Last night I watched The Marine, starring WWE superstar John Cena. It was pretty funny and awful. They say "the marine" about ten times, and there are at least seven ridiculous explosions. Also, the guy who played the T-1000 is in it, hamming up a storm.
Does anyone remember when wrestlers were tough? They were strong and muscular, but they were also kind of flabby...they looked solid. Most, if not all, of the guys wrestling professionally nowadays look strong, sure, but they don't look tough. Cena himself is huge and muscular--his neck must be thirty inches in diameter--and he has a gigantic, blocky head that looks to have been carved from stone, and he could break every bone in my body twice with little or no effort...but he just looks like a big overgrown doofus. And when the end credits for The Marine roll, and Cena begins awkwardly rapping, then it's confirmed: doofus. Not tough.
Cena and his kind are sadly representative of what kids think of when they think of wrestlers: oily muscleheads who wear Ed Hardy t-shirts in their off-time and listen to T-Pain to get themselves pumped up before a match. The kind of guys who throw fake gang signs and make kissy faces in their Myspace photos. In short, they think of douchebags. And as we all know, no matter how strong a douchebag may be, he is never intimidating or tough-looking.
Look at "Dirty" Dusty Rhodes or "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan or Ric Flair: those guys are/were certainly strong, but it was the kind of strong that you got by working construction or being a farmhand or working in a steel mill or living in the woods and fighting bears. It's the kind of strong that you associate with your father, when you're a kid. Those old guys were basically big strong rednecks, tough guys, like bikers. Guys that like to drink shitty beer and listen to ZZ Top and have gross sex with bar hags. Guys that would never make kissy faces in their Myspace photos. Guys that would never have a Myspace profile to begin with.
Guys like this.
Look at it this way: Ric Flair started wrestling in 1971. He stopped wrestling in 2008. That is nearly forty years. Ric Flair was a tough guy for a living for nearly forty years. Guys like John Cena usually retire a couple of years into their career to focus on making terrible music or to promote energy drinks or to star in terrible, terrible movies like The Marine.
Rhodes has a son that wrestles now, as does Ted "The Million Dollar Man" DiDiase, as does Randy Orton. All of these sons are douchebags. They're an insult to wrestling's great tradition of giving stupid rednecks something to yell at on TV on Saturday mornings, a place to direct your simmering anger, instead of beating your wife or kids or dog. In this way wrestling has long fostered healing and togetherness.
In all seriousness, wrestling has a beautiful old-timey feel, an almost vaudevillian quality--the good guys are called "babyfaces" and the villains are called "heels"--there should be a guy in a straw boater and a striped coat coaxing you inside to see the huge men named Goliath or Samson or Hercules, men wearing leopard-print leotards and lifting huge trapezoidal weights. Men who marry beautiful midget women and eventually own racehorses and saloons. Men who become the first in the community to buy a motorcar. Men who inspire respect, whose funerals are attended by hundreds of mourners, who create legends that outlive them, who cast long shadows over all the subsequent generations.
You know. Tough guys.