WrestleMania, the greatest spectacle in the genre of “Sports Entertainment,” took place over two nights, April 2 and 3, at the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) reported that Night 1 of WrestleMania had an attendance of 77,899, and that Night 2 had an attendance of 78,453. WrestleMania accumulated a record 2.2 billion impressions across all social platforms, compared to 1.8 billion for Super Bowl LVI, and up 10% from the previous year. Additionally, WWE amassed 1.1 billion video views (up 47% from the previous year) across various social media networks, 13.1 million hours of video watch time (up 29% from the previous year), and 87 million engagements over the weekend of the event.
Interestingly, at one time, wrestling promoters had to settle for high school gymnasiums. Those were the times when wrestling fans kept their interests “private,” or be considered “weird.” After all, the “more sophisticated” – the more “hip” – of that time knew that professional wrestling was all “fixed” and “fake.” However, some of us fondly remember “secretly” staying up late to watch the wrestling shows on Channel 9. And let us not forget the wrestling shows broadcast in Spanish on Channels 31 and 37!
The Armory on Montgomery Street hosted many wrestling events. There were “big matches” at Madison Square Garden featuring Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Andre the Giant, Chief Jay Strongbow, Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, the original Sheik, Killer Kowalski, The Valiant Brothers, Ivan Putski, George “The Animal” Steele, and many others. Those matches pale in comparison to the grappling frenzy that has now gripped the nation.
During those times, wrestling was an enjoyable “morality play;” where, no matter how bleak it looked, the good, clean “face” would always triumph over the “evil,” rule-breaking “heel.” Today, wrestling appears to have “evolved(?)” into a Peyton Place-like “soap opera,” complete with intricate “storylines” that go way beyond the “kayfabe” of “yesteryear.”
In the past, there were many wrestling promoters; each promotion had its unique region. Currently, WWE has a virtual monopoly over “sports entertainment.” Local wrestling circuits serve as a “proving ground” for “up and coming” talent, or they are a place where former grappling stars go for “rehabilitation” or to end their careers.
The wrestling business of today is fiercely competitive and very demanding, “The Dark Side of the Ring.” Consequently, wrestlers take extraordinary risks to gain an advantage. Sadly, there have been times when those risks proved fatal. For example, Owen Hart died from injuries sustained during a spectacular ring entrance (i.e., his equipment failed). Chris Benoit became a victim of the head injuries he had sustained as a wrestler; that dementia caused him to murder his wife and son, and then take his own life.
Perhaps if professional wrestling reverted back to the way it used to be, severe injuries and fatalities could be avoided. Then, again, given the transformation of wrestling, such a reversion could prove to be as entertaining to the modern wrestling fan as watching a game of tiddlywinks.
On a final note, let me settle the issue on whether wrestling is fake or not. Wrestling and the wrestlers are very real. It is the people behind the scenes and in the front office who are fake.
John Di Genio