At my age, out of the blue, I’ve developed a completely new interest: one without irony and with utter devotion.
I love professional wrestling.
Okay, so hear me out. Trust me, I was skeptical too. It wasn’t long ago that my friend, Jacob, turned to me while we worked on our comic book and said, “Hey man. We should really get a wrestling game.”
My eyes nearly rolled out of my head.
“I’m not getting a wrestling game, Jacob.”
But Jacob went on, telling me you could make your own wrestlers, describing the systems mindbogglingly robust custom character creator: hundreds of ways to morph and change their face and body. You could create their own entrances into the ring, customizing that as well. He had once made Don Schrader, albeit a bit orange. He told me about his wrestler named “Screaming Mr. Jones,” a bugged-eyed freak with tiny legs and elongated arms who came out running around in excited circles, pumping his arms up and down.
Ninety percent of the game’s enjoyment, it seemed, was in delving into the sheer, overwhelming possibilities and letting the hilarity and creativity explode in top form. The final ten percent was making your creations fight using the most absurd, cartoonish violence possible, shoving each other off the tops of ladders or beating each other with tables.
“You had me at ‘make your wrestlers,’” I told him.
Thus began what has become the single most enjoyable video game experience I’ve had in years. I’ve been determined to share it with everyone I know, having them make their own contribution to a growing pantheon of utter absurdity.
It now includes, but is not limited to, a giant baby, a soccer mom, and the Jewish Golem, as well as a series of mad creations with no real inspiration but pure silly madness.
In the short time I’ve been sharing, six different people have laughed so hard they’ve cried.
I’ve been counting.
But then something else strange happened. At first, I scoffed at the loading screen marked with real wrestlers, all foreign to me.
“Who’s this douchebag?” I’d sneer at their smug expressions and detestable tattoos. But then I started to get curious. Who were these douchebags, really?
Jacob began to talk excitedly about how there were “Heels” and “Faces” in the stories presented in pro wrestling. Heels were the bad guys: when they came into the arena, they’d take the mic and grandstand haughtily, encouraging the audience to boo them.
The funniest Heel I found was a guy who called his character Chris Harvard. The actor had actually gone to Harvard, so when he found himself on the wrestling circuit and needed a wrestling gimmick, he’d stomp around the ring before the match, condescending to the audience about his Ivy League superiority and the general stupidity of the crowd.
After the crowd is thoroughly riled, the Face — the hero of it all — would come in to wrestle them, to defeat them in grandiose ritualized combat.
Everything was grand, operatic. The stories being told, the archetypes, the acts of physicality; I began to pore over videos of people jumping off of things and crashing onto tables, chairs, each other, and it all clicked.
Who cared if it was faked? Do people complain that movies are faked?
Pro wrestlers are actors, performers. They shout and stomp and then throw each other around. Movie violence isn’t real, but still, you can get worked up or excited, screaming at an action movie as Bruce Lee decimates everyone in sight.
If you can enjoy Kung Fu movies, you can love pro wrestling.
There’s something so endearing about the constant pageantry and celebration of performance or how everyone is decked out in skimpy, brightly-colored tights, like the ‘80s never ended. It’s almost vaudevillian.
Go look up videos of pro wrestlers out of character. They’re the nicest, sweetest, funniest people in the world. It makes sense: You can’t spend your whole life doing something so ridiculous and not have a sense of humor about it.
It almost makes sense that WWE is shown on the SyFy channel: the stories of pro wrestling happen in an alternate dimension where this form of combat is the predominant and accepted method of conflict resolution.
There’s something so simple and lovely about giving yourself over to the ritual of it all, from the hero and villain and their rivalries that can, for whatever reason, only happen in the ring.
My name is Graham Gentz, and I have Wrestlemania.