There are sites with a more logical claim to Anthony Bourdain tributes, and better writers than I will eulogize the chef, author and television personality who died of suicide at age 61 today (June 8) in France.
But as a fellow recovering addict who loves to travel and eat, I’d always been drawn to Bourdain, and his death is affecting me, as I’m sure it is many of you. While thinking about him, I realized one of the things I enjoyed is how he approached pro wrestling the same way he did a new cuisine or country - with enthusiasm and without judgement.
Wrestling fans know when a celebrity is holding their nose during a visit to our oft-mocked corner of the pop culture universe. But while Bourdain couldn’t avoid a little trademark smart-assery when his daughter dragged him to a WWE show, he didn’t let his preconceived notions about it being “fake” or stereotypes about what kind of people “fall for it” get in the way of his having a good time:
I went because my daughter and her friend think WWE is awesome. But, God help me, I had a rollicking good time. That was some hilariously awesome, cheesy, over the top, campy, physically impressive showboating . And the initially scary looking audience are so in to it you can't help but be..,well...charmed. Here, the amazing, often airborne Uso Brothers do what they do so well. America! Fuck Yeah!
In fact, it fueled his curiosity. When he filmed an episode of his CNN series Parts Unknown in Pittsburgh last year, he had independent wrestler Britt Baker and her fiance, current NXT Superstar Adam Cole, out for pierogies and sausage to learn more about the business and the art form:
Shocked and saddened by the passing of #AnthonyBourdain. He was by far one of the most memorable dinner dates I’m sure we will ever have- full of laughs and intriguing conversation. Rest easy. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/wOhE5CCXvj— Britt Baker (@RealBrittBaker) June 8, 2018
2017 was also the year “Tony” signed with Titus Worldwide on a return trip to WWE, aligning his “unparalled” rear naked choke with Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews’ team. His willingness to go along with the fun was obvious in the Raw Fallout video he shot:
If you watched Bourdain travel the world on one of his shows, or read one of his books (including the comics), or followed him on Twitter as he tried to figure out how to advocate for the many people he met in his life and work, you know wrestling was far from the only thing he treated this way.
But still, as people try to process his death, I just wanted to say...
Thanks for not making fun of us and this thing we love, Tony. Glad you had a good time while we hung out. And rest in peace.