nearly identical to the WWE.

I’ve lost the heart for wrestling. I’m not sad about it at all. I’ve filled that empty space with things that I find more personally fulfilling. But far be it for me to completely write it off. Currently, the product is only a fraction as interesting as it used to be, and at some point in the past few years I must have grown apart from whatever it was that led me to enjoy it in the first place. I still think wrestling is lame now. I’m wrestling free, but I’m not forgetting my roots. I can still hold my own with the rest of you wrestling fans – almost as if it’s ingrained in my DNA. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, or even admit it.

I hope that explains my position a little better.

And yes, I promise — no more ‘rasslin.

For now.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 20th, 2006