WrestleMania for Sissies, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Spandex
|Not scary: These guys.|
I also grew up on Lifetime movies and episodes of Law & Order: SVU, so I find big 'roided-up dudes to be extra scary. I'm a feminist, so they also make me angry. And that's not exactly a recipe for professional wrestling fandom. I once seriously considered dumping a guy I was dating because I found out he was a big wrestling fan.
Instead, I married him. And that's how I found myself at WrestleMania XXVIII last night.
Having actively avoided professional wrestling my whole life, this summed up my entire knowledge of the sport: It is fake. There is spandex involved. Rednecks love it. Hulk Hogan got famous this way. The Rock went to UM. And ... yeah, that's about it.
So it was a little intimidating walking into Sun Life Stadium surrounded by hundreds of hardcore wrestling fans, almost all of whom wore the same uniform: black t-shirt with wrestling catchphrase, and jeans. Even before we'd gotten inside, fans had begun dueling chants: "Let's go Cena!" "Cena sucks!" I was relieved that I'd chosen to wear a dark shirt and jeans as well (thanks, Girls' Guide to WrestleMania), because I imagined that, should a violent riot start in the stands, I would not be immediately targeted. (I took enough sociology in college to know how crowd mentalities work.)
There was something really silly about droves of dark, seemingly angry people filing into a building covered from top to bottom in Britto art, though. "It's weird," I told my husband Joe. "Britto is so colorful, and so happy, and so gay." "So ... just like wrestling?" he responded. Point.
We found our seats, then decided to walk around in search of funny costumes. I was told WrestleMania is like the Lady Gaga concert of sports, and wacky getups were one part of the experience I was genuinely looking forward to. But we saw very few elaborate outfits -- mostly just black t-shirts and plenty of people (dudes, mostly) carrying enormous golden belts slung over their shoulders. I asked Joe if there was any meaning to right shoulder vs. left shoulder where the belts were concerned. "Y'know, like how in the '90s it meant something if you had one ear pierced?" He just looked at me with disappointment.
I was disappointed, too, because the three dudes in this story's opening photo made up the majority of the costumes we saw. There was also this guy -- yes, this guy -- signing up for a raffle:
In the very few occasions I've seen pro wrestling on TV, the dudes are all greased up and snarly and throbby-veined. They're gross and intimidating. But at the actual event, they just look like dudes with muscles dressed up in funny costumes. And there's so much going on around them that you're not even really paying attention to what they're doing. Well, I wasn't, anyway. The fanboys seated in front of me? Not so much:
It's hard to sit in a crowd of 78,000+ psyched-up people -- record attendance at Sun Life, by the way -- and not get a little psyched yourself. I was in a safe place, surrounded by children and fanboys who acted like children, and the stars in the ring were hilariously dressed and even more hilariously overacting. They'd fake-punch or fake-kick or fake-throw each other to the ground, then writhe in pain for a minute or two, then do it all over again. As spectacle for spectacle's sake goes, this was top quality.
An Irish dude named Sheamus beat his opponent in a matter of seconds, before I could even snap a picture. The Undertaker continued what I'm told was a 20-0 WrestleMania win streak. Extra's Maria Menounos was laughably unconvincing, even by my very low pro wrestling standards, but won anyway. A midget was tossed. Fireworks exploded. Diddy made a cameo. Flo Rida performed. At points, I actually wanted to cheer. All was right with the world.
Then the fights started. One a couple sections over to my left, and a few minutes later, another down and to the right. As I craned to see what was happening, part of me wondered what all these kids around me were going to take away from an experience like this, watching thousands of people cheer two people beating up on each other. I worried, a little. But the other part of me realized that I was cursing the people in front of me for blocking my view of a real, live fight in the stands instead of watching the fake fight on the stage, and that maybe I was part of the problem. Woah. Better concentrate on the pretty lights rather than think too hard on that.
Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.