A Wrestling Tale 11.06.01: The Ledge


The following was inspired by Widro’s latest column. (ed. note: I lead by example)

There is a fear that exists in being exposed as a phony. Many live with it every day. My father told me before he died that he had lived with this fear all of his life. In school, he was afraid that his friends would discover that his whole arrogant jock life-style would be seen past and it would be revealed that he was little more then a scared little boy, just like everyone else. As a lawyer, he was always afraid that his clients would one day figure out that his self-confidence was nothing more than a front for his private shame that he was not giving these people the best representation. As a husband, he worried that one day his wife, my mother, would discover that he was the same person he had been in college, the same drunk who lusted after every woman who walked past him. As a father, he was afraid he would be exposed as a child with responsibilities too big for him to handle. My father felt like a big phony. So do I. So do I.

Before I come out here every night in front of you all I quake with fear behind the curtain that separates me from your line of vision. I worry that today is the day that my catchphrase will not have the same effect on you that it usually has. I’m afraid today is the day you will cease chanting along with me, “I’m rough and I’m tough and I’ve had enough!” Instead, you will sit back and watch how I wrestle. You will notice how each and every one of my matches is basically the same. You will notice that in the three months that I have been your champion, your hero, I have yet to learn a single new move, I have yet to have had a match that anyone would call a classic. I have repeated my catch phrase until you’ve had no choice but to chant it along with me, and then I have done what every bad wrestler who came before me has done. I have had bad matches that I’ve covered by playing to the crowd. By playing to you. By posing and dancing and getting real angry and shaking my head like Hulk Hogan. You are too busy cheering to look past all of it.

I am afraid that you will finally listen to the Internet. They have been calling for my head as of late. They have been unfavorably comparing me to Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, two men who are heroes to me. They have likened me to the Undertaker in his later years and Hulk Hogan, two men whom I respect, but I never wanted to wrestle like them. That is what I am doing now. I am pulling a Nash. I am acting like a Warrior. I am disgracing the already tarnished name of professional wrestling and making more money than the Benoit’s and Storm’s ever will. I need to learn how to do this. I need to learn how to wrestle, but when?

I go from airport to airport, house show to house show. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but the wear and tear of the road along with the generally poor skills that I have acquired during my few years of being a professional wrestler have led to more than one of my opponents going back to their families with a black eye and a smaller paycheck then me. I don’t pity these men, but I don’t feel right about what I do either. They think they put me over because it will help the business. It won’t.

I will be exposed, and then they’ll have to repair years of building me up into some kind of invincible monster who made the real wrestlers, the real artists look bad in the ring. By this time my following will be so big but they will all recognize me as a phony. They will hate me, most of them, but they will not want to turn to another superstar to replace me. I will be professional wrestling’s icon. I will have gone to the MTV Video Awards, I will have made the requisite low budget movie, I will have hocked deodorant and shampoo and Stacker 2. My tee-shirts will appear in shopping malls and in the drawers of every wrestling fan foolish enough to buy a 20 dollar piece of crap shirt. A dollar of every shirt bought will go into my pocket and pay for my unborn child’s college education, unless my child decides to skip college to become an awful wrestler like his father.

My God. What if my child respects me? What if my child grows up as a fan of what I do? I definitely don’t want this kind of life for him. Or her. What if I have to tell my child on my death bed that his father is nothing but a big phony? What if I must inform him or her that their father has lied to them for years and years and years? I never was a champion. I never had the respect of millions of people. A catchphrase had the respect of millions of people. A catchphrase that rhymed tough with enough and rough swept the minds of wrestling fans clean so that they cheered blindly when I hit people.

What if I stammer when I speak? My uncle was 35 when he began to stammer. There is no reason that can not happen to me.

What if I take the microphone and call the people sheep that follow me blindly?

What if I jump off this ledge and let go of all of my fears, all of my phoniness, all of my love and all of my hate for this business? What if I take my own life, doing what my father never could, exposing myself as the nothing I always knew I was, giving this world the one gift that I can by taking away, “I’m rough and I’m tough and I’ve had enough?”

What if I maybe visit some of those Make a Wish kids? Maybe by helping them, I won’t be such a phony. Of course I will be, only now I’ll be a bigger phony because I think that my appearance at the grave beds of these children will make a difference. I bet up in heaven it makes a big difference if Hulk Hogan of Steve Austin signed your ventilator before you died.

If I jump off this ledge, maybe people will thank me. Maybe they’ll come to my grave and understand the message that I was trying to get across. Maybe they’ll seek out real heroes. I don’t mean fire fighters and police officers and such, although they can be real heroes as well. I consider a person a real hero if they strive for excellence. No. Not if they strive for excellence. If they show excellence, then they are heroes. Men like Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. Men like Rob Van Dam and Theodore Roosevelt. Tenacious D. Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter and Randy Johnson. People who showed and show every day that they are the best, not with their words, but with their actions. I am considered a hero by many, but I am far from a hero. I am a drop away from being a hero.

Instead, I’ll climb back inside and continue to live with the fear of being exposed as a phony, as a false hero. But you know what exists inside of me that is bigger then the fear? The hope. The hope that you will all realize who I truly am, the hope that you will expose me as a phony and reject me. The hope that my catchphrase will stop eliciting cheers and you will turn on me and boo. The hope that I will be able to stop living in fear when you stop accepting your entertainment as idiocy. I pray for exposure. I pray for this lie to end. I pray I don’t have to tell my unborn child on my deathbed that I am ashamed of myself for living the life that I led.

More likely, I’ll become a bad guy when you stop cheering, I’ll stop saying my catch phrase and you’ll all begin to cheer for me again. I can’t jump. I have another talented wrestler to squash on my path to self-implosion.