WWE Monday Night RAW at the Verizon Center, Washington D.C., December 29, 2014.

Good lord. Went to see WWE RAW on Monday with Adriana and like the last time it caused me to write a 1500 word rambling missive, it did not disappoint. Seriously, it is such a shame I stopped watching as a kid because I was embarrassed about the “fake” aspect of it, because in hindsight it’s irrelevant. The athleticism is real, the story lines, though completely nonsensical are entertaining, and 90% of the entertainers are hot as fuck. RAW is just like any other serial, only with a unique structure that ensures the entire middle of the program is usually completely miss-able. And if you see it live you get to do the Ric Flair “wooooh!” through the slow parts and tell John Cena he sucks to his face (sort of.)

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Anyway, here is my genuine leather Cynthia Rowley Money in the Bank briefcase. I traced my purse onto a gold Christmas bag, printed out the Money in the Bank logo and duct-taped that shit down. It held surprisingly well and I was complimented by a man who I assume was drunk.

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Adriana hand-made these lamb-baby-sheep ears, and even came over to make sure they fit before sewing it all together, which I think constitutes a fitting.

ACTUAL SHOW THINGS:

  • I realized as I was fervently shouting YES! YES! YES! that Daniel Bryan has been injured for the entirety of my recent wrestling watching stint, and I have no idea what this motherfucker is about. I did however find myself being really, really relieved when he announced he was not retiring, which I think is some sorcery/Jim Jones shit. I think The Yes Movement is some sort of coven, or that thing the Mormons do- A sect? Can’t you imagine Daniel Bryan with a 13-year-old wife named Mavis who is wearing a pioneer dress? Apologies to Brie Bella, but he already looks Amish.
  • I cannot get over how hot Edge is with short hair. I want to own a cottage on Wasega Beach with him. We can drink a lot of Kokanee and make woodsy Canadian forest love in a manner that does not re-break his neck. He looks like he knows how to grill. I like that. Please keep him and Christian forever. They are so cute.
  • Dolph Ziggler has the most shapely thighs I have ever seen. I never even thought about thighs at all before him, not other people’s, not my own. But if he were to do a workout video, I would watch it, if it were free. They are perfect. Also he was wearing sequined hot pants, and they were genuinely adorable, kind of like something you would see at an upscale-but-trying-to-look-like-a-scamp store, like Anthropologie during a racy season. I would buy them for sure, they were such a welcome break from his usual black and pink pleather. So tired. So bowling alley. I care about Dolph Ziggler’s fashion because someone needs to make that motherfucker famous already. He’s not getting famous in Bret Hart’s castoff clothes bin. I appreciate his throwback look, but it is not resonating with the people, and he’s simply too goddamn good-looking to pull it off. I saw him on a podcast/vlog recently where he was asked the question What do people on the street think your job is? RELEVANT. MOST RELEVANT DOLPH ZIGGLER QUESTION OF ALL TIME. He said “80s movie villain” but we all know the answer is “stripper.” He looks like a stripper. Why does he need to look like a stripper.

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  • The Miz and Mizdow vs. The Usos. Sorry, everyone knows I think Samoa is a fictitious place. I don’t get The Usos, they’re so boring and they dress like the Miami Dolphins. Mizdow is genius though, and the mime routine is unexpectedly hilarious in person. When the gimmick is played out I think WWE needs to do a Fight Club plot line where The Miz realizes Sandow has really been a part of him all along to kill it off. Then Sandow is free to move on and you could get a bunch of lowcarders involved as a Project Mayhem-y follower stable thing and have an excuse to use pyro. Am I a genius? Yes.

