Pro Wrestling: A Dangerous Influence?

I have been a wrestling fan since about 2000, right at the tail end of the “Attitude Era” in which stars like The Rock, Mick Foley, and Stone Cold propelled the wrestling business into the mainstream entertainment scene. I jumped on the bandwagon when it was a fad, and I’ve stayed loyal ever since. I consider myself to be a “smart fan”, someone who is educated about the business and reads insider news and has a solid grasp on how the wrestling world works. That being said, I am extremely upset by the way the mainstream media has tried to portray professional wrestling. Through the years the media has tried to paint wrestling as a sophomoric, violent, and pointless medium of entertainment. They make wrestling out to be a white trash, ignorant display of aggression that influences its viewers in a highly negative way. I can tell you from what I have seen that the wrestling business is much more than that. In fact, I believe that it is among the top 5 forms of entertainment in terms of what it delivers and what it can do for society.

The media’s lack of knowledge of wrestling and eagerness to pass it off as garbage has been deplorable. In Mick Foley’s book, “Foley is Good”, he talked about a segment he did with ABC in which they edited his interview to make him look bad. They showed him two clips, one where young adults were practicing in a backyard wrestling ring, taking simple bumps (falls, slams, etc.). Then they showed him a clip of another backyard wrestling tape where the participants were using cheese graters and smashing light bulbs over each other’s heads. He commented on the first clips by saying that it looked like they were just having fun, even though wrestling without training is highly dangerous. On the second clip he commented that they were being stupid and irresponsible. When the segment aired, the first clip was completely edited out and the second clip with the violence was paired with his comments of the first clip, so it appeared that he was saying that the violence was good, clean fun.

Another incident that had me fueled was just last year in November of 2005 when MSNBC did a feature on Eddie Guerrero’s death. In it they named Chavo Guerrero as his cousin, even though Chavo is his nephew. It’s a small mistake, but if this is how MSNBC is run, how many errors are made in smaller media outlets? How much misinformation are we really getting? When John Cena was interviewed on a radio program he was announced as the current United States Champion, when he hasn’t held that title for years. I find it sad that the media treats wrestling this way, when every other meaningless program gets complete attention and respect.

You may be saying to yourself, “Who cares if the media gets facts about wrestling wrong? It’s just a fake show”. Well, I would respond by saying that wrestling being fake is not much different from any sitcom or drama on television, or any movie for that matter. Most reality shows are scripted to a degree, yet the media sings the praises of these shows. While wrestling may be over the top at times and that may appear to be sophomoric, I again say, how is that any different than Desperate Housewives? The world loves Jackass and Napoleon Dynamite, but not wrestling? How is wrestling any more absurd than reality shows like Flavor of Love or the Anna Nicole Smith Show? Actually, it is different, but in a good way.

Professional wrestling has so much to offer. And I’m not just talking about World Wrestling Entertainment. There are many other wrestling companies around the world. It is not hard to find good matches to watch on the internet. If you think that what you see on television is stupid, do a search on wrestlers such as CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, and . All of these men are highly talented and there is less talk and goofy storyline and more actual wrestling. Wrestling is so much more than WWE’s “sports entertainment”, which has largely become a male soap opera. In truth, many educated wrestling fans are not loyal to WWE programming. Serious wrestling fans care more about the in ring work, the ability and skill that is put into creating a great match that flows and tells a story. Wrestling at its best is the epitome of entertainment. It has aggression, humor, sex, drama, athleticism, a bit of acting, music, and more. It’s a grand show. While Kiefer Sutherland does a good job putting on a dramatic performance in 24, wrestlers like Edge have to act, give good speeches to sell tickets, work out constantly, travel from city to city without going home for weeks, and wrestle 4 nights a week. And just because it’s “fake”, doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. You try getting slammed on the ground and see if you can figure out a way to make it feel good. Try falling off a ladder to the 1 inch thick mat at ringside and tell me it was a breeze. Actually, just try running around for 20 minutes without getting exhausted, never mind having to lift a large person up several times and keep going without ever getting to stop before the match is finished. It may all be scripted and planned very carefully, but it’s nowhere near easy. Look at the scars all over Sabu’s body and tell me that’s not real. The man’s arm was sliced open with barbwire and he taped it up and continued the match. Look at Balls Mahoney’s scarred forehead and tell me it’s not real. Look at how New Jack cracked open his skull and brain fluid leaked out of his nose and tell me it’s not real. Look at the crippled wrestler Droz and tell me it’s fake. It may be as choreographed as a Britney Spears match, but the danger and physicality is real.

