Heel to Face: One Woman's Attempt to Become a Wrestling Fan

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TLDR: Moron attempts to become full-fledged WWE fan before attending WrestleMania.

If I can’t hang, I lose. If I can, I only lose seven months of my life.

Needless Extrapolation:

Given the choice of sitting alone at a Buffalo Wild Wings or being thrown from the top of a twenty-foot steel cage, I honestly don’t know which I’d pick.

Everything I knew about professional wrestling prior to last week could be traced back to a single conversation in 1998. My cousins Dougie, Corey and I shared everything during the summer except one hour on Monday nights. My mother would make me do something absurd as an alternative, like read a book or spend time with my infant brother. I hate my brother. And I wanted that hour.

Dougie had an imposing action figure that, best guess, was a likeness of Undertaker that he’d shoehorn into our playtime, usually ending in the gruesome murder of a licensed Koosh character or from one of us getting a splinter from the old deck. This plastic man was relentless and inexplicably wore the same dark eyeliner of my least favorite aunt, and I finally summoned the gumption to figure out what the hell was up.

“Why does he keep kicking Mulan in the boobs?”

“I don’t know. They’re my guys,” he answered, brandishing a Kane figure. Dougie was the heel of the brothers—Corey was more inclined to The Rock and other oily loudmouths. I was more of a Mulan-doll-with-boobs-intact kid, myself.

Sixteen years later, I buy a single ticket to WrestleMania in an attempt to ret-con every Monday from my birth until now and, okay, settle a challenge that I couldn’t “hang” with wrestling fans. Which I can. Backbreaker. Sharpshooter. Other three syllable words that I Googled. I’ve got thirty-one weeks to shake out the particulars, and will be attending if it kills me.

The first weekend of my new identity is arguably the most exciting of the summer, with two major events taking place: NXT Takeover and SummerSlam. I’ve put a fair amount of research in on the front end, but it’s impossible to understand everything that’s going on without a liaison. Sure, I can identify a suplex when I see one (don’t test me on this), but the sheer volume of knowledge it takes to be able to carry a conversation on pro wrestling is terrifying.

There’s no such thing as a match—it’s an event that begins with an old-school promenade and sneaks in references to matches and character references that require years of historical, athletic and fictional knowledge to be able to fully engage.

NXT Takeover is, from what I can gather, the cool kid’s pick of the weekend, though any fan with half a brain watches everything, no matter the resentment they hold toward any event. Saturday night is spent with a bag of chips and five Facebook chat windows with WWE fans from home, all of whom have been extremely patient as we venture into a dubious second act of our friendship. There’s only so much idiocy they can take, so I tread carefully.

The match between Bayley and Sasha absolutely blows my mind, and I’m calmly informed that this is the Correct Opinion. Blue Pants, Samoa Joe and the pitch-perfect entrance of The Vaudevillains stand out as well and I grow bold, deciding to declare what little information I’ve gathered through a combination of binge-watching the WWE Network and plowing through old David Shoemaker pieces. It’s my first opinion!

“Big Show is my favorite wrestler,” says I. Smiling. Certain that this is the right thing to say. I am informed that this is “derogatory term to the mentally handicapped.” Whatever. He’s a big show and I appreciate straightforwardness.

Tomorrow, I have somewhere to watch SummerSlam. You know, to watch all the, uh, Mongolian chops and butt drops.

I am going to Buffalo Wild Wings on SummerSlam night. Alone.

After checking with a frustrated hostess several times over, I storm the bar with the intention of engaging as many fans as possible. It’s SummerSlam! Surely there are people gathered at the Mecca of overpriced appetizers to engage?

Two beers in, I am wrong again. The people at this Buffalo Wild Wings don’t give a goddamn about the WWE, and I’m dismissed as watching “that fake shit while we’re trying to make our draft picks.” Harsh, but not inaccurate. I research my symptoms, and find that I’m not alone—it doesn’t seem uncommon for a WWE fan to be rebuked by a fan of sports that need not tag their hobby with the additional “entertainment” tag.

I run to the bathroom and return to find that the channel has been changed, and nary a bartender nor a fan of “real sports” is willing to make eye contact. My fate is decided.

Tail between legs and 480pp stream on the WWE app running in dribs and drabs, I retreat to the Subway next door. Not even the Chipotle. I don’t deserve the Chipotle. The tag team match concludes as I swipe marinara sauce from my upper lip. I am my own worst heel.

“Why the hell are you doing this?” comes the inevitable text. Oh, please. Facebuster. Powerslam. Other words.

I don’t know. They’re my guys now.

Thoughts from this Week:

-I love that there is a group called Team B.A.D. and that they lost.
-Seth Rollins’ outfit at Summer Slam was a glorious hybrid between the White Power Ranger and Judas during the title track of Jesus Christ Superstar.
-If you don’t think Big Show is the best, you’re out of your mind. Going down with this conviction.
-Any company that furnished Mick Foley with the credibility to make a documentary about mall Santas is good in my book.

Hours of Pro Wrestling Consumed: 15 hours
Days Until WrestleMania: 31 weeks, 5 days
State of Union: alone in Subway, slightly drunk

Jamie Loftus is a comedian and writer whose baby teeth have been bronzed and loaded into a gun for when the moment is right. You can find her some of the time, most days at @hamburgerphone or jamieloftusisinnocent.com.

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