Culture Clash: Why Liberals Hate Pro Wrestling

Pro wrestling is anti-intellectual.  It is a melodrama at heart, a throwback to earlier times when not all popular entertainment was cynical.  With their college degrees and the left-wing academic indoctrination that comes with them, liberals can play the highbrow and chuckle at such fare.  They do not similarly dismiss illiterate popular music and other art forms that are mindless, yet add to the cultural erosion they favor.


By Andrew Thomas | November 2, 2015

 

Recently, the world lost two legends of professional wrestling whose careers captured the reasons for the industry’s popularity.  “Dusty Rhodes” (Virgil Runnels) and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper were great showmen who, during the late twentieth century, helped propel pro wrestling into a genuine national institution.  Any American boy who grew up in the 1970’s or 1980’s and had access to a television, more likely than not, remembers at least one of these outsized personalities.

Yet, one would not know that from the reaction of the dominant media, which virtually ignored their passing.  This omission says much not only about the priorities and interests of most media executives, but also the cultural elite’s disdain for the traditional values that pro wrestling implicitly and simply affirms.

The industry that Rhodes and Piper helped to build has become huge. The sheer number of Americans who watch its televised bouts qualifies professional wrestling as a major cultural force.  In one week in 2013, the programming of a single pro wrestling promoter, World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE, reached 20 million U.S. viewers.  This compares, for example, to a mere 2.7 million people who watched the recent premiere of “I Am Cait,” the TV reality show about Caitlyn née Bruce Jenner (its ratings plummeted the next week).  WWE, the top pro wrestling promoter, is now worth approximately $1.25 billion.

In short, pro wrestling has become a well-established pastime for many millions of Americans.  This feat alone should earn the industry some grudging respect from preeminent media elites.  But this has not happened.

Compare the meager and haughty news coverage of pro wrestling to that of say similarly sized sports or endeavors more in line with the values of liberal newscasters.  The media are awash with glowing profiles of pro women’s basketball players, the most recently self-revealed gay athlete, or, indeed, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the UFC fighter whose name was inspired by the recently deceased Piper.  One searches the news in vain for much discussion of pro wrestling, an entertainment genre that has impacted many young American men.  Indeed, virtually the only time we hear discussion of pro wrestling is when one of its protagonists does something offensive; a recent example is the story over the racial epithets allegedly made by Hulk Hogan (which resulted in his firing by WWE).

 

Why the shunning?  The disdain for pro wrestling pervasive among the cultural elite cannot be ascribed to the fact that its craft is staged.  Pro wrestling is no more artificial than virtually any other “reality TV” shows today.  The latter uniformly feature ordinary people pretending they are not performing before TV cameras, when they are obviously quite aware their antics are being filmed for profit.  This makes such folk, in short, underpaid and mostly untalented actors.  Pro wrestling, in contrast, delivers disciplined, athletic entertainment that few other mortals could pull off.

Liberal elites dismiss pro wrestling and ignore it as an embarrassment not because it is phony, but it validates things they do not like.  For starters, pro wrestling is proudly masculine.  It features enormous men with giant, well-sculpted physiques crushing (or seemingly so) other men of like proportions.  Here, men are men, without apology.  The contrast between the stars of pro wrestling and top male actors and pop singers is striking, as Hollywood increasingly chases femininity as an industry standard for males.

Wrestling matches offer straightforward stories of good versus evil.  Whether the star attractions are Hulk Hogan versus the “Iron Sheik,” “The Rock” (Dwayne Johnson, now a movie star) taking on “The Undertaker,” or Bret Hart staring down “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, fans are treated to titanic struggles between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”  This narrative, in its own, unaffected way, directly challenges moral relativism.  That the outcome of these bouts is generally preordained in favor of those wearing the white hats bluntly ensures the affirmation of virtue over vice.

Pro wrestling is anti-intellectual.  It is a melodrama at heart, a throwback to earlier times when not all popular entertainment was cynical.  With their college degrees and the left-wing academic indoctrination that comes with them, liberals can play the highbrow and chuckle at such fare.  They do not similarly dismiss illiterate popular music and other art forms that are mindless, yet add to the cultural erosion they favor.

To such condescending liberal palates, the mild violence featured in professional wrestling likewise does not appeal.  Liberals are naturally averse to all violence outside the womb.  Yet, the violence in these orchestrated matches is quite modest and controlled, not resulting in deaths or the horrific injuries that naturally and inevitably occur in many unscripted athletic competitions.

Finally, there are the people who like professional wrestling.  They tend to be blue-collar men and boys, the sort who also like NASCAR (though pro wrestling, it should be stressed, is much more racially diverse in its packaging and fans).  This is the slice of the population that disproportionately fills arenas and stadia to cheer Donald Trump. Admittedly, many conservatives would adamantly avoid both venues, as neither pro wrestling nor Trump is their cup of tea.  But there is a fundamental reason pro wrestling buffs are not ACLU liberals.  As a whole, they are rather very ordinary and patriotic Americans who believe in the simple values of courage, manliness and self-discipline—and want their entertainment to reflect that in some way.  Pro wrestling unpretentiously captures and honors these virtues at a time when elites mock them, and the nation greatly suffers for their growing absence.

R.I.P. Dusty Rhodes and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  You did more than you surely realized to turn American boys into men.


Andrew Thomas is a graduate of the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. Twice elected as Maricopa County Attorney, the district attorney for metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas served a county of four million residents and ran one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation. He established a national reputation for fighting violent crime, identity theft, drug abuse and illegal immigration. He is the author of four books, including Clarence Thomas: A Biography and the The People v. Harvard Law: How America’s Oldest Law School Turned Its Back on Free Speech. Mr. Thomas ran for governor of Arizona in 2014, receiving endorsements from many conservative leaders. He is a fellow with the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.