May 15th, 2005


Celebrity Wrestling

In the early days of my LiveJournal - late 2002 or early 2003 - there was a fad for producing lists of a hundred facts about the poster. I only ever managed to get as far as 34, so never posted the list. There's really not that much of interest to say about me, it seems. :-)

However, one little-known fact about me (that I planned to reveal as number 33) is that I attended about a dozen professional wrestling shows throughout the 1990s. The last one I attended was probably in 2001 and I can't imagine going to another one; I've seen just about all the wrestlers I want to in person and don't have much interest in finding out what the state of the art is, even on TV. Nevertheless, there is a part of me that will forever remain a wrestling fan in principle. No justification required, obviously, but the attraction is comparable to watching stuntmen or gymnasts: in general, it's fascinating to watch bodies do things that you don't expect to see them do.

Nevertheless, I have taken interest in the recent "Celebrity Wrestling" TV series here on ITV 1 in the UK. Quite possibly it has come about as a response to the BBC's ongoing "Celebrity Boxing" specials, where sundry (male) actors, comedians and other people vaguely in the public eye are trained up in amateur boxing for a few weeks and fight against one another.

The reason why a straightforward analogue for wrestling is impractical is the gulf between professional and amateur wrestling; the two look nothing alike and the spectacular moves you see in pro wrestling just would not occur without the (at least partial) co-operation of the submissive wrestler who is prepared to suffer them for the benefit of the spectacle. Amateur wrestling only ever makes it to British television during Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and rarely even then. If you want to see what real wrestling looks like, watch mixed martial arts ("no holds barred") bouts - the Ultimate Fighting Championship family and its ilk.

So the options for a putative "Celebrity Wrestling" show seem to be either to train celebrities as pro wrestlers or to introduce amateur wrestling to TV. The former option is unappetising, for it takes an awful lot of practice, as well as natural attributes, to be an effective and entertaining pro wrestler. Sturgeon's Law of "90% of everything is crap" is an underestimate when it comes to pro wrestling, though I imagine I could probably find an hour or two's worth of matches that most people on my Friends list, even those who have no time for pro wrestling, would enjoy as a spectacle. Probably not four hours, though!

Accordingly, they've headed more towards the latter option. They've created a number of games, most of which involve elements of amateur (legitimate, unscripted) wrestling, crucially keeping them bite-size to a point where the pure grappling does not tire. They are playing them apparently for real (without predetermination of the outcomes) and the show presents them using many of the trappings and conventions of pro wrestling. I think it works rather well in context.

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