Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wrestling Isn't Fake... But It's Not a Sport Either

Seth Rollins after winning the WWE title at WrestleMania.
 By Mike Abelson (@MikeAbelson4324)

We're a little more than a week beyond WrestleMania. The show was fantastic, the finish was electric and Ronda Rousey judo tossed Triple H. It was pretty great.

During WrestleMania week, ESPN got in on the fun in a big way. Both Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman, two of the players involved in the main event, appeared on SportsNation. Brock Lesnar broke the news that he had spurned the UFC in lieu of re-signing with the WWE and, during the show itself, several official ESPN Twitter accounts were sending out match updates throughout the show.

During last Sunday's late SportsCenter there was even a highlight package put together of the main event, right alongside the NCAA tournament and NBA news of the day.

It was all good fun. Except on Twitter. The “wrestling is fake” crowd showed up en masse to rain down its anger on ESPN.

How dare the Worldwide Leader run wrestling highlights? Sports are sacred. There is no room for this silly, nonsensical tomfoolery amidst the real world of sports!

Sports and wrestling have something very important in common: both are pretty stupid. Sports are differing sets of arbitrary rules to impede individuals from doing an asinine, menial task. Wrestling is theatrical fake fighting. Both are dumb, but also really fun.

At WrestleMania there was a match between The Undertaker and Bray Wyatt. The Undertaker is a 300-pound, seven-foot tall undead pagan wizard. Bray Wyatt is a deranged cult leader from the Bayou, who nominally has the powers to teleport. The modern form of wrestling was never meant to be looked at as real sport.

Was it supposed to be treated as a true athletic competition when Undertaker summoned lightning to intimidate Wyatt or when Wyatt reanimated undead scarecrows during his prematch walk to the ring?

Wrestling is a genre of theater where the action beats happen in the form of wrestling matches. Wins and losses don't matter in the way they do in sports. Wins and losses dictate who takes up more space within the narrative. If a guy gets over with crowds and is getting wildly cheered, he'll likely get better placement on the card than a wrestler who's charisma is lacking.

Wrestling is the cousin of shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. It's simply narrative entertainment. You know Westeros isn't a real place, right?

However, unlike any other TV show, wrestling exists in a unique paradox. For example, let's say I see Bryan Cranston walking around in Fanueil Hall. I'm going to go up to him, ask to shake his hand, and tell him that I loved him as Walter White. The framing is always that Cranston is the performer that brought an intangible being, Walter White, to life.

If on that same day I see WWE World Champion Seth Rollins walking around I'm not going to say “Colby Lopez, I love you as Seth Rollins on Monday Night Raw.” I'll say “Hey Seth I had a blast watching you win the title at Wrestlemania.” There is never the gap in framing like with traditional television. When I meet Bryan Cranston I'm 100 percent meeting a man. When I meet Seth Rollins, am I meeting a man or meeting a character? Everything becomes tangible.

Wrestling has brought me to my feet. Wrestling has brought me to tears. Wrestling has had me storm out of rooms cursing. All those emotions are real. Isn't that what we want from the shows we watch?

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