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ATVS Cultural Exchange : Part I, Where Adam Learns About Wrasslin

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With regards to sports, PodKATT and I are pretty aligned: obviously we’re big college football and baseball fans with a rooted interest and festering affliction for the Saints, but we veer off when it comes to our third favorite sports. Where PodKATT is big into wrasslin’, I’m heavily into soccer.

So we both reached an agreement: I would watch Wrestlemania 31 if he would watch the Barcelona-Juventus Champions League final. Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank title to make the World Heavyweight Championship a triple threat match, where he won without pinning Brock Lesnar and Neymar sealed Barcelona’s treble on the last kick of the game in a 3-1 victory. We both decided that in order to form a better understanding of each other’s interests that we should expand this cultural exchange to a whole year.

And now the cultural exchange is up, it’s time for us to both reflect upon the last year that we have spent ingrained in each other’s entertainment sources.

What I Knew

A lot, actually. For somebody who doesn’t watch wrestling, I know a lot about it mostly by virtue of being friends with people who like wrestling and simply having a twitter account and browsing said account on Monday nights and one Sunday a month. Let me put it to you this way: when I heard Wale’s Bad Guy, I caught most of the references. At any given time, I could probably tell you about 75% of the roster. I had a base knowledge of how the WWE worked with their touring, storylines, and “minor league” system.

I also knew that wrestling fans hate wrestling, so there really wouldn’t be that much difference than soccer fans.

What I Didn’t Know

About the time the cultural exchange started, Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling was posted on YouTube, and that was probably the strongest introduction either of us could have gotten. I obviously knew that wrasslin had storylines, but I had no clue that they are (or could be) so arching that they extend to the the wrestler’s careers post-wrestling. Also, I thought that the whole “Triple H is a a VP of WWE” was “kayfabe” and not an actual thing that is actually real.

I also didn’t know that the wrestlers, sorry, “superstars” really don’t get a true vacation unless they’re seriously injured or filming a movie. This may come off as inflammatory, but I can see why so many former wrestlers struggle with life after wrestling. That’s an insane schedule considering what they do for a living and the time it takes to perfect and rehearse their act.

Really there wasn’t much I didn’t already know about wrestling, I just lacked exposure to it. I’m sure PodKATT will have more in this section that I did.

What I Liked

Watching WrestleMania with wrestling fans is fun, this year it was more fun than the actual event. Sharing something that they grew up watching is special, even if you don’t get the references of the jokes that are thrown around. For example when Stone Cold Steve Austin came out and basically gave a stunner to everybody in the ring at this year’s WrestleMania, all my wrasslin-inclined friends had the biggest smile on their face because even if it was fan service, they still got to see a relic from their childhood do something iconic of the time. As great as the nostalgia was, getting to share the new experiences was better. When Shane McMahon, a grown man with a family, jumped off a 20 foot tall cage onto a table, it was preceded by one person in the room going “no Shane, don’t do it don’t do it” and another simply saying “jump”. And he jumped all the way off that cage.

I also have an appreciation of the dramatics, so seeing things like the Undertaker’s entrance and taking in each wrestler’s song is something I wholly enjoyed. It was great how when every wrestler comes out with his music playing he is met with corresponding cheers and boos, but the Undertaker is special because his entrance, the most grand and dramatic of them all, is met with silence. I’m told that’s more a respect thing and I completely buy that. Even in the living room I was in, the room was mostly silent. That was a really cool tradition to see, as I knew he used a version of a Funeral March but had no idea that went along with it.

Speaking of respect, I got to watch Daniel Bryan’s emotional retirement announcement and while that personally did nothing for me, I knew this was a big deal for wrestling fans, most of whom were fans of Bryan and that was a very heavy moment for them.

Even though I don’t use it, the WWE Network is a terrific idea for being both a vehicle for live coverage and direct source of content as well as the most extensive archive of matches. I’ve watched a few episodes of the Camp WWE show and for it being produced in-house, it has it’s moments. It’s no Archer, but there are some funny moments in the episode I watched. I laughed more than I cringed, so call it a success.

Also, The New Day. I loved anything New Day in the wrestling I watched. The whole New Day thing is so organic it’s like the “superstars” aren’t even acting. I’m told they began as a gospel-inspired group that everybody hated so they simply pivoted to a nearly self aware troll group, which at the same time makes sense and is amazing that they were allowed to do that. It’s a reminder that this is entertainment and entertainment is supposed to be fun if not compelling. In WrestleMania Star, they came out of a box labeled “Booty-O’s” (they make sure you ain’t booty) wearing Dragonball Z suits and playing a trombone on their way to the ring. I loved that something so blatantly weird has become so widely accepted by the wrestling community, because the only thing better than The New Day was the crowd getting behind The New Day. That’s something I don’t see being carefully crafted inside of a boardroom by people in suits, and if it is then they desperately deserve raises.

What I Didn’t Like

My number one complaint is also a lot of other people’s complaint about wrestling: the time. I just don’t have the time in a week to sit down and watch five hours worth of content in two days. I understand that the WWE is the USA Network’s biggest draw and they want as much of it as possible, but that’s such a large chunk of time for mostly filler. And those five hours are just for RAW and Smackdown, I’ve been told that NXT is the highest quality wrestling program and Lucha Underground isn’t far behind it. That’s far too much time for me to commit to wrestling, especially since anything of major note USUALLY doesn’t occur on the weekly shows.

But maybe I would come around to the shows if they didn’t do this thing where they cut to commercials in the middle of the match, which is the entire point of watching the show in the first place. That was the most infuriating thing to watch, but I get it. It’s network television and in order to make money they need to sell shit. But there has to be a better way to break up your show so that you’re not fading out of the middle of a headlock and coming back two minutes later like it never happened.

Also, I don’t see the need for the WWE to protect the illusion as much as they currently do. We all know it’s fake and I get that it’s trying to give the illusion that they’re fighting for realsies, but if a player goes on vacation, we don’t need an injury to cover it up. Even if it was real, nobody would be mad if a wrestler took a month or two off to recoup. I feel both impressed and sorry for the wrestlers for the vigorous schedule that they are forced to endure. It’s ok to pretend that you think your “superstars” are people too.

The Future of Adam and Wrestling

I have no issue with watching a PPV at somebody’s house, I’ll gladly do that if I don’t have plans on that specific Sunday night. But as I said earlier, I don’t think I can carve out the time to sit down and watch three to five hours of wrestling content in a week. I’m about to binge watch probably twice that in BoJack Horseman over the weekend, but that’s beside the point. I’ve always known a lot (relatively) about wrestling, but being able to connect names with faces helped me garner a lot of appreciation for the spectacle.

Coming Soon: Part II, Where PodKATT enters the world of professional soccer just in time for the most insane Premier League season ever.