Cliché: a person’s quirks are much easier to accept if you love him. Sometimes, the quirks even make you love them even more.
Case in point: my boyfriend Harry is a fan of pro-wrestling.
Wrestling has baffled women since, I’d reckon, the dawn of time. Cave women rolled their eyes and grunted, “When you hurt yourself, for nothing but the sport of it, I ain’t gonna be there with a raw meat compress for the swelling.” Ladies of ancient Greece balked, “You expect me to not comment on the blatant homoeroticism? Ha! Ha! Impossible!” Damsels of the Renaissance cried, “Why can’t you like something I’d want to watch? Dueling? Jousting? Even bear-baiting would be better!” Today we just say, “I don’t understand how you watch that crap, but have fun with the boys. Don’t get too drunk.”
My associations with wrestling were minimal. It existed on a plane of, “I think I’ve flipped past that on TV before?” and “Do people actually watch that?” Then I booked a gig to work an event dedicated to pro-wrestling, created specifically for diehard fans. I entered a completely foreign world. Turns out not only do thousands of people watch pro-wrestling, thousands devote much time, energy, and money to the biggest wrestling event of the season.
This event is the Superbowl of pro-wrestling and if you know anything about the- sport? Spectacle? Entertainment? Performance? Um, I seriously have no idea what exactly to call it. Okay, a quick consultation with the boyfriend reveals the technical term is “sports entertainment”. Thanks, Harry. As I was saying, if you know anything about this sports entertainment, you know exactly to which event I speak of, exactly what it’s called. Here, I will call it everything but the actual name: Wrestle Palooza, Wrestle Madness, Wrestle Fest. We’ll see just how many I can come up with.
Wrestle Frenzy features several highly celebrated matches between the best of the best in the pro-wrestling world. Stories are woven about rivalries, stakes are crafted by advertisers. The whole thing reaches a level of soap-worthy drama.
For four days leading up to Wrestle Insanity, a backstage pass of sorts is offered to fans. This is called Wrestle Delirium Axess (actually spelled with 2 Xs): a chance for diehards to get autographs, photo-ops, and exclusive meet-and-greets from their favorite wrestlers. A chance to mill in a stadium surrounded by other fans. A safe-space without the mockery of judgmental ladies like myself. Well, at least it should have been. The loophole is those who work Wrestle Paradise Axess, like yours truly. Now, I was paid not to mock outright, so I mocked silently. I couldn’t help myself. There are pro-wrestlers and there are pro-silent-mockers. I am the latter.
I know that’s not fair. It’s no Wrestle Euphoria fan’s fault that I’m a jaded New Yorker, disillusioned with the idea of celebrity. It’s a New York cliché: we see celebrities all the time. We consider asking for an autograph beneath us. We roll our eyes at the tourists who block 44th Street, clamoring for a glimpse of Tom Hanks as he leaves “The Lucky Guy”, a Broadway play he is currently starring in. In a way, it’s sad, we’ve lost a little of the magic of being in awe of our heroes. Still, that’s my reality. Besides, no one in the pro-wrestling world is a hero to me. If I saw any on the street the most I might think is, “Damn, that guy is a crazy muscle head.”
Turned out, this jadedness made me perfectly suited for the job I was assigned to work for Wrestle Ridiculousness. For this gig, I was a Talent Runner. Which means I escorted famed pro-wrestlers to and from signings and photo-ops. I kept fans from getting to close and enforced that signings may only take place in designated areas. I was the wrestling joy-kill, it was perfect. Aside from that, my only other task was to fetch sugar-free Red Bull when any one requested it. You’d be amazed by the quantity of
questionably toxic caffeinated beverage some of these big guys can throw back.
When I told Harry exactly what my job was, he was ecstatic. “That’s so cool!” he said gleefully, and texted the news to all his wrestle-watching friends.
“So your girlfriend’s gonna blow all the pros?” was an immediate reply which I unfortunately saw over Harry’s shoulder.
“Wow,” I said. “I hope your friend realizes that my first impression of him, forever, is he’s a jerk. Also, he’s really not helping my prejudices against wrestling fans.”
“That was unfortunate.” Harry replied sheepishly.
It was only a four-day event; four days that I’ll always remember as some of the longest of my life. I worked 38 hours in four days. I broke little kids hearts (“No more autographs!”) , got yelled at by fat middle-aged men (“I don’t care how long you waited, nor will it make any difference if you call me a bitch! You’re not getting a picture!”), and silently judged at every turn. I fetched so much Red Bull that I considered stealing one for myself, though thought better of it, and made oodles of banal small talk with renowned wrestlers.
I never would have made it through without Harry, who I texted after every talent run, “Guess who I just delivered to his photo-op! Know anything about Pro Wrestler X?” I fed off his enthusiasm and knowledge. It gave me purpose, helped me see the world of Wrestle Lunacy through unadulterated eyes.
And that is the story of how I came to appreciate the fact my boyfriend loves pro-wrestling. Wrestle Derangement, Wrestle Utopia, Wrestle Jubilee, Wrestle Wonderland, thank you for making this possible. I’m sure Harry thanks you too.