All good things come to those who wait. That’s what they say right? At least, I think my first WWE Smackdown was a good thing. Come to think of it, I wasn’t really waiting for it either.
Like most young American boys, I grew up with the WWF & WCW on the periphery. The superstars of this entertainment mostly came to me in the form of little plastic toys. My parents didn’t approve of the TV programs so what I knew of wrestling was informed by playground chatter more than anything.
Today, that information comes to me through my much more grown up friends who still enjoy the entertainment of it all. Some guys have video games, some have books, some have WWE.
When offered a free ticket to Smackdown, I unhesitatingly accepted. My curiosity sought satisfaction and the boy in me knew this would be fun. So here are some of my thoughts and observations of the event…
The National Guard was everywhere. I’m not sure at what level they were sponsoring the event but uniformed recruiters were abundant. I look a lot younger than I am so they approached me. I was offered a lanyard with Mark Henry’s picture on the front and links to free stuff on the National Guard website. The appeal of a free lanyard fades with age so unfortunately, their Jedi mind tricks fell on deaf ears.
As you can see, however, digital camo draws little boys like moths to a porch light. What’s cooler than the fantasy of wrestling superstars? The fantasy of war. So my first lesson learned from Smackdown is ‘guerilla marketing’ and ‘target demographics’. Geez, these guys are brilliant…or is it ruthless? I couldn’t tell the difference because I was distracted by all the bright lights.
Another lesson I learned from Smackdown is to always build a culture. The signs of which become most evident when you get a lot of like-minded folks together. This must be where Republican’s and Democratic’s get their tips on how to put on a convention. It seemed like everyone spoke a similar language, knew all the same war-cry’s, and communicated with the same sign language. No, seriously, they all held up signs.
Sitting directly in front of me were two little boys, maybe about 7 & 9 years old. When the crowd began to chant, “You suck, you suck” the boys started to chime in. They were quickly scolded by their mother. Finally, someone with sense. If you’re going to support violence and male chauvinism, let’s at least use nice words about it.
My favorite moment came when Mick Foley and Booker T. Washington were in the ring. These superstars just keep it coming. Since this was a special edition Smackdown, they had to dress for the occasion.
All this leads me to my third and final lesson – invest in the future. I would say the average age of the kids were probably around 7 years old. I can honestly say the show was rated PG and the guys who run WWE are smart for it. Get a group of grown men together and someone will inevitably reminisce of the good old days of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Randy Savage. All these little kids will one day stand at the water cooler and say, “Hey, do you remember Randy Orton, Mark Henry and CM Punk?”
It’s because nothing fuels the fantasty of boys like the notion of invincibility. The wrestlers are literally bigger than life. They can’t be hurt. They can fall 10 feet on to the mat and get back up to ‘hobble’ out of the arena. Just watch boys during play as they adopt the persona’s of their heroes. In competition, somebody has to lose and it won’t be “me”.
I won’t lie…I bought into it. I left the arena feeling like I need to work out. I was genuinely entertained. Overall, it was a fun night and I’m glad I went. Despite the satirical tone of this post, I’m not on a crusade against WWE. However, I do recommend Chris Hedges’ book “The Empire of Illusion” for a critique of wrestling that will challenge the way you think about entertainment and America.
By the way, thanks Doug and Ashley for the free ticket!