Beyond being difficult to organize and execute a good wrestling match, it is also incredibly dangerous. While matches that involve barbwire, steel chairs, and ladders are usually the most risky, wrestlers have been injured in more stable situations. Triple H went to clothesline Chris Jericho from behind and planted his leg wrong, completely tearing his left quadriceps. It tore off of his kneecap and rolled all the way up his thigh. Most athletes can never fully recover from this injury and can not return to action. But 8 months later, Triple H was back. In many of the fans’ opinion, he has been as good as he once was, but he can still deliver great matches. Kevin Nash simply stepped into the ring and tore his quadriceps, and it was obvious that he was really injured because his opponents helped him out of the ring. Vince McMahon ran into the ring and as soon as he climbed onto the ring apron he tore his quadriceps and had to sit down. Then when he went backstage and tried to walk instead of letting someone help him, he ore his other quadriceps. Amazingly he was able to walk within a matter of weeks. Chris Benoit, Steve Austin, Edge, Lita, and others have all had severe neck injuries in which they should have retired from, but they each took between 8 months to a year and half to recuperate and returned to the ring. The wrestling business is not safe, even for highly trained professionals.

Now, finally getting to the point, wrestling has been blamed for increased violence among teens lately. When a 13 year old wrestled with his 6 year old cousin and killed her, wrestling was put to blame by the media. Never mind that he was an idiot and when he got several opportunities to start his life over outside of prison he ruined them by committing stupid crimes. And with the recent Montreal school shooting the shooter was seen in old photographs wearing a replica Kane mask, with a Kane poster in the background. In a recent study which was featured on Geraldo, it was said that college males who watched wrestling were more likely to abuse their girlfriends. I don’t believe that wrestling or any form of entertainment such as music and movies can influence a person in such a way that they will change their entire brain scheme around to become another person. I think it is the other way around. I think that some people with violent tendencies and chemical imbalances already in them, are drawn to violent music and violent television and violent video games. But this does not mean that everybody who enjoys playing DOOM and listening to Marilyn Manson is a deranged serial killer wannabe. That would be like saying that all blonde women are clueless or all Jews have big noses and are tight with their money. It’s just another stereotype with a small amount of truth to it.

Wrestling can not be to blame for the way people behave. People make their own choices and will either act out on their bizarre feelings or they won’t, or they won’t have those feelings at all. Wrestling does not advocate violence. Wrestling has never portrayed an evil character who uses underhanded tactics to win and mercilessly inflicts pain on undeserving people as a hero. Wrestling storylines all revolve around justice. The oppressed fight to overcome the cheaters, the power mongers, and the dishonest. This is the basis of every television show and movie in some way.

I am not asking you to suddenly fall in love with wrestling, but to simply have an open mind to the better aspects of it and show wrestling fans some respect. Nothing compares to the passion, excitement, sacrifice, physicality, emotion, drive, and dedication that is seen in the wrestling industry. These men give their lives and their bodies to the fans. Most wrestlers are not making that much money and spend most of their earnings on travel bills and just trying to keep working. They do not get the glory and luxuries of other celebrities. There is no off-season. It’s 100% all year round and if they give anything less they lose their job. So the next time you watch wrestling, take a moment to think about how hard they are working to entertain you. Don’t just watch WWE’s RAW and SmackDown, watch the ECW program on the Sci-Fi Channel. Watch TNA’s Impact on SpikeTV. Go on the internet and look up IWA-MS, Ring of Honor, NOAH, AJPW, CZW, 3PW, and other wrestling companies and watch their matches. You will find something amazing and eventually find yourself appreciating wrestling a little bit more.

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