Scour both the “Entertainment” and “Sports” sections of your local American newspaper or internet news source and you will be hard-pressed to a scrap of professional wrestling coverage. How come? As Vince McMahon proclaimed years ago, this is in fact, sports entertainment, so theoretically professional wrestling could be covered in both sections, right? Why is it that only a tragedy or scandal grants professional wrestling the privilege of gracing national newspapers or internet news sources? Does the media hate professional wrestling, and if so, why?
As I search through the “Entertainment” section this very moment on Yahoo.com, I wonder why reports on Vince McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania, or the fast approaching WWE Draft couldn’t have been covered along side, or instead of some of the headlines I’m reading at this moment. The headlines include: “How Scruffy Rockers Get Gorgeous Girlfriends” “Why Michelle Obama is “touched” by Laura Bush” “Rare Marilyn Monroe Footage Sold at Auction” and “Get Smart” outwits “Love Guru” at the Box Office”.
Ok so maybe the “Entertainment” section has too many vastly important stories to cover to even begin thinking about covering a billionaire giving away a million dollars to various lucky viewers on live television. I can accept that the “Entertainment” section obviously only deals with the important news, so let’s move on to the “Sports” section. Here in the “Sports” section, we have such dubious headlines as: “Accounting Firm Predicts 2008 Summer Olympics Winner”, “Golfer Vijay Singh’s Amazing Practice Routine”, “Pacman” Jones Wants to Drop the Nickname” and of course, “Sharapova Has Fashion Surprise for Wimbledon”. It’s obvious that professional wrestling is too low-grade for coverage in either of these esteemed sections. I mean, who needs to read about how Kurt Angle competed in Wrestlemania XIX with a broken neck when they can read about Sharapova’s fashion surprise? Man, I can’t click on that headline fast enough.
Honestly, professional wrestling shouldn’t be covered in any “Sports” section because it is not, by definition, a sport. I could accept professional wrestling not being covered in the “Entertainment” section too if what the “Entertainment” section covered in place of professional wrestling seemed logically and obviously more important; however, when Michelle Obama’s “touching” thoughts on Laura Bush start occupying space in the “Entertainment” section, my red flag waves. I’m not the first one to point it out, but most of the “entertainment” that is covered today has no place on the pages of any news outlet, save The National Enquirer. So when people suddenly place a value standard on professional wrestling, while letting news about Brittney Spears’ panty-less crotch go untested, my blood boils.
The news media won’t even touch professional wrestling unless they can make money and ratings off of a scandal or tragedy. Ask anyone who doesn’t normally watch pro wrestling what they know about WWE and they will probably say two things: steroids and Chris Benoit. That would be akin to associating the NFL to OJ Simpson’s trial and dog fights. However, the NFL hardly gets any media heat for negative issues that see the light of day. Hell, they even let the fact that Bill Belichick blatantly cheated in various games by videotaping the other team’s signals fall to the wayside with very little to no scrutiny.
So what’s the deal? Why rag on professional wrestling? Simple: The media feels duped. That’s right, the media and those who rely on the media to supply their lives with opinions feel like professional wrestling has duped them. Why? Because they cannot accept that something that was presented as legitimate in ring competition is in reality, a scripted contest. The media has never forgiven Vince McMahon for busting the lock on that safe.
The media feel duped or tricked because professional wrestling is something that presented itself as legitimate competition with an unpredictable outcome, and then reneged that sentiment and revealed that it was in fact scripted entertainment. So unlike the NFL, which we believe to be 100 percent unscripted, or Rocky, which we believe to be 100 percent scripted, professional wrestling falls in a grey area with the media. It’s like they don’t know how to take professional wrestling anymore since it managed to seemingly be two different things: real and fake.. Nobody likes to have a fast one pulled on them so the media resents that it ever fell for the act in the first place and now treat wrestling as if it’s scripted because it failed to be real. They mock the idea of physical entertainment, scoff at the idea of two muscle-clad men throwing each other around in tights, peppering one another with fake kicks and punches, while they hold the movie Rocky in such high regard, or while they praise Harrison Ford for his role in Indiana Jones. Or better yet, while they mob Britney Spears because she shaves her head.
I’ve never seen anyone sit down with Sylvester Stallone and say, “Listen, Sly, Rocky was good and all, but come on, give up the facade, we know the boxing in that movie wasn’t real. We know it was scripted. You’re not a boxer, so why would you pretend to do something you’re not actually doing?” Nobody even thinks to suggest such allegations because Rocky is accepted as a fictional film. However, Vince McMahon and his wrestlers get questioned all the time on the legitimacy of their line of work, ignoring the fact that for almost 20 years now, Vince McMahon has been telling everyone that when they watch wrestling they are basically watching a very physical play. Nobody goes to a Macbeth production and says, “Hey, come on, she didn’t really stab the king right there, that was a fake knife!” So why do folks in the media insist on pointing out every fallacy in pro wrestling’s attempts to seem realistic? Is it because professional wrestlers pretend to be something they’re not? No, because in movies and plays of course, actors are pretending to be something they’re not. It’s because the media pretends that professional wrestlers are something they’re not because the media is still stuck in this purgatory where they’re not sure if they should take professional wrestling as a legitimate sport or entertainment.
Nobody would walk up to Harrison Ford and say, “Listen bud, I know you’re not Indiana Jones.” because they would be laughed at and probably shoved away by security. Similarly, if you went to a production of Romeo and Juliet and, stood up and yelled “That’s not poison, and they’re not dead!” you would probably be met with a chorus of cuss words and maybe a fist to the face if you were in the right crowd. However, the media scrutinizes professional wrestlers for playing their characters and questions the legitimacy of their line of work. So in an effort to clear the air and help the media along a little bit and in the attempt to justify covering professional wrestling in “Entertainment” section at the very least, let me remove the wool from the media’s collective eyes: PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING IS FAKE. It is a physical play. Think of it as a Shakespearian play, the actors are wrestlers; they act with words, body language and physicality. It’s not a sport, never was a sport, and will never be a sport. It is competitive in the sense that one guy competes with the other to put on an entertaining match that will hopefully garner better ratings and elevate the competitors to a level above their peers, but the outcomes are predetermined (most of the time).
Listen media, enjoy professional wrestling for what it is: a crazy, physical play, sometimes improvised, sometimes genuinely unpredictable, usually with a sturdy, predetermined outcome, very dangerous, very compelling and very entertaining. Quit trying to make it something it’s not and then damning it for not being the thing you want it to be. The wool was lifted years ago when Vince McMahon revealed that everyone had been tricked, that wrestling was in fact a sports entertainment hybrid, so now it’s time to start covering it in one of those categories. If you do a little tidying up around the office, you will find a lot of headline space for professional wrestling to fit into that doesn’t have to do with the Benoit situation, Owen Hart’s death, Eddie Guerrero’s death, or steroids. Here’s a good headline to start with: “A Look Back: Kurt Angle Headlines Wrestlemania XIX with a Broken Neck”. I wouldn’t mind seeing that replace Pacman crying about his nickname.
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