And well, that’s an understatement. I watch a lot of pro wrestling. From the WWE you’ve heard of to the radically different upstart Lucha Underground, I watch a ton of pro wrestling each and every week. I like it so much that I listen to podcasts about it, some are hosted by ex wrestlers and others are hosted by experts. I’ll even stay up very late or wake up equally early to watch an even that’s live in Japan.
At this point in my explanation, I have a feeling that I know what some of you are thinking. “How do you watch this carny stuff? You worked at the damn Metropolitan Museum of Art!” Some of you may even want to comment “you know it’s fake, right?” Well, I don’t come to your house and slap the remote out of your hand during The Bachelor, do I?
But as for why I watch wrestling? In short, it’s because pro wrestling is no one simple thing, and it’s endlessly complex. Sure, it’s a predetermined and somewhat choreographed performance that imitates bloodsport, but when done right it’s a drama that connects with decades of backstories. Pro wrestling also includes slapstick comedy, as evidenced by any WWE programming recorded during a federal holiday.
But yes, the combat element in pro wrestling; let’s talk about that. I’m not a big MMA fan, but when I watched last weekend’s UFC 200, I gained insight as to why I prefer pro wrestling. When two athletes square off and attempt to do actual harm to each other, the results are often boring, such as the moments where Daniel Cormier basically suffocated Anderson Silva by lying down on the man, in order to win. There is a story that can be told through the match, but in pro wrestling, the match exists in service of a narrative.
Also, pro wrestling isn’t really imitating real fights matches, in fact, the closest thing to pro wrestling is Street Fighter. You know, the video game. WWE wrestlers land strike after strike and move after move at a clip that would actually kill a man, but of course many of those attacks don’t land in the way they are meant to. Hell, in a scene out of Street Fighter II, modern day viking Brock Lesnar once attacked a damn car, and won.
It’s all a performance, and for the most part, performers don’t want to hurt each others. Punches are pulled and kicks narrowly miss. Heads roll on top on the ring instead of getting slammed against it. Once you acknowledge the false hits, pro wrestling becomes a lot less savage and a lot more watchable. Rare occasions allow for wrestlers who actually have problems with each other in rare life to have a match together, but that’s maybe 0.5 percent of all wrestling.
Oh, and there’s no off season (with the exception of Lucha Underground). There’s a good argument for wrestlers taking forced time off, but for now it’s there each and every week. There’s always something intriguing, even if there’s a ton of filler.
And oddly enough, one commonality in most wrestling fans is that we all took a break from it, and many came back. I started watching so I would understand what high school peers were talking about during WWE’s highly popular run in the late 90’s, and then came back one night in 2011 (see the next post for more about that).
But this all comes up because these days I watch as much wrestling as addicts of any sport do, and this Friday, I will talk about the current WWE product on The Ring Post, a new podcast on The Incomparable network. And so to explain why I watch and encourage you to listen, here are the stories about how and why I got addicted to pro wrestling.