Living vicariously is usually a term associated with a father who didn’t accomplish everything that he wanted to in life and tries to live out his dreams through his son. But we all live vicariously. It’s the only way to get through life without going insane. We go to the movies to escape our monotonous lives and try to wrap ourselves up in the larger than life stories, working out our demons and our personal problems through other characters. When I was a little kid and I first saw the movie Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he had to save his kidnapped daughter, I identified with the plot because at the time I could envision my father as an unbreakable hero who would take down a seven nation army and climb the highest mountain to save me. Now, years later, as I contemplate having my own family some day and look down upon my young cousin as if I were responsible for her in some parental way, I can imagine being the father and kicking ass and stopping at nothing to save my child. There are so many different scenarios that occur that relate to us and reach out to us. They help us to deal with our problems inside, having found satisfaction in a character exacting revenge on an arch enemy, instead of having to pull a gun on our own pestering foes in real life. As I’ve stated in many of my columns before, wrestling is a form of escapism. We all live vicariously through wrestling, and I am the Vicarious Champion.
Wrestling, when particularly storyline oriented such as in WWE, allows us to mentally kick someone’s ass several times a week, several times a night even. Sure, I don’t always picture my enemy’s head pasted over Eddie Guerrero while I watch Rey Mysterio totally own his ass every night, but it’s mostly subconscious. There is a reason that we gravitate towards individual characters and individual styles. Those who are more into the supernatural and darker stuff will be more attracted to Undertaker and Kane. Those who are into the bad ass rebel type of character will be attracted to Stone Cold and Undertaker from 2000-early 2004. Others who like the smoother, cooler gimmick will relate to The Rock and Carlito. As a wrestling fan I went through my phases. Sometimes I felt like if I had a choice I would rather be Stone Cold. Other times I would wished I could be Undertaker. Eventually I felt myself being drawn to all of the characters in different ways. In elementary school I kind of carried myself like I felt I was unimportant and therefore was open to people messing with me. People would try to walk all over me and I would end up getting into fights a lot. As I started watching wrestling more and more, I started to emulate the characters in subtle ways. I started to emulate the way that Stone Cold would walk to the ring, a sort of power walk that told people to get out of the f***ing way before something bad happened. Again, it was a subconscious thing for the most part. But people took notice and kind of backed off and displayed more respect, and in some cases fear. To this day I am always in a half power walk, never just calmly strolling by unless I am walking with someone and I slow down for them. People always think that I’m pissed off because I just automatically look that way, or perhaps am lost in a day dream which involves me kicking someone’s ass. I always just find myself lost in my own thoughts, imagining power slamming someone or chokeslamming them through a table. The point is that imagining myself in those situations helps me on the outside too. I can gain an extra boost of energy by thinking about Hulk Hogan and him hulking up to Jimi Hendrix’s Voo Doo Child blaring on the arena speakers. By living through these characters and feeling their emotions throughout the day, my own relatively uneventful life becomes filled with excitement and a larger than life feeling. Sometimes I need to let it go though. I have to stop and look around the room, realizing that no one has a chip on their shoulder or wants to break out into a full bar room brawl. That’s always what I’m anticipating in the back of my mind though. Sometimes I have to snap myself back to reality.
When watching television I become engrossed in the matches, beginning to feel the struggle of Chris Benoit as he tries so hard to make his opponent tap out. I imagine myself as being witty as I think of all the brilliant things I could say to embarass my enemy as I project masterpieces of freestyling comedy in the voice and tempo of The Rock. I could never do this in real life, but it’s always nice to be able to imagine that I could at the end of the day. It’s always nice to think to yourself that you could take out any opponent that you felt like if you had to. Unrealistic or not, it inflates ego, boosts confidence, and helps you get through your day without being miserable. I don’t have to punch out my boss because Stone Cold did it for me. I don’t have to tell someone that cries racist constantly to shut up, because so many people have told Hassan to shut up already. It relieves the tension. It gives voice where I don’t have any and takes action in places I can’t even step foot in. Often times scenarios are played out which could never happen in real life, and that’s where the real satisfaction is. We will never see Earth in danger of being taken over by another planet, but we can imagine it and that’s why watching War of the Worlds is so satisfying, it feeds our imagination and relates to us in a much less extreme way. Nobody acts like the Undertaker in real life, but watching it on TV feeds our darker side. The Rock feeds the side of us that wants to be witty and energetic and charismatic, but never sees the light of day to that extreme.
We love to watch the success of others. We are proud to see legends like Ric Flair and Terry Funk leave their legacy. We are proud to see new champions such as John Cena arise. When we support someone and see them succeed it’s like watching ourselves succeed. We cheer for them because they represent a part of us. But, as much as we love to see a happy ending, we are a terrible bunch and we love to see people fail. We love to watch the misery of others, not because we intend to be evil but because it’s just part of our human nature and psychology. Often times ratings aren’t earned by reality shows because people want to see the winner, they are earned by people tuning in to see who will be kicked off next. They want to see the drama and the fights. A lot of times we do want to see a wrestler screw up and fall prey to a drug habit, or screw up and get fired, as sick as it sounds, because we love reading the juicy headlines every day and because it’s another struggle for us to witness our heroes face. There IS a reason and a justification for this. Man (and woman) is inherently prone to destruction. Destruction is a necessary path to building and creating new things. That is why we are content to see a career come full circle and watch wrestlers have a proper retirement.
