By Nick Perkins, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@WesternRebel)
I have been a professional wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. My very first memory of a “wrestling angle” was seeing Shawn Michaels kick a wheelchair-bound Bret Hart in the face. I didn’t know, at the time, that wresting was fake and I was aghast at the abuse that had just befallen the handicapped man.
20 years later, I have experienced all of the highs and lows that come with following professional wrestling. I’ve attended WrestleMania. I’ve almost gotten beaten up by Scott Steiner after being a little too vocal at a TNA house show. I watched Shawn Michaels give his Hall of Fame Speech live, and I’ve watched Daniel Bryan fight for his dreams. Those were the highlights.
I’ve also had to watch Michael Cole wrestle, I saw Triple H hump a mannequin, and I’ve had to explain HLA and the ‘Kiss My Ass’ Club. I’ve watched my heroes become mortals when friends of theirs died. I have to watch Baron Corbin every week. Those are the lowlights.
Through it all, I have continued to follow this sport (s) entertainment. Professional wrestling has seen me through my own highlights and lowlights as well. When my mother died, I was able to distract myself with a DX reunion and with Rob Van Dam winning the WWE Championship. When I struggled with addiction issues, it was the stories of Shawn Michaels and Eddy Guerrero that convinced me I could battle my own demons and come out on top.
Professional wrestling has served as a distraction and as a reflection. It has made me laugh and cry. It has challenged and inspired me. More recently, professional wrestling has taught me that if I fight for my dreams, my dreams will fight for me.
What I’m trying to say is, professional wrestling is important to me, but it’s not the most important thing. There are more important things in my life; such as God, country, family, and making sure my facial hair is the perfect length.
There are more important things than wrestling in my own world and in the world in general, which is why this Saudi Arabia debacle is such a pivotal moment for WWE.
A journalist for the Washington Post was tortured, murdered, and disembodied, allegedly at the direction of the Prince of Saudi Arabia and carried out by his “people.” While the Saudi Government is denying involvement, it’s pretty obvious that it was them who lured Jamal Khashoggi into the Saudi consulate building, under the guise of giving him papers for his upcoming marriage, and then brutally murdered him.
This is the same country that WWE, not even a year ago, ran a show in and produced a propaganda video for. It is also the same country that they are about to go back into to produce a WrestleMania-level show. And therein lies the problem.
WWE has been backed into a corner, due to their deal with Saudi Arabia. Yes, WWE would be giving up a lot of money if they were to back out of their contracted shows. But there are more important things in this world than money, there are more important things in this world than business. There are, believe it or not, more important things than professional wrestling.
*Update as of 10/23/2018
I began writing this article on Sunday, October 21. On Monday evening, Roman Reigns announced that he was relinquishing the WWE Universal Championship and taking a hiatus from WWE to fight a much bigger battle with leukemia; a battle that we all hope/pray/believe he will win.
Originally, this article was supposed to be about how integrity is more important than money and how life is more important than professional wrestling. This was proven in spades on Monday night, as Reigns shocked the world with his announcement. While the Saudi Arabia show is still an issue, and we’ll discuss it further at another time, sometimes life is more important than politics, as well.
I, like the majority of adult male wrestling fans, have not been a believer in Roman Reigns as the top babyface over the years. I cringed every time he won a Royal Rumble or a championship or cocked his fist to hit somebody with a Superman Punch. None of this was his fault, really. Reigns is a tremendous performer; he was just being forced down our throats relentlessly. This was frustrating, even infuriating at times. That’s the price we pay for being passionate wrestling fans. We may have even stated that we hated Roman Reigns; I know I did. It was easy to get on the anti-Reigns bandwagon. In fact, it was suggested that I avoid writing about Reigns with my first article on Dot Net because “it was too easy.” Every pro wrestling writer ever has waxed poetic about how to solve a problem like Roman Reigns.
It’s safe to say that his announcement on Monday was not a scenario any of us had imagined, and rightfully so. Fans might be bored with Roman Reigns. We might have booed him mercilessly. But we never, at least the vast majority of us, said “I wish Roman Reigns would get cancer.”
I heard about Reigns’ announcement before I saw it and, admittedly, I was nervous about how the crowd in attendance would react. I hoped they would be respectful or at least quiet. That whole “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” y’know? When I actually saw the segment, I was floored – not only by the content of what he said, but by the audience’s reaction. I didn’t think anybody would make me feel the way Daniel Bryan did when he announced his retirement. It was the “realest” moment in a predetermined sport that I had ever experienced. I’m a grown ass man and have no problem admitting I choked up when Bryan retired. He was my favorite wrestler of all time and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I never thought I would feel that way about a wrestler again. I sure as hell didn’t think those emotions would appear because of Roman Reigns. But that’s exactly what happened.
I did not think I would hear a “Thank you, Roman” chant for a long time. The things Roman said, the emotion behind his eyes and his words, as well as the respect from the crowd, blew me away. I got choked up again because I was reminded, yet again, that life is more important than wrestling. Roman Reigns is a character created by WWE. Joe Anoa’I is a man with a family and he has a hard journey ahead of him. I hope he knew, standing in the ring on Monday that, this time, he really did have a shield in front of him and an empire behind him.
Wrestling fans are fickle and notorious for building wrestlers up, only to tear them down. That’s the name of the game and wrestlers know what they’re getting into when they step foot in the ring. But fans are also incredibly protective. It’s like a big brother relationship. We can be mean to our little brother, but nobody else can and, if they do, we’ll kick their asses. The same can be said for how fans treat wrestlers. We might boo them. We might grow tired of them. We tell them they can’t wrestle. But they’re still our wrestlers and we will go to the ends of the earth to remind them of that. Cancer cannot have Roman Reigns; he’s ours and we’re not giving him up without a fight. Reigns is going to fight, too. He’s going to fight harder than he ever has before. And he’s going to win the fight because that’s what Roman Reigns does. This time, though, we are solidly on his side. This is one battle that Roman will not be fighting alone. He has his friends, his family, and his fellow wrestlers by his side. He also has the fans. We may give Roman Reigns a hard time when he’s battling for the Universal Championship, but that’s just wrestling. In life, Joe Anoa’I is a true champion and we will champion for him, for as long as we need to, until he comes back.
There are things more important than wrestling; Roman Reigns proved that. But one day, he’s going to come back to wrestling, with a newfound respect from fans. In the meantime, however, Reigns has become more than a mere professional wrestler. He has become a champion for the afflicted, as well as for survivors. It had to have been hard for Superman to admit he was a mortal, just like the rest of us. He did it to raise awareness and to show the world that a leukemia diagnosis is not a death sentence; it’s just another battle to be won. It had to have been hard to be that vulnerable, in front of that many people. But he did it to send a message. In the battle of Roman Reigns vs Cancer, Cancer doesn’t stand a chance.
Roman Reigns has been called Superman, but it’s Joe Anoa’I who is the real hero.
***Nick Perkins is a state-renowned writer who dreamt of being a professional wrestler, until he realized that he was a) the opposite of athletically gifted and b) really, really afraid of being hurt. So he became a writer instead, and has been proclaimed (by himself, as well as close friends and relatives) to be a ‘natural.’
‘Natural Consequences’ are defined by various sociologists and child psychologists as “outcomes that happen as a result of behavior that is not planned or controlled.” As somebody who also works with troubled youth via his “grownup job,” Nick has seen the benefits of natural consequences on a daily basis. Coincidentally, the world of professional wrestling is full of natural consequences. This newest weekly article will highlight some of those situations.