Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Plight Of The Wrestling Fan


Many people compare wrestlers to stuntmen, but that is not accurate. Stuntmen are a very small part of one big project, and they are brought in as a helping hand to the artists behind the film, taking orders and performing what is necessary for the filmmakers vision. But in wrestling, the only artists are in the ring, performing their own vision, and all in one take.

It's closest cousin is the theatre, in which people pay to lose themselves in a story which is played out right in front of them. And that is what I value most, being able to lose myself and watch a story play out, letting my emotions free, not knowing what's going to happen next.

In Japan and Mexico, wrestling is viewed in a very different way than in America, because the wrestling that is available on TV in those countries is totally different. It is viewed as an extremely athletic art, the wrestlers don't look like bohemoths and there is none of those bad yelling interviews you see in America. It has been this way for many decades. It is respected as much as any other artform, because the matches in Japan and Mexico are, well, actually good and the wrestlers take it very seriously. One of the great Japanese wrestlers, Mitsuharu Misawa, died in the ring in early 2009 after being dropped on his head one too many times. It shocked and saddened wrestling fans around the world. When Japanese TV news aired the story, they dedicated 15 minutes to it and the newscasters were finding it hard not to cry on the air. Because to the Japanese people, Misawa was not a silly larger than life character on a bad homosexual soap opera, he was a performer who put his body on the line every night to entertain people. And he was tough. Really tough. To take a look at any of his classic matches throughout the 1990's is to see a genuinely tough man telling a great story.

One problem wrestling faces in the west is that people feel a sense of being lied to and I'll explain why. Wrestling's origins are in the circus' at the turn of the century, and when matches took place, they were designed to make people believe the two men weren't performing, but that they actually wanted to hurt each other. Over the next century, wrestling promoters and organizations kept that up, with the goal being to have people become so lost in the illusion that they can't tell that what they are seeing is in fact not really happening. Sort of like a magic trick. Wrestling matches weren't the crazy over-the-top spectacles that we see today, they were all about creating the story through looking as real as possible. But as wrestling became more flamboyant in the 1980's, it became obvious that it was a show, and alot of people think that wrestling tries to present itself as a competitive sport, when in fact that idea was gone two decades ago. The only people that think wrestling is a sport are the children that watch WWE. Kids also believe in Santa Clause, but we don't condemn the adults that still celebrate christmas. Yes, wrestling is like the theatre with the illusion of reality, but it is not 'fake', which is the default word to describe wrestling in the western world. The endings are predetermined, and big spots in the match are devised, worked out and talked through by the wrestlers beforehand, but the wrestlers are hurting themselves every time they have a match so 'fake' is a word that doesn't sit well with wrestling fans because we feel it shows disrespect or ignorance.


A wrestling fan doesn't just like any wrestling match just because it's available. For as many great exciting fights as there are out there, there can also be poor quality matches that bore you to death, and this is what the majority of society witnesses when they turn on the television to find two steroid induced giants throwing each other around. These wrestlers are the equivalent of Ja Rule, Britney Spears or the new Michael Bay movie. Their matches are bloated, over-produced and the easiest thing to sell to kids (and therefore the advertisers). And that's what WWE (formerly WWF) is about: making money. And that is why the wrestlers in WWE are there, because of the huge pay-days. It's the same reason any hack singer, comedian or actor does a bad album, sitcom or movie. And it's sad, because there are the other 99% of wrestlers around the world who are looked down upon by the public just because in the 1980's someone found a way to market wrestling to children.


By 1987, wrestling in America had become a monopolized industry, with the watered down, roided up WWF being the only public representation of the artform. So while the theatrics of Hulkamania were running wild in the late 80's, there was only one company with the chance to compete with the WWF on a national level, and it's name was World Championship Wrestling, with an extremely rich history dating back to 1948. Unlike the circus that was the WWF, WCW was putting on great matches and they had a syndicated television deal making it the only direct competition to the WWF. It also, by default, became the only way to see a quality wrestling match on TV. So, to generalize a little, the people that loved wrestling watched WCW while the majority of viewers watched WWF. It all seemed fine until a billionaire named Ted Turner (owner of CNN) bought WCW, creating a seismic shift in the industry, to some for the better but to most, for worse.

- Lee

PART TWO NEXT WEEK - The Monday Night Wars, The Rise and Fall of ECW, and A New Era Of Honor


  1. Hey Lee, I have enjoyed reading your blog. I liked the proactivity post, that is how I had been about my writing plans (expecting things to happen without doing anything to make it happen) before I got my butt into gear, so good luck, go for it!

    You might want to put a subscription thing on your blog, I don't use the Google Follow thingy, so do it and millions will subscribe (well, at least me and Sarah).

    Laters... Marc (Sarah's fella in London, and proxy-Wiecek clan member, like you)

    P.S. Hope you have learnt the new Springsteen tunes, I look forward to the next video...

  2. I like the comparison between wrestling in Japan/Mexico with that of America, because they are two completely different things; but both fantastic in their own right. It's easy to find flaws in American wrestling such as WWE, but every now and then a match like no other comes along and blows me away (the majority of the time when my fried Lee Sullivan shows it to me).

    Then there is Japanese wrestling... MORISHIMA!! MORISHIMA!!. The amount of respect for wrestlers is crazy, you can surely tell when you watch the crowd. Their culture makes matches so epic.

    I'm excited for the next blog on "The Monday Night Wars", because WCW circa 1997/98 was where it all started for me.

  3. This is an epic post! Since becoming close friends with Lee he's helped reinvigorate a passion for wrestling I'd all but lost since the age of about 12.

    Lee, I like the way you've drawn attention to the misconceptions, especially the whole 'Stuntman' thing. The thing about a stuntman is a stuntman is meant to be invisible - a wrestler IS the actor, a wrestler IS the stuntman. The wrestler creates all the emotions and all thrills of both brilliantly in one take - like you said.

    Also Japanese wrestling, Russ bought up that point of respect - such a radical difference from the American crowd. 10 years ago I had no real concept of Japanese wrestling, I thought it was more violent and hardcore than American stuff. But its quite the opposite, just GREAT quality wrestling and an amazing crowd that show great respect. It's not uncommon to see masses of men in suits and even old ladies. The WWE crowds are full of 10 year olds who don't know what great wrestling truly is (and what a shame WWE won't show it to them!).

    I could write more... maybe I will later!

    Great post man, seriously. It's the post I've been waiting for from you. Can't wait for the next installment. Don't make us wait a month in between like Eden with Roy Story (pompous fuck).

  4. I feel out of place trying to comment on this with a bunch of wrestling fanatics writing epic replies to an epic post but, like the history of almost anything, I actually find this interesting. Especially as it's told from the POV of a true fan.

    Shine on you crazy diamond