Midway through Monday’s Raw, John Cena confronted Paul Heyman in the ring, determined to threaten him to the point that Heyman’s client, Brock Lesnar, would appear to defend his advocate. When it seemed that Lesnar wouldn’t show, Cena grumbled, “There is no beast,” a reference to Lesnar’s nickname. “It’s just you.”
For most wrestling fans, this probably conjured moments of wrestling past, when weasel managers were left to face their antagonists without their burly wards to defend them. But to me, that line brought back memories of a book I read as a kid, The Monster at the End of This Book.1 In it, Grover, of Sesame Street fame, discovers by reading the title page that there is a monster looming, specifically at the conclusion of the very book that he currently inhabits. One can imagine how this would be a jolt to mild-mannered Grover, and how his cartoon terror embodies the persistent scary-movie fears of his audience. Grover implores the reader not to turn each page, tying ropes and building walls to delay the inevitable progress of the story, knowing that each new plot point only brings them closer to the monster. It’s something of a triumph wrapped in embarrassment when it’s revealed that the monster is none other than Grover himself. He had nothing to fear all along, and neither did we.
I was one of those petrified kids turning the pages. I also used to tremble in fear at various monsters on my TV screen — King Kong Bundy, Kamala, the Road Warriors (when they took to using the spikes on their shoulder pads to gouge the eyes out of portly blond men). If I were 5 years old right now, I’d probably fear nothing more than Brock Lesnar, and I’d have nightmares about his sweaty, tree-trunk arms and his crumpled grin. After SummerSlam, I would have been heartbroken, but moreover I would have been frightened for the safety of all other wrestlers as well as that of my family and probably that of the president. Who knows how far Lesnar’s stampede of terror could go?