Charlotte Observer – June 10, 2000
By Ken Garfield, Religion Editor
Some people might find the descriptions below offensive. But to understand the popular world of professional wrestling, we believe you need to understand exactly what children are cheering on in arenas and on television.
With everyone talking about whether professional wrestling is bad for children, we thought we’d head over to the Charlotte Coliseum and see what all the fuss is about.
Here, then, is what your children saw last month as the World Wrestling Federation taped matches for two of its nationally televised TV shows before a near-sellout crowd of 16,000:
A character named Road Dogg climbs into the ring, writhes, gestures with both hands toward his crotch and tells the crowd that if they don’t like it, he’s got two words for them. At that, the crowd roars back, “Suck it.”
A character named the Godfather, whose motto is “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” struts to the ring with five scantily clad women known as the Ho Train. Kids in the crowd cheer and hold up posters that say, “I Am The Ho Train Conductor” and “Wanted: Tickets For Ho Train.” A group of guys, each holding one letter, stand up with a sign that spells out:
In one of his two matches, the Godfather takes on two men who are wearing what appear to be cone-shaped plastic bras over their fishnet tops.
Handmade posters are everywhere: “Drunk & Proud.” “Edge, you want me.” Edge is a handsome wrestler. “Princess My (vulgarism).” Princess is bad-girl Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWF owner Vince McMahon.
Some of the posters are inspired by religion: “Austin 3:16” is born of the devotion shown to anti-establishment hero Stone Cold Steve Austin. “Worship the Sock” pays tribute to Mick Foley, a good guy who used to play with a talking hand puppet.
Instead of posters, many kids hold up foam-rubber hands with the middle finger raised. That’s in honor of Austin, who guzzles beer, spews profanity and gives his enemies the finger. In Charlotte, the 3 1/2-hour show ends with Austin blowing up the tour bus of his enemies parked behind the Coliseum. He celebrates by drinking multiple beers in the center of the ring. The crowd goes wild.
A character named Val Venis is supposed to be a porn star. He comes out wrapped in a dark towel, wriggling like a striptease artist as images too suggestive to share here appear on a giant video screen. At one point in his match, Venis bumps and grinds over a prostrate foe.
Another character, Chyna, wears a bikini-style, black leather outfit that covers little of her breasts and is adorned with chains. She fights men.
Crowds gather around a counter to buy souvenirs with such sayings as “Pimpin’ — Just Say Ho,” “On Your Roody Poo Candy (vulgarism)” and “Not for the Innocent.”
A man on crutches buys a $25 T-shirt from a clerk who hands him his change and jokes, “Get your crippled (vulgarism) out of here.” The man on crutches laughs.
Some teens wear black T-shirts emblazoned with the likeness of the wrestler the Undertaker and the phrase, “The Dark Days.” He was part of a recent story line that saw Stone Cold Steve Austin buried alive one time and crucified another. The Undertaker was not part of the recent story line that hinted at oral sex and oral sex involving a transvestite.
A tag team named T&A — one poster in the crowd states “Show Us T&A” — is led by a buxom blonde named Trish Stratus. At one point, a male wrestler is about to drop her onto a table from six feet above, but her legs are wrapped around his neck, and his face is buried in the lower part of her body. She begins kissing him all over. He appears hypnotized. He spares her.
As T&A march to the ring, Stratus appears in a brief, soft-porn-style film on the video screens. She is seen with barely covered breasts, rolling around on a table, whispering something that can’t be heard over the crowd’s roar.
The Big Show, a 7-foot-tall good guy, comes out in a black T-shirt that declares him a “Big Nasty (vulgarism).” Triple H, the baddest of the bad guys, comes out, and the crowd chants a string of vulgarisms. Vince McMahon, the WWF owner and a bad guy who is part of a story line involving mass scheming and betrayal, comes out, and the crowd chants a string of vulgarisms again.
Throughout the evening, wrestlers grab a microphone and taunt their foes with language peppered by “damn” and “hell.” Some of the rough stuff is occasionally edited out for television.
In the middle of the evening, one of the ring announcers, a tall woman in a short skirt, performs the national anthem. A man in the crowd mutters loud enough for those around him to hear that he doesn’t want to hear her sing: “I want to see you strip.”
The fictional story lines are filled with feuding families. Two brothers who form the Hardy Boyz tag team square off and wind up socking each other with metal ladders, garbage cans, garbage can lids and brooms. One sprays another in the face with a fire extinguisher.
A 401-pound wrestler named Rikishi wrestles in a black thong-style outfit that covers very little of a rump the size of New Jersey. His best move against another 400-pounder is crashing his exposed rear end into the man’s midsection. When he’s not wrestling, Rikishi is patting his posterior and dancing.
That’s pretty much it.
We’ll leave the arguing over the effect of all this to psychologists, sociologists and parents. What’s certain is that the wrestling show drew 5,000 more people than the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets drew a night earlier, and you could hardly hear yourself think for all the shrieking young people who stayed out late on a school night.
Near the end of the show, a middle school student notices me taking notes and asks what I’m doing.
“I’m writing a column for the paper about professional wrestling,” I tell him.
“Is it going to be good or bad?”
“Neither,” I answer. “It’s going to be what it is.”