How the sport and spectacle combination of professional wrestling won me over (and helped me understand America) -Entertainment News, Firstpost


At the turn of the millennium, when most Indian homes like ours didn’t have internet access, it was wrestling that helped me figure out what America was thinking every week.

When the going gets tough, we turn to our favorite guilty pleasures. But when it comes to entertainment, is there even guilt in what makes you happy? In our new Guilt Free Pleasure series, we take a look at pop offerings that have been decried by the culture police but continue to endure as beacons of pure fun.

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It’s hard to profess your love for pro wrestling as an adult. For sports fans, this is “wrong”. For viewers, it’s too rude, country-style, or sometimes both. He’s a weird bastard that no one knows where to put him. Professional wrestling industry mogul Vince McMahon rightly calls it “sports entertainment.”

It was hard to miss pro wrestling if you had a cable TV connection in the late ’90s. Raw is warMcMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) weekly flagship show aired on Star Sports. His rival show Nitro, which is part of World Championship Wrestling owned by Ted Turner, arrived late at night on TNT.

On the one hand, professional wrestling offered the physical, violent and gladiatorial spectacle of combat sports. On the other hand, it featured interpersonal plots, characters and dramas, similar to those in a movie or TV show. Add to the mix the theatricality of rock concerts, the humor of comedy skits and the experience of watching sports live, with generous portions of sex, questionable humor and a go-anywhere attitude. These disparate influences gave pro-wrestling a madness whose roots can be found in the American circuses and carnivals of the late 19th century.

The final concoction, for an impressionable nine-year-old, was an incredibly addictive form of candy – perhaps the best candy I’ve ever tasted before movies and rock music took me away from professional wrestling, which , by the mid-2000s, had ceased to be fresh due to the gradual gentrification of the product. This is what happens to any cultural phenomenon when it becomes essential to attract the widest possible audience.

But I’m not here to get nostalgic for Attitude Era or the Monday night wars. I’m here to talk about why pro-category is great. Second, I want to explain why professional wrestling, as a whole, is as culturally important as The Beatles, Quentin Tarantino, or David Beckham. Finally, I want to explain why studying the history of professional wrestling is often an intellectually stimulating experience.

Before you get heavy, a quick tour of what makes wrestling super fun. It’s not just two guys fighting. There is a two-pronged process at work here.

The live performance aspect includes scriptwriting, acting, makeup, costumes, musical composition, lighting design, artistic direction, pyrotechnics, works. He even needs some filming skills as the talent comes into the ring for their respective music videos that play on a giant screen. (This is where I saw my first clips, before discovering MTV). For a budding cinema enthusiast, professional wrestling was naturally appealing.

And then, of course, there are the fights in the ring. What makes matches interesting, apart from their different types, like the table-chair-ladder match, the hell-in-a-cell match or the buried-alive match, is that professional wrestling includes many styles. combat: traditional brawl, Greco -Grappling and Roman submission, kind of high-flying aerial stuff.

So you would have a superb technical wrestler like Kurt Angle, Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, face Rey Mysterio, icon of the lucha libre tradition. An Undertaker, who would stand nearly seven feet tall and weigh up to 140kg, would have to adapt to the fast, reckless and nervous wrestling style of the much smaller Jeff Hardy. And then there were those rare talents that fused all kinds of styles, like Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho.

It’s hard to explain to a non-believer the ecstasy of watching the Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian, and the Hardy brothers to throw oneself from the ladders. What could be better than seeing Triple-H beating his enemies for pulp with a hammer? And how can someone who has seen the Undertaker drop Mankind from a 16ft steel cage onto the announcers table not want to watch him over and over again?

Did they hurt? Of course they did, like Darren Aronofsky’s excellent 2008 film. Wrestler show. They put their bodies on the line to entertain us. How not to love them?

But, as is the case with the movies, it’s only a good match if you care about the characters. You only care about the characters when you care about their history. And a good story is one that reinforces the proven myth of good versus evil.

