Geeks, nerds and general television audiences! I have made an exciting discovery!
Every single week, a program airs that essentially features real-life super-heroes. The same characters are featured for years on end, building up continuity and potential depth. Spandex-clad warriors wage war with each other, some good, some evil and some decidedly something else.
And oh, how that war is waged. Dramatically exaggerated fights make up the bulk of the program, and every storyline centers around them. The audience is directly involved in the entire operation, and the direction of the show can turn on a dime depending on their reactions. Alliances and betrayals are common, with long-time enemies becoming partners and fighting for the greater good. It’s been a staple of television since the inception of the medium.
Man, professional wrestling could really be adored by geek culture if it wanted to be, huh?
Instead, wrestling and its fans enjoy the same mainstream acceptance as NASCAR and country music. The widely held stereotype follows that pro wrestling is entertainment for the lowest common denominator, for screaming, toothless rubes who never quite figured out that it’s all fake.
I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling since I was 10 years old. I attended and subsequently lost my voice at the last two WrestleManias.
I’ve read dozens of wrestling books, from autobiographies to analyses, and some of them are extremely underrated thought-provoking literature. Some of these stories changed my life.
When professional wrestling is good, it’s nothing less than an art form. It’s theater in the round with the audience itself playing the most important role.
Unfortunately and in spite of that, mainstream wrestling hasn’t done much to defy the stereotype.
For a super-fan like me, bad wrestling is still fun. There’s a reason my friends and I still get together to watch WWE Monday Night RAW every week, and it’s not often because of the riveting storylines.
The schizophrenic character arcs and cheesy melodramatic tension are supplanted by occasional flashes of brilliance. Imagine how a Lifetime original movie might turn out if Stanley Kubrick were directing the Wachowski brothers’ script.
But that’s my group of friends. That’s a group of people who have been around long enough to know that those bright spots are worth waiting for, and well-versed enough to know how to make fun of it otherwise.
If Joe McEveryman is flipping channels on a Monday night and sees, to use a recent example, the promotion’s world champion stealing and trashing his rival’s vehicle for alleged comic effect, he may decide his suspicions that wrestling is for the lowest common denominator to be well-founded.
And he’s not wrong. Wrestling does pander to the lowest common denominator It seems like at least half of every show is dedicated to regurgitating and recapping things that happened five minutes ago.
Storylines are usually extremely fluffy and repetitive, with bland character archetypes.
WWE treats its audience as if they have the attention span and short-term memory of a hamster stapled to a calculator.
I believe professional wrestling can be better than that.
We live in an age of serialized television. From “Lost,” to “The Sopranos,” to even “How I Met Your Mother,” we’ve seen that a more tightly wound, complex and self-referential narrative can find massive success on television. In this era of DVRs and Internet streams, television audiences no longer have to be spoken down to.
Not even pro wrestling fans.