The recent Blog entry I wrote about my first novel Blind Salvation has brought a lot of memories to the surface. Even if I look back at my earliest efforts and either cringe or take pride in how I've improved, it can never be understated how much fun I had. I was lucky to have started writing at an early-age, doodling crude comic-book panels for the Bombastic Pencil-Man by first-grade, horror screen-plays and novels even before Junior high (Catherine: Forever with Love was originally a scrapped project I did when I was a kid called The Direction). It made it so I naturally associate writing with child-like wonder and nostalgia. My inspirations included horror series like A Nightmare on Elm Street and whatever classic B-movie I could uncover (much to the chagrin of Scott Moore), as well as my infatuation with professional wrestling.
Sometimes I feel apprehensive to even mention wrestling as one of the drive-forces behind my writing-style and storytelling choices. It's true, damn true, that wrestling has a lot of negative stigma. Whether it be the drug scandals that cost the lives of so many athletes or the injuries and criticisms in-regards to how those injuries were treated. Either that, or because it's fake (a word that has been known to enrage wrestling fans for generations). Each side will spew venom in their defense.
On one-hand, professional wrestling is choreographed and scripted for entertainment-purposes. When Brock Lesnar brings the 500-pound Big Show off the top-rope and the ring falls apart, it's because the scene was written out that way. Wrestlers "blade" (cut themselves with razors hidden from the audience) or use capsules when they want to add blood to the equation and the rabbit was inside the hat the whole time. On the other-hand though, when part of Mick Foley's ear was ripped off in a Barbwire (yes, real Barbwire) match with Vader, that wasn't what the script called for. When Mexican wrestler Perro Aguayo Jr. died in the ring from cervical spine trauma, that was also not what was intended.
Perhaps that's where the arguments arise - wrestling fans have a devout appreciation for the wrestler's involved, realizing the risks they take and the dedication their craft demands. When they hear someone refer to professional wrestling as fake, they take it as an insult belittling the craft. And, for what it's worth, more often than not, that's what's intended.
Regardless, a thing that presents itself as a legitimate competition when the results are predetermined, is, by definition, fake. A counter would be companies like the WWE actively calling themselves Sports Entertainment (alluding to the scripted nature), mean it's no longer claiming legitimacy, and thereby, could more fittingly be called scripted. However, if the argument and its semantics are so flimsy and thinly-veiled, I think we can accept how little it should matter in the first place. This shouldn't undermine the fact professional wrestling's dangers are very real and I have a lot of respect for the athletes involved.
What separated professional wrestling and other sports, for me, was, in-fact, its scripted nature. When the masked Kane entered the Hell in a Cell during a match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, starting a feud with his brother The Undertaker, I was enthralled. Kane, assumed dead by The Undertaker all these years, after a fire that killed both their parents, was back, and the competitors would go onto meet in Buried Alive matches and Inferno matches, and many more intense bouts. It didn't matter if it was ridiculous. It was like comic-book characters stepping straight out of the panels.
As a fan, I would often participate in E-Feds, other-wise known as online role-playing set in the world of paradoxical squared circles and tights that leave nothing to the imagination. I have to think that a lot of the action-scenes, particularly as seen in Blind Salvation, owe a lot of debt to the countless hours I spent orchestrating elaborate bouts between my fictional characters with others. "The referee calls for the bell, signaling the match is now underway. The competitors stare at one another with vile intent, circling each other before meeting in a test of strength - a collar and elbow tie-up." This would continue until one competitor's hand was raised by the referee.
Looking back, it seems pointless now. How could I dedicate hours of my time to choreographing meaningless matches? I could have written a novel-or-two with the amount of exertion I gave to some of these shows! It all goes back to what I said, I guess - it can't be understated how much fun I had at the time. I think it's also a vital ingredient for why I am able to achieve what I can now. I polished my action-scenes through what was, essentially, wrestling fan-fiction.
I owe some debt to watching the characters perform as well. One of my favorites was Mick Foley, other-wise known as Mankind, or Cactus Jack, ... or Dude Love. I can remember a segment I believe is worth singling out, often simply called "Cane Dewey".
The scene is around twenty-years ago in the back of a bingo hall in Philadelphia, delivering what I believe is one of the best wrestling interviews or "promos" ever, and certainly one of my favorites.
Mick Foley has always been known as a "hardcore wrestler," a wrestler known for inflicting punishment or, more often than not, being on the receiving end. Mick's the guy who lost his ear in the barbwire match, and his list of injuries are very extensive. At the time of "Cane Dewey", Mick Foley had departed from World Championship Wrestling (wrestling's "top promotion" at the time) and returned to Extreme Championship Wrestling (which was very, very distantly in third).
The character voices his grievances and regrets about leaving the comfort of World Championship Wrestling, about leaving his lucrative paycheck and stability behind for a company that provide neither of those things. He talks about the bloodthirsty crowd always demanding more from him and how he would stop at nothing to keep his adversary (wrestler Tommy Dreamer) from staying in Extreme Championship Wrestling. The segment's biggest moments, however, when he tells of his battle with long-time rival Terry Funk attempting to make his face reenact a Picasso painting with a shard of glass, and what he saw when he looked to the crowd. "Cane Dewey," Cactus Jack remarks. The fans demand being that this "Dewey" fellow needed to be beaten with a cane. Who is Dewey (Foley)? "Dewey Foley is a three-year-old boy, YOU SICK SONS OF BITCHES!"
Whether it's the words as they're spoken or the emotionally-unhinged execution of Mick Foley's speech, the segment always stuck with me as one of the most effective portrayals of a character.
In a skewed-way, Mick Foley's character was the villain. The guy offended about a person in the crowd calling for his son to be hit with a Singapore cane is the bad guy. That goes to show anyone can be the good guy or the villain, it only matters how it's presented.
In-reality, Mick Foley wasn't initially bothered by the sign. Nevertheless, he sold it like a bullet-wound to the heart. That's what I brought out from the segment. Make them believe it. Channel your emotions in whichever way you can and dig down deep in your heart and mind for your characters, and make them believe it.