One year ago, the NBA All Star Game was in Arizona. I didn't go.
Let me preface this next paragraph by saying that I'm in my 30's, I have a college degree and I've never had a bottle of Faygo in my life. I also don't have any tattoos, generally avoid taking Stacker 2 and don't own a pair of pants with zippers over the pocket. And I've been the dentist very recently. Okay?
This Sunday, I broke my streak of non-participatory behavior and went to Wrestlemania.
To clarify, I didn't go to Hooters and watch it on TV while eating the wings. I didn't go visit a buddy for a few hours who happened to have it on in the background. I purchased tickets. I entered the arena. I sat in a chair. In person.
Ready for some hardcore wrestling analysis? Well... sorry. I don't exactly have any. I haven't regularly watched wrestling in, like, ten years, so I only knew about half of the folks performing that night. I can tell you that, for the most part, the crowd favorites won, there were no real surprises or guest stars and, if the grand majority of the wrestlers weren't on steroids, then I clearly have a misunderstanding of what steroids are for.
I mean, if you're being tossed three feet into the air by a 270 pound behemoth then being slammed to the ground so hard that people in the 200 sections can see Jurassic Park ripples in their beer, then you get up 15 seconds later and do a back flip onto a table without dying - I'm going to give you a pass as long as you can manage to get to the ring without the syringe still dangling out of your body. These guys were so juiced, I'm surprised the event wasn't sponsored by Orangina.
Anyway, I got floor seats for the night. Maybe I wanted to make Chiles jealous? Maybe I wanted to sit at an angle that guaranteed I'd only be able to steal cursory glances at the ring when the jackasses in front of me put their signs down? You'll never know. But if something wasn't happening on the entrance ramp - next to our section - then I had to watch it on the giant screen TV's in the stadium. This, of course, meant that I spent most of the evening people-watching.
Should I do this? Is it too cliche? Can I take a high road here...? Eh... what else have I got?
There were lots of different types of people there. You had your overweight albinos with wrestling belts (and please note... there's an "s" at the end of albino there). You had your pasty angry dudes with semi-shaved heads, shirts with sleeves torn off, ironic ties and methamphetamine contact highs. This look, of course, is commonly referred to as "Dudley Boy Lite." You had this guy, who I'd guess was about two or three chromosomes short of true human life. (Seriously, he was genetically closer to a panda than a person. I kept checking his bratwurst for bamboo shavings.) And, of course, the guy in the Insane Clown Posse t-shirt and ankle length jorts. If there was a mascot for pro-wrestling, it would be this guy, only about 100 pounds lighter.
I can't say I understand what the correlation is between being a human from the Island of Reject Toys and being a hardcore wrestling fan, but it's clear. Most people there, of course, were mostly normal, but anytime you heard a "woo" or a "fuckin... no... fuckin git that fucker", the person responsible looked like they were auditioning for a role in a Tim Burton movie.
Also, does anyone know if there were any Tea Party rallies that day? Because, if there were, nobody showed up. Tom Tancredo would have gone on stage and spoke about taxes to the guy sweeping the convention center floor. The signs people held up had bad spelling, Nazi references, rampant homophobia and more than one reference to health care, for some reason. The atmosphere in the room was so intense that my brother and I hypothesized that, if you're seeking crowd reaction, the best possible wrestling gimmick you could have would be the Raging Liberal.
Liberal walks on stage holding a moleskin journal and a cup of expensive coffee.
"I've got something to say to you stupid, god-loving animals. Not only am I so smart that I always know what's best for you, but tonight, I worked out a deal with the WWE to take half the money you paid for your tickets tonight and give it to homeless people so they can buy drugs! The other half is going to immigrants who want to live here, but don't want to work!"
"And all you soldiers in the military should be ashamed of yourselves for going out there and fighting against these harmless people in other countries just because you think America is so much better than them. I can't wait to tell my buddies in the government to slash military spending so those jarhead losers on army vacation can come home and get jobs as artists and and philosophers, just like normal people!"
"Oh, and we're taking your guns! Everyone in this room needs a vegan soy latte totalitarian communist enema!"
That guy would be the highest rated wrestler in the world until he was found brutally murdered somewhere. Which could take days. Maybe hours. I dunno.
My favorite folks there were the family sitting behind me from... dear god - I wish I was making this up... a small town in Georgia. They were very sweet. Took time to tell me that I looked like Darius Rucker and everything. Gotta love the Confed Southern Am's.
Their passion for wrestling was only rivaled by tone deaf Italian immigrants everywhere. They screamed in anger when things went poorly. They hugged and rejoiced when things went well. The daughter had an Undertaker tattoo on her right arm. The son questioned whether or not the guy that wasn't tagging in to help his partner was a pussy. It was just so wholesome.
The mom, seen here wearing a shirt with George Bush on it that says "Miss Me Yet?", was the best. She talked to me about how they got there, where they came from. Very rich conversation. And when we got to the end of the night and the main event approached, we had a little exchange about how the match would turn out. For context, the Undertaker, who has a 17 match winning streak at Wrestlemania going, was going head to head with Shawn Michaels, who would have to retire if he lost.
Lady: "Who do you think will win? Taker or Heartbreak?"
Me: "Oh, definitely Undertaker. I mean, he's got a 17 year streak going. Breaking that is going to really put someone over. I can't see the company deciding to give up that kind of cachet to promote a guy who's already been wrestling since 1985. I suspect he'll keep the streak until they need to promote a young guy that they need to help carry the company. Shawn Michaels will probably just take a few weeks off and come back in a non-wrestling role for a while."
Lady: *blank stare*
Me: Oh my... oh... oh no...
Lady: "But don't you think Shawn Michaels is going to fight his heart out and give it his all?"
Yes. Yes, indeed. She thought it was all real. And that's means this is a good time to end this thing.