In this post, I will be discussing why I believe that professional wrestling is a medium like no other.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room, Professional Wrestling is a form of scripted entertainment where two or more performers put on a show based around telling a story through combat. I mean to say, it is not a legitimate competition between two rival athletes but rather an art form whereby the performers work together to invoke a response from their audience.
My two sources of inspiration for writing this come in the form of youtube videos, one colourfully titled Wrestling isn’t Wrestling. In which Hollywood writer Max Landis narrates the story of a performer known as Triple H, and accounts his story from Rich Blue-Blooded American to Corporate overlord, which takes place over 20 years and is still ongoing to this day. He highlights the highs and low’s of the medium, touching on how the true passion and pleasure gained, comes from the character interactions, melodrama and the dedication to the performance by the athletes.
My other is from one of my favourite YouTubers SuperEyePatchWolf , who’s gentle sombre voice adds to building a sense of awe and lets his audience connect with how he feels on a subject. The one that has connected with me the most is his video on “The Undertaker” an undead, supernatural character that debuted in the early 1990s.
He discusses the importance of the flow of time in Pro-Wrestling and how when we look at a character over the long term, we can see how the character has changed and developed. In the case of The Undertaker, this was someone who started his arc by being a monster type of character, he would brush off the pain, rarely leave his feet (meaning to take a move that would require him to land on the mat either onto his front or back) and when he was taken down by an opponent, he would sit up and stare directly at his opponent, a move now synonymous with his character. Due to this type of role, he quickly became the type of character whos legacy and perceived threat never diminished. Although The Undertaker had variations on his character, such as a motorbike riding tough-guy, or a literal satanist, he was always able to be perceived as someone the audience and other characters had to take seriously.
This character has lasted nearly 30 years and has become apart of the life-blood and landscape of Pro-Wrestling as we know it.
I mention these two cases as it is important for me to show that this medium, above all else, favours long-term storytelling. Two contrasting characters who both made their names in the early ’90s have been able to adapt themselves and their characters to match the interests of their audience for over 20 years each. This has allowed them to connect to multiple generations of fans.
Things get monumental in Wrestling when two of these types of characters clash. If we look back to Wrestlemania 27(the WWE’s biggest and brightest show of the year) we have a match whereby The Undertaker and Triple H face off to challenge one another’s legacy and integrity. This match’s main selling point was that The Undertaker had been undefeated at 18 consecutive WrestleMania, and Triple H was challenging him due to The Undertaker retiring Triple H’s best friend the year before. A simple story on the surface but one with over 20 years worth of history behind it. The story they chose to tell was that neither could keep the other down; they used chairs, staging and people as weapons. Yet to no avail. It was only after a gruelling 30minute match was The Undertaker able to lock-in a submission hold and cause Triple H to pass out, ending the match and making Taker 19-0 at Wrestlemania. However, this was not the end of the story, in the moments following the match as Triple H regained consciousness and came to his feet. It was The Undertaker who had to receive medical attention and be assisted away from the ring by medical staff, last collapsing as he exited the ring. Showing the audience that although Taker had won the match, Triple H became one of the few men in wrestling history to say that the Undertaker had left the ring a different man from when he entered it to face Triple H.
For the fans of Triple H (my 14-year-old self included), this ending was bittersweet. A fight had been put up and the war had been waged. Triple H learned of the legacy of the Undertaker, gave his best shot, yet failed. However, he became the one man to walk away from a match that the “immortal undead” Undertaker could not.
I can’t help but think back to this match whenever someone asks me about my interest in Pro-Wrestling. It has everything mentioned in the two videos above,it has drama, established characters with motivations, wants and desires. It uses their personal histories against one another and ultimately culminates a story that had been built over many years.
If you’ve made it this far and aren’t at least impressed with the kind of impact this match and its medium left on me, well, all I can do is echo the words of those who inspired me to write this. Not all wrestling is good, but when it is, its great and like nothing I’ve ever experienced.