Professional wrestling, at its essence, is a basic good vs. evil morality play.
Every match has a good guy, known as the babyface, and a bad guy, the heel. The heel’s job is to basically piss you off; he or she often will grab a microphone on the way to the ring for the purpose of informing the paying fans how awful their hometown is, how ugly the people who live there are, how bad everything smells.
(We call that, in the business, the cheap pop, but it works, without fail.)
Now that the heel has you sufficiently riled up, out comes the face, a paragon of virtue, willing to step up to defend your honor by putting the heel in the proper place.
For two or close to three hours, depending on the venue, you’ll see this scenario play out five, six, seven, maybe eight times.
The formula is one that hasn’t changed in basically a hundred years, dating back to the carnival beginnings of pro wrestling, long before fans were wise to the reality of wrestling, that it’s a work, basically staged combat theater, with the punches and kicks and loud thuds involving the mat and turnbuckles all part of a predetermined choreography that looks devastatingly brutal but, when executed properly, allows the combatants to pile into cars to head to the next town tomorrow night to do the same thing all over again.
We all know this, now, a quarter century after Vince McMahon finally gave away the kayfabe secret, that, yes, wrestling is fake, as the keystone to his effort to avoid having to pay state athletic commission fees.
Which is to say, no, I’m not giving away any secrets here.
This book isn’t the Ball Four of pro wrestling in that respect.
That having been said, there is still so much happening behind the curtain that the average fan has no idea is going on.
This is the heart of The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever.
And yes, I absolutely hate that the one thing I could ever be remembered for in pro wrestling is being the writer of a universally panned pay-per-view, the 2011 Awesome Wrestling Entertainment Night of Legends.
This book is part apologia, a spirited defense of the team that flew too close to the sun with the effort to stage a live TV pay-per-view basically with spit and tape, and not nearly enough money or people, and part tell-all, offering what I hope is a revealing glimpse of what goes on behind the curtain at a live TV wrestling show, and the months of work that go into getting together a show to be broadcast to the world.
I’m going to try, probably without success, to not get too defensive in the course of laying out the spirited defense, but keep in mind, a lot of us poured our hearts and our souls into getting something to happen that ultimately didn’t happen the way we envisioned, or even close.
If you can allow me the indulgence, then, of whining about how the critics who came to define Night of Legends would have trouble booking a clown for a kids’ birthday party, much less a live wrestling TV show, there are some fun stories involving the likes of Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, Diamond Dallas Page, Lita, Tammy Sytch, Sean Waltman, The Rock ‘n Roll Express, Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer and others, as well as insight into how you get so many people with so many different competing interests to follow a script, or as the case may be, and as it turned out for us, at the worst possible time, not do that.
Spoiler Alert: I’m getting ahead of myself there.