Is the World Wrestling Federation spectacular theater or total trash? A WWF Die Hard's Account
FEATUREBy "IRON" NATE GRAY
WEIGHT: 205 LBS
SPECIAL MOVES: THE LOW BLOW,
3D DUDLEY DEATH DROP,
Have you ever seen the movie Fight Club? In the film, Edward Norton plays a man who has become more or less emasculated by society. He lives in a trendy, tidy apartment and attends several therapy groups. He hasn't really experienced what it's like to be a true man; sensitivity and political correctness have taken the place of honesty and national pride. While the heroes of yesteryear were war veterans and self-made men, the male superstars of today are stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, someone who cares more about his hair than about football. (Even Elvis, who certaintly cared about his hair, enlisted at one point.) Pride, courage and masculinity are altogether dead in this pretty-boy infested world.
How did the characters in Fight Club remedy this lack of testosterone, you ask? The only way it should be remedied: by beating the crap out of one another.
I thought I could use some masculinity training, but I didn't really want to deal with the side effects of getting into a brawl (broken bones; bruised head and ego). So I jumped at the chance to go to SmackDown!, the World Wrestling Federation's slugfest in which masculinity rules and violence is the answer to any dispute.
Before Christina Rosenberger, my fellow WWF reporter, and I leave for the Fleet Center, my editor pulls me aside. "I swear she's gonna get jumped," he warns. Yeah--I think--she doesn't know what she's getting herself in to. Suddenly, I feel a little cockier about this venture. Satisfied with my newly appointed role as The Protector, I sense some of my Harvardfeebleness melting away. I'm ready for some SmackDown!.
Tickets in hand, Christina and I battle through the hordes of WWF fans who are waiting in the lobby of the Fleet Center. I stop for a minute to examine my ticket. We're seated in the FIRST ROW?! Ring side seats! This is getting better every minute. My excitement's cut short by an impatient gray-haired woman in a WWFshirt, who tells me to get my ass moving. I obediently pick up the pace. _Ok, now I know Harvard's sissified me--some little old lady is pushing me around.
After navigating through a riotous crowd wearing an obscene amount of WWF paraphernalia, we enter the arena and take our seats. We are about five feet from the edge of the ring. I smile at Christina. She smiles back nervously. The lights go out. Let the ass-kickin' begin.
Enter Road Dogg, a rather chubby but enthusiastic wrestler with a few missing teeth. He prances towards the ring, and, at the top of his lungs, shouts something loud and incomprehensible, but I'm sure very manly. I can only understand every fifth word he yells, but the pure volume of his five-minute-long rant pumps me up for his forthcoming match. His opponent is Chris Jericho, a leaner, and certainly less crude wrestler. I know the Dogg will win this one. He does. Not a spectacular fight, but you can't expect too much from the first match. Christina looks bored already.
Next up is a tag team competition. Taka and Funaki, an Asian tagteam, run to the ring, waving a Japanese flag. They are instantly booed. Their opponents, who I do not recognize, enter the ring, receiving deafening shouts of praise. Not knowing which team to root for, I sit back and watch the spectacle. It's no contest. As Wrestler One mercilessly and repeatedly throws his fist into Taka's face and stomach, Wrestler Two stretches the corners of his eyes with his index fingers to form a "slanty-eyes" face, and skips around the ring.
Inspired, one fan yells: "Go back to Japan!"
The racist comment jolts me for a second--you'd never hear such a thing at Harvard. That guy would not survive the wrath of those who would accuse him of being a callous, indecent, and backward human being. At Smackdown!, no one says a word. A couple of guys actually laugh. In fact, I begin to chuckle, not at the comment, but at a marvelous realization: I don't have to be politically correct--this is professional wrestling! It'sokay to be an asshole. No, it's expected to be an asshole! _Slaughter those disrespectful foreigners! Shame on them for being from Japan!_ Of course, I don't say any of this out loud; Christina looks appalled enough. I can tell she finds these fans quite uncouth.
Kurt Angle, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist (Who says professional wrestlers have no talent?), and his partner face the Dudley Boyz, Buh Buh Ray and D-von, next. The Boyz, using many complex moves that target their opponent's groin, beat Angle and partner, demonstrating (almost unnecessarily) the superiority of pro-wrestling over that other two-points-for-a-takedown crap. Gleeful, I tell Christina that Kurt Angle was an Olympic champion. She's doubtful, and certainly not impressed. Another invigorating fight matches The Godfather, wrestler and part-time pimp, against some no-name pretty boy. Smoothness personified, The Godfather literally dances around the ring while his "ho train" (a bevy of woman wearing some spandex and bikinis), cheer him on and jiggle. "Ugh!" Christina groans. I nod, but believe this guy to be the epitome of masculine authority--the women obey his every word, bow to his every whim. Secretly, I root for The Godfather, not because I think pimping is an estimable profession, but simply because I can. I couldn't look anyone in the eye if I were to think such thoughts at Harvard.
Next we see the Degeneration-Xers, dressed in neon gereen adn black, successfully destroy and humiliate all their adversaries. They are cocky, obnoxious, and beloved by all. To them, pinning someone is not as important as hurting them, and their victory dance is a spectacle that every man should behold: with a chesty snort, they raise their arms and thrust them downward, forming an X over their groin. Their battle cry--part insult, part exhibition of their enviable virility--is unmistakable: "SUCK IT!" I'd witnessed it a hundred times on TV, but seeing it in person has an unexpected effect on me--I develop an abrupt desire to buy one of those novelty foam hands that's giving the finger. They suddenly seemed so cool.
Finally, it's time for Mankind--an ugly, animal-like wrestler, whose face hides behind a leather mask. Almost neolithic, he proves that instinct is more important than intelligence. During the fight with his former best friend Al Snow, Mankind is reluctant. At one point, when he's about to perform his most effective and deadly move--where he pulls a dirty sock puppet out of his pants and crams it down his victim's throat--Mankind hesitates. He decides against it, tucking Mr. Socko (the filthy stocking's official name) back down into his crotch. Like some stupid animal, he remains faithful, but confused. Al Snow quickly recovers, and, through a series of punches and clotheslines, gains the upper hand. He heads for the metal chair.
I'm on my feet, worried. Al snow raises the metal chair above his head. This can't be happening--Al Snow can't win. I look to my left for Christina, thinking she'll empathize with my distress. She isn't even standing. Her face is blank, passionless. This can't be; Mankind, the heart of WWF, is a motionless lump on the mat, and Christina doesn't even care! I can't believe it. SMACK! Oh no...it's over. But wait...the official declares Al Snow disqualified for using the chair. Mankind did win! Ha! He didn't disappoint me! I realize that his victory was scripted, but I really don't care. It is he, and other professional wrestlers like him, who give me hope that machismo and masculine vulgarity isn't completely taboo.
Christina and I shuffle out of the Fleet center. My pulse has slowed, and my head is achy. I hobble toward the exit, saddened that it's over. Well, at least I had a couple of hours to enjoy these consummate men, who, to an unknowing person, are simply bullies, pimps, assholes, and animals. Now, it's back to Harvard, where I must deny that I respect these men, lest I be thought "insensitive."
Though I'm reluctant to return to the world where dirty jokes and bodily noises are considered low brow, I that future generations will be as softened as I have been. Just as I decide that there's probably no hope for the little boys of the word, I feel something bump me from behind. I turn around to see what it is, and all my fears are immediately alleviated. There stands a little six-year-old kid, flicking me off with his foam hand.
Yes, professional wrestling is where the today's American heroes reside.