Last year, Ann and I went to a Lucha Libre (Wrestling match – ala Nacho Libre) in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It was a very interesting cultural experience and actually increased my respect for those producing ‘Professional Wrestling’.
We showed up to the ring and took a spot with the standing-room only crowd up in the balcony. Each match unfolded as you might expect a simple drama to unfold and before you even show up, it’s pretty clear that there are favorites and that each wrestler or team has a side to it: good or bad.
Round 1 – The ‘bad’ guys start ‘beating up’ on the ‘good’ guys, usually with some pretty interesting stunts. Some of these guys are quite acrobatic especially for not looking exactly like acrobats and the bad guys win easily this round.
Round 2- The beating continues and by the middle of the second round, the good guys look dumb-founded, limping and beaten up, when all of a sudden, a surge of strength lets them now take advantage of the ‘bad guys’. The tables are turned and the good guys win the second round, just by a hair.
Round 3- The bad guys stage a minor come back and fight some more, but then are finished with some spectacular acrobatics (back flips off the ring into the bad guy outside the ring) and the good vanquish the enemy.
That’s the basic plot with several interesting variants to add humor, get the audience excited and involved, even to the point where the wrestlers are throwing each other into a bunch of plastic chairs that people emptied just in time to get out of the way. It is, of course, all acted, but doing some of the tricks they do must leave some bruises. It was a little bit how I imagine the drama of the 18th century would have looked like, with the audience rooting for the ‘good guys’ and booing the ‘bad guys’.
It made me think about how when we watch a drama, we suspend our disbelief. We believe that Bruce Willis really is a drunk cop who is able to make multiple things explode in mid-air (Die Hard), even when in the next movie they are a dead psychologist (6th sense). It’s the same thing watching wrestling, as ridiculous as the acting is, we are drawn into the story and fascinated by the good beating the bad.
People like a story (even if it starts out very fictionally) and we are drawn into it. This is why when we communicate with one another we communicate with stories. They entertain us, they draw us in, and they teach us about the human experience.