Look, even the most normal person you know has a hobby or a quirk that is a little dorky. That guy who likes cars a little too much. That girl who tries really hard to be a sports fan. That meathead who absolutely HAS to get to the gym. Well today, I would like to shed a little light on something that I love that gets no respect. I do not expect you to change your opinion (if you have one) on the topic, but hear me out at the very least.
My problem with people that refuse to acknowledge the WWE on any level is the predictability of their answer- that it’s fake and the outcomes are predetermined. As a big time fan, it’s something I have had to endure since I was the weird kid, running around like I was Hulk Hogan, sans moustache. My argument is not so much in support of the WWE’s appeal, but more for the ways the company attracts and subsequently teases and pleases fans through a rigorous touring schedule and the way the spectacle of the final product makes me as happy today as it did when I was six years old.
First, I’d like to tackle the detractors. Unfortunately, the biggest misconception about the company is that because the outcomes are predetermined, everything that goes on inside the ring is not real. The reason that the company is unable to garner any real mainstream attention without the help of a celebrity participant is because this specific belief is so widely held. While I am unable in this forum to convince you of what is real and what is not, what I can do is appeal to your logic. The sheer number of broken bones and torn muscles and tendons alone from injuries that are in fact real, would astonish you. Yes, the winner is predetermined. But what does that really mean for us as fans? We are not in the know as to who is going to win or how it will happen. Sure, we know who will probably win, but isn’t that really true in all facets of entertainment? When the Yankees and Royals play, the game is legitimate, but we always expect the Yankees to win as the favorite. Similarly, watching a romantic comedy, you think you know what’s going to happen, so you watch to see how it all unfolds. We watch things like this because they are predictable. But they are also entertaining as hell in getting you to the finish. I could take some time here to take on those who oppose professional wrestling based on alleged steroid and drug abuse, but the last time I checked, most domestic professional sports (with plenty of drug testing failures) were doing just fine in popularity.
What’s absolutely remarkable is when you consider that by all accounts, the WWE is essentially an endlessly touring roadshow. One of their recent stops was a June 19th sellout at Madison Square Garden (pictures below). Their weekly television shows are meant to drive fans to attend these live events in person and also drive fans to purchase the monthly pay per views- the big events featuring the culmination of storylines resulting from the weekly television shows. In 2009, the WWE ran approximately 342 live events with two separate touring groups, some of which were scheduled in the same day as matinee and evening events in towns in proximity to one another. But where the professional sports seasons have an offseason and time off to prepare and heal for the following year, the WWE performers are offered no such break. In fact, they run 52 consecutive weeks of live and brand new television programming without ever showing reruns. And that’s before even delving into the kind of shape and conditioning it takes to be able to 1) make it into the biggest promotion in the world and 2) stay healthy enough to perform these incredibly athletic feats so frequently without injury.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the work that is churned out by the various writing and production teams behind the product itself. A team of writers that has to introduce new storylines and segments based around conflicts between two rivals. A production team that has to travel town to town, arena to arena, constructing massively built sets with lighting and pyrotechnics rivaling some of the biggest concerts ever- And this goes on every single week. More impressively however is fact that some of the shows are broadcasted on live television, making the margin for human error razor thin. This means that the writers and production team are constantly making up to the minute changes to the content and flow of the broadcasts and are only allowed minimal time for editing out mistakes in the episodes which are taped and shown later in the week. But they are similarly not afforded an offseason, or even ample time to edit or produce television. Think 52 consecutive weeks of new episodes of your favorite sitcom or drama, or a full year of NBA or NFL games. It’s remarkable to say the very least.
Professional wrestling is one of the most polarizing forms of entertainment in existence. It is revered by the passionate enthusiasts that follow it, while being largely ignored or abhorred by non-viewers. It is hardly involved in any measure of mainstream consciousness, but is meanwhile one of the greatest success stories in the expansion of modern American business. It is a product geared for children, revolving around a violent sport which involves adults. But as a fan for over twenty years, I’m finished trying to defend what I’ve held close as a secret indulgence for all these years, and I now embrace the feeling that I get when attending an event in person and the surprise I still feel when the show shocks me with an unexpected storyline. While the target audience may in fact be kids, the WWE consistently makes me feel like one at heart.
- Jane Van Arsdale