What is Wrestling?
The world of professional wrestling is a larger-than-life story being written and rewritten weekly, with characters who take no weeks off bouncing off one another, each with their own goals and hopes and grudges. Most people are somewhat familiar with wrestling—professional wrestling is enjoying its biggest renaissance since the glory days of the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWE in the 90s.
I have many wrestlers who I love to root for or cheer against, like The New Day, Bayley, Seth Rollins, Jon Moxley. All—including dozens and dozens more who I can’t fit into this article—are great at telling a story through promos (when wrestlers smack talk each other), and the in-ring action (the actual match itself, where the action is a mix of pre-planned stunts and improvisation). It’s a never-ending soap opera, with characters who are larger than life. Wrestling has also become a great place for people to connect. Because it is literally a never-ending show, there is always something happening. If someone fails to beat the champion, there are always fifteen others waiting in line, whether it be the world, tag team, or another championship. There is no off-season (though some would argue there should be). WWE is a multi-billion dollar company, putting on huge spectacles.
I love a lot of the talent in WWE and AEW today, but Daniel Bryan will always be my favorite guy from this era of wrestling. The YES chant is legendary and he is so fun to watch in the ring. Daniel Bryan is one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the world and also, his storyline from WrestleMania 30 where he won the championship after overcoming the authority (the storyline was essentially the executives of the WWE not thinking Daniel Bryan was good enough to be champion, so he had to overcome all odds to prove himself) is the stuff of legends.
The crowds are also a crucial part of the experience. Between literally dozens of chants, the live reactions to an amazing match, and the buzz of a live audience while the performers wrestle and talk all in real-time. It’s like a play, action movie, the circus, and the Olympics all rolled into one.
The recent resurgence has been in part due to diehards from the ’90s growing up, and holding on to this love of wrestling when characters like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and The Undertaker were the stars. The past few years have brought new stars, a new promotion (AEW), and wide access to a lot of people thanks in large part to social media. I do not know what it is about pro wrestlers, but they are excellent memes. But it’s more than just memes and over-the-top characters with catchphrases; it’s moments and experiencing those moments as a part of the wrestling community.
Wrestlemania itself is my favorite event of the year. It’s in a lot of ways the season finale for WWE programming, followed by the next Monday after WrestleMania being the season premiere. You don’t know what’s going to happen, who is going to show up, or who will win and who will lose. It is an event on par with the Super Bowl or San Diego Comic-Con. In fact. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl and Comic-Con fusing together to make this crazy, zany event.
This year the main event is surrounded by Roman Reigns, Edge, and Daniel Bryan, a triple threat match for the Universal Championship. Interestingly, in real life, all three have had to step away from the ring for a time. Daniel Bryan due to concussion concerns, Edge due to concerns with his neck, and Roman Reigns relapsed with leukemia. I personally think it’s fantastic all three have come back after such events and such a toll on themselves to be in the main event of WrestleMania, the biggest show of the year. All three are great in-ring storytellers so it should be a great finale to WrestleMania. Other great matches include Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntrye and Sasha Banks vs Bianca BeLair. It should be a great card.
The Wrestling Community
With WrestleMania 37 today, it makes me think about the group of friends we would gather together for a WrestleMania party. This got to be such a big thing that people who openly didn’t like wrestling would come just for all the reactions and craziness of us fans. WrestleMania is all about the moment, and for us, part of that moment was being together for a night and laughing, yelling, and constantly theorizing about what would happen next.Community shows up in the most interesting of places.
At my wedding, before coming out for the reception, all my groomsmen erupted in a YES Chant. I was at another friend’s wedding and came out to the reception with Shinske Nakamura’s music—which is a banger by the way. Another friend had replica championship belts for all of his groomsmen (they also came out to wrestler theme music). He and his wife were the WWE and WWE Women’s champions respectively. I “wrestle” with my son and mimic many moves (SAFELY) with him. He doesn’t know what’s going on but he just loves it. Wrestling has been a part of some of the most important moments in my life.
So I like wrestling, yeah. I keep up with who has what belt, which can get confusing even for fans. I keep up with wrestling news and the behind-the-scenes meta that many fans are more interested in than the actual show itself. I love the memes. I love following the wrestler’s lives, not just the characters they play. I don’t agree with some of them on things, but they have done so much to entertain folks like willingly hurting themselves in a stunt coordinated event after stunt coordinated event.
But I love the community more. Community shows up in the most interesting of places—it’s one of God’s sweetest gifts to us. Everyone gets to enjoy it to some degree. Friendships are the best. Maybe I sound like SpongeBob Squarepants there, but it’s true. You never know what will bond you to someone. Maybe it’s a love of Liverpool soccer. Maybe a love for Nintendo games or Pokémon. Maybe it’s board games or D&D. Maybe it’s watching some guy play Destiny 2 for hours on Twitch. But that genuine feeling of community, there is nothing like it. It feels like home.
I’ll be watching WrestleMania 37 this weekend. But I won’t be with the boys. No party, no cake—just me and maybe my family if they can stay up that late. Which is fine. Life moves on, but I’ll be missing “home”—that community—just a little bit more this weekend.
Be sure to listen to Two Words, the LTN wrestling podcast, for more wrestling community goodness!