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Heroes and Villains

By , Selinsgrove, PA
They come in all shapes and sizes. They are either the fastest or strongest people in the world. They wear clothing that counts as a felony according to the fashion police. They… Are superheroes.

And no, when I say superheroes I don’t mean Spiderman or Superman or the Fantastic Four. I’m talking about wrestlers. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. What do you think of when you hear the word “Spiderman?” We all think of this guy in spandex flying around New York City, saving the day from the likes of Green Goblin, Venom, and Doctor Octopus. Now think of a wrestler known as Rey Mysterio. He flies around his ring, “saving” the day from villains like Kane, Big Show, and Antonio Cesaro. Also like Spiderman, he wears the most unfashionable spandex I’ve ever seen.

What about Superman? Stars like John Cena would come to mind. What about Batman? Stars like Randy Orton could match that description. What about the Incredible Hulk? Stars like Ryback, Hulk Hogan, or even Diesel come to mind. When it comes down to it, wrestlers and superheroes are much alike.

And wrestling has its fair share of villains, too. CM Punk is John Cena’s Lex Luthor. Wade Barrett is Randy Orton’s Joker. The list can go on and on, but I think you get my point. Wrestling is just one big superhero show. It’s almost always good against evil.

When I was little I made this connection when my uncle dragged me to watch an episode of Monday Night Raw. This was after the Monday Night Wars, an inter promotional rivalry pitting the WWF (later changed to the WWE) against their two biggest competitors, WCW and ECW (World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling). Although the matches between the wrestlers were fixed, the rivalry between the promotions was all too real as each side tried to out do the other on pay-per-view purchases and television ratings. The rivalry ended in the early 2000’s after ECW and WCW had ruined themselves. ECW tried to make a jump to televised action too early, bankrupting themselves when their lawyers didn’t recognize a technicality in the contract with the taping company that could allow them [the taping company] to raise the cost of their services as high as they needed. WCW, on the other hand, had simply taken severe ratings blows. Stars like Chris Jericho and The Rock were near impossible to show up, and with the failure of their “Three Hour Episode” project, they were so far in the red they couldn’t possibly lift themselves out. After years of feuding, things would come to a boiling point when the WWF’s owner Vince McMahon’s son Shane bought WCW. Unfortunately for WCW, it was too little, too late. Shane wasn’t as competent a leader as his father was, and soon sent WCW squabbling farther into debt. Shane officially sold WCW to his father in secret shortly after taking the reigns, only to culminate things at WWF’s Survivor Series pay-per-view, where a big match between WCW’s and ECW’s biggest stars and WWF’s biggest stars would ultimately “decide” the fate of the other company, with the losing team’s company going out of business. It was up until this point that WCW and ECW viewed every WWF superstar as a villain, and vice versa. While there were plenty of rivalries inside each company, for the most part it was the inter promotional feud that everybody cared about. It was not uncommon for WWF heroes and villains to team up in an effort to stand up against this feud (e.g. Chris Jericho and The Rock), and for WCW villains like Vader to team with the company’s heroes like Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) to fend off the evil WWF.

Needless to say, “Team Alliance” (WCW and ECW) lost to “Team WWF.” The lineups for each side were impressive, with such notable names as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock representing their respective companies. The nearly hour long match was a physical spectacle, as we saw the smaller faster Team Alliance, with stars such as Shane McMahon (yes, Shane did wrestle occasionally) and Rob Van Dam take on much bigger WWF superstars like The Big Show and Kane.

And with the end of the inter promotional feud, we saw the emergence of the modern wrestling rivalry. It was no longer simply hating a person because they belonged to a different promotion, it was hating somebody for just being a villain. The top villain following the epic Survivor Series matchup was Chris Jericho when he turned his back on teammate The Rock. We saw great villains emerge to compete against one another in the company. Kurt Angle, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Kane, to name a few. But there were also heroes who rose out of the ashes, such as The Rock, The Undertaker, and one of the few WCW stars who held his popularity throughout the change, Rob Van Dam.

The WWE saw waves of heroes and villains come and go, but one thing that never changed was their amazing athleticism. Whether they’re inducting people into the “Hall of Pain,” or they’re “Rising Above Hate,” one thing’s for sure, there will always be heroes in professional wrestling, and there will always be villains to fight them.



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