Everyone wants to be cool, right? Most of the time. If reading books had been cool when I was six, I would have a much higher regard for the works of Shakespeare, and a much lower regard for the art of collecting Pokemon cards. Ah, well, that’s the way things go sometimes. But what about those things that you know aren’t cool, and yet constantly and unequivocally watch, follow and are interested in? I’m talking, of course, about guilty pleasures. They keep us happy, even if we don’t tell other people about it. Usually. But here goes: my guiltiest of guilty pleasures is professional wrestling.
Look, I know it’s not “cool.” It’s big sweaty men, and some slightly smaller and less sweaty women, in spandex tights pretending to hit each other whilst fighting over a championship, with a pre-determined result. Someone else has already chosen who is going to win the match and how. As everyone always likes to say, it’s “fake.” But despite all this, it’s incredibly entertaining. Here’s why.
I’ve spent the entire year being laughed at by my housemates when I get home on a monday night and turn on the USA Network and watch Monday Night Raw. But you know what? After a typically stressful day of academics and athletics and everything else in between, it’s nice to be able to suspend reality for a little while. The larger than life characters in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) are fun to watch. Throughout history, there have been some questionable character choices, including a man wearing a chicken suit who hatched from a giant egg, as well as a pair of African-American wrestlers called “Cryme Tyme” who went around scamming people (most definitely inappropriate) all the way to the single greatest character of all time, The Undertaker. I would hazard a guess that even if you’ve never watched a full WWE match in your lifetime, you’ve heard of The Undertaker. He’s a household name like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And we’ll come back to The Undertaker later on. But the characters are what make the show. And I feel like a big stumbling block for some people is that they are characters, not “real” fighters.
The boom of UFC in the past decade shows us that combat sports are still remarkably popular and are growing. Boxing has even had a bit of a renaissance in the past few years, though they have yet to replace Floyd Mayweather as the world’s biggest draw. I, for one, am still hoping for the Conor McGregor versus Mayweather super fight. But how does this link to WWE? Well, WWE frustrates some people, because it promotes itself and its matches as if they are legitimate athletic competitions. They are not. They are, for want of a better phrase, exceptionally elaborate dance routines. And who’s ever complained about going to a dance show and seeing dancing? But this isn’t a dance show. It’s “wrestling.” People who don’t typically watch this product expect hard-hitting, ultra realistic fighting, because that is what’s usually in the mainstream media. UFC and boxing dominate the combat sports coverage for the most part.
But WWE operates outside of this realm. They aren’t a legitimate combat sport. But why should that mean they aren’t “real?” To quote the late, great Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it’s not real?” WWE tell stories. Not the masterpieces of literature like J.K. Rowling wrote, but enthralling (at times) stories nonetheless. There is incredible athleticism on show, and the electricity of a big crowd reacting together is something you cannot put a monetary value on. It’s an experience.
And THAT is why it’s my ultimate guilty pleasure. It’s an escape into a reality where not everything has to be serious. Where a man who has literally been “buried alive” more than twice throughout his career can “rise from the dead” and be one of the all-time greats of the business. I’m back to talking about The Undertaker. After a career spanning more than two decades, The Undertaker wrestled his last match at Wrestlemania 33 in Orlando this past Sunday. It was an emotional moment, as I’ve literally grown up watching this man wrestle. And I’m not alone in that. It’s a ridiculous thing that 75,000 people were in attendance in the Citrus Bowl and nearly two million subscribers watched the show on the WWE Network, but that many people says this show has an appeal “” for whatever reason. So here’s my suggestion: If you’ve never watched a WWE match before, check it out. It’s more fun than you think. And I think I’ve learned some good life skills from being a fan. Don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun, embrace your imagination, laugh and always seek out a good story. It’s not a bad way to live your life.