In an ever-changing world, our resistance towards change seems to be the only thing that is settled. And, never in history has this been clearer. After falling victim to a pandemic that forces us to stay home, our backs are put against the wall and we have no option but to stare at the face of reality. It stares back at us, and it’s not pretty.
I’ve always believed that a great professional wrestling match reflects the world in which we are living. That comes from the fact that I’ve been looking at wrestling as an art form, something that many will disagree with. However, I never thought that such a thing would come from, arguably, the least culturally aware wrestling promotion on the planet.
In the middle of the pandemic, we all saw our favorite activities being canceled, and that included our beloved wrestling. One by one, our favorite promotions either stopped running shows or started presenting their products in front of no crowd. It was a painful experience. However, this was not an ordinary time in the business. We were getting close to the biggest week of the year. We were about to get WrestleMania.
For many of us, myself included, WrestleMania week has always been something special. Seeing a lot of promotions running a bunch of shows with a lot of “dream matches” made the weekend a must-see. When it all had to be canceled, it was a big tragedy.
However, not everything was really canceled.
We all know how much of a stubborn old man Vince McMahon is, and most of us weren’t really surprised when we found out that WrestleMania would still go on as planned As the card was “announced”, few matches drew (no pun intended) a real interest, but we had a problem: for them to work, it was needed something that, at the moment, it was impossible to get: a crowd.
Crowd reactions have been a big part of the business, and, without it, we saw our favorite form of entertainment mutilated.
Wrestling was suddenly torn into pieces. Everything that we knew about was taken from us, leaving an unrecognizable amount of parts that did not resemble what we were so familiar with. Thus, the Frankenstein monster rises.
Across the two nights of WrestleMania, we witnessed two different matches that completely challenge our view on what wrestling can be in a pandemic. The Boneyard Match and the Firefly Funhouse Match are some of the more controversial things in the history of the business.
The arguments on both sides have been many. However, there is one particular topic that has been feeding passionate debates all across the world of professional wrestling:
Can we really call them “matches”?
What is a professional wrestling match? Would it be the long-gone three-hours long grapple-filled catch-as-catch can bouts of the old days? Maybe we can add the innovation provided by William Muldoon, Ed Lewis and Jim Londos? What about the antics of Gorgeous George? The mix of comedy and violence of Memphis will help you? What about the colorfulness of Hulkamania? GLOW? ECW? Those insane indie guys jumping out of balconies and killing themselves? CHIKARA? Lucha Underground? Final Deletion? Where do we draw the line?
Karl Gotch was once asked by Akira Maeda what he thought about what wrestling was turning into, Karl Gotch answered: “It’s a dance. They are dancing.” This interview was from the mid-80s.
The fact is, pro wrestling, as everything else in life, is defined by a set of rules. If we take it as a language, it has its own grammar. But, as someone with a degree in language, I can assure you: even something as stable as grammar is always changing. And we are the ones changing it.
What these matches represent is the fear of change in a world that is falling apart around us. We want to hold on to things that are still familiar to us for as long as we can. We are still hopeful that, in a couple of months from now, we are going to walk outside back into the world we left. Spoiler alert: we won’t.
Everything that you know and love is different now, and in a degree that might scare the shit out of you. The world is always changing. it’s just doing it faster now. We can either adapt and accept the changes, or we can hold on to that reality that is never coming back. We can be grumpy old men and women that think that the world used to be better and that everything is wrong these days. We can live in denial.