WWE and Wrestling
Camp is not widely celebrated in the media, but that doesn’t change the pervasive hold it has on society. Some shows are written with the express purpose of being camp, but these are mostly lower-profile or niche shows. Granted, the internet has made more people aware of “so bad it’s good” ideas, shows, or dramatic moments in the media. Tired jokes have become memes, and memes have become tired jokes. But as far as camp media goes, it can be difficult to find those rare gems that have the perfect balance of trashiness, confusing plot lines, and bad writing. So I have made it my mission to find good camp media to share with you. This issue, I will be going out of my comfort zone a bit and sharing about the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.), classic wrestling, and the current face of the industry.
Some of the first well known and widely celebrated camp wrestlers include Andŕe the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and Macho Man Randy Savage. Even before joining the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) in 1973 (now known as the WWE), André the Giant had a pro wrestling career. Though André René Roussimoff was born French, he worked in Montreal as Jean Frere, and then in Japan as Monster Roussimoff. Hogan, discovered by Vince McMahon (pronounced “McMann”) Sr., debuted against André the Giant in 1979 and won. Terry Gene Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, gained such a following that hype for the Hulk gained the nickname “Hulkamania.” Hogan famously allied with Macho Man Randy Savage, the best known wrestler of the time. These three men, and many other pros, had ridiculously colorful stage personas, with bright unitards, intro music, and catchphrases. Their passion in their roles is a large factor in the camp view of their clips, matches, and personas today.
Around the time of the WWF women’s wrestling was also getting a foothold among wrestling fans. GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), the women’s pro wrestling league and precursor to our current league, Total Divas, is also ridiculously camp. Out of the more than 500 actresses and models who auditioned, 12 were selected to go through 6 weeks of training under Cynthia Peretti, who wrestled under the moniker Princess Jasmine. She and the other women formed GLOW, which, like most wrestling, doubles as a reality TV show behind the scenes. The personality of their characters, the costumes (sometimes including heavy makeup), and the uniqueness, at that point in time, of watching women wrestling rather than men, contributed to GLOW’s popularity, both at its debut in 1986, and in smaller circles today. Recently, Netflix has made a historical fiction remake of GLOW that absolutely qualifies as camp as well.
No article on the campiness of wrestling would be complete without discussing Donald Trump. There is a famous clip of him body slamming, beating, and shaving Vince McMahon at the twenty third Wrestlemania. In the context of his presidency, Trump’s past can be seen as a whole new level of cringe. Through a camp lens, this can be considered entertaining, but as a person, I just gotta say that this was not my cup of tea. I can tolerate wrestling (most of the time), but I have difficulty seeing the value in actions like Trump’s. Since I cannot give an unbiased presentation of Trump’s pro wrestling career, I will abstain from anything more than this short diatribe.
Current wrestling is campy in its own right. The popularity of icon John Cena is so widespread that he has appeared on cereal boxes, but for almost everyone else in WWE, you have to watch the show to know anything about them. Roman Reigns, the current WWE champion, is hated by wrestling fans for (presumably) his stage persona. Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Brock Lesnar, and Vince McMahon, Jr. (Vince McMahon, Sr.’s son) are also popular current wrestlers. Total Divas, the current women’s wrestling league, still has a presence, but is not loved by all WWE fans. Rivalries, alliances, and betrayals clash in and out of the ring in WWE, and the often subpar acting only makes it better. Current and past wrestling is good camp material, and the best part about getting into it now is that there is a lot of it out there to explore!
- Anna Lisa Goodman '18