Looking at the entirety of both the sports and creative worlds, few are more misunderstood and maligned than the world of professional wrestling. (Note that we’re saying “professional wrestling” and not “sports entertainment.” I’m sure Vince McMahon’s heart will go on. I have an old school heart and for me, it will always be wrestling or when it’s really, really good, wrasslin’!) I’ve known so many people that are the biggest horror and cult film fanatics that yet, not only dislike professional wrestling but acutely get snobby about it.
Complaints ranging from “…it’s only for angry people…” to “…it’s totally fake….” and everything in between have echoed from the same folks who have no problem that the mass decapitation scene in their favorite gut-chomper flick is not only ultra-violent but yes Virginia, fake as hell too. It’s one thing if it isn’t just your style, cause it takes all kind, but if it is some inner-snootiness, then we invite you to look deep within and really think about why you really don’t like it.
Now, what happens when you combine such a unique blend of competitive sports, the expressiveness of dance, and a bit of theatre with the cinematic world?
These are the mostly uncharted waters that Kieran and I are going to sail together. It’s gonna be some slobberknockin’, table-breaking, fist-crunching, kayfabe-keeping-AND-busting good-time film writing action! We will also make a few related detours because man cannot live on steak alone.
Find your favorite folding chair and an overpriced bottle of buffalo piss and let’s get ready to have the most royal of rumbles! – Heather Drain
Ever since I was a wee baby Kieran, I’ve been obsessed with professional wrestling. I’m a child of the Monday Night Wars, a period which saw wrestlers embody characters ranging from Las Vegas pimps, upstart Texans, satanic cultists, Gothic vampires, scorched monsters and other ridiculous gimmicks that filled my exuberant heart with glee. It was a time of edgy entertainment, where elderly women would give birth to hands and Japanese stereotypes chopped off the “pee pees” of male porn stars with samurai swords. Wrestling was instrumental in establishing my love for schlock, but it’s so much more than that.
The cartoonish aspects of wrestling initially drew me in, but the athletic spectacle and the performers’ ability to tell stories in the ring kept me interested when my contemporaries outgrew it in favour of MMA and “real” combat sports. That being said, while I understand that wrestling isn’t for everyone, to dismiss it as silly and fake is quite an ignorant point of view. Like a good film, TV show or book, wrestling storylines can force us to suspend our disbelief and emotionally invest in characters and their journeys. Often with a satisfying payoff that provides a cathartic feeling. For example, during the ‘90s, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin shot to popularity because he represented the everyman who wanted to give a middle finger to their boss then drink an ice cold beer. A few years ago when Daniel Bryan won the title at Wrestlemania, grown adults cried because it marked the culmination of an old-fashioned underdog story that felt authentic.
The history of wrestling is littered with stories like this, and we could discuss them all day — plus there are stories involving necrophilia, attempted murder and other nefarious delights.
But let’s talk about the core aspect of wrestling: the battle between good and evil and the grey areas in between. In wrestling, the faces (good guys) tend to go up against the heels (bad guys), but there are characters who don’t quite fit either mold, which makes for some interesting dynamics. Wrestling is a land of superheroes, supervillains, renegades, anti-heroes, outlaws, monsters and personas that defy classification. In many ways it’s like a comic book brought to life in the guise of a combat sport. What’s not to love?
The beauty of wrestling is that it plucks ideas from everywhere — like a pop culture smorgasbord of sorts. It’s very common for wrestling companies to embrace horror and genre influences in their product to create bold, bizarre and crazy entertainment. But even in its most simplistic form wrestling is the best.
As for the actual “wrestling” itself, while it may be predetermined, I find it exhilarating much like I do other forms of performance art. Naysayers often call wrestlers “glorified stuntmen” and what have you, but the reality is that they risk their lives night after night for our entertainment, and the best performers make it look believable. Wrestling requires craftsmanship and showmanship, yet the performers don’t get the respect they deserve outside of fan circles.
This column isn’t about the sport itself, though occasionally it will be. One of the great joys of being a wrestling fan is seeing your favorite wrestlers show up elsewhere. With this series, Heather and I will be tag teaming to highlight how wrestling intersects with other realms of pop culture. So you can expect coverage of genre films starring professional wrestlers for the most part, but you can also look forward to some fun features which venture into other crazy places. Basically, this column will be our outlet for nerding out about the influence wrestling has had on our lives and the myriad of entertainment lifeforms we consume. We hope that our fellow fans will join us for the adventure. – Kieran Fisher