Some of us do. Sure! Two Modern Men follow along with the antics of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) – Steve and myself! But why?
We get asked that question a lot, especially by our bewildered wives. It is a good question. With TV in its prime, professional sports on every other channel and the ability to binge watch The West Wing whenever we want – why do we watch wrestling?
We sat down to talk it out.
K: OK Steve. We’re both pretty intelligent guys. We’re somewhat sophisticated. We have an education. We read. But we get a kick out of professional wrestling. What’s the deal with that?
S: Honestly, for me, it is something I grew up with. My dad used to watch it when I was a kid. The wrestling of that time period still had the veneer of some kind of athletic competition. Sure, deep in our hearts we knew the whole thing was fake, but there was still a question at that time (at least for a little kid like me.)
K: I think you’re dead on. It’s a nostalgia factor. And WWE plays in to that. Constantly trying to include guys from our “era” on current programming. I often tell people it’s like a soap opera on steroids.
S: The older I get the more the mechanics of the whole thing interest me. I am less interested in the soap opera stuff and more drawn to the mechanics of the whole thing – which wrestlers get a push, what kind of storytelling traditions are they mining, which wrestlers have the personality to carry a match and a storyline. My compatriots in the theatre world might hate to hear me say it, but there is no question wrestling is doing something very akin to theatre.
K: I agree. It’s very theatrical. The most emphasis is on a signature for each “character”. The right song. The right entrance video. The right clothes. The right finishing move. Heck – even the right way to walk to the ring. Look at The Rock or the Undertaker. Takes them 10 minutes to get to the ring. But it’s a show the whole time.
S: I actually find the theatricality – the poses and the catchphrases oppressive. I want to see them talk and just do their thing. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin or Paul Heyman or McMahon himself – I want to see them to improvise and react to the crowd and real life, not run through a bunch of lines (looking at you Enzo Amore).
K: I agree about the catchphrases and such getting to be too much. I tend to like the entrances. But the lines for the crowd to cheer, etc – ehhh. To me it’s like the hokey baseball announcers who try to make every line become a ‘thing’. There are only so many ways to say it’s a homerun, not every single announcer needs a WWE inspired catch phrase to let us know.
S: I like the entrances when there is some excitement – I don’t like it when the narrative stops so a guy can spend 20 minutes preening towards the ring. By the way, you’re right – the WWE totally inspires stuff in the sports world all the time. Every batter has a walk up song? That’s Vince McMahon all the way.
K: I enjoy when the music hits and you instantly know who is coming. Especially if it’s a surprise. The Royal Rumble is coming up soon. That is always my favorite match of the year – because it always has some surprises. Those two go hand in hand for me – the 30 guys running in – you don’t know who it’s going to be until you hear those first few notes of the song. When it’s a great throwback surprise – I get a little giddy.
S: The Royal Rumble might be the single more interesting event in the WWE calendar, even more so than Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania has to resolve plotlines. The Royal Rumble does all the things you say – I love the vintage run ins as well – but also introduces new guys getting a push too.
K: Any stories from seeing a WWE Live Event?
S: I think I’ve gone to a live event twice (didn’t we go once together?). The first time I went was during the Attitude Era. I got my dad and I a couple of tickets in Hartford – we chose not to go in New Haven because we thought he might run into his students. All I remember is that some drunk guy threw a beer straight up in the air next to me. The dude behind me then threw a haymaker at him and a melee ensued. The Scarpa boys hit their knees and crawled down the aisle to safety. You never saw me and my dad move that fast.
K: HA! I did go as a kid with the Scouts. Saw Hogan in all his glory. I went a few years ago to a Monday Night RAW taping – that was with you. We saw Edge retire due to injury. That was pretty cool.
S: I totally forgot about that. They did a big tribute to him, didn’t they?
K: He came out and gave up the belt and gave an impassioned farewell.
S: That’s right – in a lot of ways, wrestling does a really good job in sending their stars off into the sunset. The fans truly appreciate them in a lot of ways.
K: Going back to WHY we like it – what do think exists in the current era that brings you back to watching as a kid?
S: Hm. Good question. I’m not sure anything does, really, strangely enough, given what a nostalgic guy I can be. I think it is just the fact that it exists, that every Monday night I just watch this completely strange amalgamation of athletic event, stunt show, soap opera, comedy, and carnival. I’ve done so since I was a kid and that’s enough. By the way, I wish they had more squash matches. That would be amazing. What is your favorite aspect of the show these days?
K: So, the nostalgia is just – it’s something you’ve always done. That’s nice. To me, my favorites were always The Rock and Mick Foley on the mic. As far as the new stuff – I find, as I get older, that many aspects of the product bores me. I could do without the aforementioned Enzo or whatever the hell Breezango is, but there are still some really great guys on the mic. As you said – Heyman. I like what Bray Wyatt is doing – that almost feels like a 1980s style character with the lantern and such. I like to watch Randy Orton in the ring. What about the new guys – anyone you’re enjoying watching perform these days?
S: You know, I like Bray Wyatt for the reasons you stated. He feels like a throwback to a great over the top 1980s villain, but I have a sneaking suspicion he can actually act a little bit. The Miz makes a great cowardly heel. Heyman is a genius on the mic, the single best talker in recent WWE history, perhaps even better than McMahon who is a great talker. Dean Ambrose is doing a low rent Piper, but he’s good at it. I think Cesaro puts on a helluva good match, but he’s not much on the mic. Reigns is … eh. Cena, for all the crap he takes, is a really good performer all around.
K: Piper was SO good. Yeah, I don’t get the hate on Cena. Why do the “real fans” hate him so much?
S: I read somewhere that they feel he’s being jammed down their throats. That he lacks an edge and that he’s not ever going to make a heel turn. I think they think he’s a kids choice. Who the hell knows? It’s weird fanboy nonsense.
K: Those die-hard fan boys scare me – to be honest.
S: Why is that?
K: Some of them get very into it. They don’t think it’s real – but they are SO invested into the product that any variance from what they feel is ‘right’ – they lose their minds. There are news/rumor sites ALL over the place for wrestling. They all think they know exactly how a match or show or PPV will go. Then, when it doesn’t, they get pissed! To me – it was like some Star Wars fans who hated The Last Jedi because it didn’t live up to the rumor and spoilers they all took to be true.
S: I think the biggest problem with fanboys is that fundamentally they don’t understand storytelling. The Last Jedi, which I loved, is a great example. The characters have to evolve and change or go away. They can’t do analogous things to what they did from a movie you loved when you were 9. That’s not a good way to go. Wrestling fandom is a bit different, but not much.
K: Right, they have to keep changing. No bigger evidence of that than the women’s division. It used to be supermodels who would push each other around in their underwear – but the women in the WWE are legit wrestlers now. They are no longer the ‘throw away’ matches in a show/PPV.
S: That’s absolutely the case. Some of the best workers are in the women’s division. We are a long way from Stacy Keibler.
K: They’re doing their own Royal Rumble at the event coming up. I’m really curious to watch it. A real showcase for these amazing performers. I hope we see Lita or Trish or someone from the ‘older days’ run in. I’m also glad Mae Young can’t run it cause you know they’d do it.
S: That always made me feel creepy. An old lady in the middle of all that. Very much of the Attitude Era.
K: So true. So, Monday night will be 25 years of RAW – will you be watching?
S: At least for 30 minutes. That’s how much my wife can stand before we have to change it. Actually, to be honest, that’s just enough time. No need for more. Three hours is too much.
-KP & Steve
What about you guys? Do you watch wrestling and if so – why? Let us know in the comments below.