Dear Professional Wrestling,
We’ve been fighting a lot lately.
Some of that is on me – I tend to get frustrated when I think the people in my life are resting on their laurels and not rising to their fullest potential. This feeling usually manifests itself as being pushy, aggressive, and argumentative. I pick fights. I call people I love out on what I perceive to be bullshit. I know I am not perfect – will never be perfect – and I see many of my own weaknesses as unconquerable. I turn my attention to the people around me, because I’d rather emphatically encourage you to blossom in a phenomenal way than confront the vast ocean of my own failings. Maybe that could be the one thing I do right – help others to become all they aspire to be.
So, you and I fight. We fight about business practices and gender bias. We fight about inclusion and bad storytelling. We fight about character development and marketing. We disagree over and over, and eventually I get so frustrated with your unwillingness to bend, with your indignant attitude, that I walk away from you. I spend some time seething, trying to ignore the phantom-limb feeling that comes with the distance. Inevitably, I find that I miss you too much and I return. I sit quietly in the back at first, but eventually find myself in the throws of my brash, contentious behavior and we fall into our routine. Between the moments when you challenge and surprise me, you still drive me mad with your tendency to return to your tired old habits. The cycle continues.
When I’m cutting promos on you or arguing with other people who try to stick up for your outdated drudgery, I am still being passionate. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t bother. But I care a great deal – perhaps too much. Even in the moments when I am incensed, I still love you.
Yesterday, I was reminded why. I saw a man who loves you in a way I never could say goodbye. I saw him make a choice – a choice for himself, for his family, and for his future – to walk away from you in order to survive. He had to give you up so that he could live a full and long life. Fans like myself demand so much of the men and women who perform for us, so it is our responsibility to also support them when it is time to turn in. I sat and sobbed while I watched this man tell his story and say his farewells. He drank in every chant and every cheer, and in the end what he gave back to us was gratitude; not just his own, but the reminder that we must all be grateful for what professional wrestling has given us.
And I am so very grateful. Being a fan has given me a great deal. I have something that incites passion within me. There is a place I can go that makes the gears in my head turn, that extends the tendrils of my imagination further than they could ever go without it. I am a better writer because of it. Over and over I have been forced to explain myself – to delineate both what my views are on professional wrestling as well as why I am a fan to begin with. I’ve learned some patience. I’ve learned to let go and enjoy the ride. There were times when things in my every day existence were too much to bear, when perhaps even the mere thought of existing was too much. Those were the times that wrestling appeared to me – once when I was very young, and again as an adult. Someone or something lead me to happen upon an episode of RAW or Smackdown, and I became immersed in the program. For those two or three hours, I wasn’t me anymore. I was not being crushed under the weight of my life – I was free.
But it is not simply the ways in which I have been personally altered that I am grateful for. My gratitude is overwhelm for the people with whom I am connected because of this thing we call professional wrestling. I am lucky to be blessed with friends whom I have reconnected with or formed stronger relationships with because of it. These are the people whose texts flooded my phone yesterday afternoon and last night. I am floored by the people it has brought directly into my life – whether it was people I developed an intense bond with after relocating to Virginia from New York, or the people who were brought to me through Twitter and blogging, many of whom have become like family to me. These are people who encourage me, who argue with me, who love me fiercely, and who I would give absolutely anything for. I have met writers with whom I can lament the days the muse has abandoned me. I have met other women who struggle to wage war when our voices seem so small. I have met people whose histories mapped a concurrent path to my own, and people whose lives are more foreign to me than anything. I’ve met people of all walks who infuriate, stimulate, and challenge me – people I have fallen desperately in love with in every sense of the word. I suppose my love for them is rivaled only by my love for you – this all-encompassing thing that you are.
When I returned to watch WWE in 2013, the first face I saw on the screen of whatever early-summer episode of Monday Night RAW I was watching was Daniel Bryan’s. After asking who the hell he was (I’d been away for eight years) I asked where my favorite from the early 2000’s was – Edge. I had missed him. I had missed the majority of his singles career, and his retirement. I wasn’t there for him as a fan, and so I missed out. But I didn’t miss out on Daniel Bryan. I got to be there for him, just like he was there for me. Just like most of the wrestlers are – giving me a place to disappear into with my best friends. A place that can be better, yes, but a place that does, in fact, belong to me.
This is your love letter – the wrestlers, the bookers, the roadies, the stage hands, the writers, the interns who run the twitter accounts, the valets, the coaches, the make-up and hair people, the costume designers, everyone who works in the venues, the people who answer the phone at headquarters, the fans, the fansites, the kids, the podcasters, my friends – you have my utmost gratitude.
“Gratitude, for the broken teeth and broken hearts
you stood and saw me through.
Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
– I Am the Avalanche