I like to watch professional wrestling. The other day I watched the Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View. The titular Royal Rumble match is the most exciting match of the year, at least by the quantity of exciting moments. Two wrestlers start in the ring, every 90 seconds a new wrestler randomly comes down to the ring, this continues until there have been 30 wrestlers total. Wrestlers are eliminated by being thrown over the top rope and landing on the ground. The last of these wrestlers to survive gets a world title match at that year’s Wrestlemania, generally the most exciting overall PPV by quantity and quality.
This year was a little less exciting than usual. The second wrestler to come out was my all time favorite wrestler, and surprise entrant, Chris Jericho (who had been gone for several months with no sign of return). That was very exciting. I leapt out of my seat and everything. The unexciting part was that I was pretty confident that my least favorite wrestler right now, John Cena, was going to win the match before it even started. And he did.
John Cena winning the Royal Rumble, however, was not my least favorite part of the night. My least favorite part of the night was when my childhood wrestling hero, The Rock, defeated adulthood wrestling hero, CM Punk. See, when I was a kid, The Rock was great. He would make fun of everyone and then beat people up. He was very cool and strong and…funny. Adult me is more impressed with characters who are actually compelling and can wrestle a great match. My sense of humor is actually a sense of humor. This is why I don’t like The Rock anymore.
I have to agree with Danielle Matheson when she points out, “Nostalgia in wrestling is a funny thing” and maybe we never should have liked The Rock. I was excited when I first heard The Rock was coming back. He was from “the good ol’ days.” Though just like how I cannot stand racist, homophobic, or otherwise unfunny-but-controversial(!) garbage at stand-up shows, I’m tired of seeing them in WWE, too. It’s just not interesting anymore.
Maybe I’m supposed to stop watching wrestling, then. That’s the easy answer. The problem is that I like watching the good stuff too much to stop watching it for the bad. So what happens when the good guys are either too boring or unlikable to root for? I get to like the villains. Antonio Cesaro is the 5-language speaking Swiss who hates Americans but is the proud United States Champion. He’s also absurdly strong and I’d take him in a fight over pretty much any other wrestler. Dolph Ziggler, the “Show Off” and self-described heel. He’s a jerk because he knows how good he is. I’ll root for anyone who does a head stand while trying to make his opponent submit. CM Punk, The Best In The World™, is great at giving the truth. His character is completely built around how messed up it is for people like The Rock, John Cena and, amazingly, the audience to think the way they think. There are others but this brings me to my next point: the WWE’s audience is split into two distinct groups.
Group 1 is people I disagree with (idiots). They cheer for whatever they are told to cheer for. They cheer for John Cena who is the goody two-shoes who walks around like Superman. Who likes Superman anyways? I thought people liked Batman now. I certainly don’t like Superman. I want my heroes to be vulnerable. Group 1 likes the Yankees. They like to win and aren’t interested in anything else.
Group 2 is me and other smart people (and a lot of people who write blogs). We like Daniel Bryan because he’s like the best wrestler ever. We love the feuds Big Show has had with Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio because the bad guy had actually been the bad guy and the good guy had actually been the good guy. Not some good guy who’s actually a terrible human being but Group 1 still likes them for some reason (they are told to).