I have a confession. It’s no secret to those close to me, and it is probably silly for someone my age to be involved in, but I love professional wrestling. I always have and probably always will. Some have William Shakespeare or Mark Twain to provide the morality play of their lives, I have Hulk Hogan. Many of life’s lessons can be learned from the brutish, over-the-top exhibition. I would go as far as saying that everything in life I’ve ever needed to know, I’ve learned from professional wrestling.
Wrestling’s detractors will offer arguments about how wrestling is fake and barbaric. While the action is carefully choreographed, the actual matches are not the primary reason one could have for watching wrestling. Wrestling has often been called a soap opera for men, and I would have to agree. It’s the background storylines that have kept me entertained. Wrestling has good guys (babyfaces), bad guys (heels), and tweeners (could go either way). There’s kidnapping, infidelity, backstabbing, and treason, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wrestling has all of the crazy events that happen to us in real life, but wrestling has the one thing that most of us have not been able to embrace…at least not as quickly…closure. When someone is wronged, there must be a confrontation, and someone has to go down. That’s where the wrestling comes in, but you can’t have two, three, four (or however many you like) angry wrestlers beating each other up for no reason. This is when the magic happens and when we learn the rules of life through the eyes of wrestling.
You don’t slap a man
Who's been a bigger icon in professional wrestling?
Comedian Charlie Murphy once decried, "You don't slap a man. OK. I mean, even when slapping was fashionable, ya know, they did it in Paris, some guy would come up: WHAP PAP 'I challenge you to a duel.' They would have a gunfight after that, somebody had to go!" It is this way in wrestling. Very often, when one wrestler disagrees with another, he will slap him to send the message. Many times, an outstretched hand in good faith is met with a slap to the face. This type of slap is almost always met with a look of shock and the unsuspecting face must be slapped again to really drive the message home. A slap to the face is a perfectly legitimate reason to immediately get into an all out fist fight…just like in real life.
Infidelity is not to be tolerated
Quite often, a wrestler and his valet (female manager) will be at odds, and another wrestler will try to move in on the disgruntled female. From Miss Elizabeth and Randy “Macho Man” Savage to Kevin “Taskmaster” Sullivan and Woman, nothing gets the blood angrier than wandering eyes. I remember one Saturday night on a show called Saturday Night’s Main Event, Macho Man thought that Hulk Hogan was messing around with his wife, Miss Elizabeth. I remember being shocked that these two “friends” could be at odds over a woman when clearly, there was nothing going on. I suppose I also learned that jealousy and suspicion can be much more powerful than facts. In the heat of the moment, whether wrestling or otherwise, a man must stand his ground and defend his honor. Sometimes, reality imitates fiction, as in the case of Woman. She was the wife of Kevin Sullivan in real life but was cheating on him in real life with Chris Benoit. Sullivan and Benoit wrestled two fantastically brutal matches and Woman eventually divorced Sullivan and married Benoit. Years later, tragically, Benoit murdered his wife and child before hanging himself. Sometimes in life as well as wrestling, karma has a sick sense of justice.
Be proud of your heritage…just not here
One of the most common ways a wrestler distinguishes himself from the pack is by playing up his country of origin or family heritage. Nothing gets a crowd rowdier than when a wrestler from another country (especially a hated country) attempts to sing his national anthem in the middle of the squared circle. In the 80s, when the Cold War was alive and well, Nikolai Volkoff would sing the Hymn of the Soviet Union, much to the disgust of American audiences. Not only was he from Communist Russia, he was always escorted to the ring by the Iron Sheik, who was from hated Iran. Wrestling has always been great at instilling nationalism by uniting us in our hatred for our sworn enemies. Every once in a while, a Canadian would attempt to sing his national anthem to the boos of the crowd. As a child, I didn’t even know where Canada was, but I knew if the crowd didn’t like Canada, it was good enough for me. Conversely, a well placed chant of “USA, USA, USA” will breathe life into the most bored of crowds. This works especially well for guys like Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who hasn’t wrestled effectively for 15 years, but who still gets the crowd going with the USA chant.
Anyone who wants to work can get a job
You might think that, in the rough and tumble world of professional wrestling, a midget or “little person” wouldn’t find much work, but you’d be wrong. Little people have been tossed from the ring for as long as I can remember. There’s a little person named Hornswoggle who is just as athletic as any full-grown person and probably is a little tougher based on the punishment I’ve seen him take. Wrestling hires all comers. There are midgets, big hairy behemoths, pretty men, ugly women, stutterers, and pretty much any nationality and social status a person can come from. Wrestlers' personalities are a plethora of the best and worst in all of society, yet all that matters in wrestling is that you do what you are asked to do. Wouldn’t life be a little better if that were true everywhere?
It takes teamwork to make the dream work
Wrestling celebrates individual achievement just as well as any field, but just as celebrated is tag-team wrestling. From Jack and Gerald Brisco to The Killer Bees’ combination of B. Brian Blair and “Jumpin'” Jim Brunzell, tag team wrestling has shown that with hard work and a little teamwork, great things can be accomplished. After all, how many fights has anyone ever seen that just involve two men? Someone always jumps in. Tag team wrestling shows us that no matter what kind of beating life hands you, there’s always someone in your corner to have your back…unless he’s knocked out, of course…then you’re on your own.
There is such a thing as closure
Frequently in wrestling, a feud will last for months on end. Eventually, people get tired of seeing the same two guys beating the heck out of each other and need to move on. This will usually happen with some sort of “no holds barred” match in which the loser leaves town or has something humiliating thing happen to him to disgrace him and end the feud. We need these blowups to know that we can get past them. A man slaps a man, they fight, it eventually ends, and they find a reason to fight someone else. In real life as well as wrestling, we can’t stay mad at the same people forever. It’s too much of a weight to carry around. We need closure, and, more often in wrestling than in real life, we get it. If only life were more like wrestling.