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The perils of post-WrestleMania psychosis

A tale of a non-wrestling fan’s experience with WrestleMania.

Post-Mania Psychosis (PMP) is a rare, poorly defined, yet devastating psychiatric condition.

Every year, tens to hundreds of patients, find themselves unable to re-acclimate to life after WrestleMania. The pageantry, the drama, and Rusev leaves them unable to recalibrate to their baseline affect and to separate real-world logic and practices from those of the squared circle which, aggregately, cause the patient to have a dissociative crisis. Its etiology is uncertain however, those who lack prior exposure/immunization to professional wrestling and are then thrust into the overwhelming, borderline traumatic environment that is WrestleMania are typically the most afflicted.

My co-worker is one such victim.

He previously had no formal exposure to or interest in professional wrestling but attended WrestleMania due to familial obligations. He was seated only several rows behind the ring and had an unobstructed view to the ring. His case, therefore, can be interpreted as a model study of the symptomatology and severity of PMP due to his susceptibility to the disorder in the context of a maximal exposure.

Below is a transcript of an interview that I conducted with my co-worker. It is both a harrowing testimonial of the devastation of PMP as well a recommended treatment course for those around you who may have be affected. My co-worker will be referred to as a pseudonym, Walter Walterson, to protect his anonymity.

Rusev Day and Initial Reactions

Walter Walterson (WW): Happy Rusev Day!

Jay Barrett (JB): Happy Rusev Day, Walter. Thank you for joining me.

WW: What does one do on Rusev day? How am I to act?

JB: Um, well. The rituals haven’t really been defined but it’s a moot point. I don’t t—

WW: What do you mean hasn’t been defined!? What do you mean moot point? If this is supposed to be a daily Bulgarian holiday, aren’t we being disrespectful by not —

JB: Walter, it’s not an actual holiday —

WW: WHAT!? Bulgaria lies to its people every day then? Bulgaria pays tribute to Rusev for nothing!!

JB: No, no. Calm down. It’s just a wrestling thing. It’s just a gimmick. You know, like a marketing strategy for something.

WW: THEY F***ING LIED. I’ve wished our whole office “Happy Rusev Day” for like two weeks.

JB: Walter, settle down a bit brother. Let’s start at the beginning. You don’t know anything about pro wrestling much less have ever been to a show, but you found yourself at the biggest show possible for your first exposure. What was the first thing that went through your mind?

WW: Hyenas.

JB: Hyenas!?

WW: Yes. I thought there were hyenas everywhere like in Lion King. All the noise and the chanting and I thought a hyena was going to kill my family and I.

JB: But we were in New Jersey, there are no hyenas in New Jersey.

WW: I don’t know anything about wrestling. For all I know it can attract hyenas and when I walked into MetLife Stadium I sensed danger and hyenas. I immediately found my seat and started watching the match. I felt that if I drifted into the crowd, I’d be safe from the hyenas.

JB: I see. And what was the first match you saw?

WW: Zack Ryder and his friend against two other people.

JB: What was your take?

WW: I was immediately taken aback by Zack Ryder and his physique. He looked like a Greek God sculpted from the dirt and was clearly faster and stronger than the other people. Zack Ryder, I thought, probably wins every match.

JB: Every match?

WW: Yes. I thought he probably has won every match unless he faced someone more jacked than him. Is that not the law of the jungle that is full of hyenas?

JB: What if I told you he rarely ever wins and is only used sparingly on programming?

WW: That makes no sense and is a good example of why this stuff is fa–

JB: SCRIPTED! We don’t use the “F” word Walter. The hyenas will get us.

WW: Ryder can protect us from the hyenas.

JB: If you only knew.

Enter Beast Slayer, Exit Logic

WW: The next thing I remember was Brock Lesnar and his fat friend. I know Brock Lesnar from UFC and figured that he would win the match but then I saw Beast Slayer.

JB: Beast Slayer? You mean Seth Rollins?

WW: Maybe? It said Beast Slayer on the big screen and to me he seemed like a paladin that could strike down beasts and demons, someone you could be friends with.

JB: And this impressed you.

WW: Of course. Beast Slayers are needed and the hyenas started to make noise when he came out — I assume out of fear. And, like when Ryder won, him winning made sense.

JB: But he cheated with a low blow. Is that something a paladin Beast Slayer would do?

WW: He used special tactics to slay the beast and become Beast Slayer. This part of the show was inspirational to me. The next thing was AJ Smith and his long hair fighting the RKO guy from the memes.

JB: And your thoughts?

