In defence of professional wrestling

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Is there a single wrestling fan amongst us who at one point hasn’t been derogatorily asked,  “You like wrestling?”  If so, I’d like to know what planet you live on, and if there’s rent control.  Let’s face reality, wrestling fans: as popular as wrestling is, it has never been truly respected as a form of entertainment.  Wrestling ranks lower than movies and television —even though it excels at both (Hercules notwithstanding) — and slightly higher than circuses and snuff films.  I decided to write this article in an attempt to educate, and not necessarily change, the minds of those bewildered by people who love wrestling.  Wrestling, like almost anything, is subjective.  You either dig it, or you don’t.  If nothing else, my hope is that I can give the head-scratchers a rudimentary understanding of what all the fuss is about.  Of course, people who hate, or don’t understand wrestling, will never read this, so this is a completely masturbatory venture on my part, and for the record, I’m a huge fan of masturbation.  Here it goes…

The critique I hear the most often is that wrestling is fake.  Okay.  What about movies and television shows? Aren’t they fake too? WTF!  So why is wrestling’s fakery so perplexing?  Is it that it masquerades as “sport”?  Don’t movies often masquerade as real life or fantasy? WTF! Even most “reality” shows are scripted.  If Duck Dynasty was any more scripted, the season finale would have Sy coming out of a shower claiming the previous season was a dream.  As fake as wrestling is, I would say it’s more real than anything that’s faked in television and movies.  I’d like to see the cast of The Big Bang Theory absorb a pile-driver and backhand chop.  See how that fake feels, dweeboids. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the assault on “investigative reporter”, John Stossel when he told wrestler, David Schultz, he thought wrestling was fake. Have a look-see:  I hate admit that I enjoy this clip. After all. Stossel was hurt and settled out of court for a cool 425 G’s.  I generally don’t encourage violence, with certain exceptions: Nazis, sexual predators and whiney, future FOX “investigative reporters,” who approach wrestlers telling them that wrestling is fake. I’m just happy it wasn’t Barbara Walters … kind of.  Wrestling being fake is public knowledge nowadays.  But even when it wasn’t, one had to be a complete waterhead not to realize it on some level. Just as it is with scripted movies and television, one suspends their disbelief in order to be entertained. These days there is no longer a pretence of reality. (I heard that the pretence was dropped so Vince could avoid paying state athletic taxes. No wonder he’s a fucking billionaire. Genius!)  So, in a sense, since kayfabe is passe, not liking wrestling because it’s fake, is like not liking movies because actors are in them. You don’t hear people say that Citizen Kane sucks because it’s Orson Welles isn’t Randolph Hearst. However, you do hear that Citizen Kane sucks because it’s in black and white, a sentiment that makes me want to barf my guts out.  Kids today. 

Many don’t like wrestling because they say it glorifies violence, especially among young people.  I get it.  But, do we really think kids are going to ever love watching the verbal ballet of debates? Maybe, if folding metal chairs were allowed in the rebuttals.  Kids, and man-children like me, like violence WHEN IT ISN’T REAL!  And it’s the responsibility of parents to keep track of their kids viewing habits, and help them contextualize this stuff.  All I can say is that I’m glad my parents were completely self-absorbed. I could have been watching wrestling porn for all they knew.  Wrestling porn… mmmm. On top of that, the WWE goes out of its way to promote the dangers of kids trying the wrestling moves at home.  Whether this is a genuine concern, or a legal angle, is irrelevant.  Violence is everywhere, and sadly, most of it is real.  Violence in the context of entertainment is here to stay.  In my view, if a kid doesn’t get that wrestling is fun entertainment, and dangerous, then anything could potentially set this kid off.  We need to parent our kids, so the vast majority of people that get it can enjoy the faux carnage. As far as the ECW-style violence (a.k.a. hardcore wrestling) is concerned, I have no defence.  Its very nature was to be extreme, shocking, anarchic and irresponsible.  Having said that, I believe every genre in entertainment needs outlaws to shake things up.  Film needed John Waters.  Music needed Sex Pistols.  Literature needed Hunter S. Thompson.  And wrestling needed Paul Heyman. No apologies here. 

