WWE wrestling: fake fighting, but real emotion

As a lifelong fan of the WWE, I’ve heard a lot of different criticisms. It’s fake. It’s scripted. They’re not athletes.

Sure, it’s not 100% real. No, they’re not actually beating each other to a complete pulp every single week. But, the athleticism of the WWE Superstars cannot be questioned. If you disagree, I strongly urge you to see a show in person like I did on Tuesday evening.

“WWE Smackdown” was live from the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan last Tuesday, and I had tickets for myself and my younger brother well in advance of the show. You wouldn’t have to be a fan of the WWE to feel the excitement in the air as fans began pouring into the building. When we made it to our seats, we heard numerous people belt out “woo” chants (homage to Ric Flair), which led to numerous others replying with a “woo” of their own.

Before the show went live on air on the USA Network, we were treated to a “dark match” ( a match that isn’t aired on television, but is just for the entertainment of the live crowd) between Mike Kanellis and Tye “The Perfect 10” Dillinger. As generally happens in each match, there was a “heel” (Kanellis), and a fan favorite (or “face”, which was Dillinger). Kanellis was booed throughout, and chants of “10” rang through the building for Dillinger. When Dillinger eventually won the match, the crowd went crazy.

The thing that I noticed to be most apparent throughout the show was that people don’t go to watch the actual wrestling. It’s more about passion. Just like when you watch a game featuring your favorite team. You’re passionate about your team, and you want them to win. That’s how people seem to feel about watching WWE wrestling. They’re extremely passionate. Some people show their passion by making signs endorsing their favorite wrestlers, and some dress up as wrestlers. We even saw two men who had gone full Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage from head to toe.

Whether fans were singing along with gimmicky entrance songs (especially during The New Day’s and “Glorious” Bobby Roode’s entrances), saying catch-phrases with entertainers (most notably Enzo Amore’s “Certified G” catch-phrase) booing the heels, or cheering for the faces, fans were quite vocal from the beginning of the show until the very end.

The main event featured a United State Championship match between champion Baron Corbin and challenger AJ Styles. This match was when the fans were the loudest. Chants continuously rang through the building during this match, and when Corbin retained his championship, the amount of “boo’s” was simply incredible.

After “Smackdown” concluded, which was at 10pm EST, “205 Live” began. “205 Live” is a show that features only the cruiserweights. This went until 11pm. Some fans had filed out of the arena before the cruiserweight feature began, but the ones that remained continued their antics.

In conclusion, a WWE live event is exciting. The LED lights that flash throughout the building, the personas that each wrestler has, and the overall production make WWE wrestling a spectacle. And yes, I know. It’s not “real” wrestling. But you cannot discount the ability of the athletes who are in the ring. Considering their travel schedule, it’s absolutely astounding that they are able to maintain such physiques and abilities.

There are some aspects of the entertainment that become real, as well. When these entertainers are flying around the ring at full speed, accidents are bound to happen at some point. One instance of this was when two wrestlers (I can’t remember who) were throwing one another into the ropes and building up speed in the ring. One wrestler went for a running knee, and actually connected, knocking the tooth of his opponent out. The tooth went flying into the crowd, and when it was caught by an excited fan, he belted out “I caught it!”, clearly excited about his unintended souvenir.

Though it was a long night, my brother was grinning from ear to ear at the conclusion of the event. As we were exiting the building, fans were clearly satisfied with the events of the evening. “Woo” chants continued cascading through the building, even as we were in the process of leaving. The most evident thing to me out this entire experience was this: the fighting may be fake, but the passion (both from fans and the actual wrestlers) is undeniably real.