Yesterday’s Royal Rumble got me thinking.
I was never a huge wrestling fan growing up. I remember having a lot of redneck-type classmates who would wear Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirts in grade school. They always talked about power bombs, sockos, people’s elbows, DDTs and a bunch of other hick jargon that I never understood.
They scared the shit out of me. They were violent. Unruly. Bad-mouthed. And frankly, I think they believed wrestling was real.
I played baseball, basketball, and football. I had no time for crazy mofos who wanted slam chairs into each other’s skulls for laughs. I didn’t understand why they were so angry. Why not just play football with me and get to tackle people all day long? Isn’t that violent enough?
It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I realized that those nutjob, pre-pubescent kids weren’t WWE fanatics for the violence alone. They loved the soap opera-worthy drama that professional wrestling provides. Thanks to Tommy D and my former Offsides producer Brian Fadem, I’ve learned that the WWE is much more than just a bunch of meatheads jumping from ladders onto tables. It’s one of the best dramas on TV!
I know many women out there will think I’m being ridiculous, but spend a Monday night watching Monday Night Raw, the WWE’s biggest weekly spectacle. Within no time, you’ll find yourself immersed in the (purposely) awful close-ups of snarling wrestlers, sad monologues of gladiators whose feelings are hurt, and the carnal, frenzied energy of the bloodthirsty crowd.
I’m not going to get into details about names of wrestlers or speak to the history of professional wrestling. I don’t have time for that and I doubt you do. Besides, Tommy would be much better suited to do that. However, I would like to point out that there’s not much of a difference between the WWE and popular reality shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Bar Rescue, or America’s Next Top Model.
Full disclosure: I don’t watch any of those shows. I’ve caught snippets here and there, and frankly that’s enough for me. In my brief review of the litany of reality television that plagues our culture, I have not once seen a show that is better written or provides the amount of unapologetic shock, heartbreak, and awe that the WWE delivers on a weekly basis.
Women who love watching other women claw each other to pieces – emotionally speaking – in the name of competition on shows like The Bachelor will love watching WWE wrestlers fight for the love of the league’s fans. Sure, most of the men in the WWE are roided out and are the definition of “the type of guy you don’t want to meet in the dark alley.” But the characters they play are vulnerable, insecure, and catty as hell. They’re fickle, and form fleeting bonds that last about as long a one-night stand that leaves you before you pass out. It’s juicy stuff!
Honestly. All you need to do is watch about fifteen minutes of a WWE show and you’ll see at least 75 close-ups of actors who look like they’re one more insult away from crying and running off stage. The acting is awful, but that’s what makes the whole performance so wonderful. It’s the definition of a hot mess – and that’s exactly what it wants to be.
Watching the WWE makes you feel like you’re in on some kind of cosmic joke. Sometimes it becomes hard to tell whether or not the wrestlers remember they’re just acting. Fans seem utterly disappointed when one of their favorite wrestlers loses – even though it had been pre-determined in a writer’s room weeks in advance. It can be confusing if you don’t just let yourself get lost in all of it for a little bit.
That’s why we watch television anyway, isn’t it? To get lost for a little bit. Real life weighs us down on a daily basis. We watch “reality” television because it’s not reality at all – definitely not our reality.
Wrestling is no different. As much as I despise the Kardashians, I can’t argue that you shouldn’t watch them buy a bunch of shit and squawk at each other if it gets your mind off the bad day you had.
Ladies (and gentlemen who don’t yet watch), give wrestling a chance. I promise it’s more back-stabbing, gossipy, fashion-first (or last), progressive, corny, cheesy, poorly shot, funny, sad, heartbreaking, and juicy than any other programming on television.
Excuse me while I go apologize to all those kids wearing Stone Cold shirts that I shunned years ago.
This post was written by Billy Kirland, co-founder of The Millennial Man.