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Before I even entered the double doors, I could hear the power saw inside. My warm breath turned to fog in the cold, January night, and I took the step that would change my life. Entering into a large room, the smell of sawdust almost made me sneeze, and I saw the wrestling ring in the far right corner. I passed the men cutting the 2 x 4s, and making my way towards the ring, was greeted by a stranger.
"Are you Jesse?," a 350-pound man asked.
"Yea, are you Ray?," I inquired back, figuring that this was the man whom I had spoken with on the phone the previous evening.
He was Ray, and he was the man who would be training me over the next several months. He ran this particular professional wrestling school, and by the time the night was over, I couldn't turn my head sideways and had two gigantic purple and yellow bruises on my back. I then drove the hour and a half back to my house, relishing the fact that I was on my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a professional wrestler. I continued this training routine three times a week for three months, paying 20 dollars for every session I attended.
Yes, wrestling is fake. Fake, however, is a misrepresntation. "Rigged" would be a better term, because wrestling is not competition--it is entertainment. The popular term coined in the 1980's is "Sports Entertainment." Endings of matches are predetermined, but it is the road to that ending that is the real action. Wrestling is not a sport, but wrestlers are athletes. The ring has padding, but it is not soft. Wrestlers are taught how to fall, but there is only so much one can do to combat gravity. Most people think the ring ropes are soft and springy, but those people are incorrect. The ropes are made of steel cable with a thin vinyl covering, and they leave welts and bruises until a wrestler's skin is conditioned to take it. It would be unfair of me to expect everyone to enjoy professional wrestling, but anyone who doesn't respect the effort that goes into it probably doesn't know much about it.
I, like every other professional wrestler, attended a wrestling "school," which is less like a school and more like sports camp. This school is designed to teach athletes the uniform method of wrestling so that they can wrestle any opponent and still be on the same page.
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"My Future in the World Wrestling Federation." 123HelpMe.com. 23 Jan 2020
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"It ís an easy move," I said to my opponent for the evening, Eddie, as we were planning our match.
This was our second match together, and we wanted to make it good, so I decided to throw some bigger moves in. Eddie was rather skeptical, but I assured him it would be alright. After all, he just picked me up and I took a simple back bump. What was so hard about that? The match was going great, and we had the crowd into it.
We wrestled our allotted eight minutes and the referee told us, "Take it home," which is a signal to finish up the match.
Eddie shot me into the ropes on the far side of the ring, and I bounced off, heading straight for him. Up in the air I went, but I do not remember hitting the ground. Instead I woke up backstage with a crowd of people standing over me looking down. My Dad, Ray, and Eddie were all in the group, but I didn't recognize any of them for about a half-hour. When I finally came to, I learned that I had not taken that "simple back bump" but had hit my feet first, then rolled to my shoulders and hit the back of my head. My first concussion was something I will never forget, even though I took a while to remember it.
After training is completed at the wrestling school, athletes look for promotions to wrestle for. Using connections with the wrestling school, wrestlers can find a few promotions within a 300 mile radius of their homes and begin the wrestling lifestyle. This lifestyle includes long hours driving to a venue, taking a severe beating to entertain a crowd, getting paid 20 dollars if lucky, then driving those same long hours back home late at night. These are only some of the downsides, but wrestlers gladly make these sacrifices to do what they love. They gladly dedicate their weekends to the sports entertainment industry, and the most any can expect to receive in return is respect from their peers, because only one out of a hundred wrestlers make enough money to wrestle full-time.
Wrestling is a performance, and part of that performance is how to react to an audience. Wrestlers deal with the audience when they show up at an arena, when they are wrestling, during intermission and scheduled autograph sessions, and when they are leaving. Wrestlers usually have a gimmick, or a personality trait that stands out, and they act this out to the crowd. It is the job of the "heel," or bad guy, to make the "face," or good guy, look good. This is done for a reason.
Imagine you are in the crowd and a wrestler enters the room. He puts his hands in the air and continues walking. You, a member of the audience, would be indifferent concerning whether or not to cheer this person. But in wrestling, someone else would have already entered and told you, "Sit down and shut up!" Now you don't care who enters next; you'll definitely like him more than the last guy.
In contrast to real life, I play the heel in wrestling. Being the heel allows me to speak my mind more and be more truthful than I would be if I wanted people to cheer me. I can point out if a woman has a mustache, because I am trying to get her to hate me and want me to get beaten into submission. I can call the whole crowd "burger-flipping rednecks," and their violent screams directed at me only let me know that I've done my job well. I feel that it is easier to be the heel, because there are hundreds of things to say to get a group angry. The real challenge is to say something to get them to cheer. No matter which side a wrestler takes, good or bad, microphone skills definitely play a large part in a wrestler's success.
Wrestling for the World Wrestling Federation is the goal of most professional wrestlers. The WWF, as it is abbreviated, has the only nationally syndicated wrestling program in America, and its wrestlers are the top performers and athletes in the industry, not to mention the highest paid. To reach that level takes a combination of athleticism, acting ability, charisma, and innovation, but it also takes something else. What that "something else" is cannot be defined, only recognized. It is sometimes referred to as "the look" or "the right stuff." Some wrestlers have it from the day they begin, and others take years to develop it. Still, the majority of wrestlers never have it, and they never reach any higher than wrestling for local shows in small, suburban towns at fairs, flea markets, and recreation centers for little or no money. Why, then, are there thousands of professional wrestlers, male and female, in the world today? Because they all love sports entertainment, and they get to live their dreams every single weekend.