June 22, 2015 | by Kevin McElvaney

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Kayfabe Arcade, The Runout’s new pro wrestling column.

“A wrestling column on this site?” you ask, with an air of incredulity. “Isn’t wrestling some mainstream, low brow attempt at entertainment?” Don’t be so surprised, hypothetical reader. The punk and wrestling worlds aren’t nearly as different as you might think.

Punk and wrestling are both, when it comes down to it, niche forms of entertainment. For years, devotees of wrestling were considered nerds and outcasts. Arguably, they still are. After all, hardcore wrestling fans tend to do crazy things like blow all their money on merchandise, plan elaborate, week-long trips to big events, or even put on their own shows in their backyards. These fans are discerning, yet loyal, and they tend to develop close attachments to their favorite small-time wrestling personalities. Of course, this is provided that the indie wrestlers don’t get too successful and jump ship to bigger promotions. Many have been called “sellout” on the internet and seemed none too happy about it.

Is this sounding familiar? There are, of course, the more tangible connections. Decades before Night Birds and The Mountain Goats wrote songs about the squared circle, New England’s The Mighty Ions released an entire album of wrestling-themed material (including a bonkers parody of “California Uber Alles” entitled “Pedro Morales”). Modern day wrestling stars like CM Punk, Sami Zayn, and others used to enter the ring to the music of their favorite bands while competing on the independent circuit. Later, when they began appearing for WWE, they repped some of those same bands by wearing their shirts on global television. Somewhere in the midst of all that, you started seeing wrestling shows co-promoted with The Fest and Fest koozies paying homage to the catchphrases of well-known wrestlers. Oh, and did you know that none other than Bob Mould was once a member of the creative team for WCW, the second most successful wrestling promotion of all time? Because he totally was.

“That’s all well and good,” you say. “Are you just going to write a column about wrestlers wearing t-shirts?” Far from it, reader. Wrestling is a major pop culture subject, and it probably will continue to be for some time. That means your friends and coworkers won’t shut up about it, no matter how much you ask them to. I’m here to act as a sort of liaison: to examine this bizarre world from the perspective you’d hope to see from The Runout and to, hopefully, get you more interested in it. When there’s something worth checking out, I’ll tell you about it. Where there’s social commentary to be made, I’ll make an honest attempt at that, too.

And, while I plan to look critically at the WWE product, I’ll also be talking to and about independent wrestlers. Some of the men and women on the indie wrestling circuit grew up going to the same punk shows we did. Those who didn’t still have the same passion for their craft as any of the bands we love. They’ve worked at it for years, taking gigs whenever and wherever they can, no matter how many people were in attendance or how banged up their bodies got. They’re athletes, creators, actors, and innovators, all by necessity. They’re likely competing at a rec center near you this weekend, ready to sell you a shirt during intermission.

Yes, reader, wrestling is a cultural juggernaut. It’s also an art form, absolutely worth of your attention. I’m looking forward to writing a lot more about wrestling in the coming months, perhaps in a different way than you’re used to reading about it. I hope you’re on board!

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