I have an enormous appetite for professional wrestling. I have been watching it since I was 10 years old. Even as I grew older, the obsession remained. People ridicule it because perhaps they haven’t connected with it. I am alright with that, as a fan, because professional wrestling is an art form. And art is subjective; something that one can relate to, find therapy in, get inspired by, cherish time with or simply choose to ignore.
I feel connected to the little things that happen inside the squared circle. For instance, I love it when a villainous wrestling character pokes his opponent’s eyes despite being in total control of the match. He shouldn’t need to stoop low and scratch his opponent’s eyes to gain an unfair advantage. He should want to do that just because he is a terrible human being. It is how some people are in the real world. They don’t need to be jerks; they just want to be. Many of them get away doing awful things to others. At home. In offices. Government offices. But in a four-sided ring, there is at least a chance that they might get dropped on their heads for such insolence. Life isn’t fair and pro-wrestling is a reflection of it. The characters and back-stories in every match are often indicative of the people and sentiments that we are exposed to in our own lives.
Whether in front of 100,000 screaming American fans or inside a Japanese high school gym with 10 friends to cheer them on, good wrestlers connect with audiences in the same way writers do with theirs. They lead people towards the center of their emotions; either bringing them down with crashing cymbals or lifting them up with rising crescendos. It barely matters who wins or loses. The way that they do or how they choose to react to the result is just as entertaining as the predetermined athletic contest itself.
The World Wrestling Entertainment is where the big boys and girls play. But there are several promotions such as Pro-Wrestling Guerrilla, Chikara, PROGRESS and Scotland’s IWC that are doing spectacular things with much smaller, more passionate crowds and incredibly-skilled wrestlers.
Those who have watched wrestling, growing up in the 80s and 90s, in any capacity might have heard of this character called The Undertaker. He was considered a final stage boss who wrestled important people at pay-per-view events. Growing up, I was a big fan of his; that nothing could destroy him. No matter how hard people tried and even had him at times, seemingly lifeless, on the ground. The Undertaker would always get back on his feet and start wildly punching people in their mouths. He was an unassailable force; one I relied on to bring forth justice in a make-believe world.
The Undertaker used to be a quintessential father figure. Even though my own father is and has been a very special person. I have seen him do great things for his family and his hometown. He is over 6-feet tall, hard-working and philosophical. Tough-as-nails too. But he has never worn a cowboy hat and imposed his supernatural prophecies on bad guys through spooky phonetics and western classical music. I have never seen him, or anyone else’s dad for that matter, pick up a person who has wronged him, invert his body in mid-air and bring his head crashing down to the floor. He couldn’t roll his eyes backwards on cue either. But the Undertaker could do all that. And he never asked me to finish my homework before watching wrestling on television.
Last April, the Undertaker lost for the first time at Wrestlemania – the biggest and most celebrated annual wrestling event. Before 2014, every Wrestlemania featured the Undertaker defending his then-unbeaten streak against a premier opponent. It has been a gimmick that lasted over two decades. But in April 2014, he fell victim to a beast of a hybrid fighter called Brock Lesnar. During an early stage in the match, the Undertaker suffered a concussion. It was even rumored that this had caused the owner of the company to take a spontaneous decision and have him lose the match much to everyone’s shock.
Once the referee counted to three, it felt as though a part of my childhood died. I have watched the ending of the match a few times since. It still sends shivers down my spine. It shook a part of me which believed that there are some fights that will last forever; that the big, bad world doesn’t win every single time. Most of all, that good men, whether the fake evil overlord of an American sports entertainment federation or simply a childhood hero, will triumph in the end.
Thanks to Rajiv for mentioning The Undertaker in a recent post that got me started on writing this one.