Let me preface this by saying: I know it's scripted. I know the decisions are predetermined. I know it's not an actual sports competition.
That being said, Saturday's World Wrestling Entertainment matinee at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center brought back a lot of fond memories of my days as a young pro wrestling fan growing up in Poughkeepsie.
First, a little background...
So back in the day, when Sean was a cute third-grader in 1983, all the guys in my class learned of the wonders of professional wrestling. Back then, the World Wrestling Federation ran just one hour of pre-recorded television a week, Saturday mornings on Channel 9 out of New Jersey.
The WWF, we learned, taped four weeks' worth of shows at our very own Mid-Hudson Civic Center (it's close to the company's home base of Stamford, Conn.) once a month. Beginning in 1984, our parents took us almost religiously every month and we got hooked ... until high school ... when wrestling was so uncool!
Sure, it's still one half athleticism, one half theater (I like to think of it as choreographed gymnastics with a morale: good over evil), but between the lighting and the hulked-up Superstars (that's what they call them) and their histrionics, World Wrestling Entertainment offers just that for its live events: good, fun entertainment.
On TV each week, in front of tens of thousands of fans, the Superstars are mostly playing to the cameras -- trying to pull in the millions of viewers across the country and advance storylines. In smaller arenas like our very own MHCC, though, the gang totally plays to the crowd, making each of those in attendance part of the show.
The antagonists (you might know them as "heels") get on the mic (they call that "cutting a promo") and complain about what a dump insert your city here is, and how undesirable residents of insert your city here are. But the good guys ("babyfaces" or "just "faces" for short) look for encouragement from the masses, even starting patriotic "U-S-A!" chants.
In short, if you pay for a WWE ticket, you're going to be part of the action.
Oh, and the girls! Seriously, guys, let me tell ya...
Back when we used to go to the WWF tapings back in the '80s, there was one woman around the ring: Miss Elizabeth, the valet (and real-life wife) of "Macho Man" Randy Savage. She was mostly eye candy, standing outside the ring and cheering on her (macho) man.
Today's WWE Divas (that's what they call them) are more active, mixing it up in the ring as much as the guys. Look! Now they even sing!
And when they actually wrestle in the ring, the Divas are just as rough -- if not polished at their craft -- as the guys.
Jillian the songbird here sqaured off against Maria Kanellis following her beautiful solo and, while they missed several "spots" (that's wrestling-speak for "moves"), they gave their all in search of that elusive victory.
Don't believe me? Here's another shot of Maria following her match with Jillian. Does she look like someone who participated in a "fake" sport?
Of course, she's rumored to be appearing in Playboy later this year, so maybe she was just warming up. Perhaps she goes for a geek with an Austin 3:16 T-shirt, a Syracuse U. baseball cap and a camera! I'm just sayin'. But I digress...
Seriously, though, while not the little Hulkamaniac I used to be, I really enjoyed my Saturday afternoon among the WWE fans and Superstars, and I'm not embarrassed to say it.
It was a fun time, just like any other tour (be it Clay Aiken, Bo Bice or Taylor Hicks) that rumbles into town. Sure, the "competition" wasn't real, but you tell Triple H here that what he does is "fake." The passion -- that of both the performers and their fans -- and Superstars' athleticism are definitely for real.
If nothing else, now in my early 30s, I've come to appreciate what these guys do -- the traveling, the performing -- close to 300 days a year, from Portland to Poughkeepsie.