There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking wrestling in your twenties
And no, it’s not fake
There are a lot of things I’ve grown out of throughout the years. These include, but are not limited to: studded belts, banana Yazoo, listening to Green Day, wearing foundation without blending it properly into my neck, and telling my mum she doesn’t understand me. Wrestling is not one of those things.
I am 24 years old and a fairly, mostly, normal person. I’m also a pretty huge wrestling fan. WWE, TNA, WCW, ECW, ROH, New Japan, boring local UK federations – you name it, I’m a fan. Having never got into wrestling as a kid (no brothers to expose me to action figures and bad American play-acting), I fell into watching it “ironically” with friends in uni and haven’t looked back. I sheepishly read endless Bleacher Report articles. I wish I was in Texas for Wrestlemania 32. I own several t-shirts. I watch YouTube series about it and I even ran an ill-conceived wrestling blog for a time. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Wrestling gets a bad rep for a few fairly important reasons. Firstly, wrestling fans are by and large, admittedly, complete fucking weirdos. They’re overweight Americans from hick towns who shove kids out of the way to buy the last XXL John Cena t-shirt. They’re the people who queue up to buy the latest EA Sports wrestling game and complain in forums because their favourite isn’t on the cover. They’re this guy, crying in an empty gym hall because it’s still real to him dammit.
Sure, these people do exist, a lot of them exist. But for everyone ten of them, there’s one person (two at a stretch) who enjoys it for what it is. Who wears trousers which aren’t elasticated and likes the events for the theatricality, because they’re the most unashamedly uncool and excitable thing you can go to see. Because basically, it’s the best parts of professional sports like UFC, mixed with a drama you don’t get anywhere else.
Which is basically the second reason people think liking wrestling as an adult is ridiculous: because it’s fake. It’s perfectly alright to get pissed off at Undertaker losing a hell in a cell match when you’re a kid, when you’re overcome by the injustice of a bad guy winning or a shock return of your favourite wrestler (from before they were referred to as “superstars”), because you don’t realise it’s fake – and you probably had a few fights in the playground defending the fact that it’s completely real.
As an adult, realising wrestling is “fake” doesn’t stop you enjoying it, and in fact buying into the “kayfabe” aspect of the sport makes it a lot more enjoyable. It makes you appreciate other things you missed when you were a kid – the real danger of missing a spot and breaking your neck, like the botched piledriver which ended Stone Cold Steve Austin’s career, the diving headbutts and steroid-dependence which many people pointed to as being to blame for the deaths of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit (along with his family), the high octane, easily fucked-up stunts which tragically killed Owen Hart, the risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV from blading for effect.
You appreciate what happens to the athletes after they stop being the characters you see on TV – if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it intensely interesting finding out the fates of people like Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan and CM Punk after they left the ring, for good or bad, as well as the boring insider business stuff which you would never have been nerdy enough to bother with when you were younger. It makes you appreciate that even though the ending is already decided, everything that happens in the ring is dangerous, decided by the wrestlers as it’s happening, and is still pretty exciting and fun.
Yes, it’s over the top, it’s kitsch Americana, and yes, it’s quite geeky, but liking it shouldn’t be any weirder than still being a diehard fan of the football team your dad introduced you to as a kid, or crying at the opening sequence to Up even though you know realistically the lonely old man is just a drawing. It’s time for wrestling to go over with everyone except for the weird fringes of society, for the people who live in their parents’ basement. Linda McMahon has run for senate twice, and The Wrestler made $45 million while singlehandedly resurrecting Mickey Rourke’s career: it’s as mainstream as you can get.