It's not shocking to see muscle-bound, sweaty men with beer bellies, tattooed pythons, and long, greasy hair all wrapped up in tiny bikini briefs. What is astounding is that thousands of men, women, and children paid good money to watch them at WWF at The Mark - and loved it.
Back in the '80s, when professional wrestling first hit it big, the WWF swore the action was real. Now the Federation doesn't even bother and casts the show almost like a soap opera, and millions of fans are still drawn to it. Perhaps it's the action, the violence, the drama, or the comedy - it definitely encompasses all of these. But one thing is certain: The music announcing the next match is barely a few chords old when the auditorium is filled with applause, boos, or some wrestler's chant.
And even though upon entering the building I was taken back by the overwhelming stench of body odor, the crowd wasn't exactly what I expected. It's time all the white-collar types came out of the closet. They can deny it all they want, but I saw them sprinkled throughout the audience enjoying themselves immensely.
I was also amazed at how many families with small children were there. Toddlers through teens were in every other seat holding bright signs spouting off messages - some vulgar, some clean - to their favorite wrestling hero. Hero: a scary thought.
As fake as it was - and WWF wrestling up close and personal is even less realistic than on television - there are obvious moments of real pain, moments when maneuvers go wrong or fictitious fights escalate into something real. And the sweat and spit flung into the stands is real.
The "hardcore" matches were actually the most laughable, yet they still drew "ooh"s and "ow"s from the spectators. Paper-thin trash cans and lids bashed over heads, aerial drops onto weak tables, and backs beaten with cracked broomsticks and malleable chairs all delighted fans. The moves that actually had fans cringing were a beating by numb-chuck and a fake mace-spraying. Also cringe-worthy was the sexual innuendo among the men. In at least two matches, including the grand finale, the losing team collapsed to the floor with one man's head conveniently landing in the crotch of the other. And there was one wrestler's coveted prop, a mannequin head, which was used to get chants from the young audience: "We want more head!"
A favorite line of the evening came from one of the Dudley Boyz, Buh Buh Ray Dudley, who said, "Real men drink beer. Real men use gratuitous violence. Real men put other men through tables." After that, he proceeded to throw his opponent through a flimsy table, following it up with the statement, "To hell with that. Let's go to the bar and get drunk!"
But the real highlight of the night wasn't the wrestling but the dancing of Too Cool, the trio of Scotty Too Hotty, Grandmaster Sexay, and the 401-pound Samoan, Rikishi. I almost felt sorry for Rikishi. He was clearly exhausted and definitely made himself a laughingstock, but he stole the show with his "phat" gyrating. I guess swallowing his pride and dignity to shake his cellulite is a small price to pay for fame and fortune.
Runner-up to the threesome's performance was Scotty Too Hotty's "The Worm." Reminiscent of the 1980s breakdancing move the Centipede, the "move" involves Scotty writhing on the floor right before pouncing on his victim. Even though it's ludicrous to even call "The Worm" a move, fans loved it.
While there were some great "fights," unfortunately the overall entertainment was weak. Fans were deprived of the hottest WWF celebrities, and those who were there, with the exception of Scotty, failed to give us of their signature moves; American Bad-Ass was without his Harley, Rikishi only teased us with his "stinkface," and the mountainous Chyna didn't lift a finger. (While Chyna denies being "exploited" because she actually "wrestles," she seemed quite the hypocrite at the Saturday night event. She merely played trophy to her beau, Eddie Guerrero.)
All in all, it was a disappointing night redeemed by a few laughs. If it's real wrestling you want to see, stay home and watch it on the Olympics. And if you're after the real WWF experience, that's on TV, too.