WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
I used to have a thing I’d say to people who were close to me.
“If, at any time, you think that I’m watching a lot of wrestling – like, significantly more than usual – say something. That’s a sign that I need extraction.”
A life lived, primarily, in one’s own head isn’t lived at all. All that could be said is that it existed, nothing more. Sometimes, I would need that extraction, not from wrestling itself, but from the bipolar-y bunker of my own mind. Too much wrestling means that the world has become completely unpalatable, and I’m retreating into this safe and comforting thing that somehow speaks to a place deeper within.
Pro wrestling is fringe. If, for example, three million people watch WWE’s Monday Night Raw – a show that a significant majority of the IWC would agree is the most viewed wrestling program in the United States – one might assume that wrestling fans, at most, make up somewhere between one and two-to-three percent of the national population.
So, there aren’t many of us – a fact, of which, we’re often (sometimes painfully) reminded.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, more people suffer from mental health conditions than watch pro wrestling. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that “one in four adults – approximately 61.5 million Americans – experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17 – about 13.6 million – live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.”
Which of these two things would you be more likely to, in the presence of others, say aloud?
“I’m a huge professional wrestling fan!”
“I go through constant treatment for (insert Type) bipolar disorder.”
Which is the more closely guarded secret? Both are mostly kept away from the glares of the legions of suburban guys in polo shirts – branded with their company’s logo – tucked into khakis. Cell phones sheathed in leather holsters, clipped to braided belts, putting $200 into the tanks of Escalades that they’re – secretly – only one bad month of selling insurance away from losing.
I guarantee that, over the course of any day, within any week of any month, I readily admit to both – right in that guy’s face. And in the face of Katie Homemaker, whose book clubs, mommylifestyle blogs, children’s clothing boutiques, and bottles of wine keep her safely separated from the weird or unusual.
I look people right in the eye when they question me. I continue to hold that eye contact until I’ve given them their answer, which goes something like this:
“I believe in professional wrestling. I believe in its ability to draw strong emotions out of people. I believe in myself. I believe in being extra passionate about my pursuits. I believe in setting a good example. I believe in the chance to change peoples’ long held perceptions. I believe in the power to make people cheer and boo, laugh and cry – in order to experience the best of our emotionally based lives.”
More statistics to mull over, again provided by NAMI:
Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
Approximately 1.1 percent of American adults— about 2.4 million people—live with schizophrenia.
Approximately 2.6 percent of American adults – 6.1 million people – live with bipolar disorder.
Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults – about 14.8 million people – live with major depression.
Approximately 18.1 percent of American adults – about 42 million people – live with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A study I’d like to conduct would involve finding out how many of the individuals that make up these percentages are also fans of pro wrestling. Does watching your favorite feds provide the same sense of security that it can for me? Do you sometimes find yourself in the emotional deep end, surrounded by DVD’s from Japanese promotions and watching WWE Network, all the while scouring sites like OWW for news and speculation – all in a quest to simply feel safe or less alone.
(While we’re on the subject of the WWE Network, I can tell you that there are days when I love it and days when I’m terrified of getting completely sucked in.)
I tend to try to stay optimistic but not so much as that I become naive. I know that the odds of this reaching a ton of people aren’t good. The percentages are far too drastic for me, in clear conscience, to candy coat. This is, mostly, for people who might be living in that overlapping zone, containing both strong emotional responses and a love of pro wrestling. Published numbers suggest that we should make efforts to connect.
— Daniel Stusiak, OWW columnist