Believe me, I’ve heard it all.
“You know it’s fake?”
“You just like watching near naked men grapple each other.”
“You’re fucking stupid.”
Each of those statements has their own degree of truth to them, but the weird thing is I’m not sure it happens for any other form of entertainment. Despite having written many thousands of words about television no-one has ever come up to me and whispered “you know that Arrested Development isn’t a documentary, right?”
But I’m long past the age of caring what other people think and I wear my wrestling fandom on my sleeve. Not literally – yet. That’s going to come later this year when I get a badass Undertaker tattooed on my right arm. At the moment it’s done via a multitude of t-shirts that help support those who I get the most joy from. And I love the community feel, of taking about wrestling with friends and fellow fans.
That’s not to say wrestling fandom isn’t without its issues. There’s a degree of self-entitlement I don’t see in other media, unsuprisingly centred around online forums. There were examples just this week when, on WWE’s premier show RAW, the hated Roman Reigns – who I’ve written about before – won clean over fan favourite Finn Balor.
As predictable as rain in Auckland in April, many on the Squared Circle subreddit couldn’t contain their dismay. Some were done with the WWE for good, some claimed that WWE were trying to destroy Finn, that he had ‘jobbed’ or had been ‘buried’ by Roman, none of which were remotely true.
The match was a good one. In fact it’s one of the better matches I’ve seen in the last few months. It told the story of two strong wrestlers, both of whom got a lot of offence in. But, as with most matches, someone had to win. Last time they fought Finn won – a result that surprised many but made sense in the overall storyline. This time it’s Roman who went over, drawing an over-reaction that would put most wrestlers ‘selling’ a move to shame.
The one thing all of those who rushed to complain missed, without fail, is taking one single moment out of a whole storyline and giving that the power to determine everything is always going to end in disappointment. I’ve done it myself – but, I hope, not to the level I saw on Tuesday (NZ Time).
Does Roman Reigns beating Finn Balor on Tuesday make sense? The answer to that can only be found out when we know it’s ultimate destination. Either winning a single, one-off match makes sense as both are wrestlers at the top end of the company and more than capable of beating any other. But we’ll only know for sure when the Fatal Fiveway at Extreme Rules is finished. The winner goes on to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship – and my money is currently on Finn Balor to emerge victorious.
Long term it’s widely accepted that Roman is the ultimate destination for the title but it’s not supposed to happen so quickly. An injury to the formidable Brawn Strowman may have forced the timetable to move – but it would be a surprise I think, if he claimed victory at Extreme Rules and went on to face The Beast Incarnate.
Finn winning would, ultimately, make Roman’s victory this week way less meaningful and definitely not something to get so worked up about.
Of course, it would be remiss of me to not point out that some of this is the WWE’s own fault. By anointing Reigns so visibly so early in his career they made him a target. And rather than adjust to that situation they’ve largely dug their heels in and persisted. So much so that when Strowman, a ‘heel’, tipped over an ambulance with an injured Reigns in it, the crowd cheered for him and chanted ‘Thank you Strowman’.
Reigns would be a great heel, potentially one of the best in the modern era. But he’s currently positioned as a ‘tweener, a hero for the kids and someone to dislike for the grown-ups in the audience who take it too seriously. Like me, except I like Reigns because I’m a bloody-minded dick.
And so there we are – the first of many Grappling with Thursdays is done. And by somehow writing another 750 or so words on wrestling I’ve both proven and disproven every point I’ve made about taking it too seriously.
Before I disappear in a puff of logic (thank you Douglas Adams) let me offer you this. If you’re not a wrestling fan and wouldn’t dream of paying for the WWE Network streaming platform then grab a one-month free trial and watch every single WWE 24 released thus far. This show alone makes it worthwhile and gives you the kind of behind-the-scenes footage that the teenage me would have given up masturbation for. The storytelling, the editing, the music? It’s perfection and as good as the majority of documentaries you will watch this year. And then you can watch Total Divas!