I probably write anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 words per week for The Washington Post, so I'm not sure how much more the tips of my fingers can take to tap out intelligible essays here. I want to try though.
Maybe just not right now. In lieu of anything fresh (unless you really want to hear about how I mixed half & half with water to make a pretty gross substitute for milk to dump on my Raisin Bran this morning), here's an essay about the origination of one of my well known passions, WWE, that I wrote about for a site called Scoutmob on April 11, 2012.
As I stood in line on Monday night at a kiosk in the Verizon Center waiting to get my hands (or back, rather) on a fluorescent pink T-shirt that read in gigantic black-light-ready block lettering “IT’S NOT SHOWING OFF IF YOU BACK IT UP,” I became keenly aware of who I was, er, who I am. Obviously, I'm still getting used to the idea. I'm a rabid World Wrestling Entertainment fan.
There. I said it.
What started eight months ago as a one-time ironic viewing of a television broadcast called Monday Night Raw (a title that sounds perfectly fit to be the pinnacle of entertainment for stereotypical redneck Middle American males), had somehow become an obsession for me, a thirty-something, East Coast-educated female urbanite. But how? Why was I in this seemingly endless blob of a line so eagerly anticipating my purchase of an arguably hideous T-shirt to support a wrestler/villain named Dolph Ziggler? That sounds crazy! Even crazier, why had I spent hundreds of dollars to fly all the way to Miami just 8 days earlier to catch WrestleMania, the Superbowl of this scripted sport?
Finally, after nearly half an hour of shuffling forward about a foot per minute, it hit me like a Randy Savage elbow. What attracts me to this unique form of entertainment is also why it should attract you -- WWE is high-brow theater disguised as low-brow hijinks.
It’s Macbeth in sparkly Spandex trunks. In Shakespeare’s play, a crown is sought. Drama ensues. Fights follow. In the world of WWE creator Vince MacMahon, a belt is sought. Drama ensues. Fights follow. There are good guys and bad guys in both -- heroes, anti-heroes and villains. There’s occasional comic relief. Truly, except for the Elizabethan period garb (although, actually, there have probably been exceptions to that rule too), WWE offers everything to satisfy the modern intellectual and more.
See, along with awesome pyrotechnics, which I have yet to see in a production of MacBeth, the success of any WWE production depends on the audience’s willingness to participate. There are the kids and the dumbs (known as “marks”) who actually believe it’s real. There are the “smarts,” who know it’s choreographed and are more interested in the behind-the-scenes operations. And then there are the “smarks,” a term that accounts for people like you and me, who are aware of both the onstage and backstage worlds of professional choreographed wrestling and use this comprehensive knowledge to enjoy WWE in a way that traditional theater doesn’t allow.
For example, in many cases, we can cheer for the heel (hence, my Ziggler shirt) and boo the good guy. We make our judgments on a wrestler not based just on where his or her (there is a female division, as well) character falls on the good/bad scale, but on how well he or she performs his or her role. Hence, when a talented heel like Ziggler takes a great fall (labeled a “bump” in the industry), we cheer not because the proverbial hero knocked him down, but because he made it look amazing. This happens often.
Likewise, we cheer for those who are articulate, hero or heel, while delivering their promos (in Shakespeare, these are called soliloquies). Or hell, we don’t even have to cheer for any particular person -- we can cheer or jeer entire storylines if we want! There is a lot more going on in pro-wrestling than you might think.
Which might be why I wasn’t surprised to see a few hipsters in their skinny jeans at WrestleMania earlier this month or, on Monday, several people donning their wrestling T-shirts over their white-collar office outfits during the live taping of "Raw" at the Verizon Center. Pro-wrestling isn’t just for flyover country anymore. It’s for everybody, including the smarty-pants people of D.C. Including you.