The Nature of Wrestling Criticism

When we watch wrestling, we're actively involved, both emotionally and intellectually, with what we're watching. It's a highly selective and motivated activity we do because we expect that doing so will give us gratification. (Gratification related to the satisfaction of needs and wants experienced by us as individuals). But it seems to me whenever wrestling gives people an emotional response, they project it back on the wrestlers - i.e. this wrestler is great, because he makes me feel these emotions. What people don't take into account is how their thoughts, feelings and emotions construct meaning from wrestling. The individual is the producer of meaning. There's a mutual exchange: a wrestler draws an emotional response from you, your sensitivity draws meaning from his work. A wrestling match becomes a celebration of that process.

Wrestling criticism is incapable of doing justice to the heterogeneous ways in which wrestling is used and takes on meaning for people. Nothing in wrestling has equivalent meaning or significance for all people. Every wrestling fan participates and perceives differently.

When I read a review, I read it to learn something about the reviewer. What are his needs and wants? How does he interpret and make sense of wrestling? What does he see in it? What is the meaning he gives to it? If I get anything out of his review it's that I like the way he thinks. People should continue to write about wrestling, but they need to think about what it is that they define their opinions in relation to. IMO, we should define wrestling in relation to ourselves. All we really know is what we think is good, what we want from a match, etc. As a film student, I always looked for films that moved me. I defined these films in relation to my emotional response to them. Wrestling criticism should be the same. Self-exploration of the connections we make with matches (and wrestlers). If we don't make a connection with a match that says as much about us as it does the match.

If someone else makes a connection with the match, what am I going to do? Critique their emotional response? Everything exists in opposition to something else. We know what pleasure is, because we feel pain. We know each of their variations, because we know what the opposite emotion feels like. Without one, we'd have no notion of the other. As Einstein said, people experience their thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, restricting us to our personal desires. As wrestling fans, we give our attention to a few persons whose opinions we value. If we widened our circles of compassion to embrace all people's connections with workers and matches, all the thoughts, feelings and emotions we investment in wrestling would from a whole.

That's got to be better than what we have now - embittered people, who feel wrestlers are unfairly objectified by quantitative meaning. People reaching impasses where nobody can be right, because everything involves subjectivity. Nobody looks at the DVDVR 500 in a qualitative sense. But why should they? We haven't said that being the 78th wrestler means anything.

Wrestling criticism should be about "US => THE MATCH => OUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSE => MEANING." It should be a self-exploration of our role in creating meaning. Working isn't our role. It should be invisible to us. We shouldn't even feel its presence. When we watch wrestling and actively engage in it, we should learn something about ourselves. We should lose ourselves to find ourselves. What did I put into this match, what did I take out? IMO, if we're going to have wrestling criticism, it should be about the ways in which we learn, grow and change from what we're watching.

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©2001 by the author