The Anti-Antagonist: The Ultimate Moments

Adam Gorzelsky

CM PunkWithout a doubt, professional wrestling fans tend to be an odd bunch…After all, we share a fervent passion for a form of entertainment that still is considered to be taboo or childish in the eyes of a large segment of the population. In my line of work, small talk with a client about a sporting event or TV series flows off the tongue and generates a rapport that eases the professional tension that often accompanies an attorney/client relationship…Mention the results of last night’s Raw and I can see thoughts of an attorney malpractice lawsuit already spinning in the client’s head.

Despite the harsh realities that we as individuals often face, I must say that professional wrestling fans maintain a level of dedication that rivals the support and love associated with any other entertainment medium. More importantly, no matter how many people think that we’re nothing more than a bunch of unintelligent hicks who dun like to see sum rasslin, the truth is that the joy derived from watching the product actually stems from a diverse number of sources.

I certainly don’t claim to speak for all fans, but I personally have observed three separate facets of my fandom that have brought me back on a weekly basis for as long as I can remember. Though not equally important and often in conflict, each facet provides a unique avenue of appreciation.

My first and probably most obvious source of enjoyment stems from so-called mark out moments…Those instances that tug on a heart string that has become finely tuned from years of dedication. Oftentimes, these moments have a neutral or even negative effect on the product as a whole, but like any guilty pleasure, the instances allow me to bask in the glow presented by the momentary emotional high.

A recent example of this phenomenon was Kevin Nash’s return at Summerslam. In the back of my mind, I anticipated the ultimate conclusion that Nash would have an unwarranted and negative influence on CM Punk’s momentum…Nonetheless, as Nash entered the ring and images of Big Daddy Cool and the NWO flashed through my mind, I enjoyed a shot of adrenaline that left me smiling for the remainder of the night. For better or for worse, I live for those moments.

My second major source of enjoyment results from a personal attachment that often develops towards specific individuals. These are the feel-good success stories…the Santino Marella’s and Zack Ryder’s of the world…individuals whose success may limit more “deserving” superstars, but damnit, individuals who have you jumping out of your seat when that success is achieved. We all have our favorites for reasons that may not be understood by the vast majority of other fans…Witnessing any such rooting interest reach a professional goal unquestionably provides a unique sense of fulfillment and pride.

The final source of enjoyment realized by virtue of my personal fandom is the ability to use the knowledge gained over years of viewership in order to function as an analyst of the product.  Anyone who has followed my column since I began at Wrestlezone understands that I am a fan first and an analyst as a distant second. I recognized years ago that my overall enjoyment of the product suffered greatly when I watched as a strict critic rather than a fan.

Nonetheless, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy playing armchair booker…After all, who doesn’t want to feel like an insider? Who doesn’t want to sit with a casual fan and have the ability to explain the real-world reasons behind why certain events are occurring? More importantly, who doesn’t want to feel the pride of opining about the potential success of a certain creative direction, only to see that direction result in a resounding success?

In my mind, the solo presence of any of these individual factors on a given night leaves me walking away with a sense that my time hadn’t been wasted. However, in the rare instances that these categories overlap, the ultimate thrill that one can experience as a fan is created…Such an instance, or at least the seeds of such an instance, occurred this past Monday night when Daniel Bryan became the number one contender for the WWE Championship.

For me, the prospect of seeing CM Punk and Daniel Bryan compete for the richest prize in the industry resulted in a true mark-out moment. The idea of following two careers from the days of dingy high school gyms to the biggest of the big leagues is quite the treat for a dedicated fan…Going a step forward and revolving the WWE Title picture around these two careers is the ultimate reward for this dedication.

I also had to smile at this development because of the personal respect that I have for both of these men. It goes without saying that you don’t work your way up through the Indy’s without hard work and perseverance toward the goal of fulfilling your dreams as a professional wrestler. However, in addition to this gritty path to the top, you also would be hard pressed to find anyone who has a bad thing to say about Phil Brooks or Bryan Danielson as individuals…They’re easy to support and provide a feel-good story no matter what heights they reach.

Finally, apart from the positive emotional reactions associated with their careers, the simple fact of the matter is that this upcoming feud makes perfect sense and largely will be successful from a creative and business standpoint. When Daniel Bryan first won the World Heavyweight Championship, I certainly experienced a feel-good and mark-out moment, but questions remained in my head regarding his ability to connect with the average fan and thus achieve success…Since that time, this question has been answered with a resounding YES!

These are two of the hottest and most marketable superstars in the company at this time…Combine this fact with the pure in-ring talent possessed by each individual and you are left with a recipe for a series of match-of-the-year caliber encounters.

At the end of the day, being a true fan of professional wrestling is something that you don’t outgrow regardless of the opinion held by the rest of society…Any stigma attached to this lifelong commitment becomes well worth it when your tenets of fandom converge to create an indelible memory. If my instincts are correct regarding the potential surrounding Punk/Bryan, the next few months will be spent experiencing these moments.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @PolishHMR if you have any questions, comments, or random thoughts throughout the week.

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