Professional wrestling is not my thing. I say that with absolutely no ill will or judgment; much like the Lord of the Rings, the Animal Crossing franchise, or model trains, it just happens to be a field of fandom in which I lack any personal investment or interest. But my wife is a very big fan, and as a result I have wound up absorbing a great deal of knowledge about professional wrestling despite not having a fandom for it.
And you know… there are some parts of pro wrestling that really do broadly parallel almost any MMO, definitely. But there are also a lot of parts that seem to have very specific parallels with World of Warcraft in particular, to the point where I feel like examining those points in list format will be amusing to people familiar with one or both of these particular fandoms. If you’re familiar with neither, well… I included some pictures? Maybe you’ll still have fun.
1. Featuring lots of people who are usually mostly naked who would now feel weird with more clothing on
Wrestling kit is not formal clothing. This is not news to anyone. There’s a wide variety of different kit that most wrestlers wear, but it is frequently stuff that would not be allowed in any dining establishment outside of Denny’s. And yes, the first time you see it some jokes feel appropriate, just like the first time WoW’s red dragon queen walks out in thigh-high boots, a thong, and a metal bra, your first thought is to roll your eyes and find out which 13-year-old boy designed the outfit.
However… even though it’s ridiculous, after a certain point you get so used to seeing these people mostly naked than it starts feeling normal. You are so used to seeing orc guards wandering around in underwear and shoulderpads that seeing them in actual plate armor feels weird, like seeing Shinsuke Nakamura in a formal suit. It’s not inappropriate, but after a certain time it just seems off.
2. No matter the problem, fighting is the solution 90% of the time
Obviously this is part and parcel with the entire experience; no one expects a show about wrestling to involve no actual wrestling unless Brock Lesnar is on the card, and no one expects WoW to resolve problems without some fighting. The issue is that it comes up even when the stated problems aren’t logically going to be resolved with a fight. Feeling underappreciated? Let’s have a fight. Need a friend to support you? You should start throwing punches. Dishes piling up in the sink? It’s go time.
3. None of the big fights ever seem to resolve as much as they should
There are a lot of wrestling matches that are set up and hyped as being big things that are going to resolve long-running feuds or end with someone leaving the ring for good or whatever. Yet 90% of the time? These matches end in such a way as to not resolve anything. Maybe it’s a disqualified match with no real winner, maybe someone’s supposed to be thrown off the card but then just doesn’t go, maybe lots of things. Whatever the case, a lot of stuff that should end storylines doesn’t end them.
You know, sort of like how players in WoW have had to kill Kil’jaeden twice now and I don’t think anyone would really do more than sigh if he came back for round three.
4. Does a lot of things “for the fans” that the fans explicitly do not want
WWE, as a promotion, has a lot of wrestlers who have gotten over and are beloved by the fans. These are often not the people whom Vince McMahon wants to be over for various reasons. So what does he do to cater to the fans? Ignores them altogether while insisting that the fans love someone else altogether. Which, you know, is actually among the least evil thing that McMahon does on an average day, but still.
If you need a recent example of this for WoW, well, just look at the history of account-wide essences for the Heart of Azeroth. It’s a not-uncommon scenario, see.
5. Often involves writing people wildly out of character for the sake of a storyline
Sometimes you need a squash match, sometimes you need a big villain, sometimes you need an event to seem important. Do you not actually have any of the ground work set up for that? Forget it! Just make up new characterization and when the fans complain, tell them you’re doing it for the fans! See the last point, yes.
6. Frequently features Make-a-Wish stories that will make you openly sob
If you’re already familiar with the story of Ahab Wheathoof, go look up the sheer number of Make-a-Wish requests John Cena fulfills and start sobbing over that. If you already knew about the latter and not the former, well, reverse the run order. Point is that this stuff is going to make you cry.
7. The “bad guys” tend to be way more interesting
Are there fans of Anduin Wrynn? I mean, there have to be, right? But I’ve never met one and never heard about them. Fans of Sylvanas, though… I know there are people out there who like Sylvanas, including me, even those who are fully aware that she’s evil and are annoyed at how terribly she’s been written over the past few years. The villains just tend to be given space for more complex motivations and things to do.
Similarly, heels in wrestling tend to be a lot more fun than the faces. Sure, you’re supposed to be rooting against the heels, but the result is that a lot of them have a much broader range of personalities and archetypes and much wilder gimmicks. It’s hard to cheer for the “good guy” when the person he’s fighting is way more fun to watch.
8. Often more fun for memes and fan creations
Every fandom has its own memes, of course, but wrestling is a goldmine for bizarre memes. Some of them even make their way into the mainstream by virtue of being so wild, and the fact that often the events in question make no more sense in context than out of context. Like, I can watch Titus Worldslide dozens of times and it still makes me giggle every single time.
Similarly, if you’ve never seen some of the amazing WoW fan projects that have come out over the years, you haven’t been watching. There are definitely times when the art, fiction, and sometimes even full games based out of the game have been more interesting than the main game itself. Like now, for example.
9. Can often deliver surprising emotional impact non-fans wouldn’t expect
You might think that professional wrestling is silly, and that would be because it is silly. But it’s been pointed out many times that professional wrestlers are basically just buff theater kids acting out stories with minimal props and stage dressing, and sometimes the stories and character interplay can surprise people who know nothing about the medium and don’t understand how much emotion can actually be delivered in the format.
Everyone who’s watching it knows it’s not real, that it’s all an act and that kayfabe is in full effect. And yet sometimes that doesn’t matter. You get wrapped up in it, and sometimes watching people struggle and fight and fail and pull back together and overcome obstacles can produce something unexpectedly moving or touching even if you don’t think the format is capable of it.
And it’s not alone in that. I may not have, say, a deep personal investment in the professional trajectory of Drew Gulak. But I still get a feeling when I watch the Wrathgate cinematic. The right strain of instruments can bring me back to the shores of Stranglethorn. There are many places where even in a silly format, these moments had a deep and emotional impact for me. And if you don’t play, you might not understand… but if you do, you certainly get it even if you don’t share the same personal memories.
10. Substantially improved by the presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
To be fair, he’s never been involved in WoW, but I feel like he would substantially improve it, don’t you?