Pro wrestling is a mystery to me, mostly because I don’t understand the fans. These people shell out a lot of money to watch these matches and I’ve never understood the answers to these questions: Do most of them know it’s a sham and they are going along with the spectacle and showmanship of it all? Or do they actually think that, because these (mostly) guys do actually hurt themselves during their over-the-top wrestling match performances, that all of it must be real?
I’m not knocking the fans of pro wrestling, any more than I’m knocking my many friends who adore Project Runway, The Amazing Race or RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of those shows run disclaimers at the end during the credits that specifically state that the producers of those programs may have taken steps that affect who wins and loses based solely on what makes the program more watchable.
OK, not in so many words. But that is essentially what all these programs do. It’s “reality” showbiz-style.
Yet everyone I know who watches these shows puts all of that in the back of their minds as they immerse themselves in outcomes they deep down know are probably fixed.
So, back to wrestling. Which I bring up because a story caught my eye this morning.
It’s from the pro wrestling-obsessed YouTube channel TSC News via 411mania.com, and it involves AEW wrestler Anthony Bowens, one-half of a hugely popular tag team in the AEW. (The AEW, for those who do not know, is the wrestling promotion company that is giving the WWE a run for its money.)
Anthony Bowen is gay. And he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact, he wants to be wrestling’s first superstar gay hero. Says Bowen about the warm reception he’s received:
It’s great and it’s one of the things that attracted me to come into AEW when I came here as an extra before I was signed. I saw people like Sonny Kiss and Nyla Rose just walking around being themselves without judgment and people being inclusive with them and there was no fear for them at all to be themselves and that was super important to me for wherever I would land at the time.
There’s never a time where I’m at work where I’m consciously thinking about it, it’s something that’s openly celebrated. I bring it up openly in front of my friends and co-workers, so we’ve come a long way in terms of inclusiveness in locker rooms and such. Fans from time to time, we still have got work to do but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
I take that responsibility of being an out athlete very seriously because I’d like to show that you can be a successful openly gay professional athlete without it being the center of attention, without being the center of focus. At times, it is important to bring it up. For next week in particular, Max and I are gonna fight for our lives in this match and we also wanna bring home gold and if we do, I end up being AEW’s first gay champion, which is something that I would be super proud of. So I’m going to have some extra inspiration underneath me for that match.
I think I’m probably safe in predicting that any pro wrestling match has more Trump fans than Biden fans, but that’s just a hunch.
Having an out-and-proud man of color in that sport is a watershed of some sort, though I don’t follow the sport closely enough to know how much of one it really is. It certainly feels like an important line to cross.
Anyway, you can watch Bowen’s entire TSC interview below. He seems very likable. I love him merely for having a framed Simpsons still above him while he is being interviewed.