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Posted in: In Laiman's Terms
IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: 30 Thoughts... Non-Fans Just Don't Understand
By Al Laiman
Dec 30, 2012 - 11:02:57 PM



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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: 30 Thoughts... Non-Wrestling Fans Just Don't Understand

1. Pro-wrestling fans don't always have a lot in common with each other, outside of the common interest of pro wrestling. While the media may portray us as the ill-informed offspring of a guy in overalls and a wild boar, those of us within that special circle understand that the group of wrestling fans all over the world is as diverse as most interests. There are women who love pro wrestling, and the fact that ringrats exist is living proof of that. The most welcoming thing about pro wrestling is that it's universal. It's a passion play that's acted out live with enough various characters that it's likely at least one will connect with you. People who have never bothered to do their research and instead rely on stereotypes will never understand that, as well as the next 29 of these.

2. There are few entertainment values that encourage and rely upon crowd reaction as much as professional wrestling. How a city responds to a character can determine whether they'll be a face or a heel. Some cities are even used as barometers of the nationwide audience, so to speak. It's one thing to cheer for your team, even to be prompted by a flashing scoreboard logo to do so, but pro wrestling specifically does things to incite that reaction. It's a really awesome feeling when you stand up and cheer during a match or a segment without even realizing you're doing so.

3. The interaction with the performers themselves is also unprecedented and unmatched. Sure, movie stars do some publicity tours. Sure, some musicians meet the fans after the show. However, in the same vein as the second thought, how often does a movie promote the rise and fall of a live reaction like a wrestling show? How often does an actor go off script and address an unruly crowd like a normally-popular face might? What venue of entertainment has someone like Damien Sandow, who can not only get people to boo with them, but uses his superior vocal ability to exacerbate it? All stories have good guys and bad guys, but almost none of them cater what they're doing to a live fan reaction.

4. Most of us understand that it is not real, and we could give a shit less. If you're watching entertainment to point out what looks real and what doesn't, you're missing the point. The very first column I wrote for the main page addressed this very question. Is pro wrestling any more "fake" than watching a movie or a television show? Mick Foley even said it, quite accurately at that, that the real world is faker than pro wrestling. Nobody watches Law and Order and gets annoyed with the actor of the week not actually being a child molester.

5. Entrances are one of the greatest ideas pro wrestling has ever had. It really added a new dimension to the industry. A good pro wrestling entrance can tell you all you need to know about any given character before they've had a chance to speak or wrestle. Take for example The Undertaker. A gong, fog, creepy music, and a guy in a long black trench coat. That is a magnificent use of character development and non-verbal communication. Nobody questions if The Undertaker is a lumberjack.

6. Entrance themes are the best part of the aforementioned thought. Other venues of entertainment do not provide that psychological association that comes with hearing a piece of music and not only identifying it with something, but with a specific character and that moment of their entrance. While music is quite prevalent in other places, especially... well... music, it's not the same as hearing the opening riff to a certain Motorhead song and instantly picturing The Game and everything with which is associated.

7. One more great thing that comes along with entrances in pro wrestling is the unforgettable pop. Three that come to mind immediately... (Let me clarify that I am in no way stating that these three are the biggest, best, or most awesome; I am simply explaining that these are the first three that come to mind.)

8. January 4th, 1999 - Mankind vs. The Rock for the WWF championship. A melee is breaking out between the Corporation and D-Generation X, and suddenly... ::shatter:: The reaction from that crowd, which was in the FOURTH hour of taping I might add, goes absolutely apeshit, and it continues as Mankind wins his first WWF title after years of destroying his body in the business for the sake of entertainment. Which brings me to another point...

9. College basketball comes close sometimes, but is there a greater moment in the experience of a pro wrestling fan when someone finally gets vindicated with the biggest championship of them all? I mean, here I am talking about it nearly fourteen years after the fact, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Getting lost in the moment of a title win alone is something special, but when someone has deserved it for so long and finally achieves their dream in front of a live audience, it's incredible.

10. The Rock returns as the Guest Host of WrestleMania 27. It had been seven years since one of the most popular stars in history had graced us with his presence. In that one special moment before the Internet remembered they had to hate everything, the wrestling universe as a whole completely lost its shit when that familiar "IF YA SMELLLLLLLLL!" hit. As my friend Brian said it when he saw this clip, "This is for people who wonder why pro wrestlers do what they do." Which brings me to maybe the biggest pop I've ever heard as a wrestling fan...

11. Brock Lesnar returns the night after WrestleMania 28. I don't even LIKE Brock Lesnar and this moment was freaking incredible. My love of huge pops overrides my apathy toward a specific performer. How can you get to the second after that music hits and not get chills? That moment of course brought to you by one of the greatest crowds in history.

