Normally, I take my frustration out on a punching bag, not on a keyboard. So bear with me here as I, a relatively new wrestling fan, rant about exactly what is frustrating me. Because Sunday's Battleground PPV and Monday's RAW have me tearing my hair out. Where to begin? Perhaps some background is in order?
I started watching wrestling a couple of years ago, sometime around Summerslam 2013. It caused great amusement among my family and friends, because wrestling is not something a 24 year old graduate student just STARTS watching. It all started with me discovering Chris Jericho was the front man for one of the rock bands I listened to. I couldn't quite figure out what this whole "wrestling" thing really was, so I pulled up his Wikipedia page and started following the links. Four hours (and hundreds of entries) later and I decided to give it a shot.
Funnily enough, wrestling resonated with me. As any graduate student will attest to, the workload involved with getting a post graduate degree is somewhat... intense. I've read more than 50 books and written somewhere in the area of 60 pages of papers in 2015 alone. Obtaining a degree is a slow, tedious process with little immediate payoff. In wrestling, I found something that was both fun and somewhat mindless, but also something that was emotionally fulfilling.
As much as I enjoy the sheer athleticism, the spectacle, and the plethora of crazy characters, there is one thing that has made wrestling so appealing to me: watching the hard work of the competitors pay off. At first, it was just the storylines I was watching. Daniel Bryan's long battle with the Authority was such a a joy for me to watch. Bryan was a guy who toiled for years to get to where he was, proved his doubters wrong, and eventually made his dreams come true. That's the kind of thing we all hope for out of life, and the whole story was very fulfilling. It gave me, and hopefully many other fans, hope that the proverbial "glass ceiling" can be shattered.
After Bryan's title win, I started digging into his pre- WWE days and watching some of his RIng of Honor matches. Through that, I discovered the early works of other WWE guys, such as Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens. I found as I was watching WWE television, I was rooting for these guys the most. These guys started from the bottom and were slowly working their way to the top, slowly achieving their dreams, and their passion was obvious. No matter what their storyline was, if they were the face or the heel, I was always pulling for them, because I hoped to see their dreams realized as well.
This past 12 months or so, it seemed like all their monumental effort was finally paying off. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were both NXT Champions. Kevin Owens made his main roster debut and LAID OUT John Cena. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro were killing it in the tag division. And that Seth Rollins WWE World Heavyweight Title win. My god, that title win...
I think I cried when Seth's hand was raised at Wrestlemania. His reaction was so genuine. From his thanking Roman Reigns as he made the pin, to the "happy dance" in the ring, to the look of shocked disbelief as he stood at the end of the ramp, closing his eyes and shaking his head as he took it all in. It was obvious that this was probably the greatest thing that ever happened to him. It didn't matter to me that, in storyline, he was a cheating, cowardly weasel. This guy took the hard way to the top AND HE HAD FINALLY BEEN RECOGNIZED. To me, it looked like the new era was starting. An era where that glass ceiling could be shattered by being patient and showing dedication to the craft.
Then this week happened.
Owens lost to John Cena by tap out, in a match that he probably should have won. The Undertaker returns and Seth Rollins, the champion, disappears and is not even mentioned on the show again. The next night, Owens is an afterthought in a tag match and it becomes clear that Rollins' next challenger will be John Cena, who had already beaten a newer guy the night before and will likely beat Rollins as well. If it was possible to undue in a week all the promise that has been hinted at, WWE has just managed it.
Now lord knows I'm not docking Cena, Taker, or even Brock Lesnar for their work ethics. Over the years, no has worked harder, and they deserved to be commended for that. They are legends. But they are not the only guys who deserve to have that work rewarded, or to have time and effort invested in them. And how is anyone supposed to become a star without that investment?
I'm sure the reasoning behind the sudden back peddle was ratings, which are apparently dropping. Someone must have decided that a trial run of a few months was enough to decide that this new generation wasn't cutting it. Because Rome, apparently, was not only built in a day, but became a world super power without even breaking a sweat.
So I hammered on the punching bag after RAW, reflecting on the fact that this whole "shattering the glass ceiling" thing is a big joke. The last couple of nights seemed to show that years of plugging away and putting the time in don't count for squat if your name isn't John Cena, and it was killing me. Whether my perception is correct or not, one thing was certain; I was not emotionally fulfilled anymore.
Maybe I'm needlessly being Ms. Gloom and Doom, and guys like Rollins and Owens will be fine. I hope they will be. Right now, though, I'm reflecting on what it would mean to me if all I've done over the past couple of years was reduced to nothing. What if I spent untold hours reading long, tedious books and writing papers with excessive footnotes, only to be told that, because my writing was different from a famous academic, I wasn't going to be getting that vaunted MA after all? I'll tell you how I'd feel.