Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't 'Fabe Your Nerd Stuff, Bro.

the WWE Championship, the richest prize in the game
A couple months ago on the T I ran into my friend Kenny, who happens to be a top blogger on Kenny's articles primarily focus on emerging trends in youth culture that often walk the line between fringe and mainstream in the public perception, such as dubstep or the proliferation of Internet memes. While talking, Kenny said one thing that while fairly innocuous, stood out to me, "hey, everybody has a weird interest."

While I think it would be hard to disagree with that sentiment, it led me to think about why people hide their interests or hobbies, if they're not somehow criminal or otherwise damaging. As I've gotten older, I've found that sharing your hobbies with others can be one of the one of life's most fulfilling experiences, and has allowed me to grow personal connections and stimulate my creative mind.

My number one interest/hobby for half my life, which was a key element in shaping my personality and relationships today, was professional wrestling. Wrestling caught my interest when, after loving WWF Royal Rumble for the Super Nintendo, I found out the legendary Hulk Hogan was retiring after WrestleMania 8! (I was only in 2nd grade at the time, and did not yet realize that wrestling retirements were less permanent than comic book deaths or celebrity marriages, and Hogan would wrestle another 20 years.) Once that show passed with a Hogan triumph, and "Macho Man" Randy Savage defeating Ric Flair for the WWF Championship in one of the greatest matches of all time, wrestling faded out of my consciousness. Two years later, it re-entered with a vengeance when I found out that the Undertaker was going to wrestle a second Undertaker to determine the one true Undertaker, and I had to see it! (Amazingly, I've met other fans with the exact same entry point, which blows my mind.) Similar to WrestleMania 8, that show, SummerSlam 1994, had a brilliant match, Bret Hart vs. his brother Owen in a Steel Cage, to supplement the gimmicked main event, and that was the match that hooked me for good.

Wrestling appealed to me for a number of reasons, none of which were the violence, foul language and sexual objectification of women that parents fell all over themselves to attack during its peak years of popularity. Wrestling, to pre-teen me, was an action-packed morality play, where heroes tried to prove that skill and willpower always triumphed over dishonesty and ruthless behavior. Occasionally heroes fell to the dark side, but other times, the villains were redeemed. One hero who on-screen never wavered in his beliefs was Bret "The Hitman" Hart, even as he got booed mercilessly for refusing to change with the times and embrace the late-90s antihero fad. That refusal to bow to peer pressure, and the value of hard work over gimmicks, made Bret Hart the character, and to an extent Bret Hart the person (who weren't that different) an early childhood role model.

As I moved into my teens and early twenties, wrestling's appeal to me wasn't so much the soap opera but what happened behind the curtain. When you're in late adolescence, pro wrestling can seem like an impossibly romantic lifestyle. While more performance art than a sport, it's one of the most athletically difficult endeavors to pursue, a chaotic combination of gymnastics, martial arts and even modern dance in its reliance on coordination and cooperation with your opponent. Matches by independent wrestlers like Jack Evans, PAC, and El Generico remain some of the most visually stunning athletic accomplishments I've ever seen. My viewpoint perceived pro wrestlers as getting the opportunity to travel the world, from Mexico to Europe to Japan, doing what they love with no other responsibility, performing in front of electric crowds and enjoying a battle-hardened camaraderie with their peers.

My formative young adulthood became a wrestling-fueled odyssey, from New England to London, England, from Montreal, Quebec to Los Angeles, California, meeting a huge variety of fascinating people simply because I could speak languages from "lucha libre" to "puroresu" to "catch" and "World of Sport." I met one of my closest friends, at the time an aspiring wrestler, on a trip back from a WWE event on the Green Line simply because I overheard him talking about a recent independent event and decided to join the conversation. During the course of our friendship, our back-and-forth discussion of his pro wrestling training options led to his decision to move to Los Angeles, where he met his wife and started his own business. I don't want to credit myself too much, but eventually, a very specific kid will be born because I was a wrestling fan.

My friend's move was also a key factor in convincing me to make my own leap to move to LA and pursue television production, knowing I'd have an immediate support system. While in LA I continued to be heavily involved on the indy scene, writing for SoCalUncensored and traveling to shows with my writing partner/good friend Paul Newberry, who I met on a different wrestling site and was a part of my wrestling writing collective I had started in college. Together we drove day or night, in both sunshine and tropical storms, from the High Desert to Orange County, visiting tiny converted auto garages, JCCs and Elks Lodges. The SoCal wrestling community, from the wrestlers to staff and fellow fans, felt like a makeshift family, helping me navigate the often overwhelming experience of living in Los Angeles. I actually got my first vaguely "Hollywood" job in Los Angeles due to wrestling, as my boss was a cousin of one of the wrestlers performing and happened to be sitting next to me at one of the shows. Networking truly can happen anywhere.

No matter where I happened to be, I was writing about wrestling the whole time, and in addition to gaining valuable practice in long-form writing, it also gave me a unique education in storytelling. Wrestling at its most basic is a serial television series, with decades of detailed continuity. Sharing my opinions on wrestling required an understanding of story structure, dramatic escalation, and proper characterization in terms of motivation and logical action, and the lessons I've learned from decades of wrestling viewing inform my fiction writing today.

Wrestling even drove me toward my college major. As a high school student volunteering the local public access station, one of the younger station coordinators was also a pro wrestler and developing a locally syndicated show for his promotion. I eagerly jumped in, eventually serving as that show's cameraman, play-by-play announcer, co-editor and "Associate Producer" (I insisted on the title because it sounded cool.) The confidence I received from that experience, co-producing my own aired show, made me believe I could be a working communications professional. Even though it didn't work out, I have credits no one can take away and tons of stories to tell.

Personal passions, whether artistic, scientific, or just plain "nerdy", represent a huge part of your identity, and expressing them and sharing them openly can open up a huge variety of personal, professional and social pathways. So next time you're thinking putting about putting your favorite anime program as your office laptop's wallpaper, why not go a step farther and put it on your second monitor too?

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I figure that everyone is a geek in one way or another, just have to discover what your passion is