Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rant #60: Professional Wrestling Pins Me To the Mat

My son is 13, and he loves professional wrestling--the WWE and TNA. We have been to several shows of each, and tonight, we are going to the WWE show at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

I was into wrestling, too, when I was this age, and my friends and I used to go to Madison Square Garden to see the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, the Sheik, Killer Kowalski, Mr. Fuji and Toru Tanaka, Chief Jay Strongbow, George "The Animal" Steele, Billy Graham and many, many others.

Today, the names have changed--the top wrestlers that we have seen live include John Cena, Triple H, Edge, Sting, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Batista, Cody Rhodes, and Randy Orton--but the format basically is the same, unchanged for decades: pit the good guy vs. the bad guy, the crowd roots for the good guy, and may the chips fall as they may.

Basically, soap opera for boys.

It's just that today, unlike when I was 13 years old, professional wrestling has become a global phenomenon, family entertainment up there with the circus. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and when matches are held, it's like printing money--people fill up arenas, even in a down economy, and the majority of the audience are kids, ages 8-15.

When I was 13, you got proofed when you went to a MSG match--the placards used to say "no one under 18 admitted," but you could always find an "understanding" security guard who would let you in--and it was far from family fun. Lots of blood and gore, and, of course, ultra-violent. I loved it!

Today, professional wrestling is promoted as if each member of the family--mom, pop and the kids, but boys and girls--can get into this, without seeing any brutality.

Well, as we know, professional wrestling has been the focus of many investigations into steroid use, and it supposedly polices itself to a certain degree, because it is neither sport nor entertainment; it falls into a gray area called "sports entertainment" which really isn't policed at all. So both WWE and TNA, and I am sure all the regional associations, try to watch over their wrestlers, but they can't do it 24 hours a day. I won't go into the tragedies, but there have been many.

And all this in the name of "family entertainment."

Well, as I watch the current crop of testosterone-heavy warriors and silicone inflated maidens, I can't help but think that the notion of family entertainment has certainly expanded over the years. In today's world, both "SpongeBob Squarepants" and professional wrestling qualify.

But my son doesn't care, and I guess I won't for the four hours of action we will see tonight. Think of me as I try to keep my eyes open for all of this fun!

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