OMG! Am I A… Wrestling Fan?!? (A Woman’s Journey Through the WWE/NXT Universe Over Summerslam 2015 Weekend)

SHELLY RINGSIDE PHOTOGRAPHER

I don’t know how to write about what happened last night. I woke up this morning with a throbbing headache that seems it isn’t planning on leaving me for a while. I could hear my boyfriend, Michael, in the next room furiously typing away on his computer. Hitting the keys mercilessly with an arrhythmic stream of consciousness. He bursts out laughing. I’m definitely awake now. It’s 11:30am, SummerSlam morning. Michael is writing his wrestling article for Inside Pulse. I am barely conscious.

I am not a wrestling fan. I am in love with a wrestling fan. I am in love with arguably the biggest wrestling fan of all time. One who could literally speak at a party with a famous wrestler, and swap stories as though he was there too – which has happened, which I’ve seen with my own eyes. Because of this, because of this love I have for Michael Buckley, I have come to terms with the fact that a gigantic gold belt will sit on the mantle in my living room for the rest of my life.

Okay. Wrestling is enjoyable. I am a comedian by trade, and wrestling is in fact quite funny if you’re paying attention. It will also take you off guard and break your heart before you even realize you’re paying attention. It’s a lifestyle; you’re either a die hard fan or you’re not. It’s a world of it’s own, and it’s fascinating.

BDB and Shelly-- the right pic

Michael and I started dating almost 4 years ago. I can honestly tell you that for the first year we were together, I don’t remember hearing anything about wrestling. I was going through a divorce and Michael was showing up at my apartment with flowers and iced coffees, and it was a whirlwind. So I don’t remember, really, much about anything. He says now “you don’t remember me talking about big matches, like SummerSlam 2012?” And I say “No, I remember you saying you were going to go be stoned at someone’s apartment in Jersey for several hours.” And he laughs and says “yeah, I didn’t want to bother you with the details…”

During 2013 I remember it coming up a bit more, in a slow, sneak-up on you fashion. But it wasn’t until I learned about Connor the Crusher (or Conno the Cwusho), a year later, that I (really) started paying attention. To this day we can’t do Conno’s voice in our apartment without it quickly leading to watching a video segment about him, and once that comes on we are both instantly in tears. Sometimes we get emotional without the video segment, so, yeah. A bunch of softies over here. This was also when I realized I cared more than I could have ever imagined I’d care for wrestling.

I am still learning a lot about the WWE Universe. This week was definitely a crash course. Hey ladies, if you’re into a guy and he’s into wrestling, just go with it. The more you actually learn, the more you will enjoy it yourself. I promise you. And then, when you actually make it to an event like the Royal Rumble, or SummerSlam, or the holy grail Wrestlemania – you will watch something magical happen. Amidst the wafts of body oder, hand made posters and snarky (passionately) screamed comments, you will watch your boyfriend magically transform into a child. It’s as freaky and terrifying as it sounds. But just go with it. Enjoy it. Capture some of it on video, even. Keep it in your back pocket, and use it as a memory card you can play if you really need him to make it up to you for something else later. Hey, you’ve got options.

This weekend started with an intimate look behind the scenes. We (somehow) got tickets for a recording of a popular Sirius XM Radio Show, Sam Roberts Live at the world famous comedy club Caroline’s on Broadway. His guests were Paul Heyman and Corey Graves. (Click here for Michael’s review of the Sam Roberts event.) We (somehow) got seats in the first row. I knew who Paul Heyman was because he has an unforgettable voice. I make my living as a voice over artist, so his pipes were never lost on me. (I’ve been told I do a decent Heyman impression.) Anyway – I left the Caroline’s recording a Heyman Girl. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but how can you resist this man? He lights up a room, even a dark comedy basement. He wins people over immediately. He could have set the stage on fire putting everyone in serious danger scrambling for their lives, and still would have been a hero. I left wondering how he won me over personally, but more importantly – if he could win me over – who else could? I’m not even a wrestling fan, remember?

On the train over the Brooklyn bridge, en route to the Barclays center, I launched a Periscope Broadcast for the very first time. I titled it “En Route to NXT Takeover”. Ten people joined immediately. It was a 90 second video that mainly showed the view out the subway window overlooking the Hudson, as well as a glimpse inside the train. A construction worker, a girl sleeping, and two kids with Aspergers having the time of their life because they were on their way to the Barclays Center as well. They were the only audio for the ride, there was no need for me to say anything. I got a lot of “hearts” for the 2 minutes we were on the air. When we arrived at the Barclays Center, I Periscoped waiting in line outside. At least 20 people jumped on to see what I was sharing. I was waiting in a line with sweaty, side-stepping, anxious nerds. It was very popular for the wrestling fans that couldn’t be there but could immediately relate. Lots of hearts.

