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RingCrashers Editorial: How Do I Explain Why I Like Wrestling?

MK Fell joins RingCrashers to explain to us what is it about wrestling that keeps them coming back for more.

It’s all about the love of wrestling, writes MK Fell (Credit: All Elite Wrestling)

I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people when I tell them I like to watch wrestling. Let me add a key word here— I’ve mostly gotten the same responses from people when I tell them I like to watch wrestling.

It’s Wednesday night. Wrestling fans, you know what that means. I started watching Dynamite regularly the day the Forbidden Door was kicked open, back in February 2021. I didn’t even know what a Forbidden Door was, but let me tell you watching a twist like that live is a hell of a gateway drug. In the nine months since then I’ve watched Dynamite every week, caught three AEW pay-per-views, watched some of the most incredible queer deathmatch wrestling, watched wrestlers of all genders split their faces open for their craft, and loved every second of it. And every time I tell people I like wrestling, I get the same variations of the same response.

“I didn’t expect you to be into wrestling!”

I try to not be like “I’m not like other girls” mostly because one, I’m not a girl, and two, I know that’s all bullshit. But I also know I’m not the kind of person one would expect to be into not only wrestling, but deathmatch wrestling. I’m tiny. I present as feminine (most of the time). There are not many people who look like me who you see in wrestling crowds, especially not deathmatch wrestling crowds. But the people who say these things to me are not strangers taking my appearance at face value. These are people who know me.

I usually say it’s about the violence. That’s… mostly true, actually, it’s why I love deathmatch wrestling so much. The thing is— it’s more than that. I just don’t ever know how to explain it in words.

“I didn’t expect you to be into wrestling!”

It’s Wednesday night. It’s the first night of AEW’s Grand Slam, in Arthur Ashe Stadium. We’re about to get a dream match in Kenny Omega versus Bryan Danielson; if you had told me back during Wrestlemania weekend, when Daniel Bryan was main eventing with Roman Reigns and Edge, that we would get this match I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are. It’s a non-title bout between two of the best wrestlers in the world to determine who is the best in the world, and it is anyone’s match. I can usually tell you who’s gonna win a match based on what I think the trajectory of a storyline is (wrestling is fairly predictable in this regard) but this is a match that is anyone’s game. It can really go either way.

We thought, at the start of this match, that we might get one of the little heel cheats Omega has resorted to in the ten months since he took the AEW belt. We thought we might get Don Callis, in all his carny POS-ness, distract the ref for long enough that Kenny could get a chair shot of some sort in.

That isn’t what we got.

“I didn’t expect you to be into wrestling, cause like the writing on it is pretty bad.”

Wrestling is storytelling. I’m not talking about promos here, I’m talking about the matches themselves. To talk about the promos being the only component of a wrestling storyline is reductive and detrimental to the work being done in the ring. Wrestling is messy, violent, sometimes improvised storytelling— choreography can only get you so far— but it is storytelling all the same. 

Words are not the only language of storytelling. Imagine this: you’ve gone to the ballet, to see a new work performed by some of the best ballerinas in the world. The two lead dancers are meeting on the stage for the first time, and the way they look into each others’ eyes is electrifying. They do not need words to express the connection they have to each other. They are two binary stars on stage, in constant orbit, growing ever closer to the moment they collide.

This is how it feels to watch Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson lock eyes across the ring. I’ve felt this before watching wrestling— Labor Day weekend, watching CM Punk meet Darby Allin at All Out. There’s a crackling intensity in how their eyes meet that makes me wonder if lightning is going to burst across the ring.

All at once, I know this match is going to time limit draw.

“I didn’t expect you to be into wrestling!”

All my friends are so predictable at this point. 

I watch Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson grapple across the ring. I watch the control of the match flip easily from one hand to the other, every few minutes, like clockwork. I am entranced. Ballet tells its story in the grace of dance, and wrestling tells its story through the grace of violence. There is no real difference between the two— it’s just that in wrestling, the bodies collide faster. It’s storytelling at its finest.

It’s eighteen minutes in when I finally wonder what the time limit is, and how long the match has been going on. Eighteen minutes. It only feels like five. I haven’t been able to tear my eyes away. Omega has been targeting Danielson’s neck; Danielson has been meeting Omega blow for blow. The red across Danielson’s chest is so vivid it looks as though he’s been clawed. The crowd is losing their minds, and so am I. 

“Why do you like wrestling so much?”

Imagine this: you’re at a concert for a new piece from an up-and-coming composer whose work you’ve heard before. His work contains melodies and motifs that carry from piece to piece. Tonight, though, you hear something you’ve not heard in a long, long time: the melody you’ve grown familiar with, you’ve grown to love so much, has a counterpoint to it. More than that, you recognize that counterpoint. It’s a motif from the very first piece you ever heard by this composer, and haven’t heard since. It stops your breath in your throat, to hear it again.

Twenty-five minutes into the thirty minute match. Omega and Danielson are clearly at their limits. Danielson has evaded the One-Winged Angel, Omega’s finisher, which commentary states no one in AEW has ever kicked out of. (They have not specified the in AEW before. There is history here.) Omega heads to the corner and slowly, slowly, levers himself up to the top rope. There is a moment where he pauses, his back to Danielson, and the world holds its breath as it realizes what’s about to happen. And then he twists himself into the Phoenix Splash, the finishing move of his former New Japan Pro Wrestling tag partner Kota Ibushi— the specter hanging over his head, the name he refuses to speak, and the only person to ever kick out of the One-Winged Angel.

Omega has never successfully landed the Phoenix Splash. He has never successfully used the finisher of arguably the most important person in his wrestling career. He does not successfully land it now.

There is history in every move. Kenny Omega and Bryan Danielson do not do anything without reason.

The bell rings to signal the match has drawn to time and Omega and Danielson keep fighting, either unaware of the bell or not wanting to stop. The rest of Omega’s Elite and the other referees come down to the ring to separate the two, eventually devolving into a full-on brawl. I half-notice this happening. My heart is pounding. I am overcome.

“Really? Wrestling?”

I’ve stopped trying to figure out where people are coming from with this.

I’m still thinking about the Phoenix Splash.

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