A Few Thoughts on “Professional” Wrestling

When I was a kid, I used to watch Pro Wrestling.  I will also admit that I enjoyed it. I’ll go further than that and admit that I even fantasized about being either a pro wrestler myself or being a manager.

In my juvenile brain, I actually thought that the whole thing was real. The Good Guys were really good guys and the Bad Guys were really bad.

When I became an adult, I realized that the whole thing was an act. There was even a magazine (whose name I have since forgotten) that openly spoke about pro wrestling like it really is: a staged performance. I read about the Real Life drama that went-on behind the scenes and how various companies treated their employees (i.e. the wrestlers, valets and managers) and it was very disturbing to me to find-out how the real business of wrestling really is and always had been.

I stopped watching pro wrestling completely after I understood how it was all an act, that the results of the “matches” were determined beforehand and that there were really no bad or good guys, only actors playing their parts. I never told other people, even my own family or friends, to stop watching it. If they knew it was fake and watched it anyway, that was up to them and I didn’t want to interrupt their enjoyment of the spectacle.

It can be fun to watch, I know. But, while I enjoy movies and TV shows where the drama is fake and never attempts to pass itself off as real, I cannot bring myself to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy Pro Wrestling like I once did.

What took me by surprise was the actual cold-bloodedness of the business, in regards to the main actors themselves. Doing an online search for “dead wrestlers” brought-up several names of wrestlers and valets whom I had enjoyed watching when I was growing-up:

Of course, there are more wrestlers, managers and valets who died from such ordinary things like cancer and heart attacks. Some died due to homicide (e.g. Gentleman Chris Adams and Dino Bravo) and accidents are blamed for other deaths.

But, seeing how many of these people had suffered drug addiction, alcoholim and steroid abuse, it makes me wonder if the public’s enjoyment of Pro Wrestling comes at too high a price. I mean, with all the pressure in the industry for wreslers to be big and muscular, steroid abuse became common and even retired wreslters, such as Hulk Hogan, talk about it today.

Aside from these people simply being dead, which happens to everyone eventually, most of the people I mentioned above died very young. Some of the wreslters I researched died in their mid-twenties, others died in their mid-forties. I don’t care who you are, but dying before you even turn 50 years old is a frakking tragedy.

Pro Wrestling is a multi-billion dollar business, with fans in the USA, Europe and Japan. So, my decision to not be a fan of this form of entertainment won’t put a crimp in their bank balances. There will alaways be other people willing to attend their shows or “matches”. Kids will still buy the dolls and fans will by the memorabilia by the boatload.

Unfortunately, for the wrestlers, most of them are locked into the business for much of their lives with no way to move up into something better. Some have tried their hand at acting in motion pictures, as Hulk Hogan did, but these movies are almost always horrible to watch and the wrestlers are almost always some of the worst actors I have ever seen on TV or the movie screen. Granted, the movies make a lot of money, but most of the wrestlers will never have a career as actors, no matter how much they might want it.

I saw a movie called “Beyond the Mat” which gave me further insight into the lives of several wrestlers, including a favorite of mine from my youth, Jake “The Snake” Roberts who is stuck wrestling on the small circuit, due to a falling-out with WWE owner Vince McMahon. Similar falling-outs happened with Koko B. Ware and the Ultimate Warrior, though for different reasons and I think the Ultimate Warrior may have deserved to get kicked-out of Pro Wrestling. Unless wrestlers invest and save their money while they are in the business, they won’t have anything to fall back on when they can no longer perform, as happened with Roberts. However, it is difficult to save anything when you spend so much of your money going to the doctor for repeated injuries which result in longterm problems later in life. Brett “the Hitman” Hart often speaks about how he lost so much of the time he could have spent with his wife and children, when he was out on the road working for the WWE and WCW. Hart and his wife divorced and I was sad to see that happen, especially after seeing his wife in the documentary “Brett Hart: Wrestling with Shadows“, which talked about Hart’s departure from the WWE.

Overall, my impressions are that the various wrestling corporations – at least, the larger companies, such as the WWE – are run by people who care little for the well-being of the performers. As long as they can perform, they’ll be kept around. When they cannot perform or something happens that causes some embarrassment for the company, they’ll be cut-loose, such as happened when Chris Benoit died and the WWE distanced itself from him when the details became public.

