I have a day job. I work 9-5, Tuesday through Friday. It pays the bills and provides me and my wife with healthcare. My commute is a seven minute walk and my supervisors are kind, thoughtful people. As I age, the more I value these benefits. I see these aspects of my job as rare and precious, but when you’re in the daily grind of human existence it’s easy to lose sight of the good and slip into rumination on the bad. I’m in therapy, I take antidepressants and anti-psychotics, and I practice several cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to cope with the darker corners of my consciousness. Even so, with all these benefits, it’s still not enough to get me through the day.
“Well it pays the bills…” or “You have healthcare…” or “You have a good therapist…” doesn’t answer a particular yearning in the soul. What is that need – that part of you that’s unmoved by the objective positives in your life?
What is it you’re searching for?
That’s what you need. A reprieve from all your troubles and all your cares, something to get lost in that isn’t, strictly, reality.
That’s where professional wrestling arrives to save the day.
This past week I worked harder at my job than usual. I have new responsibilities and, as a result, I have meetings and deadlines that I never used to have. I need to be more thoughtful with my time and plan out my day at the very start. I systematically checked off my list of tasks and by the end of the day I was spent, having accomplished them all. I walked home feeling satisfied, like I’d accomplished something, and in need of a respite.
That’s when I remembered it was Friday and that SmackDown and Rampage would be on.
I cannot adequately describe how happy that realization made me. Suddenly my day opened up. I got a second breath and felt like anything was possible. I eagerly anticipated what might happen on both shows, particularly any Bloodline segment on SmackDown. I imagined sitting comfortably in my bed, as I smiled and watched The Usos vs The New Day (an excellent match that solidified The Usos record-breaking reign). I knew that as I watched wrestling, no thoughts about my job or my mental health would enter my mind. I would be allowed, even encouraged, to set reality aside and escape into a land of acrobatics, muscles, and verbal sparring.
This escape is not to say these shows are without depth.
The Bloodlines story, in particular, is layered and complex.
It works so well because there are characters who want things. Jey Uso wants the approval of The Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns. In a backstage segment on the latest episode of SmackDown, it looked like he finally got it. He leaned into a hug from Roman and took a deep breath, slapping Roman on the back two times. Those who’ve been watching this story unfold understand the significance of that gesture. Like me, many viewers certainly felt a strange blend of emotions, primarily happiness for Jey despite being a heel yearning for the approval of another heel.
The reason it works so well is that we all know what it’s like to yearn for approval, especially from family members and people we look up to. This is at the heart of Sami Zayn’s aim with The Bloodline (though his intentions are not as pure as Jey’s). Sami, much like Jey, wanted Roman’s approval but the somewhat squirrely way he went about getting it betrayed the sincerity of his intentions. Nevertheless, he finally got it along with his own “Honorary Uce” tee-shirt, and it was also embodied in a meaningful hug from The Tribal Chief.