You may know by now that I have a ton of fandoms, some more hardcore than others. All of us do. You may be a Trekkie, a Whovian, a Whedonist, or a Beatlemaniac. Those fandoms usually are not shamed by people. I have a feeling we all have a guilty pleasure fandom that we hide from our friends, feeling like they wouldn’t understand. I definitely have one of those fandoms.
I am a fan of professional wrestling. In the land of troglodytes who watch Duck Dynasty and think Larry the Cable Guy is funny, I am obsessed with the same sport they are. Professional wrestling to me is beautiful as it is messy. I started watching WWF when I was about seven years old. This was the Hulkamaniac era and the tail end of Andre the Giant. I had a chance to bask in the bright hues of the Ultimate Warrior’s face paint, the bright yellow tights of Hulk Hogan, and the ever changing Macho Man Randy Savage.
As a young kid, I fell into believing wrestling was real, that kayfabe was real life. Kayfabe is the wrestling term for portraying the feuds, gimmicks, etc., as real life. With the advent of the internet, and the WWE moving into a more real era, kayfabe has kind of evaporated in some ways. No longer do we believe someone if they are billed from outer space or parts unknown. We understand they are just characters. It hasn’t lessened my love.
In middle school and high school is when the Attitude era began and wrestling exploded back into a national power. Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Rock, and Mankind were everywhere. I found it acceptable to like wrestling again. In my circles, wrestling was really popular to watch. I began to understand that while the moves were 90% real, everything else was staged. I saw that kayfabe was necessary to enjoy the show, but that professional wrestling was just athletic soap operas. That the good and the bad guys were presented to me and I was supposed to choose the good. During the Attitude era though, the idea of anti-heroes began to come into play. Stone Cold was supposedly a heel (bad guy), but we enjoyed him over the faces (good guys) that Vince McMahon would pit him against.
I stopped watching wrestling when WWE bought its two main competitors and basically became the only show in the US. College came and I got involved in other things, but I still read wrestling chat boards. This got me into smaller promotions that didn’t have TV shows. I first learned about Ring of Honor in 2003 through an online chat. Ring of Honor is basically the hipster wrestling promotion and, what can I say, I love it.
Independent wrestling, especially Ring of Honor knows that its fans are smart and don’t necessarily believe everything they are shown. Ring of Honor was built on the premise of good wrestling with some storylines but not over the top craziness that the WWE has used in the past. Ring of Honor is where current WWE superstars Bryan Danielson, known as Daniel Bryan on WWE, and CM Punk first came to the national eye. Ring of Honor has become the default king of the indies, like SubPop or Merge Records for music.
Here is a good match featuring Bryan Danielson vs. Claudio Castagnoli.
The best thing about independent wrestling promotions is that they can run the exactly kind of show they want — from goofy to bloody to technical. I personally am obsessed with a goofy wrestling indy known as CHIKARA. It is over-the-top goofy with some awesome wrestlers. What I appreciate about CHIKARA is that it focuses on high flying wrestlers and tag teams. I have always been a fan of tag wrestling, whether it be the standard two-on-two or crazy numbers vs. each other. Tag matches always seem to be high energy and the extra performers allow for some cool stuff.
The video features one of my favorite tag teams from CHIKARA, the Osirian Portal, two Egyptian themed wrestlers.
It seems wrestling is in my blood and I hope to be able to take my kids to shows some day. I get funny looks when I talk about wrestling with people . No one is above liking supposed lowbrow stuff. How many people watch the Real Housewives or Keeping up with the Kardashians?
I am leaving you with one of my favorite matches of all time, Mankind vs. Undertaker at “King of the Ring 1998.”