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   Wed, March 19, 2008



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Guest column: Exploring the dissing of wrestling
By SHANE BARTER - For SLAM! Wrestling


Shane Barter goofs around with his friend John at an ECCW show.

Recently, I caught an ECCW show in Vancouver. I do not attend too many, but I try to see one a year, it is always fun. But I sometimes have a tough time finding friends to go with me, and when I ask, I get some strange responses. This has me thinking: what causes the grudge people have towards pro-wrestling?

So I thought I'd explore some of the reactions I hear when I talk about wrestling:

Wresting is fake.

This can mean two things: wrestling is partially scripted or it is not believable. This is the most common reaction, but I think it is also the silliest. Imagine a friend was going to see a movie -- it could be a superhero movie, a romantic Julia Roberts comedy, or a gripping look at terrorism -- and you asked her if she knew that movies are fake? People love movies and television shows that are fake (as in scripted), but wrestling is somehow not judged by the same standards. As for fake meaning unrealistic, this is more debatable. But a whole slew of movies are not realistic. Imagine criticizing Shrek for not being realistic. Wrestling is entertainment. I do not think it is fake-ness which causes hatred of pro-wrestling.

Wrestling is violent.

Here, we fans have to plead guilty. And I think that for kids, no matter how attentive parents are, wrestling probably encourages violence. My only response is that wrestling is a guilty pleasure and should be considered in relation to other entertainment. Remember the criticism that wrestling is scripted? This responds to the charge of violence. Unlike boxing, or even hockey, wrestlers do not want to hurt each other, it is about teamwork. And remember that criticism of wrestling being unbelievable? Another response to the violence accusation. Wrestling is not always believable, which should make it less a source of emulation than ultra-realistic (gritty) movies where people fight and kill each other (unlike in wrestling). The violence in pro-wrestling is not real.

Wrestling is lame.

Guilty. Sometimes, watching WWE, I cringe. The worst is getting a friend to watch it with me, and the first thing they see is a midget pulling someone's pants down or something. It is embarrassing. This is what Ring of Honor is for. Just try thinking a Bryan Danielson match is lame. Not all wrestling is TNA/WWE lame, and in fact I am impressed to no end at the athleticism, teamwork, creativity, and schedules involved in wrestling. And again: WWE is often lame, but it has good company among mainstream movies and television which are not judged by the same standards.

Sometimes, when someone has many unrelated, inconsistent arguments against something, it weakens their case. They have a predisposition and will say whatever they can to support their bias. So where does the hate towards wrestling stem from? It is seen as low-class. Wrestling is linked with trailer parks or circus freaks in many people's heads. I feel that for many people not liking wrestling is just being elitist, with no logical base.

Is pro-wrestling beautiful? Not really. Am I proud of being a wrestling fan? I don't know if an interest should be a source of pride, no more than being a hockey fan or a Corvette enthusiast is reason for pride. Wrestling is a very entertaining, fascinating world. The men and women in the ring are immensely talented.

I won't exaggerate: wrestling is not a metaphor for our times or a window on society. It is good entertainment, and I hope my friends see it this way when we head out to the ECCW next show.

RELATED LINKS

  • Previous Guest Columns
  • ECCW website

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    Shane Barter is completing his PhD at UBC in Vancouver, focusing largely on Indonesian politics. If he were a wrestler, his theme music would be Starve by Rollins Band. But he always changes his mind on this one. It is a big decision.