So, Hulk Hogan, probably the most famous professional wrestler of all time, was the good All-American guy asking the young “Hulkamaniacs” to “say your prayers”, “take your vitamins” and “be a real american. “Villains like Andre the giant, whose size and wickedness were symbolic obstacles for the God-fearing and hardworking hero. Or The Iron Sheik, who would step into the ring waving an Iranian flag, at the height of Iranian-American tensions in the early 1980s. With his Russian partner, Nikolai Volkoff, at his side, he spoke into the microphone with his supposedly Iranian accent: “Iran number one, Russia number one, America wack thoo”.

Entertaining, maybe, but simplistic, cartoonish and racist, right? While the storylines and characterizations of WWE have grown complex and darker over time, and society has slowly turned to be on the right side of America’s Culture Wars over the past 20 years, some traditions do not fade away. just never.

At the turn of the millennium, when most Indian homes like ours didn’t have internet access, it was wrestling that helped me figure out what America was thinking every week.

Of course, I wasn’t listening to Raw or Nitro with the adult intention of trying to understand America. But watch Rambo’s first three movies back to back at this age, and you know more about America’s foreign policy (Communism / Russia = bad) than anyone in Class Four.

So it was pro wrestling that released the first images of radical black politics in my brain. The WWE Nation of Domination wrestling stable, to which Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson once belonged, was inspired by the Black Panther party and the Nation of Islam. Of course, they were the heels. (In wrestling parlance, a villain is a “heel”, a hero the “babyface” or “face”, and the whole business modus operandi of passing staged and scripted quarrels and fights as so-called real is called “kayfabe”).

Note that the Nation of Domination debuted in 1996, four years after the Los Angeles race riots, and two years after the Clintons’ Crime Bill came into effect, which would have only intensified the criminalization of people. colored in the US.

Likewise, the villain of WWE Hart Foundation, comprised of Canadian and British talent, was positioned as a haughty anti-American fellowship group. Other heel stables like D generation X epitomized the cynical and nihilistic outlook of Gen X, or The Brood, who in kayfabe was a trio of vampires, shaped themselves into the gothic style of the mall, which had just come into vogue in the late years 1990.

Straightening those heels, there were faces like Stone Cold Steve Austin, a beer-drinking, truck driver, and rude brawler who knocked down anyone he didn’t like, and the crowds couldn’t get enough of him.

Austin’s biggest heel was Mr. Mcmahon, an image-obsessed, money-conscious, and corporatist hell boss that Vince McMahon himself played. The image Austin cultivated was that of a worker hero. Austin vs McMahon was, at its core, the feud between a son of the ground, much like Hogan, and the evils of American business. In fact, the costumed, materialistic, power-hungry character has been deceived by many heels over the years: Ted DiBiase, the Evolution Stable, and JBL to name a few.

Professional wrestling is then a piece of morality where the square circle becomes the place for settling scores, a bit like the climax of Ridley Scott’s film in 2000. Gladiator. His largely conservative interpretation of right and wrong offers excellent insight into Central America. The McMahons have been Republican donors for decades. Former US President Donald Trump, who has appeared on WWE shows multiple times, is a close friend of Vince McMahon. (“It truly is the pinnacle of American culture. Nothing will ever exceed that,” said a comment with over 4,000 votes on a YouTube video of Trump playing in a Raw episode). His wife Linda McMahon was in the Trump administration. It’s no surprise that Mike Judge was able to predict America of the Trump era in his 2006 film Idiocracy, in which the US President of the Year 2505 is a macho and stupid pro-wrestler.

Although the populist sensations of professional wrestling always excite me, it is discovering its 150 years of colorful history, which is also the history of how monopoly capital works, it feeds my interest in what is commonly considered children’s entertainment. Defending more for pro wrestling will make me look like public relations for WWE, or it will turn into an essay. I’ll just leave you, dear reader, with a great 5/5 game: Shelton Benjamin vs. Shawn Michaels. Enjoy!

To learn more about the Guilt Free Pleasure series, click here.

Devarsi Ghosh is a journalist who writes on cinema, culture and music.

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