Pardon me if this feels like me going a little off the rails for my next recommendation, but I figure a little lateral thinking every now and then is probably a good thing.
You will recall, I hope, that I’ve frequently made use of an image of a grinning Dunstana Darkstone giving a thumbs-up numerous times right here —
— on realmgard.com! — in what is referred to as a “cheap pop”.
And, as you’ll hopefully recall, I’ve explained how that’s a Pro Wrestling term that’s most associated with Wrestling icon and man who has fallen off a whole lot of things, Mick Foley.
Which brings me to Pro Wrestling itself.
Fundamentally, Pro Wrestling is the only sport I care about. Though I will freely admit to watching the odd football game — football is the one with the horses, right?
It should make my allegiances perfectly clear to say that I can schedule my wardrobe so that I can wear nothing but Wrestling shirts indefinitely: six shirts for the first six days, another for laundry day, plus a couple back-ups, wash the first six, repeat.
“But Greatest Living Author J.B. Norman,” you say, “don’t you know Wrestling is fake? How can you like it? Aren’t you worried people will think you’re some kind of simpleton?”
To which I say: why, I had no idea!
Clearly the Undertaker is a genuine, bona fide, 12000% authentic Magic Zombie Cowboy. What’s next, some kind of ridiculous claim that Chief Jay Strongbow was actually Italian? Or that Kama Mustafa was not, in fact, the Supreme Fighting Machine?
But, seriously, yes, I’m aware Wrestling is fake.
No, I don’t care.
Yes, I still enjoy it.
No, it’s not any more fake than anything else on TV.
Also, don’t you have something better to do with your time than mock something as utterly harmless and inconsequential as other peoples’ pastimes?
The essence of drama is conflict. Wrestling is basically nothing but conflict. Ergo, Wrestling is the purest and truest form of drama. Q.E.D and so forth.
It gives us the opportunity to watch superhuman athletes with the physiques of Ancient Greek statuary —
— solve their problems by beating each other up in ludicrous fashion. It’s exactly the same reason people watch martial arts movies.
Look, I’m not going to tell go that you have to absotively, posilutely start watching Wrestling or you’ll be wasting you’re life. I just think you should watch a little Wrestling and you’ll probably be able to find at least some enjoyment in it. There are enough major Wrestling promotions for the sport to offer something for everyone.
Many fans on the Internet would hold WWE as the least-interesting promotion out there. Of course, to most people (especially those who don’t follow the sport), WWE is Wrestling, a fact owed to Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who is more or less single-handedly responsible for the current state of Wrestling, for better or worse.
This makes WWE the most easily accessible promotion, especially for casual fans and it is nevertheless currently the home promotion of some of the best Wrestlers of either gender on the planet. And WrestleMania remains indisputably the biggest event in Pro Wrestling. And there’s an insane amount of content on the WWE Network, basically their Netflix.
All Elite is the daring upstart promotion, with a pretty good network TV deal and the backing of a major corporation (being owned by Shahid Khan, also the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C.; detractors will no doubt point to the recent records of those teams…).
Thanks to its high-level in-ring action and for being the first real competition WWE has had since the death of WCW, All Elite is the current darling of Internet fans. It has, however, attracted some level of criticism for over-indulging in goofy comedy, its relatively under-represented women’s division, and for the most off-puttingly zealous members of its fanbase (which, to be fair, is a segment that exists of every fanbase).
Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA) has nearly gone out of business several times in its history, but has repeatedly come back from the brink and seems pretty secure for the near future, being owned by the same corporation that owns the network it airs on.
Impact may not have the audience it once did, but has managed to settle into a comfortable niche by combining solid in-ring work with over-the-top character work that makes it feel distinct from any of the other major promotions. Plus, given that it’s produced by a Canadian company and prominently features numerous Canadian Wrestlers, I think it qualifies as CanCon, which is always a bonus.
Japanese Wrestling usually feels significantly different from North American Wrestling. Japanese promotions, especially the largest, New Japan, present Wrestling as a real sport and do more to maintain the illusion. This extends to the actual Wrestling being less “fake”. It’s called Strong Style and basically means that that they’re actually hitting each other. It’s still scripted stage-fighting, just with more full contact. This is occasionally criticised by the fanbase, as it has an unfortunate tendency to lead to the Wrestlers getting pretty reckless with themselves and each other.
Japanese Wrestlers aren’t necessarily more flamboyant characters than North American Wrestlers, so much as they have more flamboyant gear, aesthetics, and entrance sequences — Shinsuke Nakamura was a bright red ninja covered in sequins on at least one occasion, Kazuchika Okada had a giant sword and a dinosaur once, Hiroshi Tanahashi air guitars his way to the ring, Taichi is pretty much the Phantom of the Opera in tear-away pants, Jushin Liger‘s entrance video was literally the opening of his anime — yeah, he has an anime (technically, the anime has him; the Wrestler took the gimmick from the anime character).
Because of things like this, the average Japanese Wrestler has a lot more personality than the average North American Wrestler.
Despite presenting it as a real sport, Japanese Wrestling isn’t completely devoid of levity, and there are several promotions focused primarily on comedic Wrestling.
For example, DDT Pro-Wrestling has a title called the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, which can be challenged for at any time, in any place. It has changed hands nearly 1500 times and has been won by a ladder, a painting, several different dolls, food and beverages, a cat, a Bolivian boy, no less than two invisible wrestlers, through games of rock-paper-scissors, in a dream, and has even been won by the title itself (the defending champion was knocked out, the belt fell on him, and the referee counted a pinfall).
I would also be remiss not to mention that Pro Wrestling is a big deal in Mexico, home to CMLL, the oldest Wrestling promotion still in operation. Legendary luchador El Santo, the single most famous Wrestler in a country filled with famous Wrestlers, not only became an icon and a folk hero, but also starred in over 50 movies — not as an actor, as El Santo. Who could forget such timeless classics as Santo vs. the Evil Brain, Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain, Santo vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter and Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man?
So, yes, I like Wrestling. The real question is, why don’t you?
And, if you’re interested in seeing some Pro Wrestling in motion, here’s a couple of clips I’ve talked about elsewhere.
Copyright 2021 J.B. Norman
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