The Anti-Antagonist: Keep Marking Out

Adam Gorzelsky

UndertakerI really hate to do this…A few weeks back, I wrote a column responding to some of the statements and opinions spouted by Mark Madden and honestly had no intentions of doing so again. I understand that Mark’s background with the business differs significantly from mine and I also understand that Mark has somewhat of a heel persona to uphold….I get that…and I certainly don’t want to come off as the young punk trying to make a name for himself by sniping at the local celebrity.

With that said, Double M got to me this week…He said some things in response to a few readers that really stuck in my craw…Not out of some righteous indignation flowing from a few insults… because that’s what Mark does…he antagonizes. What upset me was his unwavering attempt to establish HIS view of the business as the one and only means of measuring success.

In particular, a significant portion of Mark’s rant focused on his proposed idea of having Brock Lesnar destroy and humiliate the Undertaker at Survivor Series, only to see Steve Austin return to avenge Taker at Wrestlemania. I have to admit that in a vacuum, this is an excellent idea. The anger towards Lesnar would be palpable and the pure excitement stemming from Austin’s return would be off the charts.

Unfortunately, nothing takes place in a vacuum. There are personal, professional, and psychological consequences associated with such brash actions; ignorance towards which is both reckless and dangerous.

Throwing all caution to the wind, Mark abruptly shot down any concern about the damage done to the Undertaker’s legacy by injecting his own sense of cutthroat, bottom line business into the equation. “Do you really think loyalty should have anything to do with it? Fake wrestling isn’t about preserving the dignity of icons. It’s about CASH.”

I wonder if Mark Callaway agrees with this statement. I wonder if he agrees that there’s a price tag on his dignity…That his years of faithful service should be sacrificed at the altar of a part-timer who has admitted that he doesn’t give a damn about the business. Unless and until the Undertaker agrees to such a scenario, this over-arching statement that “fake wrestling” is only about the cash is without merit or support.

I also wonder how many fans agree with that statement…I only ask because whether Double M likes it or not, the “marks” are the source of the CASH….We are the ones who buy the merchandise…Who fill the arenas…Who have watched since we were little and have learned the joy associated with suspending reality for a few fleeting moments throughout the week…More importantly, we’re the ones who are damn proud of the fact that we are lifelong fans…That we’ve formed lasting memories with a sibling, a cousin, a parent or a grandparent…some of whom may no longer be with us.

It’s fake…I get it. The outcomes are predetermined. I got it 20 years ago. Nonetheless, I give the same response now that I give to people when they shockingly ask me how I can watch a fake sporting event…the outcomes may be pre-determined, but what’s real is the hard work, dedication, and talent that it takes to be the one who is predetermined to be on the positive side of the outcome. The Undertaker isn’t undefeated at Wrestlemania simply because it’s a clever marketing idea and he hasn’t developed an unstoppable phenom persona just for shits and giggles…He’s earned these distinctions with unwavering tenacity and an uncanny ability to provide fans with top-notch entertainment every time he performs.

Call it being a “mark” or call it whatever the hell you wish. The people who cringe at the idea of seeing the Undertaker embarrassed in a fake fight with Brock Lesnar do so because of the message that it sends…In fact, it’s the same message that Mark Madden is trying send…Don’t invest emotionally in a character or persona because any image can, will, and should be dashed if the price is right. This may sound like an honest assessment of the realities of any business, but stripped down to its core, it’s nothing more than the bitter ramblings of an individual who no longer cares to be a fan.

Without this reverence toward the Undertaker’s “staged” persona and “fake” accomplishments, Mark’s brilliant money-making angle wouldn’t be possible in the first place. There would be no anger…no uproar…no outcry against Brock Lesnar if not for the beloved fictional persona developed by Mark Callaway. All of the Wrestlemania matches were fixed…right Mark? The Superhuman character is merely a figment of the creative imagination of Vince McMahon…right Mark? So who cares if Lesnar dismantles him? Why would that draw money in the first place?

You see, Mark is relying upon a suspension of reality to create his proposed big money angle, while disrespecting the same embrace of kayfabe when it is used to identify the glaring practical concerns surrounding the idea’s execution…If reading that sentence confused you, you’re not alone…I lost my mind writing it, but then again, hypocrisy by definition leaves you going in circles.

Ultimately, many years ago, Vince McMahon let the proverbial cat out of the bag when he ended the tradition of representing professional wrestling as a legitimate competition. Despite this “shocking” revelation, professional wrestling as a whole has remained within the fabric of our culture due to the ability and willingness of fans to remain passionate about a fictional sporting event…Without this passion, the business could not exist.

So yeah…Many fans justifiably would be upset and outraged if an icon like the Undertaker suffered a fictional beat-down from a part-timer. Maybe it would be good business and maybe it would be a fiasco…In either case, the effects would be felt because of the fans…because the Undertaker’s icon status largely is attributable to the unwavering support of those of us who have been there since the beginning.

If Mark doesn’t get that concept, maybe it’s time for him to rethink why he watches and writes about professional wrestling. Maybe he’s jaded from exposure to the business and is unable or unwilling to remember why he became a fan in the first place. In any case, I hope he understands that his views don’t reflect the views of those of us who do remember.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @PolishHMR if you have any questions, comments, or random thoughts throughout the week.

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