When I was much younger, I once wore my original Adidas shorts, put mom's hair band on my wrist, tied a towel around my neck as a cape and jumped from the dressing table in the bedroom onto my parent's bed. The fact that the Adidas shorts were 'original' is important, as are the towel-cape and the dressing table. Bear that in mind. I was into the whole WWF scene at the time. I still am, just that WWF is now WWE.
I never really believed anything that happened in the WWE ring was 'real'. Not in a lets-pause-the-video-and-look-for-fake-blood way but in a no-way-he-survived-the-Batista-Bomb, unfeigned manner. So what?
Then Brock Lesnar superduperflexed the Big Show, breaking the ring and changed everything.
The Big Show weighs somewhere around 500 pounds (the exact number is irrelevant when the base is that big, like India will always remain 'a billion voices' until we reach two billion) and Lesnar weighs in at 260-270 pounds. Then you need to understand that a superduperflex consists of taking said mammoth creature onto the top rope, swinging him over your own head while he is hinged to you, shoulder to shoulder and finally, landing along with him on the stage.
If you are able to successfully complete the previous three steps, the ropes which support the stage snap (imagine any action movie where a group of unfortunate, irrelevant characters need to cross a degenerated rope bridge) taking out the stage and its performers. The audience goes nuts, like ancient Romans watching gladiators fight till death.
Sometime later, Lesnar would try out for the NFL, fight professionally in the UFC and succeed before ultimately returning to the WWE. But that moment was important. Imagine that tomorrow all of mankind wakes up to realize that if we tap our left eyelid thrice and then blink once; we can see things that happen behind our backs. When Brock Lesnar did what he did to the Big Show, he made mankind discover something about its own strength. Something previously considered impossible needed a new excuse.
The difference between the UFC and the WWE, according to diehard fans of the former, is blood, and the latter is fame. However, who is to say which is more 'real'? If the Big Show fell and the stage didn't break, did the Big Show really fall? I said 'original Adidas shorts' because you need more money to buy an original. We reward an original painting because it fetches more money. But what happens when you are paid more to fake it? WWE stars are paid better than their bloody counterparts in the UFC.
What does that do to our definition of reality? UFC stars fight, WWE stars gloriously fake-fight. I live, but Johnny Depp gloriously fake-lives. I am not Superman and I cannot fly but as a kid, I believed that I could by wearing a towel-cape. And what is fake, if not an attempt to demonstrate how it should be done in a perfect world. Randy Orton gives everyone across the world a demonstration of how we could leap into the air imperceptibly like a Jedi warrior and perform the RKO, if only our bodies were perfect. If the WWE is fake, what about Harry Potter?
Argument: Harry Potter is designated fiction. Nobody called it a documentary.
Rebuttal: WWE is designated entertainment. Nobody called it a sport.
So then why did Brock Lesnar make the switch and the switch back, much to the chagrin of millions? Is it because he failed at becoming a NFL player and found it 'really' humiliating to return to the WWE so soon after leaving it? Was it because his reputation, following the UFC loss to Alistair Overeem, was irrevocably compromised? Or was it because he wanted a piece of the 'real stuff'?
Is it because 'being real' doesn't help buy and maintain a limo? Chances are, we will never find out, since I doubt anyone has the tomatoes to look him square in the face and ask him if he is faking it. Chances are we don't really want to. We are unified in our love for the puzzlement of it all.
Primo Levi once remarked how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. He felt strong when he looked at, stood against and fought the sea. You may feel strong by watching the Undertaker Choke slam the Great Khali. You may also feel 'really' strong watching Brock Lesnar fight Cain Velasquez. A few years before I put on the towel-cape, I climbed onto the same dressing table, slipped, fell and fractured my right hand. It was my sea.
Kids of that age do all kinds of things with remarkably impenetrable self-justification. Some cry, some eat mud and some break toys. When I jumped onto my parent's bed, landed on the pillow, then gave it the Ankle Lock, the Choke slam and a super flex, it wasn't out of rage or an enforced violent attitude or just for kicks; it was to feel strong.
When Lesnar returned a few weeks back, fans and the media alike suggested that it was to restore legitimacy to the WWE. Now that Lesnar was done being the UFC champion, his presence would provide the necessary blood transfusion the WWE thought it needed. And maybe it will. But will Lesnar be Lesnar again?
Will he be different than the guy who, in his debut match, picked up a WWE Superstar and power-bombed him thrice in a row? Will he be different from the guy who lent credence to his claim of being a 'freak' when he lifted and F5'd The World's Strongest Man, Mark Henry? Or will he be the same but more real? And what the hell does that even mean?
I don't know about you, but when the lights go off and the music starts and a guy who looks like the guy you want to look like enters a ring, brutalizes every 230 pound wrestler in his sight while laughing like a maniac, over-reacts to everything in general and shows Napoleonesque levels of self-belief and wins, the feral sentimentality of it all is real enough for me. Everything else? Well, fake it.