Professional wrestling has been around since 1901. Many historical records date back to the early 1900's and some even dwindles further back. It was derived ofcourse, from the art of greco roman wrestling, thus evolving into much more than a struggle between two men. From the bounds of amatuer wrestling as it is called today, grew professional wrestling, a stigma which captured the attention of those seeking much more than a mat and a scoreboard. The wrestling business quickly caught on in North America, where many territorial organizations and groups brought professional wrestling locally to their respective areas.
As the business grew, and interest reached new heights, the business took another step, going national with many promotions such as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (Which has now become World Wrestling Entertainment), the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Then came wrestling's biggest boom in the mid to late 90's with competitve World Wrestling Enetertainment (Then WWF) and World Championship Wrestling. At this time, over ten million fans each monday night tuned into wrestling to watch both company's flagship shows, Nitro and Raw. The two shows aired head to head, and were geared for a ratings war, which lasted many years. During this time, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) also became a hit on the east coast gaining a cult-like audience. The wave didn't stop there. Many of the Mexican promotions were hot as well, such as the AAA, and the EMLL were doing great business. Wrestling has evolved greatly throughout the century, and has definately become part of the American culture.
Today, professional wrestling is not as in- demand as it once was in the late 90's, but it continues to flourish behind the support of the die hards. Nonethless, the average wrestling fan is able to tune into wrestling programming four nights a week! With Total Nonstop Action (TNA) and the WWE providing that kind of entertainment, the average wrestling fan can't help but be more than satisified.
However, professional wrestling continues to be the victim of sheer criticism and jokes throughout American culture. Many refuse to watch it and take shots at it because of of their claim that it is "fake" or because it is "goofy" or just flat out ridiculous. Their explanations to describe reasons for not watching it or giving it a chance is filled with a redundant echos of a failed imagination.
After all, professional wrestling is all about the imagination.
Now it is no secret that wrestling has had its times of trials. However, it's nothing that isn't comparable to what has, or is happening in society today. Many call professional wrestling programming stupid, edgy, graphic and not suitable for children. Yet, we tell our kids to turn off what is merely a version of good vs. evil so they can tune into an episode of the Real World? We cry out chants of "Steroids!" when a wrestlers walks out, yet most of the athletes in America's four major sports, uses them as well. We shake our heads in shame, as we wonder how ridiculous the current segment is, yet millions of viewers accepted shows like Joe Millionaire and Who wants to marry a Millionaire?
Theres a double standard.
In no means, am I defending professional wrestling for its shaky past, present or future, nor am I attempting to recruit future fans of the sport (Whether its a sport or not is a topic in itself). However, I do feel that professional wrestling has a bigger foundation in American culture than is percieved. The typical American knows the likes of a Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin and many more. They're not just fads that happened, these are names that in some way shape or form has influenced us as children or in our currrent state. How cool was saying your prayers and taking vitamins when Hogan did? How many kids shouted sayings created by The Rock? How many people know what a clothesline is? Ever hear of Andre the Giant? The sheer fact that you, the reader, know the answer to atleast one of those questions proves professional wrestling's influence.
Believe it or not, wrestling is part of our society. Yet, only few understand its true concept.
Wrestling. It's a concept so delusional, so fixed on illusions and creativity that it confuses many. It's a world full of grown men with characters, personalities and personas, beating one another in front of thousands of fans.
How can this be accepted?
Imagination. It's all about the imagination. The ability to free your mind and allow yourself to live in another world. Wrestling does that. It creates a world where something as wacky as an evil clown can fight a former police offiicer. A place where the ring becomes a courtroom, where all problems are hashed out. A place where evil bosses get their due, and the good prevails. A place where for the time being, life's problems aren't as important.
Wrestlers know this. They're trained for this. It's their job to guide you in this world.
Their in-ring work tells a story. Of two men, doing battle in a ring. The entire match, with different ups and downs. Teasing victory, defeat, cheating and courage. Expressing emotion. Displaying athleticism. Showing cooperation and most importantly, putting on a show.
Some say that it is fake and that "They teach you how to fall".
To quote the legendary announcer, Jim Ross, "Yes, you can teach someone how to fall. But you can't teach them how to take the pain from the fall." Wrestlers sustain serious injuries. From pull muscles, to broken bones, to paralysis, to even some as serious as life threatening. Their work is the epitome of cooperation, as the two wrestlers must work in unisance to put on a good match for those in attendance and for those watching at home. Their work sometimes resembles artwork that cannot be duplicated.
They are also people. People with families. Families they do not see when on the road for 350 days of the year, traveling to entertain us, and defending their trade from the less imaginitive. They are men that put their bodies on the line each and every night to relieve us and give us that world away from reality.
Yet, some of this has no meaning. Many still overlook all of these aspects in regards to the wrestling business. Their inability to understand the essence of professional wrestling and why there is such a passion from the fans lie in the fact that some just do not have an imagination. The inability to release reality, and to allow yourself to become wrapped up in in a product so far-fetched, so over the top, so creatively demanding, that it causes a rejection in this fantasy world. The fact that doubters aren't creatively intapped enough to suspend reality for a few moments, causes there ignorance against a trade that is meant to expand the imagination.
Afterall, there is a reason why amatuer wrestling isn't as popular as professional wrestling.
Despite the unbelievers and critics of the phenomenon, wrestling continues to be a force. The WWE continutes to be a profitable, public sharing company making millions annually, with many other up and coming promotions following on the same path. It's been here for over a century, and whether or not our mainstream culture refuses to admit it, whether critics ultimately deny it, and whether closet fans choose not to defend it, professional wrestling was, is, and will always be part of American society.
A man like Eddie Guerrero, who grew up molded into the wrestling industry. His father, Gory Guerrero, and his brothers, Chavo, Mando, and Hector were all wrestlers. He gave the wrestling business his life. He spent everyday since he was seventeen, performing and enertaining the thousands of fans that filled the arena on a given night. He was a true professional. His character, his wrestling ability, and his charimsa captured the attention of many whenever he walked through a curtain into an arena, or through a television screen. He was one of those people, that helped remove our sense of reality and took us away. Eddie stretched our imagination to new heights.
Although, wrestling remains on the outside of total acceptance within our culture, and within the entire core of our society, it is alright. For now the American pie does not include professional wrestling. However, for those of us that understand the business, the art, the entertainment and most of all, the imagination that is professional wrestling - we are content.
And to the people such as Eddie Guerrero that help makes this weird twisted world a possibility for us every week, I thank you. Whether it be for ten, thirty or sixty minutes, our imaginations were stretched that much more.
Eddie Guerrero 1967-2005