The first thing I saw once I stepped inside the epicenter was a disgustingly crowded merchandise counter. The first thing I felt once I stepped inside the epicenter was the slap of a few faux wrestling belts that had been draped over the arm of a 30-something male wearing a shirt that read “Haters <3 Me.” I assumed that the belts — which looked more toy-ish than genuine — had been brought from the man’s home, because they did not at all resemble the faux wrestling belt that was being sold at the merchandise counter for $400. A miserable looking 30-something woman was trailing the frantic looking 30-something man and he kept yelling, “Can you hold these for me!? Can you hold onto these for me?! Listen, listen, I need to get in line! We only have a half an hour! Christ, I need to get in line! Hold these now, please!” He removed the belts from his arm and draped them over the 30-something woman’s arm. “Do you see the lines!? Do you see them?! Do you see how long the lines are?!” He was sweating and kept wiping sweat from his forehead. He left the 30-something woman and fought his way into the crowd in front of the merchandise counter. As I went up an escalator, I kept looking back, and I could still see the miserable 30-something woman staring at the floor. I swear she was lit by spotlight. She looked really sad — even in the distance. I probably looked really sad too. But that’s because I had been breathing in so much Ed Hardy cologne.

There were so many kids. I was temporarily fascinated by the fact that WWE matches attract two types of people: ones that can tie their own shoes and ones that can’t. Most of the kids were wearing shirts that read “Feed Me More.” Some of the kids were wearing shirts that read “You Can’t See Me.” Apparently, if you’re an eight-year-old at a WWE match you’re either starving or invisible. A lot of the parents were also starving or invisible. I tried to blend in as much as possible so I had shown up wearing a flat-brimmed cap and a shirt that read “Boots 2 Asses,” which I later found out was a slogan that had something to do with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I enjoy his work. At one point I was standing near a counter debating if nine dollars was too much to pay for a beer. I thought about how many books I’d rather spend nine dollars on. I decided not to pay nine dollars for a beer. Then a little kid came running out of nowhere screaming, “Pick up the pace mom! Stop being a cunt!” The mom was all like bashful and smiling at me and stuff… it was weird. She kind of reminded me of the mom from That 70s Show. I wanted to buy her a nine-dollar beer.

I never realized how important semiotics is at a WWE match. So many damn signs. It seems like some of the fans spend a lot of time on these signs. Some of them literally hold up their signs for the duration of matches. Sometimes all I could see were the backs of signs instead of the wrestlers in the ring. Some of the signs even lit up or blinked. Some of the signs are completely unrelated to wrestling like ones that read “Hi Dad” or “Needs a Prom Date!” I’ve decided that World Wrestling Entertainment is pretty much the same thing as Art. Every person has their own brand or label or complaint or maybe they’re part of a particular movement or era and there are trivial rivalries and attention-hogs and politics, etc. etc. World Wrestling Entertainment and Art! They are practically trashy cousins! (They would probably make out if everyone left them alone in a room together.) There’s also a special portion near the end of the nearly three-and-a-half hour event that you don’t see if you’re watching the program on television. There’s about a short break where an announcer tells every person who brought a sign to hold it up. Someone operating a camera then broadcasts each of the signs on the WWE jumbotron as a narrator reads them aloud. People love this.

There’s also one thing (or maybe two things?) that I still don’t quite understand. All the woo-ing that the fans do. There’s a very distinct woo-woo-woo! but there’s also <a href="“>a simple but sharp woo! I don’t know what the difference is, but the former sure is definitely more annoying. There were times when I didn’t know if I was at a WWE match or a Juggalo gathering. When some of the kids would woo! they’d puff out their chests and spread their arms out. It was very dramatic. It was like the wrestlers were televangelists and everyone was being saved! Additionally, there were too many hand gestures to count. The only one I remember specifically was when one nearby fan waved the palm of his hand in front of his face. I asked, “What does that mean?” And he just yelled back, “JOHN CENA!” And I yelled, “What?!” And he yelled back, “YOU CAN’T SEE ME!!” And then some dude wearing a lot of gold chains yelled, “CENA SUCKS!” And then somebody else yelled, “FUCK YOU! JOHN CENA IS AMERICA!”

Before I dissolved into the mise-en-scène of fist-pumping, beer-chugging, and the occasional riotous U-S-A chanting, I finally recognized something familiar from my own early childhood experience with wrestling. A wrestler called “Kane.” This was a fun bit of nostalgia, but his mask was definitely not how I remembered it. I preferred his original mask—the one that covered his whole face. He looks more human now. Little kids aren’t going to be afraid of this dude! Isn’t he supposed to be undead or whatever? But I guess ‘kid-friendly’ or, rather, the illusion of ‘kid-friendly’ is the point these days. One fan told me that I was from the “Attitude” era of wrestling. Jesus, I was like seven years old!—I don’t remember what ‘era’ of wrestling I experienced! The “Attitude” era was apparently not a very kid-friendly era via Stone Cold Steve Austin and NWO. The fan kept talking and talking and I just kept nodding and trying to maintain enthusiasm. He was wearing a shirt that read “STOMPIN’ MUD HOLES AND WALKIN’ ‘EM DRY.”

Beer should never cost nine dollars.

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