Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jack Kerouac and Professional Wrestling

I just got back from a live pro wrestling event at The Elks Lodge in Augusta, Maine, and was thinking about the Kerouac connection that I blogged about on October 15, 2009. Jack's dad, Leo, managed some semi-pro wrestlers, and I always think about that when I watch pro wrestling.

There were some real beat characters in attendance at this event. A couple in front of me drove clear from Nashua, NH, and they knew everything about pro wrestling. It was great fun talking to them about wrestlers from years ago, like Tugboat and Dick Murdoch and Barry Wyndham and others I hadn't thought of in a long time. The husband said he talks to Sting (Steve Borden) on Facebook, and that he's a really nice guy. He also said he once saw Big Show (Paul Wight) act like a real asshole to a young fan and called him out on it. Generally, though, pro wrestlers are quite good to their fans, realizing that they are their bread-and-butter. And at these lower tier levels (not the big TV productions like WWE), the settings are very small and intimate and it's hard to avoid engaging with the crowd up close and personal.

This couple and I got talking about people who judge us for liking wrestling, and we laughed about the complaint, "It's fake." Like we don't know that. And like he said, what do people watch that isn't fake? Soap operas? Sitcoms? Pro sports (cut me a break if you think that isn't fixed given the money involved). At least pro wrestling doesn't pretend it's a real competition. It's an athletic exhibition with a little drama thrown in for good measure. The physical stuff they were doing today was impressive, and there was a good deal of showmanship, too. Many in attendance dutifully rooted for their favorites, seemingly with great passion even though they knew it was, at least in part, scripted.

I talked with a woman I know who worked the event and was only there for that reason. She ended up really enjoying herself. That's the point. It's entertainment. Like any kind of entertainment, for it to have its intended effect, you have to suspend belief a little bit (or a lot) and just go with it. That's why I'm enjoying reading George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I know it's not real, and that's okay. I still lose myself in it and have a good time doing so.

I will say this: it's much more enjoyable live than on television. If you've never been to a live event, give it a try sometime. Tell them Leo Kerouac sent you.

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