April is over, and nobody’s feeling that more than I am. During my month of fun, I got to try many things I’ve actually wanted to do. It was delightful. But Fun April is over and I’m back to making myself do things I just don’t want to do, things I’ve never wanted to do. After all the joy April brought me, I knew the transition wouldn’t be easy. But oh, man, after this week, I think I need a long shower.
In an effort to become less judgy and to try to understand others’ points of view, I decided to watch professional wrestling. What’s the attraction? Why do so many people love it? And how has it managed to grow in popularity over the sixty or so years it’s been around?
I was familiar with many of the WWF wrestlers from my childhood – Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper and the Iron Sheik – but that wasn’t from watching any actual wrestling matches. It was from the marvelous Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling. Quality children’s programming, obviously.
Several years back, a member of our church congregation participated in a local wrestling organization so my husband and several friends attended one of the bouts to support him. My husband enjoyed himself so much, he still talks about it ten years later. And after our experience watching a local roller derby match, I started to think maybe if I gave WWE a try, I might not think it was so bad.
So this week I immersed myself in professional wrestling. I watched almost every WWE show offered on hulu (because there’s no way I’m paying money to watch this stuff) and I sometimes watched for ten whole minutes at a time before skipping ahead. I spent so much more time than I ever imagined I would (almost two whole hours!!!) and it was not easy. You know, sometimes when I try something and don’t like it, I try to find a nice way to explain why it was awful. But I just can’t find a nice way to convey how much I hated this.
Most of us worked at crummy part-time jobs when we were in high school that gave us the chance to spend time with people we wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends and with whom we would never, ever want to hang out outside of work (or even accept a ride home from, even if our mom was really late picking us up). That’s how I feel about the WWE wrestlers. And announcers. And audience members.
Or you know the People of Walmart who are interesting enough that you might spend thirty seconds wondering about their lives outside of Walmart but you wouldn’t dream of following them home to actually find out? That’s what it felt like I was doing this week. And I don’t think it’s accidental that I made that connection. I think that’s just the vibe they’re going for.
It’s as if they keep a copy of The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste on hand so they won’t leave out a single detail: Rednecks? Check… Hair Weaves? Check… Pleather? Spray tans? Spandex? Man perms? Check, check, check, and:
And the formats of the shows are just as bad, combining the worst parts of television: reality show backstabbing, gratuitous violence, objectification of women, and annoying sports announcers.
There are many different shows on the WWE Network and I didn’t watch all of them, just enough to give you a quick tour. WWE NXT features new and up-and-coming performers. Its production value is not nearly as overblown as the bigger shows like Raw and Smackdown and the audience is pretty small. It’s kind of entertaining to watch the fights because they are more obviously choreographed than those between more seasoned performers (“Ok, set up to be flipped, now flip, now I’ll grab your arm…” kind of like me in my self-defense class.)
WWE Divas is very different from the other shows because it’s about girls and instead of threatening each other backstage like the men do, the Divas hug, talk about hair, guys, and phones…you know, girl stuff. And then they go fight each other. But then they’re totally BFFs afterwards. A big chunk of the show is spent following the women’s “real” lives outside of the ring in a reality show format. I couldn’t bear to watch any of their conversations (especially between the Bella Twins) for very long though because they were unbelievably dumb. Like I actually cannot believe anyone can be that dumb, and I’ve even seen those Facebook Fails.
After giving WWE shows a try and deciding that I was right to stay away in the first place, I wondered what exactly bothered me the most about it? Was it the outfits? No, I was raised on He-Man and The Dukes of Hazzard. This wasn’t any different.
Was it the violence? Surprisingly, not so much. I can’t handle violence, but it’s all just choreography so I watched it more as a dance routine than a fight.
If anything, the violence just got boring after a while. If everything is scripted and the outcome is already decided, then I have no reason to care. I know a lot of WWE fans tell critics like me that it’s just like watching a scripted fight scene in a movie or show, which may be true. But most shows I watch only have short fight scenes, if any. My attention span for caring about imaginary winners of imaginary fights is limited.
That’s not to say I wasn’t disturbed by some of the characters. The cheesy spandex costumes and Lucha libre masks made the fights more obviously clown-like so it was easy to see it for the fictional story that it is. It was the performers whose costumes were designed to look everyday clothes that made me uncomfortable to watch. Luke Harper’s sweaty wife beater shirt’s pretty bad, but the worst for me is Dean Ambrose. There’s nothing “dressed-up” about him, which is what makes him so creepy – normal clothes, haircut, and name. The only thing “put on” is his facial expression when he’s trying to look unhinged, but when he’s not making goofy “crazy guy” faces, he looks like he could be someone’s neighbor or boyfriend or manager at Taco Bell. That’s what makes him scary to me.
I think what really bothered me about watching these shows was just how dumb it all was. The writing was about as smooth as an LDS roadshow and the acting made me feel like I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion, except with more shouting and threats.The storylines include not only the rivalries between wrestlers, but also the WWE executives who have their backroom discussions right there in the ring and often work out their differences by (you guessed it) fighting it out. Just this week the almost-50-year-old retired wrestler/Director of Operations of WWE
changed out of his suit took off his shirt to fight the 28-year-old WWE World Heavyweight Champion in an effort to teach him to respect his elders, even if doing so might cost him his job.
But judging from his visit to the Daily Show, the whippersnapper didn’t learn his lesson.
I always try to learn something from each new thing I try and this week is no exception. I think I learned that it’s just not classy to shout or get angry. I’m rarely tempted to try a flying clothesline or a diving fist drop, but I do allow myself to get sucked into arguments and to raise my voice on occasion. Maybe the next time I find myself in that kind of situation, I should remind myself how annoying it was to watch all the yelling on WWE. If it’s tacky on t.v. (or in the checkout line at Walmart), then I should have more class than to stoop to that level. Because the greater the distance between me and the WWE, the better.