Thankfully, for the most part, wrestling companies have gotten away from encouraging racism – bad Arabs (e.g.the Iron Sheik, who is actually Iranian) and bad Russians (names too numerous to mention, but were usually Americans faking Russian accents) and evil primitive Africans (e.g. Kamala, the Ugandan Giant, also an American) – but they quickly found new marketing strategies when they included anti-heroes, like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and putting more sexually-suggestive content in the programs. WCW tried to counter this with more “family-friendly” content, but money talks and bullshit walks and the WCW foundered and was eventually bought by the WWE. The WCW just didn’t have the money and viewership the WWE did and still does.

The only pro wrestler, that I know about, to make it as a movie actor is Duane “The Rock” Johnson who has made several movies, some of which were pretty good. He’s also a pretty good person in real life, from what I understand. The one person making it does not cancel-out the dozen of people whose lives were cut short, whose lives have been negatively impacted by work-related health problems or whose marriages and relationships have suffered as a peripheral result of their involvement in Pro Wrestling.

One eye-opener is the Iron Sheik, who is now retired and making the rounds of the talk show circuit. He is very open regarding his own history of abusing drugs and names other wrestlers whom he had done drugs with. I don’t think many of those wrestlers are very appreciative of being metioned as having smoked crack cocaine with the Sheik in the past. But, he doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks about him or what he says. When I was a kid, I hated him for being a bad guy. But, today I have to admit that I really like him, if not for his views on certain issues, at least for being an honest man.

Despite my having been a fan of Hulk Hogan in the past, I was surprised when I discovered how many former associates of his now seem to despise him. Randy “Macho Man” Savage, “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and the Iron Sheik all seem to hate his guts, though I have never been able to find-out why. Maybe he was an asshole when he became so famous during his time as the WWE champion and he treated everyone around him like crap, I don’t know. It happens in the best of industries.

In retrospect, I won’t say that the time I spent watching Pro Wrestling was wasted. I enjoyed it before I discovered the Truth behind the industry. When I discoverd the real human cost to the very wrestlers I had cheered for and booed, the greed of the company owners and the backroom deals being made regarding match outcomes. The most disgusting discovery I made was that, as part of a storyline, Vince McMahon wanted to introduce an incest angle into a storyline by “revealing” himself as the true father of his own daughter’s baby, when Stephanie McMahon said no, Vince tried to establish the storyline with her brother Shane as the father and again she refused. Good for her. If Vince McmAhon had gone ahead with that idea, I think the WWE would have suffered a serious ratings drop, as people generally take a negative view of incest, even if it is in a make-believe environment.

I can understand how McMahon constantly needs to come up with new angles and storylines, as people always want something new and different and you don’t want to recycle old storylines too often. But, incest???

Still, McMahon is doing well for himself. He’s got the top-rated wrestling franchise in the USA and he’ll always have lots of money, unless he makes another bad investment like he did with the XFL and National Bodybuilding Federation. I heard that he eventually wants to start producing movies. Given his history of bad decisions outside of the WWE, I think he should stick with wrestling.

Pro Wrestling can be fun to watch. The pageantry and the spectacle can sometimes be breathtaking. As long as they stay away from stupid storylines, they don’t falter too much. If the industry would allow the performers to form unions, conditions might improve for them. Unionization would give the performers, at least, some sort of protection, as well as health benefits and unemployment insurance. The WWE works very hard to keep their performers from trying to form a union as Jesse “The Body” Ventura found-out when he tried to form a union within the WWE in 1984, only to be ratted-out by Hulk Hogan. This may explain why Hogan is disliked by some of his former coworkers.

But, until somebody finds a way to look after the health of the performers themselves, whether it’s physical or psychological health, there will always be a toll on the lives of the people who choose to make Pro Wrestling their career.

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6 Responses to “A Few Thoughts on “Professional” Wrestling”

  1. A Few Thoughts on “Professional” Wrestling | WWE Fan Says:

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  3. 5/24-Political Championship Wrestling on P-SPAN | WWE Fan Says:

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  4. A Few Thoughts on “Professional” Wrestling | WWE Fan Says:

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  5. wyldefyre723 Says:

    Hmmm… interesting. I suggest you go read my post on “The Wrestler”.

  6. spyderblog Says:

    I would if you had provided a link

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