We’ve all been there as children, though maybe we don’t understand the beautiful awkwardness of it. I know that I didn’t, at least. You’re sitting around the dinner table, your parents are talking about their days, and they finally turn to you and ask how things are going in your world. As a child, you define yourself by your hobbies, and your parents are happy to oblige by outfitting you in graphic t-shirts that feature your favorite television characters or by covering your walls with posters of movies and athletes. So, of course, the answer to your parents’ question relates back to these posters and t-shirts. School sucks and you want to talk about your recent video game accomplishments, a highlight sports moment, or an epic plot twist on your favorite TV show.
There were many times around my parents’ dinner table when I responded to that question with updates from Monday Night Raw and all other assorted WWE programming. My parents, like many, didn’t understand the appeal of professional wrestling and listened with blank stares while asking the occasional generic follow-up question, before steering the conversation back to the humdrum of what we now call #adulting.
Accompanying my increase in grey hairs is an increasing appreciation for life’s awkward, cringe-worthy moments. So, let’s gather around the dinner table one more time. A grown man with a passion for professional wrestling trying to explain it to his parents. Playing the role of my father is the man who’s taken on the responsibility of being my internet father, Ian Hudson. You can find him on Twitter at @USFHudon, editing articles at The Dynasty Guru, and hosting the Dynasty’s Child podcast.
D.J.: Hey Dad, been a while! What’s the happs? How’re you and mom?
Ian: Hello Son-
We’re well. Your mother says hi. She’s taking Zumba now! We finally finished the remodel of your old bedroom.
How have you been?
D.J.: How long has mom been doing Zumba? I thought that stuff went the way of Tae Bo. What’s my old room now? And what did you do with my old stuff? I didn’t get a chance to go through it…
I’ve been great. I don’t know if I told you, but I re-discovered my love of professional wrestling. I had front row seats at a PPV show recently, I attached some pictures taken by a BFF Ryan and I!
You probably think it’s lame, but this is my life now, and i’m living my best one.
Ian: You “didn’t get a chance to?” We asked you for three years to come home and look through it all, but instead you’re busy gallivanting around chasing your “dream” of “padcosting” or whatever you call it. Your room is now my library.
Your stuff is still in storage. Please come home and look through it, or just tell me which of your many Legolas, Avatar and Helen Mirren posters you want to keep. I don’t even know how you got Helen Mirren posters.
THESE PHOTOS ARE OBSCENE why are you flipping the bird to that man on that stage, and why do you have a photo of that lady’s rear???? Is this what wrestling is? WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS?
D.J.: A) Great idea on the library! Can I come by to use it as a podcasting studio? B) That’s a ring, and he’s a bad guy. C) Why wouldn’t I have a picture of her rear?
I loved wrestling as a kid, but abandoned it to play bass guitar in a thrash band in hopes of getting girls, I suppose.
The baseball 2016 season was coming to an end, and WWE was ending up in social feeds more and more. So, one Monday, I sent a text to my BFF, Zack, asking if he’d want to virtually watch together, since we both loved it in our early years. I was immediately hooked by the blend of narratives, athleticism, and nostalgia. Aren’t those three things what keep us coming back to baseball every year? I would later go on to describe the feelings of watching wrestling month-to-month as having the same cycle of the MLB: season, winter meetings, repeat. It’s a non-stop cyclone of action, rumor, and innuendo.
Ian: I can see comparing wrestling to other scripted TV, like Game of Thrones or whatever you kids are into these days, but I find it interesting that you jump to comparing to an unscripted thing like sports. Must be a millennial thing.
Ok, so is WWE the only game in town, or are there other leagues? When I was coming up, wearing my Cactus Jack T-Shirt, getting signed postcards from the Hulkster, and having my Jake the Snake action figure, there was only WCW and WWF. And we had to go uphill in the snow to watch matches, with onions on our belts, which was the style at the time.
D.J.: Woah, no need to go all Baby Boomer on me. I’m comparing the experience of consuming the product, not the products themselves.
Wrestling is arguably the healthiest it’s ever been. Sure, Hulkamania isn’t running wild right now, but there are a lot of alternatives to WWE right now that are all thriving: Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, IMPACT, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla just go name a few.
The beautiful thing about it is they’ve learned the futility of competing with WWE. They all offer different styles in different spaces.
That Cactus Jack shirt is an all-timer.
Sent from my iPhone
Ian; “Sent from my iPhone”?? You’d better not be texting while driving.
So what kind of different things do each offer, and which would you say is the most popular and which is the most exciting?
D.J.: I promise I did not send a SMS text message while driving.
Most popular is WWE, by far. It’s not even close. The goal of wrestling has always been about drawing money. These guys are selling out stadiums in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and now Australia. They also just signed a $2 BILLION deal with FOX for JUST ONE of their TV shows, Smackdown Live!, and it’s not even their flagship show!
The most exciting is really in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll use that to transition into what they all offer. I personally find all of them entertaining in their own ways, but I’m a total fucking mark.
WWE – This is, simply put, the Amazon of professional wrestling. They have four TV shows per week, each with different time lengths and styles, each with incredible production value. Unfortunately, because they are a publicly traded company, sometimes they play a little too much to the lowest common denominator. They throw all the money in the world at all the top talent, and then they don’t have enough TV time to really let everyone shine. But, oh boy, when they really want to get behind a program, like they’re doing with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, it’s gold.