12. That transitions into, of course, the crowd references that only wrestling fans get. Yes, I know crowds in other sports have their special niches, but does anyone outside of our special circle understand why yelling "YES! YES! YES!" is hilarious? How about participating in a dueling chant, such as the Cena one? Or, to be really specific... Doo-Dah, Doo-Dah... Perhaps it relates to making the event an interactive experience, as mentioned earlier, but there's just something awesome about being able to make a crowd sing "Bischoff takes it up the ass, doo-dah, doo-dah," without being prompted to do so.

13. From reader Alex Martel: Pretty much everything you do in a ring hurts. It just hurts less when done right. The idea is to protect the other guy, but it isn't a mattress you're falling on. They don't even get an offseason, and for guys who aren't established, it probably means they're gonna tough out injuries and work hurt to not lose sight of a spot they might get.

14. That one, I can verify personally. I can't tell you how many people have asked me how I got so hurt in a fake sport. For those who haven't heard me talk about this before, let me enlighten you. A wrestling ring is basically a big square of plywood held up by four posts with a gym mat over it. Is there some spring into it? Yes. Like a trampoline? Not even close. Some rings are stiffer than others. Some have a bit of give. Some are so stiff that just bumping on them can bruise your back. One I was training on in April of 2009 was a bunch of carpet scraps thrown together, and I went home with my back looking like a paint-by-numbers. One time, I got catapulted into a corner during a tag match and got full-on punched in the face with a forearm. But, you know, it's all fake. One time I was lifted up for a piledriver by a smaller wrestler who didn't tell me what he was doing, and he dropped me square on the head. Had the ring not had give, I likely wouldn't be able to type this column. But, you know, it's all fake. I know I have readers who are wrestlers, and you can insert any of their stories here as well.

15. From Wayne Little of LOP's "Wayne's World:" One of my favourite quotes about wrestling was from Vince in a local paper here in Australia which sums it up perfectly, "Wrestling is a soap opera for men". I feel most non-fans don't understand that it is not just about the wrestling but the storylines as well that keep us coming back for more. AJ would be a good example with her storylines this year with multiple lovers. Going back to Punk v Bryan, the whole who would she choose and who would she screw out of the title. I knew both would put on a spectacular match without a story but by having the soap opera aspect it made me more invested in the match. Non-fans just don't realise that there is more to wrestling than just in-ring.

16. That is what separates professional wrestling from shoot sports, so to speak. No story is complete without the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. A good pro wrestling match has all of those things, as do the storylines. Having a reason to fight other than a championship belt is what makes it captivating and gets us invested, the same way many television shows do. However, pro wrestling combines the storyline elements of a drama and a comedy, the live action of sports, and the atmosphere of a rock concert into what it all is as we know it, and without giving it the fair chance it deserves, it's impossible to understand that.

17. From Zach Ruggiero: “Wrestling? Dude, don’t you know that’s fake?” Yes, yes I do. I know that Mark Caloway is not, in fact, a zombie cowboy biker. I know that Glenn Jacobs is not some pyromaniacal son of the devil. I know that Bryan Danielson isn’t actually insane, and Phillip Brooks isn’t actually a self-absorbed….well, ok, maybe that one’s real. You know what else is real? The emotion. Yes, actors can portray emotion well. And yes, in real spots, there can be tears shed in moments of greatest triumph. But wrestling trumps them both. Only in wrestling can you see the performer’s emotions and experience them together. Their tragedies. Their triumphs. When Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight Championship at the age of 24, you could see his true emotions. Joy, shock, and even a bit of fear for the future, all blended into one. And even though he was the villain, our hearts went out to him in that moment. When Shawn Michaels had to put Ric Flair down for the count at WrestleMania, you could see his heart breaking, and yours broke along with him. When Randy Savage and Elizabeth were reunited, you saw forgiveness, you saw joy, and pure, undying love. And yes, when Chris BenoitLord Voldemort (Laiman edit) won the World title at WrestleMania, you joined him. You celebrated his triumph, his victory over adversity. Though you were but an audience member, you knew his struggle, his long journey. His tears were yours, his smile was yours. His triumph was yours. Was ours. That, my friend, is the beauty of pro wrestling.

18. From Wayne Little again: The slow build to the grand-stand finish that has everyone out of their seats. Non-fans just see the moves and don't actually feel the match from beginning to end. Well normally I would use an old ROH match as an example. It was the second Punk v Samoa Joe match and it went to an 1hr time limit draw. The match started with the traditional feeling out, slow, methodical, full of collar-to-elbow tie-ups and rest holds. As the match continued the action sped up and got more physical. As the 1hr limit was approaching the pace got frantic with near fall after near fall. The audience was so into the match that even the commentators stopped calling the match to just watch in awe of what was going on. A match tells a story in its own right and all the greatest matches in history have been a journey from beginning to end.

