Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Body Slammed

I've made no bones about my love for professional wrestling, particularly the WWE, over the years.

I suppose you could call it my "dirty little secret" or the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures. I justify it by admitting that I am an eclectic individual, being able to love a good steel-cage match as much I do a film by Ingmar Bergman. I've been a fan since my childhood, attending live matches at Stockton Civic Auditorium featuring the likes of Pepper Gomez, Ray Stevens and Kenji Shibuya. On Saturdays, my TV dial was turned to Big Time Wrestling featuring the dulcet tones and craptacular sport coats of Hank Renner. When I was a kid, I bought into the illusion, believing it all to be real. Once I grew up, I knew I had been set up, but I never felt cheated. I actually enjoyed being a dupe, accepting the hype for what it was, admiring the staging, characterization and showmanship of it all just as I would any form of entertainment. Wrestling combines acrobatics, soap opera, melodrama and pure spectacle in one package. I also realized that it took a hell of a lot of ability and athleticism for these performers to pull off what they do night after night, week after week.
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This week, the illusion blurred when the devastating news that WWE Superstar (as they liked to be called) Chris Benoit brutally murdered his wife and young son in his home, then committed suicide by hanging himself in his weight room to finish the job. Suddenly this cartoon character came vividly to life and into a reality that he couldn't possibly handle outside the squared circle. No matter what he had been able to accomplish in his career, this has become his sick legacy.

It's unfortunate that Benoit didn't take himself out of the equation before taking it out on his family. He might have been able to be remembered as a poor troubled soul instead of the worst of all possible murderers.

As far as wrestling itself, well, let's see what Damage Control can possibly repair. I'm going to take a few steps back. It's going to be tough to be able to accept the fantasy any longer. My childhood is officially over.
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