Sports stars, rock stars, film stars. A triumvirate of personalities who command the attentions of millions on a daily basis whilst seldom worrying about their profession being dragged through the dirt by every corner of the media. So why, despite being one of the eldest forms of entertainment, from it’s days on the carnival circuit to selling out arenas worldwide, is wrestling, and it’s superstars, still not wholly welcome on this list?
Bono flies to Africa to raise awareness of the plight of millions of starving children. My hat goes off to him. But it also goes off to the WWE superstars who have travelled to Iraq for each of the past six years to perform for the American troops serving out there. How many other sports personalities have braved that mission once let alone six times?
The only time it seems the national and international media are remotely interested in wrestling is when there’s a steroid scandal. As disgusting as it sounds, some members of the tabloids must have been rubbing their hands together when Chris Benoit killed his family and them himself back in the Summer of 2007. Another chance to deliver a series of low blows to this lowest common denominator form of ?entertainment? that masquerades as a sport, they were undoubtedly thinking.
Never mind that drug scandals are not exclusive to the world of wrestling. Baseball, American football and regular football have all had their fair share of performers with substance abuse problems. Yet are these sports and their superstars hung out to dry in the same manner as the superstars who grace the squared circle every night?
The WWE was the second most searched for term on Yahoo for each of the last two years. Coming second only to mental patient Brtiney Spears last year. Yep, that’s right, even Nobel Peace Prize winning saviour of the world Barrack Obama failed to oust the ?E? from it’s silver medal slot. Yet the company still receives less press coverage than Paris Hilton and her inability to wear underwear on a night on the town. Madonna tears away another Malawian baby from it’s family to bestow an extreme lifestyle of riches and media spotlight on it, just to ensure people are still talking about her and ignoring her latest attempt at an album, and guess what? It works. Yet the WWE works tirelessly alongside the Make ? A ?Wish Foundation and no one so much as bats an eyelid, because y?know, they?re wrestling people so who cares?
How about the fact that every year the company’s flagship PPV event Wrestlemania boosts the economy of whichever city it’s held in? Generating millions of dollars in revenue whilst creating thousands of jobs. In a time where the economy is severely failing in America and across the world, isn?t this the type of story that should be earning more than just a few column inches in the daily press? A company creates employment for thousands and pours millions into an area and yet again, because it’s a ?fake? sport that was the reason behind this financial success story, the media turns a blind eye for the most part and focuses instead on the continued failings of the economy. Because the general public are of course completely unaware of the state the country is in so they need to be reminded on an almost hourly basis.
Then you compare the schedule of a wrestler to that of a footballer or a baseball player or an actor. Which profession is the least financially viable? Ok, at the bottom rungs of each of these career paths, it’s all much of a muchness, with young aspiring stars eagerly anticipating the big break that will catapult them into superstardom. But just compare the big names in football (soccer) and in Hollywood and then in the WWE. Cristiano Ronaldo’s services cost Real Madrid ?80m ($128m roughly) this Summer and each week they part with a further lump of anywhere between ?150k – ?200k in wages. Now add bonuses, sponsorship deals and his signing on fee and pretty quickly you?re losing count of the number of zeroes that are attached to the end of his annual earnings. This is hardly an isolated case either in the football world as many top flight players earn easily in excess of ?100k per week.
This type of money is bestowed upon them for taking part in a handful of training sessions every week and playing at most two 90 minute games of football per week over the course of a nine month season. I?m sure it’s the same in baseball, American football and basketball too. Similarly, a good actor can command millions of dollars without even needing to audition for a part nowadays and all that is asked of them in return is a couple of months work. Cameron Diaz leant her services to Dreamworks for the second Shrek film for a total of 10 hours. Her fee? In excess of $10m. I?m sure many of us wouldn?t mind working for a million dollars an hour either. I?m also sure some main event talent in the WWE would swoon at the chance to earn a million dollars a year, let alone an hour.
Yet, the life of a wrestler involves no off season. It involves just as, if not more of a rigorous training regime than any other sport. It also involves extended time away from family and constant travelling from one side of the country to the other, not to mention overseas trips and let’s not forget those autograph signing sessions either. This is before I mention the fact that these road weary superstars have to fight four times a week, without any health insurance forthcoming from their employers and must pay their own travel expenses, whilst worrying about whether they can keep their spot on the card despite being in competition for TV time with upwards of 30 fellow superstars on their designated roster. And this dedication isn?t worthy of more mainstream credibility why? Why for the most part do non wrestling fans associate the sport (because it IS a sport) with ridicule? Oh yeah, because it involves men in tights pretending to hit each other.
Yeah, because that’s not as ridiculous as every soap opera that’s ever been aired on television. It’s obviously also not as ridiculous as the sport of American football which involves overpaid athletes taking a break every 5-10 seconds, thus making an hour long game last about five hours. It’s a bunch of guys in uniform chasing a ball around a field. Just like regular football is 22 men in shorts running around a field kicking a ball for 90 minutes before heading for a group shower at the end of the game. I?m not mocking these sports, far from it, but rather pointing out how at base, they?re premise is still pretty ridiculous. And they require far less effort and self sacrifice than pro wrestling.
Without meaning to sound clich?d, I?d like to see how many of wrestling’s critics would last in one of these ?fake? fights.
Wrestling for me, and millions of others around the world, provides an escape from reality for a few hours every week. It allows us to be distracted from the news of recession and unemployment and war. Every one of the modern world’s ugly facets will still be there waiting to greet us when the curtain comes down on another show, but for the few hours we spend watching these spandex clad loons entertain us, we can forget about those facets and everything else, just like when we watch a film or a football match. Why more people can?t see this and decide to sneer whenever the word ?wrestling? is mentioned is frankly, beyond me.
I?m not standing on my soapbox demanding that the entire world tunes into Monday Night Raw every week (although I?m sure Vince Mcmahon certainly wouldn?t mind that) but I am standing on my soapbox asking for the wrestling world to be afforded the same respect as any other form of sport or entertainment. It’s no more sleazy than the rest of the sporting world and let’s face it, where’s more sleazy and fake (there’s that word again) than Hollywood?
That my friends, for this week, is that. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week, it’s arrivederci from me.