Ring of Honor/New Japan Pro Wrestling – These two are getting put in the same category because they run cross-promotional events several times per year, use the same talent pools on their respective programs (they’re independent contractors, after all), and each gear their products more towards adult wrestling fans. Harder strikes, fewer backstage segments, and more curse words. They’d rather build feuds based on in-ring match ups than some silly incident in the catering area. If you go to a WWE show, you’re going to see a WWE show. If you go to a ROH or NJPW show, you’re going to see their performers. They give total freedom to the individuals to get themselves over. They are, first and foremost, wrestling companies.
IMPACT! Wrestling – I have no idea, they don’t either. Originally started as a NWA promotion, like WCW, they got a little buzz for what they were doing with “light heavyweights,” and flew too close to the sun, daring to take on WWE. The difference between IMPACT! and WCW is that IMPACT! (then known as TNA) didn’t have the resources or business acumen. They failed horribly, lost all of their building block talent, and have turned over ownership numerous times. But, like they say, it’s always darkest before dawn. Don Callis is there now and trying to offer a different, but still polished, product that he hopes will one day be “cool again.”
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla – You know that old bar in the center of town that still only serves bottled beer? That’s PWG. They just keep selling out shows in BINGO halls and armories, at larger venue type prices, with the top talent in the world, focusing only on the matches and the characters. They still produce actual DVDs of their events, which feature just the wrestlers in the ring, wrestling however they want to wrestle, in front of fans that are there to have fun watching wrestlers have fun. Here’s a quick rundown of some alumni that WWE fans will recognize: Kevin Owens, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Neville, Sami Zayn, Keith Lee, Drew McIntyre, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Kassius Ohno, and Aleister Black.
Ian: It seems like there’s all kinds of different wrestling options for people. I don’t know if I care for appealing to the “lowest common denominator” though.
I don’t know what’s wrong with being a “mark”- your cousin Mark is a very successful first year associate at a big law firm. You should try to be more like him.
D.J.: “Mark” is an old carnie word for being a fan who’s being worked….actually, let’s just let Urban Dictionary handle this. It gives a little history around the term, too:
A person identified as an easy target, or “sucker”. A mark is always the short end of a joke or scam, and is never let in on what’s going on. A mark is usually being cheated out of money. It’s origin is from old English traveling carnivals from the late 1800s to early 1900s, where workers would refer to people paying to see their made up shows and games a “mark”. not from urban gangsters like most people think. Mark is also the origin to the term “smark” or “smart mark” which is a person who knows he/she is being scammed.
Ian: Oh great, kids and your slang.
Well what’s some other wrestling slang I should know about?
D.J.: I mean, i don’t know about kids, this phrase has been around since before you were a sperm….
Here are some of the basics –
Babyface – This is a good guy
Heel – This is a bad guy
Tweener – An inbetween
Turn – Switch from Heel to Babyface, or the other way around
Heat – Getting booed
Getting Over – Getting cheered
Drawing – Putting asses in seats
Counting the Lights – Losing the match
Doing the honors – Losing the match
Doing the old J-O-B – Losing the match
Swerve – When the fans think one thing is going to happen, then something else happens
Going over – Winning the match
Clean finish – No interference, cheating, or other forms of chicanery
Squash – One person beats another person quickly and dominantly
Jobber – This person always loses
Ian: Language. I raised you better than to say things like “s*e*m.”
Speaking of language, I’ve heard you also say things are “kayfabe,” which I assume is drugs, and something about “working into a shoot,” which I assume is slang for something Pastor Tim has talked with you about. Please tell me I’m wrong- your mother is worried sick.
And who is this “rains” character I hear you shouting about?
D.J.: “Kayfabe” is telling me that Santa Claus is real
A “work” is putting gifts under the tree addressed to me from Santa Claus
A “Shoot” is finally telling me that Santa Claus isn’t real
“Working yourself into a shoot” is when Mom drank too much that one Christmas and cried about how she hasn’t gotten any gifts from Santa Clause.
Roman Reigns is a guy who’s name doubles as a description of an action being taken. He’s a fantastic professional wrestler, but the creative team and Vince McMahon (of WWE) are trying to force him on the fans as a top babyface, and the smarks aren’t having it. Though, I believe they want him to be a heel and are taking a meta approach to generating heat for him. Also, his titantron graphic reads “Roman Empire,” and I would really like to send them a history book.
Ian: Ok. I think I’m starting to understand a little. So who are your favorite wrestling men or women right now?
D.J.: There are so many!
I really like The Golden Elite. Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, and Asuka are great. The Usos and the Briscoes are both excellent tag teams. I walk with Elias. Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor. Dalton Castle has been an incredible champion for ROH. Kazuchika Okada keeps putting on great matches. The Miz is getting heat like nobody in 2018 should be able to. And, of course, Matt Hardy is the most unique thing we’ve seen in years. Oh my god I forgot to mention Johnny Gargano. I fucking love Johnny Gargano. Omg and the Undisputed Era.
Ok, so it comes down to The Golden Elite, Johnny Gargano, and the Undisputed Era.
Ian: Boy, I didn’t understand a damn thing you just said. What is the Undisputed Era and the Golden Elite?
D.J.: The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish, Roderick Strong) are the coolest heels in the business right now. They do bad guy stuff and people love it. They’re in WWE’s NXT brand.
The Golden Elite (Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, Kota Ibushi) are guys who used to be super cool heels and are now super cool babyfaces. They’re with Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Ian: Well that sounds super. Maybe we could go to a game sometime, like when I used to take you to minor league baseball games before you decided you were too cool to hang out with your old man.
D.J.: Match, not game. But I knew you wanted to get a better look at that lady’s rear….