***Disclaimer – In order to emphasize a few points, and to quote in context, this column contains some profanity. There’s also going to be some disturbing images. (f*** yeah!) This is your only warning.*
Dude, that shit is so fake.
What the f*** is that? Wrestling? Tell me you don’t watch that fake shit.
You’re such a fag for watching those queers in their panties.
How does a leg-drop keep you down? Hella f***ing fake, dude.
Those fools are just pretending. They don’t f***ing hurt each other. It’s fake, stupid.
I don’t tell many people that I write a wrestling column on the Internet. It’s just not something that I feel comfortable telling many people. It’s not something that I put on my resume, and it’s not something that I bring up over dinner with my wife’s friends from the law office that she works for. It’s also not something that I talk with the people that work with me about. Some of those people consider me their very good friend. I’ve worked with a few of them for close to five years now – yet they have no idea that one of my major areas of interest and entertainment is actually professional wrestling. I play golf with these guys all the time. We go out together, we have even spent a few holidays together, and – they’ve got no clue.
What would they say if I told them? They would probably say some of the things that opened this column. They’d laugh. They’d ask me why I would watch something so pointless. They might even make some demeaning and/or derogatory remarks about the wrestlers themselves. Some would call the wrestlers fags. They’d probably even question my sexuality, since really – we are watching a show where the main action is two guys in their underwear. However, one thing that most of them, even the polite ones, are going to mention is that wrestling is fake.
“Professional wrestling” was at one point a legitimate contest. Usually, a small band of men traveled with the carnival and would compete either against each other or against whatever local stepped up from the town they happened to be visiting that day. Somewhere around the time that a little invention called the television began to become popular in the American home, wrestling promoters realized that scripting the matches elicited a better response from the crowd, and could be arranged to fit a schedule. However, during that time wrestling was also still thought to be very real by most of the general population. The people in the wrestling business use a word called “kayfabe” – which means that a wrestling match, or situation involving the wrestlers is fake, or “worked.”
Some wrestlers maintained kayfabe throughout their whole life, both personal and professional. One of my favorite wrestlers of all time, El Santo – who is an icon on the level of someone like Elvis Presley here in the United States, was never seen without his mask on in public. Legend has it that there is only one known photograph of this man (which has not been shown, but is maintained exists) without his mask on during the entire 50 years that he portrayed this character. Even in death, El Santo maintained kayfabe, as he was actually buried in his mask. Kayfabe was a very serious business. They were all committed to maintaining the fact that wrestling was “real” and that what these men did was legitimate competition, even though everyone within the business was very aware that it wasn’t.
Today, with the outlandish storylines, ridiculous gimmicks, and all around carnival atmosphere – kayfabe isn’t just dead, it’s tits up in a frozen lake. People like The Undertaker, Ultimate Warrior, Mantaur, and the Boogeyman make maintaining any semblance of reality completely impossible. These sorts of gimmicks are only possible if those watching at home are able to invoke their suspension of disbelief. The phrase “suspension of disbelief” was actually coined in 1817 by one of the Lake Poets and founders of the Romantic Movement in England, Samual Taylor Coleridge, with these words:
“(…) it was agreed, that my endeavors should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”
I believe that what Coleridge envisioned was that his work would be entertaining enough so as to distract the person who was being entertained from the unreal situations that were unfolding directly before their eyes. Wrestling decided that it was no longer necessary to maintain the unreal responsibility of kayfabe, and instead Vince McMahon decided that scrapping the “real” aspect for the “entertainment” aspect would appeal to a much larger audience, with the end result being an extremely successful company. He was right, and that decision is what’s crafted the entertainment programming that we refer to as wrestling today.
So, I’ll admit, wrestling is actually fake. Now, I’d like for someone to remind “Sick” Nick up there that what he’s doing isn’t real. Someone should tell the Sick one that the weed whacker to his chest isn’t actually ripping pieces of his flesh off and scattering them in 360 directions around the ring, because it’s fake. I’d also invite skeptics to write the guy in the second picture up there, named Mick Foley, and let him know that his teeth getting pushed through his lip wasn’t real. Or, of course, Tommy Dreamer in the first picture might need to be warned that the flaming table he’s about to go through doesn’t exist. I could give you a number of other examples where this so-called “fake” sport has broken all too real bones. These men put everything they have on the line, every night. When they crawl in to bed, their bodies are screaming in real pain.
