The Happiest Time of the Year!

I run this photo every year. Never gets old. Hall of Famer, son!

I don’t think it’s ever been very apparent in these pages, friends, but your man is a professional wrestling fan from way back.

I’ll give you a minute to let that one sink in.

From Saturday afternoons with the Hulkster and Jake the Snake to the Monday Night Wars, I’ve always kept an eye on it with varying degrees of attention.

This is confusing for some people, and I don’t always have the easiest time expressing it. A lot of people consider pro wrestling the domain of Juggalos and off-season NASCAR fans. For me though, it’s not purely nostalgia for some relic of childhood; yes I have memories of watching as a child, but I couldn’t rattle off one solitary storyline from the 80s, which is what most academic writing on the sport [and yes, it is one] finds value in: how the storylines mirror the attitudes of mainstream America. I think the appeal for me has always been twofold.

For one, I’m a sucker for the unique brand of athletics. Some people dismiss the sport with the old ‘it’s fake’ chestnut, which is a complete misconstruction. It’s predetermined, but it’s not fake. Simply put, go from a standing position to flat on your back on some gym mats and see how it feels. Probably not fake. Now do it 20 more times and see how it feels.

Yes, the workers and the ref and the announcers know how the match is going to finish, they may even have some parts of the match worked out beforehand. But a skilled worker can go out with anyone, with minimal preparation, and put on a compelling match. I always adopt former champion Chris Jericho’s analogy: good wrestlers are like jazz musicians, they know how the song starts, how it ends, where the key changes are, but they don’t know how they’re getting there, so they improvise.

Secondly, I watch the shows to play armchair booker. I love to compare what I might have done with the matches with what the creative team of the company did, I love to question the intelligence of putting one guy over another, if it was the smartest decision for the workers and the business. The predetermined nature of the shows never deters me from enjoying it. Hell, that’s why I watch.

Though to be truthful, ever since the WWE became the only game in town [sorry TNA], and ever since they twerked their image to the more family friendly format, I’ve been less and less interested. I just miss the days when competition with WCW meant they had to step their game up: more matches, hotter stories, less yap-yap-yap in the ring.

That said, I will always perk up during Wrestlemania season, and this year they’ve done an impeccable job at hyping some aspects of the show, even if some decisions are headscratchers: Money in the Bank will probably be its own PPV now, but after being a highlight of Mania for so many years, the big show is weaker without it. Also, I know WM is the season to court mainstream coverage, and scoring Snooki to appear in a ‘match’ will get them a fair share of it, but her inclusion means one of the other divas won’t be getting a pay-per-view bonus. Same goes for guys who might have been able to get on the card if Rocky and Austin weren’t making throwback appearances. But at the same time, I can’t argue that Rock’s appearance alone is a major contributor to my excitement. Bitter with the sweet.

Later this week I’ll be posting up my pre-game impressions of the big event this year, as well as a review of WWE All Stars which also dropped this week.

Normally, I might worry this brief, divergent indulgence might turn some of you off. But hey, when you have no readership, you don’t have to worry about alienating anyone.

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