A couple years ago, my older boy started watching "Days of Our Lives" with his mother. I can't say I'm totally happy with the arrangement, since some of the adult themes, watered down as they are for daytime network television, are a lot for an 11yo boy to process. It's definitely a PG show, but at least she watches it with him and gives him all the PG he needs.
For me, taking the boys to SummerSlam last weekend was the flipside of this arrangement. Pro wrestling is also definitely a PG experience, what with the crowds, the relentless spectacle, the posturing, the body worship (both male and female), and all the backbiting skulduggery. ("But Dad, I thought those guys were friends! Why did he hit him with a chair?")
Like I said, I hadn't invested much time in pro wrestling for some 20 years; I'm happy to say, though, that the one-ring circus hasn't changed a lick. The difference comes when you attend one of these events LIVE, and these hulks that you see flying cartoonishly around your TV screen take on a visceral force, mass, and acceleration. Part of the genius of these athletes is that when bodies collide, you feel it (probably because the billion-decibel music sets your ribcage vibrating like a xylophone. If you bring your kids to one of these things, bring earplugs; otherwise, your kids will cram their fingers into their ears so intently that they could very well meet in the middle).
The weekend was about a lot more than that, though. It was about Axxess, a deeper (and unfortunately-spelled) look at what goes on Behind The Tights:
- It was about meeting Cody (son of Dusty) Rhodes, who told me how great it was to grow up with a famous, well-loved dad and how important it is for him to carry on the family reputation. He's great with kids, especially when he brought my sons into the ring and showed them the exact pacing of how you throw yourself into the ropes to generate the most momentum;
- It was about him and Hornswoggle reading Otis aloud to a couple hundred adoring kids, in advance of We Give Books's attempt to set a world record for reading on October 3 (details here);
- It was about meeting reps from Make-A-Wish, and Komen, and other groups WWE is trying to serve with its massive popularity.
And like a good soap opera, you can step a way for a while, and when you come back, it feels like you never left. I had to study up on the latest backstory and the parties therein, but in the end it played out as it always does: Square-jawed hero is upset by scraggly crowd favorite, who celebrates for about three minutes before the ref turns on him, knocks him senseless, and conspires with the evil guy with the briefcase to take the belt away; bearded guy vows revenge, but then falls into amnesia and forgets he has fathered a secret love child with the daughter of the ruthless tungsten magnate, who conspires with his evil twin to blackmail the heroic town DA, who doesn't yet know that he's actually the rightful heir to the tungsten fortune and whose wife has a simmering feud with Stefano, the crime boss who's been killed off every time his contract was up for negotiation.
It's all just a hulking heap of enjoyable nonsense.
After we left the Staples Center (and my 11yo had had sufficient time to recover from the sensory overload), he and I discussed all this on the way back to the hotel:
- "Let me get this straight," he said. "The ref was really in on it with the bad guy, who snuck in at the last second and won the belt."
- "That's right."
- "So it's just it's just another wacky story, and they put in a lot of drama and injustice so we'd come back and see what happens next."
- "Pretty much."
- "Sounds to me like it's just like 'Days of Our Lives,' but with more nipples."
I can't improve on that.