The big kid inside us all

I know yis all think that I’m a big fool for getting a kick out of wrestling, but as a young male with a leaning towards macho cock-rock, it’s hard not to be drawn to the ass-kicking soap opera that is WWE in one form or another. Debates will always rage as to what the attraction is and how this worldwide phenomenon can turn sensible, mature young men in to rabid, screaming twelve year olds again. The thing that critics don’t seem to understand about wrestling is that the whole thing is not meant to be taken seriously. Leaving aside the more intelligently-challenged fans (most of whom inhabit small towns in West Virginia I’m told), no fans take it any more seriously than they do a TV show, with a touch of sport-allegiance thrown in. We know it’s not real, that it’s scripted and choreographed. We understand that when Kat and Alfie broke up in Eastenders they were just acting – but it didn’t stop us from getting emotionally involved in the characters and their storyline. It’s the same principal.

My point is, that WWE is a live-action soap opera that is just as valid an entertainment vehicle as a TV soap.

The over-the-top storylines range from brilliantly entertaining to deadly banal and/or stupid. Eastenders and Coronation Street have always thrived despite having stupid storylines and boring characters mingling with the good and the great. WWE tells a story using events and characters. Some characters sit in the background for a long time before their popularity with viewers sees them thrust in to a main storyline. Some characters are pushed on us by the writers because they like them and have an idea for them that they want to share – sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. Sometimes storylines don’t make sense, or sometimes they’re so bad that they’ll be buried by the writers by making a character disappear for a short while hoping that fans forget.

The paragraph above could apply to either WWE or a TV soap. The outrageous antics, over-acting, costumes and makeup, female titillation, excited crowds, hard-rock music and strobe effects are another side of the show and what helps make it unique. Okay so you either ‘get it’ or you don’t. What bugs me is the self-righteous, narrow-minded people who think that because they are not in to it or don’t understand it (of course since they are of superior intellect, they do of course understand that it is just rubbish), it gives them a right to question the sanity and/or intelligence of the millions over the age of 16 who do.

To once again compare TV soaps to WWE, as you get older your interest in it changes. The advent of the Internet in the early-90s brought what they call ‘dirt sheets’ to the masses. Sites like http://www.pwtorch.com thrive by reporting not just the on-camera, in-ring news but also the behind-the-scenes news and rumours that are probably just as intriguing. The political wrangling that goes on backstage adds another dimension to what you’re watching. For example top stars like Triple H, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels are, or have been, infamous for using their position and power behind the scenes to maintain their top positions within the company. The amount of discussion and rumour that comes from a simple thing like Triple H marrying the boss’s daughter (Stephanie McMahon) is the oil that keeps the wheel turning.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg because I wouldn’t know where to stop. So just take a peek over at the PW Torch site and read some of the columns and postings to find out what I’m talking about.

The point is that last week myself and my brother went to see the WWE Smackdown brand perform at The Point in Dublin – the second of two sold out nights (two nights that sold out in combined ‘minutes’). It wasn’t cheap (about 70EUR) and it wasn’t really like TV (basic decoration, no pyros – although the Point would not be suitable for it perhaps). But they put on a three hour show and the roster who were involved really did make a great effort to entertain everyone. It was funny without being juvenile and although a bit boring in parts, what show isn’t? Even you favourite band are boring at times.

I then listened to a radio debate on the way home where the host, Adrian Kennedy, patronised and condescended WWE fans by calling it nonsense and not even knowing (or at least claiming not to know) what the initials WWE stood for, behaving unprofessionally and showing a complete lack of respect for the topic at hand. We’re not talking about some sort of pedophilia organisation here. He brought on some guy then that claimed his son had broken his neck while doing a wrestling move and used this as a springboard for an attack on wrestling fans in general. The focus of his argument was not on how dangerous it was (a debate in itself) but rather that people who indulged in it as a pastime were simple and a bit pathetic.

I’m afraid the only pathetic thing about it all is that being complete ignorant on a subject, as Adrian Kennedy and the mouthy sidekicks he wheeled on to the show that night, gives you free reign to cricitise and make no attempt to understand. It would be equivalent to me coming on a radio show and slagging off opera because it bores me to tears. “Some fat woman screaming her lungs out in Italian? Is that it?” But then again I’ve had to listen to people slag off heavy metal since I was 15 so my shoulders should be broad enough by now.

We live in a world though where the lowest common denominator isn’t defined by what people are in to, but rather how people react to what they’re not.

Show some tolerance, it doesn’t cost anything. For those of you with any quality of character, the pictures from our enjoyable night out are at http://www.clubi.ie/grizmond/misc/wwe0405.htm.

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