IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: A Narrative on Professional Wrestling
By Al Laiman
Mar 30, 2013 - 6:56:36 PM
credit Tom Jenner
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: A Narrative on Professional Wrestling
Catharsis: Simply put, it is a purging of emotions.
We all need heroes who take us out of the moment. On the brink of adolescence, when things are more confusing than they've ever been, where is it that we could find an escape? Where was there a world where the bad things may have been represented, but they always seemed to be gracefully overcome, even in defeat?
While some purge in movies, theater, music, and video games, ours takes place in an arena that combines all four of these things on some level. Professional wrestling isn't just an entertainment venue. It's a timeline wherein landmarks throughout our lives are noticed, appreciated, and relived. It's a barometer for how much time has passed and what has changed in that time.
My eighth grade yearbook is memorable to me because there was a group of wrestling fans who all signed it. Kane had just returned before King of the Ring, right after the Deadman had become BikerTaker, and it finally appeared that masked Kane would rise to become WWF champion. Everyone knew I was a Kane mark, even if I didn't know what the word "mark" meant at the time. A lot of people signed my yearbook "Kane: Next WWF Champion." It's the same jaded hope (plug) that keeps me coming back to Cleveland sports time and time again.
Hell, I didn't know what column meant either. A guy on a site called 4Wrestling asked me to write columns. I took that to mean that I'd copy Smackdown spoilers and post them, because I didn't get it yet. I remember being so cool among the kids in eighth grade because I thought that Smackdown was practiced on Tuesday and re-filmed on Thursday. Therefore, I knew what was going to happen on that "live" show and gave everyone the results.
It's interesting to look back on who our heroes were at the time. I made a post asking for a response on who your heroes were when you got into professional wrestling, and I wasn't expecting the insane amount of answers I would get.
So who were our heroes as kids or new wrestling viewers? It seems many grew up at the same time I did, because The Rock, Stone Cold, The Undertaker, and Triple H all showed up more than once. Let's take a look at who these heroes were, shall we?
The Undertaker was a zombie controlled by an urn whose sole mission it was to take the souls of anyone who crossed him. He burned his brother and parents alive, and made sure his younger brother didn't forget it.
Triple H was a man who drugged his boss's daughter and somehow convinced her that she liked it. He then made a reputation for himself by getting in their head, or using their heads as test buttons for sledgehammers.
Stone Cold was an alcoholic redneck who constantly assaulted his boss and everyone else around him. Not only that, but he'd often pretend to be their friend and share a beer with them before stunning them into oblivion.
The Rock was an egotistical maniac who referred to himself in the third person. He made a habit of finding inanimate objects to metaphorically insert in a forceful fashion directly into the anus of his enemies. Said anus, in most cases, was supposedly surrounded by Hershey products with a bootprint in them.
Even my hero wasn't immune to such behavior.
Kane went on a mission to destroy his older brother by setting him on fire. He had no issues with attacking baseball legends, women, and even his own boss's wife. He also once electrocuted his boss's son via the mini-Shane-O's.
There were some answers that came before the infamous Attitude Era. For instance, Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, and the Ultimate Warrior.
Jake Roberts was a psychotic madman whose purpose was to frighten his opponents with a gigantic snake in a bag.
Bret Hart was named after a profession that is basically murder for hire. He attempted to injure the backs of his opponents before spitting in his boss's face when things didn't go his way and jumped ship to a rival company for cash.
Shawn Michaels was a womanizing heart throb whose talent was only surpassed by his massive ego. He became famous because he put his best friend through a plate glass window.
The Ultimate Warrior was a deranged schizophrenic who rambled on about places that didn't exist, founded his own university, and wanted to make his most hated opponent die in a plane crash.
Hulk Hogan starred in "Suburban Commando."
The point is, all of our wrestling heroes did horrible things at one time or another. The most successful wrestling characters captured our imaginations because they acted out so many of the things we wished we could do in our everyday lives.
Unlike a lot of other entertainment venues, we felt like we could live through these characters. We wished we could flip off our bosses or principals and tell them to go to hell. We wished we could be as cool as The Rock or as intimidating to bullies as the Undertaker.
Is it any shock that those who had heroes like these don't identify with John Cena?
At one time, John Cena definitely had an edge to him. It's what got him popular in the first place and drove him to become a main event star. Soon after though, he dropped most of the things that got him to that point and instead tried to be a marine.
Don't get me wrong, I've said it many times... John Cena is an amazing human being, a great face for the company, and worthy of all the accolades he receives. That isn't the point I'm trying to make here.
It's my theory that the reason so many of us who grew up with other heroes don't care for John Cena the character is the main point of this article... The catharsis.
With the possible exception of Hulk Hogan, John Cena isn't the guy we all wanted to be when we grew up. I think he reminds us of the reason we wanted to be Stone Cold or The Rock. Cena is a guy who has been on top so long, always seems to be the best, gets everything he tries to do... He's the captain of the football team, he's the guy who always gets the girl, and he's the guy who barely acknowledges you exist, even if he is a nice guy. So many of us watched the girl we liked pick that guy. So many of us watched him appear in the paper for scoring the game-winning touchdown yet again. So many of us saw him become Prom King and get that scholarship to the major university because he could throw a ball while we were about to be drowned in student loan debt trying to be something silly like a scientist or a writer.
I've made it known that I don't hate John Cena by any means, but I think I'm finally starting to get why he will never be able to get a unanimously good reaction. We don't experience catharsis by identifying with a guy who has been on the top unchallenged for almost a decade. We want to be the guy who finally takes down that guy. They say he overcomes the odds every time, but how many times can you overcome seemingly insurmountable odds before the odds aren't even against you anymore?
Then comes a guy who speaks his mind freely. Then comes a guy who challenges authority. Then comes a guy who doesn't follow the rules of others and wants nothing more than to take down the perpetual winner and represent those who can't speak for themselves. Suddenly, those who have felt jaded and unrepresented have a voice again, and regardless of his crowd disposition, they latch on to him like they did with their heroes as kids.
Does that speak for everyone? Of course not. But I couldn't help but wonder.
IN CASE YOU MISSED EPISODE #105