Over the past few weeks I've been subjected to idiotic comments by morons who have no clue about wrestling. "Wrestling? Wrestlings stupid." This from a woman who reads soap opera digest. "You watch wrestling? When are you going to grow up?" An intelligent and fair comment, considering the person who said that still lives with his mom and is 32 years old. But I can live with this.
Over the years I've come to accept that professional wrestling is and always will be the scourge of society, an exhibition of stupidity put on by men rolling around on the mat in their underwear and being cheered on by the lowest common denominator this culture has to offer. All I can say in defense of this Sport of Kings is that I've had my share of tough times in my short life, and during those times the only time I could smile is when I popped an old tape from Florida into my VCR or sat in the third row at the ECW Arena and marked out as Eddie Gilbert fireballed Road Warrior Hawk.
The only time these people make me bristle, however is when they cut down pro wrestlers as athletes. "They're not real athletes!" This from a pot bellied cigarette smoking piece of white trash whose biggest athletic activity is trying to roll over his 345 pound wife for sex, only to almost go in vapor lock trying to consummate the act. But my favorite comment was from a kid I talked to a few weeks ago who informed me that he would like to train to be a pro wrestler. "You can just go to school for that, right?" "Sure, " I told him, "but its not like you can just waltz in, learn to do an armbar, and be ready for a career.You really do need to be tough and in shape to make it in this business." "Ah, come on!" he said "They don't even hurt each other in the ring! How hard can it be?"
Well, son, let me give you the bottom line. Lets start with that wrestling school. First you pay someone, in some cases if they'll even accept you, thousands of dollars in a down payment. Then, its boot camp time. If you don't believe me, watch tapes on news reports of tryouts for the Power Plant. I've heard the horror stories: a girl who had her ribs deliberately broken by the trainers in the first week; Ole and Gene Anderson collecting $250 from marks around the country and stretching them out; and the horror stories emanating from the ECW Academy. While the above scenario do not apply to all wrestling schools, and on many levels I don't condone all their actions, the message is clear: if you're REALLY serious about this business, what a better way to find out than paying your dues right from the start?
After all do you think you are really ready to be a wrestler? Are you ready to drive eight hours to a match two states away so that you can collect a lousy $25 payoff doing a job to someone who you know has less talent than you? Then drive back that night another eight hours to set up a ring for an afternoon show to help pay for your training?
Are you ready to be smashed with a chair at full force, shoved off an apron and take an accidental stiff kick to the face, all adding more hurt on top of that knee you can barely stand on? And your applause? "That match sucked! "You fucked up!" "You loser!" all from ringside trailer park trash that couldn't even lace up a pair of boots without getting carpal tunnel syndrome. And if thats not enough to demoralize you, the beer cup thrown at your head from some drunk will. Sure you can take time off, but why risk losing your spot?
And lets say your one of the lucky few, the lucky few to make it to the big show. Its your big night at the TV taping. Your reward for all the miles on ther road, the crappy payoffs, and the ten concussions? Doing a thirty second job to someone who hasn't paid their dues because they have better genetics than you.
But some day you may be one of the hundred that do make it. You get that day in the sun. If your lucky, you'll have a three to five year run out of it. You'll make enough money to buy a house. You'll be recognized and treated special wherever you go. Lines of people will line up to get your autograph.
Then the fans will stop coming. The injuries will wipe out your workrate. The ratings will plummet that quarter point when you come on TV. And the painkillers, alcohol and rats will dull your mind and body.
Sure you'll still find work in the indies, and you'll make some more money off your name, but its just not the same. "Get the old men out of the ring!" demands some ringside trailer park trash. "Booooring!" chant the other 150 marks in the high school gym. Then at intermission you grit your teeth and smile as you gladly accept the fin from the same idiot so his kid can have his picture taken with you.
Sure you want to be a rassler?
Don't get me wrong- the point of this piece is not to elicit sympathy for the boys. Talk to 99% of them and they'll tell you the lost weekends on the road, the lousy pay, and the physical pain they endure is a small price to pay for a shot at their dream.
It's just that next time that some young punk enters a wrestling school and has his leg twisted like a pretzel its not his instructor getting his rocks off- its called learning respect for the business.
Now about Jay Leno. I've already heard the Leno-Hogan angle compared to Andy Kauffman and how that hurt Memphis wrestling in the 80s. What a terrible and short sighted analogy. Leno is being brought in as a face who is supposedly going to be able to step into the ring with Hollywood Hogan with only five days of training. Andy Kauffman was a heel whose gimmick was to prove wrestling was fake. He got piledriven by Jerry Lawler, and Kauffman gave that famous interview in the hospital admitting that wrestling was real. Afterwards Kauffman mostly stuck to managing, thus putting professional wrestling over as legit.
Leno should not be compared to Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Kevin Greene or Steve McMichael either. These four individuals are professional athletes who in many ways have paid their dues in other sports, and their participation in WCW or the WWF in no way damages the credibility of the sport (well, maybe Rodzilla stumbling around drunk in the ring).
Jay Leno on the other hand is a chubby comedian who in no way will give wrestling any credence should he score a pinfall on Hogan or even Bischoff. Trailing in ratings in some ways you can't blame WCW for booking a program with Jay Leno since the publicity garnered on the highly rated Tonight Show is tremendous. But as a manager, not a wrestler!
Its times like these when you can almost not blame someone for thinking that anyone can be a wrestler.
Dan Moreland is a columnist for Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Dan Moreland