When I found out I won January's Columnist of the Month award down in the Columns Forum, I was pretty stunned. You see this was the month the prolific pink one 'Plan decided to go on a writing rampage, producing like eleven really friggin’ good columns. I thought for sure that I was going to be buried. Shortly after the shock wore off, I realized I needed to write a column for the MP, as a prize of sorts to each month's winner. Ohhhhh, intimidating. What should I write? Should I write about Daniel Bryan or CM Punk? Should I attempt to sound smarter? Or write a straighter, cleaner style of column? Should I stop being so weird and unusual? Should I stop wasting time with all the rhetorical questions?
January 2014 COTM - Channeling My Inner Fan: A Journey Of Perceptions
Apr 7, 2014 - 3:19:14 AM
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
With that quote resonating in my mind, I decided to do an introduction of sorts; a glimpse into one smark’s account of becoming a fan and learning a thing or two about perception...
Beginning In The House Of "Heels"
I initially got into watching professional wrestling through my older brother and sister. Being the youngest meant, most of the time, I watched whatever they were watching on TV. This meant that on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, we were watching wrestling. In those days, WWE was WWF, and it wasn't the programming you see today, yet in some ways, it truly was. It was aimed primarily at kids, whereas in the past it was more of a mix. In those days you had the feel good faces such as; Tito Santana, Ricky Steamboat, Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Snuka, Ivan Putski, and Hulk Hogan. Watching these men, particularly Hulk and Jimmy, triumphing against the dastardly bad guys made me feel invincible. Emulating your heroes is something most kids do, and I was no different.
I channeled Hulk Hogan as I tried ripping my shirt off, while I took my vitamins and said my prayers. It took some time to understand why Hulk had his shirts shredded, but once I finally figured it out, I was ripping and posing. I still remember the first time I successfully ripped my shirt off. It was a sincere sense of satisfaction, like I had somehow reached Hogan's level. I would point to my brother and shake my head with wide, wild-eyes, throwing my hands up and down with clenched fists, and "Hulking Up". I felt unstoppable, just like my heroes.
My brother is ten years older and would just pummel me or toss me aside like I was a heel Lanny Poffo instead of the mighty Hulkster. Legdrops, hulking up, and big boots had no effect. I even branched out and tried the Polish Hammer (also to no effect). I couldn't understand why it wasn't working like in the WWF. Not only that, but I was getting beaten down. So naturally, I figured he was just the ultimate heel and decided to swallow my pride, cut my losses, and move on to a new feud.
My dog at the time, Bert, was my next target. He didn't cut promos like my brother; his style was closer to the Junkyard Dog or George the Animal Steele -wild, untamed, and confident. I channeled Jimmy Snuka when I would face him. I would hit the Superfly off the top couch, yet miraculously, he no sold me every time! I tried to pin him and he would get up and nonchalantly walk away, as if nothing happened. He always had that dead look in his eyes, with a blank expression like nothing I did fazed him. He shrugged me off like I was the Brooklyn Brawler instead of the Superfly....that son of a bitch. I didn't understand what was going on. The good guy always triumphed in the WWF, yet here I was in a house of heels getting no sold and cast aside. Such blatant disregard for my characters credibility would not stand, so I decided to try and save face by moving on to a new opponent. I needed to make a statement.
"No Sell" Bert, no-selling the camera
My sister is seven years my elder, and back in the day we used to have wars. I channeled Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat against her, attempting the arm drag....which in hindsight, might have been a bad idea. You see, I was less than half her size at the time, and I am openly admitting I got schooled by my sister (a girl) a few times. A crushing defeat for a face, especially when her finisher was typically a cross variation of Andre the Giant's Sit Down Splash and a standing Yokozuna Bonzai Drop.