19. These two make tremendous points about getting lost in the moment. In the back of our minds, we all know that pro wrestling isn't real, but during a five-star match, the suspension of disbelief is achieved. You stop thinking about everything else and watch it just as you would a live story unfolding before your very eyes. A wrestling match has the unique ability to tell a story in the moment, live on the spot, and yet have a storyline to go along with it to complement it.

20. From longtime friend and reader Tom Hackett: Great commentary can make the match. The best example I can give is from 2002 when Jeff Hardy, a rising midcard star, challenged the Undertaker to a Ladder match for the WWE title. You knew when this match started that Jeff Hardy was not going to win. That he was going to get absolutely destroyed by the American Bad Ass. But there is one moment in that match that really sticks out, honestly just thinking about it gives me chills. Jeff is climbing the ladder and Jim Ross is absolutely losing his shit on commentary. "GO FOR IT KID, MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS." With those seven words I forgot that Jeff Hardy was going to lose. I absolutely knew that I was about to watch one of my favorite wrestlers win his first WWE title. I was fired up, I was excited, I remembered what it was to be a true fan. It is to this day one of the best called matches I have ever seen and I have no doubt that J.R made Jeff Hardy's career that night.

21. That example of Historical Ham, as well as many others involving commentary, is something else we wrestling fans understand. A good wrestling announcer can be funny, informative, entertaining, and make a wrestler's career. Both Austin and Foley specifically have credited JR with helping to mold their careers to what they became. One of the biggest reasons Michael Cole became so hated for a while was that he stopped doing that when we knew he could. On occasions where the commentary isn't working for reasons other than dramatic emphasis, it feels weird seeing it. It's incomplete. A lot of other sports, people can put on the mute and ignore it, but if you mute a wrestling show, you miss out on the commentary, as well as the sounds and the reactions. It's a full experience that you don't realize you're missing until you don't have part of it.

22. Independent wrestling is a different story. While it's possible to watch a minor league baseball game and get attached to a good player or see a band before they hit it big, it's a pretty unique experience going to an Independent wrestling event, as they give you unprecedented access to the performers themselves. Pictures, autographs, conversations... And now I can turn on the TV and watch these guys that I saw wrestle in front of a few hundred people in a gym somewhere and see them as the US champion or a member of a bad-ass new stable. I think it's a pretty unique experience to get attached to a personality in the beginning like a wrestler and then see them on the big stage, even if they have to change their name. I take a few comments here and there about it, but in 30 Thoughts, I always call Antonio Cesaro "Claudio" because that's who he was when I became a big fan of his. Every time I see him, I still expect the big jacket, the instrumental version of "I Got to Have It," and an entire crowd doing the Fonzie.

23. Wrestling fans have their own jargon as well. In fact, a fun game fans can play is to take non-wrestling media and use wrestling language to describe it. One of my favorites was Johnny Gargano talking about the first episode of season three of Boy Meets World when Shawn makes his "heel turn" before making the ultimate "face save" at the end of the episode. Heel is a word that does not originate in wrestling, but takes on its own connotation in the universe. I like looking for hope spots and cheap pops myself.

24. Speaking of heels, they are the only collective group that perform in front of a live crowd, at least that I know of, that try to get said crowd to boo them all the time. Most of the time, booing someone or something is seen as an insult, but there could not be a higher compliment to a wrestling heel. Once we became friends with Larry Sweeney, it was hard to boo him, even when he was heeling it up. However, he encouraged us to do it, because it meant he was doing his job well. Granted, we never changed and he ended up becoming a face because of it, but the point is that it defies all rational logic.

25. This has nothing to do with wrestling, but it is your weekly dose of Jackie.



26. Entertainers and comedians do go to visit the troops, but ten years of Tribute to the Troops is something of which wrestling fans can be proud. The WWE traveled to bases across the world in order to entertain the soldiers, and while the shows don't really leave much to be desired, I really admire the effort that went into that and what it meant to those who experienced it. I have a loyal following from soldiers all over the world, as well as some military wives, and I am grateful for them because they send the nicest messages.

27. The ten-bell salute is something every wrestling fan knows about, but only a wrestling fan can understand how eerie and saddening it can be. Whenever we've lost someone, usually far too soon anymore, the entire crowd is silent, and the ring bell is tolled ten times, and it echoes throughout the empty arena. I've been present for far too many, and I've seen far too many more on television. Owen Hart's was the first one I remember witnessing, and every time I hear one, every single one since then flashes through my head. I remember one sitting in the crow's nest of the gymnasium when the Indy promotion for which I was working did one for Umaga. Most places have moments of silence, but there is definitely a deeper sentiment attached to the ten-bell.

