Wrestling life’s metaphor

Ryan Houk

Brace yourselves: This column is about professional wrestling. I watch it all the time, and I can’t help it. It’s an addiction. And anyone at all interested in writing or acting or folklore should watch it too.

Fact: Pro wrestling broadcasts routinely dominate cable Nielsen ratings. It’s true. And beyond all the camp and gore and obvious homoerotic joke material, there is something more to sports entertainment. Take for example, the following allegory.

When I first started watching wrestling, I only wanted the good guys to win. I was 6 years old, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts was my hero. Even Hulk Hogan – who I thought was played out – received my vote if he was facing the evil Macho Man. There wasn’t much to think about. The good guys stood for honor, justice and sportsmanship. The bad guys cheated and deserved to lose. Life was simple.

Then, I stopped watching.

I rediscovered wrestling freshman year of my first attempt at college. I was 17 years old and ready to run the planet single-handedly. One night, I was walking through the lobby of my dorm, and I happened to glance at the television. There, I saw a man in cut-off jeans shorts and a comic book T-shirt read a poem, DDT another man, and then pin him like it was a waste of his time.

I was hooked.

But this time, it was different. I didn’t want my heroes of old to win; I wanted them to get out of the way of the new guys. Washed-up old-timers were clutching to the last gasps of their careers and keeping the younger, more exciting talent down. I was mad. So mad, that when Ric Flair “died” of a heart attack in the ring, I thought, “Good. I’m tired of seeing him.”

It wasn’t that I wanted one of the greatest wrestlers of all time to die. I just wanted him to be done in the ring. The future superstars of my generation were raring to take over the business. We were younger, faster, flashier and more in touch with the times. What did the old-timers know about entertaining the youth? They’d only been doing it their entire lives. But the funny thing is: While I was sitting around, waiting for wrestling to change, I ended up changing myself.

Last Tuesday, I had a revelation. Ric Flair was competing for his 17th world title against the Big Show, and I realized I really wanted him to win. I had never liked Ric Flair; he was always old and bad. But now, I love him. It’s the same with Hulk Hogan, Tatanka, Shawn Michaels and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Once again, the legends are my heroes. But now, it’s for a different reason.

Pro wrestling is a dangerous business. Despite how fake it is, it is an industry chock full of physical injuries, drug addictions and a touring schedule that would put Phish to shame.

It’s kind of like life. New guys come and go. Champions reign then disappear. But if you’ve been here since the beginning and still come out and give it your all every day, I’m in your corner. You are the true champions. And despite what anyone says about how tired or old or washed up you are, I hope you win.

See you in the arena.

Ryan Houk is a junior English major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]