BY JOSEPH CRANNEY
I laid face down on the floor of a dark room, my hands in my face, unable to speak.
I had just screamed at my TV after watching Brock Lesnar defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX, held last Sunday in New Orleans. The Undertaker, one of the World Wrestling Entertainment’s most celebrated performers, had been a perfect 21-0 in previous WrestleMania matches.
His winning streak at WrestleMania, the WWE’s biggest event of the year, was one of the company’s most storied traditions. A lifelong professional wrestling fan, I was paralyzed by the reality of “The Streak” coming to an end.
In a bizarre moment of fraternity, I sought comfort from the select few who remain in my pro-wrestling circle.
One of my good friends texted me, “I am speechless.” Others took to Twitter to express shock and even anger.
Of course, the outrage wasn’t directed at The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark Calaway, 49. The outcome of the match, like all professional wrestling matches, was pre-determined and surely signed off on by Calaway.
But people were shocked that the WWE would choose to end “The Streak” at all, especially at the hands of Lesnar, who hasn’t performed at WWE events regularly in more than a decade.
If “The Streak,” was going to end, it should have ended at the hands of one of the many legendary performers The Undertaker had beaten at WrestleMania, like Ric Flair, Triple H or Shawn Michaels.
At least, that’s how the thinking goes. I would mostly agree.
I’m writing this because I felt something Sunday: real emotion, real sadness, over two grown men faking it while wearing tights.
This is a defense of professional wrestling as a means for great storytelling. In an era of watered-down TV dramas that go for shock value rather than character development, the WWE stands out.
A quick note for the pro wrestling detractors: Yes, I know it’s fake.
But do you know what else is fake? Every other TV drama you watch. Don Draper isn’t an actual person, nor did a man name Walter White cook meth, but that doesn’t stop millions from tuning in on Sunday nights.
Storylines are storylines, whether they’re told as a stylized drama or through piledrivers and DDTs.
All I know is that I was more compelled by the outcome of The Undertaker’s storyline this past Sunday than I was by any plot twist in “Lost” or “Breaking Bad.”
Really, this was the death of a major character, the end of a decades-spanning storyline. It changes the WWE forever.
But that’s what great storytelling ought to do. It ought to surprise you, stir emotion and make you think, “What does this mean?”
In the end, I’m grateful that stories can continue to be told in a variety of interesting ways in an industry like the WWE, and that such an industry exists.
Joseph Cranney is a senior at Temple University and the editor in chief of The Temple News, the student newspaper. He also has worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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