"Professional wrestling's most mysterious hold is on its audience." - Luke Neely
As a journalist by major and nature, I’m not content to just know of things – I have a desperate need to explore them. I can’t sit idly by, watching something without at least trying out what total immersion feels like. It’d be like eating one potato chip or drinking one beer or not inhaling. I dated Swoggler Rich Camillucci for about a year and it’s impossible to date Rich Camillucci and not watch wrestling. It’s a fact, simply because of Mullet, Tope, Augie and Whidden. They come along with the package, and if you didn’t join them for Monday Night Raw, pay-per-views and Royal Rumble DVD drinking games, you just didn’t see your boyfriend very often. I could accept that.
So I asked questions, made mental notes when someone put a name to a face and offered to keep track of Royal Rumble shots so it forced me to quiz myself on the fly. [Side note: The latter didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped because the drunker a person gets, the more difficult it is to keep track of things you’re unfamiliar with. I had a minor internal freak-out during a game with the 1995 Rumble when the two Bushwhackers came out separately a few entrants apart because I could have sworn someone looking JUST LIKE THAT had already entered the ring and I was unaware there were two of them. Also, Mantaur still gives me cold sweats.]
For obvious reasons.
I started checking NoDQ.com on my own accord to get updates and followed Twitter-savvy personalities.
Actual text conversation between Rich and myself. Please keep in mind, the number of question marks in his response is a direct quote. Rich is THAT guy.
I own a Miz shirt now, which came abroad with me and reaffirmed the Parisian notion that Americans are exceedingly arrogant. I read Bill Simmons’ wrestling blogs and I’m getting into Colt Cabana’s podcast “The Art of Wrestling.” I streamed Money in the Bank online…alone, and I inundate Twitter with subpar observational humor at least weekly. I’m saving up money from my freelance writing job for Wrestlemania 28 tickets. I’m “at that point.”
Being a newcomer to wrestling in a group of peers who have held this love close to their hearts is intimidating, but it’s like being adopted by a college version of the Bluth family – loving, unstable and perpetually intoxicated. They love bringing in new fans, and they’re obviously willing to laugh at themselves and the thing they love. They’d be the first and only people I’d tell that, for instance, every time I hear David Otunga’s name, I think of a Native American tribe lost to smallpox. Or the technical Latin name for the pit of a tropical fruit. Or what I would refer to an elephant mating call as.
Or that Vince McMahon looks like a decaying version of Agent Gibbs from NCIS.
So, given this fact, I’ve grown to become a sponge for all knowledge circulating through TV, the Internet and among the Swoggle Squad. Especially with the past few weeks’ events, I’ve come to genuinely care about storylines. Namely, CM Punk has been holding my attention by the ladyballs. While it’s impossible to ignore, from an up-until-fairly-recently outsiders’ perspective with little to no bias in any direction, the storyline is being handled in such an interesting and immersive way both on and off-screen that I’ve been in a perpetual and shameless mark out, and I’ve come to accept as a testament to the quality of what the company and its talent can produce. I extend accolades for using, abusing and bending kayfabe to air dirty laundry and personal gripes, which made the experience all the sweeter. Even without background knowledge of the industry, the overall effect and utter skill it takes to riff that articulately on a microphone in front of a packed arena of people who are supposed to hate you on principle and winning them over every single time would (and should) be mind-boggling to anyone.
And that’s what people don’t understand when they make uneducated assumptions about pro wrestling. “If I’m not a hyper-macho manbaby, what’s in it for me?” Well, why do you go to the theatre or a movie or a concert or a sporting event? To be entertained. And these men haul their asses out into the ring multiple nights a week to provide audiences with that experience rolled into one awe-inspiring showcase of improvisation, character acting and athleticism. They’re showcasing their ability to be serious, committed athletes worthy of the same admiration given to Tom Brady or LeBron James (sometimes), but with that extra spark reserved for those with the gift of gab.
To someone who has recently been on the outside of the fanbase, professional wrestling is not acknowledged for what it has the potential to be. It’s considered cheesy, hokey, verbose and violent – and this is probably news to absolutely no one reading this. WWE is too showy and farcical, the indie wrestling circuit is too obscure and seeing wrestling in a podunk gymnasium in Bumblefuck, Fla. for $20 just doesn’t strike a chord with the general public. People are getting more and more hung up about getting in touch with their inner kid unless it’s a universal, socially accepted demand. In a world that prizes being cultured and globally aware, there’s no time for childishness unless it’s 1990s-era Nickelodeon. We’re a nation at war! Haven’t you heard the economy’s gone to shit? Our S&P rating is an AA-plus, people – we don’t have TIME for this.
We’d much rather simmer down with a nice white wine, turn on Mad Men and pine for the days when I would be bringing men their coffee and getting thanked with a hearty slap on the ass. Not that I don’t, it’s just not standard protocol.
But we have time for baseball – it’s the great American pastime. We can be up-in-arms about the football lockout and chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” at That-Thing-Every-Four-Years-That-Makes-Americans-Watch-Soccer. Either rooted in childhood or by the pressures of society, we make time and effort to appreciate other sports. But the majority can’t get past initial hang-ups about professional wrestling to make the connection, to understand the driving force behind its appeal. It’s what I call the “selective perspective” – we accept and support what we think we’re supposed to accept and support. I picked up wrestling because my friends did, but I loved it because of what it was. We pick up other sports because our friends did, and we love it whether we have to learn to or we actually do. Peers think yelling at a television with spandexed men suplexing other spandexed men for a pre-written storyline is childish, so that impression becomes the norm. But that isn’t a good reason to not at least give it a watch or two.
Is professional wrestling impressive? You bet. Do you feel like a little kid while watching it? Absolutely.
I’m learning about this as I go. I didn’t experience wrestling during the Attitude Era, so I’m absorbing it long after the magic has settled. I didn’t watch Undertaker victory after Undertaker victory every Mania until now, nor did I gain an interest in the sport because my dad sat me on his lap to watch Nitro in the family den. But I can appreciate what this industry is and its potential. I eagerly picked it up as a freshman in college and I’m glad because let’s face it – if you graduate without being slightly more immature in at least one respect…well. You just didn’t do college right.
Sara Solano is on a first name basis with the Swoggle Squad, which is weird because Mullet and Whidden go by their last names. Her dad asked her to buy him a Pedro Morales shirt at Mania this year and she doesn’t have the heart to tell him he hasn’t made an appearance since Wrestlemania 2. Sara nicknamed Evan Bourne Scrappy-Doo.