My grandmother was quick to point out a lazy kid when she saw one. If you weren’t sweeping a floor or cleaning out a garage you were essentially useless. Watching professional wrestling, however, got a pass. Occasionally, she would plunk down on the couch next to me as I watched Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Superfly Snuka and Sargent Slaughter as a kid. If George the Animal Steele started gnawing on a turnbuckle she might throw a potato at the TV.
Nan was from a tiny little village called Ballydehob in County Cork, Ireland. In the center of town there stands a statue of her cousin, a storied champion professional wrestler named Danno O’Mahony. He was plucked from rural obscurity and groomed to be an international wrestling superstar in the 1930’s. His signature move, the Irish Whip, is still employed to this day.
So, basically, my family is wrestling royalty, or something.
Now Elliott is 10 and I guess it is a rite of passage because the wrestling bug has bitten my son as well. I had to subscribe to the WWE network and after much badgering we bought tickets to a Monday Night Raw event at Phillips Arena for the whole family.
Our friends couldn’t make it so we had two extra tickets and Kristen put them on the neighborhood listserv. Ever the salesman, her post read something like “Ugh. We have to go to this awful WWE wrestling thing at Phillips and have two extra tickets. Anyone?” I would have at least said “are you ready to rummbbulllll?” I think that’s boxing but c’mon, these tickets weren’t cheap!
Let me be clear—it may have been the dumbest thing I have ever spent money on and this is coming from a guy who has purchased Wubble Bubble Balls. Watching the match live, the moves in the ring look remarkably fake and the smack talk must be edited for TV. I actually felt bad for the actors as they ran out of superlatives for how they plan to destroy their upcoming opponents. And it is all about the upcoming opponent because the program dedicates about half of the evening promoting the next event on the WWE network to make sure everyone subscribes.
I think it is safe to say that most of the people there already subscribe. I saw grown men wearing their own replica championship belts. I saw people boo “villains” about as nuanced as Gargamel. Some guy proposed to his girlfriend in an effort to upstage Brock Lesnar and his “advocate” Paul Heyman. Now, Paul Heyman isn’t even a wrestler. He’s just a guy who gets in the ring and grandstands about another guy for a living. But he eviscerated the poor fool who had just proposed. If she was a Lesnar fan, I’d have to guess she said no.
There is something to be said about the athleticism of these oversized stuntmen. They are athletic freaks for sure and it is easy to see the appeal they have to kids. But I think I’d rather be forced to watch those ridiculous videos of adults opening toys on YouTube while listening to Fitz and the Tantrums. Wrestling fandom is clearly beyond me. I escaped to the concession stands at one point and asked the vendor—do you get the appeal? She said “nah, but my mom used to have it on all the time. Her favorite was the Junkyard Dog.”
I don’t know how closely this event would resemble the ones Uncle Danno starred in. Apparently in the 1930’s, wrestling events drew bigger crowds in Boston and New York than baseball games. I like to think the line between a staged event and true sport was perhaps a little more blurred back then but I suppose every spectacle needs an audience right? If Mary Ellen O’Mahony Sullivan could enjoy something as useless as phony professional wrestling, I suppose anybody could.