For years, Pro Wrestling has captured the imagination of the general public. A physical art of storytelling done in a squared circle. In pro wrestling, it takes a good mind to craft a good story, but it takes amazing actors to make that story into an incredible dance. Pro Wrestlers are those actors, making those stories into incredible dances and forging indelible moments that live on in the memories of those who watch the show. Most can normally trace their love for Pro Wrestling back to when they were young. They can normally name a time or a moment when they first saw a superstar athlete defeat a huge monster with a feat of strength that can only be described as “epic”. However, what drew this young person to this product? I believe the answer lies in comic books.
Comic books, the continued tradition of story telling in modern society. A form of literature normally ignored as childish by those who see themselves as “well read” or at least “heavy enthusiasts of the written word”. Comic books reflect society. They display different elements of history and express the emotional states among society’s various social classes. It’s through comic books, that a young person can see a blending of art styles and storytelling techniques, re defined in a melange of art and culture. Where a person can gain confidence that the hero will always triumph over adversity, while also learning lessons along the way.
With that said, what’s the connection between the physical sport of Pro Wrestling and the literal world of comic books?
The answer is storytelling.
Comic books and Pro Wrestling share a lot of major traits in terms of storytelling elements. Three areas unique to both are the stark representations of the Protagonist/Antagonist dynamic, the dramatic twists and turns within storylines, and of course the colorful personas that blur the line between reality and imagination. I believe comic books act as sort of an access point for the young to become interested in the world of pro wrestling, and an exploration of these three elements will reveal why a young person would be so easily drawn to both worlds.
The first unique trait which are the stark representations of the Protagonist/Antagonist dynamic. It’s only in Pro Wrestling and Comic books, that concepts of good and bad are so plainly laid out for an audience to support. When reading comic books a reader of any age can plainly identify who the villain (bad) and the hero (good) is, while in pro wrestling the viewer can easily point out who the heel or Rudo (bad) and the babyface or Tecnico (good) is. The bad guy in both mediums is normally draped with a sinister demeanor, characterized by dark (or sometimes over the top) colorations, and supported by some form of power source either in the form of the unseen (a supernatural power or demented inner drive) or in the form of support for their cause (henchmen or a Wrestling stable). While the good guy is normally characterized as a capable underdog, normally seeking the approval of those affected by his cause, but always keeping the important attitude that hope exists in any situation. There are not many other forms of socio-cultural commentary that a young person can indulge in that so plainly and bluntly express this ideal of the struggle between antagonist and protagonist, than that expressed in both pro wrestling and comic books.
The second unique trait shared between comic books and pro wrestling, are the dramatic twists and turns within storylines. The comic book and pro wrestling products are never ending always evolving storylines, that as the years go by, just continue. Comic books and Pro Wrestling are two forms of entertainment where even if a company closes down or a character is cancelled, the characters and their storylines can still live on in future storylines. The stories never end. Knowing the stories never end, the only way to hold an audience is to remain entertaining. In order to be entertaining, the storylines for comic books and pro wrestling always involve some sort of major twist or dramatic turn, in order to keep the consumer indulged in what’s occuring in the product. The consumer may think they have a grasp on the product, but these twists allow for one thing, inconsistent and evolving stories. One day the hero’s sidekick is fighting for good, but the next, that same sidekick is trying to bring an end to that hero’s efforts. It’s ironic really. Comic books and pro wrestling are both known for dramatic shifts in storylines, and yet you could always tell which character is the bad guy and which one is good guy. Who would have thought you could craft unpredictable stories with the same static elements carried throughout, in mediums easily consumed by the youth of the world.
The final unique element that characterizes both comic books and pro wrestling are the colorful personas that blur the line between reality and imagination. Only in comic books will you read about a millionaire who trains and runs a corporation during the day, but fights crime as a masked vigilante at night, or men with ability of flight and super strength. These characters are for the most part unrealistic and improbable human fantasies, however it’s in pro wrestling where we can see such fantastic story elements expressed in a way that could bring these characterizations into reality. A pro wrestler is normally given a gimmick and told to use that gimmick in the portrayal of a quest like storyline. The gimmick could either be very subtle (Daniel Bryan is the arrogant talented wrestler who just wears tights to the ring), or incredibly flashy (The Ultimate Warrior wore big multicolored coats, face paint and tassles as he stormed the ring). The gimmick also carries some sort of special attribute, be it high flying (sometimes diving off the top rope resembles soaring through the skies) or a dramatic feat of physical strength (it’s incredible when a normal man, can pick up a five hundred pound giant and throw him). The gimmick can also carry some sort of negative attitude (the Miz is inherently entitled to be better than the rest) or have a positive attitude (Brodus Clay and his funky in ring playfulness). These colorful personas in pro wrestling demonstrate that the line between fantasy and reality can be blurred slightly, if only to bring comic book characterizations into the real world. It’s through these personas, that pro wrestling and comic books truly appeal to young audiences. By bringing these characterizations to the real world, it sends the message that you could come from no where and also become a hero who stops the great monster, if only through hard work.
Comic books and pro wrestling are unique forms of expression in our society today. They both entertain and keep us on the edge of our seats utilizing a brand of storytelling all too unique but somewhat similair to one another. Now that we know that the two mediums have so much in common, it’s no surprise that so many pro wrestlers have categorized themselves as comic book fans. AJ Lee, CM Punk, and even Mick Foley (the links are to interviews each have done for Marvel.com) are some of the in ring heroes who have grown up and remained fanboys and fangirls. These men and women in tights have inspired many generations to strive for the best and as always to remain hopeful for tomorrow. They’ve taught the generations who indulge in both the amazing world of comic books and the physical art of Pro Wrestling that as long as we remain fighting for good, keep our stories fresh and always remain proud of what we are, the skies are truly the limit.