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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Toward the end of my senior year of high school, my theology teacher, a behemoth of a human being who I'm pretty sure fought alongside the Philistines in a previous life, told our class to write an exhaustive, Jesus-filled, self-reflective term paper as our academic coup de grace.

The prime objective of the assignment: Find out who you are.

As a person who wears American flag pants, randomly shouts Daniel Day-Lewis lines in public and has placed bets on women's college basketball games (it was a dark point in life), you can imagine how an exercise requiring extensive self-analysis would be challenging. For my classmates, many of whom have just as much of a chance of curing cancer as they do of going to prison for insider trading, the topic was just as perplexing.

Any idea offered up by the class was quickly given the thumbs down from Conan the Barbarian. "That's not you," he huffed at us. "I just wanna know ... WHO are YOU?!"

"Screw it," I told myself. Jesus wasn't going to help me after all the dead baby jokes I had made in economics class. Plus, I still owed Him money from the Jets game. I did the responsible thing. I walked into the school library, walked past all the rows of leather-bound books containing philosophical treatises and sayings from the saints, sat down at one of the computers and fired up YouTube.

After watching Flea Market Montgomery for the 32nd time and a few bum fights, I somehow ended up on the epic "I Quit" match from "WrestleMania 13" between Bret "Hitman" Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

In terms of WrestleManias, "WrestleMania 13" was like "Batman & Robin," only with a tad more spandex and fewer puns. Yet buried beneath that turd mine of pay-per-view shows was the diamond that was Hart vs. Austin. For about 30 minutes, the two beat the living bejesus out of each other like they were two 15-year-old girls fighting for the right to get fertilized by Justin Bieber.

As Hart locked the bloodied Texas Rattlesnake into the dreaded sharpshooter, a light bulb went off in my head. I remembered that whenever he gave his pre-match interviews, Hart would always turn to the camera and proclaim himself to be "the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be."

God had sent me a savior donned in pink and black trunks.

I wrote a 10-to12-page term paper heavily based not on the theological proofs of Aquinas or the deontological arguments of Kant, but on a single catch line from the Excellence of Execution.

I rode that line to an "A."

Ever since I flipped on the TV that one Saturday afternoon when I was 5 years old to see a bearded man with a voice that sounds like he choked down a bucket of pine cones wearing the outfit of a colorblind transvestite cowboy, I've been hooked to professional wrestling. I'm not one of those guys who collect the action figures and live in their parents' basement until they're 40, but I'm pretty damn close.

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My peers have told me they can tell whenever I write our paper's editorial because words such as "slobberknocker" and "jabroni" wind up in the copy. When I interviewed for the job as editor-in-chief of the Alligator, I was wearing my Hulkamania tank underneath my starched shirt and tie - you know, for good luck.

There have been times when I've woken up after Friday night bar crawls in pain, not from any hangover, but from the Ric Flair chops certain sports writers subjected me to.

But what's the appeal? Don't they know it's all fake? Are fans' lives so sad that they live out their wildest fantasies through costume-wearing, coked-out, mullet-rocking meatheads?

The answer: Ehh, not really. Sure, it's not exactly feasible to believe a 7-foot tall, 320-pound man was set on fire as a child by his brother who, despite being buried alive, locked into burning caskets and smashed with 150 gazillion chair shots, just cannot die.

But it's fun. And it's American. Anyone can like it. Women watch it because it they can get giddy below the belt while looking at John Cena's anatomy. Men watch it because they can get giddy below the belt while seeing someone jump off of a ladder to crush an opponent (and, for some, because they get to look at John Cena's anatomy).

It's also a great conversation starter. I'm not suggesting you go up to that sorority girl at the bar and ask her if she prefers the camel clutch or the mandible claw. But you'd be surprised how many times "WHATCHYA GONNA DO MEAN GENE?" yields interesting results.

Ladies, if a man does offer you a "skull crushing finale," it's probably not in your best interest to take it. However, if he offers a "stone cold stunner," take interest but make sure he has money and protection.

Is wrestling scripted? Sure. But that's the case with all movies, political elections and landing on the moon. The bumps, however, are very money. I don't care if you've been spoiled rotten with every cinematic explosion, fistfight or Arnold one-liner, it's not as boss as seeing a man thrown 20 feet off the top of a steel cage onto a table, then thrown through the top the same cage to have a chair hit him on the way down before being thrown onto a pile of thumbtacks - all in a 15-minute span.

And that's PG compared to the stuff they used to do with stop signs, barbed wire and fire chairs (yes, actual chairs on fire).

Will pro-wrestling make you tougher? No. I got chased out of my shower the other day by a bee. Will it make you smarter? Probably not. I've wasted too much mental storage space on the names of finishing moves. Will it get you laid? If it does, it's probably the kind of sex that will have you in court a few years later pointing out the "no-no" places on the doll.

But it definitely makes you a real American who will fight for the rights of every man.

C.J. Pruner is the editor-in-chief of the Alligator.

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