I’ve recently returned to watching WWE wrestling after 15 years away. I really enjoy it. But why do I love it? It’s something of a mystery to me. Why do people like Wrestling Entertainment? Perhaps you could understand why a person would like WWE before finding out that “it’s fake.” But interest in WWE doesn’t always go away when a person finds out that the individuals on the show are stunt-fighting. How can you like a show that is just pretending to be real? Well, it better be similar to the reasons people give for liking other pretend things. That is, it should turn out that the reason I like WWE is like the reason I like magic shows or the reason I like certain works of fiction or television shows.
Luckily, the reasons that people show like WWE are similar to the reasons they should like these other things. But first we should talk about how to categorize WWE wrestling. WWE wrestling is a weird thing. It’s like a cross between a soap opera, the muppet show, and live theater, but it’s in the action genre. Suppose you were watching a TV show like 24. But now suppose that they made this show live, and retained all the action and stunts. This would be a rad show. Now, the stories in WWE are not quite like the stories in shows like 24, but they are dramatic arcs nonetheless. In fact, they are often versions of the heroes journey (or redemption stories, or a host of other kinds of stories). In fact, there is a great youtube video by a respected hollywood writer illustrating what wrestling is (spoiler alert: wrestling isn’t wrestling):
Wrestling is a lot of things, but it’s not wrestling. It’s a drama. It’s performance art. It’s the muppet show (a show about the drama behind putting on a show). It can be a place for really great story-telling. It’s also an art that has been devoted to developing the best and most convincing stage-combat that you have ever seen. In a way like magic, it’s devoted to creating a certain contrary-to-reality perception which makes it easier for the viewer to engage in the suspension of disbelief.
Professional wrestling, though it might suck from time to time, gives the real opportunity for amazing story-telling over the course of years and years. You should check out professional wrestling again. It’s worth watching.
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Peace be with you.
P.S. If you’d like to watch a great podcast which discusses wrestling from a storyline perspective, check out sidewalk slam: