Will an atheist wrestler work?
by, 01-18-2013 at 12:02 AM (13718 Views)
Hello, ladies and gentleman, this is my first blog, and as you can see, it has a controversial topic. If the subject matter does not please you, I please ask you to stop reading. However, if you enjoy the idea and want to debate it in the commentary section, please, keep it polite. And remember to focus in the wrestling aspect of the text, not a confrontation between religion and atheism.
There is few ideas that can be considered new in the world of creating stories, whether in form of a novel, a TV series, a movie or a wrestling storyline. Most of them are rehashed arguments from previous works, with different elements added here and there to make it somewhat fresher than a straightforward copy of the original one. What I propose here is more or less the same, an old story with a slight different touch.
The battle of good vs. evil is as old as one can trace it back to ancient civilizations. Still, we all enjoyed how it was presented to us by HBK and Undertaker prior to their epic clash at Wrestlemania 25. A variant of this could be something that has not necessarily to be evil, but it is perceived as such. For example, a religion alien to the dominant in one country, or a foreign nation that posed a military threat to that country. Therefore, well portrayed characters had great success, such as The Iron Sheik, others had a lot of shock value, like heel Sgt. Slaughter supporting the Iraqi cause, or the heat gathered by Muhammad Hassan before his was character was pulled from TV. What I'm proposing is to introduce a wrestler portraying an atheist gimmick. Atheists are generally perceived as people who can't be trusted, as suggested by Gervais, Norenzayan and Shariff (for further reading, check their paper Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice , available here: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~will/Gerva...20Distrust.pdf ) and having a wrestler that attacks people's personal beliefs will elicit a hostile reaction from the viewers.
If we consider the kind of arguments that atheists try to use to refute the existence of any deity, they try (not that always manage to) use rational arguments, based on empiric and scientific observations. To manage them properly, it requires that the said atheist has a good educational level to comprehend, analyze and use them adequately. When you transfer those qualities into the world of wrestling, one name springs to mind at full speed: Damien Sandow. He is already portraying the gimmick of an arrogant, intellectual man who mocks the crowd for their ignorance and tries to educate them. Why not taking this character a bit further and chastise the audience for what he considers rejecting rationality in favor of sheepish obedience to a God they can't prove it exists? It will give WWE an edgier vibe without the use of cursing or blood. Just imagine that Handel's Hallelujah blasts in the arena, Sandow goes out and says the following:
- This morning, I was engaged in the reading of James Madison's A Memorial and Remonstrance, on the Religious Rights of Man, when I found a quote that you, the unwashed masses, ignore and should know by heart. It said: Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.
People will instantly boo him, as the attack on religious beliefs is quite strong. But if he could end the quote, the effects would be more devastating:
Shut your mouths and let me finish. The rest of the quote, that you should be able to memorize despite your tiny intellects, goes like this: During almostfifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.”
(The acuteness of the quote is an interesting debate, but for a different place)
Boom! There you have an instant über heel. Not only he has made a harsh accusation on Christianity, he has used a quote (at least he claims to have done so) from James Madison, the 4th President of the United States, a man considered father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many will find that outrageous. That will, in my view, propel him to the top heel position in the company. If booked properly (that being a big if, and one of the main cons of the issue, but I will address that later) it can give a great, comppelling storyline and, as said, a big push to Sandow's (or whoever gets the role) career.
However, this poses a big problem. Will the WWE push the envelope that hard? This idea will offend many, no matter if the program is rated PG or PG-14, many won't feel comfortable with such a confrontational character. Even if they watered it down to make it fit the PG rating, there's is a good chance of getting a massive negative reaction both from viewers and society in general. And having in mind that they pulled the Muhammad Hassan character due to the criticism they were getting from Muslim associations, I highly doubt this idea will come to fruition.
But let's imagine for a moment that Vince and HHH and the rest in command decide to take the risk and use this character. It has two big problems. As hinted above, one will be the booking. Unless a developmental talent comes with a religious-like gimmick, the current roster lacks a credible opponent to counter the atheist wrestler's arguments and look a bit credible. Who could face this character? Cena, being the quintessential good guy who demands respect for anyone's beliefs? Sheamus being offended due to his Catholic upbringing? (I can't assure he is a Catholic, but as he's from Dublin, it wouldn't sound preposterous) Those are the ones that come to mind, and quite frankly, the reasons chosen for facing our atheist wrestler sound quite weak to me. The second problem I see is the durability of the gimmick. How long can this gimmick last without becoming stale? Arguments in favor of the nonexistence of God are not that many, and when they are brought on and on people get tired of it. Now that I'm reading Joseph Anton – A Memoir, it reminds me of the Rushdie case, and how the situation became repetitive with the years. The feeling this storyline will give would be pretty much the same, at least to my eyes.
We could also bring this idea to the other big one, TNA. (Sorry, but my knowledge of ROH and the indies is pretty scarce). Being more edgy than current WWE product, they may have less problems with this storyline. Also, they have wrestlers that could portray the character without much problem, outspoken heels that have a way with words. Bobby Roode or Austin Aries are my choices. Bully Ray is also a great heel, but I'm not quite sure if he fits that good in the role, as he is more in your face, no fucking around type of heel. On the other hand, Roode and Aries would fit the mold better, as they tend to use more elaborate language and already portray an arrogant type of gimmick. But TNA will also face the same two problems as WWE. Without a religious character brought from developmental, there are no credible opponents for an atheist wrestler. Maybe AJ Styles (same good guy role as Cena) or maybe a wrestler that has strong religious beliefs in real life that can add some realism to the story. Ad then what? Same with the durability of the character. It will go stale pretty soon in my opinion.
So, despite the fact that I would like to see a wrestler portraying an atheist character, I don't think this will happen in the mid term. If it does, it will be in the long term and lots of things in real life have to change to do it without great problems for the companies and wrestlers. The three negative aspects (controversy and social pressure, lack of credible opponents and durability of the character) outweigh the positives. Plus, neither Sandow, Roode or Aries need a gimmick change in the short term, as they are doing quite well with their current ones. So, the chances of this happening are zero, at least the way I see it.
Now allow me to know your point of view in the matter.