“Wait, so like, every day?”
“Yeah, every day.”
“So, right now?”
“Yep. Right now.”
I’ve had versions of this conversation more times than I can remember. When I explain my condition to people, it usually takes a while to register. What follows, inevitably, is something like, “Wow, I have no idea how you do it.”
You see, for the past three years, I’ve lived with chronic migraine. The fancy Latin name is status migrainosus, which literally means that my head hurts all the time. Some days are better than others, some days (like yesterday) are unbearable.
A significant part of that “how I do it” secret revolves around finding distractions. When every day you’re in constant pain, sometimes the only thing you really can do is try to find ways to take your mind off it. To give it some misdirection that takes attention off what you’re going through. For me, one of my best distractions has been, naturally, pro wrestling.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been attracted to the “sport.” I have memories of my grandmother sitting me down in front of Sesame Street and as soon as she left the room, I’d jump up and switch it to WWE. Once, getting out of the car as we were being dropped off at church, she accidentally caught my hand in the car door. We immediately headed home and as much as my hand hurt, my overwhelming feeling was relief; I wouldn’t have to miss Superstars after all.
So many of my touchstones growing up were connected to events in wrestling. Most of my friends as a kid were forged by it. My only memory of my shoulder surgery is watching WCW Monday Nitro from my hospital room. In my teenage years, as the Monday Night War burned bright, we hosted parties for pay-per-views until I graduated. I still hold a grudge with Justin Reed for hitting “Channel Up” instead of “Volume Up” and causing me to miss The Rock hitting Hulk Hogan with the People’s Elbow at WrestleMania X8. Even at college, some of my best friends were those I connected with over a shared love of this wacky world.
It’s no surprise, then, that when something as devastating as this disability shows up in my life, one of the anchors I hold on to is pro wrestling. It’s always there to provide comfort, to occupy my mind and take me away to a world where reality is more than the constant war drums rising slowly in my brain. It doesn’t work as a foundation on which to lay your identity, but it is remarkably powerful as the old blanket you’ve kept for decades, tattered and frayed and more soothing than any replacement could ever be.
A great match or a great promo can pluck you out of your situation and take you to a place where at least now, in this place for this moment, nothing else matters.
Mediocre wrestling even has its benefits, too. Sometimes it takes a little bit of mental preparation to put yourself in the headspace to fully appreciate what you’re about to watch. I feel this way about great films sometimes, as well, it’s easier to watch both Crank films than it is to sit down and appreciate The Godfather. Sometimes rather than get mentally ready to notice the brilliant touches and details in an Okada title defense it’s easier to just fire up the Network and watch the latest lackluster WWE pay-per-view.
Keeping up with the newest happenings across the “world of wrestling” is an easy time sink to get trapped in. There’s always something new to cover, some new podcast to listen to, some new take to bury on Twitter. Many hours have been spent in dark bedrooms and closet floors with podcasts from this great website and others keeping me company and helping me through the pain.
Conversely, we have unprecedented access to all of the wrestling that has ever happened before and the ability to go back and relive our favorite matches and moments. Everyone has those comfort foods that lift their spirits and take them back to their childhood. In the same way, Samoa Joe vs Necro Butcher is online and any day of the week you can watch Necro get powerslammed on his face all over again, just like mom’s apple pie.
Even though my condition is enormously difficult, I still have so much to be thankful for and one of those things is pro wrestling. For the bounty of good and bad, new and old wrestling from all over the world accessible at a moment’s notice. For this online community, warts and all, that never ceases to have strong opinions about men in their pantaloons pretending to hurt each other, who make me laugh or think or keep engaged with this silly hobby we all love so much.
How lucky are we? To be here at this time, in this moment in history and be able to share this gift? Recently, I needed to take a three-month leave from my job with the hopes of finding a remedy to at least let me be functional again. It was a heart-wrenching decision to make, but there was a small mercy provided as I began my time off.
You see, as Lead Pastor of a church in northeast Wisconsin, it’s pretty much impossible to get down to Chicago for an AAW show on a Saturday night. However, it just so happened that the week I started my leave, there was a show at Bourbon Street with my boy, Pentagon Jr. on the card. I had to go.
Before the show, Rich had joked in the Voices of Wrestling contributor Slack channel something like, “loud music and yelling, the perfect remedy for migraines.”
In a weird way, he was kind of right. It was one of the hardest weeks I’d faced yet, six days removed from making the announcement and phasing myself out for the summer, but in that strange strip mall bar surrounded by a bunch of fellow weirdos, my mind was free.
That’s what pro wrestling has done for me and I, for one, am thankful.