Positive events occur from negative events. War, as disgusting and brutal as it is, gives way to amazing joy, culture, art, technology, and over all improvement of life. After World War 1 there was the Roaring ’20s, when condoms were invented and an entire generation got rich and partied. After World War 2 we had the Doo Wop era which was filled with euphoric music and a wholesome theme of family values. During the Vietnam War the Counter Culture era began and we saw amazing music, art, poetry, and love. After war we always see a boost of technology and the advancement and improvement of daily life as a whole. I live in the city of Phoenix now, which was named so after being destroyed and rebuilt, so I am forced to take optimism and look at injury as recovery and drug use as sobriety and basically every obstacle as an obstacle to overcome.What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I am proud to look at Eddie Guerrero, William Regal, Chris Benoit, and any wrestler who has ever faced any obstacles whatsoever and say that they are better after they faced these struggles. This represents the part of us that sometimes may purposely desire to challenge ourselves. It’s like when Rocky was training and many of us could feel his hunger and passion, and imagined that we could do the same thing and eventually make it to the top if we really wanted to. Sometimes it’s more simple than that. As a kid I saw my cousin get shots frequently for his medical problems. Of course I knew that shots hurt and I thought it was pretty cool that he had to deal with that pain because it made him seem tougher. I wanted to be cool like that and face that pain because I thought it would make me tough. Well it turns out that I did indeed have to face that pain, every single week and it hurt like a motherf***er. Looking back I see what a dumbshit I was, but would I take all that pain back? Absolutely not. It DID make me tougher, whether I faced the problem as bravely as I could have or not. While now I am smarter and don’t wish for that kind of pain to make myself as tough any more, sometimes I do choose obstacles for myself, knowing that I have a reward ahead. The plan was for me to go to a local community college (Santa Monica College) for 2 years and then attend a university for the remaining two, most likely locally as well. How ever, I decided that I seriously needed to detach myself from being dependent and force myself to grow up and face life before I headed towards being “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” myself. So here I am, out of state, still dependent on my family for financial support, but not dependent on them babying me and doing everything for me. In case you forgot what the point was (because I almost did), I’m trying to say that we don’t just relate to the battles of the on screen characters, we FEEL their emotion in every match.
To eloborate on my previous point, besides wanting to see our heroes face pain and overcome it we also want something new and fresh to evolve. We constantly anticipate “The Next Big Thing”. As a child I would play with my wrestling action figures and imagine wrestlers being built up into their prime and into their retirement stage in minutes. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t content with just imagining a solitary match for the ages taking place. I would always have to imagine a wrestler going through his whole career until he bored me and I moved onto the next guy. That is how I watch wrestling. I am constantly waiting for the new comer to become a solid mid carder, achieve main event status, become a solid champion, and retire. Only it doesn’t happen that fast, if at all. I believe that this is the frustration with a lot of wrestling fans. In the back of their mind they have a scenario mapped out for a wrestler’s entire career, hoping that this and that happens, then get upset when they take another direction. I think that a lot of us are waiting for our brainchild to come to fruition, waiting for our own hopes and dreams to be played out on television.
In the end, no matter how much we love our heroes we want to get a feeling of closure, we NEED to see a proper retirement. Then, sometimes, we wish for them to make their come back and go through the motions again, only to retire once more. When the opportunity for closure has been lost and we see our beloved champions crumble into jobbers, it hurts. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it hurts, but it does something to hurt our own ego, our own hopes. I know that I want to leave a legacy behind some day. That entails not simply fading away, but going out with a bang, not floundering and being torn to pieces in the end. There is a poem entitled “To An Athlete Dying Young” in which the message is that it’s better to go out on top and be remembered than to be surpassed and left broken after your prime. When we look back at Owen Hart and think about what could have been, we often see greatness that could have been his career. Wrestlers never speak poorly of him and fans hold him in high regard. If he didn’t die, maybe he would have been a huge success or maybe his career would have went sour. But as long as we don’t know, he’ll always be remembered as a legend that never was, instead of a jobber that never was. Everything that I want in life has been represented somehow at some time by wrestling, especially when storylines are involved. The Matt Hardy/Lita angle reads loud and clear to me now, as my family faces a similar f***ed up situation, being betrayed by someone who we welcomed into our family. Ironically, I was watching a re-run of Nip/Tuck and someone quoted the Bible, saying, “Beware. The Devil comes in the form of a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing”. The storyline involving Dominick somewhat relates to my childhood, or the mess that it almost was, struggling between my two parents. Every time Chris Benoit steps into the ring and gives it his all, I remember something as simple as my Weight Training class and how hard I pushed it sometimes, taking my body to the limit. Wrestling is not my way of life, but it is my life as a fan. It is my inspiration. It is my only reason for writing, my primary reason for getting into Graphic Design, and it drives me to go on when sometimes it seems that there is no reason to go on. But in my mind I’m not just any wrestling fan, I live it in my head every day, and I am the Vicarious Champion. Are you?
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