You’ve paid your fare for the collection plate and you have the snacks to prove it. You take your seat with the others of the faith. The bells ring and the hymns are sung as the gospel and sermons are spoken, and they are spoken through violence. Thuds, slams, and slaps galore. It gives you a glimpse to a heaven beyond your wildest dreams, as the story is told in holy voice. You are lost in it – minutes become seconds, hours become minutes, and before you know it, that connection to another realm is closed and your soul is filled. Then and only then is the hymn that you’ve hypnotizingly been drawn into comes to a close.
There’s few mediums of fiction that provide the thrill of professional wrestling. Few can match its exact nature. The guise of sport, draped over the storytelling among the likes of the worst films you’ve ever seen and the classics of literature that stick with you, as you are lost in love with it, submerged in the haze of its essence like too many drinks of wine.
And to think, it transpires within a shape on its own particular stage. A square. It is the same square that it has always transpired, every time, the exact same square. Where Magnum T.A. bled with Tully Blanchard and where Oedo Tai danced their silly dance. Where Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada defied the logic of what is possible in pro-wrestling and where a Texas Rattlesnake broke our hearts after his defeat at the hands of The Brahma Bull. It happened there, it’s happened everywhere, happening everywhere.
The techniques, the selling, the presentation itself hinges on faith. It requires you to let yourself be sucked in, to a world of pain and broken hearts. You need to feel it wash all over you; the anger, the laughter, the joy, the tears, the fear. All of it. And you sit with it and you think on it. Absorb it and wonder where it goes from here. There is no end. The characters change in this art of war, but the story goes on and on and on.
Wrestlers step in that ring every night to entertain us, carrying scars and bruises and wounds and they have to tell themselves it is all worth it. The people that cheer, we reinforce that. That is real. They age and live alongside us, fictional characters in the flesh, and we interact and influence them. It is real.
Characters come in, fooling you into chanting with them, clapping with them and even singing with them. Any location on Earth, we bring our own volume into the mix. They elicit it from us, giving their all and taking none but our love. It is real.
They speak to us, not just in struggles and rope breaks, but in their actual voice. A waking voice. They speak in ways that make us feel whatever way they dictate, and they play it to their strengths. When you hear Dusty Rhodes talk about hard times, you feel him reach out to you. When Jake Roberts explains the evils of man, no matter his role on the morality scale, you sit paralyzed in fear. When Scott Steiner speaks whatever the hell he says, you sit there in awe and wonder what you just heard and if it really came from a human being. Whatever they say, they catch your attention, be they skilled enough. Be they poetic or gripping enough, they fight to keep your attention. It is real.
As wrestlers grow, they progress in front of us. They rise and fall like the tide to the sea. They depend on the support of us and they depend on those that raise them from the roots and signs their paychecks.
So when you sit down in the stands in the arena or your couch, know that the spirituality of wrestling is meant to overtake you. It is meant to give you hope in what you want to see in yourself and make you uncomfortable when you see too much of yourself. Even if you’re a nerd for the workrate, selling and pacing. Even if you’re a sucker for dialogue, for story and for character. It’s a two-way street forevermore that makes the medium fight for the right to say that professional wrestling is better than all the things you like.
Because in the end, wrestling is real.