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How Wrestling Taught Me Story Telling Fundamentals

Between sessions of exploring promoting myself, actually promoting myself, and plotting out the next installment in Gael’s epic adventure, I’ve been listening to an audio book.  Well technically, I’ve been listening to TWO audio books, but the reading of Belinda Blinked has been more of a Mystery Science Theater caliber experience than a traditional audio book.  While I’m on that topic, I encourage everyone to listen to the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno.  You won’t regret it.  Or maybe you will.  I suppose it depends on your tolerance for stupid.

The other book I’ve been listening to, though, is an actual honest to god audio book.  Specifically, a little number by the name of The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alverez.  Yeah, I’m reading a book about professional wrestling.  This is the part where you point out wrestling is fake, and I’m a retarded little faggot for liking a show involving grown men in speedos play-fighting.  All out of your system?  Good.  Let’s move on.

Yeah, middle school consisted of a lot of that: the super cool kids deciding to walk up to the dumb little thirteen-year-old newbie who was still extremely used to talking about wrestling in an in-universe context with his friends from elementary school, wearing a stupid black hoody because it made him look like the grim reaper or whatever, and pick on him mercilessly for it.

“Wrestling is fake and you know it, you little faggot!”

“Steve Austin is a retard, and you’re a retard for liking him!”

“Nice hoody, Kenny.  Go die in a South Park episode and don’t come back, you fucking fag!”

Yeah, I paint a pretty negative picture, but in their defense, I REALLY didn’t make things better.

PRO TIP: never, ever, under any circumstances, get into the old “scripted Vs. fake” debate with nonmarks.  You will never win this argument, and it will only result in you looking stupidder, and the ass whuppins getting that much worse.

Monday was always sort of a weird paradox for me in middle school.  On one hand, it meant that I had to go back to school, and back in the late 90s, I fucking hated school.  Believe me, I could write a novella on my time at the state school for the blind alone.  I have enough mental demons from that era to fill a fucking zoo.  But I won’t bore you with that story on the grounds it’s WAY beside the point.

Monday was ALSO one of my favorite days of the week  back then.  This was because of three simple words: RAW is WAR.  During the legendary Monday Night Wars, I was a hardcore WWF mark.  I was a WWF mark BEFORE Raw became RAW is WAR, in fact, but 1997 to 2001 was a very exciting time in wrestling.

The only real problem was that I was hardcore WWF.  And maybe casual ECW around late 1999 early 2000 or so, but definitely hardcore WWF.  WCW, to me, and to many WWF marks, was the enemy.  World’s Crappiest Wrestling, we used to call it.  A friend I’d eventually make around eighth grade even called it “Wheel Chair Wrestling” for a while.  It was the enemy, and the inferior product.  There was no god but Steve Austin.  And in my case, Mankind was an immediate second place.

Nowadays…  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m older, maybe I’m wiser…  Shit, maybe WWF/WWE has gotten so stale, repetitive, boring, insulting to my intelligence (even by wrestling fan standards), and overall more of a chore to sit through nowadays that I find myself pining for the good old days.  Here and now, at the ripe old age of thirty, I’m a lot more open to the idea that maybe WCW wasn’t so bad after all.

I’d actually been wanting to read The Death of WCW for years now.  Unfortunately, back in 2004, Audible.com didn’t exist (as far as I know).  Also, The Death of WCW was an indie book, which meant Books on Tape almost definitely wasn’t going to be producing an audio version at the time.  And at that point in my life, I was pretty much done with that shit anyway.  Fucking four-sided cassettes, my special little yellow cassette player with battery life that makes your standard smartphone look significantly better by comparison…  God damn audio books used to suck!

Some twelve years later, though, R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alverez would put out an audio book, and I can finally, finally, FUCKING FINALLY read the book I’ve been wanting to read for a long-ass time now.  They even got Bryan Alverez to read it.  Admittedly, some of his inflections, and his weird sort of sing-songy way of narrating took a little getting used to, but it could be a lot worse.  It could be another Noah Michael Levine reading.  Yeah, virtually a month later, and I’m still dwelling on the god damn Dinosaur Lords audio book.

Weirdly, a lot of this flashing back to the old days of wrestling conjures up a lot for me.  Not just nostalgia, not just rememberances of the bad old days between episodes of Monday Nitro and RAW is WAR, but other things as well.

It sounds weird to say out loud, but I learned a lot about basic story telling from my time watching professional wrestling.  Yeah, WWF wasn’t exactly Rogers and Hammerstein, but I still learned a good share of the fundamentals.  I learned how to tell basic stories through feuds.  I learned how to write exciting battle sequences through matches (though in hindsight, a lot of my older work from thirteen and fourteen did tend to include more suplexes and powerbombs than your usual action flick probably ought to have).  I learned how to make memorable, colorful characters that are both relatable good guys, and bad guys you absolutely love to hate.

In some cases, I also learned how NOT to tell stories.  I refer you to such gems as “the fingerpoke of doom”, and “the unmasking of Mr. America”.  I’ve learned a lot about making your bad guy competent largely by watching the legendary WCW invasion, seeing how “The Alliance” was portrayed, and doing pretty much the exact opposite.

I learned a lot about storytelling through professional wrestling.  Probably a lot more than a normal person should.  Admittedly, a lot of my earliest horror villains were knockoffs of Ministry of Darkness era Undertaker, and a lot of exchanges between good and bad guys sounded like exchanging promos than dialogue normal people would exchange, but I got older, I got wiser, and Audible.com made audio books a lot more accessible and plentiful.  Plus I dare you to find a thirteen-year-old who can write a Moby Dick caliber epic that’ll change the way you look at life and the world around you.  If they’re anything like me, they’re probably more interested in seeing who The Undertaker straps to the “cross” and sacrifices to his evil god who’s TOTALLY not Satan.  And was apparently Vince McMahon.  Even though McMahon was a face character for that month and a half, and had no honest to god reason to dissolve nine tenths of his stable in order to fool one guy.  Yeah, that was a pretty weak twist.

OOH!  That’s another thing I learned: how NOT to write a twist ending.  Seriously, the late 1990s was all about the swerve, and half the time, the swerve didn’t even make sense.  Sometimes it’s a matter of hindsight, and other times, it didn’t even make sense in the moment.  Never the less, this is not how you write a memorable twist, Russo.

It’s not a conventional way of getting your start, I know, but it’s never the less how I got my start.  Would I recommend this path to future authors?  Nah.  Frankly, I’d suggest sticking to creative writing classes, or poetry night at that coffee house all the goth kids hang out at.  I didn’t have access to said coffee house (though my dumb black hoody wearing ass probably would’ve fit in loads better with THAT crowd back in seventh grade), and I didn’t get into creative writing classes till I was in tenth grade, so I had to learn from what was available to me personally.  You can probably even still see some of that wacky cartoonish wrestling logic in stories like Gael: my latest novel that’s now available for purchase on Amazon.com.  Just $1.50 for 200+ pages of awesome, exciting action and adventure!

Yeah, I forgot where I was going with that last paragraph.  Whatever.  Wrestling was where I got my start, I got better, buy my fucking book.  That is all.

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