I am total geek. This is something I accepted as far back as high school. My interests fall largely on the uncool side of the cool/uncool divide. But what I end up liking I really, really do like a lot. Sometimes I don’t know why I like something but I find it affecting the way I think and sparking my imagination. And one thing that I’ve liked since somewhere around the mid-nineties is Professional Wrestling. My love for it has only grown over the years even as I’ve learned more and more about it.
Interestingly enough I was introduced to the world of wrestling in a more legitimate way. The memory of what age I was escapes me but when I was in elementary school I wrestled as a sport. I don’t remember actually competing but I remember rolling around and attempting various holds and pinning combinations. Nothing complicated, really, but I remember doing it. I don’t know if that imprinted on me much or what. The fact that I remember it at all speaks volumes, I guess.
I later tried my hand at so-called amateur wrestling during 8th and 9th grades because my brother had joined the team. I had mixed results during those two years but I came away with one third place medal in a competition because the bracket wasn’t crowded. My brother continued with wrestling long after I quit and was nearly unstoppable. He became a team captain and dominated his opponents sometimes outright embarassing them. I like that.
A friend introduced me to pro-wrestling in the mid-nineties and like most new fans I thought it was real. They acted so serious about the rules on screen even if some of the competitors were really weird personalities. I mean, seriously, I became a fan when Doink the Clown (1) was still around.
I almost instantly became a fan of Shawn Michaels (2). I was pretty small through my childhood (I’m still not very big) and Michaels has always been a little dog in a big dog’s fight. I was impressed with how much the announcers talked about his resiliency and his never-say-die spirit. I didn’t even care that he had been a bad guy in the past (or present) he was just too impressive to me. In a world where I never really cared much about sports, pro wrestling was my sports. Watching a wrestler hit their finishing move was like a home run to me.
Of course, finally someone let the cat out of the bag and I found out that the show wasn’t real. Of course, I was shellshocked. That meant that the announcers and wrestlers on the screen had been lying to my face the whole time. I felt like a fool. Pretty soon I got over it and soon enough the Monday Night Wars started up and I had more than one wrestling show to watch and then I had three (Thunder was crap).
There was a whole new world of storylines and characters that were opening up in front of me. I had developed something important that would serve me well: suspension of disbelief. I could sit there and watch the shows and enjoy it the same way you or I might watch Indiana Jones save the day while knowing that it’s Harrison Ford.
Eventually I came to peek more and more behind the curtains, looking at the insider info and appreciating the art of putting a match together. Wrestlers are an odd mix of athlete and performer. They go out in front of the crowds and the cameras and they have to entertain the folks out there. Also, watch this and tell me that pro wrestling doesn’t recquire athelticism (5).
I got to know the wrestlers as performers as well as their characters. I became a huge fan of Mick Foley, an everyman sort of guy who not only put on a great match but also was brilliant with a microphone. I’ve read all three of Foley’s autobiographies and I just admire him as a nice guy and a brilliant mind. Funny how that mind hasn’t been dulled by so many blows to the brain.
So, basically what I’m saying is that I’m not embarassed that I like wrestling because I know why I like it and I really do like it. Also, at least I don’t watch reality television. Here’s a few videos to show you just what I mean. Watch them or don’t. I just wanted to say my piece. As Mick Foley says, “Have a Nice Day!”
(2) Shawn Michaels’ theme song. I’m still amazed the guy could sing his own theme song and look so tough wearing those outfits. I’m not gay, I swear.
(3) Mick Foley getting nearly killed by the Undertaker. This was actually scripted into the match and not an accident. And yes those are thumb tacks about two thirds through. (Graphic: Weak stomachs don’t watch)
(4) Mick Foley again this time it’s on the mic. It’s safe to watch this one.