(This article was originally posted at my Dan Brodribb blog, May 7, 2013)
Right now I’m watching two of the people in my life I admire most--Slammer and the Middle-Aged Madman Vince Austin--exchange punches to the head while standing on top of a badly-dented aluminum ladder.
A lot of people don’t get this.
I don’t expect your mother to let me introduce you to professional wrestling for a while (the couch game notwithstanding). At twenty-one months, you’re probably too young and besides, knowing you the way I do, you’d probably be more fascinated by the shiny silver ladder than the two men risking life and limb on top of it.
But when you’re old enough, I hope to take you to your first wrestling show. You probably won’t get it then either, but you’ll still be a kid and whether or not you ‘get things‘ is for adults to worry about. I just hope you have a good time cheering for the wrestler with the coolest mask. I’ll even buy you his picture. He’ll sign it for you if you ask nicely.
If you’re old enough to read this letter, you might ask yourself: ‘It’s pro wrestling. What’s to get?’
Well. I’ll let you in on a secret. Pro wrestling is a lot like life. There is more to it than the things you think you see. The deeper you look, the more lessons you’ll learn.
We’ll start with this one: Your worst enemy is your best friend.
Wrestling’s most memorable moments are based on rivalries: Hogan vs. Andre. Steamboat vs. Flair. Raven vs. Dreamer. DOA vs. Los Boriquas. Tonight it‘s Slammer vs. Vince Austin. A wrestler is only as good as his opponents. The people that threaten his safety, push him to his limits, and thwart him at every turn also make him the most money, secure his legacy, and make him the best he can be.
Mankind couldn’t be Mankind without an Undertaker to throw him off the top of a steel cage. Steve Austin needed first Jake Roberts, then Bret Hart, and finally Vince MacMahon before he crossed the threshold from wrestler to household name.
This applies to life too.
Now your enemies won’t look like pro wrestling enemies. It is highly unlikely--though not impossible, I suppose--that an Elvis impersonator will smash a guitar over your head. But you’ll face your share of adversity. Sometimes it will be in the forms of specific people. Other times adversity will come in the form of social pressure to either turn away from or embrace a way of life that you know in your heart is for you. Sometimes it will even come from inside you in the form of self-doubts, fears, and anger. Those are the really sneaky ones, and we’ll talk at length about them later.
You’ll react to your enemies in different ways over the years. Some days you’ll fight. Some days you’ll run. Some days you’ll learn that there are more options than just fighting and running and those will bring you to new places. And other times--and I’m sad to say this--your enemies will beat you.
Believe it or not, none of that matters in the long run. Life is also like wrestling in that winning and losing matters, but not as much as you might think and certainly not for the reasons you might think. Results can be chapters in a greater story but they aren’t the story. That’s for you to write.
Your enemies will be ruthless. They’ll hit you at your lowest point in your weakest spots. They’ll run from you when you’re strong and then sneak attack you when you least expect it. They’ll cheat and play games with your mind.
You enemies will show you who you really are. They will show you where you need to grow. And in facing them down, you’ll see where you’re already strong and you’ll discover reserves in yourself you didn’t know existed.
They’ll give you your most memorable stories. They’ll be the fuel for your most improbable victories. If you let them, they’ll help you reach new heights, whether it’s the top of the world or the top of an unsteady, aluminum ladder in a three-quarters full community hall.
You can like them or not like them, but learn to love them. In their own way, they’re going to be behind your greatest moments.