Through the looking glass: ESPN's WWE NXT documentary examines the perspective & reality of life in professional wrestling

There was a time when a journalist or a television station interviewing a professional wrestler about the nuts and bolts of the business in which he or she worked would be considered a joke.

Media in the United States has always had a love/hate relationship with professional wrestling, acknowledging its pageantry and charisma while demonizing its scripted nature and fans who praise it without guilt.

The clash between the majority of society's negative perception of the professional wrestling business and a small, vocal minority's quest to legitimize it, has existed for decades.

But it seems a truce has been forged between the squared circle's most loyal followers and even the most vocal opponents of the sport, especially recently.

ESPN E:60's behind-the-scenes piece on WWE's developmental property, NXT, was an entryway to differing sides understanding one another.

Yes, there were the usual suspects - the always boisterous Vince McMahon, his wrestler-turned-executive son-in-law Triple H and an array of cameras, set lighting, scripts, meetings, match layouts and the like.

But what you also saw was a man in Matt Polinsky (Corey Graves) trying to follow his childhood dreams, only have multiple concussions and a young, growing family that needed him healthy and home make the decision that his days in the ring had come and gone.

You saw Ray Leppan (Leo Kruger, Adam Rose) literally and figuratively wrestle with the weight of providing for his wife and ailing young son in the midst of a television character change that would decide whether Leppan failed or succeeded in his role as a professional wrestler for WWE.

And as if Leppan and Polinsky's feats were not impressive and persuasive in their own right, Austin Watson (Xavier Woods, Consequences Creed) was presented to show the depth of the modern professional wrestler - a man nearing completion of his Ph.D. risking his health and wellness for the love of the sport, a common theme in so-called "real" sports such as football and basketball.

What both lifelong professional wrestling fans and lifelong professional wrestling opponents often forget is the people they see on television are but small pieces of the entertainment landscape in this country. On television, they exist solely in the sphere of entertaining the thousands live in attendance and the millions watching at home.

But when the red camera light goes off, the crowds file out of the arena and television viewers turn the channel, those men and women go home to families - they are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, etc.

The majority of us don't live our lives on television, but we work jobs to make ends meet, to provide the best lives possible for our families and ourselves.

And spandex aside, professional wrestlers are no different.

All of this isn't to say that the next subpar match on Monday Night Raw won't deserve the admonishment of the Internet. Or the next ridiculous, illogical story a professional wrestling company conjures up won't legitimize the scorn of naysayers.

But whether pro or con on professional wrestling, whether you believe in its reality or scripted nature, there is something to agree on: the separation of church and state, the separation between the small screen and the reality professional wrestlers truly live in, is a distinction that must be considered.

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