If I said I wasn’t entertained, I’d be a liar. With the pageantry, the drama, the story line, the comedy, the physicality and the acrobatics, it’s impossible to pretend you’re too cool to enjoy this.
Judging by the crowd, I couldn’t tell if I was at a Trump rally or monster truck show at times. Fortunately, I was at neither. I was enjoying the WWE’s Monday Night Raw, a “wrestling” show broadcasted live on cable’s USA network every — you guessed it — Monday night.
Tampa Bay’s house of hockey turned into a house of pain as gown men dressed in sparkly underwear took their beefs out on each other in the form of high-flying, cinema-worthy theatrics. It was like watching a cheesy action movie come to real life right in front of you. Villains were pinned against heroes as the WWE general manager Mick Foley supposedly didn’t keep his word and altered fights to obtain better ratings than the rival wrestling show, Smackdown. This led to a night-long feud between several wrestlers, ultimately ending in the return of the famous and revered Goldberg (strategically built up all night).
The plot line of this Shakespearean performance quickly became too thick for me to bother sifting through, but gave way to drama and a slew of matches featuring wrestlers whose flamboyancy is only outdone by 1980’s the likes of Dee Snyder and his band.
American flag t-shirt-wearers who would usually be put off by men in sequined tights grabbing each other by the thighs were enthralled and lost in the action of body slams and sound effects — yes, sound effects — that were so off-timed, it almost seemed to be on purpose.
But it is important to keep in mind that this wrestling is not fake, as one life-long wrestling fans told me.
That life-long wrestling fan, 30-year-old Tampa native Danny Smyth, a local musician who claims that wrestling has influenced his music and persona on stage.
“I know it’s scripted but the thing is, when something happens in real life, they have to come up on the spot with something to fill in, Smyth said. “When I’m on stage with my band, Abortions Twins, I talk crap about bands from around here and I see that as just talking smack. We have “feuds” with other bands but … We know them, we love them. It’s inspired by wrestling. It’s interesting how wrestling can inspire music.”
Smyth has been watching wrestling since he was “four or five years old” and has looked up to these wrestlers as heroes.
“The biggest influence on me was Owen Hart. He was the underdog. Once I saw him, I was like, ‘this is me, this is me’,” Smyth said. “I think honestly there’s a huge group that fits into wrestling rather than say basketball or football. This is a soap opera for men. You know everything going on is predetermined. Not fake, but predetermined.”
There was something endearing about the young fans in the crowd who were watching their personal heroes up close and personal and living the performance as the real thing. That endearment went straight down the shitter as soon as one of their heroes kicked his opponent in the crotch. Then I remembered where I was, guzzled another beer to make it through the night, and laughed the comedic flops that made children’s eyes widen.
The story climaxed quicker than most men when bffs and fellow Canadians Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens — current and longest reigning WWE Universal Champion — found out they will be pitted against each in this year’s Royal Rumble.The tension tightened when Jericho added Tampa Bay to his “list” after calling the crowd stupid for chanting Goldberg’s name.
The night finally exploded with an explosive entrance that conveniently interrupted the meaningless bickering of Jericho and Ownes by the much-anticipated and pyrotechnic-fueled entrance of Goldberg. Bill Goldberg, the former NFL defensive tackle, (now 50), talked the talk, but left the audience with a huge cliffhanger, announcing he, too, will participate in the Rumble before giving the crowd a few signature poses.
It wasn’t just the kids, but the adults — including the Tampa Bay Buc’s Jameis Winston and Gerald McCoy — who were left on the edge of their seats, eager to tune in next week to see what happens. The soap opera for men made us laugh, cry, and lose 10 pounds. It got us drunk, confused and gave me a new perspective. I looked at wrestling fans like nerds look at sports fans. I didn’t get it until I was felt part of it. Maybe, just maybe this live-action drama that so many dismiss as fake has tuned me into a believer that it’s real.