My sister even had a heel tag partner in her high school bff. Those two with their big poofy 80's sweaters, equipped with the fashionable shoulder pads, were my Achilles heel. They had the drop on me at every pass. If I managed to outwit, or out maneuver one of them, the other was right there to bring me down. The number game served to oppress me yet again. Frustration started to set in. In my desperation, I started using not so savory tactics unbecoming of a face. I would use foreign objects, and sometimes attack from behind. The face not triumphing time and time again had started to slowly transform me. As I got older, I was becoming a heel. Things weren't going well, and I realized I had to use any tactics necessary to succeed. I was starting to channel Ric Flair in my battle against my sister and her asshole friend. A poke to the eyes if we were locked up, foreign objects, and overall shenanigans ensued. A yank on the duo's bufont hairdos in desperation should have done the trick, but I continued to fall short of victory. I was determined to triumph, yet I never did. I started to realize the leg warmer 80s duo was simply too much for me to take on alone, and the cold realization that I wasn't yet ready for the top of the card created a bitterness in me.
Don't look fast, those aren't the Rockers! I'll save my sister the 80s photo embarrassment. These bitches are a representation.
Growing With Attitude
At this point I decided to try and work my way back up to the top the old fashioned way, with a series of small feuds against opponents closer to my size, age, and stature. I set out through my school to build up a reputation, and regain my perceived glory. A solid repackaging was what I needed, as I began to embrace the Attitude! I channeled Stone Cold Steve Austin. Talking out of my neck and dishing out Stunners, I did battle with the dregs of the student body population and experienced success. A short lived ego trip it was though thanks to a man wearing a tutu...
My best friend’s older, and substantially larger brother is a big bad dude, and a good friend present day. He did go through this social defiance phase in high school though where he liked wearing tutus to school. Yep, you totally read that right; fucking tutus. The thing was he was about 6'3, about 325 pounds, and Irish. He wanted negative attention. So being the ever intelligent teenage reincarnation of Stone Cold I was, I told him one day where I would shove that tutu. Well I got in a few good moves in our match, and then he used his weight to essentially crush my will to live among other things, before attempting a Boston Crab. I managed to muster enough energy for a kick out and fled; collecting the count out loss as I attempted to reinsert my spleen back into my mouth. I felt like I got mauled by Zombie Jesus. I was exhausted, and deflated. My singles career was not going as planned.
It's a trap!!
Right around that time my friend (tutus younger brother) Nate and I decided to join forces. We were anything but a face team. The two of us disillusioned and disenfranchised, channeled the Dudley Boyz circa ECW. We struck our foes mostly unsuspecting with 3D's at anytime, anywhere. Displaying how much of a threat we were to the student body at anytime, or anywhere, we even delivered one in the middle of our French II class one day. Our friend got up to grab something from the teacher. I walked up behind her. As she turned to go back to her seat Nate was there in front of her to hoist her up as I ran from behind to deliver the Dudley Death Drop. (We were great at selling. No students were harmed in the making of this column) Thankfully our French teacher was one of the coolest teachers ever, and only kicked us out for the day instead of reporting us. I had never seen our often tranquil teacher so enraged before though. He typically loved our cheeky antics, which I think may have been what saved us. Mix in random 3Ds on completely unsuspecting freshman in the hallways and we were picking up notoriety for our ruthlessness along with a reputation as the bullies of wrestling in our small little corner of life. We were most definitely heels, but for the first time bafflingly, we were fan favorites.
Perplexed I looked to wrestling to verify this odd truth. Sure enough there was Stone Cold, The Dudley Boyz, and The Rock all playing heels and the fans were eating it up. The wrestling tides had shifted. Fans didn't want the cookie cutter Hogans and Backlunds anymore. They wanted a new kind of foul mouthed and cruel hero. In that frame of mind, my friend and I truly delivered. Maybe my past of getting beat down, no sold by an animal, embarrassed by a duo of girls, and then pummeled by a massive man wearing a tutu were all just the right ingredients needed to give me some edge and propel me to the top like I had always envisioned back all those days ago. It seemed to come at a price though, as we had to accept an unsavory means to our glorious ends. My friend and I had conquered the wrestling world as a duo, and then decided after a while that we would split up the group, but remain allies in our solo endeavors.
