I got to go see The Wrestler on Monday. Being a wrestling historian and fan provided me with a unique viewing perspective – one that will be shared by many of you, but one that the majority of viewers/critics do not possess. In essence this was a fictional version of the Jake Roberts section of Beyond the Mat. To me, it played as an semi autobiographical version of so many stars of the 70’s and 80’s who now find themselves in their 50’s or 60’s with nowhere to go. The thing is…this story was not new to me. It wasn’t any kind of shocking revelation or gasp-inducing surprise to me. It was merely a reflection of what we’ve all seen at wrestling conventions or read about or witnessed first hand for years. Not that it makes it any less depressing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie and a well executed one at that. But whereas a non-wrestling fan might sit in horror and wince at the character’s life post-superstardom, I watched it thinking to myself, "sad, but true."
The feeling that I was left with personally was that I’m glad I got out when I did. Cause in one way or another, in order to reach the pinnacle of the wrestling business and stay there…you need to become a lifer – whether you like it or not. When you work at WWE, you are working a bare minimum of 330 days a year and I was averaging a solid 100-120 hours a week. There is truly no room for life outside of wrestling. Relationships suffer, family time suffers, forget about hobbies, forget about sleep, forget about sanity. Why do you think there’s so much in-dating in wrestling…because those are the only people you ever see. So the fact is that the majority of these guys are not prepared for life after wrestling, when that lifestyle is all they’ve known for 15 years. And when you’re accustomed to being immersed in it 120 hours a week, then what do you do with yourself after it’s gone? Plus, you’re no longer adored by millions, but rather by 50 guys in a HS gym shouting, "IT’S STILL REAL TO ME DAMMIT!" Throw in years of drug and painkiller abuse and ladies and gentlemen…we have a problem. Not that we don’t all already know this. Being that they don’t know any other life, the "lucky" guys get to return to the business as road agents/producers/writers etc. (making you a lifer) and the unlucky ones spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces (making them an unwilling lifer). Either way, you’re stuck. And I love wrestling. I’ve devoted a large chunk of my life to it in one way or another. However, I want to see family, friends, significant others, sleep, have hobbies, etc. I’m not a lifer, which is probably why I was never truly happy at WWE. In order to thrive there, you need to fully immerse yourself and forfeit your life to it regardless of the consequences…and The Wrestler was a great illustration of why I’m glad I didn’t.
Hope the holiday season is treating everyone well. I, for one, have found that in many ways, my holidays (and especially my gift giving and receiving) are almost exactly the same today as an "adult" as they were as a kid. Naturally, I use the term adult relatively speaking, because how else could I explain myself standing in Toys ‘R Us Times Square searching the WWE section one by one to find a Hornswoggle action figure for my younger brother? You see, he doesn’t watch wrestling much anymore…but we share an apartment. He is adamant that every time he enters a room and I’m watching WWE, without fail Hornswoggle is always on the TV, haha. And strangely, it’s kinda true…he has a knack for finding him.
It was my older brother and I that really shared a wrestling-centric holiday gift exchange. Amongst his various gifts from various family members, he received the Hell in a Cell and History of the IC Title DVD’s (both of which I will undoubtedly borrow) and Raw vs SD ’09 for 360, which I plan to play on Saturday. I think I wanna be Umaga as my first character selection. I remember playing a Buried Alive match in the 2007 version and playing for 45 minutes because nobody could figure out how to bury anyone…hopefully they have since removed that type of match from the game.
Now as a gift for me, he got me a subscription to WWE 24/7, which is finally available on my cable provider. I am simultaneously extremely excited and concerned all at once. You see, I’m not exactly the world’s most motivated person in the first place…I enjoy relaxing. So when you add countless additional hours of potential wrestling viewing into my monthly routine…it worries me. I am anticipating irresponsible, irrational choices being made. I can just see it now…the time is 4:30 AM and I just finished watching a Nitro episode from 1997. Hopefully Scott Norton was in the main event. Now…should I go to bed or watch another one from 4:30-6:30 AM to make sure that La Parka gets one back on Juventud? Once I get addicted, it’s going to be hard to pry myself away. The subscription kicks in in a few days and once I’ve got it, I plan on reporting back at length to see how well or poorly it’s going. I am envisioning a pile of potato chip crumbs covering my shirt and possibly cutting a hole in the couch cushion so I don’t need to get up to use the bathroom. I will report back.