Pro wrestlers perform for sold out SAP Center
THE SANTA CLARA
February 11, 2016
Growing up, I had an after-dinner ritual that never changed. Once the dishes had been cleared, the plates scraped and the leftovers refrigerated, my older brother and I would rush to our shared bedroom and spend the next thirty minutes wrestling.
We would chop, clothesline and chokeslam each other until our dad would inevitably yell at us to stop. We smashed windows, wore down mattresses and broke box springs. To this day, I still have a scar on my chin from when my brother DDT’d me onto our hardwood floor.
Watching SmackDown and Raw weekly and recreating the moves I saw on those programs was a part of growing up. I’ve loved WWE since before I can remember and I always swore to myself that one day I would see it live. And I’m here to tell you, dreams do come true.
On Saturday night, I went to the SAP Center and watched WWE wrestlers throw down in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd.
Contrary to what most people would assume, the crowd at WWE Live was not a bunch of inbred, beer-chugging hicks. They were families for the most part, as well as twenty to thirty year-olds who seemed to tow the line between learned and nerdy. Wrestling fans get a bad rap, but based on the heckles and jokes I heard from the folks around me, they seemed funny, relatable and passionate.
I’d also like to dispel a myth that has been polluting our society for decades: wrestling is not “fake.” Yes it’s somewhat planned out and exaggerated, but make no mistake: professional wrestling is a dangerous way to make a living—one that almost always results in life-lasting injuries and permanent scars.
It requires its participants to be in peak physical shape and have an incredibly high tolerance for pain. Some of the punches and kicks may be held back a bit, but getting slammed on your head and back repeatedly is no picnic.
You need to be sadistic, masochistic and unbelievably dedicated to the craft to be a professional wrestler. Fans know this, and it fuels their vehement support of the art form.
If it must be summed up in a word, wrestling is a performance. WWE stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s entertainment.
No one is claiming it’s a sport or a competition with unknown outcomes. It’s more a melodramatic play with live stunts. For what it is and what it’s understood to be, it is simply not “fake.”
The WWE boasts “the best athletes in the world” and seeing these demi-gods and goddesses live in person confirmed this. All seven of the matches I saw featured superhumans displaying greased-up, chiseled physiques the likes of which I have not encountered in daily life.
Following a few undercard matches featuring wrestlers like Jack Swagger (a red, white and blue-sporting uber-patriot who makes Uncle Sam look like Benedict Arnold) and the Lucha Dragons (their entrance involves them leading the audience in a fist-pumping “Lu-cha!” “Lu-cha!” chant), the first two bonafide superstars faced off.
The heel was Rusev, a Bulgarian Hercules, who was escorted by Lana, his busty, blonde representative. He did the posing while she did the talking.
“America is weak,” she said into the microphone. “Every single one of you is weak.”
She went on to talk about how San Jose is “gross” and “pathetic” and that Vladmir Putin told her that Moscow was a more deserving host for Super Bowl 50. She bathed in the boos of the crowd that was eager to play along with her overt emotional manipulation.
That’s when the face, Brock Lesnar, exploded out of the tunnel and made his way to the ring accompanied by his representative, the slick, silver-tongued, suit-wearing Paul Heyman.
There may not be a better person on the mic than the effortlessly charismatic Heyman, who told the crowd that Rusev was “Russian to Suplex City.”
Heyman’s prediction came true, as Lesnar repeatedly suplexed Rusev until he was a beaten and bruised mess. As a thank you for visiting Suplex City, Lesnar gave Rusev an F-5 (Lesnar’s finisher) as a parting souvenir.
Following the brief intermission, the crowd was treated to a divas match between champion Charlotte (daughter of the stylin’ and profilin’ Ric Flair) and the red-headed Becky Lynch. Divas matches are an odd subset of professional wrestling, as they seemed geared toward satiating the lusty desires of horny neckbeards while still trying to promote female empowerment.
Regardless, the divas were acrobatic and daring, and the match was one of the better ones I saw. Charlotte retained her title.
The main event showcased two of the WWE’s fastest-rising superstars: Alberto del Rio and Roman Reigns. Del Rio reminded me of the suave and duplicitous boyfriend on a telenovela and Reigns seemed to channel a Samoan Thor.
Both are immensely talented individuals and are perhaps the most polarizing figures in the WWE (worldwide, they receive as many jeers as cheers). But love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying their talent.
The match was the best of the night and confirmed why they are so revered. They sold the punches, perfectly worked the ropes and gripped their skulls in disbelief at every 2 ½ count. Eventually, it was Reigns who finished del Rio off with a spear—my personal favorite of all finishers.
Never before have I witnessed such high-octane, non-stop entertainment, nor been a part of such a participatory and passionate audience. WWE Live was immense fun and showed why wrestling is such a singular art form, well-regarded by those in the know.
In the end, it reminded me why I was that crazy kid who would leap off his twin bed to elbow his brother. I didn’t do it out of hate; I did it out of love for wrestling. And you can’t fake that.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.