Thursday, October 15, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Wrestling isn't real
It could be said that I've been a wrestling fan almost since the day I was born. When I was very young, growing up in St. Paul, MN, my grandfather would take care of me while my parents worked. My grandpa would put me on his knee and turn on the television and we'd watch professional wrestling together. Of course, grandpa would tell me, "Don't believe what anybody else tells you, Johnny. Wrestling is real."
A few years later, my grandpa died and we moved from Minnesota to Georgia, but I still watched wrestling. In fact, everybody I knew in Junior High watched it, and they were also all very convinced that wrestling was very, very real. Every time I told my father that, he'd smirk and say, "No, it's not. It's rigged. It's fake." Wherever I went, people would tell me, "How can you watch that? It's fake!" Almost thirty years of this now, people telling me that my favorite professional sport is fake.
I tell them about Ric Flair's back injury.
And Shawn Michaels' back injury.
And Steve Austin's neck injury.
And I show them tapes of Mick Foley, falling thirty feet to the ground, through a table, then getting back up and climbing to the top of a steel cage to do it again.
Wrestling is not fake. It's choreographed, certainly. But it is not fake.
Now, it may seem like I'm preaching to the choir with this little ditty. After all, we're all in the same boat. We know there's nothing fake about wrestling. We know the physical dangers our favorite stars put themselves through night after night. We see the pain on their faces, we wait while they recover from broken bones, torn ligaments and internal injuries. We pray for guys like Jim Duggan who have done nothing but try to entertain us for nearly twenty years. Am I preaching to the choir?
Because week after week, I watch this page and I read what's said here and I look up other pages where people who call themselves "fans" critique wrestling events and the guys who put themselves into physical danger night after night and attack them with weak little words when they feel they haven't been entertained.
For me, this all came to a head with the whole Bret Hart debacle. Yes, he's a heel again. I watched it. I saw him give Sting that great DDT of his while he was locked up and helpless with Hogan. He broke Sting in half, and people threw beer and food at him and booed and wrote him hate mail.
Bret Hart turning heel again was one of the most outstanding moments of his career. He had everybody fooled. He shocked the world.
And people sent him hate mail.
And call him names - like we were still in junior high.
Bret makes a great villain. He proved that with that beautiful (excellently executed) DDT.
Out of every match at Halloween Havoc this year, the one I'm looking forward to the most is the Bret/Sting match. Not because I hate Bret and love Sting, but because they are two of the most exciting wrestlers in the profession today and it's going to be a great match. But instead of praising Bret and WCW for making such a great match (and how long have they built this thing up?), we shout profanity at them and scream about how much Bret let us down. Bret didn't let us down, he set us up. There's a big difference.
To me, it doesn't matter if Bret's a hero or a heel. He's still a damn fine wrestler. And if you can't get over the fact that he just may be what he claims to be, if you still feel that he "betrayed" you, if you can't acknowledge that he and Sting and WCW have set up what may be the greatest rivalry in a decade, then you'd better take a step back, take a deep breath and say over and over again:
"Wrestling isn't real. Wrestling isn't real. Wrestling isn't real."
John Wick is from Placentia, California. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org