The 5 Star Truth: Student Of The Game

Mike Steele

Triple H has long been called a student of the game, a title earned by wearing down his wrestling tapes to onion skin thin frailties. He watches endless hours of wrestling, including the matches on the under card. He wants to learn as much as possible to be as best as possible. Alex Shelley is also notorious for having a massive wrestling tape collection. His current gimmick focuses on his obsession where he tapes his own matches and every other match on the TNA card each night. It may be a gimmick, but it’s his real life too. Men like Triple H, Alex Shelley, and others aren’t just passionate about being in the ring, they are still passionate as fans. How obsessed are you?

To a certain degree, every wrestling fan who regularly visits the internet is obsessed with wrestling. We check wrestling headlines usually at least once a day. We join message boards to discuss it. We instant message our friends to talk about it. We start websites to pay tribute to it. We download matches and buy DVD’s to watch it. We buy T-Shirts and merchandise to wear and display it. We buy tickets even if it means paying over price on eBay to see it live. It’s hard to think about living without it, or even remember what the hell we cared about before we started liking it. It’s our passion, our obsession.

It sickens me sometimes that I get criticized for being a “smart fan” for taking it to another level and writing columns. The fact is that I criticize wrestling just the same as a casual wrestling fan would, only I go into slightly more detail and use terms like “face”, “heel”, and “worker”, instead of “good guy” and “bad guy”. I am criticized for observing wrestling and analyzing it instead of just sitting back and enjoying everything I see. The only difference between me and a mark is that I’ve seen wrestling long enough to know when things are stale and repetitive or when it is amazing and exciting. Yes, I look a little deeper, I take it beyond the television set. I analyze and criticize and praise. I am no different than anybody who has ever taken an interest in Shakespeare’s work and tried to analyze his work to enjoy it more. If you read Shakespeare for face value you will never take anything away from it. While you can certainly take wrestling at face value, I find it more enjoyable to dig deeper and get the details. If a wrestling promoter never studied trends, wrestling styles, storylines, gimmicks, etc. he would be a failure within the first 10 minutes of his opening show. Triple H studies wrestling. Does that mean he doesn’t really love it, that it’s just a job to him? No, it means that it’s his life, his passion. So why am I as a columnist looked down upon for doing the same thing?

I don’t go into information archives and try to remember the cards for entire Pay-Per-Views, although I’m sure I know people who do. I don’t remember every single storyline and every wrestler’s win/loss record. Honestly, besides reading the news headlines on various websites, all I do is watch weekly wrestling on television and download old matches sometimes. Hardly “studying” if you ask me. I’ll say the “S” word, smark. It’s become quite the dirty little word on the internet wrestling community. It’s gone from being about wrestling knowledge to being about an arrogant attitude. Smarks are the ones who go to shows and chant “BORING!” and heckle the wrestlers. They claim to love wrestling the most but seemingly bitch 100% and never really praise anything, as if they were wrestling fans when it was good and they only still watch out of habit now. They show a plethora of statistical knowledge for wrestling but often don’t show passion for wrestling at all. A lot of people who still call themselves smarks aren’t like that though. But many are (I apologize to anyone offended about my comments on smarks). I don’t consider myself to be a “student of the game” because I don’t replay every wrestling move to see how it’s executed and I don’t look up statistics, but I have great respect for those who do. As a columnist I merely try to use my opportunity to voice my opinion to show others my perspective. I love linking literary elements to wrestling. I love comparing different issues in wrestling to classic novels, movies, and music. I don’t pretend to have more wrestling knowledge than others. I admit that I think my logic is better than others at times, but everybody thinks that of themselves anyways, or there wouldn’t be any arguments.

As a wrestling fan, I do appreciate “work rate” and actual wrestling ability more than just someone flipping around the ring or being sluggish. I appreciate gimmicks, but I prefer the more realistic ones, or at least respectable ones. I still sit back and enjoy wrestling like a normal fan does. All I do differently is go into detail. When I was still a mark back in 1998-2000 I did give a bit more leeway to guys like Goldberg and Scott Steiner, but I’ve matured as a wrestling fan and have learned to appreciate Chris Benoit and wrestlers with actual ring ability more. I don’t mind John Cena and Batista being the Heavyweight Champs, but I would prefer watching Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle in the main event instead. That’s not a crime. After all, I do call myself a “wrestling fan”. A lot of guys in my position use their columns to relentlessly bash everything they see, but they don’t make up 100% of us. I try to keep things even. Some days I bitch about WWE and sometimes I praise it. It all depends of the issue. I truly enjoy wrestling, and I think that my motivation to write about it on a regular basis shows that, just as someone training to be a wrestler would, but to a different degree of course. And remember, this is basically volunteer work. I have never been paid for a single word I’ve ever written. I do this for the love of wrestling. I find it hard to believe that someone would fault me for loving wrestling so much that I would want to know everything about it, in and out. In a small way, I actually am a student of the game, but so are all wrestling fans, on various levels. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. (Hopes DDP doesn’t sue)

Thanks for reading. I know that most people reading this aren’t columnists so I’d like to see what readers have to say about “studying wrestling” or being a “smark”.

-Mike Steele

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