Wrestling... the word means different things to different people. For some, wrestling means actual amateur-style wrestling. Two sweaty teenage boys in singlets rolling around on a mat in a high school gym is the true meaning of the word to them. Sometimes these teenage boys call wimpy non-wrestling types "fag" in the hallway, which is baffling to me. For more people, whether they're fans or not, wrestling means two (or more) sweaty adult men pounding on each other in the "squared circle" and maybe hitting one another with folding chairs or ladders. There's a reason more people think of meaning #2: because it's awesome.
Pro wrestling will always have its detractors. "It's fake!" they'll say, implying that because results are predetermined that the amazing feats the performers are capable of in the ring don't matter. I'm not sure why this is such a hangup for certain people. To me, that would be like scoffing at Pulp Fiction, because Uma Thurman didn't really overdose on heroin, and John Travolta didn't really get shot. That's fake!
It's well known that pro wrestling is "sports entertainment", a combination of real physicality with scripted plots. And while sometimes the results of this combination can be awkward and hilarious, much of the time it's just fun to watch. But I'm not here to beat the drum of respect for pro wrestlers. I'm sure there's already countless websites dedicated to that cause. Nay, I'm here to point out several ways in which pro wrestling is better than real life.
1. Everything is Settled in the Ring
Imagine if after this year's Superbowl (do I have to legally call it "The Big Game" if I don't have permission from the NFL to type "Superbowl"?) the 49ers decided to get even with the Ravens for their defeat in the parking lot after the game. Just as the Ravens have all piled into a ludicrously long limousine to head off to Disneyland a monster truck comes thundering through the parking lot and smashes into the limo. It was a horrific act of aggression that oversteps the boundaries of good sportsmanship by the length of a Canadian football field. In the real world, the 49ers players responsible would be arrested, and they probably wouldn't get the deposit on the monster truck back.
In pro wrestling, this sort of thing happens way more frequently than you'd expect. If this happened on WWE's Monday Night Raw, you could expect the victim of the assault to appear on next week's show, microphone in hand, to call out his attacker for such a cowardly act of monster truckism, and a match would be signed for the next pay-per-view event. Perhaps the match would carry special stipulations to ensure maximum mayhem, such as a hardcore match (in which weapons can be used legally) or winner gets the loser's girlfriend for some reason.
Suppose this parking lot assault really happened after an NFL game, and suppose that the NFL said, "No thanks, legal system. We'll handle this." The Ravens player with the sweetest microphone skills would appear on TV to call out the 49ers. They'd have a Superbowl rematch, but there would be an extra stipulation since the 49ers had already had their chance. If the Ravens win this time, the 49ers would be kicked out of the NFL for life! That would be awesome. So many people would tune in to see that. But that will never happen, because the NFL is too soft, brother!
Rolling with the comparisons to the NFL, when you hear 'Michael Vick' what do you think of? His skills as a quarterback or the fact that he used to run a dog fighting/gambling ring responsible for disgusting mistreatment of animals? Some people felt that he should have been banned from the NFL for his actions, while others felt that after he had served his time and paid his debt to society, that bygones could be bygones. Regardless of which opinion you held, it was still an opinion based on the dog fighting.
Now, suppose that Vick hadn't just been holding the fights on his property and financing much of the operation, but had gone so far as to make these activities a big part of his public persona. His 'gimmick' would include gloating to the audience before games about how much money he makes from the dog fights, and kidnapping opposing players' dogs and forcing them to duke it out with other dogs. Most people would never forgive Vick for this, and rightly so.
In the world of pro wrestling Vick would be equally hated for this sort of behavior, but wrestling fans can, surprisingly, be a very forgiving bunch. If Vick emerged sometime down the road with a new gimmick as a good guy, told the crowd how much he loved their city, and came to the rescue of other good guys who were receiving a beat down, most likely the fans would be willing to forgive him for his past indiscretions and chant his name.
I don't feel that Vick should be forgiven for what he's done in the past, and I don't really buy his speaking out against animal abuse and being photographed holding cute puppies as anything more than a desperate public relations move, but what if he really has reformed? Many of us believe in second chances, or at least say we do, so shouldn't he get the chance to prove that he's something more than just the dog fight scumbag?
