What do you get when you mix ‘Jackass,” ‘The Ringling Brothers, ‘One Life to Live,” pyrotechnics and a wrestling ring? If you guessed World Wrestling Entertainment, then you’ve probably had an exhilarating and lively childhood. It was a Tuesday night full of explosions and nostalgia as I experienced ‘Smackdown” at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. In the dawn of my 20th birthday, the WWE experience is still as indispensible as in my early years.

Naturally, in the days leading up to the event, I had to make it pass hoards of criticism from my fun-deprived friends. But I was relieved when I arrived at my seat and immediately pinpointed a group of 40-year-old men screaming at the top of their lungs, ‘Batista is a god!” as their pores oozed perspiration of passion and obsession. One man even insisted on arguing with an 8-year-old boy, and stranger, about whether or not Chris Jericho sucks. Although I can never fathom being a WWE extremist at the time of menopause, I can’t knock a man for wanting to be a kid for a night. Without the WWE, there would be no other acceptable outlet for any 40-year-old man to shout ‘We want puppies!” as four fit athletic divas walk down a ramp in their Halloween costumes.
Unlike soap opera fans, WWE fans can miss three or more years of a storyline and still enjoy every minute of it when they tune back in. Even after being out of the loop for awhile, I had to appreciate their colorful storylines.

The current featured storyline of Smackdown is about Batista, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound Filipino mammoth, breaking his long friendship with Rey Mysterio, a 5-foot-6, 175-pound legendary Mexican luchador, because of a paranoid suspicion of ‘always getting backstabbed by friends.” The show opened with clips of Mysterio trying to calm Batista down. Batista’s response: an emotional stare down followed by a 10-minute long one-sided ass whooping in which Batista propels the little man into a barricade before stomping him out.

As I watched the 10 and under audience members grimace and turn the other way, I couldn’t help but chuckle, remembering that I had the same reaction when Kane set his brother’s casket, the Undertaker, on fire back in 1998.

Eleven years later, my childhood high reached its peak when the Undertaker walked down the ramp in vintage fashion funeral bells, purple smoke, fire (with heat) and thunder and lightning. It was the same Undertaker of old only 10 years older. At age 44, he continues to stun fans with his two-decade career of choke-slamming and tomb-stoning his foes to victory after victory. Tuesday night was no different Undertaker tomb-stoned CM Punk for a quick and easy WWE Championship title defense.
As a normal audience member of Madison Square Garden, whether it be WWE or a sad night with the Knicks, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat unfulfilled with the lack luster Blue Cross Arena. The audience is just as part of the show as the pyrotechnics, so a crowd suffering from the Rochester-monk-demeanor syndrome made for small explosions and chants.

Not to mention, the size of the arena was hardly large enough to host a UR field hockey game. From MSG, where everyone is shouting about every and anything (including random fights between Yankee and Met fans) and throwing garbage at the fighters, to the Blue Cross Arena, the crowd aspect was certainly night and day. But that was merely reflective of Rochester’s cheaper prices if you pay half the price, then expect to experience half the crowd excitement.

Regardless, the show held its own. In light of last week’s ‘South Park” episode, which roasted the WWE for straying away from its athletic- and skilled-based roots and turning into an over-the-top Broadway play, Tuesday night reminded me that it’s the story behind every suplex and chair shot that makes it worth watching. Otherwise, I’d just be watching a bunch of grown men in tights pretending to fight each other. Certainly, the athletic aspect is still prevalent when a 6-foot-3, 230-pound man, Ron Killings, climbs a 6-foot high ring post and performs a 450-degree splash into his laid-out opponent.

Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.

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