The entire experience last night made one thing very, very clear to me. Yes, I could go on about sitting in nearly the first row, ringside, talking about the wrestlers at an event like this. I could talk about these enormous athletes and their amazing abilities. I could make predictable comments about their sparkling underwears, flashy shoes, their butt fringe and their gleaming white teeth. I could talk about the behind the scenes blips, certain mistakes (how they seemed to accidentally ring the bell during the ladies’ match declaring Emma the winner by mistake and how there was genuine scrambling in the ring until a referee ran over and whispered something in Charlotte’s ear and how she quickly nodded and dove into the ring to do whatever the referee told her to do) none of which was a part of the live broadcast, I’m told. Or, what Triple H said to the crowd before the lights went out and the real broadcast began (he basically called us all retards and told us to shut up). I could talk about how watching the Vaudevillians live made me an instant fan because they were just fantastic, and how I took a slow-mo video that I texted to a few of my girlfriends who replied things ranging from “wow they are amazing!” to “holy shit what the f*ck was that!?” Or how I texted another video of Michael chanting “this is awe-some!” right next to the announcers’ table to one of Michael’s wrestling friends (to show how close we were) and how he texted back “no. fucking. way.”

But being at the event itself was the realization of what this was really about. There’s really nothing to wrestling other than these nervous, hilarious, what you see is what you get fans. These absolute lunatics that gathered by the thousands – this was what the entire night was about. They weren’t filled with rage like traditional sports fans, they were filled with brutal honesty and MAN they are unforgiving. Give them real talent and you’ve got a great show and an ecstatic crowd. Put a gorgeous model in the ring that can’t wrestle? Oh man, it’s mayhem and it’s so awful I promise you do not want to be there. You want to hide under your chair because good God, it’s just horrible. Someone made a poster, I’m not kidding you, that said “Dana Brooke is Literally the Worst”. I laughed so hard when I saw that poster. I imagined that guy at home repeating “Dana Brooke is literally the worst. Dana Brooke is literally the worst.” to himself before he was like “oh holy shit I’ve gotta put that on a poster!” And for the first time, I realized that I was in a place where I could literally scream exactly how I was feeling and it would not only be accepted, but if anyone else felt the same way, they would scream my feelings with me. Could you imagine being at a baseball game and screaming out “THIS IS BOR-ING” and having 10 thousand people immediately scream it with you instead of having an arrogant, ignorant Yankees fan throw his coke in your face? WOW. Liberating! Dare I say, utterly refreshing! Haha – what would those baseball players even do – I’d love to try to find out, but I’d get murdered in the stands. Immediately. But wrestling fans? They’re liberal and open minded and accepting (and funny!) and it’s amazing.

4 Horsewomen

I will say, that regardless of how female wrestlers are viewed from the outside, from inside the NXT SummerSlam arena they are loved and hated with exactly the same passion as the male wrestlers. The Bayley vs. Boss match was what blew the top off the Barclays Center. But what’s equally impressive was how hated the lesser talented female wrestlers were. Peace be with them as they try to sleep at night and the echoes of fury bounce around in their minds. I couldn’t imagine being a professional voice over artist and having people that did not cast me in jobs call me up and yell honest feelings at me about why I didn’t get the job, or pretty much yell anything at all. I’d actually probably never sleep again to be honest. I don’t know how these ladies do it. One time, I found a video on YouTube that a fan had made of playing one of my video game characters. It was just him playing one scene for over 20 minutes, yelling at my character and telling her what to do, and you hear my voice as the character responding. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, but I loved it. Maybe a dark side of these women don’t mind getting screamed at. Maybe it’s weird and amazing to them too and they love it, who could say.

At NXT both of our phones died; mine because of the Periscoping, Michael’s because it’s an old iPhone that wants nothing more than to die permanently. And when both of them pooped out, we just threw ourselves at the ring (with no documentary evidence) and man we had a great time. It’s too bad we couldn’t film it but perhaps it wouldn’t have been the same. We just joined in the mayhem and blended right in with the chants, held signs we found on the floor, and surely contributed to the general stink.

Tonight we are watching SummerSlam from our apartment. We are having a few fan-friends over. A teacher, a bartender, a playwright. All of them have strict dietary needs. In fact I’m pretty sure one of them even has the gout. These are our wrestling friends. They will shout their honest feelings all night long. They will all be wearing wrestling t-shirts. They are all nerds. All of us are nerds. Passionate, honest, liberal nerds.

This whole weekend made me realize, truly, that any time I’ve ever gotten away with anything in my relationship with Michael – (mostly mega-nerd stuff), its been openly accepted because (yes, he’s awesome – but also because) he is a wrestling fan. I dance around in my way less flashy underwears, Michael joins in. I make up songs (chants?) regularly to say how I feel, Michael sings along. I pose when I achieve something, knowing Michael will burst into applause. The truth is, if I am a wrestling fan (10 thousand ranks down from Michael’s fandom) in my weirdness of real life, then I am lucky. And I’ve got big news for you. If you’re weird, or liberal, or funny, or passionate, a cool nerd or an uncool nerd, or just a person having a really great time in life, then you are a wrestling fan too. You just don’t know it yet.

Follow Shelly on Twitter: @ShellyShenoy

nxt Takeover announcers' table

New tag champs and Blue Pants

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