28. There are some great video editors out there, but can anyone really touch the consistency and quality of the WWE video editing department? Regardless of how good the feuds and storylines are, the editing department comes up with these amazing video packages to promote the matches, especially at big events. Here are three of my favorites of all time.

Kane vs. Undertaker, WrestleMania 14

Stone Cold vs. The Rock, WrestleMania 17 AKA the only time Limp Bizkit can be associated with awesome.

The Undertaker vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 27

29. From my longtime friend and surrogate sister, Becky AKA GreenwoodRosie: The plots and subplots are BAD. They're designed to be! It's a way to make two guys wrestling around in a ring seem not so gay, gives it a reason to be interesting. Or suspending reality for a split second when a high flyer leaps off the top rope. Yeah, it's stupid that he's jumping off a rope onto another guy. But the technical skill that goes into it, and the fact that he can DO IT without breaking in half, is so cool. I think my favorite is with you, though. Entrance music. As soon as I hear the music for a wrestler I really like, it gets me excited. I remember watching the 2009 rumble, I leaned over to Adam and said, "I really wish RVD was still in WWE, that would make my night." Next thing I knew, his entrance music played. SO EXCITING! I think I actually punched Adam in the shoulder a few times, I was so excited! I try to remain as unspoiled as possible (stupid wrestlinginc makes it HARD) so that I don't know if a special guest is coming out. Hearing their music can make or break my experience (hence why I HATE hearing Brodus' music)

AL: FUNK IS ON A ROLL! FUNK IS ON A ROLL!

BECKY: RUDE! Anyway, I like to think that music is my thing, and one of the first things I connected with.

AL: Hence the biggest reasons I hate jobber entrances, which I've discussed at length both here and on the forums recently. It disrupts the flow of the experience, and I hate that.

BECKY: I think one of the big differences between a fan and a non fan is whether you can suspend your reality and get swept up in what's happening. Doesn't matter if it's the horrible storylines, the amazing moves, or just the emotion of the crowd surrounding you, you need to believe in what is going on in front of you for even a moment, to be a fan. Interest is good, but that can fade. Something else needs to be there, like passion or awe. And satisfaction, definitely.

30. Finally, from my good friend, wrestling buddy, and road traveler, Chris Spiker: Let's see how many Clint Eastwood movies where you wanted to see him just totally destroy someone with his bare hands instead of picking up a gun to do it? And then, he actually does it? Maybe even more than once if people want him to! That's the type of interaction a wrestling event offers. Imagine if Tommy Wiseau had listened to the masses and dumped Lisa earlier in the cinematic epic The Room? Maybe he would have still listened to the other viewers and blew his head off anyways, but it's that interactive event nature that wrestling has above all else.

Name me other sports where it's as straight up theatrical and in your face as pro wrestling. A football player can't stop and jaw with the fans without getting fined somewhere along the line. A wrestler does it? Adds to the show. Could even get a crowd reaction going in the opposite direction where that wrestler, face or heel, ends up sliding in the entire polar opposite? Best wrestling example I can think of? Stone Cold vs Bret Hart from Wrestlemania XIII. Bret was getting booed more and more because people were getting behind Austin's no-bullshit attitude and were cheering for the heel instead of the face. Watch that match again and watch how it changes from start to finish. It may have been the intense Chicago crowd or the two ring veterans changing the match tone, but by the end you're cheering a bloody Austin to get out of that wimpy ass Hitman's sharpshooter because it's the story being told in front of you.

Boxing doesn't tell stories. Certain bouts do, but not to the level of pro wrestling. Certain sports rivalries have stories, but do they really keep you personally invested week-to-week, month-to-month? Those people who you may cheer or boo bring you back because they are good at what they do and you want to see them get their heads stomped in or for them to wave that championship gold over their heads. Al and I started the Larry Sweeney cheering faction in 2006, and it got others behind him to the point where the promoter ended up having to turn him full-fledged face and giving him a huge face turn and winning the annual Super Indy Tournament in 2007. It can happen. And it's a magical thing if you can do it. Because it gets you personally and emotionally invested. You can't beat that feeling.

...

I liked including some other perspectives in this one, because they're all different. Special thanks to everyone who shared theirs with me, and thank you to all of you for an awesome and hammy 2012.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THE JADED HOPE WITH JACKIE



JADED HOPE #95 BLOOPER REEL


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