This year marks the first time since 2008 that the Staples Center hasn’t hosted SummerSlam, World Wrestling Entertainment’s second largest annual event (behind WrestleMania, obvs). But fear not Angelenos: we get the rematch. WWE descends on L.A. October 25 for Hell in a Cell live from Staples Center, and dare we say this is possibly—nay, probably—the biggest main event in WWE’s Los Angeles history: Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (in the Cell, no less) is a huge get for SoCal wrasslin’ fans.
For the uninitiated, this fight boils down to a former UFC Champion vs. a 50-year-old fictional zombie fighting in a cage with a lid on it. A year and half after Lesnar halted the Undertaker’s 21-0 streak at WrestleMania, ‘Taker got his revenge in Brooklyn in a match dubbed “too big for WrestleMania,” which is like calling a football game “too big for the Super Bowl.” But ‘Taker’s win was not without controversy. L.A. will host the final showdown in a steel cage, which, if we’re being real, is the only true place to settle any score. But before you can get excited about this epic matchup, you need to understand a few things about the sport. On the off chance you’re agog to make the dive into the squared circle, here are the answers to four of wrestling’s most common FAQs.
“Isn’t it fake?”
Of course it is. So are the characters in an opera, but they’re still using their voice as an instrument for storytelling. WWE characters are broad and often silly, but that doesn’t diminish audience interest—is Taken any less fun once you realize Liam Neeson didn’t really kill those sex-smuggling gangsters? (Barely.) Wrestlers are entertainers, which is why we’re seeing them enjoy some success in Hollywood: Dwayne Johnson is the top earner on the silver screen, and both John Cena and Dave Bautista made stellar debuts in Trainwreck and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively.
“Who watches this garbage?”
You mean besides Jon Stewart? Get ready for the statistical SmackDown. WWE programing has a viewership of 13 million per week in the U.S. alone. It airs in over 175 countries and in 25 different languages. Aside from Stewart, other surprising folks are into the sport, including writer Bill Simmons, screenwriter and director Max Landis, and Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan. And you’re always likely to see producer Rick Rubin in the front row of SummerSlam and WrestleMania. Bottom line: wrestling can no longer be considered the sport of “nose pickers” and “basement dwellers.”
“Isn’t it completely sexist?”
It can be, yes. But it’s getting better thanks in part to the real success of female athletes like Ronda Rousey and Serena Williams. WWE is seeing an uptick in the quality of women grapplers, and they’re calling it a #DivasRevolution. It is a legitimate effort to establish that women can fight while also passing the Bechdel Test. While the movement has been slow to catch on over on Monday Night Raw, it’s immensely successful on the developmental show NXT, which shows emotional, show-stealing matches from women like Sasha Banks and Bayley. After her appearance with The Rock at WrestleMania 31, we may even see Rousey at WrestleMania 32 next April.
The night: Historic. The moment: Electric. The Rock, Ronda &the WWE Universe: Magic. We’re just gettin’ started… pic.twitter.com/mUOoBIFsaQ
— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) March 30, 2015
“Isn’t it a little racist?”
Oof. Admittedly, that’s a tougher one. But—again—it’s getting better. Eddie Guerrero, Alberto Del Rio, Mark Henry, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were all great champions of the past decade—who also happen to be minorities. More often than not, however, we have to admit that wrestlers of color are relegated to offensive stereotypes. With the recent rise of The New Day and other groups like them, we are seeing a marked movement away from standard labels. New Day is doing for wrestling what Shonda Rhimes is doing for television: chipping away at the status quo.