Everyone has guilty pleasures—and if they don’t, then they are missing out. Some people hide chocolate bars in their desk and sneak a bite when nobody is watching. Others might read trashy novels late at night. These sorts of things are empty calorie adventures, but it is generally a healthy form of escapism, as long as taken in moderation.
Julie and I like to watch WWE; yes, professional wrestling. Have for a few years now. Now before you start to pass judgement, think about your own guilty pleasure and how worthwhile it may seem to a third party.
Of course we know that professional wrestling isn’t “real,” if by real you mean that the matches are not scripted and the outcomes pre-ordained. We know many of the truly dangerous stunts are just that. However, if you mean that nobody ever gets hurt or that there isn’t an exceptional level of athleticism required, then you are wrong—as Sly Stallone said after filming a match against Hulk Hogan for Rocky III,you simply cannot fake gravity.
[The 7-foot tall Undertaker choke-slams Shaun Michaels as Randy Orton rolls out of the ring]
Plus, the scripted matches allow the characters to create story lines that are as entertaining as they are outlandish. We like to think of it as an acrobatic soap opera on steroids.
[Randy Orton’s signature entrance; Edge on his far side]
Monday night Raw and Friday night Smackdown: 52 weeks a year they put on a live show (not counting the additional PPV events, e.g. Wrestlemania, and other promotional events that happen regularly throughout the year). They travel all over the country and the world. They have even put on a live show for the US Armed Services in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past three years.
[WWE Champion – John Cena]
This week Raw was in Portland for the first time in three years. So Paul, Julie and I plunked down our coin and bought tickets for the event. It was quite a show. Though technically a performance of the Raw brand, four major Smackdown superstars were on hand for the main event match: a 4 on 4 tagteam duel pitting Shaun Michaels, The Undertaker, Batista and John Cena against M.V.P., Mr. Kennedy, Randy Orton and Edge.
[Batista – World Heavyweight Champion on Raw]
Some of the most surprising observations: The squared-circle seems much smaller in person than on camera, though the combatants still seem huge. The traditional pyrotechnics were crazy loud and unexpectedly hot. The commercial break time is partly filled with the losers of the match limping (if they fared well) or being assisted back (if they did not) to the locker room.
[Mr. Kennedy crawls back after a match]
Other highlights included seeing old-school superstars Dusty Rhodes (soon to be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame) and Portland native, Rowdy Roddy Piper. Oh, and “The Donald” was on hand to personally challenge the chairman of WWE, Vince McMahon, to a match at Wrestlemania. Ultimately, it was decided that they would compete via proxies, but the loser would have his head shaved. Lowest common denominator? Maybe. Entertaining enough to make you giggle out loud? You bet.
[Donald Trump vs. Vince McMahon]
The show was well worth the price of admission. By the way—though Raw is usually televised live on Mondays, it just so happens that this week it got bumped on USA for a dog show that USA has been showing annually for many years. The long and short of it is, if you wanted to see that 8 man tag-team match we saw last night, or perhaps watch two self-proclaimed billionaires butt/bet their excessively-groomed hair, it will be on USA this Thursday evening. And if World Wrestling Entertainment happens to become a guilty pleasure of your own… don’t say I didn’t warn you.