By Graham "GSM" Matthews
During one of my most recent English classes, we were comparing the Harry Potter novels to Al-Qaeda (don't ask why, we just were). Studies have shown that the Harry Potter series is popular among prisoners for some reason (it's popular everywhere, of course, but specifically in jail), and our class came to the conclusion that it was because fantasy books such as Harry Potter help the reader take their mind off of the present and escape to an alternate universe that in reality doesn't exist. As soon as that was said, I immediately started drawing parallels to the wrestling world.
Let's face the facts here: a majority of wrestling fans didn't attend Harvard or are in the upper class of society. There is a reason that wrestling fans are looked down upon by others, who sometimes don't realize that professional wrestling has changed drastically from what it used to be in the late '90s. I, for one, hate the stereotype that all wrestling fans are uneducated and turn to "fake" wrestling because they can't succeed at anything else in life. That couldn't be any further from the truth. Could that be applied to a portion of wrestling's fanbase? Surely. Does it apply to everyone? Absolutely not. I've been watching wrestling for well over five years now and am currently attending one of the best colleges in the northeast to major in journalism. I wouldn't condone myself as a "failure" in the slightest.
However, let's remember why we watch wrestling in the first place. No, we don't watch it because it is "fake"; I'm pretty sure most of the people that watch wrestling are well aware of the fact that it is staged and scripted. We watch wrestling because we find it to be entertaining. It is like every other movie and television show that you have ever watched. It isn't meant to be real (most shows, that is), but simply to entertain you. Unlike movies and television series, though, wrestling has no off-season and never ends. That's one of the many benefits of being a wrestling fan.
Going back to that conversation in my English class, it was brought up that many people with psychological issues such as depression are more likely to read Harry Potter as opposed to people that live normal lives. The same can be said for wrestling, which is why the fanbase is given a negative stereotype more often than not. Some people look for that ultimate escape from reality, and pro wrestling provides that for them.
Most of what happens in the wrestling world isn't realistic, nor is it meant to be. If it was, we probably wouldn't watch it. The wrestling world contains larger than life characters that you wouldn't normally see in your everyday life. Of course, not everything wrestling can be truly outlandish, but it does a swell job of blurring the lines between what is storyline and what is reality. That is one of the many compelling aspects of pro wrestling.
For me, I have always watched wrestling to be entertained, but I have turned to it during treacherous times that I didn't want to deal with what was going on in my life at that moment. Surrounding yourself with something (or someone) that makes you happy during a time that isn't the greatest is certainly an effective approach. That isn't the sole reason why I watch wrestling, but it is a factor for sure. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who tunes into Raw on a weekly basis to avoid dealing with adversity or negativity.
Granted, you shouldn't use wrestling as an excuse for not dealing with your problems. If someone close to you recently passed away and watching Daniel Bryan happily parade around as WWE Champion helps you take your mind off the matter, then that is certainly acceptable. However, if you find yourself in trouble and turn on the television to watch Raw to postpone the problem at hand (maybe doing homework or your chores, for example) until a later date, then you are simply avoiding the issues rather than dealing with them.
In conclusion, it is great to have something that you are passionate about and look to for inspiration or a vacation from your stressful life. I have found over the last five years that watching wrestling is my personal escape from reality, but I haven't let that affect the things in life that matter the most (school, work, friends, family, etc). From the showmanship to the bright lights to the emotional moments that get me invested as a fan, professional wrestling will always be my place to escape to whenever I need a break from reality.