Of all the sports, forms of entertaining, and other artistic outlets that share common ground with the world of professional wrestling, it’s likely that a jungle or a forest was the last place anyone would search to draw such a parallel. There’s no reason to look to deep into this comparison; it’s very simple. The animal kingdom contains millions of species of wild life (many of which haven’t even been identified yet), and as many varieties may exist out there, they all have their place. Wrestling isn’t an entirely different beast. It draws from the same artistic lifeblood that allows all those different creatures to coexist in a chaotically woven harmony. They are simply just on different canvases.
To break it down with the broadest example first, you could visit Japan, England, Puerto Rico, and Mexico today and you would already see four very different wrestling shows. Breaking it down further yields to the unique style of the boys working the shows, and to break it down further would yield to different match types. But, you don’t have to go beyond the first point to appreciate spectrum of wrestling you can already grasp from country-to-country. Whether it’s the hard-hitting Japanese strong style, the high-flying, high-octane Mexican lucha, the catch as can English cup of tea, or the blood-fests down in Puerto Rico, the international flair provides a language that can communicate to any fan in this fine world of ours. But, this is about more than all that.
There’s something much more beautiful about wrestling that truly makes it the art form that it is. Just within the United States there are so many guys that are influenced by so many things. Some men strive to be technical wizards, while some men just want to learn to fly. Some beasts are disguised as men and just want to engage in strong, stiff, primal warfare. Some want to brawl, some want to stretch their opponents into something more complicated than a pretzel. The point is that wrestling today is evolved to something much different than in the 80s and 90s and a match’s greatness doesn’t have to be defined by archaic ways of thinking.
I’m not one of the boys and I will never pretend to be. I am, however, a fan and I think that’s enough of a qualification to judge what I believe a good match is as any. After all, I’m the one paying to see it right? I’m the one who decides if I’m entertained. Yet, in a world filled with so many choices and resources to be able to watch literally any wrestling you can imagine, it can still be a daunting task to be a fan. Sometimes it’s an old-timer/legend-type guy on a podcast criticizing a match you enjoyed for its lack of psychology. Or, perhaps, it’s just a guy on some forum bashing a match you actually really liked because it was a “fucking spotfest.” Is it not OK to like this? Are we bad fans if we do? Are we, dare I say, MARKS?!
The answer to all this is easy and has been repeated throughout this article: everything has a place. I have watched — and most importantly — loved pro wrestling for most of my significant life. I have grown to enjoy, and if not, appreciate every facet this industry has to offer me because of it. I’m grateful that I can enjoy watching classic AWA, NWA, WCCW, AJPW, and in the same beat, enjoy watching the opening match of PWG or BEYOND show start off with guys leaping into the fucking crowd. Not everything has to be a well-paced, smart, technical masterpiece anymore, but when it happens it’s so much more appreciated. There’s as much room for Ricochet to fly over the ring post to the floor in the second match as there is for Tanahashi and Okada to give us yet another instant classic.
Wrestling is a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s entertainment, it’s art, it’s a sport, and for some it’s just life. I think it’s time to stop tearing down the aspects that are different or we just haven’t grown to understand. I think it’s time to put on our explorer hats, get dirty, and identify the species we haven’t discovered yet.