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  • Luke Harper vs. Jack Swagger. Fuck Jack Swagger honestly, that whole thing makes me cringe. At least Lana and Rusev are a parody, you get the sense the Jack Swagger thing isn’t a joke. I hate that The Wyatt Family fractured so fast. John Cena can be a one man lone wolf military-inspired killing machine with a conscious for like 12 years, but we can’t get a good villain group to last more than 6 months? The same thing happened with The Shield, why break them up as soon as the audience starts to embrace them? When no one has any purpose on their own? WTF is Luke Harper doing wandering around wrestling Jack Swagger. WTF is Roman Reigns M.O.? How is there like 9 hours of television a week and no basic character development? Oh God, the wasted potential. Think about what David Simon could do with 9 hours a week. He could do a teleplay of the entire Bible, then write an original version of human history, and it would all be up on HBO Go by now.
  • Ryback had what felt like an 8 minute long speech about The Secret and metaphysics, which I know the format of, but I’ve never had to sit through before personally, because I don’t know anyone who is divorced. It was brutal. It was confusing. I could not determine whether he was just the messenger, delivering us a truly odd, misguided story line, or speaking from the heart. He had this disheveled appearance, like he just pulled an undershirt down and stapled it at the crotch Workaholics sleepover style, then had it airbrushed at a mall kiosk. Adriana also pointed out he was wearing a weight belt as an accessory, and had more armbands than a Hot Topic cashier. It was like someone’s Pop Pop wandered on stage and incoherently declared that he was a wrestler, all while wearing an open bathrobe and oven mitts and no underwear. Supposing it had some basis in reality, I’m truly glad the guy feels like he’s in a better place, but it was uncomfortable. So uncomfortable. Just finished listening to CM Punk’s appearance on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast, and Punk accuses Ryback of intentionally kicking him in the stomach, breaking his ribs. So I don’t feel so bad sharing my actual impression of Ryback, which was that he seemed like a weeping middle-aged woman going through the change who missed her dose of Premarin and is suffering from some major vaginal dryness and emotional instability. Also we all know he looks like Sloth from The Goonies.
  • Divas match was all of 45 seconds long. FOR SHAME. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

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  • Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns was the match I found most emotionally conflicting. I found myself simultaneously terrified for both of their safety, and desperate for them to irl beat the shit out of each other. I like hockey fights, I like internet videos of fights in Wendy’s, I like a good in real life, non-life-threatening scrap, but there was never anything primally appealing about it to me. Until that moment. Then I wanted those two ripped, shirtless dudes to bare-knuckle brawl, and there was nothing I ever wanted more. But I was also so scared. And conflicted. And kind of into it. And scared. This feud is too much. My fantasy is The Shield reunites under the direction of Mick Foley. I don’t know who the fuck would be a better counterpart to Dean Ambrose than Mankind, the soothing-yet-empowering sounds of Tori Amos would do his crazy ass some good (although I don’t really want him to change, I just want him to stop punching Seth Rollins.) The Shield can get Metallica’s therapist. We can make a documentary to air exclusively on the WWE Network for $9.99.
  • Cutting Edge Peep Show vs. Rollins broke my heart. Here I am, with my rediscovered love for my brother in country, Edge, and now my favorite wrestler Seth Rollins has got his face pinned in between the Money in the Bank Briefcase and his boot and is threatening to (re)break his neck. Things got a little American History X. Rollins’ threatening to paralyze him, so he can no longer feel his daughter when he holds her in his arms? The FUCK is that? I know the WWE buries people alive as standard practice, but this seemed unusually cold. Like who pissed off Vince McMahon/someone in the writer’s room kind of cold. Then mocking Christian for his concussions when that is such a hot button issue? Good Lord. Someone should have started playing Sarah MacLachlan because shit was cruel.
  • Finally of course there was this shit with Cena saving Edge while looking like a lost, obedient puppy in hideous shoes, which is kind of his thing. It was predictable to the point that people started filing out of the building. Then the reinstated Authority appeared and joined Rollins for a New Years toast, which I think was supposed to be a “big reveal” but as I said on Monday, and as I still maintain, as soon as Seth Rollins wedged Edge’s head against that briefcase I knew those motherfuckers were in the building because no one understands the concept of face time like Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. What did surprise everyone, and what apparently was not broadcast (intentionally? unintentionally?) was Randy Orton’s surprisingly speedy blocky ass sprinting across the arena, which they apparently have no intention of putting on television. So yeah, Randy Orton is still around. It was briefly thrilling until I got home and realized ‘goddamit, more Randy Orton.’