Shortly after that Nate enlisted in the army after an initial series of solo attempts failed, and then was deployed to Iraq to play his part in the war as a true baby face. His older brother Ben, whom I had now started training with and become friends, had enlisted in the Air Force and was then deployed to Afghanistan to play his part as a fresh, true baby face as well sans tutu. My friends had shown me a path in this modern, aggressive climate to succeed as a baby face, but I didn't enlist due to a promise I had made to my grandfather who had just passed away. He essentially told me we (the United States) needed faces back home too. As Attitude turned to Ruthless Aggression, it then turned to grief. Remorse over both those who were gone and an ever changing and confusing landscape led me to strange times. Times where I had lost my passion to wrestle.
"The question is not what you look at, but what you see." -Henry David Thoreau
The world had grown dark for a young man who was unsure if he was now a face or a heel. He wasn't even sure of what truly made a face a face, or a heel a heel. He still wasn't even entirely sure that he cared regardless of the answers.
My friends would come back on leave occasionally, and along with my other wrestling friends, both face and heel, we would play the "Does This Really Hurt?" game. The objective was that we would apply holds/submissions or moves on each other that we had seen while watching years of wrestling, and hadn't yet used or experienced before to determine if they were legit. There were no true winners or losers. There was no true competition between heels and faces. It was just friends sharing an enthusiasm together to the enjoyment and amusement of those at the parties merely taking on the role of drunken spectators. The crowd didn't seem to care about who was a heel or a face either. They just appreciated the passion and effort put forth by all of the clumsy drunks involved.
Perceptions Change Under A New Lens
I can't recall how many years it has been now since I have been a true smark wrestling fan. A few years ago changed my perception on the business a lot though. The change in point of view came in the form of becoming an Uncle to professional wrestling fans. My niece and two of three nephews became professional wrestling fans quickly, and looking at the professional wrestling world through their eyes has changed a lot in how I perceive that world present day. My youngest nephew loves the big guys and faces - the upstanding Cena and the powerful Sheamus. My niece loves the bad guys. She has believed in the SHIELD since day one and is almost as big of a Randy Orton fan as T.O. Then my other nephew loves the other worldly guys like Jake "The Snake", Brock Lesnar, and the Undertaker. All of those men span the entire spectrum of heel/face within the professional wrestling industry. My niece and nephews don't merely root for them because they are "good" or "bad", they simply like them. It is an explanation that transcends neatly defined lines. It shows that all players have a part and all parts are performed out of passion. That passion is what should translate to all of us. We tend to lose sight of that sometimes in the midst of the grind we politely call adulthood.
Maybe the WWE sees this, as it brings the "Reality Era" into focus. There is no longer "good" or "bad", but simply people in circumstance and situations; people who are different from one another aside from one certain thing; their love for professional wrestling. They spend their lives devoting themselves to entertaining us. As we get older and the velvet curtain gets pulled away, exposing the world of professional wrestling for what it truly is; maybe the point is for us to take a step back and look at the world through the eyes of a new fan again. One that has no expectations or years of bias, and instead simply finds the enjoyment within. No true heels. No true faces. It is there. I know some kids who are living proof of that. Smarks always can find the flaw inherent in any professional wrestling system or wrestler. Years of fandom has created that level of scrutiny in every single one of us. In my new niece, nephew, and now son-inspired point of view, though, maybe the only way to truly find enjoyment in the industry again is to let the past be what it was and simply enjoy WWE for what it is. No labels. An industry built with only a central focus on entertaining us.
My name is Kleckamania. A long-time wrestling fan, and smark. A face, a heel, and neither all the same. A child in an adult’s body. I now channel the hopes and belief of wide-eyed youth. Who or what are you channeling?
(If you liked this I encourage you to both drop some feedback, and jump down to the CF [Columns Forum], and vote for me in the tournament being run there titled, The Voice, in the Columns Forum Competition Sub-Forum. Voting for this round ends roughly at midnight on Tuesday, April 8th. We are down to the final 8 writers, so things are heating up! Lots of good columns to check out from all of the writers involved. Thanks!)