I remember back in the 90s watching Wrestling. I have vivid memories of The Undertaker and Yokozuna. It used to be part of my Saturday evenings, to sit and watch the very old and Spanish reruns of the WWE. I remember my sister and I watching it intently, both enamoured with the fighters and their characters. We couldn’t make heads or tails out of the storylines but the action was fun.
But then something changed. We grew older or perhaps we saw through the illusion but we both stepped away from wrestling, calling it fake and complete hogwash. I saw through the acting and realised those big punches and kicks never connected and it just killed that part of me that liked WWE.
Earlier this year, during a not-so-good time in my life, my good friend Timlah (from GeekOut South-West) convinced me to watch some wrestling with him, as he is a massive fan. At first I was reticent but being the smart man he is, he kept talking to me of the stuff he was watching—while he was watching them—and slowly but surely got on my nerves. So finally, I told him “Ok, let’s watch one, that way if it’s crap I can properly tell you so.”
I’ve said that twice in my life so far, the first time with Kamen Rider to a friend, years ago, and now to Tim on wrestling…and both times, I’ve ended up swallowing my words and becoming a fan.
I hate you both.
Now Tim and I have a weekly thing. Every Thursday we watch recordings of the previous day’s episodes of WWE NXT and Lucha Underground and comment about what we see and decide on which show had the better episode. Thanks to Tim, I have a firmer grasp on the individual storylines of the different wrestlers, as well as understanding what some of the moves are.
And Tim was smart about it. He knew I’d like to see something awesome so he first hit me up with Lucha Underground. For those who don’t follow it, it’s an American Show produced by Robert Rodriguez and features masked wrestlers from Mexico and American ones (a few of them formerly WWE even), all fighting in the arena known as The Temple, run by the very lovably evil Dario Cueto, a guy who hams it up every week but is so fantastically bad you can’t help but love him.
But what sets LU apart is the level of agility you see in its fighters. These guys jump on the ropes, onto the corner before taking a backflip and doing a mid-air, mid-somersault kick to the opponent’s face. It was the best thing he could’ve shown me. The matches were fast, intense and highly acrobatic. Dario Cueto’s actor kept hamming and overacting, and the Mexican Luchadores kept it up with the broken English but it was so fun I didn’t care. Something about it hooked me.
Then we moved on to NXT and while I recognised the traditional WWE format and tropes, NXT was different in many ways. Less about the pomp and preening I’d come to recognise in the WWE and more about character growth and plots. It helped that the first episode I saw featured the feud between the now NXT Champion Kevin Owens and his former friends Sami Zayn. It was intense and well performed. And I’ve always said I’ll watch, read and play anything as long as it has good characters and plot. NXT had that.
But even though I’m back to watching Wrestling, sometimes they screw up and break the illusion and for a few minutes I slip back into my dislike for it. Perhaps it’s a very close shot where I can see the boot not connecting even a bit, or it’s a lazy grapple where I can tell it’s fake or most commonly when they flail their arms madly in a ‘flurry of blows’. Those moments break the illusion for me and it’s very difficult to get back into it.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned and now recognise, it’s that despite the overselling and overacting, it’s not entirely fake. Wrestlers get hurt, constantly. They’re always in and out of surgery because the slams, throws and suplexes you see take a heavy toll on their bodies. Many have had to retire because a simple throw broke their necks and they had to have metal parts bolted into their spines to keep them functioning. Only a couple of weeks before I started watching these shows, a Mexican Luchador died in the middle of a fight with a former WWE star. It’s the kind of thing you start to realise when you see them constantly jump and throw themselves out of the ring into the stands.
Wrestling hooked me back in. I didn’t know what it was I was watching at first, just that it was intense, and I definitely had to do it again. And so I have.
By the way, if the above sounds familiar, I’ve used a line from NXT wrestler Rhyno. After a match he now famously—for us—came up to his opponent and said “I don’t know what that was, but it was intense. We need to do it again!” Tim and I are still surprised that no one has turned it into a meme. I remember telling him, “That bit was only slightly homoerotic!” to his reply of “Then it wasn’t just me who thought that!”
Since then it’s become an inside joke.
I’ve been enjoying the Roar of the Crowd, now I leave you to enjoy it as well!