I've been a professional wrestling fan off and on for most of my life. Sometime in the mid-eighties, I got hooked on the Rock 'n Wrestling of the WWF Superstars like Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and "Macho Man" Randy Savage and have appreciated and enjoyed the storytelling and often amazing physical feats of it's performers ever since. It is, however, a gruesome thing of which to be a fan. It is a cutthroat business that is, perhaps, the last bastion of traveling carnies and freak shows. For all of the intersection with main stream pop culture, the "business" is self-contained and steeped in mystery. You must be a wrestler or work with wrestlers to know and understand what is really going on. Wrestlers die young. Wrestlers have destroyed their bodies worse than any pro football star. It is a sport that chews you up and spits you out.
Which is why, as I prepare to go with my peoples to Lucha VaVoom tonight, I'm struck by how much the bizarre and disturbing death of Chris Benoit and his family, apparently by his hand, has stuck with me. The WWE ran a 3 hour tribute to the wrestler and his family last night and everyone broke character. Vince McMahon (who is supposed to be dead in current storylines), John Cena, Edge, Dean Malenko, Chavo Guerrero, et. al, sat in front of a camera and publicly mourned their friend. The confusion, the horrible sadness, the varied responses and memories, and the sincerity has me dumbfounded. Rasslin' is never this genuine. In a world where, increasingly, everything is a "work," the fans were privy to something real.
And I never want to experience that again if it has to be this awful.
So, we'll go to the Mayan tonight and we'll watch burlesque and midgets and the birth of a chicken and we'll laugh and scream and cheer those willing to lace up the boots and enter the squared circle and it will be a great time and maybe I'll forget that there's a whole different, much more serious, often depressing world behind the curtain.
That's the trick of it all, isn't it?