WWE’s Desi Appeal

Sports

WWE’s Desi Appeal

Illustration: Palak Bansal

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s I scrolled through my usually mundane Twitter timeline earlier today, the top trend of the day made me feel particularly nostalgic. “#SurvivorSeries”, as many of us might know, is one of WWE’s “Big four” Pay-Per-Views along with Royal Rumble, Summerslam, and the Grandest Stage of ‘Em All, Wrestlemania. Usually, I scroll past anything that reminds me of years gone by, because… baggage. But then I read the other two trends, “Kurt Angle” and “Triple H”, two names that are synonymous with my childhood, so I gave in to the wishes of my inner twelve-year-old while excitedly browsing through the dirt sheets to see what exactly had happened. As expected, the oft-underhanded Trips had backstabbed Angle and in turn, taken me on a familiar trip down memory lane.

The year was 2002 and I was all of ten years old. My best friend and I were in the middle of enduring a shrill dressing down from his mom. Aunty was beside herself that we were horsing around “playing WWF” around the house. “Aa choke slam su che? What if you get hurt?!”, she enquired furiously, dumbfounded that we had the gall to explain what moves we were performing. This was a standard scenario for any kid who grew up in the late ’90s or early ’00s. Stone Cold Stunners, Walls of Jericho and Rock Bottoms were playfully meted out to your mates while the nerdiest kid of the group did his best J.R voice, incessantly yelling, “Baah gawwd, he’s broken in half!” I recently found out that today’s kids have been taking this to another level. Not to mention, the cornerstone of every middle-class urban childhood involved squeaking “Fights fought 413 clash!” in a free period enlivened by a game of trump cards, and weekends meant endless hours of Smackdown vs Raw on the PS3 (Suck it, XBox fans!)

WWE’s brand of soap-opera-styled-drama for dudes became a fixture in our lives in a way that little else did. India and WWE have a lot in common even though jacked white dudes fighting each other theatrically seems to be far from anything remotely Indian. For instance, we all vicariously lived out our fantasy of marrying the boss’ daughter when Triple H married Stephanie McMahon. In fact, the McMahon-Helmsley era of wrestling can be compared to the Vadra-Gandhi reign over Indian politics. Also, one of WWE’s most famous matches involves a mass of sweaty men, meshed up together in the ring, holding on to whatever they can to avoid being eliminated. They call it The Royal Rumble, we call it rush hour. More enthusiastic fans may also point out that Eddie Guerrero’s low-rider driving, lying, cheating, and stealing persona was lifted directly from a staple Gedhi-dude’s playbook but that may be pushing it.

Also, one of WWE’s most famous matches involves a mass of sweaty men, meshed up together in the ring, holding on to whatever they can to avoid being eliminated. They call it The Royal Rumble, we call it rush hour.

With each passing decade, both India and the WWE Universe have evolved in a somewhat similar way. In the 90s, we began cheering for the underdogs. The older and slower Hogans and Gavaskars of yore made way for the more flamboyant figures like Shawn Michaels’ DX and Bal Thackerays’ Sena. Then, at the turn of the millennium, we both developed a soft corner for the bad boys. So the conventional Bret Harts and L.K Advanis made way for more anti-establishment Stone Colds and Anna Hazares. And finally, in the last decade or so, we have both seen a resurgence of populist powerhouses like John Cena and Narendra Modi. The Acche Din is here!

All jokes apart though, every now and then, after a gruelling day at work, it’s nice to just kick back and watch a couple of sweaty dudes talk trash to each other as tens of thousands of rabid fans cheer them on. And that’s just on Republic TV. As for WWE, so what if the fights are fake and I barely know any of the newer crop of guys? At least, I can always count on The Game backstabbing someone with his trusty sledgehammer.

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