A Personal Tribute To The Kid That Loved Wrestling (Opinion Essay)
If somebody asked me what the most frustrating thing
for me during quarantine has been, I could not pinpoint one specific event or
aspect...but that would not stop me from complaining for hours and being
melancholic. When asked about the positives though, I would really have to
think and reflect. There might have been a handful of things that have kept me
somewhat sane over the span of these depressing months that still have not come
to an end. But there certainly has been one discovery that captured my
attention and filled me with joy...
At some point during the pandemic, I found out that the WWE was uploading iconic matches from the past on their YouTube channel. Intrigued by the thumbnails and fascinated by the names I read - Jeff Hardy, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, Batista, The Rock, Randy Orton, John Cena, etc. - which I could still recall from my childhood, I started watching. My eyes were glued to the screen as if I had been 8 years old again.
Obviously, re-watching these events today, you are not looking at the action the way you did as a kid. You can spot the flaws and realize how ridiculous some of the storylines and rivalries were. As a child, you do not get a grasp of the unrealistic nature of the WWE.
However, I concluded: It simply does not matter. Who cares if the moves and the acting are not realistic? It is not about being realistic and authentic. The WWE intends to do one thing, which is to entertain. And you cannot deny that what you are seeing is entertaining. It might be dull, nevertheless, it gets the job done. In my case, the huge emphasis on entertainment might have even laid the groundwork for a growing fascination for US sports
It is pure exaggeration most of the time. Over-the-top brutality, a bombastic presentation including fireworks, jumbotrons and packed arenas, commentators who speak total nonsense throughout the night and weird and extravagant characters that can easily be categorized into good and bad.
"Sounds like a TV show", some might say. Well, who says it is not? RAW and SMACKDOWN air weekly on Monday and Friday for decades now, just like a regular TV show. The flamboyant athletes inside the ring connect to their audience through staged monologues and their unique appearance and behavior. Even the dialogues and scenarios could be taken straight out of a TV drama series.
But still, even though most of the action is somewhat staged, the choreographies are athletic feats not to be taken lightly. The acts of strength and high-flying maneuvers displayed by these charismatic specimens are the product of innumerable hours in the gym and training facility and come with certain risks. Mistakes while performing can lead to devastating injuries, which is why the WWE emphasizes to "not try this at home" in their commercials and other campaigns.
However, watching the current episodes of RAW and SMACKDOWN has been difficult. Not having paid close attention to the organization for about half a decade has resulted in confusion. A bunch of new names I cannot really connect with, a new and somewhat uncommon look and an overall different feel to it all complicates watching and appreciating what is going on.
A defensible argument though, is that the WWE, and the experience it tries to convey, most certainly suffer from the consequences of the pandemic. With no fans present - therefore, not filling arenas or stadiums but televising out of their own facility, which makes for a much smaller venue - the show lacks energy and has an unnatural appearance.
Nevertheless, since I grew up during an era where the WWE logo had a much more rigid look and names like John Cena or Rey Mysterio dominated the main card, I am having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about the current state of World Wrestling Entertainment. Being used to the controversial nature the WWE of the 2000s possessed, I am not a big fan of the direction in which the organization has developed over the years. But I assume the WWE, over the span of its existence, has simply conformed to the cultural norms of the given circumstances and has represented the zeitgeist of each decade, which has led to its current presentation.
In comparison, the WWE of the 90s and early 00s "Attitude Era" was thriving off controversy, showcasing acts that would be considered more than just questionable nowadays. Even the late 2000s had a lot to offer, being carried by names like Jeff Hardy, Edge, John Cena, Triple H or Randy Orton. Consequently, I prefer watching those old tapes on YouTube to watching the live shows in 2020.
But I must admit that the nostalgia aspect is most likely the deciding factor why I keep watching fights from the 2000s. It reminds me of my childhood and takes me back to a period of less worry and sorrow. A time when the biggest drama I witnessed was the one guys like CM Punk or The Miz were stirring up inside the ropes. When I was up late on weekends watching SMACKDOWN on tape delay. When elementary school was "stressful" and when I spent my money on WWE action figures and magazines. When my friends and I tried to emulate the wrestling moves we saw on TV as accurately as we possibly could on mattresses and trampolines. A period in time that was full of fun, play and joy and seemed endless...until it eventually and unexpectedly came to an end.
During a pandemic-plagued year full of uncertainty, boredom, loneliness, missteps, worry and restriction, the WWE might have provided a comfort I could not have attained in any other way. Putting me in a time machine to the year 2008, Saturday night, on the couch in our living room, watching SMACKDOWN with my parents...