The View From Down Here – In Defence Of Wrestling

 My name’s Steven, and I have been given the rather enviable task of trying to follow Raffi on every second Monday. Raffi is an awesome writer, and it is his fault I’m even writing for the wrestling section of the Pulse. As a writer in the Sports section of this fine site, he allowed me into the Roundtables (where I am officially the worst), and then my reviews of Riot City Wrestling were accepted, a few little columns (on gimmicks and Starrcade 1997), some book reviews and now… this.

So what is this column going to be?

Well, I’ve got a few more books to look at - two more reviews are done and waiting to go. I have a column written on the worst wrestling match I have ever seen (printed elsewhere years ago, but cleaned up for the Pulse). There’s some DVD reviews. I also have a few more things I want to waffle on about, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Now, for an opening column, what do I say? Maybe a bit about me first. First, I’m an Australian. Sorry in advance. I used to be a teacher, and have used professional wrestling to teach basic Newtonian physics (successfully, I might add), but last year went back to study again. So I’m a student and a dad. I am currently training here in Adelaide for a (hopeful, though doubtful) return to the wrestling ring myself, even though aged 40 (and with the knees of a 60 yr old). I started to watch wrestling in the early 1980s. I watched the first few Wrestlemanias on TV here in Australia months after they happened in the USA, and then went through relying on video tapes. I was sent comp tapes from the US (I had a VCR that could play international tapes) and developed a liking for the NWA, later WCW. Nowadays I watch the catch-up shows for TNA and WWE and watch the PPVs and go to live local wrestling. That’s it.

Now, I’m going to admit something here that many find amusing, and some even find embarrassing. I know, I used to hate admitting it. But the fact that I’m here sort of speaks for itself.

Sorry… but… I like professional wrestling.

Yes, I know! I’m 40! Shouldn’t I have grown out of this sort of crap by now? I mean, I tell people I like wrestling, own the DVDs and videos, go to the shows, and people look at me queerly. They may even make a comment. Some of the guys think it’s really funny to strike some ridiculous pose and roar. Come on, if some one says they like cricket, do these same morons then pretend to hit a cricket ball and scream, “Howzat!”? Well, actually, they probably do. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, though.

Okay, back to wrestling, or as my first wrestling trainer called it–gymnastics for fat people (and me being a former / current gymnast with a weight problem… perfect!).

Now I know that the results are 99.9+% pre-determined. And I know that the American culture of recent times has reduced aspects of it to almost soap opera levels. But I love wrestling as something to watch and try to do. I love watching traditional European wrestling, where they appreciate good mat wrestling and psychology and athletic prowess, or catch-as-catch-can style. I love Mexican lucha libre where the gymnastic moves are suicidal and insane and worth every penny to see. I love watching insane brawls where guys get cut open by being hit with chairs, ladders, tables and anything else. David Ditch here at the Pulse has got me looking into Japanese wrestling a little more seriously, and the way they stiff the hell out of each other fascinates me. I love watching local, South Australian wrestling where real people try real moves and you can see the sweat and blood.

And just because it is choreographed, the winners pre-determined, the officiating deliberately obscure, does not mean that those who do it are not athletes. They train damn hard and are injured as painfully as any football player. They have to learn their trade, carefully and in steps (which is where so-called back-yard wrestling is so damned dangerous – that training just does not exist). And they entertain. American wrestling promoters have come to use the term “sports entertainment”, and that is exactly right. They use sport to entertain. Like stuntmen and display gymnastics and the show-off “extreme sportsmen and women”. No difference, just with a lot more exposure and more negative press.

Yes, a lot of that press is well-deserved, especially when looking at the untalented, muscle-bound morons (especially those who came to prominence in the late 70s through the 80s) who epitomise the traditional “wrassler”, or when looking at the early deaths of too many wrestlers. But for every slug in the ring, there is a skilled technician or a gymnast or a superb brawler. And it takes all sorts; different strokes for different folks. And hey! Some prefer the slugs. That’s what’s great about wrestling – it caters for so many different people and different tastes.

You have to take the bad with the good, and while the bad may be laughably bad, the good can be incredibly, amazingly good.

My philosophy is: Just relax and take it in, don’t over-analyse. Enjoy it.

And at least we wrestling fans can admit our results are “fixed”. And ask other sports (cricket? boxing? Formula 1 car racing?) over the years about that…

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