Spectacle covered as a sport
Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 2:21 PM
I’ve been noticing a trend with sports media, at least the big ones like your ESPN, NBC Sports and so on, that they’ve started to get back into the world of professional wrestling. ESPN has been really getting into it as of late with a weekly segment on one of their talking head shows, I really can’t keep track of them anymore, and even hosting a sub-site on the ESPN.com page. Recently I saw NBC Sports put out a “Royal Rumble” primer for Sunday’s WWE event with how they think the matches should go, will go and a recap of the drama leading into the matches.
I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way. I’m a professional wrestling fan. Something about it just strikes me as fun when it’s not the stuff you see on TV anyways, but I digress from my main idea here. Why have ESPN and all the other sports media outlets began to cover professional wrestling on their shows and websites? It’s struck me as a strange occurrence as pro wrestling has been a redheaded step child of sports (psst, it’s not a sport) and has been treated that way for decades.
I’ve told numerous a people I watch professional wrestling and get hit with that “fake hitting each other” line more than I can keep track of. My theory about this, well I have more than one, are pretty simple.
My first idea is that somehow wrestling has become cool. With a beast of a man like Brock Lesnar getting back into the squared circle on a part time basis, it feels like he’s given it a piece of legitimacy that it has lacked in previous decades. While Lesnar’s recent run in UFC has landed him in some hot water, he’s a proven monster on the WWE screen and helps bring in those UFC fans who won’t be able to see him fight for quite a while.
The draw of a Brock Lesnar is here a man who just wants to hurt people. Granted, UFC style of hurting and WWE style of hurting are two completely different ways of life, Lesnar still has that aura to him of a man who might break their “fake punches” and completely hammer someone like he did in the octagon.
Another idea is that it’s not lame to really enjoy pro wrestling anymore. I have a few peers that enjoy it quite a bit and they’re in the same line of work I am. For years letting people know you watch WWE or it’s lesser known alternatives was seen as a mark of death among “real” sports fans, but lately it seems like the arms have been opened to it. Heck, if ESPN could get away showing guys playing cards for hours on end, they could certainly find the time to show guys in tights staging epic fights.
The rise of non sports being passed off as sports has risen in the past 15 years. There was a time when no sporting network would’ve covered something like poker, and now every single year ESPN seems to broadcast the World Series of Poker. Call me crazy but seeing a guy jump through the air and making it look like he landed on a guy’s chest after three flips is a bit more sporting than seeing a poker player go all in.
When you look at professional wrestling, despite the scripts and unrealistic hitting of one another, there does take some athletic skill to do what some of these wrestlers can do. Most people think of pro wrestling as the old Hulk Hogan punching a guy and missing a mile away before falling over with a leg drop. Wrestling, as with other forms of entertainment, have evolved past that lumbering style of two giant men play fighting.
Some of the most popular guys these days fly around the ring with a reckless abandon. It’s helped take away the play fighting stigma of the spectacle, or sports entertainment if you believe with WWE head honcho Vince McMahon says.
The third theory, and this might be the most likely, is that WWE is paying for the coverage to reach a broader audience. Their ratings are beginning to suffer on their weekly TV shows and will do anything to get eyes back on their product. They still manage to bring in the bucks every year so why not slip these media empires some cash to get the online coverage and a weekly spot on Sportscenter? It’s a logical move.
By paying for the coverage they have forced themselves into the center of the sports world to pawn off their vision of sports entertainment. The WWE is closing in on their biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania, in a couple of months and will want as many people as possible to watch their TV shows, buy the events, and all the accompanying goodies that come along with it.
That or they’re just in a really good boom period and have gotten lucky with all the coverage. Either way, it’s good for all sides. It opens up new eyes to see how far professional wrestling has come since the 1980s/90s and it gives professional wrestling another place to shill their product.