I had trouble writing this column, for months my Editor would ask, “Hows you, where’s the Column?”, sometimes he would give up on the “hows” and add, “Fuck” and I couldn’t write anything down, not because of what he said but because wrestling is something that changes all the time. Same with our emotions it changes all the time, we can watch a match think it was great, then watch the same match again and think, ‘meh’. Wrestling is something incredibly complex, it really is when you think about it.
Story-lines are played out in a four-sided ring (or six, sometimes), heroes are made and villains are created before our very eyes. Best friends have hidden agenda’s, arch enemies can side with each other on a whim and then the show is over, everything you’ve seen is erased…until the next time.
Then, the world involving wrestlers, the real world that is, is something we begin to focus on, we as fans start to become interested in that as well, in some cases more so, because it’s real. If this wrestler hates that wrestler, will the match they’re about to have become real or a shoot? Did he mean that hard punch? Did he mean that insult? That’s the thing, it adds another layer to the drama of what we are watching in the ring. See what I mean? Complex.
So this column, in what I hope may be the first of many to come, I want to look at the term ‘Fake’, “Wrestling, its fake right?” That’s a comment many wrestling fans have heard a lot more than they like to admit and without jumping into the usual arguments about the number of hours the wrestlers take to train and the amount of effort it takes to keep the audience engaged in a match, I want to ask a question, one question, “What does wrestling mean to you?”
Imagine I’m sitting opposite you right now, asking you that question, what would your answer be: it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s an escape. You may very well answer with those statements, but I’m sure some of you many answer with this: It’s a family. It’s a community.
Now, how can people say this? I mean, wrestling is not just one promotion, there are hundreds of them and for that matter, it’s a business, it’s supposed to be cold, calculating, the focus is on profit and loss. Many promoters get into it to make money, many wrestlers get into it to make money and it’s a way to (in some cases) make a living. But for wrestling fans, it’s different isn’t it?
We don’t always look at it as a business, we do see it as another world, where we suspend our normal rational thought process and let what we see play out then we react accordingly. We will cheer, we will boo, we will spend a really, really, really unbelievable amount of time on social media talking about the way a match was played out and how our favourite wrestler isn’t getting the attention we believe they deserve. We will buy their merchandise, proudly show it off at the shows and cheer within ourselves or cheer out loud when our favourite wrestler sees us with their T-Shirt on.
But that’s one side of being a wrestling fan, when they say it’s a family, it’s a community, more often than not we make friends at these events, sometimes due to the fact we’ve seen the same people at every show and vice versa or perhaps you’ve spoken to them on social media and you’ve realised you both go to the same promotion. Then over time, you go out for nights out and you’ve bonded, odds are more friends were added the same way, now there’s a bunch of you and that’s great isn’t it? Wrestling did that. A promotion brought you all together through the action you saw in the ring, how fake is that?
I have met strangers, who have become friends, some who struggle battling anxiety, some who find it hard to get up in the morning as they cope with crippling depression, some who deal with missing limbs or even worse, life-threatening illnesses and on show day, they will post a message on a group chat, or a social media post that they are heading to a show, not just for the event but to see everyone. Wrestling does that, those strong individuals find their strength from going to see wrestling events. Wrestling does that.
For me personally, wrestling has done so much. I have seen incredible action in the ring, I’ve travelled all over the UK, admittedly I’ve seen far too many Community Centres I never really knew existed, I’ve made friends with the most random and awesome people and I’ve inherited a wrestling family who’ve helped me more than they realise by being themselves around me and wrestling did that.
People can call it fake, they can use it as an insult or a joke all they want, but for the fans or the people involved in wrestling, the relationships and the communities developed through it, it’s very real indeed.
You could even say, it’s real, its damn real!
Photos by Craig Hermit