Professional Wrestling is not a respected medium, art form, form of theater, etc. Many of the people I follow and respect as writers who contribute to my greater understanding of professional wrestling have stated and discussed this, I have stated and discussed this, and I’m sure this will be a general understanding for a long time.
Again, myself and others have written about this many times. However, last night while watching WWE Raw and seeing Mark Henry mutilate John Cena, I had that feeling I get when I watch incredible, theatrical moments on Raw. The same feeling I had when CM Punk lorded over the Rock like a king in some Shakespearian story. The same feeling I had during the original Pipe Bomb. The same feeling I had when Bret Hart had the Pro-Canada storyline that was my introduction to believing in the “bad guys” in WWE.
Mark Henry not only transcended professional wrestling last night, he jumped right back onto the professional wrestling ship and blew it up with three tons of dynamite. Please, pardon my analogy and hyperbole.
(quick note: I was aided by my trusty VLC player, and got the advantage of skipping John Cena’s entire promo. Not only did I figure it was going to be 10 minutes of filler, I also stopped on the exact moment when John announced with his stock promo ending phrases, “…because our time is nowwww, and the champ… is …HEEERRRE.” Perfectly missing John’s “foreshadowing” choice of words, “the next person to hold [the WWE Championship], EARNS IT.” More on foreshadowing later)
Mark Henry came out and, as it has already been said several times over, pulled off maybe one of the most effective and effecting acting jobs, perhaps that I have ever seen on professional wrestling. He had literally everyone in the arena eating out of the palm of his had, and that completely translated to television, because Mary and I were both as emotional as everyone watching live. When he changed gears on threw down John, it was like a bomb went off, in the ring, the audience, everywhere. With one professional wrestling move.
So, why isn’t this considered serious art?
When I think about all of the things that “serious art” has, I think the one thing it truly has that professional wrestling will maybe never have is reproduction. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched some of my favorite films, re-listened to some of my favorite albums, or re-read my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics (confession: I am not much of a reader, and I don’t know a lot about visual art. However, I consider comics like these the best marriage of the two… but that’s a separate conversation). I am currently in the middle of rewatching The Simpsons with Mary, and we just about finished watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series for the second time (Mary’s third). We went to see Swan Lake last weekend… how many times do you think that production has occurred throughout the world?
Professional Wrestling does not have this. I was lucky enough to think to save the “Summer of Punk,” missing only his SnowAngel beginning. Every promo, every segment, in one 45 minute episode. However, I didn’t save anything from his breakout feud with Jeff Hardy. I don’t have Mark Henry’ original Hall Of Pain beginnings.
You might think that WWE DVD would have you covered, right? Sure! NOPE. The CM Punk DVD had maybe one segment from the Jeff Hardy straightedge story. It had maybe a couple clips from Summer of Punk. In my eyes, these were his defining moments. I cared about CM Punk’s incredible matches because he MADE me care when he was being right against Jeff Hardy. The only problem is, I will never be able to see it again. I wont be able to properly analyse it. No one will. I can’t show it to my friends.
“Guys, THIS is professional wrestling. Do you see how the crowd is reacting to him? I know you see how good he is. Listen to him: even though he sounds like an asshole and everyone is booing, did you notice he’s right? In What kind of theater is this kind of reaction even remotely possible.”
I’ll probably never get to do this. And this is why professional wrestling will never “get over” with a mainstream audience. Mary can convince my friend Lauren to watch Buffy because when you really sit down with it, you finally realize how good it is. But you can only be certain to do this with Buffy because you’re on your third go of watching it, and you know when your friend sees it, she’ll see exactly what you do.
- This will never, ever be possible with professional wrestling
I have been fortunate enough to have some pretty cool friends here in Prague that are game enough/like me enough to come check out this weird thing I love, Professional Wrestling. I have been lucky enough that the two times we’ve been able to watch it together, the events have been quality and everyone had a good time. But what about when that straight up doesn’t happen? What if we had watched a dud of a show together, and everyone went away, their feelings about that fake sport crap reinforced. This will always be wrestling’s downfall. Its best stories will never be revisited like those in other media. Its best stories will never get to be recreated or reimagined like “real” theater. You’ll never be able to show your friends its best stories. This, my friends, is the true tragedy.
When I rewatched Henry’s segment, I saw other things I missed. The aforementioned, “the next holder of this belt has gotta EARN IT,” spoken by John Cena, and given a call and response by Mark who, after being handed the belt by John for a photo op moment replied, “I’m gonna give this back to you John, that belt has gotta be earned…. (BY ME).” The way he kept praising John Cena went from weird/annoying pandering upon first viewing to fucking terrifying window into the Curator of the Hall of Pain’s mind and intentions. The subtlety of this segment may never even be appreciated by a majority of wrestling fans. I say this not in smarmy hipster arrogance, but in terms of the fact that not only is professional wrestling a difficult to reproduce art form, it is a difficult to revisit art form. With a deluge of new content coming out every week, who actually has time to sit down and rewatch segments like this? Not many, and that’s another unfortunate reality.