Tuesday, December 19, 2000
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
The modern day super-hero
How often have we all watched The Rock come back after being beaten down for ten minutes solid, hit the Rock Bottom and The People's Elbow? How often have we watched Goldberg Spear and Jackhammer an opponent? And how often have we all said, "Wow, that was really cool. Too bad it's all fake."
Yeah, Fake. The dreaded four letter word associated with pro wrestling.
I've had numerous disscusions on that very point, both online and in real life. "Man, pro wrestling is so lame. It's all fake, how can you like that stuff? It's not even a sport." To which I've responded, "How do you know it's all fake? Fake pain is about the strangest thing I've ever heard of, I don't know about you."
Varying responses come back in the nature of, "Oh yeah, well, some of hurts, but they know how to take a fall, so it doesn't hurt as bad as they make believe."
When I inform them that I am, in fact, a professional wrestler, most don't believe me at first. Then I get assaulted with questions about how things are done, does it really hurt, etc, etc. It's rather amusing how the many people who know everything about professional wrestling from watching television documentaries to reading internet reports want to know how things "really work" in pro wrestling.
No one but a pro wrestler really knows how it is. From the brutal training to the rush when fans look at you as if you are someone, someTHING so far above them that all they can do is gawk and hold out a hand in supplication, only professional wrestlers can truly get a grip of what I'm saying even now. Others may say, "Wow, that must be great" or "Man, I'd love that."
To answer the question, yes, it is great. It's a wonderful feeling to have flocks of children and even adults come up to you asking if you would scribble your name on this piece of paper for them. Even though you're nothing but an opening match job boy.
But they also don't truly understand what it's like when you do the best you can because you only get one shot at it with no dress rehearsals, and you later hear people mutter as you leave, "Man, that guy sucked. All he did was get beat up. The only thing that he did that was cool was take that cane over the head." Despite that you actually had wrestled a fantastic match, with numerous well-done holds and a few really good 'sells'.
Pro-wrestlers, even in the small-time local leagues, are looked at as superhuman. They can take anything and keep on coming back for more. What? A chair shot? Gimme three more! Throw me over those ropes, I'll land head-first on the concrete so the people will love it!
There's so much more to it. So much I can't even scratch the surface with this article. What the fans see is only fifteen minutes of the un-reality of the life of a professional wrestler. The reality is much harsher.
The fear of first going out and messing up. The tension in the locker room because everyone is concerned only about their own careers and making sure that no one looks better than them. The pain of limping out of the arena, be it a bar, a warehouse, or a stadium, because your opponent in the ring threw you too hard over the ropes because he wanted to look good to other promoters in hopes of getting more work.
As I mentioned before, so often do I hear people mention 'being able to take a fall'. It's not so much 'taking a fall' as it is allowing yourself to be thrown and ignoring how much it hurts and how bad it just jarred your spine because you've done it a thousand times before in training. The falls wrestlers are taught are to maximize effect, not minimize pain.
Of course, those fantastic cane and chair shots! 'Fake' canes and 'rubber' chairs are used, not real ones, Everyone knows that!
Sorry to burst your bubble folks, those are real. That's another one of those dreaded 'fake' hits. In the lockerroom, "Hey, bud. Okay, you see this cane? See Hillary the Heavy Handed over there? Well, she's gonna wack you right over the head with this cane after I toss you out. You cool with that? (regardless of response) Good!"
Then comes the moment, out you go, here comes Hillary cane in hand, to get the big 'pop' from the crowd by wacking you. BAM! Your vision crosses and you taste blood in your mouth. A huge welt is already forming on your forehead. Back into the ring you go for another couple slams and to stare up at the lights.
None of this is meant as a complaint. There's a lot of fun in it all too. You get to be this inspiring person to most of the fans, many of whom want to talk to you or shake your hand. Most will give you compliments, those are the great things about it. I mean, who doesn't want to be 'The Rock' or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin? Millions of people idolize them.
It's a reiteration of what we've all heard. Pro wrestling is back-breaking, and sometimes, fatal.
I've disagreed with Bret Hart on a lot of things, but one of the things I do agree with is that wrestling has gotten way out of hand these days. People jumping from balconies, setting each other on fire, barbwire ring ropes, flying off twenty foot steel cages to bounce off of announcers tables, and rappeling down from the roof are just a few of the crazy stunts being pulled. Too often have these led to tragedy. Owen Hart is probably the most prominent in most minds.
Owen's death devastated me. I cried for three days staight, and I'm man enough to admit it. I still remember when it happened. My friend called me the next morning, (I hadn't watched the pay-per-view), he said, "Hey, man. You might want to sit down." I laughed that off. "Owen Hart's dead." I was stunned. I couldn't really say anything. After we got off the phone I went about my normal morning routine. Then I sat down and thought, "Owen's dead" and the tears wouldn't stop flowing. Owen had been my idol for years. I tried to wrestle like him and be as quick to accept a gimmick. And now he was gone.
Did anything change? No, wrestling went on. A tribute was made in his name and he was quickly forgotten by the wrestling fans. I won't forget him, and neither will anyone who knew him. And I won't forget why he died: Because the fans wanted it. They wanted to see more and more and more. Until someone finally died. He isn't the first and he won't be the last. But I hope someone will finaly wake up and realize, "Hey, people are dying here! What happened to good old-fashioned technical wrestling?"
It's the crazy stuff that scares me the most because that's the stuff that backyard wrestlers like to imitate.
I started backyard. I'll admit it. The one major thing about it was that I, to a degree, knew what I was doing. I had martial arts training as well as a friend who had been a pro wrestler teach me a few things. So I taught those I was with how to keep from killing each other. Even now I look back at what we did with disgust.
I've watched clips from "The Best of Backyard Wrestling!". This stuff is sick. It's people getting seriously hurt, and for what? Because they wanted to imitate Mick Foley jumping off a cage onto someone? This stuff isn't even comical, its like pro wrestling's version the "Faces of Death" series.
My final point, returning back to the title of this article. To the general public, pro wrestlers are super-heroes. And to a degree, they are. But this IS real life, and in real life people, even the super-heroes, die. And unlike the comic book super-heroes, we don't come back as four different people.
We stay dead. All for the betterment of our careers and the entertainment of the masses.
Adam Simonds is a pro wrestler from Dade City, Florida and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.