1627 words. Damn it. Still too emotionally involved. But I added pictures and bullet pointed things this time?

That time I wrote 1700 words on professional wrestling

Holy shit, so me and somekindofold saw WWE RAW last Monday and it was like the greatest experience of my life. Coincidentally we had seen Mick Foley’s spoken word tour at the DC Improv the week before, and besides being awesome in its own right, so much of what he said about wrestling made seeing RAW a more meaningful experience, which I didn’t think was a sentence I would ever write.

I think my main takeway was that so many of criticisms of wrestling just dissolve when you see it live. The “fakeness,” the overacting, the knowledge that it is staged/predetermined/whatever you want to call it, all becomes irrelevant. I think it’s largely due to the scale in person being completely different than the one you perceive from TV. Everyone knows how television sets can be made to appear to have more depth through lighting and camera tricks. I feel like the camera angles work to a disadvantage in televised wrestling, another, a concept I never thought I would contemplate.

It’s impossible to grasp the scale of the action from the television’s perspective. The ring is much higher in person than it looks on screen; the aisles surrounding it are also much larger. The video screens and lighting that I always imagined existed to fill the space and make it seem deeper and larger on television have the opposite effect. While in actuality it filled the entire wall of a stadium and looked mind-blowing large, when I watched the episode on TV the space seemed shrunk and the ceilings looked low. The night we went there were a bunch of ladders scattered around to promote the Money in the Bank match that was happening that weekend, and I spent a sad amount of time asking somekindofold to determine whether or not they were real ladders. Which sounds like a drunk question, but it wasn’t. For the record they were real ladders, which she kept telling me, but they were so freakishly tall I thought they had to be a painted backdrop. The point is, they were so tall in real life I couldn’t conceive of them being real, but on television they just looked like regular. fucking. ladders.

The part that made me the most sad (or I guess repentant, like I had to throw myself on the altar of professional wrestling and proclaim that I was once a non-believer, but had now accepted Ric Flair into my heart,) was the realization that in person, these wrestlers are working with 360 degrees of space, surrounded on all sides by audience members. This idea never transfers to television. When they’re doing a tag-team match, and one wrestler gets KO’d, or thrown out of the ring, that wrestler never goes anywhere. They aren’t picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, grabbing a bottle of water and checking their phones until someone tags them back in. They have to lie there, pretending to writhe in pain, until someone tags them back in, or they hit the lights and they are quietly ushered out.

I think this is notable for 2 reasons:

1. It seems like a fucking pain in the ass. It must be incredibly boring to have to passively lay there and act wounded for however many minutes in front of 15,000+ fans and however many at home viewers. The urge to space out and start looking around must be incredible.
2. Virtually no other program I can think of would put forth that level of dedication to maintaining an illusion.

I’ve been to show tapings before. As soon as the camera is no longer on, or no longer on them, most people break character immediately. Not necessarily in a bad way, live television happens fast and it’s understandable they need every second to read notes and make last minute changes. But these wrestlers are on every second. It’s clear that they’re as concerned with entertaining the fans that are there in the audience as they are with the far greater number that are watching at home. It’s one of the only events I’ve attended where I actually felt valued and like my experience wasn’t being sacrificed for the more lucrative promise of ratings.

Two comparisons kept coming to mind as I was watching, and they were two things I sure-as-fuck never thought I’d put in the same sentence as professional wrestling: theater and ice dancing. People always draw a distinction between acting for the camera and acting for a live audience. Not an actor, but to make a broad generalization, screen acting requires much more restraint. The closer perspective draws attention to subtle movements and expressions. Stage acting (again, generalization) necessitates a heavier hand to be understood by those that may be at the back of an audience.

Wrestling, it became apparent, was much more like theater. The things I hated about watching wrestling on television worked well, and dare I say it, looked sort of realistic, sitting in the 100 section. The problems I had with wrestling weren’t problems with wrestling, but problems with televising wrestling. And the problems with televising wrestling are the same problems with translating theater to television, what begins as an emotionally charged portrayal of Hamlet ends with (Hamlet Spoiler) Kenneth Brannagh flailing around in the most protracted death scene of all time.

