2. The below clip is a match that took place at Wrestlemania 24 and was a career match between Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair. The stipulation was that if Ric Flair lost, he would be forced to retire. At this point, he had been wrestling for around 36 years. A lot of matches, but particularly this match, exhibit wrestling as theatrical, as a play, as suffering, as tragedy. First, this match is taking place at Wrestlemania, literally called “the grandest stage of them all.” Everything from the costumes to the lights to the ring itself screams theatrical. This is a play being performed for an audience.
Besides the setting, we have a storyline, an emotional context. Flair knows that if he loses, his career is over. At the time of this match, he was 59 years old. Everyone knew his end was drawing near, but Flair (obviously) didn’t want to believe it. Which is why this match is nearly 30 minutes. Ric Flair is giving everything he has with a death grip on his career. He refuses to give up. The emotion on both the faces of Michaels and Flair indicate that this is hard for both of them. Flair is a legend in Michaels’ eyes and he knows that he won’t give up. But he also knows that it’s time for Flair to retire and the only way for that to happen is if he delivers “Sweet Chin Music.” You see the Shawn’s hesitation. He lifts up his foot, getting ready to “strike up the band.” But he lowers it slowly, his face clearly indicating how upsetting this is for him. Even the crowd knows this is difficult; they are torn, just like Michaels. Eventually, he comes to terms with reality and takes Flair out, pinning him and ending his career. Before he exits the ring, he places a kiss on Flair’s forehead. He doesn’t even stick around to celebrate his victory. He is emotionally spent.
This match, to me, is a perfect example of wrestling as theatre. Flair and Michaels perfectly portray the emotions they need to in order for the audience to feel the same pain and suffering they are experiencing. They are both making facial expressions and exhibiting body language, exaggerating them so that the whole audience can see – just like in a play. The comedy elements that are present in a lot of matches are not present in this one. This is tragedy at its peak. This is theatre.
(Note: The following clip is the whole match. Obviously I'm not going to show all of that in class. Just going to show the entrances and the last bit of the match.)
3. The clip below is the speech given by the Ultimate Warrior the day after Wrestlemania 30 on Monday Night RAW. This was also the day before he died. This speech perfectly depicts the immortalization of wrestlers, elevating them to a status like that of gods. They become mythological in this way, worshipped by fans. We see this in play when fans bring signs to the arena that say “Foley is God.” (I mean, we even call Hogan ‘The Immortal Hulk Hogan.’) In this clip, you can see fans in the background raising their hands in the air, literally worshipping Warrior.
“Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath, and if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized.”
Not only is it so eerie that he spoke these words a day before he passed, but with these words he is confirming his spot as a legend. Everyone listening that night truly saw him as some form of a god. And so when the news spread Wednesday of his death, no one could believe it.