There are some things that humans are into that I just don't get. I'm not a NASCAR fan by any means, but I can at least comprehend why a few hundred thousand 'necks would fill a stadium to watch cars drive around a track for a few hours. Watching high-performance vehicles weave around and past each other at speeds close to 200 mph, not to mention the bone-jarring crashes of the non-fatal variety (we'll never forget you, Dale!) must be somehow thrilling. I also suspect that some of the appeal is that minorities have yet to make a strong presence in the ranks of the "sport," so the ethnocentric white man can feel smugly possessive of an event; with pro hockey eating a fat one this year, it's just about the only "sport" he can still call his own. I'm not a fan of NASCAR, but I can at least understand its popularity.
I can't say the same for professional wrestling. There is just something so inherently gay about grown men with oiled-up bodies putting each other in a series of well-choreographed holds intending to pin their opponents' shoulders to the mat. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's just that the same mullet-sporting jocks with zebra pants who watch this hot man-on-man action would probably yell "faggot" at a guy for listening to Erasure, but have no problem worshipping the massive physiques of a bunch of glorified theatrical performers.
High school and college wrestling always seemed extremely questionable to me as well. Guys who weren't even being paid would go on crash diets to stay in their weight class, get all lubed up and don tights as they found new and exciting ways to maneuver their asses and crotches into their opponent's face in the name of the "takedown." Far be it from me to question someone else's form of recreational entertainment, but there's nothing appealing about any of that to me. However, in the spirit of competition, at least the outcome in these amateur events wasn't predetermined.
Yet the multibillion-dollar empire of World Wrestling Entertainment is a complete sham. Everyone enters into the deal knowing the result of each match has already been decided and that wrestlers rehearse their moves behind the scenes. I know I'm not making any new observations here, and I will even admit to waking up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings as a young lad to watch televised wrestling hosted by the late Gordon Solie.
But for the life of me, I can't begin to understand how it's possible that the WWE reported net revenues of $82.7 million for its third fiscal quarter ending January 28, 2005. That's a jaw-dropping amount of merchandise, pay-per-views and advertising revenue.
If it's not latent homosexual desires, what is it that fuels this passion for watching guys in tights grapple with each other? Guys like Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" (wasn't that a Village People song?) Randy Savage and The Rock are national icons, having made their claim to fame by doing nothing more than acting out body-slams, headlocks and engaging in wars of words. There is so much demand for televised WWE events that even the staple television shows have spin-offs! Because Raw and Smackdown just wouldn't be enough to slake the thirst of wrestling fans, there's now Heat, Velocity, After Burn, Survivor Series, Bottom Line (no, I didn't make that one up) and Throbbing Man Meat (yeah, I did make that one up) among others. On any given night of the week, there is televised wrestling for the asking on cable or pay-per-view, and of course once a year there's the main event: On April 3, millions of guys who would likely oppose equal rights for homosexuals will tune into the 21st WrestleMania! and cheer their chosen hunks to victory.
I remember the first WrestleMania! It was 1985 and, still reeling from David Lee Roth's unexpected booting from Van Halen, the nation turned to the "rock and wrestling connection" for comfort. It all started when Capt. Lou Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper's video for "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" as Lauper's dad. For some reason, dude had rubber bands hanging from his face, and the MTV nation loved it! Some marketing mastermind likely called a meeting and used words like "synergy" and "proactive", and before you knew it Hulk Hogan was teaming up with Mr. T. (I pray I'm not the only former feather-hair whose dreamscape is still haunted by the memory of the "Land of a Thousand Dances" video.) Before you could say "New Coke sucks," WrestleMania! was on.
Cyndi Lauper was escorting wrestler Wendy Richter to the ring, Andre the Giant was body-slamming Big John Studd (yoo-hoo!) and a franchise was born. 20 years later, WrestleMania! is still alive and kicking in 2005 and World Wrestling Entertainment has adopted the Blockbuster Video business practice of gobbling up their competition like Pac-Man eats dots to become the undisputed empire of the wrestling genre.
So, who's going to watch WrestleMania XXI? Guys who either can't (or won't) let go of their adolescence, but aren't quite ready to embrace their inner queer. Oh, I can hear their futile cries of resistance: "What about the hot chicks who wrestle?" I believe in the gay community that is what is known as a "beard." You know, chicks who are only around because a guy isn't ready to admit to himself or the rest of the world that he enjoys hot and sweaty man-love. If the outcome of WWE matches weren't predetermined, I might be able to give male wrestling fans a pass. But the fact that the whole thing is likely choreographed with the help of a bald guy in legwarmers doesn't exactly scream "hetero" to me. Men who wouldn't even dream of suffering through Swan Lake or All My Children have no problem supporting the balletic soap opera that is World Wrestling Entertainment. I only hope that one day they can look themselves in the mirror and be happy with who they really are.
Need further proof? Let's just look at the list of featured celebrities for the first WrestleMania!. There was the aforementioned banshee known as Cyndi Lauper (who, I believe, recently performed at The Parliament House … just saying), the Rockettes and … wait for it … guest timekeeper LIBERACE. I bet he and Big John Studd had quite the after-party.