Thursday, September 29, 2022

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For the Love of Wrestling: The Secret Ingredients that Makes Wrestling Special

Last week I had a conversation with my work colleague, Frankie. It was the usual Sunday lul, the till was quiet, and our manager was off. Like most things in my life, our chat inevitably boiled down to wrestling. As someone with very little knowledge of the wrestling world, Frankie, in the kindest way possible, asked, “How can you like something that you know will happen?”

It’s a question that I have heard in various guises since I was seven. “You know that’s fake, right? And “Wrestling? That’s so gay.” (Ah yes, that classic piece of 90s culture). Except for this time, it was said with genuine interest, not derision, after throwing a word salad at poor Frankie, that included me giving a hastily put-together intro into wrestling lingo and calling a match. I like to think Frankie had a better understanding of wrestling. Hopefully, my description of the Hangman Omega feud was a good enough example of the inevitable catharsis wrestling offers. Regardless of how effective my whistle-stop explanation was, Frankie’s words got me wondering, why do I love wrestling?

My love of wrestling is something I often come back to. Many people grow out of wrestling, but for some unexplained reason, I haven’t. As I have gotten older, I have gained some clarity on my love of wrestling, one that is rooted in its flamboyance, grandeur, and athleticism. This isn’t a definitive list of reasons for why everyone should love wrestling, but my reasons. You may connect to them or disagree entirely. But with the wrestling world moving at such a breakneck pace and the inherent shame of trying to speak to a non-fan about wrestling, we often do not reflect on why we love it.

Like most children who caught a glimpse of wrestling, I was drawn to its larger-than-life characters. The vast and wacky range of characters that stood in the ring each week talking about reeking of awesomeness or shoving various items up their opponent’s candy asses. My Saturday morning cartoons brought living, breathing superheroes, villains, monsters, and lords of darkness. It is something that has never left me, even to this day. Whether you’re the king of sloth style, an obnoxious, entitled rich boy who thinks he’s god’s gift to wrestling, or a genie girl, I love it all.

But it is more than just these personalities themselves. It is how they are conveyed. The ability to distill an entire persona into a look, a walk, an entrance. It is a vital skill, the key to catching someone who’s channel hopping or doom scrolling. In that brief moment that they see a wrestler, they should instantly know who they are and what they’re about. It’s a talent the women’s roster has in spades. Maybe it is because of entrenched gender roles or love of channeling their personality into their appearance. Still, the wrestling women have some extra flair when getting their characters across. There are small black boots, black trunks, no BS mentality in women’s wrestling. The focus is showcasing who they are, and their personalities span a broader scope. You have the traditional all-business badasses like Rhea Ripley and Shayna Baszler. The spectacle of Charlotte Flair or Naomi. The power of Bianca Belair. All of it is great. All of it is different. All conveyed in a matter of seconds.

It’s not just the pageantry of wrestling I love. Deep inside the lizard part of my brain is a love for the violence and the spectacle of wrestling. The thrill of seeing something that makes me wince and cringe. Even the goriest video nasty has trouble eliciting the same response as seeing a Coffin Drop or that famed Cactus Jack elbow from the ring apron.

This love of violence isn’t just wanton bloodlust. There’s also the side of me that appreciates the beauty and strength it takes to pull off a move. Again, this is an aspect that I have enjoyed with age. Despite what I was told at seven, taking bumps hurts. It hurts. There is a tremendous amount of coordination, timing, and athleticism that goes into it. It’s this skill that I am constantly in awe of. Every Black Arrow, every One-Winged Angel, moves I’ve seen countless times still fill me with the same wonder as the first.

The other defining reason for my love of wrestling is comedy. It is this silly pantomime stuff that I consider wrestlings special sauce. It’s a divisive part of wrestling that more archaic members of the wrestling business believe cannot draw or make money. I, on the other hand, love it. The gooeyness of acts like the Dark Order or Young Bucks only adds to their characters. Some people argue that it detracts from the seriousness of wrestling. I say it adds to it. The ability to not take yourself too seriously is the sign of a great wrestler. Think back to your favorite backstage segment. Odds are there was always someone willing to act the fool. It could be riding a milk truck to the ring, turning your championship belt into an eco-friendly hemp belt, or riding a lawnmower with your best friends. These little comedy pieces are one of the final flourishes that make wrestling, wrestling. To me, wrestling has always been a variety show, one that should just as easily make you laugh as it does cheer.

We all have our reasons for falling in love with wrestling, and my opinions are just that, opinions, not gospel. You may disagree with my love for the silliness of wrestling, and guess what, that is perfectly fine. But what we as wrestling fans should never forget is why we fell in love with wrestling in the first place. It is something that so often falls to the wayside and has us stuck in a rut, watching wrestling we don’t love. Knowing why we fell in love with wrestling helps maintain our fandom. Always remember that wrestling is unique. It’s ballet with blood. It’s a trapeze without the net. It’s unlike anything else out there, and I love it.

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