There also seems to be a prejudice against the intellect of wrestlers.  I’m not saying that all wresters are Rhodes scholars, but so many of them are very intelligent.  Yes , they can shoot on each other like premenstrual housewives on too many spritzers, but every industry jealousy and acrimony within it.  I beseech you to watch wrestling documentaries, or interviews with the performers online, and you’ll see what I mean.  Out of character, most of these performers are bright.  Mick Foley is a best-selling author.  George (The Animal) Steele was a teacher.  Bobby Heenan was nicknamed “The Brain”… well, okay, he called himself that. And The Iron Sheik … I better quit while I’m ahead. The short of it is that wrestlers are a lot smarter than some people think.  Like actors, they play characters. Would you see the movie Dumb and Dumber and say that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are idiots?  There is blatant snobbery going on here, and I fucking hate snobs. 

There is an unwritten code between fans and their idols. The code is that the artist does the best work he/she can do, and the fans will support it.  If they suck, they won’t. It’s that simple.  I can’t think of another art form where that code has more stakes than pro wrestling, and for that, wrestlers deserve respect.  There is no off-season in wrestling.  Wrestlers are expected to perform physically demanding moves, and take insane risks on a regular basis.  Like with any other sport, or performance-oriented art, some go above and beyond the call of duty to give the fans an extraordinary experience.  They do it for themselves, yes, but they also do it for the fans, because the good ones realize that the fans are a part of the show.  Without them, you got nothin’, Charlie. Sure, the fans fork over money, but they are also akin to the Greek chorus, who, by their reactions to the wrestlers and angles, comment on the action, for better, or worse.  For me, this was most visible in Heyman’s ECW.  The fans were pivotal in pushing the wrestlers to new heights. Yes, they were rabid animals, but it’s Philly and all their sports fans are rabid animals. Anyhow, it’s hard for me to stomach that there are people who can’t appreciate what someone like Mick Foley, or Edge, or Flair sacrifice for their art and our entertainment.  There are too many fantastic wrestlers to mention here, but they all deserve a wider respect. I get that it’s not Shakespeare, ballet or opera, but I never liked Shakespeare, ballet or opera.  However, and this is crucial, I respect them.  Why?  Because I’m not a douchenozzle.  It’s called being mature and open-minded. 

Lastly, I want to shine a light on the beauty of the business when it’s working well.  Pro wrestling is a truly mind-blowing enterprise that deserves our respect.  If the skill of running an outfit like the WWE, with all it’s intricacies, doesn’t impress you, I’m sure their financial bottom-line will … if that kind of thing turns your crank. Without going into the evolution of wrestling from a territorial business to a international phenomenon, let me mention a few aspects of the wrestling profession that should at least make you think before you judge it. I’m probably just scratching the surface, but here’s at least some of what is involved.  

  • scouting talent 
  • running a minor league promotion to develop talent 
  • dealing with talent contracts – both for legends and current workers
  • creative teams that chart story-lines and create characters
  • renting facilities for show
  • having a legal staff
  • dealing with talent (difficult and easy)
  • marketing and managing for a worldwide television network
  • live event and television production
  • creation and selling of merchandise
  • charity events
  • event co-ordination
  • medical staff and trainers
  • choreography
  • microphone skills
  • the art of play-by-play announcing and colour commentary
  • sedating Paul Heyman
  • feeding The Big Show

The list goes on …  Not exactly a simple operation. So, for all you snobs, dilettantes and mayhem-poopers, next time you judge professional wrestling, just remember that it’s a sport, an art and a business.  Then go fuck yourself, you jabroni shitheads.

Spencer “Spenny” Rice is one half of the comedic duo from Kenny vs. Spenny and the executive producer of the documentary series X-Rayted. Follow him on Facebook — — or on Twitter (@Spenny) and watch re-runs of KVS for years to come.