In wrestling, often times somebody like The Rock can go from being one of the most booed heels (bad guys) ever to being one of the most cheered faces (good guys) simply by switching sides and switching attitudes. So maybe he did hit your favorite wrestler with a steel chair every night for two years; it doesn't matter, because he's seen the error of his ways, and now he's ready to fight the good fight. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we accidentally dick somebody over because we're focusing too much on ourselves, and sometimes we intentionally dick somebody over just because we feel like being a dick (and we hate that the other person thinks Nickelback is a great band). We often feel bad about our actions at a later time, but sometimes it's just too late. Your former friend never forgives you for stealing his girlfriend or eating the last of his ravioli. The bridge is burned, and there's no turning back. Wouldn't it be nice if life operated by pro wrestling standards, and you could regain the trust of your friend just by changing your t-shirt and sweet talking a crowd of spectators?
Of course, more often than not a wrestler's reform is part of an evil plot to infiltrate the ranks of the good guys and screw them over later, so maybe this isn't the most bulletproof example of how pro wrestling is better than reality. But this is a post about pro wrestling on a comedic blog, so I'm not expecting it to be dissected by Harvard students. Or maybe it will... I heard Sarah Palin will be teaching there, so apparently they have no standards whatsoever.
3. Reinvention is Fine
Remember when Madonna was well-respected? No? Me either, but I do remember when she was insanely popular. Part of her appeal was her almost supernatural ability to reinvent herself. This worked really well for her until the general public started to catch on and ask questions like, "Wait, why is she British now?" Her strategy fizzled out and stopped working, and for most artists it doesn't work at all. (Remember when Jewel all of the sudden was a leather-clad dominatrix or whatever for like two seconds?)
In the alternate universe rules that dictate what can happen in pro wrestling, reinvention is not only fine but an almost necessary step toward becoming a household name. Wrestlers are often able to escape ridiculous gimmicks by trying new ones out, disappearing for a few months before reemerging with a new costume, hoping that this time everything clicks and they become successful.
Let's pretend it's the mid 1990s. Because having an idiotic gimmick is part of the pro wrestling game at this time, you debut in the WWF as a sadistic dentist that's also a wrestler. Obviously, this isn't going to last forever. People will start saying things like, "A dentist character? And I thought the voodoo guy and the clown with the midget sidekick were bad!" If you were a pop singer who tried to pull off wearing a dentist's uniform while ironically having horrible teeth, your career might never recover. You'd forever be shamefully mocked as 'that dentist pop singer'. But if you were a wrestler, there would be a solution that not only worked but worked extremely well. You'd put on a mask and become the brother of another wrestler who'd never mentioned you before because he tried to kill you by burning down your childhood home while you were trapped inside. Bingo! You've got a new gimmick, and even though pretty much everybody is aware that you used to masquerade as Bad Dentist Wrestler, they're willing to forget this and believe that you're a tortured soul with a horribly scarred face.
Wouldn't it be great if in real life you were free to totally ditch your current persona and try out new ones until you found something that stuck? I'm not a guy pushing thirty who writes a blog and whose only sources of income are selling plasma and his collections of records and toys. No, I'm a detective now! Or maybe a rich, powerful yacht owner. Or maybe the mysterious masked brother of somebody you know. The possibilities are endless.
In college I occasionally chose to wear awful clothes strictly because I thought it was funny. While sitting in class in a Hawaiian shirt, baggy dress pants, and a fedora, I was questioned by a girl I went to high school with. "Why didn't you dress like that in high school?" she smugly asked. I didn't have much of a response, but even if I did it would have been no use, because the rest of the class had already let out a collective "Ooooooooh!!" I had apparently been outed as a 'phony' because I had decided that day that it would be fun to dress like a loose cannon character from a 70s cop show.
But what if I had really hated who I was and how I appeared in high school, and this had been a desperate attempt to distance myself from that? This bitch, for no particular reason, would have just reminded me of my past. I would have been shamed in front of all of my classmates, and a real, lasting shame that went beyond "I guess these guys don't think my clothes are funny." However, whatever the circumstances of my new appearance, in the pro wrestling universe it wouldn't have mattered. My classmates would have gladly accepted an attempt at reinvention, and the girl would perhaps have been scolded and mocked for not playing along and having fun.
So whether you're a hardcore wrestling fanatic, a casual fan, or somebody who will always think that grown men pretending to punch each other is stupid and pointless, I think you'd have to agree that life would be a lot better if it operated on the same logic as pro wrestling. The NFL would be more exciting, Madonna would have perhaps had a dentist phase, and you could stop being that person at the office that everyone is pretty sure farts all afternoon and start being something awesome like a former fighter pilot or a ninja.