WW: AJ Smith had excellent hair which I greatly respected. He reminded me of The Winter Soldier and I love the Winter Soldier.

JB: I see and —

WW: OH AND RICOCHET!!!!

JB: You liked Ricochet?

WW: I LOVED Ricochet. He’s a crack cocaine guy.

JB: Uh, what do you mean crack cocaine guy?

WW: He just kept moving and flipping, like he was on crack cocaine.

JB: Jesus.

WW: I imagine that’s what crack-cocaine does to you, you become Ricochet.

JB: I don’t think cra–

WW: LISTEN!!! No, OMG I forgot about Cyborg.

JB: Cyborg???

WW: Yea, Cyborg. From Europe. He swung Ricochet for like 4 minutes.

JB: OH! You mean Cesaro, the Swiss Cyborg.

WW: He was intense. I loved it. He just grabbed the crack cocaine guy and spun him forever. He said, “Oh you jump a lot? No problem, get spun. I spin your ass.”

JB: You liked that part?

WW: It was incredible watching this guy’s ass get spun. It was like he was taking him on safari.

JB: Safari? Hyenas? You seem to be using a lot of jungle terminology.

WW: YES. Jungle. I felt I was in a jungle. Lost and alone with only the Beast Slayer between the hyenas and I.

JB: Well, were you starting to enjoy the jungle?

WW: NO! Absolutely not. The crowd was way too loud and I just didn’t get it.

JB: It’s like a rock concert, the crowd was excited to see their favorites. And what about the athleticism and the setting? Like you just said you enjoyed the spinning.

WW: I was impressed with that and Zack Ryder’s back muscles but the people just kept taking me out of it.

JB: What do you mean?

WW: Like for The Unicorn Men.

JB: You mean The New Day and Kofi?

WW: Yeah, Kofi. Maybe it’s because I don’t know anything about him, I don’t know but this woman behind me…

JB: What was she doing?

WW: She kept yelling, “C’MON KOFI” I was like “He can’t hear you!”

JB: I mean we’ve all been there and that happens at every sports-style event.

WW: But that’s it! It’s not a sport, they’re tricking me. I was trying to enjoy it but she kept going “GET UP KOFI!” or “WATCH OUT KOFI” or “DON’T DO THAT KOFI”

JB: But —

WW: “MAKE GOOD CHOICES KOFI!” “PAY YOUR TAXES KOFI!” “LOOK BOTH WAYS KOFI”

JB: Walter, I think you’re getting hung up on —

WW: “WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT KOFI!” “BRUSH YOUR TEETH KOFI!” I kept wanting to yell, “It’s not f***ing real, woman!” God, I hate that woman.

JB: But I mean no one was saying it’s real. If I told you it has more in common with the Marvel movies than it does the UFC, would that change your mind?

WW: No! It’s presented as a real competition —

JB: In an ironic way. They’re very much leaning into the story/ characters whereas the actual “matches” are only meant to serve those ends.

WW: But at least Marvel has logic within the context of their stories. Zack Ryder should never lose but you tell me he always does. If Ryder doesn’t win, nothing makes sense.

JB: Walter, whatever you do, don’t look at old Zack Ryder matches.

WW: I ALREADY DID! And that’s why I’m so mad!

JB: So the fate of pro wrestling lies on Zack Ryder’s shoulders?

WW: Yes. Those boulders he crafted should never be pinned to the mat. Just so much doesn’t make sense. Like the “Money Man.”

JB: “Money Man?”

WW: You know, “Here comes the money….” “Money Man.” Who said he was the best in the world?

JB: Well that was the point, he’s just being a prick about things.

WW: BUT LISTEN! He still lost!

JB: Well, he won actually.

WW: WHAT?! He got wrecked and thrown off the thing!!!

JB: Yeah, but, Money Man’s shoulders were on top of his opponent’s.

WW: SEE!!! Look at how stupid this is. Nothing makes sense
JB: And how —

WW: And The Demon vs. Bobby Whiplash.

JB: Bobby Lashley.

WW: Whiplash had 100 pounds AT LEAST on Demon and I assumed he’d make Demon into a paper airplane but Demon won. I was astonished and confused. Whiplash should have won from a physical standpoint but I was willing to accept him losing because Demon professes to be a Demon. That makes sense — But where was Beast Slayer???

JB: What do you mean?

WW: If Beast Slayer is a paladin, The Demon should fall under the purview of his justice.

JB: But they don’t have a storyline, it wouldn’t make sense–

WW: No! If you claim to be a Beast Slayer, you have to live up to your title and slay beasts and demons yet, The Demon walks free.

