This week’s episode of Raw, and indeed the whole weekend of wrestling in general with Takeover and Summerslam in Brooklyn, hit me hard. In the good way. Feasting on 10 hours of glorious grappling has filled me to the brim, but this unremitting and never-ending buffet of wonders will continue to roll on, presumably, if Vince has his way, for eternity. Granted, not all of it was perfect. 10 hours is a considerable amount of air time in which to achieve perfection, and what constitutes perfection is subjective anyway. However, something happened on Raw that made me tingle with unrepentant glee. When the Dudley Boyz made their emphatic return I marked out so hard I fittingly nearly broke all furniture within a six foot radius. It was a spontaneous explosion of delight, like a sneeze, or the thing that happens when a pretty lady visits…
It got me thinking about the very idea of what it means to “mark out”. Is there any other form of entertainment where fans are as so heavily invested as with wrestling? What other industry can illicit such a colossal reaction by simply having a gong ring? Or some glass breaking? Or a dude yelling “If ya smell…….”? To garner this sort of response requires a complex combination of factors, from years of quality booking to performers drenched in talent, and most probably a healthy sprig of luck and timing. When it comes down to it though, at its basest level, to successfully achieve the state of marking out seemingly boils down to three key factors.
The smarks of the wrestling world, which will undoubtedly include every single person reading this unless you’re a personal friend wondering what the hell I’m up to or a stalker I don’t yet know about, often crave the knowledge of backstage gossip, the truth behind kayfabe and general rumours that abound the often mysterious world of pro wrestling. The longing for this secret information is one of the things that makes wrestling so appealing in the first place. What is real and what isn’t? Which elements conform to the sceptics’ definition of “fake” and which don’t? Sometimes however, as a fan, isn’t it just far more satisfying to sit back, ignore or intentionally avoid speculation and embrace ignorance? If you read this site, or pay attention to any dirtsheet or other website that caters to the IWC, then I guarantee that in the past you’ve known about the return or debut of a superstar before it’s happened. Even results and storyline developments can slip out from the grapevine and slither into public consciousness before they happen, such is the nature of scripted fare and this modern age of immediate access to virtually anything. This past Monday however, I had zero intelligence on the return of the brothers from Dudleyville. And it was refreshingly exhilarating. Ronda Rousey put it simply and expertly in her recent twitter AMA. When asked if she would consider a WWE return she stated, “Definitely… I just have no clue when. And any real wrestling fan would want it to be a surprise anyway.” While there will be always be unavoidable speculation regarding certain stars, I can’t help but agree with her, and it was this unanticipated nature surrounding Bubba Ray and D-Von’s appearance that elevated my appreciation beyond measure.
One of the most wonderful things about WWE is its history. It is impossible to fully mark out without knowledge of the rich heritage of the business. That can mean harking back to Bruno Sammartino or Buddy Rogers, to Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, to the Attitude Era and more recent stars like Shawn Michaels and the Rock. Whenever you embarked upon wrestling fandom, there is a history that precedes you and a history that will continue to develop. I was never particularly a big WCW fan, but when Sting hit WWE screens for the first time, thanks to this historic knowledge I knew exactly what it meant and it produced a rush, both because of its significance to the business but also due to how monumental it was to a whole plethora of fans. The Vigilante is well into his fifties and long past his prime, but it doesn’t matter. It’s everything his presence brings with him – a storied antiquity added to his total absence from WWE programming in a glittering career. When something happens in this business, indeed in any form of entertainment or sports, that you thought in your right mind could never happen in reality – AND THEN IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS – that’s super god damn cool.
The Cool Factor
Marking out is essentially rooted in how cool something is. The Dudley Boyz were cool. Talented in ring performers, great story tellers and with catchphrases, gimmicks and moves adored by fans. Seeing them on screen together on WWE television for the first time in a decade to obliterate New Day and hit a 3-D through a table… That’s just flat out cool. The nWo and DX popping up at Wrestlemania – cool. Yes, subjectivity will always have its part to play. Everyone has their own favourites for their own reasons, and coolness in itself is entirely subjective. It’s the combination of the unexpected and rich history that equate to a moment being cool, thus leading to a fan marking out.
As the WWE juggernaut surges forward, it is important as a fan to remember what it’s like to mark out. That feeling of exhilaration. The goosebumps. The childlike excitement that reduces you to a giddy mess. In this day and age, where the smarks infest the internet and habitually poison our beloved industry with negativity and criticism, I urge you to hold on to everything that has ever captivated you about sports entertainment. As counterproductive as it may be to suggest, avoid the dirtsheets for a week, or a month, and rejuvenate the pure, unadulterated passion that should be the driving force behind your inevitable and wholly justified addiction to wrestling. The future is bright for the company, so relax, let go of the animosity and give WWE the opportunity to let you mark out. It will happen. I promise you. It might be a returning hero. A debut. A phenomenal match. An individual move. A promo. Not everything they do will be to your satisfaction, but I guarantee that the feeling of marking out will far outweigh any pessimism you may harbour. And if it doesn’t, it’s time for you to get a new hobby…
Tags: Break The Walls Down, Dudley Boys, Sting