Which is where the ice dancing comes to play. One of my biggest beefs with pro-wrestling was the weird hand-to-hand combat stuff, the stupid, exaggerated fake stomps and slaps and the ridiculously pained expressions on the wrestlers faces. It seemed like mockery, we know John Cena isn’t getting slapped unconscious every night, so why do we have to pretend we think the motherfucker is dead.

Every two years when the Olympics rolls around I have the same conversation with myself. I love the stunt portion of the routines and cringe through everything else. I don’t want to watch Meryl Davis do sassy little wrist motions, I want to see that bitch do a barrel roll and crush Svetlana’s dreams of ever getting a gold or a potato for her family. What I finally learned from Sochi and my sudden acute interest in ice dancing (bandwagonitis?) is that that is not really the point. I’m not an ice dancer (shocking) but a lot of those little movements, I would intimate, do double-duty as flourishes and time-fillers, serving to make it look less awkward as the dancers skate halfway across the rink to set up another jump.

Which omg, was exactly what happened at RAW.

This shit was like a ballet. There is no other way to describe what transpired than beautifully coordinated. It was art. Wrestlers being flung from the ring, others storming it, bulky-ass men handling each other with both the delicateness of a monarch butterfly and the dumb brutality of King Kong. The stunts were truly much more impressive in person, where you are able to process that it doesn’t matter if Kane and Roman Reigns know the outcome of a match, it’s amazing that even with prior knowledge and rehearsing, they are able to hurl themselves off a swaying rope without breaking their necks.

I think that’s what Mick Foley meant at the Improv when in response to a question about people who criticize wrestling for being predetermined, he said something to the effect of ”broken bones are not predetermined.” At the time I thought he was simply saying that despite all the planning in the world, during a match there is a certain accepted level of risk. Nothing can be truly pre-determined when Murphy’s Law exists. However I now think what he was insinuating was more subtle, but much farther reaching. At the show, Foley gave an anecdote about being knocked unconscious in a 1998 match with the Undertaker. As he lay unconscious, wrestling personnel pulled him to the side and sent out Terry Funk in his place to “buy more time.” As in, after a minute and a half of unconsciousness, the intent was to stall long enough for him to regain consciousness and get back in the ring. Funk proceeded to get the shit kicked out of him until his shoes literally fell off. Mick Foley reminded the audience that in the NFL the clock would undoubtedly stop for a player injury, but not in the WWE.

There are intricacies to the sport and performance of professional wrestling that often go overlooked but are no less real. Like any other athlete, they train, they prepare, and then they are at the will of chance. The Crying Wrestling Fan reminded us there are sacrifices to be made. We mourn for the Sidney Crosby’s of the world, when young players are struck down in their prime, we lament that “their hearts were stronger than their bodies.” But we never think about Mick Foley and his busted knees and his permanent brain damage caused by a career full of concussions.

An ice dancer knows their routine, that doesn’t mean they’re going to land their jumps. Performers learn scripts or songs or sketches or whatever, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to choke. Sure, pro-athletes don’t know how their games will turn out, and I don’t have a lot of great sports analogies because I don’t watch much sports, but if you told former shitty Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft that it had been pre-arranged his team would win, I’m sure that asshole would still find a way to let every goal in. Predetermined is not prescient, and a storyline is not a crutch for lack of talent.

Wrestling is a live performance with the physicality and theatrics of competitive sports or theater. I think Foley is credited with coining “sports entertainment” and I think it’s a very apt description. The fact the competitors know the details of the match doesn’t make it “fake,” it makes it compelling. The sheer coordination and precision involved in pulling off some of these stunts without creating an actual bloodbath as opposed to a fictional one is astounding. You really need to witness a couple of 250 pound men climbing 10 feet in the air and colliding to feel the full impact.

Hold me Ric Flair, I think I’m a believer.

WOOOOOOOOO!!!