Culture

The Spinning Lariat: Reality check

James Storm

Every Friday, The Spinning Lariat brings you Trent Zuberi’s observations on America’s other major wrestling promotion, TNA.

Out of the 11 years TNA Impact has been on the air, one single moment always stands out to me as the most real and emotionally moving. Sure, there have been several times over the years where we as loyal fans felt moved by the victories and achievements of the company and its performers, times where we felt as if we were part of those victories, but this one moment always moved me more than any of them. This moment felt real. This moment related in some form or another to everyone that watched it. The moment I speak of is when James Storm won the TNA World Heavyweight Title from Kurt Angle in October 2011.

The second the three count was in the books, Storm collapsed to the floor in a heap, his buddies jumped in to pull him up to celebrate, and when the camera caught his face you saw it. You saw the tears and the raw emotion. This is a man who had worked for 15 years at that point, through the grind, the hardships, the heartbreaks, and setbacks and for that one moment he was at the top of the mountain. He immediately looked up and kissed the sky with tears in his eyes. We all knew it was for someone. Anyone who has lost a loved one has done something similar at some point in their lives. It was later found out that his father had passed prior to this victory and the kiss to the sky was for him.

When someone dismisses wrestling as “fake” I think about moments like these. I wish I could sit them all in a room and show them those few seconds of post-match emotion and dare them to tell me that it’s fake then. Was it scripted? Of course, we know at this point that the industry is exposed, but what people fail to realize when they so easily dismiss it is that scripted or not you have to be at a place where the company wants to script you for that win. To be chosen to become the champion of a worldwide brand is an honor in its own right. For that moment a performer is at the top of the mountain and no one can ever take that away from them.

My sister took me to the Bound for Glory PPV a week prior to Storm’s win as a birthday present. That show ended with Storm’s tag team partner at the time, Bobby Roode, coming up short on winning the title himself. Months later, my sister and I were talking and she asked me what came of the storyline. We sat in a restaurant as I told her about Storm’s emotional win, and my eyes watered. She looked at me confused and asked “are you crying?” and with no shame I said that I was because if you, like me, followed this man’s career from the start, saw him rise and work his ass off the way he did, that win meant just as much to you as it did to him. Once again I thought about his kiss to the sky for his dad, and it moved me. I don’t give a damn how many doubters want to dub it “fake,” because the emotions every fan felt that night are more honest than anything else in the entertainment world.

His title reign only lasted eight days, but that one moment is forever etched in my brain. Wrestling is full of those moments. It’s not limited to TNA or WWE; even the independent shows that I frequent bring out the emotions in fans and wrestlers alike. These are people who work at a craft as hard as they possibly can to achieve every ring of success that is out there. We as fans watch them do it and get emotionally invested in their quest to do so. It’s no different than when people tune in by the millions to watch an actor receive an Academy Award. Why should anyone outside of the industry care if an actor receives an award for his work? We don’t benefit from it, right? But it’s that emotional investment because we were there for their rise to the greatness. We helped fuel it in some way, so their win is our win too. It’s the same with wrestling. When a wrestler is given the World Title, it’s their Academy Award and we all helped make it happen. That being said, I can guarantee James Storm’s acceptance speech would put Tom Hanks’ to shame. Someone should book that.

(Questions, comments, feedback? Please feel free to contact me at trentzuberi@gmail.com)