WWE Wrestling spectating: Don't knock it 'til you try it
If my idol Cyndi Lauper so loved Wrestlemania, how could I not?
It's easy to be cynical. I would know -- I spent a good decade of my life hating on others' interests that I deemed uncool. For the most part, I've quit full-time cynicism, because it's exhausting to be judgmental, not to mention it makes you boring and not fun to be around. (Though I will never give up being cynical about burlesque, corporate music festivals, trivia nights and marathons that require adults to play dress-up.)
This past weekend, though, I broke through some serious stereotypes when I scored floor seats for WWE Raw World Tour: The Road to Wrestlemania at 1STBANK Center. What I saw was so awesome, I would have been an asshole to not recognize it.
First of all, I blindly assumed that WWE fans would be people like myself -- from a lineage rooted in white-trash culture and custom. Beer-drinking, promotional-T-shirt wearing, outdated-hairstyle-having types who -- much like my family when they weren't discussing Kafka or Volkswagen parts -- would be prone to being inappropriately loud in a public place.
The only thing that rang true about my assumptions was the volume: The nearly sold-out events center was packed with screaming fans. But demographics varied by age, ethnicity and class; I think the family behind me was speaking Portuguese, and as I looked around the arena, I saw signs held up by the audience in different languages. This wasn't a white-trash fan confab; it was a gathering of frenetic WWE aficionados from all over the world.
Then came the show itself, which ruled. I was ready to roll my eyes and cross my arms and be grumpy and think the whole thing was stupid. Maybe I would see a couple of large men in spandex actually wrestle, and that would be that. I was going to remain cynical and assume it was to be a night of something I never find entertaining: pretend violence.
I don't know how it is for other wrestling companies, but a WWE live event is like interactive performance art; there's bizarre choreography, strangely veiled sexual maneuvering between fighters, costumes and lots of drama. There's so much drama happening with each match, I found myself on the edge of my folding chair trying not to miss a single gesture from the wrestlers -- which is how they communicate with the fans.
There was lots of fanfare when the wrestlers arrived, a booming voice and trademark song introducing each of them as images from past fights flashed overhead. But unlike other sports events, where commentary from announcers breaks up the awkward grunts of the actual fight, these matches were silent. Everything hinged on gestural language from the wrestlers, and while the crowd interjected noises at times, it still felt like a slightly strange, voyeuristic situation.
There were hated wrestlers and loved wrestlers; The Miz and Chris Jericho brought fans to their feet. Some entrances incited a disrobing from a group of gentlemen high up in the arena when their favorite performer arrived. I didn't know much about the trio of fighters -- The Shield, Ryback and A-Ry -- but I knew Chris Jericho from his stints as a commentator on VH1. Still, I found myself screaming for him as he pranced into the ring in an LED-and-rhinestone-emblazoned jacket and shiny wrestler underpants.
He was up against Dolph Ziggler -- a wrestler with bleached blond hair, an iodine tan and a seemingly pornographically inspired name -- and I wanted Jericho to kick this guy's ass. There was no way he was going to lose to this fake-and-baked fool! Especially after Ziggler's girlfriend, fellow wrestler AJ, stepped in and wrapped herself around Jericho's leg.
The crowd responded by chanting "AJ's crazy!" -- and as much as my feminist brain wanted to challenge the stereotyped "crazy girlfriend" narrative, I instead indulged in the drama.
But my favorite part, of course, was the WWE Divas throwdown. Just as if I were watching/make-believing Facts of Life, The Powerpuff Girls or Sex and the City, I immediately had to choose which wrestler I was going to be.
In a match-up between Tamina and Kaitlyn, I had to choose Kaitlyn. She had the hair I've always wanted but have been to scared to try -- you know, that blond on the top, black underneath that was really popular in the early '00s on MySpace? So rad.
But luckily, it wasn't just Kaitlyn's hair that ruled. She crushed Tamina, and I, in turn, felt victorious. I walked away with a new love for WWE wrestling and a strong desire to get into the sport myself -- if only to have an excuse to go to the gym multiple times a day in a full face of makeup and, with any luck, find a niche of people who would be obsessed with me. Because my ego can never seem to get big enough.
Not even for the WWE.
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