There are few people that I will actually get into a conversation with and explain the difference between wrestling being “fake” and wrestling being choreographed. Sometimes, when the topic comes up, there is the rare person who will actually be interested. Those people will display enough of an open mind to listen to the explanation. When that rare occasion occurs, I am more than willing to share with them the rich history that this sport has. I want them to know that when they bleed, it’s real blood, and that when they slam each other down, it legitimately hurts. However, it’s also logical to explain that yes, wrestling is not “real” in the sense that the outcomes of the matches are predetermined. It is choreographed, and that is done by necessity. Most of these men have enough power and skill in wrestling, martial arts, and straight up violence that they could probably kill their opponent if they so chose. But, what fun would that be? Instead, the matches are pre-determined to invoke the greatest response by the human emotion (sometimes to some rather poor results, but hey – we all can’t be perfect.) Yes, wrestling is nothing more than a soap opera for men. This soap opera features high flying, violence, graphic content, and amazing acts of physical exertion, and I love every minute of it.
I have invited a number of my friends (who aren’t wrestling fans) to read this column, and I speak to them now. My challenge in this wrestling column writing competition is to respond to the criticism regarding this sport being “fake” and the criticism associated with that. In order to actually achieve that, I have decided to tackle that challenge head on. I look forward to everyone’s questions, comments, and feedback. Some of you might think that MO’s gone insane, and some of you might laugh and know that I was always still watching wrestling. I hope that I’ve been able to educate some of you on why it’s not actually fake, and why I still watch it. It’s kooky, zany, sometimes stupid, but mostly… it’s entertainment. Entertainment doesn’t have to be “real.”
Download of the Week
In order to continue with the theme of this column, I’m actually going to present to you two different downloads of the week. Think of this as your online field trip in Mr. Zuma’s class. I’d like to share with you two extremes in this wacky world we call wrestling. There are two ways to display how this sport isn’t all that “fake.” The first way is to show the blood and guts aspect of what’s called “Hardcore Wrestling.” For those that haven’t seen it, this match is a clinic in insanity. This is definitely one of my favorite matches of all time, and the story tells itself. It’s pure machismo, with both men here just to prove who’s the hardest of the hardcore. These men nearly tear each other limb from limb, and they put their bodies and lives on the line to entertain the crowd. They called this match the “Stairway To Hell” match – a ladder leads to a gathered bunch of barbed wire. Once that barbed wire is pulled down, it’s legal to use in the match.
“Suicidal, Genocidal, Homicidal” Sabu vs. The Hardcore Icon, The Sandman.
On the other end of the spectrum is the athleticism and wrestling prowess of the Mexican style luchadores. The two featured in this match, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, are probably two of my favorite wrestlers of all time. In this match they both exhibit mastery of some amazing high flying moves, amateur style chain wrestling, some submission maneuvers, and of course the ability to make the crowd care about each and every step you take in the ring. Plus, Eddie is sporting his AWESOME mullet.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero (Mask vs. Title) Halloween Havoc 1997
The Hoss of The Week this week is someone that’s been very up and down the last couple of years. He’s gone from being a virtual nobody to being the longest running WWE champ in 10 years. Then, he disappeared to the mid-card for months before finally, just recently, being put back in the spotlight at Wrestlemania. [b]JBL[/b] won the United States Title at Wrestlemania, and he’s been on fire ever since. On the most recent edition of Smackdown, he participated in what some are calling a TV Match of the Year candidate of a cage match. He took some huge bumps, and showed that he’s still willing to do whatever it takes to stay relevant on the Blue Brand. I’ve maligned this man before, but I’ve found a new respect for JBL, and he’s finally the Hoss of the Week.
That’ll do it for this edition of Viva La Lucha. I’ve not only answered the question posed but I’ve also in a sense bared my soul on this one. I’m exposing a private part of myself to some that don’t know about this hobby of mine, and to those that have never read one of these… surprise? What did ya think? Thanks to everyone for stopping in and taking the time to read this column. If all goes well, I’ll be right back next week with another column, as the Extreme Column Writing Tournament rolls on. Until then… I leave you with these simple words:
Long Live Wrestling!
Viva La Lucha!