All of us (hopefully all) have that one indulgence that takes us back to our childhood. For some, it may be the Tamiya car, the Beyblade etc. For others, it may even be their Nintendo’s Game Boy. I had an indulgence too: it was wrestling. Let me caution you here: I wasn’t the one wrestling. Nor was I watching Greco Roman wrestling, which really is genuine wrestling. No, I am talking about the WWE, back then known as the WWF.
WWE stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. It used to be called World Wrestling Federation (WWF) but it entered into a legal tussle with the World Wide Fund (also known as WWF), an environmental organization, over copyright issues. In 2002, WWF made the decision to change its name to WWE. Acronyms were of little concern to me when I was growing up. I was 10 years old or so when I picked up an interest in this unique genre of wrestling. My interest had been piqued by my friends in school who used to replicate the wrestlers’ moves or talk about a match the night before. I had to find out what the fuss was all about. It turns out that the fuss was warranted. Just like how Vince Mcmahon, the founder of WWE, marketed the company, the WWE was the epitome of sports entertainment. For a 10 year old, this was such a radical idea to me. It still is now.
The wrestling matches were purely entertainment-based, based on storyline-driven and scripted matches. In other words, these matches were pre-planned to the finest detail. My father used to mock me (in a good way of course) for being drawn to this profesisonal wrestling. He had every reason to mock me as the wrestling moves were fake. They were choreographed stunts. I didn’t want to believe wrestling was fake. It would crush me knowing that people were basically pretending to fight. Nevertheless, my father later got in on the act and developed a taste for probably the most famous wreslter in the WWE, the Rock who’s also known as Dwayne Johnson. He felt he was the only smart wrestler, at least in the wrestling arena.
Intelligence was not such a big criteria for me though. Neither was it physique. It was who could inspire the crowd. Triple H, Shawn Michaels and of course the Rock are just a few wrestlers that met this criteria. I soon accepted the harsh reality, that this wrestling was fake. Yet I was still drawn to these wrestlers and to wrestling in general. The WWE was like a soap opera. The intentions were fake, but the lessons imparted to me were, I felt, real. Even though themes such as ‘courage’ or ‘David vs Goliath’ matches were merely choreographed, I still got a sense of satisfaction whenever I saw my favourite wrestler win a match that many thought he would lose. Because you could apply these lessons that were choreographed to real life. If you were an underdog in your profession, all you needed was courage and perseverance to succeed.
The WWE eventually became one of the main highlights of my weekends after a long week of school. The downside is I could not watch it “Live” as I had lessons in the mornings, which was when the wrestling events were held in the United States. Eventually, my parents felt uncomfortable with me watching wrestling due to its physically vulgar nature and even occasional semi-sexual content. What followed was a long hiatus from watching wrestling. It was only a few years ago that I regained interest in the WWE. By then, I was already 20 so my parents were not too concerned about the WWE’s influence on me. The hiatus did not take away my interest in all the choreographed matches, the backstage drama, the shenannigans and best of all, the comical wars of words.
As I write this, I am looking forward to the 3rd of April 2016. That will be the date of WrestleMania 32, which will be hosted in Texas. The Wrestlemania is the equivalent of the football World Cup, except this wrestling pay-per-view event takes place yearly. One of the matches I am looking for ward to is that between Roman Reigns and Triple H, who is actually the Chief Operating Offiicer of the WWE and son in-law of WWE founder Vince Mcmahon.
I don’t want readers to think that the WWE is merely about entertaining people with humour and drama. This is where it gets poignant. Wrestlers do sacrifice their lives to perform seemingly impossible stunts for the thousands of fans. Unfortuantely, a handful of wrestlers have had to pay the ultimate price for their entertainment. Take ex-profesisonal wrestler Owen Hart for example. He was performing an entrance into the wrestling ring during a pay-per-view event in 1999 where he was hoisted at about 80 feet from the ground. Sadly, his harness gave way while he was being lowered and he fell to his death. Other wrestlers died outside the ring. Chris Benoit murdered his whole family before taking his own life in 2007. There were theories that he suffered years of trauma to his brain stemming from the repeated concussions he suffered while wrestling. His brain was severely damaged. Wrestling may be fake, but the sacrifices and the lives lost are unequivocally real.