There's nothing quite like professional wrestling in the world of entertainment. In it you see the thrill of sports, the larger than life personalities of comic books, and the storytelling of soap operas, and while it shares things with each of those forms of entertainment, it remains its own beast.
Sunday night the WWE was back in Houston, and for the first time in three years they were broadcasting a pay-per-view from the Toyota Center. The TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs PPV provides an interesting snapshot of the WWE as it's the last major show of 2013 and the final PPV before the company gears up for The Road to Wrestlemania, the series of shows that will end with their biggest show of the year: Wrestlemania 30, taking place in New Orleans next April. Scheduled to feature the biggest match in WWE history, Hair Balls was at the Toyota Center last night. Here are five things we took away from the show.
5. The WWE Experience is both bigger and smaller in real life.
When you first walk into an arena set up for wrestling, it's easy to be underwhelmed. Before the cameras come on, the pyro goes off and the wrestlers head down to the ring, it's easy to look at the scene and think, "It looks so much bigger on TV."
But then those things do happen, and more. It takes a lot of people to bring a WWE event to life, and while it makes sense to focus primarily on what goes on in the ring, it's just as impressive to see the number of folks it takes behind the cameras to keep things running. At home you may appreciate the size of the action, but in person you appreciate the size of the endeavor.
4. Wrestling has its own set of logic you just have to accept.
Consider the ladder match: The goal is to climb a ladder and retrieve whatever is hanging above the ring. Simple goal, simple solution. You would think that professional athletes would have no problem simply climbing a ladder, but this is professional wrestling and things are never that simple.
And that's okay. Yes, it's a bit absurd that grown men in the prime of their careers suddenly have the cardio and the strength of 90-year-olds the second a ladder comes out. Yeah, it doesn't make sense logically that when they're in a position to grab the belts they sometimes jump off the ladder to attack their opponent instead. Sometimes the story being told is more important than real-world logic. Or maybe being bad at climbing ladders is a professional requirement.
3. Wrestling audiences are great at spontaneous creativity.
After the above moment, the crowd began a very loud "that was creepy" chant, which is to my knowledge the first time a crowd has ever chanted that. It totally was, for the record.
2. When it comes to in-ring performers, the future is bright.
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While there are plenty of veterans currently out on the road for the WWE, they may also have the strongest roster of up-and-coming wrestlers out in roughly forever. The Shield remain a highlight any night they're scheduled to wrestle, and Roman Reigns in particular has "future world champion" written all over him. Bray Wyatt might be the most interesting villain in wrestling (or any other form of entertainment that isn't Breaking Bad) this decade. Big E Langston is a throwback to the muscle-freaks of wrestling's past, but with speed that's hard to believe even in person. Add in Fandango, Antonio Cesaro and Luke Harper and you've got a group of wrestlers that will be a real joy to see develop over the next few years.
1. Wrestling is always better in person.
Sitting in my seat, I watched a five-year-old decked out in John Cena merchandise get into a cheering war with a dude who had to be at least 21 years old. The kid would yell, "Let's go Cena!" while pushing his giant foam hand at the adult. The adult would respond with a smile and yell, "Cena sucks!" Back and forth they would go, the kid progressively getting more animated and the adult smiling bigger.
Internet wrestling fans may always be screaming that the end is nigh, but going to a live show is a great reminder that there's still an audience for professional wrestling, no matter what the TV ratings or PPV buy rates show. When what's going on in the ring is good, it's the quickest past to remembering why you fell in love with it in the first place. Watching at home is fine, but being part of the crowd is even better.