Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Squared Circle

I am into dark, intense, brooding shit. TV shows like Breaking Bad. Roleplaying games like Call of Cthulhu. Videogames like the Arkham Batman games. I'm not particularly proud of this, but it's what I gravitate towards. The heart wants what it wants.

There is, however, one odd anamoly in my predictable tastes. One special part of my heart devoted to something a little bit different. That, for me, is professional wrestling; specifically, World Wrestling Entertainment, the WWE.

Why this paradoxical appreciation for a "sport" that's often considered campy, crass, or even just plain stupid? Let me count the ways:

1. There's nothing else like it out there. I will admit that the WWE is deserving of much of the criticisms that people level against it. The thing about, though, is that when the WWE gets it right, when they actually deliver on what it is they do? It is something the likes of which you'll never see anywhere else. Not in a play. Not at the circus. Not at a UFC fighting match, or a boxing match, or an action movie, or even a videogame. Watching two (or more) pro wrestlers land these sick moves, and telling a story of conflict right there on the canvas is an entertainment experience that is truly one of a kind. It's worth putting up with hours of fluff to get to just those few precious minutes of something amazing.

2. They're changing with the times. There used to be a time when being a woman in wrestling meant a few options, none of them very good. Nowadays, the women's wrestlers in the WWE are getting to the same level as the stuff put on by the men. Their rosters are getting bigger, their personalities and mic skills are getting better, and the in-the-ring athleticism? Off the hook! The WWE still has some problems...particularly with men/women of color and how they tend to get portrayed...but they've come a long way.

3. The Reality Era. The WWE is in what has been dubbed "the Reality Era" right now. That means that pro wrestling these days is as much about those behind the curtain as it is those in front of it. Long, long gone are the days where announcers were trying to convince us that the Undertaker is really some kind of wrestling zombie. Nowadays, pro wrestlers have big, bold personalities, but they are still fundamentally human, and that makes them relatable and exciting to watch. Of course there are still a few throwbacks (Bray Wyatt, to name one), but their stage presence is precisely that: a throwback to a different time, meant to be "old school" and for the hardcore to appreciate.

4. Story First. The one thing missing from sports, the thing that sets the WWE apart, is story. Sure, the stories may not always be all that great, but just the fact that they exist is something special. And we're not just talking a story contructed by announcers and producers to give context to a game; we're talking about an honest to God story, with protagonists, antagonists, themes, and tones. I'd probably watch a lot more football if that were the case in the NFL!

I do not expect too many people to get into the WWE. And I am definitely not saying that it's good, beginning to end. But when I think about all my fellow geeks out there who talk the same way about their anime shows and their SyFy channel TV shows, I think to myself, "Why not wrestling?"

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