JB: So it seems you’re caught up on an endless logic inconsistencies which seem to compound and amplify each other.

WW: YES! And the constant howls of the hyenas and the music and the fireworks. I don’t know what day is Rusev Day or is not Rusev Day anymore.

JB: Walter, every day is Rusev Day.

WW: WHAT!? You told me it’s not a real holiday. What is Bulgaria doing then!?!

JB: Walter! Calm down. It’s just a character. Like in a play.

WW: LISTEN! I was led to believe that he is the pride of Bulgaria and I have honored him and carried him inside me for two weeks! For what?

JB: It’s just a character!

WW: Can we stop here? It’s almost time for 2:00 pm Rusev prayer.

JB: Let’s end with your thoughts on the main event.

WW: The Wicked Witch scared me.

JB: What?

WW: The Wicked Witch with the blue jacket who came in the helicopter.

JB: Charlotte Flair?

WW: Yeah, and she made the hyenas yell “woo”. She cast a spell on them.

JB: Walter, no. It’s because her father is Ric Flair and he used to always yell “woo” during his matches and she’s adopted it.

WW: Then her father was a witch as well. They dabbled in the black arts to get to WrestleMania. I knew Ronda Rousey from UFC and I was very impressed with Becky Lynch. But I was annoyed that they took turns sleeping on the floor.

JB: Well it was a 3-way match. It would be too hectic if they were all constantly in the ring at the same time.

WW: Yeah, but it just took me out of it. I was impressed with Becky Lynch but even she took naps outside the ring. I just kept wishing Beast Slayer would come back.

JB: For the Wicked Witch?

WW: Yes! The Beast Slayer is honor bound to vanquish beasts, demons, and wicked witches.

JB: But there’s no reason for Seth —

WW: Beast Slayer! Why have you forsaken us?

Leaving the Event and Final Thoughts

JB: Were you able to get home OK?

WW: No! I couldn’t get an Uber for hours. I was outside of MetLife in the rain, surrounded by the hyenas with Beast Slayer nowhere in sight.

JB: Would you go to another event or watch wrestling on TV?

WW: No, never. I did it once and never again.

JB: But it’s been two weeks and you haven’t been able to stop talking about it or move on. Maybe there’s something there?

WW: I can’t stop thinking about it because it’s a scar on my life and you can’t get rid of scars. I can’t stop thinking about Rusev and Becky Lynch and AJ’s hair but I wish I could. I hate it, but it’s a part of me now.


That final, haunting statement from Walter brought our conversation to a close. It’s been a few days since that conversation and, thankfully, Walter is starting to readjust to life outside of WrestleMania. Granted, he’s still baffled by Ryder’s career trajectory and he’s starting to realize the truth about Rusev Day. But the words that he bellowed from the throngs of his PMP have given me pause.

“I hate it, but it’s a part of me now.” I fear that there may be no better way to describe the mentality of our collective fandom’s love of professional wrestling.

Wrestling is as big an institution in my house as my mom’s undercooked chicken — it’s there whether we want it or not. As such, the shrieks of Michael Cole as Austin stunned a McMahon, Eddie Guerrero cheated to win a match, John Cena overcame the odds, Edge won a title, Batista demanded a rematch, or Roman Reigns looked strong have echoed from my living room since 2000. Wrestling will always be a part of my life because it reminds me of home but even I, and other diehards, can see the flaws in the industry’s presentation and practices that have led to its stigmatization within popular culture. But despite all of that, it is the background score to my house.

Despite my insight into the industry, I paid $300 to go to WrestleMania. Despite our fandom’s gripes, we still watch Raw and SmackDown every week. And despite Rusev Day not being a real holiday we all, like hyenas, chant whenever Rusev appears.

This begs the question — are we the ones with Post-Mania Psychosis? No. Because we know that there’s something beautiful past the psychosis.

Professional wrestling doesn’t want to create the illusion of competition, it wants to tell you a story. It wants to tell you fables of men and women besting monsters, it wants to remind you that imagination can be the mother of reality, it wants to promise outcasts and rejects that they can accept themselves to become something greater, and, above all else, it wants to be there for you. Professional wrestling doesn’t want to be a sport, it wants to ascribe the myths that can inspire you, embolden you, caution you, disgust you, warm you, move you, and, simply, entertain you.

So the next time you’re watching SmackDown, don’t think about the titles. Don’t think about results of matches, the logic of booking decisions, the dirt sheet rumors, or the operatic tragedy of Zack Ryder because you’ll develop PMP. Instead, think about how you felt when Kofi and Becky won their titles. Think about that and you’ll find why you love of wrestling again.

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